Friday, April 30, 2010

by request

This is the story I performed live at CHIRP'S Uncommon Ground fundraiser, "The First Time." It's about my first endeavour as a sexual personage. You've seriously been warned. I apologize for my godawful abuse of ellipses. This was written as a performance peice, so punctuation was pretty low on my concern list.

Picture if you will...

A small dorm room, circa 1987, in a college town somewhere in the great state of Illinois. Four walls of concrete blocks painted over in industrial off-white.

I had finished high school with the satisfying notion that I could wait for college.

That I would wait for an intellectual man.
I would wait for a creative man.
I would wait for a sharply witty man.

I waited three days.

In the room a young man of 19 stands in profile at the end of a bed. He stands, if memory serves, fully naked in front of his stereo, sifting through a pile of CDs.

As I lie in his bed with the covers pulled up to my chin, I look at him.

And while this is likely the first time I've ever seen a man completely in, what my grandmother referred to as, "the buff ," what I recall immediately isn't that he was naked. Although, I'm sure I stared bug-eyed at the spectacle of anatomy on display before me.

The only image my brain can register is watching him carefully making his musical selection and then the precise way the CD drawer mechanically opens...and closes.

And then there is music.

What that music is exactly?
I can't say for sure.
Oh...I can narrow it down.
Because, Big Poppa only had two CD's on that specific playlist.

It was either Rumours, the eleventh studio album by British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac...or the soundtrack to Amadeus.

Now, I would like to take a moment and encourage each and every one of you, at some point in your life (and I really hope you take this small piece of advice to heart) throw caution to the wind...and fuck your brains out to Mozart.

Nothing makes sex seem more like an otherworldly event than having oboes come in right as you're reaching climax.

I would mention the bassoons, but some things you need to discover on your own.

In fact, I dare you to have sex while listening to Symphony No. 25 in G Minor and not believe, with every fiber of your being...that Mozart wrote it specifically to underscore your ride on Willy Wonka's Glass Elevator.

Oh. I'll say it.

Mozart is the symphonic equivalent to Al Green's Greatest Hits Volumes 1 and 2.

But, I digress.

That very first night we were together, I'll admit, I really didn't notice the music. There was some other shit going down that pretty much had my full attention. It was in the background. A lovely undercurrent to the proceedings.

Years later, looking occurs to me that we were doing a Requiem.

1. Requiem (via the Roman Catholic Church)
a. A mass for a deceased person.
b. A musical composition for such a mass.
c. A hymn, composition or service for the dead.
d. In music, a mass for one or more dead persons, containing biblical passages and prayers for the admission of the dead into heaven.

Uhmm...okay...maybe we weren't listening to a death hymn the first time I did it....


Maybe, we were listening to the critically acclaimed, Grammy award winning Rumours, which has sold over 40 million copies since it's release in 1977! It is, after all, the 10th best selling album in US history!

I mean, there are a ton of kickass songs on that album.

Like...You Make Loving Fun!
Which, incidentally, Christy McVie wrote about her boyfriend...
Who was also Fleetwood Mac's lighting designer....
Who she just happened to start banging right after she split from her husband and band mate, John McVie.

Or...maybe, Go Your Own Way.
Penned by Lindsay Buckingham...
A song he wrote about his band mate Stevie Nicks...
With whom he had just ended an on again/off again romantic relationship?


Did I mention that, during the recording of the album, Mick Fleetwood discovered that his wife had an affair with his best friend?

These are my choices.

I can either recall that the soundtrack of my first sexual encounter was - a record about romantic dysfunction, personal turmoil, anger, recrimination and loss...

or a death hymn.

Funny thing is the boy never asked me what I wanted to listen to.
For two years the boy never asked.

And while I grew to enjoy the ever present one-two punch of the pop-rock feel of The Chain and the powerful orchestrations of Don Giovanni, not to mention the fact that either was a pretty good indication that at least two people in the room would be getting lucky that night...

I definitely would have enjoyed a third option.

And so, I choose to rewrite my history.

I want to pull the covers back up to my chin, look at the naked man at the end of the bed and dream of a different track.

A song, still as melancholy and infused with suffering and longing - because, obviously, that works for me - but, one that my 18 year old self, had she been sifting through her own CDs, would have fully embraced.

I choose Morrissey.

I choose The Smiths.

And I dedicate a new-wave sex dirge to that girl still hanging out under the sheets.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

track marks

Here's the thing...
I love performing.

Every part of me, down to the double helix of my DNA longs to have an audience pay attention when words fall out of my mouth.

Whether or not I'm reading words I wrote, reciting ones someone else penned or standing there making it all up on the spot, entirely out of whole cloth? That's an equation that ends with Me + talky = You listen with rapt devotion.

It's that part of myself that I both adore (the ability to spark an adrenaline rush quicker than a junkie can heat up a spoon full of horse) and despise (the soul crushing need for that junkie high.)

Whether it's at a backyard bbq or on stage front and center, the spotlight is my crack.

And while it's true that admitting you have a problem is the first step, the actual act of admitting that fact aloud is yet another chance to make someone listen to something you have to say....about yourself.

Since I'm too brain dead to come up with a less obvious analogy, we'll run with it. Like a junkie, I can go into rehab.

I can stay far enough away from the stage - as a writer or director or costumer - that I don't burn myself with the proverbial spoon.

But, when you hang down the block from the crack house...temptation is a mere dime bag away.

Last night I fell off the the most glorious way. I was invited to participate in CHIRP's (Chicago Independent Radio Project) funky fundraiser, The First Time, at Uncommon Ground - an out and out fantastic event.

Each of the performers - Scott Smith, Margaret Hicks, Paige Worthy, Leah Jones, Karen Louis, Steve Frisbie, Jocelyn Geboy and myself - hit the stage to regale the crowd with a story which was immediately followed by a lovely rendition of a song connected to the story in some way.

The theme of the night was...well...about your first time. Doin' it.

And while there were a lot of shared moments of frustration and heartbreak, there were equal (if not more so) moments of balls out hilarity.

The trio of musicians, the aformentioned Steve on guitar, Liam Davis on guitar/piano and Gerald Dowd on drums/guitar - holy schnikes! I've been letting out sigh after sigh, wishing I could get my hands on a recording of the covers they performed last night. Marvin Gaye, The Grateful Dead, The Smiths, Death Cab for Cutie, Michael Penn, Modern English, Extreme ...


The cover of More Than Words had the crowd singing along to the point where we nearly tore the roof off the mutha!

And the final song - Van Morrison's Madam George - was so full of could have heard a pin drop, the crowd sat so perfectly still with listening.

Honestly, I wanted to pull a bottle out of my pocket and pour that moment inside, Jim Croce style.

For my part, standing up there, telling my own tale of comic reminded me why I spent so much of my 20's and 30's onstage. And while I've kept my performer's life on the down low for the past few years - only performing once or twice a year (if that) - just putting my toe onstage brought it all back in a rush.

I need my fix, yo.
The genie is out of the bottle and I'm not sure I can put her back in.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

leon's definitely getting larger. again.

So here I am.

Once again.

Staring at that wagon I need to climb back up on towards dropping weight and getting healthier.

I am my own biggest hurdle and let me tell you, I'm very talented at getting in my own way.

It's amazing how logical and reasonable doing the right thing for yourself can be...and equally stunning how easy it is to ignore your own mindset and fall into extremely bad patterns.

Of course, that fall is cushioned by burritos, my friends.
Also known as my friend, the burrito. (who is only pretending to be my friend. sigh.)

I've never had to overcome an addiction like smoking or drinking or shopping [insert any addiction you may partake in or have been witness to.] But, the way I continue to fall off the wagon has got to be similar to a smoker giving in to that physical craving for some nicotine or the alkie's perceived comfort from a bottle.

It's literally a daily battle. Whenever I start to feel cocky about small successes, that's when I bend...which ultimately leads to the fall.

I've been watching quite a bit of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and while the cynic in me cries out about ratings and ad dollars, I can't help but be moved by what I perceive to be his sincere desire to inspire folks to put down the frozen pizza and pick up a wok.

Here's his TED talk on the subject that I feel cuts to the quick - it uses clips from the show and covers all of the salient points in a quick 20 minutes:

I've also been fairly mortified by a newish blog run by a grade school teacher in my own state regarding what her students are being given to eat. It's her own year long version of Super Size Me. At her school, kids get 20 minutes to eat this crap...and there's no recess anymore. This school only gets gym class once a week. It boggles the mind.

Kids are all energy. Add a diet high in sugar (and high fructose corn syrup) and 0% way to burn off any of it? How do teachers get anything accomplished in a day? Brains need nutrients, yo.

I don't know about you, but I got way more exercise running around at recess versus waiting for my "turn" in gym. Grade school with no recess? That's criminal. CRIMINAL. For the kids, the teachers and any sitters/caretakers/parents who have to deal with all that unleashed post-school energy.

Sweet baby jaybus! No wonder every one's got their kids on Ritalin.

While it's just another confirmation that we as a nation of immediate gratification driven consumers are swimming in - our own bad choices. Choices we vote for with our representatives, by our purchases and with our behavior.

That we are a nation (about 2/3) of fatties who don't want to look at the big picture (no pun intended) of what we are doing to ourselves, each other and to future generations.

I was a uber healthly kid. I played sports, was nearly always the first girl picked for the team (sometimes, even before some of the boys, yo!), and was an all-around tough little sob. You did not mess with me on the kickball diamond, the soccer field or at the public swimming pool where I spent pretty much every day during summer break.

Personally, I blame puberty as a root cause for my eventual down slide...but that's a story for another day.

Here's likely my greatest challenge that I have only begun to really embrace.
While I love eating veggies and healthly stuff...I'm just not a fan of cooking. At least not at the moment (I do recall enjoying cooking for others at time.) But, cooking for myself is just a pain.

A pain/hurdle I need to figure out my way around.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Last night I caught The Factory Theater's send-up of (a segment) of 80's pop culture Hey! Dancin'!

While it wasn't entirely my cup of comic tea, there was a lot of fun and funny being thrown down onstage. Some stuff worked tremendously well, other, not so much for me.

The costuming was outrageously gaudy to the point that I recoiled in my own brain remembering a certain pair of leg warmers I tried to pull off. ONCE. Noah Simon was pitch perfect as the cable access station manager and Dominque Johnson as Princess (a devotee of Prince circa "Purple Rain") reminded me of one of my friends who embodied the same fervent spirit...along in my friend's case, she was devoted only to Cindy Lauper.

I also enjoyed the dry-humping quite a bit as I'm sure it will be a while before I get that slice of physical slapstick scrubbed out of my head.

What didn't work for me was the "screaming as acting" school of theater that some of the cast obviously attended. Some of the piercing delivery hit the mark, mostly though, it just kind of flat lined for me after a very short while. Oofie.

Overall, it was like watching a bit of collective history through a wildly colorful and overtly stereotypical kaleidoscope.


As I waited for the bus, thinking about the show and how being a teenager was so vastly naive and tame to being one now, a conversation I had on the phone with my sister just a few hours before the show slams into my brain.

Yesterday, my nephew was punched in the mouth by a bully.

This is one of those seemingly typical bullies who pushes and shoves and verbally abuses many of his classmates. While my nephew has had run-ins with this kid before, yesterday was different.

This kid walked up to my nephew in the middle of a crowded hallway, shoved him and said, "Hit me. I dare you to hit me!" My nephew said no, he wasn't doing that....and the bully socked him in the mouth.

When he was reported to teachers by other students, the bully went AWOL from school grounds.

This was not the first time this kid has pushed or yelled at my nephew, but it was the first time he hit him.

After being called about the incident, my sister went to the school to find out exactly what had happened. The school admitted this was not the first time the kid had hit someone. While the school called the police regarding the truancy...they did not report the hitting/assault.

My nephew's mouth was swollen and bleeding - due in part, I'm sure to his braces. (As someone who wore braces, I can only imagine how much getting punched in the mouth must hurt.)

My sister decided that, had it been the first time this kid hit someone, she would have let it go and let the school handle it. But, because this was an ongoing situation and he had hit other kids and it was now escalating with her son, she decided to file a report with the police.

Her reasoning being that the kid needed help - and by ignoring this behavior and letting it slide, the school (and possibly his parents) was letting the cycle continue and build. By filing an assault report, the kid might be forced to get some counseling to deal with his anger or whatever is causing him to lash out at other kids.

The police took pictures of my nephews injuries, made a report and acknowledged to my sister that this is a kid whose name is familiar to them.

The only way for bullying to stop is when parents and the community step up.

The schools will not take on the responsibility, nor should it fully lie at their feet.

Much of the time, the outcome of bullying is damaged kids.
It's damaging to the victims, the witnesses and the bullies themselves.

More often than it should, it ends tragically.

On a positive note, and the thought I just can't get out of my head is how impressed I am with my nephew. He's not a scrawny, fearful little kid. He could have easily mirrored the anger that was being directed at him and, in the name of self-defense, hit back. But, he didn't.

When his friends asked him why he didn't defend himself he said, "Getting in a fight would get me an automatic suspension. He's not worth it. I want to be in school."

My nephew isn't a boy scout. He'll sneak phone calls to girls when he's grounded from the phone. He fib about chores that haven't been finished.

That boy will tell you whatever you need to hear...if it will result in consumption of a pepperoni pizza.

But, lately, when it comes to showing us the kind of character you dig down deep for, my nephew has really stepped up and shown that, as goofy a kid as his still is, he is growing into a responsible and thoughtful adult.

I'm very proud to know him.