Friday, October 26, 2012

On blissful surprises set to good music.

I love The Mountain Goats. I've seen them at The 400 Bar in Minneapolis, a school auditorium in Durham, Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the Blue Moose in Iowa City, and Second City in Chicago. The Mountain Goats are coming to Chicago to play at the Vic this Saturday. I didn't buy tickets because I was being fiscally responsible, but I still put the date on my calendar, because it seemed important to note. I kept my schedule free for a concert I was not, in fact, attending.

I always say I went to first base with Ben Folds and all the way with The Mountain Goats. They are my musical true love. When I first met Scot, he was working on his play, thank u 4 a funky time, which has a passage in it about the Mountain Goats' break-up album "Get Lonely." His character says, "GET LONELY?! I don't want to GET LONELY. I already get it. I've already got it. I don't want more." He then proceeds to delete the album (and any others that remind him of or resemble his ex) from his iTunes. I've written before about how my favorite thing ever is to talk to boys about music. So my heart exploded a little when I met a man who was writing a play that had the line, "You can't take relationship advice from Fleetwood Mac!" in it.

Fast forward four months to yesterday, Scot West picked me up from work and asked me, "So Maura, do you like winners or losers?" He had entered a contest on his lunch break telling Reckless Records why he deserved a pair of tickets to see The Mountain Goats. He won. He won't tell me what he said, but it ended with "MAKE LOVE HAPPEN"and Reckless wrote on Facebook, "We have our winner- What a story!" Maybe one day he will share with me what exactly he said, but the man loves surprises and mysteries. I do too, in theory. I, to reference When Harry Met Sally, think I am surprising when actually I am completely transparent. We are a good balance, I suppose. Here is a short play based on a conversation we had which demonstrates my lack of ability to conceal anything:

A very earnest girl enters holding a glass bowl full of carrots covered in plastic wrap.
A boy (or a girl, a lover anyway) enters.
I love you so much I got you a secret present. You’ll never guess what it is.
I can see what it is.
It’s a big surprise…
You know that bowl is see-through, right?
Guess! Take a wild guess.
Is it a bowl of carrots?
I’ll give you a clue… it might be a vegetable!
Yeah, I bet it’s an orange vegetable. Probably similar to a carrot.
It grows in the ground…
I don’t think you understand the concept of a surprise.
It’ll help you see better…
I get it, it’s an effin bowl of CARROTS.
Bunnies eat it… nom, nom nom…
The BOY stares blankly. The GIRL holds out bowl, smiling.
I give up, what is it?
A bowl of carrots! Don’t you just love it?
(Sincerely) Yeah, I do. Carrots are my favorite.

Sometimes things come full circle. Scot's play involved The Mountain Goats darkest album which features the song No Children which holds the lyric, "I hope you die. I hope we both die." But time moves on. John Darnielle, the band's lead singer, is now married and has a gorgeous son who he is stupid fond of. When I first saw the band, it was Halloween in Minneapolis in 2007. A lot changes in 5 years. John now writes lyrics more like, "You'll never want for comfort/and you'll never be alone./See the sunset turning red/let all be quiet in your head/and look about/all the stars are coming out!

 Point is, everything changes. Seasons, jobs, friends, facial hair. But sometimes, the soundtrack stays the same. Sometimes you get to listen to your band for the first time with someone new who makes you feel like the luckiest lady this side of the Mississippi.

So Saturday night, you'll find us at the Vic. Boom.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I never thought being an adult meant I would eat this much cereal.

"Let no one tell me that childhood is lived in a timeless present. Rather it is a fever of anticipations. Edwin stretched his arms greedily toward the future, bright with unopened presents. As his sixth birthday approached, he was quite unaware that more than half his life was over."
-Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser
I've been hounded by a dear friend for a blog post and it is certainly time to write again. Much has happened since my last post, and yet, I am not at all sure what to write about. I have settled back into a routine of sorts here in Chicago. Same apartment, same roommate, Eric. Life is much as it was before I left for Iowa City with a few differences. Audition season is slow right now and I'm hoping things pick up within the next month. For now, I am working hard for the money, taking improv classes at the Second City Conservatory, and marketing/costuming a show for the Vintage Theater Collective.

I am still working as a standardized patient (if you recall, that is where I pretend to be sick to train doctors). One week last month, I had meningitis on Tuesday, a yeast infection on Wednesday and a thyroid disorder on Thursday. I recovered miraculously by the weekend, only to be struck down by a seizure on Sunday morning. Oh, epilepsy... always sneaking up on you when you least expect it. I am currently working with the second-year medical students on the head-to-toe physical exam. This class involves me sitting in a fake doctor's office in a patient gown as three future doctors discuss how to listen to my heart and lungs with their stethoscope without exposing my nipples. There is really nothing like it. At most jobs, people are not allowed to say, "Now lift your left breast." I hear it every day.

Me at the office.

I am nannying for a new little boy in Wicker Park, who I affectionately refer to as "the 1%." A. is a very fancy, sweet baby who enjoys regular lunches at The Goddess and The Grocer and Miko's Italian Ice. At home, he delights in avocado and seltzer water. I have the guilt of the 99% on me as I order him his $6 macaroni and cheese lunch at the G&G. The hot dishes at this tiny cafe are served by weight a la carte. The first day we dined out, I only had the $6 in cash his mother had given me in my pocket. (I left my own wallet at home so as to not tempt myself to buy a meal I could not afford.) Despite asking for the smallest piece of macaroni and cheese, the total still came to $6.17. We all stared helplessly at each other as the cashier counted the contents of the "take a penny" cup and A. happily knocked over a stand of expensive toffees. The blonde, manicured woman behind me begrudgingly handed the cashier a quarter, more to get me out of her way than to be generous to a frazzled hipster. I thanked her and felt the need to explain to everyone involved that I was sent here by the boy's mother, not wanting to be perceived as a wealthy Bucktown socialite too cheap to carry around more than $6 to buy her son lunch. After this whole ordeal, A. proceeded to throw about $4.53 worth of the hard-earned dish onto the cafe floor. And yet, we return every week (with a pocket full of change.) I swear they cringe when they see me and his red stroller rolling down Damen. I will never take my own 14 month old out to a restaurant. Lil Clementine will just have to eat her pasta at home and drink her water sans bubbles.

When we aren't harassing upscale grocery clerks, A. and I love going to the dog park and reading Goodnight, Moon in Hebrew (I make up all the words, as I cannot speak Hebrew and refuse to read the book right-to-left, back-to-front. So really I suppose we read something more like Good Morning, Moon where the moon is rudely woken up by a pack of rabbits still in their pajamas.) I've become a regular at the Wicker Park playground, rubbing elbows with an Australian au pair, the homeless gentleman who play bongos at the park's entrance, and Hazel, a very cute baby who flirts with A. and wears her hair in a sprout at the very crown of her head. A. calls me "Mmmm" which is also what he calls 'milk.' Since it is I who provide him with his milk, our exchanges are quite efficient. In all seriousness, A. and his family are very nice and I'm thankful for the work.

A. and I reading Steven Millhauser
Much to my joy, I am not waiting tables this fall. The money was good, but the late nights and the erratic scheduling is simply not conducive to living a real life. A life where I can see plays, cook dinner, get up before 11 AM, don't have to wear farming clothes (okay, I still do that anyway.) I am juggling about 5 jobs, so it is a hustle to pay for rent, food and my improv classes (not to mention my yarn...). As year two begins, the hustle, while being a little less difficult to assemble because of previous established contacts, is a little less fun. Not that it was all a barrel of laughs last year, but beginning year two out in the world reminds me of suffering through sophomore year of the BFA. I start to realize why alumni of the Program would tell us how hard it is out there for artists (and everyone). Because it is hard. And people can warn you how hard it is with a sad look in their eyes, but no one is going to be able to tell you the specific way it is going to be hard for you. That's the mystery waiting for you floating out there in the world, on the backs of discarded headshots and in the air of a sleepless night spent wondering how you will ever have health insurance to provide for your unborn children.

No one ever said it would be easy. But is it worth it? All the hustle and the moving and the pursuit? Today, I say yes. Yes it is. The dream must be pursued with energy and fervor. We just went to Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Part of the home burned down three times and each time he rebuilt it. Because the home was his dream and no crazy person or act of God was going to defeat his dream. And so we must be grateful for our crappy apartments and endless job interviews. We must work on our audition pieces and read plays, even though we'd much rather watch 30 Rock. We must learn to cook things that could not be perceived as breakfast foods. We must celebrate our friends' successes, for they are great indeed. And we must end this post, because we have an audition at a theater company called Babes with Blades, and who wouldn't want to see this saucy minx speak some Shakespeare with a sword in her hand?

Much love to you indeed.

Enjoying a laugh with Breana, who just closed her first season at American Players Theatre

This post is dedicated to Melinda George, in recognition of her fierce pursuit of her dreams.