Monday, December 29, 2008


It appears now that I have spent five dazs alreadz in Bavaria in the medieval or Romanische town of Regensburg where the dazs are as cold as the people are white and mz experience is so private it is unknowable even to me. Which is to saz, I am having some difficultz with languages, and what the fuck am I doing here. I spent Christmas daz waiting for Harrz to meet me in the evening after his familz time and I went to the concentration camp in Dachau which is not 16km from the Munich Hauptbahnhof right in the dead center of that citz in this cold ass countrz. The curation was terrble so one was not sure what exactlz happened at Dachau except that the living conditions were less than ideal for the summer campers living in bunks until zou got to the part where there were videos of piles of corpses then zou saz, OH thatäs what happened here. Never trust the perpetrators to tell their historz of oppression to zou. Then I sat in a chapel at the far end of the camp and listened to some penguins sing Fröhliche Weihnachten carols to an audience of me and another person in the dark in the cold in Dachau and wondered what exactlz was wrong with the world. But I am just in a mood right now, I donät mean to saz hello bz talking first and foremost about the murders of 13 million people sixtz zears ago. It has not been bad here. It has been good but unfathomable. What the f am I doing. Iäm stazing in Harrz's house. We are having an affair in a vaccuum where one partz does not understand what the other means bz "let's find something to munch on." The kultur vaccuum surrounding the vaccuum of the relationship is a countrz all-weiß and thez love to stare at oneäs slantz ezes and then look awaz verz quicklz when zou look at them with zour slantz ezes. Harrz does not like to have his picture taken. There are hammers and walnuts in shells all over his small twobedroom. One bedroom is a chaotic storage space for appliance boxes and hiking boots of various weatherproofings and the other bedroom is a chaotic storage space for vhs tapes dvds cds and piles of flannel shirts and unwarm bedding. Germans are cheap and economical or at least this environmentalist is and the house is kept at near freeying. There is a coffee table he has been cleaning one broken lightbulb and pile of paper and one unfunctioning analog alarm clock at a time for the last four dazs without seeming to make anz improvement on it. We went to Salyburg zesterdaz in Austria where Moyart was filmed and the Sound of Music composed tempestuous classical music and where Harrz and i filled the daz walking from sunnz sitting spot to sunnz sitting spot and glühwein drinking spot to glühwein drinking spot. Glühwein is hot mulled wine one drinks when one's tits are in a twist over the tit-twisting cold wind over the Austrian alps. I am trzing not to break anyones Herz but we have conceded that on Januarz 2nd the parties will be falling into deep dark holes, post-partum. I am both eager to leave and unhappz to return to Chicago and somewhat sad about the approaching end of this most biyarre and unfathomable time in mz life. At least Harry is not Jeffrz Dahmer like mz mom said he would be. Do I saz "ich liebe dich mein liebling" or do I saz "whz can we find nothing to talk about during the daztime?" Sometimes I look at his face and think mz Herz is going to blow up and sometimes I look at it and think that I have gone crayz. Sorrz this blog post is as expressionistic and jagged as Weimar art but mz brain is full of pfefferminze tee from "Boston Coffee Community" and i am finding no time to write or even think, and itäs all so sehr, sehr strange. Write me emails, für ich habe vergessen wer ich bin, und it would be sehr nice to be reminded that I am an American and I use and love American Englisch and can expect more out of mein leben than waiting quietlz on a frostz residential Bavarian road at 6:50am for bus 2A at Justizgäubestraße with someone who doesnät understand "what's cookin good lookin?". Ist dist alles? Nein nein nein. OMFGWTF am I doing?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

the first day of winter

It seems unbelieveable because I've spent the last six weeks shivering, but today was the first day of winter.  This was the morning's weather report: -4°F Feels Like -30 °F."

It was a strange night for me. I chatted with the Bavarian between 2 and 4 a.m., and then fell asleep and had this dream, which I recalled to Harry by email:
After we got off the phone last night, I fell asleep and had a very vivid dream about coming to your flat to see you. We were ecstatic to see each other. You showed me around your house. You had gauzy shades drawn across your windows so that the light looked muted. You were in the kitchen; covering the kitchen floor was loose dog food and a box of cat litter. You said you didn't own a cat, but that you just kept the floor covered like this. There was a soggy mattress under your kitchen sink that you used to catch water falling from the pipes. I went to use the bathroom and accidentally peed in your bidet, because I'm American. And then I found the toilet proper, and noticed that you used all American ("Desert Essence") toiletries. I knocked over a box of cinnamon-flavored toothpicks by accident and then had to sweep up the mess I made. But the bathroom floor was covered in grains, nuts, and seeds, like a birdhouse, so it took a very long time to clean; I had to sweep around the grains, nuts, and seeds. When I came out of the bathroom, you directed me to a hidden room, a huge ballroom, where there was a convention of students of foreign languages and I was forced to sit at a table with very irritating girls learning French and then required to write the word "Nitzan" in Hebrew. I left the convention and found your flat through a series of corridors, and you in the bedroom. I just wanted to speak with you, but you said you had a room to clean first. You opened a door in your bedroom to an adjoining room that was enclosed but had no roof. The sides of it were covered in what looked like dried strawberry marmalade. You started scraping the marmalade off the walls with an ice scraper and I noticed that there were dead rodents stuck to the walls as well. They were bats, and the marmalade was actually dried blood and fruit. You said, "Many Europeans would consider having bats very lucrative." You had trapped a bat the size of a cat in a tube-shaped cage, but it looked like a white ferret. You had also trapped five baby bat/ferrets in a smaller cage, and you chased me around with it and I told you I was going to cry unless you stopped. You stopped, and then we went back in your bedroom, and we took off our clothes, and you told me you hated the polizei.
I woke up with a bloody nose and saw that there were gobs of snot/blood all around the collar of my hoodie. Then I decided it was time to leave. The thermometer outside read:

I wanted to go outside because (1) it was sunny, and sunny and freezing is better than indoors and freezing, and (2) I don't know how many opportunities I'll have in my life to experience what -30 °F feels like, so why not seize the opportunity? 

When I was preparing to move to Chicago, I was very concerned with the abstract idea of Chicago Cold. It was abstract because people I spoke to about the weather spoke in indeterminate and relative phrases, like, "It's so fucking cold." What does that mean? I mean, I've lived in Boston and New York and spent several months in northern Vermont. None of those places are particularly warm. So I figured people who talked about Chicago cold were just pussies or tall tale tellers. 

Not so. Chicago is so fucking cold. How cold is Chicago relative to New York or Boston? New York does not get colder than 20°F except on rare occasions, when people cry and hide indoors. When I bought my little blue Jamis, I told myself I would bike commute every weekday that the air temperature was over 20°F at 8 a.m. and the atmosphere was free of precipitation. I haven't ridden my bike a day since November 20, because my unambitious criteria have not been met, even once. 20°F is a whole helluva lot colder than 38°F, which is average winter daytime temperature in New York. Say eighteen degrees is the difference between seasons. Summer at 74, spring and fall at 56, winter at 38; then a Chicago winter is the fifth season: post-winter, Satan-chewing-on-your-head HELL. In hell, one must wear silk longjohns at all times.

So today I got a taste of  -30°F. And how cold is -30°F? Turns out -30°F is not too much colder than zero! Getting stabbed in the face still feels like getting stabbed in the face. Above a certain size of blade, it's all the same pain. I think this is why it's so hard to describe really cold weather.  -30°F feels like eating raw onions, or watching slow-motion footage of the Tacoma-Narrows bridge collapse. When the wind gusted hard by the lake today, a feeling of melancholy overwhelmed me, and I thought about my family. But later I felt triumphant, euphoric, and panicked, so I'm not sure that real-feel temperature is in any way correlated with emotions.  -30°F sounds like the English horn solo from the New World Symphony, maybe because it's fucking lonesome out in the world when it's that cold, and you feel like a pioneer. The guy in "To Build A Fire" dies at -50°F with amber icicles of chewing tobacky spittle coming down his beard. 

I wanted to know how one dresses for -30°F. This is what I wore:

Top to bottom: 
  1. neoprene balaclava (ski mask)
  2. sleeveless spandex thermal shirt
  3. silk long-sleeved thermal shirt
  4. thick wool turtleneck sweater
  5. down ski jacket with hood pulled up
  6. regular old undies
  7. silk long johns
  8. yoga pants
  9. regular old jeans
  10. padded wool ski socks pulled up to knees
  11. wool hiking socks bunched at ankles
  12. hiking boots
  13. lobster (split-finger) mittens
I was toasty warm except for (1) my ass, which I should've covered with something windproof, because it was red for a few hours after I got in from the cold, and (2) the space around my eyes that the balaclava didn't cover. I put on two layers of sunscreen, hoping the chemicals would provide some protection from the wind, but it didn't help. I was worried my contacts were going to freeze. At points I had to pull the hood entirely over my face and just walk blind for a bit. 

I started walking at 12:50 p.m. and finished at 5:15.  In between, I walked about seven miles.

Steam rising off the Chicago River at Goose Island. The grain elevator you see in the background is actually the salt lift for the Morton Salt Factory. I started off my walking tour with a stroll through Chicago's industrial corridor near the Cabrini-Green projects. 

I spent a bit of time on this bridge kicking snow blocks into the river and watching them float away. Over the course of the day, I stopped in a outdoors store and a bagel store and a music store and a bakery, to warm my frostbitten ass up. 
Lincoln Park near the lakefront. I saw one other person in the entire park, a crazy jogger shuffling down an unplowed path. There was no one at all on the Lakefront Path, a bit of a contrast from the summertime crowds.

The beach area was all fenced off but not with any gusto, and it was easy to slip by. I walked along what I thought was a sandbar, but it turned out to be a pier.

Then I looked down and realized I had walked to the edge of the pier, and what I thought was beach to the sides of the path was in fact the shallows, frozen over. The ice transitioned abruptly back into water.

That black dot on the left part of the screen is a crazy duck bobbing for apples. Off to my right, I could see that I had walked out to the posts that demarcate the end of the swimming area. Big mesas of ice had formed around them, but I couldn't figure out why they would be pushed out of the water like that. They looked like slices of cake.

More cake slices to the left. It also kind of looked like waves had been frozen in midair.

The snow was deep on the path. The coldest part of my day occurred on the pedestrian bridge over Lakeshore Drive, where nothing was protecting me from the wind blowing straight off the lake. I walked backward so that the air wouldn't fill up the space around my hood and blow down my jacket.

Two hundred feet from the shore, I tripped over this plaque in the middle of a snow field.

And then I continued toward home along Armitage Street. 

Chicago has not done a very good job of plowing this year because the snows have been cold and plentiful and the city budget did not account for such an early winter. All day long I watched people scraping and digging out their cars. It seemed like torture. They all did this last week too, when it snowed, and they'll do it again on Tuesday when it's supposed to snow another 6". Why do people have cars here?

I walked back across Goose Island and down Paulina Street to get to my gym. At the Ark Thrift Shop, I saw a beautiful old friend in the window:

I had completely forgotten about it, but this stuffed dog played a very prominent role in my childhood. I owned one just like it. It was extra light and huge. I straddled it and held it by the ears and galloped around my living room in Milpitas, California. I never named it but I pretended it was my dog, before my family adopted Coach. Just then I closed my eyes and prayed for my Mannequin moment, but the stuffed dog in the window did not miraculously come to life and tell he was indeed owned by a Chinese girl in California in the early 1980s. Nonetheless I felt happier having seen the dog. 

I went to the gym and spent fifteen minutes stripping wet layer after wet layer off my bright red ass, and I ellipticalled for six miles while watching a dog long jump contest on ESPN 2.  I ate an organic apple and walked the quarter mile home.

I found that my Naglene bottle had turned into a solid block of ice. I put on my United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois lounging robe, heated water for chai and ate some ginger snaps while scrolling through the days non-news. I called OZ, who was on his way to lose money to NG in poker, and then I called SL, and we talked through some down moments and about Chen Shui-Bian's physician's son and ferrets and Love Actually. SL said she was appalled by the power relationships in the movie's romances but I could tell from her inflection that she was actually intrigued by the gender normativity, or maybe I'm just projecting. I ate a dinner of rice and tofu, and then I edited my cousin's MPH application essays, using the word "cacophonous" where a smaller, better word would do. Now I am going to take a bath and read my popular history book about cadavers. It has not been a bad Sunday.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

jerry springer

BM and I went to a taping of the Jerry Springer show yesterday night. It was not hard to get tickets. They are free and all you have to do is leave your phone number on the website, and a very excitable PA will give you a call the next day. We attempted to go to a taping a month ago, but were turned away because they overbook shows and seats are available first come first serve. But because we had attempted and failed to see a taping, we were given "VIP" tickets to the December 15 taping.

All VIP meant was that we got to bypass the ticket line outside and fast-track to the metal detector. I arrived at 6:30 pm and waited half an hour for BM to show up. I killed time by trying on the thumbcuffs (upon which "CHICAGO AL CAPONE 'There are no gangsters in this city'" is printed) in the NBC souvenir shop and cycling through all the quips programmed into the "The Office" talking pens. Outside the non-VIP audience hopefuls were queuing up. Average age looked to be 19 or 20; the minimum age is 18, and security checks IDs.

Even though Chicago hit a low of windchill -3 degrees yesterday, many of these kids were dressed for spring break. The PA who booked my ticket reminded me twice, once by phone and once by voicemail, to dress "super cute" for the show, since it was going to be a "special." The tickets also came with an instructional half-sheet on what "super cute" meant. I saved it and will recreate it in its entirety below:


MEN: Nice jeans, khakis, dockers or dress pants with a collared shirt (polo or button down) or sweaters only. 
WOMEN: Nice jeans, dress pants or skirts with a pretty shirt, blouse sweaters only.

Unfortunately we are unable to admit you if the following attire is worn:

Jerseys, t-shirts of any kind, oversized clothing, logos, decals, sweatpants, sweatshirts, sports attire or any other attire we feel is inappropriate for our studio audience. 

We could have been at an all-ages bridge and tunnel disco. The boys dressed like boys and the girls dressed like girls. There were overdressed boys in collared shirts and jeans; they grouped together and talked to each other and eyed the girls nervously because they were probably 5-10 years shy of maturing into full-on, loud-talking confident pricks. The girls' makeup erred on the side of pancake. Everybody had straightened hair with bangs that fell at an angle across the forehead. There was lots of cleavage, and lots of GLH.

BM and I opted to blend in rather than stand out as "super cute." I am a member of the California bar, after all. Best not to attract attention on the Jerry Springer show. I wore jeans and a discrete, neutral-toned sweater, and glasses, and would have worn a schnozz to hide behind if I had thought to bring one. BM wore a flesh-colored sweater (she worried that the camera would make her look naked) and jeans. I had to stuff my royal blue bathrobe with the N.D. Ill. District Court seal into my backpack and check the backpack. The other checked items in the security area were about fifteen cigarette boxes and a skateboard.

A PA led us to the VIP waiting room, where I ate a dinner of Maruchan instant noodles using three toothpicks and BM sipped a diet cherry Coke. Apparently the non-VIPs were corralled into a caged waiting area to "sober up" during the hourlong wait between the security check and the actual taping. BM and I killed this hour by discussing in detail our plans to write and sell a Thanksgiving-themed song to a Nashville star (see previous entry - I found the perfect theme!). We were handed release forms, which we read thoroughly before signing. There were some pretty funny clauses in that form, not just the usual submit to arbitration, release us and our assigns from all claims that you and your assigns may have, but also (1) indemnify us for any damage you cause, and (2) you can't be offended by our nudity, the nudity of our guests, or your own nudity. I'm paraphrasing the last...I can't remember the exact words...but it was along the lines of NBC getting the rights to use the studio audience's nudity?

I haven't watched the Jerry Springer show since 1994, so I really didn't know what to expect. The release forms were the first clue. The second clue came when a PA came in to announce that our slated show was not an ordinary taping but a "special," for Pay-Per-View, and there was going to be extra nudity, violence and vulgarity, and if we couldn't handle it we should leave then. A little later on I went to the bathroom and saw several women trotting around in their underwear. I am still not really sure what they were doing but I think they were extras.

Around 9pm, the PAs led the VIPs to the studio. Jerry Springer's decorative scheme is Night Court gothic, same as it was in 1994, with brick walls and fake industrial equipment churning in the background. Jerry Springer's name/logo was stamped in stencil font around the studio, and someone had superimposed "UNCENSORED" placards on top, for the special Pay-Per-View show. The studio was very aggressively air conditioned, as I learned from the twenty-eight nipples that erected onstage in the next two hours.

The aisle seat of the row in which we were seated was propped up funny, as were some other aisle seats around the room. We learned later that these seats were designated for the "plants" in the audience, actors and actresses hired to dress and act like audience members but who would spring into action when called upon. Our aisle seat remained empty until just before the taping started, when a woman wearing so much foundation that her face looked like the top layer of a tiramisu slipped into it. She wore a spaghetti-strap tank top that revealed the bright blue outline of a cherry blossom branch tattooed on her right shoulder. I never learned her name, but she kept leaning over to BM and whispering conspiratorially and cattily about the people on stage: (about an obviously fake set of tits) "Ew, her boobs are fucking disgusting. They're making me sick"; (about the personality attached to those tits) "I hate dipshits"; (about two ugly women pulling each others' hair) "The brunette is waaaay prettier, but they're both...ugh." She magnanimously praised the pole dancer - I'll get to that - as being "really good." She knew the pole dancer was good because she was herself a dancer, in Arkansas, and she knew how hard it could be. Later she mocked BM for not knowing who Steve Wilkos was: "Uh, hello? Steve Wilkos is Jerry Springer's former head bodyguard who got his own show on NBC??"

Before all this happened, though, we had to wait a little longer. It took a little while for the kids to settle in their seats. The kids sitting to my right were not like the Spring Break Cancun-types in the rest of the audience. They were hipster punks wearing ill-fitting "super cute" clothes, and I was very grateful when the doublewide male punk switched seats with the slender girl punk with the faded pink fauxhawk; though she still smelled like a dumpster, she was only half the dumpster he was. While the audience filled in the rows, PAs taped canvas sheets to the stage and brought out squirt bottles filled with white liquid. A best-of reel played on flatscreens overhead. They included clips from such winning episodes like "I'm Pregnant By Your Man" and "I'm Pregnant By A Transsexual" and "I Have a Secret...I'm a Woman." The clips were just ten seconds of dialogue so that you got the drift, followed by thirty seconds of pummeling.

A guy in a headset led off the taping by giving us the ground rules. Applaud when I raise my hands, chant "Jer-RY! Jer-RY!" when I pump my fist, and never look into the camera. Make big faces, because your reaction might be used not only on this show but on others. (I kept a poker face and didn't applaud or cheer, hoping to minimize the chances that a camera would fix on me.) Cheer when girls get naked. Sorry if guys get naked. (At this, everyone in the audience went "EWWWW!!" lest the taint of homosexuality fall upon our heterosexual taints.) Now it's time to chant: "JER-RY! JER-RY!" We chanted.

Then Jerry Springer came out and gave us five minutes of the most uninspired stand-up I've ever seen. He wore a poorly fitting gray box-stripe suit and brown Merrell low hikers. He was making Osama bin Laden jokes, for god's sake! Apparently no one cares enough to write new material for him! It was a mixture of stupid adolescent jokes meant to elicit homophobic disgust, which the crowd indulged, and just corny shit: "I signed a new cable contract today!" [We applauded.] "Yeah, the guy's coming over to install it next Thursday." [Crickets.] "Aw man, how much did you pay for these tickets?" [Weak self-conscious laughter.] He paced the aisles, flirting with girls. "I'm ugly but I'm rich as shit!" he told one. The crowd roared.

The standup act ended and it was time for the taping to start. There was nothing by the way of introduction. We just chanted for a bit, Jerry Springer came out, and immediately started reading off the teleprompter. The theme of the show was "Naughty Secrets Revealed," he announced. But first: "A pole-dancing stripper!" And out came Carolyn, who shucked her clothes off (except for a red thong) and suspended herself horizontally on the pole by the crook of her elbow. I don't think I've ever seen real pole dancing in person! The bored boys of Sugarland don't count as pole dancers. Carolyn was pretty impressive, even swinging herself upside down at several points, like a pole vaulter. BM and I muttered to each other about her athleticism and talent, while the kids around us hooted at the sight of her bazooms.

Just as suddenly, the next guest appeared. She was a buxom blonde with knotty white dreadlocks, like the Matrix twins, who said, "Jerry, my naughty secret is that I want to be with a woman!" Jerry asked for a "volunteer" from the crowd. One of the plants ran up to the stage. Without any further ado, both women disrobed until one was buck naked (EVEN HER HOOHOO WAS TANNED) and the other was in her undies and began squirting each other with the white liquid from the squeeze bottles. The lights cut out and a black light was shone upon them. The liquid appeared fluorescent, and soon the women were both so covered in it that you could see every body part in stark, glowing relief against the black set. They began to "wrestle," which was half rolling around, half sucking each other's tits. "We'll be right back, folks!" Jerry Springer shouted, and the lights came back on. The women temporarily stopped writhing around, the PAs moved the canvas sheets to a corner of the stage, and there the women continued their writhing for the next two hours, even as other guests came on. Likewise, the stripper kept dancing up and down the pole, pausing during the "commercial breaks" to wipe it off with a shammy.

The commercial breaks were not commercials, of course. The taping would cut to a "break" and then more or less immediately resume. The next "guest" was a woman whose "naughty secret revealed" was that she was sleeping with a married man. As she told her story (very poorly, forgetting details, needing to be prompted by the Cindy McCain-looking PA off by the camera), the PA with the headset goaded the audience into a chant of "Take off your clothes!" The woman shrugged and giggled, said "Okay!" and took her clothes off. Then Jerry Springer said, "Would you all like me to bring out her man's wife?!" and the audience roared. An ectomorph emerged from stage right, shouted some epithets at the naked woman, and then launched into a "fight." I have to say the first fight was the most realistic-looking one of all of them, since the ecto led it off with a good headbutt that actually might have connected with a cheekbone or something. After that moment, though, it was all long hair lashing out across the stage. Strangely enough, after their first "fight," the ecto was also naked!

So Jerry Springer is entirely faked! The people on stage were clearly actors, or maybe just desperate people who need money, but whatever they were, they were coached. One set of women (the "You're Sleeping With My Army Fiance" one) stage-fought so badly that they looked like they were just leaning into each other, like saplings in a breeze. A boxing bell sound effect would sound when it was time for the fighting to begin - maybe they edit this out during production. PAs kept running around the stage slinging microphones on lanyards over the necks of the naked women, because there were no collars to clip the mikes to. The "security staff" stood at the side of the stage, allowed the play-fighting to go on until both women had each other's hair in harpy-grips, and then rushed to pry them apart. It was like WWF. BM looked over at me at some point and said, "I know this is fake, but there are still clumps of hair on the ground." We speculated that they were either weaves or that the PAs had thrown the hair down when we weren't looking.

This only took us to about twenty minutes. Then, for the next hour and forty minutes, the show alternated between two girls making out under a variety of pretenses ("I'm a college student, and I'm in love with my roommate," followed by disrobing and faking cunnilingus, then "My naughty secret is I want to be dominated by a dominatrix," followed by disrobing, the licking of boots, a ball gag, a leash), and staged fights about adultery. The Army sketch turned into a "You're Sleeping With My Army Fiance...But So Is An African-American Little Person!" and then the whole show turned into an opportunity for the audience to mock the disabled. You can probably predict the dialogue (Little person: "I can suck your man's dick standing up!" Audience: "OHHHHHHH!!!!"). The audience also shouted impromptu slurs, like "NASTY!" and "MIDGET!" and "WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOUR FACE!" and had to be shushed by PAs several times. Even though by the end of the show there were 28 tits on stage - I knew because a boy in the row behind me counted aloud and miscounted several times: "One, two, three, four, five, six...oh, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine...oh..."), I was ready to die of boredom by the end of the first half hour. There's only so much of tits and fake violence one can see before one longs to go home and finish up The Omnivore's Dilemma. I am, in fact, even bored of writing about it. Tits, tits, tits.

I understand why Jerry Springer does this. I saw his seventy year-old face lit up under those hot lights and I saw his disinterest in reading the teleprompter. I saw him half-heartedly delivering seven year-old standup jokes. There's practically no investment for him, only reward. He seemed like a smart, greedy sleazebag, which I guess is what he is. And once I learned that the fights and scenarios are all faked, it made watching the taping somewhat less appalling. It's just a spectacle, like WWF. The profit motive for Jerry Springer and the actors makes this whole thing understandable to me.

What was truly frightening was what was happening in the audience, not on the stage. At some point the line separating silliness and cruelty was crossed, and it seemed like people were taking the show seriously. Jerry Springer took "questions" from the audience at the end of the show. We were told at the start of the taping to think of witty, cutting one-liners about the show's guests, for which we would be rewarded with screen time on Pay-Per-View. Some girls just raised their hands to ask, "Can I have my Jerry beads now?" and flash their tits, at which a PA would throw some New Orleans-style beads. Many more audience members raised their hands to say aggressive, conservative, crass, and cruel shit. The Little Person clearly had some sort of neurological disorder that made the left half of her face droop, and she'd combed her bangs over this half of her face. "Hey Smeagol, did you ever get that ring?" one audience member shouted. ("I don't take questions from homos," the woman shouted back.) "Why don't you show us what's wrong with the left side of your ugly face, Leprechaun in the hood? What's behind your hair?" shouted another audience member. That line was clearly so offensive that even Jerry Springer cut it off, and the cameras moved to a different audience member. The woman to whom that comment was directed didn't even try to think of something to say back to him, and instead just glowered in her chair. Maybe it wasn't in the contract to be derided by three hundred rabid assholes.

I felt very uncomfortable and I wanted to leave. But even leaving didn't make me feel more comfortable, because BM and I had to mill among the throng as we waited for the single elevator to make roundtrips between the first and second floors of the NBC building, carrying the audience out twenty people at a time. I think when people are stirred into a hate-filled frenzy, even when they think they're just being silly or hyperbolic, they actually absorb those feelings and behave violently to the people around them. I don't think you can make people listen to hate speech for two hours and not expect consequences. There was pushing and shoving as we waited for the elevators, and some muttered insults. Maybe this is the closest I'll get to attending a Sarah Palin rally. When we were finally packed into the dimly-lit, freight-sized elevator, and the steel door slid shut, BM turned to me and said, "This is how people got gassed."

I suppose it was a good experience, in that all experiences you've survived are good, even if they are bad, undignified, putrescent, or dangerous. I don't think I would do it again and I wouldn't recommend that anyone else do it. I didn't get home until midnight. I drank chai and ate ginger snaps until I warmed up and calmed down. Then I took a very, very long, and very, very hot shower, and then I went to sleep.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I spent a significant chunk of Saturday sitting in a bookstore at Randolph and State Streets flipping through how-to books about music production and the music industry, and finally bought this one:
I liked it the best because it focuses on the music theory of hit country, rock, R&B, and pop songs rather than on how to security a copyright in the digital age. Not quite ready for the latter. I read through about half the book and learned how infrequently diminished chords are used in country music (except the Edim in the second line of the verse in "Friends in Low Places (under, inter alia, "I showed up in boots")). Did you know that "prosody" in music theory means singing a word like it's spoken? So "TEST-icles," not "tes-TICKLES." I'm very excited to get to the subchapter entitled "Variations on Secondary Dominants"! Abm6/Cb, I'm coming for you!!

Anyway, I decided to abandon my former get-rich schemes - write a screenplay for the Rock (my 2002-2005 plan) and winning the Illinois MegaMillions lottery (my December 12, 2008* plan) - for a better one: write and sell a crossover Nashville/pop song for Luke Bryan that will feature prominently on the soundtrack of a rom com set in the cornfields of east Iowa. This plan will secure me royalties for the rest of my life. Luke Bryan is the up-and-coming Nashville star I saw at the Chicago Country Music Festival a few months back; he was the one with the alarmingly powerful thighs who kept flinging picks into the crowd like they were compressed t-shirts at a minor league baseball game. (* I played MegaMillions on Friday because after half an hour of wrangling with WordPerfect, the worst goddamn program ever created, trying to insert page numbers on a set of jury instructions, I ended up with page numbers only on pages 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 26, 27, 28, and 29, which I took to be a sign from God that it was my time to leave the legal profession via a $207m jackpot. I did not win, and I still have to use WordPerfect.)

I turn to you, reader, for suggestions for themes. I am not joking! Long ago my parodic interest in country music turned into a real interest!  The songs with the best potential for royalties, other than the generic smashers like "Livin' on a Prayer" and "I Will Always Love You," are songs with very, very specific themes. "Wake Me Up When September Ends" has the market cornered for sad songs about September. Ditto "Last Christmas" and '80s romantic holiday triumphs. "Friday I'm In Love": TGIF. "Umbrella": umbrellas. So the key is to find some universal event (everyone experiences a Friday once a week, good job Robert Smith) that hasn't been written to death.

What topics are left unsung? Arbor Day? Trampling a worker on Black Friday? Daydreaming about stuffing a University of Chicago doctoral student's face with cottonballs while he monopolizes conversation with his research on alternative German social movements, 1871-1933? Your dad bringing you a plate of peeled clementines accidentally catching you watching porn when you're 22 years old and home from Harvard for the holidays? Give me your suggestions, and I'll give you .0000001% of whatever proceeds come from your idea.

Incidentally, I just jabbed myself in the throat with my toothbrush. My dad is always warning me not to jab myself in the throat with my toothbrush, but I've never paid attention because it's too abstract of a panicked warning to comprehend without some triggering event. But now I known not to jab myself in the throat with my toothbrush again. Or look through peepholes because I might get stabbed in the eye with a chopstick. Or run while eating tapioca balls. Or break a thermometer and pour the mercury into a scalp wound. Etc. All very real dangers to avoid, apparently.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

i'm gonna walk myself to town

Nurturing bad sleeping habits through music production again. This song is a true story about being drenched and pathetic in Doolin, Ireland. Here, you can read my fake country lyrics:

I'm Gonna Walk Myself to Town

I got stuck with my pony
Ninety-five miles away
From a city I don't care too much for
But I can't make go away

I'll take a boat off the shore
I'm going on an island tour
But a storm washed all my plans away
I don't got a boat no more

It's Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
Lost in the Burren on a slow-moving news day
If I don't get out by Friday,
I'm gonna walk myself to town

Hey, oh, well all right
I'm gonna walk myself to town

I got a twenty in my pocket
But it won't pay the bill
I drink a cup of coffee
But I'm hungry still

I got just enough to catch a bus
At half past one if I'm in luck
But I've been waiting out all day
And no one's picked me up

One o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock, four
Though I love you, I can't take no more
If I don't get a ride by five o'clock,
I'm gonna walk myself to town


I've been down by the water
Filling my bags with rocks
Head to the bar a filthy mess
I'm gonna drink my glass of mud

We're strangers and we're talking
Underneath a tap
We can't understand each other
So we look at a map

One mile, twenty mile, fifty mile, so
I like you plenty but I gotta go
When I'm five thousand miles from the people I know,
I'm gonna walk myself to town


Knew a woman once from Georgia state
A Fulton County license plate
But she won't take my phone calls
I guess I called too late

But who needs that when I got this
A lonely town with a seaside mist
There's an ocean in between us
But you got me in a twist

California, Connemara, Galway Bay
I'm sick of running from a runaway
If I can't get you off my mind,
I'm gonna walk myself to town


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

rod blagojevich

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested this morning and charged with few counts of corruption. It's in the news now, no need to go into much detail, but basically he was caught attempting to sell the Senate seat Obama vacated. Everyone in Illinois already knew that Blagojevich was a crook, and he was under investigation, so it makes this particular allegation especially galling. You know you're under investigation, and you don't even bother to ask euphemistically for a bribe? Instead you say, "I've got this thing and it's fucking golden?" What a chump.

Blagojevich was arraigned fifteen minutes ago in the next courtroom over from mine, so I stood in the back with a gaggle of other clerks and courtroom staff and watched the whole thing. The room was packed. There were three illustrators plus nine reporters in the jury box, five U.S. Marshals in blue turtlenecks and handgun holsters by the front entrance, about eight attorneys for both sides, and spectators filling every seat in the pews. Blagojevich came out wearing the most bizarre outfit: a Nike zip-neck powder blue fleece with reflective piping, black running tights, and running shoes. Apparently he'd been arrested around 5 or 6 a.m. this morning, so maybe they picked him up while he was jogging? John Harris, Blagojevich's chief of staff, was also arrested early this morning, but he was wearing a suit and tie, so it makes you wonder what the hell was wrong with Blagojevich's attorney that he didn't bring the governor a suit. Blagojevich stood in the middle of a phalanx of attorneys and mostly kept his head down. One of the illustrators moved to a vantage point directly in front of me (she turned around and asked, "Which one is Harris?" We pointed.) and started drawing the governor's face and so I got to watch her capturing the solemnity of his expression but not the clownishness of his outfit. The whole thing was ridiculous. With the illustrator wielding her clutch of colored pencils before me, I was a cotton candy puff short of feeling like the whole thing was a street performance in Pier 39 or Times Square.

Some very interesting things are happening in Chicago! Glass factory workers at a plant half a mile from my house have taken the factory over and are refusing to leave until they get severance pay. In 2008 - amazing! I don't think I am allowed to go over and show support for them because of canon of judicial ethics #5, but still . . . good for them.

Back to work.

very happy and envy you , that you always have friends visiting you.. enjoy , very happy to know, Re: FW: check

Poetry from dad:

From: Dad
Date: Tue, Dec 9, 2008 at 11:54 AM
To: Mom, [Bananarchist]

dear my dears,
love you all,
dear my dear daughter..

uncle victor phone 650 123 1234 ( currently staying at home, under EDD, looking for a new job, consume one pineapple can per day
i told him to reduce to one per week... too much sugar... very bad....)
i'm still defreezing my fingers every night.....

take care ....

love you all,

Monday, December 08, 2008


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

the rest of the year

Put a new song up on my MySpace.

I wrote this song during my last winter in Boston, after the space shuttle Columbia exploded on Chinese New Year's Day. I brought my acoustic guitar back with me from California so you get to hear something other than Fender Fat Strat for a change. The mic picked up my neighbors thumping around upstairs at the end of the song. It's a sincere and maybe sentimental song, so be nice, and tell me that you like it.

This is how I spent the last twenty-four hours. I could not sleep, so I watched Rachel Maddow until 2 a.m., then lay awake until 5 a.m. kicking my legs on my bed. I'm convinced now that it's physiology not psychology keeping me awake, and that it's time to buy the Beautyrest that RK sleeps on. Then I became unconscious, and then apparently snoozed for 95 unconscious minutes between 9 and 10:30 a.m. I went to work, where I finished up a motion to dismiss in a weird employment discrimination case (my FIFTH in three months!), and then chatted over lunch for two hours with my co-clerks about what was the matter with their significant others' families. I am single and older than them, so I contributed to the conversation by advising them that by the time they turned 28 they would reach a point of serenity about all other people, and then I managed to forget almost every key word in the serenity prayer as I tried to recite it to them. After lunch I futzed around some more on CM/ECF, used a typewriter, and sent off two gifts to two loved ones by U.S. Post. The day expired. I rode the el home reading every fourth line of the Economist, and when I got home I changed in to my gym clothes immediately, with the intent to improve my cardiovascular health. But I was paralyzed by the thought of the after-work horde, so instead I puttered around my room for two hours, recording and rerecording the vocals to the new song. At 9:25 p.m., I left to go to the gym. I jogged my fat gut at a leisurely pace and tried to watch The Office through my fogged eyeglasses. At 10:30 p.m., I went down the treacherous icewalks of Paulina Street to get to my 24 hour neighborhood supermarket, where I then wasted away forty minutes reading the labels attached to various gourmet cheeses and farinaceous processed products trying to see if I could avoid corn derivatives. (I am currently reading NG's copy of The Omnivore's Dilemma, so I tried to spend a little more effort and money on my purchases tonight.) At my supermarket, you can scan your own groceries, so you can avoid all human contact. I did that, and stacked my fragile cage-free eggs and cherry tomatoes carefully in the reusable grocery bag my mom packed my sushi for the flight to Chicago in. At 11:11 p.m., I walked the frigid five blocks back to my house singing along loudly to a Bob Marley song - one nice thing about the early Chicago winter is that people flee indoors so when you walk outside you're alone and you can sing as loudly as you want to - and prepared a meal for one of instant mac and cheese (so much for effort and money spent on food purchases), spinach, and vegetarian Italian "sausage," and then ate this with my right hand while putting the keyboard track under the new song with my left hand. I've spent the last three hours fiddling with knobs and testing out and nixing a "Sweet Trumpet" track for the new song.

I recall this here even though it is excrementally boring because I was struck by the contrast between the high lonesomeness of my 24 hours in Chicago and the oceanic love I felt when I was in California. I won't recall California here; you can see the pics on my Facebook. I didn't blog over Thanksgiving because I was having too much fun to spend any time in front of a computer, contra this.

I guess the point is WAH WAH WAH WHY ME Chicago is cold and scary! I don't want to go on any more blind one-time dates with Internet men! I want BH to pretend to eat things for me! I want OZ to have jiaozi with my grandma! I want to sing with WD! I want to play Rock Band at Google until midnight! WAHHHHHHH!!!

Okay so maybe I'll say a little about California, just the part about my dad. He was very much himself this weekend. In the news over Thanksgiving was a story about a crazed man who stalked some random woman who talked to him in a nightclub. This week he broke into her house in San Mateo and killed her. My dad read an article about it while waiting with me in Urgent Care on Thanksgiving (for my corneal abrasion, see previous post) and shook his head, saying over and over, "Fatal attraction. Fatal attraction. This is why I never look at women. You don't know how you act if you get attracted. Fatal attraction." He seemed to really like the way the words "fatal attraction" sounded, because over the next four days he must have repeated the phrase at least twenty times in my presence, pronouncing all the syllables separately. My mom is overweight, so my dad is always talking about his love for fat ladies. We drove by a plump young couple walking down El Camino: "Oooh...fatal attraction." A bottom-weighted lady huffing up Cow Hill: "Fatal attraction!" An ad on TV for Rosie O'Donnell's show: "Wah, fatal attraction!" My dad also continued in his tradition of attempting to read Korean words wherever he saw them, at one time slowing to a near stop on a busy street in Sunnyvale to read: "Ha...ha...ho...hon...han...HAN! Goo...gook...kook...KOOK! Myoo...mya...zoo...shoo...shooka...sooba...soopa ma...maa," etc. The words "HAN
KOOK SUPER MARKET" were printed directly below the Korean he was attempting, at 15 mph, to read. He also said he loved Korean cuisine, referring to it as "Pong Pong Pyang Pyang," and suggested we stop at every restaurant we saw. Then he complained loudly about how a store in San Francisco that advertised its sandwiches as the "best turkey sandwiches in the world" had recently cut its portions, so that it was now "half the best turkey sandwich in the world - same price!" He suggested that when he gets rich and retires he and my mother would drive together to Chicago to visit me, and driving was better than flying because one could keep lobster in a bucket by the driver's seat and eat it all the way across the country.

Oh, the stories don't capture the near-constant stream of weirdness that comes from my dad! I miss my parents! They're so weird! It's late! I'm tired. BLARRHHGHH goodbye!

Monday, December 01, 2008


was perfect. I am ready to move to Palo Alto. Saw lots of wonderful friends. Scratched my cornea on Thanksgiving and lay in bed for hours listening to Dvorak. Had 10th high school reunion. Re-met people. We're all older, wiser, larger, kinder. It was lovely. Came back to Chicago to snow and got the worst haircut ever given and have giant pimple on face and miss California immensely. Very tired. Need new bed. More later. Love California.