Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Year Remembered, or…The Time When I Overdosed on Spray Paint Fumes.

(Guest Post from C. Riter)

It always feels necessary when writing about the past that you portray some sense of newly found wisdom, self – knowledge previously unrealized, or that your soul has been touched with a slow revelation about the human condition, the struggle for enlightenment, etc, etc…blah blah blah. A lot of the time it feels like when I read, or write, these remembrances that there is a terminus. When recalling the year just lived you get a feeling that all learning, introspection, self-assessment and moving forward consciously suddenly halts and the screen goes blank and the dials are set to zero again. The reports are turned in to silent managers and accountants who record the earnings and dues in ledgers scrawled across pages with the forgotten memories of millions of others. The train has pulled in to Union Station of Memory. All riders must depart. Next train leaves tomorrow, first stop, Union Station of Id en route to Union Station of Plantar Wart.

I can't pretend to have any profound bits of personal awareness to share with other people this year. I haven't fooled myself into thinking that the big picture is a little more in focus after another three hundred and sixty five days and nights. That, in turn, makes me think that maybe I've never been much on the big picture anyway. It's not that I don't see it. I know it's there. I just don't give a fuck about looking at it right now. You see the problem is that there's so many damn people in front of me trying to see it too, pushing and shoving, being rude, wiping their noses then shaking your hand, elbowing you in the face then looking back as if their blank mongoloid expressions are supposed to convey an apology, or at least some humanity, then turning away again, eyeballs bulging to see it, necks craning, hands waving, dancing in some meaningless and hollow celebration. The importance, the purpose of it all is right there. For sale. Look at it, and keep looking. Maybe I'm some kind of Zen Nihilist. Anyway, all I can do is recall the last three sixty-five with as much clarity as is allowed by Mr. Evan Williams (have you heard I'm unemployed?).

The story Twenty-Ought-Eight began with a great last quarter of Twenty-Ought-Seven. I made some new friends and got back together with some old ones. My buddy Aris Tompulis took on Eddie Carbone for A View From The Bridge and my old friend, roommate, and collaborator from W.V. Ed French joined the GreyZelda ranks as the D.P. for the filmed portions of the show. I also got to know Ravin Dave Lykins, who played Alfieri, on a personal and professional level and feel like I've been a better person ever since because of it. We started rehearsing that October and filmed in the first week of November. The rest of the cast included new and old as well. Good old friends Tom Gordon and Dave Goss were paired with new friends Gene and Nicolle Van Dyke, Holly Micelli, and Kelly B. The show went up at StageLeft on January 3 to great responses from audience and reviewer alike. Heath Hays and Julie Ballard continued to impress Chicago with their work on set design and lighting respectively. Overall, I think it's the piece of directing work that I'm most proud of so far. But, I'm not one to spout on about my feelings of accomplishment, or my process. Rather, I look back in appreciation at the great work everyone involved put forth and am truly reminded about how symbiotically cool it is when collaborative art works out. We all benefit and become better from the endeavor. I am better for having been and worked with them. They've heard it before so I'll stop.

Here's where it gets a little crazy. Around this time we found out BZ was carrying our progeny. As my full-on partner in crime, BZ is always in the mix of things regarding our productions, but this go round she had stand back a little bit due to some unforeseen complications with the pregnancy. As it turns out, strenuous work isn't very good for pregnant mothers and a couple of days before opening night our little baby (just an embryo then, but how fragile these negligible moments seem later on, for she was very close to not being born at all) had become detached from her mothers uterine wall, the lifeline, the well to her life that was to be. That being said, BZ did everything humanly possible to handle all things administrative regarding the show, and as always performed swimmingly.

The big challenge was in April. BZ still had to direct The Skriker, a show that spanks Views l'il ass like a red head stump chile in terms of directorial commitment and vision. The good news is that she had Lisa Wilson to play The Skriker and that was probably one of the luckiest things GreyZelda ever had happen to her. Lisa completely made the show her own with what may be one of the most physically and mentally challenging roles put to paper. And again, BZ continues to teach me the art of directing when I work with her. Her ability to create vast and specific worlds out of blank, black spaces still intrigues me and makes me enormously envious of her ability. The cast for Skriker was also as lot of fun to work with and I enjoyed working two separate analogue two-scene pre-set boards to run the lights on. Because of that, I can say that for the first time, as a light board operator, I felt like I had an organic influence in the flow of every show…for better or worse.

Suffice it to say that Lisa leaving Chicago was a huge blow to GreyZelda. Never have we had a stronger supporter, collaborator, contributor, colleague, and friend than her. She will always be with us and welcome to come in and get dirty with it. BZ and I will miss her and her Beau Dave McCaul, who both moved to Seattle. Dave formed a band called SuperSideways that played in our basement once and is now posthumously remembered by such recordings as the one you can listen to on Chicago Acoustic Underground right here.

Also, the day preceding load-in for Skriker I ended up over-exposing myself to critical amounts of toxic fluorocarbons and lots of other just-plain-evil-and-malevolent shit contained in spray paint. See it was raining that day, and like I said, load in was the next day. The decorative wrought-iron that we used to create the antebellum looking proscenium for Skriker was, well – iron colored, and it needed to be white colored. So, I built a paint tent off of my back stoop with drop cloth held in place by clamps from the awning over the sidewalk and spray painted some wrought-iron, which were many pieces, for like…over an hour, or two. The thing about spray painting inside a tent, as I'm sure you can surmise, is that there's no place for the fumes to go. Unless you count inside my body. When I was finished, I had spray paint lining my nostrils and filling my mustache, presumably from the inhalation. I passed out for a second and decided maybe it was time to stop. I scrubbed my nose and mouth with Fast Orange, went inside and took a shower, almost lost control of some bodily functions, puked a little, listened to the wah wah wah wah wah sound in my head for a bit (like wippits, except not fun kids) and had to focus for a little while on how to use my legs for the walking function. The moral of the story folks, is, if you're going to spray paint for hours on end, do it in a ventilated area. That stuff about masks; useless, don't believe it. Unless you enjoy the aforementioned symptoms, then it's a real hoot so spray away and inhale deeply. Sorry, did I mention the headache sent from the torments of the worst hell ever envisioned? No? Oh, well, too late.

Later on, BZ had the baby and that story requires another set of blogging ambitions. The list of names included Delilah, Violet, Mina, Clara, and Virginia. Clara won and Virginia took second and got the middle name. I witnessed her arrival upon the surface of Earth with my own eyes on 08/23/2008 and saw BZ display more strength and resolve than I'd ever thought imaginable from such a delicate and tender creature….Who am I kidding? She's a powerwagon. But it was the most grueling thing I've ever seen someone endure and she'll forever have my respect and honor for it.

Clara is the most precious and wonderful thing that could happen to me. I'm constantly amazed at the look of pure innocence and joy her smile brings. She has created an entirely new inner world for me. The inner world that is my imagining her life, the kind of mind I wish for her, the ways I can help her attain it, the world-view she'll develop over time, how she'll interact with others…the way that I'll factor into all of these factors. Suffice it to say, I'm fulfilled by her. I feel like, no matter how big a piece of shit I think I am sometimes, she makes me feel worthy. I've never been happier in all my life and I owe it all to her.

Later in October, I got let go from my job because my presence was deemed no longer "mutually beneficial". That one still gets a chortle from me. Anyway, I got approved for unemployment benefits after six weeks of red tape and Kafkaesque bureaucratic nonsense and we got the whole family covered for insurance on AllKids (thanks Blago). Knock on wood, for awhile bills and necessities should be covered as long as we're frugal, which honestly, we were to begin with. In the meantime, I love being home with my little family. Seeing Clara everyday is a constant joy and Becky and I always entertain each other pretty well.

I've begun work on writing a new play about my drug-study days and hope to re-write Thimbleberry Gallows. I'm also building a model of a '41 Ford pickup and love watching the Blackhawks. Yep, I'm a fucking dork friends. Maybe we'll all just have to get used to it, or maybe, I've always been this way and nobody's ever let me in on it. Oh yeah, and some time in there my man Barack Obama swooped in and took back the executive branch in the name of sanity and all things good about America. So overall, despite some hardship, I'm feeling decidedly optimistic about the upcoming year.

For those I love and haven't seen for awhile, let's get together and drink some whiskey in a seedy Chicago bar soon, or at least just talk while I still have the time. For all the others; the ones forgotten, forsaken, and forgone; I wish you good luck going about your way. Just stay out of mine.

Best wishes and happy new year,

The O.G.

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