Sunday, October 28, 2018

His Uncle's Nephew

Monday, October 30th marks ten years since my uncle, Jim Swiglo died. It was the culmination of a whirlwind two months where he went from hospitalization to hospice to death. I was not aware until he told me that September that he had terminal pancreatic cancer, but I did not know until several years later that he kept his medical issues under wraps until the secret was no longer sustainable.

Indirectly, Jim's death was the catalyst for me to start taking improv classes. I was in a creative rut at the time; I was dissatisfied by doing stand-up, and frustrated by the lack of performing options in the suburbs. I had to broaden my horizons in some way, and commuting to Old Town once a week was a start. Jim was 52, living with his mother, and seldom traveled. I did not want to become him, and I still don't.

As such, my social circle bears next to no resemblance to what it looked like in Fall 2008. Granted, some friendships disintegrated, but most of my high school and college friends are either too busy or too far away. I'm very selective about who I communicate with from Salem Radio Chicago --where I was employed at the time-- but most of them no longer work there. I attempted to go out on Halloween with "Sandra" (the topic of two past blogs) but I really just wanted to talk to someone. Even in a close family, I felt alone in my mourning. In 2018, improv and comedy dominate my social life; I felt like I had a much stronger support system when my parents passed in 2016 and 2017, and I'm beyond grateful.

Given how young Jim was when he passed, I do wonder what life would have been like had he lived into his mid-60s. I fear that he would've almost certainly voted Trump, and would have been oblivious to #MeToo. He wasn't socially conservative per se, but even in 2008 his backward attitude about women would have been hard to ignore. He died before the Bears signed Jay Cutler (who he would've hated) but he would rub the Cubs' World Series title in my face. There are little quirks of that I don't miss: his random singing, his tendency to chew gum with his mouth open, the way he would tuck his undershirt into his underpants. In spite of that he was a good man, a generous soul who put family first.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Random Notes, October 2018

I can't seem to focus on more than one topic:

+ I'm still trying to make heads or tails of the Saudi Arabia situation. Some pieces of the puzzle are certain: Saudi Arabia has some serious human rights issues, Mohammad bin Salman is a weasel, President Trump is too fawning and trusting of tyrants and dictators (and vice versa), and above all Jamal Khashoggi shouldn't be dead. This fiasco is subtext becoming context, a revelatory moment for those who wrongly assumed Saudi Arabia was more progressive than its Middle Eastern neighbors.

+ If the president is sincerely concerned about political violence, it might be best if everything he said wasn't some sort of call to arms.

+ Two weekends ago, Flower Shop Bangers played the Compass Improv Festival in St. Louis. It was the culmination of my year of travel, as I visited 10 states (including Illinois) since November 1st of last year. In order: Michigan, Wisconsin (several times), Texas, Maryland (twice), Iowa, Nebraska, New York, and Indiana (several times). I have tentative plans to visit Scotland in 2019, and I'm still submitting to improv festivals. Stay tuned.

Next Week: a death in the family, ten years later.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

An Unflattering Photo Finish

Its crunch time in the 2018 midterms. The last of the party primaries has finally ended, and most crucial non-presidential election in recent memory is a litany of tight races and uncomfortable truths. Illinoisans (like yours truly) are bracing for yet another uninspiring gubernatorial race, pitting one multi-millionaire novice against another, but there are some congressional races that look interesting.

The checks and balances of the American political system have put hungry progressives at a crossroads. In the unlikely event Brett Kavanaugh would not fill Justice Kennedy's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, polls indicated that Democrats will not gain ground in Congress. There's probably enough energy and willpower to impeach Kavanaugh or President Trump, but not both. Reality has hit, but not necessarily to dash any optimism from the left.

I typically remind people a week or two before the election --and I will-- but if you haven't done so already please register to vote. This year, your vote really does matter.