April 27 - Must Ash

I've been feeling the pangs of loneliness lately.
I haven't made the bed in 27 days.
Prob'ly cuz most nights end on the couch.
When I do make it to bed, I sleep next to a Yamaha keyboard.
Isn't that just so emo and cute?
Just like Kurt Coboring.

Oh, and I'm not getting a haircut til after the tour.
And I stopped shaving, too.
I think I'm growing a moustache.
Again.

In The Year 2000, I decided to grow a moustache. I wanted to try it out. Irony was still alive and well (thanks a lot, 9/11!). So why not. What occurred above my lips was a mangy dead caterpillar that doubled as a friend repellent. For the entire summer I resembled an ethnic Unabomber.
So let's do it again, right?

Due to lazy genes, it's going to take a couple of weeks to come in. We're looking at a release date of May 11. But before it drops, I'll be mistaken for a homeless pervert.

This all sounds like smart geniusy stuff, but...
Do I really want to do something I already failed at in my lost 20's?
No.
So this time I'm going to try to make the moustache look presentable.
I might invest in a tiny comb and a wax, or whatever you use to tame it.
Maybe some sleeping snoods.
Then I'll trim it.
My goal is to look like a conquistador.
I may fail at this.
Again.
But at least I will have done something ? ... uh ? with my life ...while Lauren's away ?

Until then, at least I won't have to put on make up for Bitter Tears shows.
I already look horrid.

Verdict: Loss

April 26 - Scaried By The Mob

On the way to a pick up in Barrington Hills, I slowed for a herd of deer. Five of them bumbled around on their tiny stick legs before splitting for the hills. I had just passed a horse farm where real life horsies were walkin' around naying and getting all kooky. Later I would pass a pick up truck with a big American flag blowing in the breeze. Where was I?
At the pick up, I encountered a gate with an intercom. After some beeping, the gates opened and I entered the mysterious estate with caution. The main house stood on the left like a castle, with large wooden spade shaped doors, and cylindrical flanking towers. On the right was a large barn, used as storage for mob corpses. I was looking around for a wheelbarrow filled with 80's cocaine when a voice came from inside the main house. It belonged to a woman.
"Are you here for the briefcase?"
"Yes," I answered in the general direction of the voice. I listened to her footsteps, following the sound to one of the castle doors. She was tall and blonde but surprisingly did not have a scar on her face. She handed me the briefcase and I thought it best to get out of there. I could have sworn I heard the sound of a leashed tiger in the distance.

Weird diet today.
Tardiness to work meant I skipped breakfast. In Barrington Hills I settled for a ham & cheese breakfast shingle from ampm. It was greasy but awful!
I never ate lunch, but around 3 I ate an entire chocolate Easter bunny, alternating bites with handfuls of dried cherries.
For dinner I made tacos for the 412th time since Lauren left.

It was the last night of class at Annoyance. I spilled my soul a little bit at the end, suggesting that improv can be used for things in life other than getting on SNL. We all went out for drinks later, and I played shuffleboard to avoid talking about more improv.

I must've had more to drink than I thought, because I ended the night in the living room scooping cold peppers, onions, and taco meat with tortilla chips, directly from the pan they had been cooked in.

Verdict: Win

April 25 - Nurse Novels Record Finished

John from The Bitter Tears treated Alan and I from The Bitter Tears to a quality breakfast at Meli Cafe in Greektown. Outside in line it rained, adding a soggy quality to the Greek parade floats meandering slowly toward the afternoon’s festivities. Over a jalepeno skillet, poached eggs with sausage, a savory crepe, and apple-carrot-celery juice, we discussed the logistics of a west coast tour. Hopefully this fall.

Rush Limbaugh! The Musical played according to plan sort of. It’s still quite fun to see which lines resonate with the audience and which don’t. It’s never been the same show twice. Only two more left in this run. As Chris Elliot said in the final episode of The Fugitive Guy, “I’ll miss the checks.”

I met Tom and Thea at Greg’s for the final day of recording and mixing of The Nurse Novels debut single. Each song features a guest: Alan played accordion on “War,” Heinz from Civil Servant added pedal steel to “Sea Day,” and Greg joined Alan, providing brass and woodwinds for “Make Me Cry Tonight.”

We mixed until 1am. I think we’ve got a really good first record.

Verdict: Win


April 24 - Method Loser

For the last two nights I've slept in the costume for Chris' film. My character left his wife, and he's had to crash on a friend's couch wearing the same clothes. To accentuate this, I also haven't been shaving or washing my hair.

Yesterday they filmed a scene in a coffee shop. The coffee shop was open for business. Patrons watched as I struggled desperately to remember my bulky lines with patrons watching me. It was pure schadenfreude. Many takes were interrupted by squealing cappuccino machines and customers walking through shots. As the shop was closing, Chris captured the fourth and last take of complicated dialogue between ten actors.
"We're done. Everybody go home."

This morning, to really get my character down, I woke up at 5am on the couch with my contacts still in. I noticed a beer on the living room floor. It was full, save for one sip from four hours ago. So I finished it, watched an Elvis movie, and ate an entire potato. I don't know if my character would have done that. But I did it.

The Nurse Novels are finishing up recording our first single this weekend. Nicole knocked out her vocal parts like a pro, as did Thea. It's great to hear the songs with pretty voices all over them and shit.

I had to cut out around 5 to shoot my last scene for the movie at a house in the tiny southwest suburb of Hometown. I joined the cast in the living room, waiting for Chris and the crew, who were running behind. Together we watched episodes of That 70's Show, Seinfeld, and The Office. I hadn't eaten anything since my misguided Doors breakfast, thinking I would "use" the hunger for my character.
But he wasn't that fuckin' hungry.
So I went to a pizza place and ordered an Italian beef. In the corner stood a coin-op Pac-Man game. For the next 14 minutes I played it, eating pellets, ghosts, fruit, pretzels, bells, and keys, everything but the Italian beef sandwich waiting for me by the joystick. The new Pac-Man King of Hometown racked up over 119,000 points and secured the high score. Sometimes I can't help being a winner.

Meanwhile, Chris and the crew had arrived at the location and were setting up the shot. Hometown peaked out from their screen doors, undershirts, pick up trucks, and cigarettes to see what all the camera nonsense was about.
What they saw was a Wiseauan spectacle of rapid takes and lapses in continuity. But we got my two lines down in two takes and I returned to Greg's to make more music, something I'm better at doing.

Verdict: Loss*

*My portrayal of a loser can be rather convincing

April 23 - Chicago Sucks Tiny Mayor-Cock

It was bound to happen.

I had a pick to up a signal radio part for a communications company from the folks at Metra. I parked in a loading zone marked METRA LOADING DOCK DELIVERIES ONLY. I asked the woman at the dock if it was okay to park there.
"Yes."
I rang a bell that would allow security to grant me access to the lobby. I put my hand on the doorknob to anticipate the click that would open it. I waited with my hand on the doorknob for 30 seconds. I looked at the security camera above me and took my hand off of the doorknob. It immediately clicked, granting me access to the lobby.
In the lobby, the security guard wouldn't let me up to the 11th floor without a contact name. A twenty minute ordeal of making calls, getting transferred, grating hold music, and waiting for a call back ensued. The person who placed the order at the COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY had left and did not leave any information about it. Eventually, someone called me back from the COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY to give me a random Metra employee name.
Meanwhile a changing of guards had occurred. The new security guard said, "They usually just let you up. I don't know why he wanted you to get a contact name."
On the 11th floor, the woman in the mailroom had no idea what I was supposed to be picking up. After five minutes and a phone call to the contact, I was told to walk over to the random Metra employee's office.
The random Metra employee seemed annoyed.
"Can I help you?" she asked as me, the complete idiot.
I gave her all the information, the contract number, a piece of paper certifying a transaction.
She had no idea what I was supposed to be picking up.
"I don't use messengers."
She said it like I was fresh, wet cat shit.
One more set of phone calls and I left Metra empty handed.

When I returned to the loading zone, the van was gone.
Wow.
So it's going to be like this today.

I went to see the woman at the dock, the woman who told me I could park in the loading zone. She seemed surprised and gave me her information. Then I went back to lobby security. Mike the maintenance guy happened to be strolling by and very matter of factly said, "You can't park on the west side of Canal on Fridays," offering a lowercase "sorry."
Sure enough, there was one single sign fifteen feet behind where the van had been.

STREET CLEANING
NO PARKING FRIDAYS 9AM-1PM
APR 1 - NOV 15
TOW ZONE

Because I had backed into the spot, I hadn't seen it.
So now I had to walk to the auto pound over at 400 E Lower Lower Lower Wacker.

It was a nice walk actually.
On the way there I saw seven city tow truck operators being beaten to death with homemade hammers by heroic citizens. The tow truck operators' lifeless corpses were thrown into a vat labeled CHARITY, where they will provide nourishment to needy, hungry AIDS dogs from impoverished countries.

Then at The Daley Center, 329 obese, entitled, all-knowing, never-working city workers all had one large simultaneous fatal heart attack. It was like Jonestown, only nicer. One dum-dum meter maid accidentally slapped the bodies with parking tickets, mistaking their hideous, bloated remains for SUVs. It was a riot. But in actuality, I heard that the blubber from the city workers would be rendered down into oil this winter and used to warm the city's top homeless shelters. I also read that the city workers' brains would be used as practice pucks at Chicago Blackhawks tryouts.

Finally, by Chicago's essential Bean I saw our one and only mayor, King Richard Daley II. It was strange. He was being brutally and anally raped with a serrated, rolled up TOW ZONE sign by several valiant townsfolk. Oddly, his blood was liquid black and when it hit the earth it burst into flames of shit. I waved "hi" but he couldn't see me. Maybe it was the weird funhouse reflection of The Bean or maybe it was because his eyes were yellow, pink, and pusy, and when he opened his mouth a bunch of black bile spilled out, followed by his sickly grey internal organs plopping to the ground with comic thuds. I don't know, but it seemed very out of character for The Mayor.

But all good walks must come to an end, and so I headed on over to the auto pound.
In the dark weird trailer a baby cried constantly. I thought it might be the waiting room music, but when I got inside there was a real baby crying. I think its stroller got towed.
The man behind the counter wore what looked like green janitor coveralls decorated with City of Chicago patches. He liked to talk and take his time. When a woman cut in line in front of me they had an exchange:

JANITOR OF AUTHORITY: Oh, you're gonna have to wait in line.
ASSHOLE WOMAN: I already filled out that paperwork that he got! I'm about to tear this place up!
JANITOR OF AUTHORITY: Still. Once you leave you have to go to the end of the line.
ASSHOLE WOMAN: I'm just so mad! I've got things to do!
JANITOR OF AUTHORITY: Oh, me too. After this I'm going to my other job.
ASSHOLE WOMAN: Where's that?

They proceeded to have a little chit chat while the rest of us listened. It was really great and friendly. The more she talked, the more he stopped everything he was doing to answer her questions and demands. It was like watching raw footage of a reality TV show that would never air anywhere. I'm glad I got to see this rare behind-the-scenes sneak peak into the fascinating lives of people who tow and get towed. And like all great reality TV, it was a wonderful waste of everyone's time.

I was less fascinating.
I only used one word.
The word was "what."
I couldn't understand the cashier behind the glass, who had the eloquence of an angry K-Town crackhead. He was so good at sounding proudly ignorant that I almost ordered a hamburger from him. It's good that the city employs people who know people with rudimentary customer service skills who know people who knew someone who once went to school once.

No, but in all seriousness, The City of Chicago is great and I think Our Mayor And Saviour is doing a terrific job keeping things good and nice and good for the people. I'll just have to send the city a little note about today's misunderstanding. Good thing they stamped my receipt with the necessary information.
Later today on the street an Amish or Mennonite teenager approached me in full garb.
"Excuse me. Are you Jewish?"
"What?"
"Are you Jewish?" he repeated.
"Noo.."
His smiled broadened, revealing braces.
"Have a good day."

I sat in the van with no work for the next four hours.
It was a really slow week.
After gas and towing expenses I spent over $300 this week on work.
I made about $300.
This means, I lost money by going to work this week.
I would have saved more money had I taken the entire week off.

Verdict: Loss

April 22 - Filming With Chris

Lower North-South Wacker is under construction and has become a peaceful little ghost town. I thought it would be hell, but now you’ve got the whole thing to yourself, and you can make those U-turns without the fear of nudging your nose out into 50mph oncoming traffic. Let’s hope it stays under construction forever.

My friend Chris asked me to be in his film. Today was the first day of shooting.

I’ve known Chris since the late 90’s when we worked together as tour guides for the Chicago Trolley Company. In 2000, he persuaded me to pick up playing the drums again, something I had abandoned for sketch comedy. When The Annoyance closed for what would turn out to be six years, I eventually gave in and we formed a band with the unfortunate moniker Los Shut Up.

We started out playing dumps like The Big Horse, The Underground Lounge and Phyllis’. One mismatched bill had us following local metal powerhouse Yakuza. They played for over an hour on a Wednesday to a raucous group of fans who banged their heads, while our four friends waited patiently until midnight to hear our gropes at quirky broken indie rock. At one point in the set, I introduced one of our songs in a metal bear voice, which lead to one of the Yakuza guys charging the stage. Thankfully, two out of three of the people that stuck around held him back, and I was saved a lesson in brutality and ultimate evil.

Eventually Los Shut Up played places like Empty Bottle and Schuba’s, once opening for Neil Hamburger. Our stage show was goofy, and we incorporated comedy into the act. Chris pitched a tent on stage and emerged from it like a pigeon. I made a dummy of Jay Leno and smashed his face with a snow shovel filled with Doritos, covering the stage in tortilla chips. Joanna put on a long white wig and portrayed “Old Hickory,” Andrew Jackson. Yeah, I don’t know what we were.

Sometimes Chris’ quirks would drive me crazy. At our rehearsal space, he stored his guitar in a garbage can neck-first. One time we got pulled over in his crazy, cluttered van. The cops called it a dumpster on wheels. And I will still never forget (read: forgive) when Chris couldn’t afford to buy guitar strings because he had spent all his money ordering Beavis and Butthead DVDs off of the television. By 2004, Los Shut Up was no more.

But it was Chris who gave me the confidence, permission and license to write music. Any other band at the time would be wary of letting the drummer contribute songs. Los Shut Up wasn’t. So at 25 I taught myself piano chords on looknohands.com, and began writing little songs like “1993” and “Nothing.” I still write songs and I have Chris to thank for that.

Filming commenced in the back room of a bar on Damen. A small crew of three unpacked the brand new equipment and set up the shot. They were taking things out of boxes and their shipping contents! After some glitches (no headphones for the boom operator, the owner of the bar is kind of a dick, why are there guys loudly sawing bricks right now?) we got down several takes from several angles.

The character is Sandy. He’s kind of a douche. I think my performance was competent. I don’t particularly enjoy being on camera. It puts me in my head. Two more days of shooting.

My plan was to see Nicole’s band Unicycle Loves You. They played a free show at The Cubby Bear, opening for The Raveonettes. I even RSVP’ed to the Red Eye using the subject line “Bud Light.” Unfortunately, the cheese from my sandwich gave me a six hour spell of nausea, and being in Wrigleyville with a piercing bellyache wasn’t part of the plan.

So I stayed in and watched Coal Miner’s Daughter. This might be the best biopic I have ever seen, unless you count Mommie Dearest. As soon as it was over I phoned a Hollywood producer.

Verdict: Win

April 21 - Carrots As Weapons

Lots of ups and downs today.

I delivered six cartons of programs to a funeral home on Cottage Grove and 79th. Greater Grand Crossing is overwhelmed with flower shops, fast food, and beauty salons (including Le Chateau Cut-Ups). Thanks to Chicago's rigid, unwritten segregation laws, my pale skin stood out in the neighborhood. A teenage girl held up traffic so a man and a stroller could safely cross 79th. She danced really big and really goofy, almost anti-dancing. When she spotted me, she danced even more outrageously, flapping her arms and sticking her ass out. It marked one of the few times in history where someone holding up traffic put a smile on my face. Maybe that was the owner of Le Chateau Cut-Ups.
Assessment: Win

Unfortunately, that spirit toward being held up in traffic didn't last. At 4pm I had to deliver some fucking stupid worthless shit to a print shop in Des Plaines. Traffic became a two hour bore of horror filled with hi-octane acceleration and abrupt braking. It seemed every lane I picked contained someone turning left, driving under the speed limit, stalled, or being a complete asshole fucking cocksucker. I got caught in the trap of road rage when a guy who's ass I was riding vigorously gave me the finger, swerved so I could not pass him, and repeatedly slammed on his breaks so that I would hit him.

What I wanted to do: Strangle his blueberry-sized penis with rusty barbed wire, run over his fingers with a tank, and make him buy a ticket to his parents getting raped at his favorite restaurant.
What I did do: Grabbed a handful of carrot tops and took off my seatbelt. I was going to exit the car and hurl them at his shitty, shitty face. But then I realized that this would attract police nonsense, and that would lead to problems leaving the country in a few weeks.
So I put the carrots down and absorbed my fatigued hatred like a pathetic ShamWow.
Assessment: Loss

I got home with thirty minutes to engorge myself as fast as possible with a frozen pizza.
Assessment: Loss

Tonight was the first Bitter Tears rehearsal with Reid Coker, who will join us on keyboards in Europe. Reid's a cool guy, and really picked up the songs quickly, so Europe looks to be fun. God, I can't wait for Europe.
Assessment: Win

I think I might take up smoking regularly while Lauren is gone. I'm going fucking crazy.
Assessment: Loss

Verdict: Loss

April 20 - Of Mice And Zen

For the second morning in a row, I awoke on the couch, my eyes sticky and blurry from having left in my contacts. My neck felt like it had a screwdriver lodged in it.

Another slow day at work. A ten foot tall canvas of a Disney poster went to a frame shop in Highland Park. That was about it. Oh yeah, while doing a bank deposit for a client I overstuffed the transaction capsule and accidentally clogged the suction tube machine. It shut down the only lane of teller traffic. Whoops.

At home I made steak tacos. My caramelized peppers were more along the lines of charred grasshoppers.

While working on a demo, a mouse appeared in the kitchen. I stopped working on music.

Lauren and I were going to watch American Idol together on Skype, but the timing didn’t work out. Siobhan did a great job of singing, but challenged the judges’ observations for the third week in a row. Now it’s become a pattern, and it seems like she’s not listening to constructive criticism. Bummer. I tried to vote for her anyway, but the lines were busy.

An email told me that a Bitter Tears gig in Brussels has been cancelled.

Around 11 I gave up and found a real life bed.

Verdict: Loss

April 19 - Rest or Improv?

Luckily work was slow. I snuck home at 3pm and watched The T.A.M.I. Show, with one eye on a legendary James Brown performance, the hook-handed drumming of The Barbarians, and the cutting up of hosts Jan and Dean, while the other eye watched my eyelid.

Foggy, I rode my bike to class. It would be an early night: teach and go home for some much needed rest. While locking my bike I saw my friend Mick, founder of The Annoyance. Why was he here on a Monday? The one day the theater is dark? Apparently a kickoff party for the Chicago Improv Festival was happening tonight at The Annoyance. It would not be an early night.

I got surly in class, making generous use of the word “fuck” as an adjective. I do like my class, but sometimes group mind goofiness drives me a little crazy.

After that the students and I made merry at the theater and the CIF festivities. Apparently Tim Meadows was there. For many years he lived on a planet called Saturday Night Live. I mostly hung out at the bar and chatted with my class. Since I had left all my IDs and moneys at home, the students purchased my drinks, obligating me to talk about improv. But we also got to talk about travel, and the Beatle tribute band show I’m directing this summer.

I didn’t get any rest but being at an improv party was like being asleep.

Verdict: Loss

April 18 - No Sleep Til White Castle

My time with Lauren was over as soon as it started. But we squeezed every possible drop of quality out of the sweaty, bloody sock that was my vacation. She dropped me off at the airport in the darkness of morning. Next time I see her will be at O'Hare on June 3. I'll have to pace myself like the picante sauce.

The cowboys at security mistook my drum tuner for a time bomb.
They ran it through some tests with machines and handheld devices. Unfortunately for them, it did not explode as they had secretly hoped, and begrudgingly had to allow me to legally board the airplane.

The plane landed in Chicago at 11:20am, just in time to retrieve the van by the Blue Line and drive it immediately to Second City for Rush Limbaugh! The Musical. Between bites of Jimmy John's we ran vocal warmups for the cast and slopped through two J Geils songs and "Somebody's Baby" by Jackson Browne. The theme for warmups was 1982.

After the show I went straight to Studio Greg Studios II, where Tom and Thea had been working on The Nurse Novels record all weekend. Even with Thea's cold, they got a lot done. Guitar and Korg overdubs plus Tom's vocals. I crashed on the couch until it was time for me to play tambourine, shaker, piano, and washing machine for a few numbers. One of these items gave me several bruises on my thighs.

At 1am I decided to eat my second meal of the day: White Castle. I think I spotted some celebrities there, but maybe it was just sleep-dep.

Verdict: Win

April 17 - 15 Hours With Lauren

With 15 hours to spend as we pleased, Lauren and I got in the theater company car and drove through the desert of Tucson. Around Old Tucson, the roads got lumpy and jumpy, causing Lauren to wee like a girl. We stopped at the side of the road and took a stroll, spooking tiny
lizards around the prickly pears and those giant saguaros you only see in cartoons.

At the Tucson Desert Museum we saw listless snakes bummed out about being behind glass, gila monsters, flashy minerals, a shy mountain lion, a mangy, emotionally castrated wolf, a subterranean owl, a prairie dog, and seven slumbering javalinas. Like those pudgy, hairy hogs, we went without any cowboy or golf hats, and the desert heat had made us lethargic and leathery.

We refueled at Mi Nidito, a Tucson institution since 1952. I ordered the nopalitos con chile, a heaving portion of chopped prickly pear cactus slathered in a red saucy sauce. It was decent and came with a fresh flour tortilla that folded out like a steaming hot road map. The best things on the plate were actually the beans and rice, smooth and seasoned, heightening the obligatory side dishes to star status. It all went down with a couple of Dos Equises.
The walls were decorated with coconuts dressed as shrunken heads, neon Miller Lite signs, and a wall of fame that glorified George W. Bush & Dick Cheney, various starlets of Tejano, and James Earl Ray. The menu also featured a Sirhan Sirhan-chilada, but I heard it was just tasteless.

Lauren's call for her first show, Second City Does Arizona or Close But No Saguaro, was 3pm. I fell into a two-beer coma until 4pm, when I got up to walk around the sleepy heat of Tucson.
I got lost.
Being lost pissed me off.
I saw the sands of time diminishing from my tiny vacation.
A thing called The Buffet caught my eye. It was a bar. I walked in.
When my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I made out a ratty 6-foot pool table, some dated, graffiti-smeared banners for Miller Lite in plastic bottles, and several greasy, long-haired regulars staring at me, the new TV.
I was still a bit groggy from the nap and baked from the wayward travels, but when you walk into a bar like that you have to order a drink. The bartender was a tall woman, plain you might say.
"How are you today?"
It sounded like she meant it.
I told her I was good, and asked her how she was.
She shook her head and made a fishy face. I laughed a little bit too loud.
The tap choices were Coors and Blue Moon.
I opted for the former, and her eyebrows seemed surprised.
The coaster said:
BUFFET BAR
& CROCK POT
TUCSON'S OLDERST BAR - 1934
The tall glass was $2.
It looked like it would be a day of drinking constant beer.
The regulars were mostly watching the old TV now with mile long stares. They resembled Daniel Clowes characters, with unkempt stringy hair and large uneducated eyes, sipping personal pitchers. An elderly woman with a big platinum bouffant and a cheerful spirit tidied up. She wore large black sunglasses in the already dark bar, but you could see her eyes were youthful. I drank my beer and pretended to watch TV, and then stepped back out into the long sunset, no longer lost.

4th Avenue is the main drag in Tucson, dotted with bars, hippie crap, bike shops, and a foam and fabric place for the upholstery on your vintage ride. A bluegrass band played live blues, a street car rang its bell, and a couple of young parents pushed a stroller into a tattoo parlour. I picked up some guayaberra shirts at a quality thrift shop.

Between shows Lauren met me at The Hotel Congress, where John Dillinger was captured and the Blues Explosion recorded Controversial Negro. We enjoyed a light dinner of ceviche and tortilla soup at the bar, where I of course had another beer. Meanwhile two elderly and very drunk hippies talked about Frank Zappa, Howlin' Wolf, Pet Sounds, and confused Devo with Men Without Hats. Eventually the drunker one accidentally knocked some glassware onto the bar floor, where it shattered. He didn't even know he had done it.

I attended the second performance of The Second City Arizona show. I laughed a bunch and drank a beer. It's a good show. I'm glad Lauren got to have a hand in its creation. The crowd loved it, too, and knew more of the local references than I did. Well done, again, Second City.

Afterward we hung out at the lounge attached to the theater. Cody bought me a beer. Raised on a ranch in New Mexico where he travelled with a rodeo, Cody also travelled on the cruise ship with Lauren and I two years ago. It was good to see him in his climate of origin.
I suggested we get a Sonoran hot dog, so eight of us flocked to BK, a late night spot that specializes in this Tucson curiosity as well as carne. The hot dog wrapped in mesquite-smoked bacon and topped with tomatoes, onions, cotijo cheese, tomatillo salsa, mayonnaise, and pinto beans lives up to its fucking hype. And the carne tacos, which kicked equal amounts of taste ass, could be dressed with an assortment of vibrant salsas. Lauren pointed out a chlorophyll-colored salsa made from cilantro. You didn't even need cheese. BK fucking rules.
Alas, the evening had to come to a close at some point.
I set the alarm for 4:30am and held on to my girl tight.
Tomorrow we would have to say goodbye until June.
But not tonight.

Verdict: Win

April 16 - Chicago Felony Franks, Tucson In-N-Out

Hungry while delivering something, I spotted Felony Franks.
It's a hot dog stand nestled in the dying ghetto that clings to Jackson and Western.
A smiling buggy-eyed weiner shackled to a ball and chain gave a thumbs up.
The menu included the Misdemeanor Weiner, "The Cellmate" (a double dog), and an assortment of Probation Burgers. I ordered a Felony Frank and a grape soda from the woman behind the glass, who spoke to you through a trebly microphone. She was nice.
While waiting, I looked out from the barred windows and listened to the angry corner kids congregated on a beautiful day. Then a group of about twelve loud white people stormed in, and took over the room like a stale cigar. They announced that they were law students, and chose to be obnoxious, making it very difficult for anyone to like them.
"YOU GOTTA GET THE RED HOT! DIS IS CHICAAAH-GO!"
I had to get out of there. But this proved to be a challenge, as the law students were blocking the door. One law student moved three inches so that I could squeeze out. That was nice of that douchebag-in-training to do that.
Out in the world, one of the corner kids took notice of me snapping photos.
"Motherfucker takin' fuckin' pictures," he alerted his pals.
They didn't seem to mind.
I squeezed back in to pick up my order. The law students were still loud and annoying, and still blocking the exit. On the way out I pulled open the door and pressed it against a particularly arrogant and entitled douchebag cum laude.
When I cut through a circle of corner kids, the same one protested.
"That motherfucker takin' fuckin' pictures."
Again, no one seemed to care.
I took the meal home and ate it. It was good.
I wonder if the corner kids and the law students will meet again under different circumstances.

After a frustrating rush hour of cancelled orders and Cubs traffic, I parked the van by the Blue Line and took the train to O'Hare. My flight was to Tucson, Arizona, but more importantly, Lauren. She's been performing in a Second City show tailored to Arizona for two weeks. She will remain in The Grand Canyon State until May.

I decided to book this flight after a long, frazzled day of deliveries, while wolfing down a quick dinner before teaching an improv class. I decided to use Priceline, a service that provides decent non-refundable discounts. I decided to book the flight for Friday and leave on Sunday, a nice weekend getaway.
Priceline decided that my visit with Lauren would start at 11pm on Friday and end at 4am on Sunday, lasting all of 29 hours. I saved lots of $30's.
Well, actually.
Just one $30.
To say I was livid at the time of booking this would be an understated underestimate.
But it was my fault, and I had a mouthful of leftovers and a class to teach.

Lauren picked me up after her show. She got a new hairdoo that makes her look very 60's and sexy. She looks great and mine! Starving, we purchased drive thru from In-n-Out, every real American's favorite fast food burger chain. While the scent of fresh carnal anticipation lingered in the car, Lauren got us lost in the desert, not having driven in Tucson yet. This way we could wait longer to eat and things.

Eventually, we found the nutty two-story loft that she is calling home for a few weeks. It's located near downtown by a sedan riddled with bullet holes.
The In-n-Out was wonderful and much needed. Lauren gave me a birthday card the size of a mudflap that depicted two oil-painted Native Americans locked deeply in an impassioned love trance. Inside the card were clues to a scavenger hunt of gifts, including kooky socks and a drum tuner.
Let's call it the best.

Verdict: Win

April 15 - 35

I'm 35 now.
I better be!
I was born 35 years ago.
So this better be the right age.

I went in early to work for an order that ended up being cancelled.
So I lied down in the vack (back of the van) for a celebratory birthday nap.
It was a lovely day, dipping into the 80's.
Everyone wore hypercolor T-shirts and did Howard Cosell impersonations.
Spuds McKenzie totally zooked on my Trapper Keeper. Grody!
I woke up to discover it was the afternoon.

I had some work that went somewhere I don't remember.
I do remember yelling at motorists, because they are all so stupid and not as smart as me.
I remember thinking that I was spending my birthday either sleeping in a van or yelling at people.
And I remember resisting the urge to get bummed out about it.

At 5pm I drove to the south side looking for beer and Mexican food.
I bought a 12 pack of Becks at the Jewel on Archer.
I purchased a burrito from a market with a baqueria (taqueria in the back) on 47th Street.
I returned to the van, used my two wheeler to open a beer, and enjoyed a solo birthday dinner.
This was my choice.
Afterward I fell into a 30 minute food coma.
Groggy, sweaty and 6:30, I realized I had spent the majority of my birthday asleep or alone.
So I walked twenty yards to Greg Norman's house.

With Lauren away in Tucson, and not much else going on socially in my life, I wanted to record Nurse Novels stuff on my birthday. I've always loved recording, even in its exhausting and frustrating moments. Besides, I've never been one for parties or anything normal and healthy involving groups of people.

Tonight Thea and I laid down a basic track for her ukulele ditty "Shoo Fly." Percussion included a snare case and my lunch tupperware beaten with a mallet. Then I placed vocals onto "Sea Day" and revised some of the lines in "NIMBY," particularly the one about "organtic lemonade." Tom coached from the studio couch.

Then Greg's wife Esther dimmed the lights and surprised me with a delicious birthday cake she had made from scratch! What?! She even decorated it with money signs, my favorite symbol!
$$$

Greg gave me a bottle of Manischevitz!
Tom gave me some music mixes!
Thea gave me the sniffles.

The pressure of having to have a good day on my birthday had been greatly relieved by The Normans and The Nurse Novels.

Verdict: Win

April 14 - Nice Weather Today

I didn't shower today. When I don't shower my hair takes on the look of 80's porn performer Joey Silvera.

I should know, while Lauren's been gone (for two weeks) I've been watching lots of 80's porn.
80's porn was My First Pornography. Using it for its intended purposes doesn't make me feel sleazy as much as it does nostalgic. Seeing old friends: Nina Hartley, Peter North, Flame. It's like looking through an old photo album with your own aroused sexual organ.

Ugh, how do I segue out of this?

I took the van in for its emissions test.
The guy running it looked like Tom Byron. I checked for a trademark bulge in his pants, but I didn't see anything noticeably erect. Then again I'm not Chasey Lain.
The van passed the emissions test.

What else.
I dunno.
Nothin' really.

I'm going to get some sleep tonight.
Just like Keisha did at the end of Oh, You Beautiful Doll.

Verdict: Win

April 13 - No Energy Left For Family

Between runs today I:
Mailed taxes out (Federal gives me $86, State gets $78 from me).
Scanned and emailed my passport for British work permits to The Bitter Tears European booking agent (Those cost 117 pounds of dollars).
Renewed my driver's license and state ID ($50).
My new picture makes me look like a woman.
Maybe I can flirt my way out of tickets now ($75).

A delivery to Glen Ellyn got me thinking.
Instead of having my Mom drive all the way out to the city for my birthday dinner, I'll just stay in the western suburbs, and we can celebrate out there.

By the time I got to my Mom's house it was 4pm.
Last night's drinking and lack of sleep had caught up to me, and then lapped me.
I took a nap on the couch until 5:30.
My mom drove her groggy son to a Mexican restaurant, where he was too tired to make any real conversation. After dinner, we raced home to watch American Idol.

I watch American Idol.
I like it for some reason.
I like Simon, and I like Kara Dioguardi.
My favorite performer this year is Siobhan Magnus.
I like her flipped out hairdoos, nutty clothes, and crazy screech.
I think that screech is what shattered her teeth into those kooky fangs.
Her speech is a whole 'nother story.
When she speaks it's in slow motion.
She speaks behind the beat.
I like that before Idol she sang in punk rock bands that played crummy basements.

The last two weeks her songs haven't been the best.
Last week she did a sleepy new age version of "Across The Universe."
Tonight she sang "Suspicious Minds" with a smile, which didn't ring true to me.
But the real performances have been her rebuttals to the judges when they criticize her artistic choices.
After her Beatles tune, Simon asked her in a challenging manner to point out what specifically she had connected with in that song. Siobhan cited the lyric "nothing's gonna change my world." She got choked up, making reference to the madness of being a contestant on this insane show.
"I'm not going to change as a person, and you can't take that away from me."
This week after her Elvis tune, the judges expressed confusion about her direction. Simon said, "you've lost who you were."
She replied in her held-back cadence, "Even I can't pinpoint what or who I am. And I've always kind of taken pride in that. I'm not just one kind of singer or one kind of person. If I can't label myself I don't think it's necessary to be labeled. I just love to sing."
She's pretty fucking cool for a 20 year old goofball.

My mom, a 60 year old goofball, likes cake. She got me a tall one made out of strawberries and whipping and lady fingers. One piece put me back in a coma, and I didn't visit much with her afterward. I just laid on the couch and stared at the TV.
During a commercial break, I saw an ad for the Kindle that featured my ex-girlfriend. I hope someday that seeing her doesn't remind me of our horrible break up. For now, it still does.
Not much else to say about that one, other than it lingered with me for the whole ride home.

A block from my house a girl in a bikini was hula hooping with wild abandon. She reminded me of my ex-girlfriend.

I just need some sleep.

Verdict: Loss

April 12 - Stockyards & Corn Dogs

I found myself at the gate of The Union Stockyards, where from 1865-1971 millions and zillions and fafillions of cows, pigs, and humans were turned into miserable meat. Today an erie memorial for 21 fallen firefighters greets you. They scream silently, perishing in unseen flames, their faces melting into their skulls.
It seems this spot will always represent horrific death.
A lazy day, with enough work to make it worth coming in.
And enough leisure time to talk to Lauren on the phone.
She and I enjoyed a playful conversation while I drove from the affluence of John Hughes' north shore Chicagoland.

After class I joined my students for a drink at a bar called Fat Cat. I used to really not like this bar. Based on the quality of the food, service, and the clientele, I had determined that Fat Cat was for assholes.
However since 2007, the service has improved, and there weren't that many douchebags there tonight. But the presentation of the food was still a bit stupid.
For instance, I ordered an appetizer of corn dogs (wait, who's the stupid one?).
What arrived at the table was an obnoxious Tinker Toy that stood ten inches tall, with multicolored skewers displaying the corn dog balls like a junior high double helix science project. I felt like a mild asshole eating this idiotic thing.
But let it be known that Fat Cat is not for assholes anymore. It is for dummies who think the Rat Pack was a bunch of jerks watching sports highlights and singing Green Day songs with a mouthful of bar-food novelties. Barf-ood.

Anyway, we went there and I drank too much, which lead to one of my least favorite activities: Talking about improv.

Oh well. Fuck it. It was a decent day.
Also it was David Letterman's birthday.

Verdict: Win

April 11 - The New Charlie


Four dumb hours of sleep.

Backstage before Rush, someone put down The Four Seasons and Heart.
I happen to enjoy those acts for what they're worth.
People began announcing bands they liked.
Toto was listed.
Then someone decided without irony that Huey Lewis and The News was the greatest band of the 1980's.
Finally, someone favorably mentioned Don Henley.

I hate Don Henley with a passion similar to Mel Gibson's passionately hateful love/lust for Christ.
Once upon a time in the mid-90's, I used to have to play Don Henley's wretched music on 93.7 KCLB-FM Coachella The Valley's Rock.
I grew to despise his privileged, balls-less, self-congratulatory Baby Boomer drivel.
My least favorite song ever created on the planet is "Sunset Grill."
Followed by the even worse but faster "The Boys of Summer."
The song "Dirty Laundry" makes me want to perform botched abortions on everyone.
It was all I could take.
I went off screaming, comparing rich white men with Deadhead stickers on their convertibles to the most worthless, bloody anal leakage ever posthumously defecated out of God's raped asshole.
The stage manager tried to lighten things up, announcing, "It's The Judgmental Tony Mendoza."
I fired back.
"I HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE JUDGMENTAL! I KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!!!"
When did I become The New Charles Manson?

The show went well.

At home I somnambulently dipped chicken into melted butter and garlic, then coated them in bread crumbs and roasted them to bland perfection. I also cooked black beans and burnt rice.
Then I beat off a bunch more, to the point where I'm sore.

I miss Lauren.

Verdict: Loss

April 10 - Nice Days Finish Last

Nice days call for rolled down windows.
On the way to pick up The Bitter Tears for a show in Peoria, a man standing at a traffic signal approached my window. He wanted to talk about Jesus.
"Not interested. Sorry."
He came on stronger to me about Jesus. He forced his belief in Jesus on me vehemently. He assaulted me with Jesus.
It began to feel like talk of Jesus was tainting this otherwise nice day.
"Fuck Jesus. Jesus sucks."
He told me he used to talk that way.
He assumed that I was into "the Devil."
He inferred that I thought "the Devil" was cool.
"Nope."
I tried to tell him that it was okay for people to believe whatever they wanted.
But he only wanted to talk louder than me. About Jesus.
And now God, too.
I wanted to roll up the window, but it was such a nice day.
He told me that God invented science.
"But God doesn't exist."
Actually, I don't know if God exists.
Nor does anyone else.
But I felt that point of view should be represented.
Thank God the light turned green.

I suppose most people would consider me the asshole in this exchange.
I say it was a draw.

We played Peoria.
It was a weird show.

Verdict: Loss

April 9 - Quandary

I have a hard time doing my job on four hours of sleep.
I scream at people in cars.
I give and receive the finger from cement trucks.
I am downright nasty and surly to the crappy assholes at The Laborers Union.

Traffic halts as if its posing for a horrid hotel room painting.
Taking the Lord's name in vain has lost all of its creativity.
I sulk miserably in the van, gaining weight, feeling the ache of my hips expanding. I keep expecting an Antarctic alien dog to crack through my pelvic bone.
As long as it takes over the wheel for a while.

Yeah, today I just drove non-stop from 8am-5pm in all that new construction traffic.
It simply sucks.
No, but I am glad that guy at the country club got his documents delivered to him before his tee time.
That was pretty cool.

I brought a Vietnamese sandwich to The Annoyance to watch Flames and Blazes, a musical set in an unburnable hotel on New Year's Eve 1928 in Chicago. It's playful and silly and at times peculiar, and I really liked it.

I caught up with friends, drank beer, smiled, laughed, good-timed. It was great to see Mick, Jen, Ellen, Lilly, Chris, Brian, Conner, Ken, Jet, Angela, Tyler, Tim, Vanessa, Dunbar.

So here's the quandary. How do I rate today?
The first nine hours were miserable, the last nine excellent.

Well, how did the day end?
Let's see.
I watched a Forensic Files about a South Carolina man who murdered women and stole their clothes.
I ate saltines with swiss cheese.
I masturbated to pornography from the 1980's.

Verdict: Loss

April 8 - Bad Advice From My Own Voice

Tonight I went to Greg Norman's home studio to record vocals for The Nurse Novels. Thea joined me, lending her critical ear to the proceedings.

I forgot how frustrating recording vocals can be. Especially if you don't consider yourself a singer and struggle with being in the spotlight. But after 13 or 14 tries at the line "You're too old for this," you have to listen to your own lyrics, get over it, and just do it. This required ignoring my own voice in the cans telling me I'm not good enough.
Vocals can be a mindfuck if that's what you choose.

I sang "Little Boy" and "Inside A Car Wash." Then we sipped some Jefferson bourbon and I screamed through "Monsters 'n' Moldies." I worry that it's too Jon Spencer of a vocal, but I think the world will survive it. Next I yelled through a song either called "NIMBY" or "Frozen Muzak" before my voice gave out. It was 12:46am.

We had 18 items on Colonel Tom's spreadsheet to accomplish tonight.
We achieved three and a half of them.

Still.
I got to sing on a record.

Verdict: Win

April 7 - Come Up 'n Shee Me Shumtime

It got cold again. There must be a reason for this. No one knows why. It has become a great mystery to us all. The weather and why.

On this frigid April night, I met Joanna at Big Chicks for what she called our "semi-annual check in." Joanna and I have known each other for eleven years. For four of them we dated, for six of them we played in bands, for two of them we performed in a burlesque show. She contributes drawings to this blog. Here's a story from our dating days.

Big Chicks is cool. Laugh-In subtitled on the televisions while close-to-crappy music played at an unobtrusive level. Joanna just got back from a six-week stint in Miami performing Spanglish comedy with Second City. In Miami, she berated a guy who joined her onstage for karaoke, got her nose pierced, and was chased by a crackhead during a jog, all while living in a 54th floor penthouse with maid service. Not bad.

At one point during the check-in, I did my new and amazing impression of Marilyn Monroe:
(left hand cupping back of head, right hand on right hip)
Come up 'n shee me shumtime!

I rode home in the cold, misty rain that didn't have the balls to be snow.

Verdict: Win

April 6 - Russian Recording III

I had set the alarm for 5am.
At 5:30am I changed my shirt.
I put parts of a drum set into the van and headed straight to a place in my neighborhood named McDonald's.
My plan for today, a Tuesday, was to find somewhere to record the best possible music with parts of my drum kit.
Unfortunately, McDonald's did not have a recording studio.
Nor were there any other musicians willing to make good music there.
But I did notice that they served coffee and breakfast there.
I gave the man at McDonald's some money and he gave me some coffee and something he called "breffix."

I drove and drove and drove a van.
First south, then east, then south.
That breffix from McDonald's made me feel like sleeping while driving and dying.
I was in a place they call "Indiana."
It almost rhymes with Windy Banana.
It was early and you could see the sun starting to get all bright and shit.
I thought about the recording I was going to find somewhere, and the cool musicians I would meet and immediately gel about with.
I thought of the perfect name for this band: Windy Banana.
Then I thought of a better one: Windy Morgana, the Kissing Bandit with Problem Flatulence.
After that I thought of several worse names: The Friendies, Friendies Forever, Frendz Forevz.
I never thought of a better perfect band name than Windy Morgana, the Kissing Bandit with Problem Flatulence.

It was getting early still.
I pulled over in a town named after Bloomington, Indiana called Bloomington, Indiana.
There were crazy hippies all over the place playing football and taking tests.
At a thing named Circle K I found a location for my used coffee, and walked aimlessly down a whimsical alley you might say. It reminded me of that movie about the girl and the annoying dog, and the witch, and the midgets (I'm allowed to still use this word), and The Monkees, and the stagehand who hanged himself from a prop tree supposebly.

On a big set of double doors were the letters R, and R spelled backwards.
A cat answered the door. He said "meow" or some shit.
Then a boy with a beard let me in and noticed I had parts of a drum kit in my van.
He forced me to add them to his vintage red sparkle Gretsch round badge drum kit.
All I had were some cymbals, a kick pedal, and a snare.
He didn't care, he said, and forced me to augment his mangy, old, collectable drums.

Then two vagabonds from the big city kicked open a door.
Everyone began fighting.
I got punched in the haircut and kicked in the facial expression.
Someone broke a rake.
A wedding cake was upset, but nobody laughed.
Not even the laugh track.
The boy with the beard said "Enough" and went away to feed several thousand cats.
The big city vagabonds rubbed their eyes and spit in my direction.
They velcroed me to the elderly drums and shut off the lights.
"LET'S SEE WHAT YOU CANNOT DO!" they shouted in unison through the loudest microphones.
All I could do was cry.
My woeful, sadful tears bounced off the drum skins like crying butter, creating the most magnificent music ever recorded. That's more magnificent than Chuck Beatles and Virginia Slims combined!
But the boy with the beard forgot to turn on the red light machine, and did not capture it.
After another fight involving urinal mints, a weather balloon filled with meat water, and Chinese stars (I'm still allowed to call them that), we had to do it all over again.
"Oh no," I muffled under a painters-taped mouth.
The big city vagabonds waterboarded me with vinegar and melted ice cream.
Anything to make those beautiful, elegant tears scream from my wonderful, classy eyes.

The bearded boy and the big city vagabonds captured four total sounds, and ripped them directly to iTunes, where you can also garagehero movies and burn bands.
In a separate room, they relaxed by wrapping pineapple-jalapeno pizzas around their rock hard penises and made individual love for their amusement. I was only allowed to watch and eat the leftovers. It was okay and shit.

By the time I got back home it was time to work again.
I'll never take another day off from work ever again as long as I shall live forever.

Verdict: Win

April 5 - Nappy Dugout


Another beautiful day. Sunny. Mid-70s. Slow at work.

So slow that for lunch I lied down in the back of the van and continued watching Charro!
Like a nice lazy summer afternoon, I fell asleep during this old Western.
Elvis' gunshots woke me up. I was lying next to a half eaten sandwich.

A run to Winnetka allowed me to listen to the White Sox opening day game. I haven't really followed baseball since 1988, but the generic sound of baseball on AM radio in the afternoon took the edge off of the obligatory afternoon traffic.

I snuck in another nap before teaching.

Verdict: Win

April 4 - Part Success

Now that Lauren is away, there's no one to tell me when bedtime should be.
So now I:
Fall asleep on the couch around 11pm.
Wake up at 1am.
Watch Forensic Files until 3am, then go to bed.
Wake up at 7am for no reason.
On my day off.

It's Easter Sunday. We had an 11am Rush put-in rehearsal for understudy Ross Bryant (my cabinmate on the cruise ship). Unfortunately the doors to the theater were locked and no one had a key. While waiting in the lobby of Piper's Alley, the cast went over songs from the show. One is in the style of that Rent song about numbers, only it quotes Rush Limbaugh for its lyrcis:

Let stupid unskilled jobs go to stupid Mexicans,
AIDS hasn't spread to heterosexual men,
Feminism allows ugly women in the mainstream,
All photos of criminals look like Jesse Jackson

Meanwhile a man walking his toddler son, both in their Sunday best, strolled through the lobby and into that chorus. Happy Easter, guys!

The Easter Sunday crowd was strangely into Rush Limbaugh! The Musical. They were hooting and yacking at the actors. Some people hissed at Rush. And we got applause in odd spots that theoretically shouldn't receive applause:

RUSH: I want to own a couple dozen black men but the St. Louis Rams wouldn't let me.

After that, The Nurse Novels met to go over more sounds for the recordings. Tom's old Korg provided lots of possibilities. Thea seemed to favor the robot sounds, while I preferred the smoother ones.
Rain poured down. Gawd took some Polaroids.
During a cigarette, I thought of a percussion overdub: slow motion cymbal.

A couple of days ago I asked my boss if I could use some vacation time for the upcoming Bitter Tears tour in Europe.
"You're part time!"
Which means I don't get vacation pay.
At first I was a little miffed. After all, I come in every day and I haven't called in sick in two years. But then I remembered. Last year I took a total of ten weeks off from work. Not too many other jobs would allow someone to take time off like that.
"You're part time!"
Which means I do other things besides my day job.
This is a good thing.
It means I'm part way there.
To Successville.
To Success Heights.
To Successlawn.
I'm part time!
I'm part success!

Verdict: Win

April 3 - I Didn't Do Anything I Didn't Want To Do

The Bitter Tears played their first morning rehearsal with me. We ran over the new songs for the recording in Bloomington on Tuesday. I switched from brushes to sticks on "Things The Boys Love," giving it much more swing. That song has become one of my favorites. We also made feel adjustments to "Movin' Down South" and came up with a new encore trick.

At home I caught up on this blog and downloaded days of music from The Monterey Pop Festival, Motorhead, Bob Dylan, Santo & Johnny, Isaac Hayes, and of course, more crazy Beatle crap (Beatles in Spanish, Casio SK-1 dogs barking Beatles, The Beatles as mall punk, and hours and hours of demos, different takes and false starts). Motorhead's "On Parole" rules!

I bumped into my friend Meghan Murphy at the supermarket. The Second City crew met her on the cruise ship. She sang big in the big revues and stole our hearts with her moxie and sass. Now she lives here in Chicago. She was shopping drunk! In her cart were radishes, lettuce and more assorted greens. Kudos to you, Meghan. Look for her cabaret in early May, directed by the inimitable Mitchell Fain.

Lauren called to tell me she had received the flowers I had sent her for tonight's opening of The Second City show in Tucson. She said the flowers made her cry.
Oh well. I try.

With a 10pm bellyful of speed-eaten tacos I began watching Charro!, Elvis' 29th movie, and the only one to not feature any musical numbers. He plays an outlaw trying to break out of the gang and into the straight life. It's scored by Hugo Montenegro, and so far it's great. I'll know more when I'm not asleep on the couch.

Verdict: Win

April 2 - Old and Resting

Good Friday. The roads were mostly quiet.
I made a couple of pick ups and then drove to a suburban hospital. My mom was undergoing a procedure that would render her unable to drive. We hung out in her patient's room and she caught me up on The Young & The Restless. There was a masquerade party going on in Genoa City, man. Victor and Nicky were wearing masks, along with a group of hooligans who poisoned the punch. This same group has also been known to crash weddings, filling wrapped presents with dead rats and live, hissing cobras!
Hey, give 'em a break. They're just young and restless.

Afterward, Mom accompanied me to a bindery where I picked up 6 boxes of someone's ruined afternoon. When I dropped her off, she gave me an Easter basket filled with chocolate and Pez. In two weeks I'll be 35 years old.

They're tearing up North and South Wacker for the next two years, eliminating the on and off ramps at Monroe and Adams. Today I made my last venture up a ramp I've driven and biked on for a decade. The city will always change.

I stayed in tonight so I could catch up on this damn blog.
And opened a window for the first time since October.

Verdict: Win

April 1 - Fools, Schools & Tools, Mules, Rools

Fools
This morning I heard a promo for David Letterman's new NPR show. I tuned in only to discover that today is April Gullible Idiot's Day.

Schools & Tools
At the American College of Healthcare Executives, the guy in the mailroom was condescending and unpleasant to me. While waiting for the freight elevator I noticed that the organization's acronym is ACHE.

Mules
Among other things, I delivered three boxes handbills to The Congo Square Theatre and 6 cases of wine and vodka to an ice rink in Bensenville. The weather today was unreal, setting a new record at 84 degrees. I got sunburnt on my left arm and the top of my left knee.
Oh yeah, I'm going to have a weird tan for the next six months.

Rools
Then over some beers (Tom, Nicole, myself) and gin (Thea) The Nurse Novels went over vocal arrangements and overdub ideas for our new recordings. It was nice to hear vocals on these instrumental rough mixes that have dominated the van for the last month. We're going to release the records as a series of online singles, selling DIY CD-R's at shows until someone wants to put it out and/or people want to buy actual records again.

The bike ride home was lovely and windy in the direction I needed to go.

Verdict: Win

March 31 - Goodbye, Corporate Blues

We didn't sleep very well. The night before a big goodbye usually includes a groggy dawn of restless last gropes. At 5am we paid a somnambulent farewell as couples do. I handed her overpacked suitcase to the cab driver and watched her long witch's fingers wave bye. The counting begins now.
Today I played a blues drummer in a music video for Second City. A giant corporation hired them to make a video that would appeal to executives, coaxing them to come to the big conference. So they recorded a blues song with goofy corporate lyrics and hired about 15 improvisers to play various office roles. Most of them were friends of mine, or people I knew of through the big, socially awkward family of improv.

At 8am I arrived at a deserted office space by Navy Pier. Often when improvisers get together they often like to riff and do bits. It can be fun, there's often a lot of laughter. Sometimes I participate, but in recent years I've preferred to keep quiet and to myself. There's only so many silly non-conversations one can have. Also, at 8am a small break room filled with big, loud energy can be trying.
So I explored the rest of the office where time had stopped. It was a shithole. And seemed very male. I discovered boxes of old wall plaques, an instruction manual for Windows 95, and a key marked VEGAS. The kitchen had its plumbing ripped from the walls. Every cubicle had been electronically raped, with a showerhead of wires poking limp from the wall.
A cubicle tucked away in a corner became my dressing room. I hung my suits on one of the dead showerheads and took a nap in an executive chair with a broken arm.
The extras and band enjoyed a warm and decent catered meal while the leads worked on the set, blocking for this long one-shot. A lot of time was spent wandering around munching on errant chips, donuts, and jerky, waiting for something to do.

In the afternoon it was time for the extras and the band to hit the set. My drums sat atop a large corporate meeting table. Joining me on the table were Eileen on Fender bass and Anthony on keyboard. The premise was that news of the big conference turns the dull office into a blues club. Again, all in one long take. Since the band comes in at the very end of the video, we mostly sat in the separated meeting room, listening to the takes and doing half-baked bits in between. See: British accents.
Out in the office, the improvisers were riffing pretty hard. It's fun to play make believe about the corporate world when it's not what you actually have to do. Everyone was pretending to be stressed out, yelling about faxes and reports and deadlines. I even got in on it a little when I pretended an old calculator was an old cellphone. I've still got it!!!

We did about twelve takes and wrapped by 5pm. Oh, yeah and I got paid about three times what I make at my delivery job.

It was a beautiful day out. I ate an Italian beef (sweet and dipped) on a gusty strip of River North and headed to Bitter Tears practice. Fatigue made me a bit sloppy and a bit cranky about being sloppy. We practiced four songs we plan to record next week in Indiana for a European tour EP.

Despite having a lucrative day on a video shoot and a productive band practice, I can't really call a day with a long goodbye to Lauren a win.

Verdict: Loss

March 30 - Last Night With Lauren

Tomorrow Lauren leaves for a six week gig with The Second City in Arizona. The show is called Second City Does Arizona or Close But No Saguaro. It will run in Tucson and Phoenix until May 16. However, on May 9 I leave for a four week European tour with The Bitter Tears. With the exception of a 29 hour visit in April, I won't see her until early June.

This will be another fun good challenge for us, but mostly not fun and not that good. We'll be fine, it's just the draggy part of being a couple that pursues separate creative whims.

We brought a six pack to our local Ethiopian restaurant and sat side by side, looking out the window instead of at the weird TV. We filled up on lentil sambusas, spicy squash, gomen, and beefs and lambs and peppers.
Then it was back home to relax with some silly television singing contests and that stuff that people do.

Verdict: Win

March 29 - Inevitable Shit

Everything about today was stupid and unnecessary.

It began in the lobby of a high rise.
I waited for the doorwoman to finish her conversation with a maintenance woman.
"Good morning," I said.
The doorwoman seemed annoyed with me.
I explained that I was picking up three small items from one of the tenants, and gave her the name.
"Do you have an apartment number?"
I didn't.
"I need an apartment number."
I gave her the name of the tenant and the floor she lived on.
"Do you have the tenant's name?"
I told her the tenant's name, and pointed out that it was the third time I had said her name.
The doorwoman now had the daunting task of looking up a name in the directory on her desk.
She contacted the contact and rushed through a flurry of instructions for me, pointing behind me.
When I walked away from her, she raised her voice.
"WHERE ARE YOU GOING?"
I was extremely fatigued, and hungover. Again.
The glorious show last night in Milwaukee was now just a figment of my imagination in the reality of the service industry.
My fuse was about a millimeter.
"WHERE DO YOU WANT ME TO GO? YOU POINTED OVER HERE."
She told me she had pointed at the sign in sheet, which I needed to sign, and then indicated another direction for the elevator.
Livid, I signed the sheet like an asshole teenager, making sure to scribble hard and take up 3 lines, writing well off of the margin and onto the desk. I hate when I do shit like this, but I suppose it's better than hurling a potted tree at the worthless doorwoman's shitty face, which is what I felt like doing.
When I got to the 36th floor, the tenant was passive aggressively kind to me. She quickly handed me two long photography C-stands, about four feet long, and a shoulder case. These were not "small" items as indicated on the order. She commanded me to "have a nice day" with a false lilt in her voice.

The rest of the day followed in a similar way.
The woman at Calumet Photo spoke to me curtly and without politeness when I didn't know the exact information about the C-stands.
At the post office in Westchester, the woman behind the counter beckoned me by calling me "miss." She asked how I was.
"I'm fine, how are you?"
She responded by staring at me with cold, suspicious eyes. For the rest of the transaction she decided to be impatient with me.
I decided to be annoyed when the people at The Laborers Pension referred to me twice as a "new driver." I've been doing this fucking garbage for ten years.

And that's when it hit me.
I've been doing this shit for ten years. Getting into the same petty situations over and over again.
And while there may be some entertainment value in my inability to play the game of fitting into society, there needs to be some sort of character development in me.
Otherwise, this will become Curb Your Enthusiasm.
People may like it, but after a while you know what's going to happen in the first paragraph.
So I have to find my arc.
I'm trying, but I give up too easily.
When I say "good morning" or "how are you?" in an attempt to initiate good relations at the top, I can't turn on people immediately if they don't respond accordingly.
In other words, I have to lower my expectations of the human race.

So I went to a junkyard.

Then I had to teach.
My mind wasn't working very well.
It stuttered.
One of the students joked that next week I'm going to try teaching sober.
I didn't have a comeback.
That sucks.

Verdict: Loss

March 28 - Rush To Milwaukee

The alarm sounded rather early for a Sunday. But it was right.
Hung over, I loaded the van with drum gear in three trips and headed to Second City for an 11am put-in rehearsal for Rush. The show has been extended on Sundays through Mother's Day. Which is good!

Rush went well. Lauren met me afterward and accompanied Alan, Mike and I for a Bitter Tears show in Wisconsin. We stopped in at Mars Cheese Castle, where Lauren had a terrible side dish that pickled her face. The Circle A in Milwaukee is my new favorite venue. Read all about the rare Bitter Tears trio performance on The Mush Behind Your Tongue and Cheek.

We got home late enough to inevitably ruin tomorrow.

Verdict: Win

March 27 - Sea Day Swear Jar

When Lauren and I worked on the cruise ship, there were days the ship would be at sea all day. These days were cleverly called "sea days." Generally we would perform on sea days, but two times in four months we had a whole sea day all to ourselves. On these occasions we would stay in the cabin, watch movie after movie, order (free) room service, and remain in our pajamas.
Today we had our first sea day in many months.
We made breakfast, hung out, watched televised entertainments, and did laundry.
It was the greatest group of activities we could have done on a cold Saturday.

In the evening Lauren made her world premiere on a bicycle in the city of Chicago. She was a bit nervous. My delicate birdie had been used to the smooth, bike friendly streets of progressive Amsterdam, not the hostile, pot-holed piss pits of miserable Chicago. But we managed to make it to The Annoyance without incident.
It was opening night for Swear Jar, the first sketch comedy show directed by Mick Napier at The Annoyance. I loved it. It's dark and wrong and stupid and Vaudvillian hack and funny and wicked.
Afterward, we drank until we didn't know what time it was. By the time we figured it out it was too late. So my birdie and I rode home on the desolate side streets to the chirping of dawn's birds.

Verdict: Win