July 28 - Ten Years, Five Minutes

Lauren joined me for a few deliveries.
We made a pick up at 180 N Lasalle.
To get into the building you must enter through the loading dock, take an elevator to the basement, and then wait in the basement for the often slow freight elevator to take to you to wherever you go.
I used to let this building's procedure stress me out.
But that was back when the industry was busy and you had dozens of other orders burning up your overloaded messenger bag.

We waited a couple of minutes for the elevator to arrive.
Tom the elevator operator took us to the 37th floor.
On the way up Lauren studied the old round soul with the gruff voice.
"He must be so bored," she later said.
Actually, Tom has always seemed pretty content.
Every day he reads the paper and shoots the shit with all the contractors and maintenance crew. Everyone knows his name and seems glad to see him. During the summer I think he works as a vendor for the Cubs. In the decade I've been in this line of work, I've never once had a problem with Tom.
That's an accomplishment for Tom.

I grabbed the package quickly from the 37th floor and caught the elevator before it could close again. On the way down, two other delivery guys joined us.
Lauren made sure to clearly say "thank you" to Tom on the way to the basement elevator.
We all piled into the basement elevator as a bike messenger was exiting.
He had dropped some lingering ass in there.
We were left to inhale it as the door took the maximum amount of time to close shut.
"No ventilation and it stinks in here," observed one of the delivery guys.
He got mock-woozy, or perhaps truly woozy.
There was no ventilation.
And it stunk badly.

I got my ID back from the dock security booth and we were off.
"That is the one interesting thing about your job," Lauren mused.
"You get to see a side of this city that not many people do."
I agreed but countered.
"Yeah, you've just seen ten years of my life in five minutes."

Tonight we opened Beatlemagica as part of The Annoyance's Wednesday night Triple Feature.
Alan from The Bitter Tears, John and Julia from The Columbines, Liz from Bully Pulpit, Jim & Vanessa from the PRF, Gillian from The July Green, some of the guys from Sad On Vacation, and many other improv faces came to see it.
It went over well. The music hit hardest. There's something about hearing these iconic songs forever branded into our cerebellum played in shambling earnestness.

Later I played drums for my friend Jessica's show Lady Cops. It killed.
We have one more night of this showcase and then that's it.
I recommend it.

Verdict: Win

July 29 - Suicide vs. Scallops

Usually my day begins between 7:45 and 8am, when my boss pages me.
I usually respond with a "ten4".
This morning I ignored it and continued to sleep.
At 8:26 the pager went off again.
I typed, "ten4. need more sleep."
Lauren and I got some "sleep".

Eventually around 10 or so I left the house and started driving.
While on Lower Wacker my boss called me.
I did not answer.
I sent a fibbing page saying I accidentally left my phone at home.
For the rest of the day we would communicate by pager only.

On the way up to Lincolnshire traffic on the Edens expressway came to an abrupt halt. It went from 70mph to sitting completely still somewhere around Skokie. AM radio told me that someone had jumped from the Oakton overpass.
I paged the information to my boss.

We all sat there for a long time.
Periodically, fire trucks, ambulances, police units would hurl past screaming.
I felt a dark empathy for the selfish jumper.
It's easy to say that's an easy way out.
But that's a very difficult task to pull off.
I couldn't do it.
I wouldn't do it.
I'm afraid of heights.
And getting hit by speeding cars.

There was a lot of time to sit there and think about suicide in that hot, morose pile up.
I wondered why the guy or girl jumped.
I wondered how old they were.
I didn't feel like "jamming out" to "my tunes".
By the time I inched up to the Oakton bridge, the carnage had been cleared.
All that remained were a pair of short skid marks.
It didn't mean a thing to anyone.

From Lincolnshire, I took Milwaukee Avenue all the way up to Gurnee and then to Waukegan.
It was technically a nice day outside.
But it has taken me a long time to figure out that inside a car is not outside.
So it was not a nice day inside the van.

On the way back down I had to take the expressway.
It was clogged for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles.
I had to go out near Rosemont to pick up a brand new plastic tool box from a True Value and bring it back to the loop. Because you can't fucking find a goddamn plastic tool box in godfucking Chicago.
The sun in my eyes was tired acid.
I felt like a corpse driving to his own funeral.
My pager went off.
This question hit me at precisely the wrong moment in my life.
"HOW YOU DOING?" doesn't mean "How are you doing? Are you okay?"
It means, "Where are you? I'm getting more orders and I need to know if you're going to be doing them."
It makes sense.
It's work, after all.
Not Leo Buscaglia's Sensitive Love Service.
But clearly I have lost my desire to play this game anymore.
"miserable. stuck in traffic. dead end job. dying industry. wasting my fucking life with every passing day. that's how i'm doing."
A few minutes passed.
I was still stuck in westbound afternoon traffic on the Kennedy when my work responded.
I ignored it and eventually picked up the rare plastic tool box from a hardware store.
I typed that I was going to drop off the toolbox and then go home.
My pager went off again.
I responded, "please fire me".
They waited a long time to respond to that one.
After some time, "WHERE ARE YOU?"
I typed that I was near downtown.
They immediately gave me an order picking up downtown and going way up to Lake Forest.
It was 4pm.
"no. not doing it."
I dropped off the plastic tool box and headed toward home.
They never responded.

On the way home I stopped in at The Annoyance.
I had forgotten to take down my drum set and store the Beatlemagica props from last night.
While I was there Tyler asked if I would write Mick's blurb for the Annoyance newsletter.
Mick is stuck without his luggage on a cruise ship and busy directing.
I happily said yes.

When I got home Lauren made some delicious pan-seared scallops and asparagus with a beurre blanc sauce and a saute of zucchini and grape tomatoes in a garlic infused olive oil.
I told her about my horrid day and took a delicious bite.
"This is why I haven't jumped off a highway overpass."

Then I passed out on the couch for an hour.
When I awoke around 8, woozy enough to write the blurb for the Annoyance newsletter while Lauren watched the Joan Crawford vehicle The Women. If you're a woman, you should see it. It portrays you people in a wonderful light. Especially the cat fight climax.

With a sliver of energy, I drove to the Empty Bottle.
I had originally planned to ride my bike.
But that wasn't gonna happen tonight.
The Columbines had graciously included me on their guest list that night.
It was the best sound system I had heard them play on since the Abbey Pub show last summer.
They sounded great, and I especially dug their new Phil Spector graveyard heartbreaker.

I love Lauren, I love music, and I love writing, but I desperately hate my life for the majority of the day.

Verdict: Loss

July 31 - Two Things I Enjoy, One Thing I'm Good At

It turns out that Colleen and Robyn liked the rough mix of the score I did last week for their comedy short. I asked Thea to contribute banjo and acoustic guitar and spent the majority of last night and this morning mixing it. It sounds decent for a garageband recording using built-in laptop mics. My recording engineer friends would probably disagree.

The rest of the day was spent catching up on this blog.
Between Beatlemagica opening, trying to secure a new vocational direction, and suffering from mild depression, I haven't quite been able to keep the pace I once had with this thing.

There's a lot of stuff I leave out or forget to put in.
Mostly about the frustration of the job search.
I don't want this loudmouth blog to become the reason I don't land a job.
Suffice it to say, I've been putting lots of energy into it.

I never mentioned that a couple of Sundays ago I had coffee with my old high school friend Laura. She's lived mostly in Africa for her adult life.
Now she's back in the States
She and I are the only ones in our old circle of friends who are not married.
"I think I missed the boat on that one," she said on the walk home.

I also forgot to mention that on the last night of The Bitter Tears tour, Alan went back to the hotel room in Amsterdam and they played The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.

Today I walked out of the house in my slippers to get some Thai food and beer.
While the supermarket cashier handed me the change, the next guy in line moved within an inch of me and began his transaction. This happens all the time, so I should be used to it.
But I'm not.
I still mumble things like "Jesus fucking Christ, give me some fucking room".
When I walked into the Thai place to get my carryout, the woman shouted across the room full of diners.
Since I didn't feel like yelling my own name to a room full of strangers, I walked up to her and said it.
She was annoyed.
Why do I even leave the house?

I spent the day working on sound design, writing and being a difficult curmudgeon.
If there's a way to do that for a living I'd like to find out how.

Verdict: Win

July 30 - Too Weak Notice

My pager went off at 8am.
"GM TONY, let me know when on the way"
I guess I wasn't fired after yesterday's e-tantrum.
Looks like I'll have to give them my two weeks notice then.
It's painfully obvious that I can't keep doing this.

I made an egg scramble with grape tomatoes, baby asparagus, fresh basil and swiss, and reached out to more possible employers. I still haven't heard about the writing position.
It's beyond frustrating at this point.

I showed Lauren the piece I wrote last night for The Annoyance newsletter.
Here it is:

My name is Tony. I'm one of Mick's improv pals.
If Mick were writing today's newsletter I'm sure he would be happy about how rad and gnarly summer is. Plus the gorgeousness of the heatwave. "Bitchin'!" he would write. But Mick isn't here. He's on a cruise ship. Selling out again. This is how he can afford all those fancy leather house music shoes (but can't seem to afford socks to wear with them!).
However I am not Mick. I don't rollerblade everywhere. I don't mooch Mountain Dew off of my students and I don't use binoculars at church. And unlike Mick, I hate summer. This summer in particular has become a steaming sack of mutilated genitals. Let's say Tommy Lasorda's mutilated genitals.
I was trying to think of one positive thing about the mutilated genitalia of former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. Maybe the mutilated genitalia of Tommy Lasorda could be used as a puppet in an anti-drugs puppet revue for troubled teens. Oh, but if a teenager is hooked on drugs, it's probably too late.
What if Baseball Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda's freshly mutilated penis and charred scrotum were used to plug up the nasty gash (hold for laughter) in that BP oil blooper? Oh but wait, that problem has already been solved and we've all moved on.
Jesus cunt. I can't think of one single good thing about the crudely vivisected headless shaft and desiccated testicles of Tommy "The Dugout Wizard" Lasorda. Why do people love his mutilated genitalia so much?

Lauren didn't necessary follow my scattered trail of entrails humor.
I imagine she wouldn't be the only one.
After some research, I noticed that past Annoyance newsletters weren't so blue.
Or so unfunny.
God, I was exhausted and between naps when I wrote that last night.
Fuck, and I had already sent it.
I got bummed out a-fucking-gain.
Ultimately, Mick was able to write the newsletter and I was spared another round of public embarrassment. But it felt shitty to put manure in a friend's hand.
It seems everything I've done in the last month has not been good enough.

I left the house dejected at 1oam and did the weekly mail and payroll runs out to Hermosa.
At 11am I walked into the office.
My boss was the only one there.
Quitting a small company is more difficult than quitting a corporation.
You know everyone on a more personal level.
My boss took over the company about four years ago.
We had about ten drivers and ten bikers, three dispatchers, and a payroll lady.
He was married.
Now he's divorced.
We have about four bikers and four drivers, one dispatcher, and auxiliary folks like Arturo and the payroll lady who dispatches badly.
It's not going to get any better.
He's desperate for drivers.
That's why I didn't get fired for yesterday's nonsense.

I was getting ready to give him the bad news.
"So did you see anything yesterday?" he asked excitedly, referring to the person who jumped off of the Oakton overpass onto the Edens Expresseway yesterday.
"No, just some skid marks."
That killed that conversation.
"How are you doing on drivers?" I asked.
"Not good."
I told him I would tell everyone I knew that the company needed drivers, but that I was giving him my two weeks notice.
He looked at me in the eye for a second and then looked down.
"Right when it's going to start getting busy," he tried.

It's not going to get busy.
Not like it used to.

And that was it.
On Friday, August 13th I will retire from messengering.
No more coming back.
I have to leave the abusive relationship once and for all.

Lauren seemed the happiest about this.
"Do you feel a weight off your shoulders?"
No, I feel the weight of a new burden.
What do I do now?

Verdict: Loss

July 27 - Reality Headquarters

It was a day spent doing lots of low paying runs.
Around 3:30 I decided I was done.
I went to Fantasy Headquarters.
It's a huge costume and gag shop on the northwest side.
The windows are painted with goofy likenesses of leprechauns, Elvis and Austin Powers.
I've always gone there for some reason.
For show props and stuff.
I should probably specify that.
Beatlemagica needed a knife and some clown white.

At the register I noticed a come-on taped to a glass case.
"What's with the lottery tickets?" I asked.
"Each one is a guaranteed winner," said the nice, short girl with the thick Chicago accent.
"It's if you wanna play a prank on someone who always plays the lottery and they haven't won in a while."
I wonder how that prank is being received in today's desperate economy.

It was our last Beatle rehearsal before the show tomorrow.
During the second run through, the knife broke in two pieces.
Fantasy Headquarters has a strict no returns policy.
I hope the clown white isn't just wax anthrax.

Verdict: Win

July 26 - Paging In Sick

I used the USA Mobility Unication Pager to page in a personal day at work.
My boss replied.
I typed no.

It wasn't a leisurely day.
Lauren led and directed the cleaning of the apartment.
Then we went grocery shopping.

In the evening, I led and directed a tech rehearsal at The Annoyance for Beatlemagica.
Then we all went grocery shopping.
Just like a real Beatles tribute band.

I haven't driven an automobile in three consecutive days.

Verdict: Win

July 25 - Brunch Combat, Beatle Magic & Wedding Etiquette

Lauren and I forced ourselves to a rare weekend brunch, and descended upon Pauline's. Surprisingly there was no wait, and we chose a spot in the shade while the oppressive heat took a brief but much needed break from Chicago.

Thin Lauren ordered egg whites. Since being penniless has a shed me of a few pounds, I opted for a five egg omelette of bacon, sausage and cheese that somehow refused to be greasy.
While we waited an aged hippie woman parked her car in the loading zone by the restaurant.
An angry old man attached to a small ventilator appeared from nowhere and began yelling at her. He staggered and pointed in all directions.
The hippie woman played bemused.
"Why am I going to throw up?"
The old coot shot back.
The hippie woman dismissed him.
"You've been saying that for fifteen years."
It seems they had a history.
The food arrived while they were trading more school yard barbs.
Before our first bite the man leaned into our table and offered to pay for our breakfast.
Lauren cut him off with her hand.
"Sir! We would just like to eat our breakfast!"
He obeyed.
As it turns out the hippie woman owns the business next to Pauline's, and the mad old man is the owner. He is Pauline.
We ordered delicious, freshly squeezed orange-papaya juice to sweeten the bitterness experienced. Meanwhile, the hippie woman talked to another table for well over twenty minutes about her plight with the restaurant's owner.
Time to go.

Beatlemagica band practice proved to be two hours of smiling and laughter.
Their take on the music of The Beatles is not to be missed live.
We open on Wednesday.

My friends Brooke and Josh were married today.
They had their post nuptial party at The Annoyance.
I wore the same pink short sleeve shirt that I've worn to the last four weddings.
I drank beer and felt socially awkward, even among good friends.
Something's wrong with me this summer.

But thank god not everything is about goddamn me.
Today was about Brooke and Josh.
Not social faux pas.
Or forgetting people's names.
Or being miffed by people who snub you.
Or all the things that we're supposed to play nice about.

Verdict: Win

July 24 - Failure, Jealousy, Defeat, Beer

This afternoon I made my debut with The Paper Machete at Ricochet's.
I had pitched an idea to Christopher, who organizes the weekly live magazine.
A character piece about the recent heatwave.
The People's Weatherman.
He's kind of a jerk.

I wrote it this morning and read it aloud a few times.
Lauren helped me clean it up, and get it down to six minutes.
I had to cut a segment where I rap along to "Daryl & Joe" by Run DMC.
Overall, I felt pretty good about it.

Lauren went to work and I went to Ricochet's, where my friends Christie and Beth had turned up to see the program. My friend Dennis was also reading, and various peripheral acquaintances from all corners of the improv community had gathered.

Christopher told me I would be kicking off the festivities.
During the mandatory nervousness, I drank Spaten from a plastic cup.
Without much fanfare the show began.
Suddenly I was at the mic holding a couple of pieces of trembling paper.

Let's go over the piece and how it went:

Hey, how's it goin'? Everyone got enough fluids? Good.

I intentionally read this flat and dry, like a dykie gym teacher. People responded kindly in the way that people respond to a needy, crappy local band. With regards to having enough fluids, a few people alluded jokingly to their beers. One person laughed when I spit out a hard "good". Off to a weird start.

My name is Tony, and I'm a weatherman.
No, I'm not one of those Hollywood hot shots you see on your fancy plasma screen TVs.
I don't use any flashy gadgets like Mark Knopfler radar, or any moon cameras floating around, space years away from here.

So my actual name is Tony, but my character was also named Tony. I think people were confused as to who I was supposed to be. I know I was.
The Mark Knopfler radar joke I've had in my head since 1998. Twelve years later it made a lone Dire Straits fan half-laugh.
While making vague, unspecified eye contact with the audience I lost my place on the page. I skipped over an unoriginal meteorology bit and hurried immediately to the next paragraph.

I am The People’s Weatherman. I drive around in my minivan, with the windows rolled down, studying the people and how they are affected by the weather. I ask them if they’ve got enough fluids. One time while checking up on the ghetto, I saw a hungry, impoverished ethnic boy staring at me from a shattered bungalow window.

One minute into the introduction and I've already lost the African-American demographic.

I said to his starving face, "Hey little boy. It's probably around 92 degrees, but with the humidity it feels like it's maybe 100 degrees. I bet it will cool off sometime next week."
I never asked him for money.
What I do is a service to the community.

Cue silence. Let's get to the premise then.

As The People’s Weatherman I am here to talk about the recent heatwave. Many of you here at this sophisticated current events salon might dismiss the weather as a news topic, but let’s get something straight:

Weather is what we talk about with people we don’t know or with people we know but don’t want to get to know. These people are all around us. So drink your free range microbrews and listen to the news.

Some of the weather lines got a few laughs, but these were quickly absorbed by my character making fun of beer that isn't even served at the bar.

Now because I am an authority on the weather, my opinions have become facts. With that, I have a very special weather report: Summer sucks. Thumbs down, Summer. Summer sucks so much that winter is better than summer.

I’ll tell you why:

Look at my arms. Notice my left arm is seven shades darker than my right arm. As a result my left arm is subject to stricter scrutiny from airport security. While I was researching the weather in our nation’s capitol, the Tea Party Movement demanded my left arm produce a birth certificate. And when I was studying heat in Arizona, my left arm was arrested for suspected illegal immigration. However my right arm took in a Diamondbacks game and almost caught a foul ball. Still, I’ve never been half arrested during an autumn football game or a winter skiing match.

"Look at my arms" got a laugh. But I suddenly felt like a payaso and hated myself for writing this. I plowed through the Tea Party and Arizona bits, burying the punchlines in a rushed list. From here on out, the pace picked up noticeably and my eyes rarely left the page.

Sweaty money. Yesterday I paid for a Super Big Gulp with an embarrassingly damp $1000 bill. The clerk gave me a dirty look.
“Is this bill moist and soggy from your own bodily fluids?”
I could only nod yes.
He gave me my change, but not before taking the time to dip it in a vat of bird entrails and hog urine. Now my pockets smell like a John Waters movie.
In the winter my currency smells wonderful.

You could count the laughs on Jerry Garcia's fingers.

Speaking of smells..

I paused here so I could think about how much I hated myself, and then continued.

...don’t get stuck behind a garbage truck during the summer months. It will just augment the pungent stench already incubating within your sweat-drenched undergarments. In the winter it takes me five consecutive, showerless days to stink in such a horrendous manner. In the summer, it takes twenty minutes.
Thumbs down, summer.

The guy doing sound moaned here.
I acknowledged him sideways with a "Yeah'p."

In the winter, I stay warm by snuggling with my girl until we fall asleep, spooned in each other’s arms. We awake well-rested with plenty of energy to make beautiful, ever-lasting love. Have you tried snuggling in the summer? It’s like wrestling with a roofied alligator in the world’s shittiest sauna. After changing positions every 15 seconds, you can’t fucking sleep!

Wait. When did this turn into Night at the Improv: Beginner's Showcase Open Mic circa 1985?

So you get the bright idea to make love so you can tire yourself into a nap at the very least. Here is what my current girlfriend had to say to me when I initiated summer sex.
“Your well-endowed penis is like a sour butter stick melted into a dead vagrant’s sneaker. I’m sleeping on the couch and I’m taking the fan.”
Thumbs down, summer.

The two people that were still listening laughed.

In the summer, you spend your entire paycheck on air conditioner. In the Soviet Union air conditioner spends you!

That was read like Yakov Smirnoff. It would be the biggest laugh I would get.

Earlier this week a man in an SUV had been driving on the shoulder of the road when decided to cut off The People’s Weatherman. I gave him my patented “thumbs down” but he did not notice because he was on his phone. Since we were stuck in traffic, I got out of my car and slit his throat. I let the caller on the other end listen as his gasps gargled and sputtered blood, and intense choking gave way to whistling wheezing. He died. So not everything is so bad in the summer.

Some people laughed at "slit his throat." It was a decent surprise. The gory details were not conducive to laughter though, and I think I heard some people gather their belongings. My friend Beth made a noise on the punchline, but it wasn't quite laughter.

And finally, winter is better than summer because, as The People’s Weatherman, I take the winters off. It’s cold. Fuck that shit. Drink fluids, thank you!

I screwed up the delivery on this last bit. The reveal was unclear. It was utter silence until I laughed "drink fluids" in acknowledgment of the failed piece, and everyone could politely clap, glad to be moving on.

I ordered another beer and watched the rest of the program.
My piece was the worst one.
I've been here before.
It's been a long time.
This is how I used to feel after bad improv shows.
The failure is going to haunt me for a week or so.

Afterward, I chatted with Christie and Beth.
Christie liked Dennis' piece about graffiti.
Me, too.
I told her I regretted doing a character piece.
"You should have just read something from your blog."

I should have read something from this voice.
The topic I was to write about was the heat.
However, I felt if I had simply read my own unpopular opinions about summer and heat, it would come across as whiny and not relatable.
So I took on a character.
But the character was a confused version of me.
And characters don't read copy from a paper.
They act and improvise.
I wanted to try something new, and ended doing something old, but worse.
I got another beer.

On to some uglier aspects of today.
During a conversation, a local soul band was mentioned.
People are under the impression that I like this band.
And they tell me so.
For the record, I do not like this band.
I think they are good musicians.
I think they capture the Stax sound well.
I think their choice of covering current rock songs in a soul style is not as mind blowing as people want me to think it is.
I think it has its place.
Just like AC Dixie, Richard Cheese, and that guy from American Idol who was apparently a genius for singing Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" with an acoustic guitar.
But my problem isn't really with the band.
It's with one of the guys in the band.
We have mutual friends.
We know each other.
We are cordial.
But he has a condescending way of talking to me.
And there's something false about him.
There's something I don't trust.
So it annoys me when people bring up this band to me.
But I must be completely honest and divulge the real reason why it annoys me the most.

Simple jealousy.
That disfiguring ingredient in all of us.
I am jealous of my friends posting videos of the band on their Facetown profiles. It makes me jealous that doing something unoriginal has gotten them attention. I am jealous of the opportunities that the guitarist has used successfully to his advantage.

So there's that petty bag of shit in the middle of the floor now.

I went to the Annoyance to get keys for one of the classrooms.
While there, Tyler the manager, asked me out of the blue if I was familiar with that soul band.
I chuckled defeatedly.

My friends Colleen and Robyn asked me to score a sequence for a comedy short they filmed.
In an Annoyance classroom I laid down drum and guitar tracks onto my laptop.
For four hours, I played the three guitar chords I knew and layered dozens of possible riffs.
In the decaying, exposed wire earbuds, it sounded like lo-fi horseshit.
It seemed I couldn't do anything of quality today.

Lauren got off work early so we met for a beer and a bloody mary.
I told her about all of today's personal defeats.
She said I was allowed to have a bad day.
We dissected it and figured a few things out.
At least now we knew why I sucked.

Verdict: Loss

July 23 - Empty Reflections, Full Belly

Luckily the owner of our anemic, starving messenger company took the day off. So I hung out at the office all day with Arturo the dispatcher/driver/biker.
I met Arturo ten years ago, when we both rode for Apex.
He's been messengering on and off since 1997.
I remember one time around 2002 we occupied the same elevator in a Streeterville high rise.
He had quit Apex and was now working for Velocity.
From his clipboard he produced a picture he had just gotten developed.
It was of his own bare ass.
"What's that for?" I inquired.
He said he was going to be quitting Velocity that day, and the photo was part of his resignation letter.

It was another dead day and that was fine by me.
I'd much rather be working on writing in the comforts of an air conditioned office than panting in the armpit of summer doing shit work that pays nothing to "keep me busy".
Thankfully Arturo understands that.
So he gave all the daily mail and bank run crap to the other two drivers.
I worked in the cool office for four consecutive hours.
We reminisced a bit about the old bike messengering days.
The Arrow Messenger two-hour strike, Super Dave, the messenger girls we thought were pretty.
Back then I had a crush on this girl who rode for Velo.
A tomboy named Laura.
She had a front tooth missing.
We would say hi to each other and mildly flirt.
I saw her at one of the few messenger parties I ever attended.
She and a dude were about to drop acid.
I didn't feel like talking about messengering with other messengers on a Saturday night.
Or on weekdays for that matter.
So I rode home.
Last I heard was she was doing puppetry for Red Moon Theater.
Underneath the nostalgia, Arturo's Pandora played Nina Simone and lots of Cat Power.

But all mediocre things must come to an end, and at 3pm I got a van run downtown and a long one out to Naperville. I supposed I should make more than $14 in a day, so I took the work.
The van run took me to a Jame Gumb cave in the Hyatt Regency where they store conference materials for future corporate horrors.
The traffic to Naperville was aggravating and sticky and filled with people who are under the impression that 65mph is fast enough for all lanes.
It makes for a convoy of mobile prisons.
Fun but true generalization: In Europe, people know how to drive on the highway. Everyone stays in the right lane unless they are passing. It makes everything go smoothly. In the US, the Constitution gives us the freedom to drive anyway we want. For some reason we have all chosen to drive like inconsiderate or oblivious idiots.
It's true.
I call people idiots.
People call me an idiot.
At times, I am an idiot.
All other times, they are the idiots.
We're all a bunch of fucking idiots.

The drive home was entertaining at least.
Big fat storm, loud and mean.
Thin wicked lightnings tickled ahead.
I left all the windows down.
And let the gusts goose my ribs.
The seats got washed.
I cooled off.
It made the four hour drive back and forth almost bearable.

Lauren and I walked in the rain to a BYOB Mexican restaurant.
We pigged out on chips, poblano quesadillas and beer.
The entrees came home in styrofoam.
It was great to go out on a date again.
Plus, Lauren has her front teeth.

Verdict: Win

July 22 - Fuck Chicago - Part MMLXXXVII

Too hungover to cry.
I told Lauren not to ask about my day.
How many ways can you regurgitate permanent vocational dissatisfaction?
Misery is fucking boring.

We did go out at dusk.
A mellow bike ride to Rogers Park.
It was a farewell party for our friend Kate.
She's moving to Providence.
Happy for her.
Providence sounds pleasant.

We slowed to a crawl at the stop sign, and then advanced.
The car to our right slowed down to 15 mph for the stop sign.
We stopped riding to let him blow the stop sign and drive in front of us.
Instead he ground to a halt in the middle of the intersection.
We reluctantly rode in front of him.
"There's a stop sign!" he yelled at us.
"Yeah, and you went through it!" I shouted back.
"FUCK YOU!" he hollered, and sped off into his heroic horizon.
What is wrong with this city?

At home my Facebook friend Kelly posted the following:
"Drinking with Tribune folks on the roof of the Wit while Transformers 3 filmed below - love Chicago."

I didn't reply with the following:
"Cumming into mouth of road rage douchebag's severed head in the kitchen of a sweltering apartment while contemplating yet another day of worthlessness in a dead end job in a dying industry - fuck Chicago."

Correction: "fuck Me."

Verdict: Loss

July 21 - Cares Missing

Oh no.
I've already got the two weeks notice blues and am nowhere near giving my two weeks notice.
Maybe that's why the same speed bumps I've been driving over day after day for the last four years were particularly annoying today.

"The waiting is the hardest part" - Richard Petty, professional driver (like me!)

Heat, sweat, traffic, rage, frustration, sighing, exhaustion, hate.
That was another pointless eight hours.

On to better nights.
Beatlemagica rehearsal went well.
We open in a week.
Tonight we ran the show all the way through from top to bottom without interruptions but also without live musical instruments.
Unfortunately, for time we'll have to cut a Jethro Tull tribute band bit featuring Reid in an enchanting, knee-scathing performance.
RIP Thick As A Brick.

Afterward we all went out for drinks.
It was a wonderful first date, where we shared firsts, worsts, and favorite Wire characters.
For the record, mine are McNutty, Snoop, and Omar.

I came home loaded and perhaps a bit chatty for sleeping Lauren.
So I talked a bag of tortilla chips into my mouth over on the couch.
Then a Forensic Files rerun made me emotionally queasy and I passed out in a drought.

Verdict: Win

July 20 - Salad Nights

Hey, I heard back from the office job.
We talked briefly.
I used an outdated cellphone to tell them I was interested in the writing position. They specified that the position would be inside of an office for 40 hours per week. I said I was ready.

A steady income.
Health insurance.
I could ride my bike again.
I would be able to afford things like restaurants and new underwear.
Most importantly, I would be writing.
An activity I happen to enjoy.
I'd get my pride back, too.

So I worked on the writing sample.
It's a challenging voice.
I wrote a few possible directions for the piece between runs, wrote things on post it notes while driving, reworked it from the loading zone of the Wrigley Building, and revised it when I got home.
After a quick, probably delicious dinner I attended Beatlemagica rehearsal.
I directed Beatlemagica.
Beatlemagica rules.

Back at home I revised the piece some more.
Lauren helped update my resume into the wee hours.
Her wizardry turned my cold dead bean of a resume into a decent salad.

They should sell resumes in bags.
Delicious edible resumes.
Popcorn flavored resumes, ice cream flavored resumes, beef wellington...zzzzzzzzz

Verdict: Win

July 19 - Purgatory

Bear with me, please, as I experiment with different writing styles for the sake of variety:

He hadn't heard back from the office job.
Last year he had freelanced with them as a humor writer.
On Thursday, he reconnected with them.
"We're not hiring humor writers right now," the email said, "but you might be interested in applying for the details writer position."
He was very interested, and said so in his reply.

Monday began with a van job: two boxes and a three foot tall case picking up from a worldwide accounting firm and going to the Fairmont Hotel.
On Friday another delivery driver had delivered 22 boxes to the hotel, but three of them were not accounted for.
His pager beeped.
People make fun of pagers.
He liked his pager.
It had a full qwerty keyboard and can send and receive emails.
And he didn't have to talk into it.
He never misread anything on his pager.
He never had to type "what?" on his pager.
He never stepped on anyone's sentences with his pager.
"ten4" he replied.
The page didn't go through.
"Unless you're with AT&T, you won't get any reception down here."
The loading dock guy.
"You're deep in the bowels."

The loading dock guy was looking to escape the small fluorescent hell of his cramped, paper riddled work closet, and gladly led him on a search party for these who cares accounting boxes.
They checked The Regal Room and The Crystal Room. All these important rooms contained were last week's Reader and nothing.
While combing the spacious Imperial Ballroom they both noticed a large roadie case.
On it was stenciled the words RAPE CONTROL.
Double and triple takes.
The ballroom was hosting a big college jobs summit thing for the worldwide accounting firm.
"No wonder they want those missing boxes so badly," he said.
"Evidence," the loading dock guy added.
They later learned that a nylon strap had covered a "D" in the stenciling.
So it should have said RAPED CONTROL.
Still, he and the loading dock guy did "rape control" bits the whole way back to the bowels.

He drove around doing peanuts work.
He hated these shitty, worthless daily runs.
He didn't want to "keep busy".
Two hours in hot, frustrating, shitty, city traffic: $10.
He'd rather be reading or writing or working on music for $0.

He didn't recall his summers as a bike messenger being quite as miserable as this.
Maybe because he used to find an air conditioned place to wait out the slow days.
Or a bench in the shade for an afternoon nap.
There was no escape in the van.
The sun was always on.
His left arm was seven shades darker than his right arm.

He put in a Run DMC mix.
It was all stuff from the first two albums.
Pre-Aerosmith Run DMC.
He rapped along with it loudly.

Microphone master super rhyme maker
I get def as the others get faker
It's me DMC in the place to be
And I still got the same old harmony

His windows were down in Bridgeport.
Connected Daley underlings, douchey guidos, and working class blacks walked in the heat.
Some noticed the minivan blaring outdated, G-rated rhymes with a white weirdo yelling along.

In case you're wonderin' what all this means
We're funky fresh from Hollis, Queens

Some didn't.

He parked in a loading zone for the Wrigley Building.
On lower Hubbard across from the Billy Goat Tavern he could get free wi-fi.
Still no word from the writing job.

In ten years he had seen the messenger industry go from lucrative to pathetic.
He used to take pride in being a messenger.
Well, a bike messenger at least.
Traffic meant nothing.
He was in the best shape of his life.
Some people found him sexy.
He had a little money.

People don't use messengers as much as they once did.
There's a device named The Internet that takes care of document delivery needs.
It's free.

Last week his paycheck after work expenses was $275.
He is fifteen pounds heavier.
Ten years more miserable.

He missed bike messengering.
Or so he thought.
Maybe he missed that time in his life when riding a bike and spending his paychecks at the bar was enough to make him content.

He snickered.
Was he really just longing for fucking emptiness?

Verdict: Loss

July 18 - Beatlemagica Makes Magic Beatle Music

Today was the first band practice for Beatlemagica.

Beatlemagica is a Beatles tribute band.
They hail from Gristlepond, Iowa, where they work at a candy factory.
I discovered them and now act as their manager.

It went well.
They rehearsed three of your favorite Beatles songs.
Here's their myspace page.

The story of Beatlemagica will be performed at The Annoyance on Wednesdays, July 28 and August 4 at 8pm.

Verdict: Win

July 17 - Ex-Family Reunion

We bought a fucking air conditioner.
A small window unit for the bedroom.
We'd have to find some scrap wood for the gap in the window.
The wood cutter at Home Depot wasn't used to all these window units in these old buildings in Chicago.
He was from Arizona.
He also didn't like the big Chicago built-in heater units.
"I don't know what I'm doing here."

With small amounts of stress and frustration, we installed the damn thing.
Then Lauren went to work and I went to Nurse Novels practice.

We practiced at Thea's.
Her parents were there, along with her sister.
I met Thea's family four years ago when we were dating.
I've always liked her family.
After our difficult breakup, I'm not sure they share the sentiment.
Old, expired guilt crept back into my posture.
When I saw her Mom, I shot out a "hey" with casual Jersey confidence.
Strange choice.
We worked on six of our 458 new songs.
Nicole found a spooky bass line for a song currently about Mummenschanz.
I felt a bit awkward singing in the presence of Thea's family and fiance.
Especially our new sappy love pop masterpiece.
But it felt good to play again.

Afterward, I hauled two amplifiers, a Farfisa organ, a two-piece drum kit with hardware, a guitar, and a postal bin of wigs up to the Annoyance for tomorrow's Beatlemagica band practice.

I don't even remember what I did with my evening.
It was a Saturday night.
Lauren was at work.
I'm still broke.
Oh yeah, I fell asleep on the couch watching All About Eve.

But we would share a cool room together for the first time this wretched summer.

Verdict: Win

July 16 - Suck My Dick, Summer

Another restless night of attempting to sleep.
When we spoon, we sweat.
So we keep to our corners of the bed, a boxing ring of moist, annoyed corpses, until the wheezing roar of a fat, smelly garbage truck scrapes us awake.
It's 5am, so we can stagger in and out of miserable consciousness for a few more hours.

I drove around and did some driving and drove the van around a lot again and a lot.
This no A/C fucking bullshit has made my daytime hours officially worthless.
There is no point to my existence during the day.
I'm trying to change this.

I phoned my friend Liz from the radio, and we talked for an hour about the radio.
Maybe there's something there.
I used to do radio.
From 1994-1997 I worked for 93.7 KCLB-FM in Coachella, California.
My radio name was Tony Montana.
The format was AOR.
I loved it to a degree.
But I only made about $12,000 per year.
And I truly hated living in the desert.
It's hot there.
Kind of like it is here.
Yeah, so maybe there's something there in that radio.

For now though, I would be spending the next three hours in bumper to bumper traffic going from Chicago to Mundelein and back to Chicago during the afternoon rush.
I think my left arm is so tan it's almost green now.

Lauren and I had a rare Friday night to ourselves.
We went out to Moody's for burgers and a pitcher of beer.
Great burgers, terrible buns.
They're like flaky, recycled sneakers.
The heat seems to bring out the negative in me.

It was 9pm when we got home.
As soon as I touched the bed I fell asleep.
Lauren did, too.

Our combined sweat woke us up at 2am.
Now we were up.
We watched Splits 'n' Flips on DVR until it started pissing us off.
It was 4am.
We tried the bed again.
I'm hoping they don't have fucking shitty ass 5am garbage trucks on Saturdays.

Verdict: Loss

July 15 - Abysmal Earnings, Dismal Learnings

Okay, so today a paycheck happened.
Let's see here.
Yeah, okay.
That'll work.
That'll work.
How much do I make in a week then?
750 divided by 2 is 375.
Wow, that's not a lot.
How much do I spend on gas?
Last week I spent $100.
Same with the week before.
So that means I'm only making $275 per week?
That's what I made working at Road Pilot in 1993!

Speaking of gas stations, I lost it today at Speedway.
All day it had been irritatingly hot and humid like a dog's nauseated pant.
After a hundred miles on the road I had run out of water.
I stopped at a Waukegan Speedway for cheap gas, water, and an iced coffee.
Speedway offers its patrons a Speedy Rewards card.
When you buy six coffees, the seventh one is free.
Having bought six coffees in the last three months, I decided today was the day to cash in my free coffee!
At the register, the water and coffee rested on the counter as I handed the cashier my coupon.
She had some fast bad news.
"This coupon is expired$2.59."
"You gotta use these things. $2.59."
"But I was out of the country," I protested, discovering a split-second too late how arrogant that sounded. So I paid for the coffee, and pre-paid $50 for gas.
"Do you want me to swipe your Speedy Rewards card?"
"Ye...," I considered, "...no. They don't do anything anyway," I grumbled.
At the pump, it continued to say "WAITING FOR AUTHORIZATION".
I waited a few more moments.
Was she fucking with me?
What, did I not show the proper amount of respect for the Speedy Rewards card?
I returned to the cashier.
"What's the matter?" she asked.
"It just says 'Waiting For Authorization'".
"What did you do?"
I explained at her the steps that led to my return.
"Well, it must've not gone through. How much did you have, $38?"
"No, I gave you $50."
"No, " she disagreed, and looked at me like I was more of an asshole than I really am.
I stepped forward.
"No, I gave you $50," I said firmly, and felt the squeeze of dry sand in my ventricles.
She realized her error.
"Oh yeah, $50," and then, as if in the audience of a lowest common denominating talk show, she scolded, "Jeez, you don't have to be so..."
"Fuuuck...," I dramatically exhaled.
I decided to use this as the beginning of my next sentence.
But not before I swung open the door, continuing in a shout to no one.
Unfortunately, it was heard by everyone.

I have tried quitting messengering five times.

October 2000 - Within one week I wiped out repeatedly on my bike trying to get the hang of clipless shoes, was pushed off my bike by a carload of hilarious teenagers, and was mugged at knifepoint. I decided that I needed a change and quit bike messengering. After one week as a receptionist, I was back.

December 2002 - After having my apartment broken into and ransacked twice in one month, I decided that I needed a change and quit bike messengering. After three months at Trader Joe's, I started bike messengering for the company I am still with today.

April 2007 - I was commissioned to update Ubu Roi for a theater company. It would pay for my rent that month. With the help of an inheritance, I thought I could eke out a living this way. I was wrong, and returned as a bike and van messenger in July.

January 2008 - Having agreed to perform comedy aboard a cruise ship for four months, I said farewell to the icy hell of bike messengering during a Chicago winter. When I came back from the ship I was broke, and returned to the occupation that I can't seem to shake. Though this time they weren't hiring bikers, just drivers.

December 2009 - When the van's engine light came on, I decided I needed to stop fucking doing this. For two weeks I found temporary part time work that might have had a future, albeit a sideways one. When my boss made me choose between the two, I couldn't find my balls and remained loyal.

People are afraid of change.
That's why they choose the familiar.
I must be afraid of success.*

*"Familiar" is "Failure" spelled backwards.

Even though some of my past actions could back up that statement (pulling the plug on a TV pilot of my original work, not rising to the challenges of pedestrian cruise ship comedy, self-destructive tendencies at commercial auditions, disdain for the spotlight in general), I don't think I am afraid of success.
I simply have focus, compromise, and confidence issues.

In the late 90's I frequented the Empty Bottle. I saw bands that I liked, like The Mono Men, Thee Headcoats, Delta 72, etc. It never even occurred to me that I could ever be on that stage. And then I decided that I could. And did.
A few times, Man.

Tonight I am spending the evening writing and making connections with people who are doing things that interest me.

Verdict: Win

July 14 - Manning Up For Dummies

Last night my friends The Itinerant Locals played a Mexican restaurant petting zoo.
I couldn't attend because it was going to cost money.
Besides, I had a rehearsal with Beatlemagica.
After rehearsal my friends in The Columbines were playing a show at The Beat Kitchen.
I didn't attend because it was going to cost money.
Tonight my friends in Begin By Gathering Supplies played The Abbey Pub.
I wouldn't attend because it was going to cost money.

Bank account: $2
Pants pocket: $3

So what happened?
Airfare to Europe: $800
Four weeks in Europe: $300
Four weeks unpaid at work: $2000

What happened to your supplemental income?
The Rush Limbaugh musical closed.
While in Europe I lost my slot teaching improv.

What about your writing endeavors? Aren't you pitching ideas to that publication you respect?
They liked one of the pitches. I interviewed a bunch of people, wrote it, and it will maybe be up online to read someday. If so, I think I'll get $25.

Are you getting paid to direct that Beatles show?
Are you serious?

What about...

I know, acknowledge, and understand that things could be worse.
I could have -$4 in the bank and a wad of a gum in my pants.
I could have a severed human tongue wriggling in my pants, and be aroused by it while lecturing third graders.
I could be wearing the pants Reginald Denny wore at the intersection of Florence and Normandie in Los Angeles on April 29, 1992.
Things could be worse.
What if every time I tried to play a trumpet, my own diarrhea came out of it?
What if the sandwich I made for lunch was responsible for an air crash that took the lives of a humanitarian basketball team?
What if juggling was a gateway drug to bestiality?

Yes, it could always be worse.
I suppose I'm tired of hearing myself say that over and over again.
I'm tired of being at the intersection of "That Was Fun" and "Now I'm Broke" with nothing to show for it.
In Reginald Denny's pants (eBay, man!).

It's time to part ways with the boring, dead end job excuses.
It's time to figure out how to become an adult Christian male (hold the Christ).

Verdict: Loss

July 13 - Hard Sell

Around 7am, Brian, an acquaintance of mine instant messaged me.
He was in London and things were not good.
He had been mugged.
The mugger took all their money and credit cards.
His wife had been hurt.
I bought it with caution.
"oh no - that's horrendous" I typed.
He said his head was not in a good place.

I've met Brian twice.
He lives in Los Angeles.
Why was he instant messaging me?
Why was he instant messaging?
Why was I instant messaging?
"thank god we have our life and passport" he typed.
Brian's syntax was not in a good place either.

It turns out Brian needed money.
I woke up Lauren.
"Are Brian and Karen in London?"
She was groggy.
"Babe, their computer got hacked."
I went back to mine.
"are you still there?" he had typed.
"Brian is offline," it ultimately said.

A few minutes later I got an email from Brian.
The subject was "My Plight!!!"
Good thing I am broke.
Otherwise I would have blindly given this strange human all of my money.

Who are these people?
What do they look like?
How do they spend their non-hacking hours?
Are they happy?
Are they just trying to make a living, like the rest of us?
How successful are they?
Are they hiring?

I placed two bankers boxes into a tiny, windowless office.
A large woman with a metal hairdoo sat miserably in a swivel chair.
On the floor in a black plastic bag, two gold frames leaned against the wall.
"It looks like you haven't finished decorating," I tried.
"Oh, that's all my X-Files crap I need to sell."
I laughed a little, enough to make it seem like it was with her.
"Do you know anyone that wants a David Duchovny basketball?"
I laughed a little more.
"Sorry, I'm selling things, too."

Why should I have to sell my stuff?

Maybe I'll instant message a few of my old Facebook acquaintances.
See how they're doing.

i've been better

my head is in a bad place right now

thank god i have my life and internet

Verdict: Win

July 12 - Lo$er

It's embarrassing.
I maxed out what little I had on my credit card paying for gas for work.
No, work doesn't pay for my gas.
I brought old Sandwich Shop merchandise to the Wisconsin Weekend.
No one bought anything.
Mike had to pick up my breakfast in Madison.
"Money for tolls" paid for my dinner and a late night BP jalapeno cheddar jerky mistake.

I thought I could stretch $45 until Thursday.
But I got an email from I-Pass informing me that my account was being replenished.
This leaves me with $5 until Thursday.
Then I got an email from my car insurance.
An automatic payment withdrawal of $86 will take place on Wednesday.
Seems I'm not going to make it.

I took my old turntable to an electronics resale shop.
In 2007 I spent $400 for it.
For some reason, I could only get one channel to work on it.
TECHNICally, it was an ML-1200MK2.
I took it back to the dealer, who was able to make both channels work with a special adaptor.
I bought an adaptor.
It never worked.

Then I went on a boat for four months and my life changed.
When I returned, I got out of an unhappy place and started in a new direction.

My dispatcher gave me his old West German Elac Miracord 750 III from the 70's.
Both channels worked.
The Technics was relegated to a closet, where its reminder of an unhappy time in my life waited patiently for a rainy resale day like today.
Though I wish it would have actually rained.

At the electronics resale shop, I lugged the heavy instrument onto a glass counter. An electro-savvy Eastern European man ended his phone conversation.

MR. ELECTRICO: You want it fixed?
ME: It works.
MR. ELECTRICO: You giving it to me?
ME: I'd like to sell it.
MR. ELECTRICO: Ah, the truth comes out.

I acknowledged the playful environment he had created with a nod, a smile, and a half-laugh.
But now it was time for business, and his cadence fell somber and tragic.

MR. ELECTRICO: I don't need these so much. I have six on the shelf and twelve downstairs. When one sells - woop! - I bring another up from downstairs.
ME: Let's see what you got. Y'know, 'cuz this is a-
MR. ELECTRICO: I know what you have.

He didn't have a Technics, but he did have the Gemini equivalent. It was selling new for $165.

ME: I was hoping to let it go for $200.
MR. ELECTRICO: Why would anyone buy a used one for 200 when they could have a new one for 165?

He laughed. I thanked him anyway and lumbered my continued burden to the door.

MR. ELECTRICO: Maybe try a pawn shop.

Inside my skull, sparks of defeat made my hair cry. Then he shouted at me.

MR. ELECTRICO: Live forever!

I tried Lauren instead.
She lent me $100.
She also bought this week's groceries and made dinner.
She's going to let me have her leftover jalapeno gnocchi for tomorrow's dinner, too.

Verdict: Loss

July 11 - Bitter Tears Farewell To Summer

Last Bitter Tears show for a while.
This will allow Alan to conceive of new stage costumes.
It will also allow Mike to get married.
And John to return the T.A.M.I. Show DVD I lent him.

Tonight's Sunday show in Milwaukee will allow me to:
Get home at 2:30am
Try to sleep
Stay up until 5am
Get up at 8am
Drive in a heat coma
Spend the rest of the week listlessly trying to catch up on rest

Verdict: Loss

July 10 - Stars vs. Scars

Madison, Wisconsin.

Bike friendly.
Healthy options.
Forward thinking.

You can live in a house.
And it can be by a lake.
And you can afford it.
And also, the beach isn't closed due to high levels of E coli.

Why aren't there people honking horns and screaming at each other?
How come going to the supermarket isn't an overcrowded battle for territory?
Where are all the completely worthless assholes that aren't college students?

Hey, where'd you go?
I can't see you.
It's dark out.
When I look up all I see are little silver dots.

Why do I live in Chicago, again?

Verdict: Win

July 9 - G.P.Asshole

I don't own a GPS.
Last year I spent $10 on a 7-county street finder map of Chicagoland from 2006.
I figured I saved about $100 or so.
Then during a bumper-to-bumper crawl in South Elgin, I searched the heavy, 500 page hardcover tome for a residential street nearby. I didn't find the street, but I did find the bumper of the car in front of me.
That summer I spent over $500 to repair the nice man's bumper.
I figured I lost about $400 or so.
I still don't own a GPS.
Too expensive!

Today I had to deliver an envelope to Mishawaka, Indiana.
It's near South Bend and Notre Dame and all that stuff.
An auditing firm wanted their envelope delivered to a media group by 3pm.
I printed out directions and headed out around 12:30pm.

Lovely day for a drive.
That asshole heat that plagued us all week took the fucking hint and left us alone.
But not before buckling the pavement on Lake Shore Drive, like an asshole.
A couple of days ago our maintenance man lost consciousness from the asshole heat, and smacked his head on the floor.
He's 60 years old.
Fuck that asshole heat.

I exited the tollway in South Bend at 2:15pm.
While looking for Douglas Avenue, a major thoroughfare, I took in South Bend's sites:
The winding St. Joseph River, the Notre Dame campus, the College Football Hall of Fame.
It seemed a decent type of town.
If only I could find this Douglas Avenue.
Maybe googlemaps was wrong again.
I kept driving until things got impoverished and barren, and cutely seedy motels started springing up in the weeds.
While consulting my road map in a bowling lot parking lot, I realized I had driven the entire length of South Bend.
"BOWL YOUR WAY TO A FREE MUSTANG," the bowling alley sign shouted.
I didn't have time to do that.
It was 2:35.
Uh oh.
I drove across town again only to discover that Douglas Avenue doesn't have a street sign.
I had to call my boss.
I had to call the media company.
If only I had a GPS.

But the envelope arrived in the lobby of the media group at 2:52!
Oh, wait.
In Indiana it was 3:52.
Who knows.
Who cares.
I escaped rotten Chicago for a whole afternoon.

Lauren's been teaching sketch comedy to a bratty batch of teenagers.
She's also teaching improv to adults.
And waiting tables in the evening.
Now she has a summer cold.
Sweat vs. Snot.
Vs. Cramps.

So she splayed out at home, stuffed up in our un-air conditioned apartment while The Bitter Tears played their last Chicago show of this asshole season.

Verdict: Win

July 8 - I Get It, "I'm Old"

Time Magazine was donating some items to Chicago Public Schools.
They commissioned our messenger company to deliver the items.
For once, worthwhile work!
Now I can scratch Peace Corps off my Bucket List.

Harry Reese designed the Time Life Building.
It looks like a large brown box.
On the 19th floor a crude cardboard replica waited for me.
It stood six feet tall, sat four feet wide on either side.
The box weighed as much as I did before I got "fat".
I wrestled it like an insubordinate vending machine onto a tipsy cart.
It took a few tries, and cost the walls a few nicks.
A fucky, grunty experience.

The magazine was also kind enough to donate six unwieldy dry erase boards.
The 4' x 8' dry erase board proved most difficult to:
* Lift
* Carry
* Move
* Fit into freight elevator
* Fit through doors
* Fit into second freight elevator
* Like

But I got 'er done!
I mean.
I helped to make a difference.

Oh but wait.
I still had to fit this crap- I mean these tools for success - in the van.
While staring at the van, an old bike messenger friend approached.
It was Max.
Max has been on the streets for almost two decades.
For years we worked for the same messenger company.
Sometimes, as a sign of the end of the day, he would broadcast the accordion busker's river ditties through all of our brick radios.
He's a short guy with long stringy hair.
He looks like a ratty version of Eric Burdon.
When I started messengering he had brown hair.
Now his grey locks poke like dead straw out of his weathered leather Freddie Mercury hat.

We made eye contact.
"Hey Max," I said.
"Hey," he returned suspiciously.
He didn't recognize me.
Five steps later he snapped his fingers.
"Oh wait, I know you. 37!"
Actually it's 58, but who cares.
"Yeah, Tony," I smiled.
"Tony!" he exclaimed like a human pizzeria.
He looked at my task.
"You're gonna fit all that in that?"
He smiled.
"Gettin' old, huh?"
"Yup," I confessed, cautiously jumping down from the dock to the van.
Max helped me load in the enormous box for a couple of seconds.
"I'll do that when I'm old," he announced.
I continued my fucky, grunty duty.
"I said, 'I'll do that when I'm old!'" he repeated, a little louder this time.
"Thanks, Max. I heard you the first time." Those fucking dry erase boards - I mean those inspirational, life-changing dry erase boards - had accidentally torn up the interior of the van.
"I get it," I said to Max in lieu of farewell.

Maybe I don't miss bike messengering as much I thought I did.
After all, now I deliver knowledge.

Verdict: Win

July 7 - Neanderthal Humidity

Couldn't sleep.
We wet bed.
Too hot to fuck.
Too fuck.
No A/C.
Shitty trucks.
Gave up.
Ran from heat.

No A/C.
Red left arm.
Red left knee.
Red left neck.
Cranky by noon.
Crazy by two.

Poor Lauren.
Blisters on arms.
On couch.
Defeated conversations.
On floor.

Water again.
Escape to rehearsal.

Beatles good.
Reid, Chris, Mick, Jen, Jean, Brian, I.
Green Mill.
Fiddlers dueled.
Diddlers fueled.
(I got drunk).

Rode home in rain.
Beautiful cocksucking rain.
Moist, moist rain gave me pro blowjob.
Thanked religion for sacred mother-fucking gift.

Why still worthlessly hot in apartment?

Verdict: Loss

July 6 - Beatlemagica Meets

In March, I fell into yet another Beatles k-hole.
During this one, I got the idea to create a comedy show about a Beatles tribute band.
Today was the first rehearsal for what is being called Beatlemagica.

Beatlemagica is about four factory workers from a small town in Iowa, and they have problems.
They decide to form a Beatles tribute band to lift their spirits.
But no one in the band knows how to play a musical instrument.
Despite this, they achieve minor local success at a battle of Beatles tribute bands.
And then there's a twist!
You'll have to see to believe it!!

The show will have two performances: July 28 and August 4 at The Annoyance.
It will be twenty minutes long.

A little about the cast:
Ben Kobold was in the Annoyance class I taught last summer. He will play the guy that pretends to be John Lennon.
David Blum was in the class I taught last autumn. He will play the guy that pretends to be Paul McCartney.
Carly Mandel and Stephanie Jones are two kooks that were in my spring term. They will play women who pretend to be Ringo Starr and George Harrison respectively.
Erik Johnson was also in that class. Erik will play a factory worker.
Reid Coker and I just spent a month together in Europe with The Bitter Tears. He will play the factory boss, and a few other characters.
I am directing it.
We are creating it using improvisation, working with beats from a plot outline.

First rehearsals are like first days of a new class.
Everyone's a little shy and feels a little stupid acting ridiculous in front of each other (except Carly and Stephanie).
It's necessary to feel this and get it over with.
So we just improvised straight scenes, followed by scenes with the show characters.
We were in silos and at Casey's and around other famous Iowa locales.
I mixed and matched them in pairs.
The John guy with the Paul guy.
The Ringo lady with the boss.
A factory worker with the George chick.

Originally, Stephanie ("George") was cast as the factory kitty cat.
It looked good on paper: a Beatles tribute band with a cat disinterestedly pawing at a sitar.
But after a few scenes with Stephanie crawling around and not being able to say much, I thought her talents could probably be put to better use.
So now she's a dyke-tongued Boston transplanted "mutha".

This will be a smart-stupid, silly, dark show about the Fab Four.

Verdict: Win

July 5 - Flintstone Asshole

I decided to treat myself to a cheering up.
The silly bleakness I'd expressed on this blooog had some friends concerned.

Over on the internet, episodes of The Flintstones are available for casual viewing.
I grew up on The Flintstones.
I spent most of my childhood indoors in front of a television.
Between 1st and 3rd grade I never saw my friends during the summer.
I remained inside the apartment, curtains drawn, lying down on the living room floor with the air conditioning unit turned up loud and high.
Since both of my parents worked, I didn't have to.
So I lazed about in my Underoos with the WFLD Channel 32 programming schedule branded onto my frontal lobe.

I loved it.
I had my own apartment.
Every day was Home Alone.

My parents did attempt some sort of adult supervision.
They paid the Indian lady across the hall to periodically check up on me.
One late afternoon in 1981 I was engrossed in an episode of The Flintstones when the front door creaked open.
The lady across the hall poked her head in.
It was not during a commercial break.
"What do you want?"

Even at six I could be a complete asshole.

I wonder where I got it from.
Then I watched the "Hot Lips Hannigan" episode of The Flintstones.
Fred Flintstone is an asshole.
He has no sense of humor, treats his friends like shit, and has a horrible relationship with his wife.

In the first three minutes, an angry Fred berated Barney Rubble for being a "no talent", and closed the scene by saying, "I don't know why I stay friends with that guy."
At home, his off key bellow shattered four mugs, the television screen, and a pitcher Wilma was holding.
Pissed off on a hammock, he mused "Ah, women. No musical appreciation at all."
Then he forced Barney to lend him his trampoline.
Back at home he continued to destroy household items. This time, his magic tablecloth trick failed and the Flintstones lost an entire set of China.
Soon after, Fred made Wilma and Betty Rubble vanish in a disappearing cabinet.
Delighted, he and Barney went scatting off to a jazz club, leaving the girls trapped in the unknown.
This pissed off the girls, who were hiding in another room.
So they dressed up like beatniks to catch them red-handed and "hospitalize" them.
Fred reconnected with his old pal Hot Lips Hooligan at the Rockland Dancehall.
Barney, confused about Fred's retirement from music, asked him what happened.
"Wilma happened."

Sitting in with Hot Lips Hannigan, Freddie "The Golden Smog" Flintstone sang "When The Saints Go Marching In".
He sang with the bravado of a drunk blowhard at a wedding who thinks he's Sinatra.
It went on a little too long, "man."
After the set, Hot Lips tried to flirt with Wilma and Betty.
"Scoodle-eee wah wah wah," he slithered, and held out his hand. "Con-tact!"
Wilma immediately cracked him in the head with her prehistoric purse.
"There's some contact for ya, you old goatface!"
Somehow they all went home and kind of worked it out, although they left a lot unresolved.
The men never told the women about the jazz club.
The women never told the men about the disguises.
But Wilma did spook Fred into a coma, which lasted for a whole day it seems.
"Wilma. I'm hungry. Why don't make me something?"
How did she live with this man?
To be fair, over the course of the day Wilma did throw a flowerpot into Fred's mouth and smashed the egg he was holding.
Also, she repeatedly bludgeoned him with a frying pan she had brought to the dressmaker.

But I loved The Flintstones.
No wonder I'm such an asshole.

Verdict: Win

July 4 - What Are You Up To? Bits!

Susan's barbeque.
She does it every year.
It's made up mostly of improv folks.

Improv people do things called bits.
They're like conversations, but they aren't.
Often they start as real conversations, but get rerouted into comedic one-upmanship.
This is because comedians are insecure and afraid of their own emotions.
So they overcompensate with silliness in the form of meaninglessness.
Sometimes a bit can go something like this:

2: Did you ride your bike here?
1: Actually, I rode my dog here.
2: Oh, was that you I saw on a golden doodle?
1: Yeah, that's why I'm wearing this kerchief.
(1 points to a kerchief around his neck that is not actually there)
2: I have a kerchief for my penis when I engage in sexual activity.
1: Me, too. Mine is the color azure.
2: Mine folds out to become a backgammon board.
1: So when you play backgammon on your penis kerchief, how do you know what's a backgammon piece and what's a piece of dried cum?
5: And scene!

If you're in the mood and with the right people, these weird anti-conversations can be fun.
But often times you get burned out on bits, and end up going through the motions of doing air comedy, not wanting to be the one that kills it.
And then you notice the sun isn't where it was a minute ago.

Luckily, there weren't too many bits at the party.
But there was a lot of "what are you up to?".
I guess that's at every party.

My friend Eric approached me on the backyard steps.
I tried to rephrase "what are you up to?" for the sake of variety.
"So what are.. In your life... Are things...-"
"Shut the fuck up!"
He said it straight and fast.
It didn't even sound like a bit.
"Fair enough," I surrendered.
An awkward pause took the spotlight and then Eric crouched down to my face.
"What were you going to say?"
"What are you up tooo?" I challenged with big eyes, not really wanting to know the answer.
He answered anyway, but I don't think he wanted to know the answer, either.
Then he crouched down to me again.
"What about yooo?" he aped.
God, what a terrible interaction we were having.
What's weird is that I like Eric. And Eric likes me. We like each other.
What's going on?

Maybe it's coming to the same old barbeque year after year and seeing the same people over and over again, and everything is still the same, and bits. But this person is now fucking this person, and this person moved to LA, and did you hear about this person, and bits, and...
And now what?
Now you're old.

So I met with Sad On Vacation and Annoyance friends and we watched fireworks on a rooftop. I like those people.

After Lauren got off work, we met for a drink and had a really good talk.
I see some focus coming into focus.

Verdict: Win

July 3 - Paper I'm Shitty

I thought I would be a wallflower at The Paper Machete, as I'm interested in being a part of this live weekly magazine.
Interest + Hanging Around = Possibility of Fulfillment

Nursing a beer along the wall of Ricochet's I spotted Steve from The Chicago Reader/ Chicago AV Club/Time Out Chicago. Years ago he interviewed me for 58, the show I wrote about bike messengering. Since then, I say hi to him socially, whether it's at The Annoyance or in line at Hot Doug's.
I said hey.
"Hey," he countered curtly.
Maybe being curt is his pre-show ritual.

Then Jesse from The Absolute Best Friggin' Time Of Your Life arrived, followed by Boaz, musical director for last year's Blago musical. They hauled a guitar, an upright bass, a bongo, and some hand percussion.
"Are you doing something here, too?" they asked individually, not in unison.

Next, Katie and Lindsay from Sirens arrived with a written piece hot off the press.
"Wow, I didn't even recognize you," observed Lindsay.
I guess I haven't been around the improv scene with my new grunge conquistador look.
"Are you doing something for the show?" Katie asked.

Cast members from Second City's e.t.c. stage added themselves to the dart-throwing area of the bar. Michael, an understudy that night, extended his hand for an introduction.
"Hi, I'm Michael - oh, hey Tony! I didn't recognize you. Wow...". And he laughed a bit.
I wonder if Steve just didn't recognize me, and that's why he looked at me like I was a complete asshole for saying hello.

At the bar I tried a less expensive beer. Christina from e.t.c. asked if I would like to play the bongo on her songs with Jesse and Boaz.
It looked as if would be a part of The Paper Machete after all.

This week's edition was tight.
Abe from Baby Teeth wrung the butter out of his electric piano with humor.
Ali Weiss spat a biting ode to Mayor Daley ala "Casey at the Bat."
Steve's history of fireworks read well aloud, especially when punctuated with crisp handfuls of happy snappers.
Katie and Lindsay's piece on Brits 'n' squaws tickled us from Lake Wobegon.

I achieved more beer as the afternoon wore on.
John Paul Davis read a knockout about shades of the color white. It was both genuinely funny and actually moving. Fuck, man. If I want to be a part of this thing, I'm going to have to step it up.
More quality pieces were read, but pre-show jitters prevented them from penetrating my stagefright.
More beer helped calm my nerves.
I didn't know what we would be playing, but soon I found myself "onstage" with Christina, Jesse and Boaz, squeezing a bongo with my knees. We played two songs, one of them being Warrant's "Cherry Pie". The pie that Warrant made famous.
And then the show was over!

I drank enough cheap beer to think I could socialize.
Milling about, I praised my friends, introduced myself to the host and John Paul Davis, and reintroduced myself to Ali.
Christina thanked me for sitting in on the songs.
Christina is African American.
"That was our debut playing music together," she said.
I decided to disagree.
"Didn't we do a Bizco gig a few years ago?"
"You're thinking of Claudia or Amber."
Claudia and Amber are also African American women.
Christina, Claudia and Amber have all worked with Second City.
I decided to press the issue, because I like to think that I don't do ignorant things like lump all African American women at Second City together.
"What about the variety show with Eddie and Zulevic? Didn't I play drums on your song?"
"That was probably Naomi."

And humiliation.
Actually, I was thinking of a woman named Dionna. That's who I was thinking of.
Dionna is African American.

My stupid white face turned red.
My stupid red face turned back to white.
With terror.
I did my best to clean up the mess, but it felt like I drove a car into a 7-Eleven, and all I had was a Dustbuster.

Now what.
More beer.

From the bar, I saw Steve about to leave.
I turned my neck and got him in my sites.
It was a wobbly, clumsy arrow, but it pierced him.
He paused, trapped.
"I liked your..."
Oh no.
My what?
My lazy racism?
My thoughtless thinking?
My blatant disregard for self-editing?

Back at home I tried to take down my Jimmy the Greek posters, but ended up blaring Kid Rock and passed out in my rebel flag doo rag.

Verdict: Loss

July 2 - It's Toasted

I missed a call last night around 11pm.
Dead asleep.
My friend Holli had left a voicemail offering me an early morning job.
By the time I heard the message, the opportunity had vanished.

It seems this new 6am jogging lifestyle is doing wonders for my mood swings and my finance management.

I delivered some law suit materials to a McDonald's on 95th Street.
Inspirational music filled the conditioned air.
Unfortunately I was not inspired.

Mostly stewing in self-hate continued again today.
The charred nugget that has been my brain lately has melted into bunsen burner sludge.
A half sunburnt mope leaking broiled drool in a hot yoga minivan.

Poor Lauren had to endure my silent, stubborn, self-absorbed sulkery.
All the way to the wedding.
She might as well have ridden the El with a statue of an unpopular shitty baby.

Oh yeah.
We were going to a wedding.
There were going to be other people at the wedding.
This would require interaction and civility.
I was going to have to become a human being again.
Oh no.

Our friends Hans and Josine were married this evening.
It was a loose, non-traditional ceremony.
Humor played a major role, but the integrity of the wedding was never compromised.
Love was expressed, and I found it very inspirational.
Congratulations, Hans and Josine.

The reception afterward was also a loose affair.
Josine is Dutch, and her brother's toast was a work of art.
He unfolded a large sheet of paper, larger than a road map, and spoke in random stabbings about life I think.
In his second sentence he referred to the bride as a "bitch".
This was met with great laughter.
He inverted his speech map a few more times like a Victor Borge gag, and rambled on pie-eyed for five minutes, a slammed poet.
The tables were filled with open mouths and stifled guffaws.
When he said he thought he ought to make a point of this, the room went wild.
He threw in a "fucking" and a "goddamn" and went out on baffled, mind-blown applause.
I will probably never a see a wedding toast like that one ever again.

Lauren and I caught up with improv folks, drank Grolsch and champagne, I had an awkward exchange with my ex-agent, and we danced.
Lauren and I that is.

I came home fathering a smile and some much needed fucking hope.
Thank you, Hans and Josine, and Lauren.

Verdict: Win