Friday, February 04, 2005


In Which Youth Is Wasted...

What a day. The kids are sick. I'm STILL sick. I feel like I'm wearing a label that reads: MM's Cold, New and Improved--now, with a SINUS Infection!

Times like this, I wonder where I get the energy to make it through the day.

And then I find this, something I wrote almost exactly 10 years ago, and I wonder where the hell all THAT energy went:

Well, on Friday, I met my impossible copy deadline for my first book. The original copy deadline was a nice, respectable, middle of April sort of thing. Then, by way of a New Year's gift, it was handed down from on high that this book should come out much sooner, so our deadline got backed up to February 1.

(insert dramatic chord here)

This may not sound like the big, splintery pole up the butt that it was, so let me clarify. Before the deadline shift, I was expected to put out 12 pages of copy per week. With the deadline change, I was writing between 23 and 25 pages a week.


But now it's done, and the beauty of it was that my deadline fell just afore the weekend. And Her Lovely Self and I have tickets to Chicago. Before the flight, after my deadline, I went out first with the guys from the office to a bar in the basement of an 18th century farmhouse, drank barley wine for 90 minutes (ever had it? thick as stout, sweet as cider, strong as whiskey), then found I could barley drive home.

Got home, got a hangover, got packed. Her Lovely Self and I raced to l'aeroport, got our 8:35 flight and touched down in Chi-town at 9:40. Pal Jeff picked us up and drove us straight to the Huettenbar, in our old neighborhood. There, we met Bill and his new squeeze. I was recovered from my hangover, and was in rare form for a little hair o' the dog that bit me.

It didn't end there. After the bar closed, we careened to White Castle and ate a half-dozen sliders apiece, then collapsed back at Bill's, our stomachs gurgling and hissing louder than the radiators in his apartment.

Two hours later, we ate a massive breakfast of pancakes and bacon, then went to the skating rink on State St., downtown Chicago, right across from Marshall Field. I have never skated before, and found it to be an experience almost totally, but not entirely, unlike skiing. Plus, it was 40 degrees out, so it was really a kind of water-skating that we were doing. I did this long enough to look like a good sport whilst Her Lovely Self, who took skating lessons in her youth, and Bill, who is so good he OWNS his own skates, gamboled and spun across the ass-breaking surface with a heedless abandon that made me want to spill a bag of kitty litter in their paths. I checked in my rented skates, then we wobbled off to Al's Italian Beef, where we ate hot dogs and fries and dripping Italian beef sandwiches that melt in your mouth.

We raced back to Bill's in time to drink some more beer, then went out to Delisi's for the best deep-dish pizza you can find in Chicago, perhaps America. Also, we had something to drink.

After that, it was off to see the theater troupe known as Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, a scene which I enjoyed, and which was populated by people I enjoyed making much fun of. Not of the troupe itself, for they were excellent and entertaining in the extreme, but for the bevy of slackers and poseurs who waited with us for the 11:30 show to begin.

To set the scene: The theater is above a funeral home. You get there around 10:15, and a guy hands you a plastic ticket--it's your place on line when they finally open the theater doors. Meanwhile, you wander around this huge second floor, which has a coffee bar and a giant auditorium type room that features the work of a different artist each week.

This week, it appeared the art was a series of quasi-Illuminated self-portraits of the artist, who looked a little like Bobcat Goldthwait, only buck-naked and 60 pounds heavier. Painting after painting sported bronze and gold leaf frills, with a cut-out black and white image of the guy pasted over the metals. One was called "St. Aubergine's Rise to Himself" and it was a nude self-portrait of the artist, in Christ pose, shlong hanging out. Glued to the painting were three vials, helpfully labeled: one contained the artist's blood, one contained some of his fingernails, and one contained a few of his pubic hairs.

Meanwhile, two extremely hirsute fellows in Atari t-shirts appeared, set up a drum kit and a few horns, and began blatting and whisking. If someone had been there to recite beat poetry in the foreground, it would have been acceptable. As it was, it was just plain annoying. They stopped every so often to announce that they'd appreciate payment so they could eat. Before I could stop myself, I blurted "I'll pay you to stop playing." and enough people heard me nearby to start applauding. The musicians thought it was for them and were inspired to play even worse.

We finally got in to the theater after a paying experience you won't find on Broadway. The price per person is three bucks, plus a roll of a die. Her Lovely Self rolled a one, I rolled a four. Kind of a neat idea--the nightly take is left largely to chance.

We got our seats and had a wonderful time. Too Much Light's gig is they perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. The numbers 1 thru 30 are hung on a string above the stage, and the audience screams out which number they want them to perform, until they're all done or the 60 minutes are up. It's a wonderful notion; I imagine you never get bored attending, or performing, come to that. Cos each week, the players write at least six new plays--they've done 1,900 this year--and they run the gamut, from comedy (I howled at a two-minute play called The Lame Ass Show On Earth, a circus spoof that is impossible to describe); to political theater (one of the players in a spotlight, angsting over the fact that he was updating the company's mailing list, and noticed an address from a Navy base in Annapolis. His dilemma: If he puts the guy's name in the database, he'll automatically get all of the company's flyers, including the one touting their annual gay/lesbian awareness performance--receiving this in the mail at a naval base is enough to warrant that man's investigation by internal services. Should he put the guy's name on the list?); to absurdity (one play called Pushing the Envelope, featured just that--a guy kicking an envelope across the stage).

At the end of the night, the troupe had pizza delivered for the audience (their show sold out, and their motto is, When We Sell Out, We Order Out) and sang a cute little song about how much they loved us (You came to Our Show/That Makes Our Hearts Glow).

Then, they took a minute to introduce the awtist, St. Aubergine himself, who it turned out was sitting right in front of me the whole time. "Is this your first pubic--uh, public exhibition?" I asked.

On the way back to Bill's, we stopped at a couple bars, then got up on Sunday for a huge breakfast at Walker Bros., a pancake joint out in the burbs, which I had never heard of. But they served coffee in big cups, the kind you have to put your whole face in to get the last sip. I ate giant flapjacks--as big as the plates. Then, since it was 50 degree weather out, we went and played miniature golf. At the 9th hole, the temperature dropped 15 degrees in 5 minutes. We played a fast nine more holes, then went bowling. Finally, we packed up our gear and on the way to the airport, stopped in at Byron's for a Chicago-style hot dog. We got to the airport just in time, had a 90 minute flight back home In bed by midnight. Whew!

I have indigestion just reading that. I remember the slog to get that book done. I wrote close to 20,000 words in less than a week. And then boozed it up with the staff, hopped a plane to Chicago and back, ready to go to work Monday! All that in 48 hours! If I tried that today, I'd still be in the basement of that farmhouse bar, face-down, snoring in my own drool.

And I'd be glad to get the extra sleep!

Gawd I feel old.

From Somewhere On the Masthead

That entry was a hell of a whirlwind tour...
I'm exhausted just reading it!

I think this is fascinating. Not just the extreme gorging (I remember the days when I would down an entire cheese pizza, a large plate of spaghetti with meat sauce and rolls and butter, washed down by two large Sprites and then be up for a huge Chinese dinner a couple of hours later) but also the somewhat radical change in your style. You're better now, of course.

Not that this was bad. I enjoyed it. However, the instances of slang sound a bit forced. They may not have been, but that's how they read to me. I'm surely still guilty of that sin, whereas you've gone far past it.

Hope you don't mind the small critique. Having seen something like this, from your earlier days, it makes me appreciate even more how much effort you've put into polishing your craft.
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