Friday, November 10, 2017

I Still Resolve...

I don't put much energy into promoting this blog, and for good reason. I market myself as a comedy writer that performs improv, and this blog is an outlet for more serious matters, an opportunity to let my guard down. In the 12 1/2 years since I started this blog, I have likely seen a complete turnover in audience. I launched this blog on TV.com, and I'm sure a scant handful of people who read my missives then still read it now on Blogspot. (Its also more accessible to non-TV.com people.)

You might think from the tone of the previous paragraph that I'm quitting this blog, but I'm not (yet). 2017 has been a rough year on a personal level, one of mourning and reevaluating, one where goals have been easier said than accomplished. My clutter, both physical and intangible, is mostly still there. My mother, father, and grandmother's belongings, however are gradually getting sifted out.

I suppose my resolution now is to end 2017 on a positive note. My long-gestating solo sketch show opened this week, and even if I'm not meeting all my goals I'm still feeling pretty accomplished. Even if I do get distracted from time to time, there simply aren't enough hours in the day. I'm goal-oriented, and I feel rudderless when I'm not pursuing a new challenge.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Crazy, Awkward Halloween Story

I have reason to believe I'm cursed when it comes to Halloween parties. Allow me to explain:

Three years ago, I went to a private party on the northwest side of Chicago. I arrived near the beginning of the event with a friend named Tracy. Maybe 90 minutes or so, after I arrived I saw a couple walk in; I don't remember what he wore, but she had Minnie Mouse ears. (For the purposes of this story, I'll refer to this woman as "Ellie.") After a few minutes, I worked up the courage to introduce myself and make small talk. She was an acquaintance of the party hosts, as was I. The conversation seemed polite and benign enough, and I went on to mingle with other people at the party. About a half-hour later, I took a dip in a hot tub (again, private party) and shortly after Ellie found a spot in the crowded tub. I don't know if it was the heat or something else, but I remember zoning out in the tub. When I came to, Ellie was gone. I looked around the party room, and it was apparent she and her plus-one left early. I drove Tracy home maybe an hour later.

I sent a friend request on Facebook shortly after I got home, and to be safe I messaged Ellie to let her know who I was. The request was rejected almost immediately; I messaged to apologize if I had offended her, and Ellie replied to say she had a corporate job and wanted to keep business and personal separate. It was an odd answer, but I accepted it and left her alone. I assumed I would never see her again.

Two years later, however I was in a similar situation with the same party hosts. This time, I arrived by myself. An hour later, Ellie walked in with three other women and a taller guy, all in matching costumes. I wasn't sure if it was her or not, so I made small talk with her friends, then I introduced myself again just to be safe. She gave her last name as her first name, and gave me a weird look. After talking for about five minutes, Ellie brought the conversation to a halt, saying something to the effect that she didn't want to talk. Taken aback, I stepped away and avoided her and her group for the duration of the party.

Then, this weekend I changed things up and went to a party hosted by some improv friends, mostly for improvisers. For the first part of the party, I watched game 4 of the World Series in one corner of the living room. After the game ended, I walked over to the refreshments table to get another beer. I saw two or three people dressed as Offred et al. from "The Handmaid's Tale." What caught me was that one of them was a burly, hirsute guy that stood about 6'1". I jokingly asked if he was "Ofdave," "Ofjose," etc. He didn't seem to find the joke amusing, but we more both momentarily distracted as the party raged on and the room grew more crowded.

Maybe an hour later, thinking I was talking to the other guy that dressed up as a handmaid. I made the same lame joke and he glared at me. Then I turned around to see the one woman in the group that wore a matching costume... and it was Ellie. I then realized that the guy recognized me from the second party. I mumbled "sorry," then made a beeline to the other side of the apartment. I was half-aware that Ellie is not a performer, but upon looking at the Facebook event, she had more mutual friends at the event than I did. I was more startled by the fact that I had run into this women unexpectedly on three different occasions, and all during the same holiday.

I think next year for Halloween, I'll stay home.

---

On a completely unrelated note... in some parts of the country, there are actual votes on Election Day.  Where New Jersey and New York state have scheduled elections, Alabama will have a special vote for Jeff Sessions' vacated U.S. Senate seat. If you live in those three states, or if you live in another part of the country with an election, make your voice heard on November 7th. If you don't like how things are being done, this is your opportunity to steer things back in the right path.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Random Notes, October 2017

My mind is going a mile a minute:

+ God bless Bob Corker. The longtime Republican U.S. senator, who announced he will not seek reelection in 2018, suggested on Twitter that the Trump White House is spiraling out of control. On top of that, Corker basically implied what most had suspected: that President Trump has hijacked the GOP. Without nothing at stake, Corker is breaking rank and cheerfully letting loose, siding with the narrow majority of Americans that think Trump is too incompetent for office.

So what is at stake for the GOP? Is it time to panic? On one hand, they risk alienating an entire generation of potential voters. Entire demographics and voting blocks could vote Democratic by default. On the other, Republican candidates typically benefit from elections with low turnout (like, say, midterm elections). In short, 2018 is still up for grabs.

+ Since late August, I've been a certified Lyft driver. I haven't taken my first ride yet; the opportunity hasn't presented itself yet.

+ I'm proud to announce that after nearly two years of fits and starts, and I am premiering my very first solo sketch show. "Handsome Under Certain Lighting" opens at the One Group Mind Comedy Clubhouse in Wicker Park on Thursday, November 9th. You can find ticket info here.

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

On Mansplaining

I attest to being a know-it-all. At varying points in my life, I've either embraced that facet of my personality or struggled mightily to reign it in. If you have a career in education,  I lean more toward being helpful than condescending, though I can see how that might get misinterpreted. My first impression can be scattershot, the pitfall of a life of social awkwardness, and when I make a positive impression its an uphill battle to sustain that.

Last weekend, an old acquaintance called me out for mansplaining on Twitter. In a tweet, she openly pondered about how Spotify developed their new yearbook playlist option, and I replied with a facetious "Um, a calendar?" Her response was vexed and not without justification; it was a lazy response. When she replied on Twitter, I DM'd her on Facebook as soon as possible to apologize. I had lost her follow, and she called me out for being condescending in the past. I couldn't remember any specific details our last Twitter interaction (I want to say it was two years prior) but I wasn't going to fight her accusation. We're still Facebook friends, at least for now.

I spent the next day or two trying to remember past instances of mansplaining, both with this woman and others. Part of me was trying to break this down from an individual standpoint, while also acknowledging my own shortcomings. Was she just in a bad place, did she confuse me for someone else, a personality clash, or was this part of a greater problem? I had met this woman through improv, and even though I try to treat collaborators, friends and acquiantances as equals, I can slip. Mansplaining, rooted in sexism, is pandemic in our community and only gradually getting resolved.

Regardless, whether or not a similar incident happens on Twitter, I will make a more conscious effort to change. For now, I'll leave her alone, and pretend the altercation never happened.

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sit, Stand, Kneel

I'll keep this short and sweet: any NFL player that prefers to kneel in protest shouldn't have to explain why they're kneeling. We have a president that is doing far more to divide than unite, race relations in the U.S. are at a nadir I haven't seen in my lifetime, and police brutality is still going unresolved in most metropolitan areas. The idea of locking arms in solidarity feels like a cop-out and an unnecessary point of compromise.


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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Second Confessional

About four years ago, I discussed how I all but sabotaged my friendship with "Sandra," whom I met in high school. Even though we kept a distance, we remained Facebook friends. Since I first wrote about her over four years ago, she had a daughter and got married (in that order). I not only avoided interacting with her, but also her social circle, which I found problematic.

Less than a year after that post, Sandra gave birth to her daughter, then married the father of the child; the nuptials were postponed until after she had the baby. The Friday before the wedding, she posted something on Facebook about a get-together at a restaurant in Logan Square. I messaged her to ask if I would be welcome; the message was time-stamped (which means she saw it) but she didn't reply. I assumed that the freeze-out was still on, and I stayed home that night.

In early 2016, Sandra invited me to her 30th birthday party. It was the first time she had reached out to me in any way, shape or form in nearly five years. I appreciated the invite, but obviously I had a lot of trepidation; on top of that, I already had plans out of town that weekend. I sent her an email sending my regrets and concerns; to my astonishment, she replied to clarify that I was definitely welcome. I responded by asking if we could meet one on one and finally talk things out, but she said her itinerary for her Chicago trip was already full.

No leeway was made --and contact remained minimal-- until this past June. Sandra was coming back to town, and sent out an invite for a group dinner. I still would have preferred meeting one on one, but I accepted the invite anyway. Around this time, Sandra teased some big news on Facebook, and was supposed to be an imminent announcement took several weeks. The trepidation returned, and my anxiety grew as the date of the get-together neared. When I drove to the restaurant, I found a spot at the bar and polished off a beer to calm my nerves.

Sandra arrived with Kori, a mutual longtime friend. I had known Kori since grade school, but hadn't seen her since 2011 or so. I vaguely recalled that Kori had unfriended me on Facebook; we had talking things out, she readded me, then disappeared from FB altogether shortly after that. She had always been cagey and a little hard to read, so part of me wondered if I had been blocked.

Sandra's major announcement was that her young family was moving from San Diego to Columbus, OH. I thanked her for clarifying, and that ended up being the last interaction we had for nearly an hour. I attempted to catch up with Kori, partially to impose some goodwill but also to feel at ease. The conversation tapped out after about five minutes, and after struggling to latch onto another conversation at the table, I spent most of the evening eating fish tacos in relative silence. (The fact that the tacos were outstanding almost feels like an afterthought.) After getting some ice cream, Kori drove a drunk Sandra back to her hotel.

I left Oak Park feeling annoyed. I figured that Sandra was tired, and she would touch base in a day or two, but it never happened. Later in the week, I shared a picture of my dog (a onetime obsession of hers) but it didn't elicit a response. Against my better judgment, I let the events of the night circle around my head; I was baffled that Sandra would invite me out for dinner, but barely start a conversation. Was it circumstance or more passive-aggression?

Perhaps against better judgment, six weeks later I wrote Sandra another long email. I mentioned how disappointed I was that we barely spoke, and that I was open to talking by phone or Skype. I didn't get a reply, so two weeks after that I messaged her on Facebook. After waiting awhile after that, I made an unpleasant discovery: I had been "half-blocked." We were still FB friends, but I couldn't see anything on her profile besides her basic info. What I feared would happen years ago finally did.

If this is the end, I accept those terms. In my subconscious, the nightmare from eight years ago still engulfs me. Sandra attempted to reconnect, and still couldn't make a conscious effort. I feel tempted send one more email, partially to apologize for overreacting and also because I have nothing to lose. Maybe in a few months, but definitely not now.

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