The Glee Club

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Hatchet Piece Revisited: 101 Things I Hate

The following is an homage (read: shameless rip-off) of a brilliant essay written by John Waters many years ago. It was included in his book Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters, a book I regularly recommend over most classical literature and religious texts as painfully essential reading. But then, I would.

Interesting bit of Glee Club trivia: This isn't the first time I've ripped off - erm, paid tribute - to this essay. My first Hatchet Piece was published over a decade ago as part of a weekly column I wrote for my college newspaper. The title of my column? Desperate Living.

Thank you, Mr. Waters (and your attorneys), wherever you are. The original essay on which today's rant is based is (needless to say) far superior, and I'm sure I'm not the only one in the world who's been inspired to copy such a brilliantly obvious idea for a piece of writing.

Frankly, I think Hatchet Piece writing should be a required writing exercise in all public and private school systems. If more kids were encouraged to express their hatred in the form of lists and essays, there'd be less violence in the classroom, mark my words. And hey, let's not forget the homeschool kids - maybe they can put together a PowerPoint presentation of all the things that rile them.

Anyway, I was feeling particularly prickly this morning, so the following is a hopeful exorcism of my bile. Enjoy. Or piss off. Whichever's easiest for you.

* * * * * * * * * *
I wake up (1) wishing I were a giant tarantula so I could rise from my nest and crush entire neighborhoods with a pinch of my filthy mandibles. Then I remember, I hate spiders (2) - always crapping up perfectly good homes with their tacky cobwebs and generally wasting my time with their disgusting displays of menace and vulgarity. Am I supposed to be impressed? I don't want these creatures defecating their repulsive "string art" in my home, and that's that.

I toss in my bed, obsessing over the possibility that arachnids may well be God's Big Mistake. Then I consider Rene Russo (3), Kenny G. (4), artificial heat (5) and microwaveable french fries (6). Intelligent design? I have doubts sometimes, I really do.

Then my alarm clocks (7) go off. Even though I am so petrified of being late to work (8) that I always wake up before my alarm, I set two clocks just to be sure. One of my alarms is my mp3 player, which I'm starting to think is a bad idea. No matter what music I choose to wake up to, I always wake up hating it, just out of principle. This morning, I woke up to Donna Summer (9).

As I seethe in the shower, I meditate on how much the entire cast of Desperate Housewives (10) pisses me off. And I think they do it on purpose, just to get a rise out of me personally! Anyone with sense can see that annoying me is a national pastime. How else could the Black Eyed Peas (11) have gotten so popular?

I somehow manage to quit hating long enough to get dressed and out the door for work. On my way to the nearest bus stop (12), I pass a vending box containing copies of the Chicago Sun-Times (13). I actually feel my teeth ache as I see more sports coverage (14) on the cover. Who cares about the White Sox (15)? And don't take that as some kind of partisan sports loyalist bullshit comment. I hate the Cubs (16), too - maybe even more, because I live so close to Wrigley Field (17) and have to deal with sports fans (18) on a regular basis. I hate Sammy Sosa (19), Tiger Woods (20) and John Madden (21)! I hate it even worse when they try to "act" in commercials (22)! Can't they just play their little ball games (23) and record vanity rap albums (24) or whatever it is that sports people do among their own vile little communities? Don't interrupt my broadcasting pleasure with your tepid attempts at entertaining - I don't care if you are merely shilling for Right Guard deodorant (25) - go away!

I'm so full of bitterness at this point that I nearly miss the bus, which always stops several feet away from where I'm standing (26), because stopping nearer to me would be too much like right. The doors yawn open and I glare at the farebox (27). "Why don't you go to Hell?" I say to it, before I even board. I don't even acknowledge the bus driver because I'm not ready for people yet. The bus is already half-full (28) and I'm denied my natural right to enjoy one of the one-seaters and forced to plant myself where someone might - oh God - sit next to me (29).

Accepting my fate, I look up and notice a slobber-jawed old lady across the aisle staring at me (30), serving up a big hot cup of scowl in my direction. I return the favor, narrowing my eyes to murderous slits and mumbling profanities at her under my breath. Our collective bad vibe gets so thick that the bus driver actually stops the vehicle and threatens to turn it around if we don't knock it off. "Smile!", the bus driver tells me (31).

I don't trust people who smile (32). I mean sure, smiling is great if you have a reason for it. If you're laughing or getting married or if someone gives you money or something. That's fine. But people who walk around with a big, wet grin on their face, right out in public (33)? I hope the government is keeping a close watch on these types, because I sure as Hell suspect that something's up, and I can assure you it ain't pretty. I can't smile on command, so put your cameras away unless you want a portrait full of sourpuss.

I thank heavens I'm such a spiritually together person when the next incident occurs: someone sits next to me (34) and actually gets out her cell phone (35) and starts talking on it (36)! I may hate cell phones worse than I hate spiders, Precious Moments figurines (37) or Celine Dion (38). Go ahead and call me a Luddite, but I can't think of anything more disgusting than having to hear some stranger's phone conversations (39). Why do cell phone yappers never have anything interesting to say? Just once, I'd love it if someone flipped open their cell in front of me, dialed their buddy, and started off with "I've just completed a tri-state terror spree and I'm calling to dictate my memoir." Is that too much to ask?

The balance of my miserable bus ride is riddled with thoughts of golden retrievers (40), interactive theatre (41), and those bastards who rubber-band carry-out menus to my doorknob (42). I don't believe in the death penalty (43), but I've considered booby-trapping my door as a punishment for the next offender who dares litter my doorway with another insipid Thai menu. At least the telemarketers (44) seem to have knocked it off...probably just the same people, different media.

When I arrive at work, I try to walk in the office, but people are standing in the doorway having a conversation (45). Why do people do this? Doorways are where people go in and out. That's why they build doors there. The offending conversationalists look at me as if I were interrupting the signing of the damn Magna Carta as I try to pass through. I glare at them as I wedge past, trying my best to literally set their hair on fire with my eyes.

I get to my desk and try to focus on something other than armageddon. It's a slow day, and I consider making small-talk before reminding myself that accepted office banter is limited to reality television (46), babies (47) and dogs (48). I have nothing to say. It's nearly 8:00 a.m. - I need to find the least healthy thing possible in the vending machine to counteract the effects of the Kasha "Go Lean" oatmeal (49) I ate earlier this morning.

I get to the vending machine and the vending lady (50) is re-stocking it, and I have to wait. I laugh darkly. This always happens. Daily. No matter when I decide to stop by the vending machine, that damn woman is ALWAYS there, thumbing through Snickers bars (51) and taking the sweetest time possible in so doing. It is the law of the fates that I must be denied refreshments at all times - heaven forbid I experience something akin to pleasure at the workplace!

With my stomach now in full-growl mode, I stomp to the restroom. I don't really need to go, but I want to sit in a stall and enjoy some privacy as I quietly weep for the sheer magnitude of finely-crafted stupidity I must continually endure on a moment-to-moment basis.

I enter the stall, and of course it's unflushed (52), with an unsightly surprise bobbing around in the water (53), just waiting for me to gag so it can grin its smug little bowel movement smile. "Mission accomplished again!" I can hear it babble. I flush the toilet aggressively. Take that, asshole.

Who doesn't know to flush a toilet after doing a number two? I would understand if I worked in a facility that rehabilitates people who were raised in the wild by wolves and donkeys, but no. I work for corporate America (54). Did I just answer my own question?

I wipe off the seat and savor a relaxing, embittered pout in the stall until I hear the men's room door squeak open. Whoever it is, they're whistling (55). People who whistle should be forced to have their lips surgically altered into beaks, because I don't want to hear it and I know I'm far from alone...especially not in a public facility in which I am ostensibly attempting to evacuate!

Then, as if that's not bad enough, this men's room masher attempts speaking to me (56)! "Awfully cold out there today," he says in his sing-song voice, as if I'm not on to him.

"Leave me alone!" I cry in response. "I need to concentrate!"

The idea of holding an actual conversation with a complete stranger as one or both parties attempts to complete a biological waste function is a concept that sends me reeling with horror. Please, spare me your brown moments!

This latest incident forces a song into my head that will remain there all day (57). Sadly, that song is "Lady" (58) by the Little River Band (59). My meditation has been savaged, so I pull up my pants, fake another flush, and hurry out of the men's room before the whistling freak has a chance to accost me further with his blood-numbing preoccupation with locker room rapport (60).

I walk down the hall back to my desk and someone has the nerve to say hello to me (61). I stop abruptly and stomp in place as I yell back, "what about Coldplay?? (62) How will your trite little 'hello' cure their existence from my life? HOW?!"

Shortly thereafter, I'm asked by my manager if I'd like to vacate the building on my own or with a security escort. I thought it was sweet to be given an option, so I said "listen, I don't want any ham-fisted rent-a-cop (63) laying a finger on my freshly-laundered garments," and I wiped the froth off my shirt and made my way to the elevators with dignity (64) in tact.

After waiting (65) what seemed like an eternity, I stepped into the elevator and made notice of the other person in the car, and my radar immediately went off: elevator talker. I accidentally locked eyes with her. Bad idea. Her mouth was a spring ready to coil. "Don't you just love the carpet in here?" Sproi-oi-oing.

"I'm going through a difficult transition right now and I need some time to process," I mumbled, quickly reaching for my sunglasses and putting them on for that "besieged celebrity" look (66). Chatty Cathy was silent for the rest of the ride, even if it was an awkward silence (67).

As soon as the elevator doors swept open on the ground floor, a couple of schmoes immediately began shoving their way past us before we had a chance to exit the elevator (68). If I am never able to impart anything else of worth to anybody through my written or spoken words, I would be satisfied if this one simple thought resonated through all of mankind:


And I mean "idiots" in the most endearing way.

I somehow manage to escape the elevator region in one piece, and find myself in a vast wasteland of hate as I step into the lobby, which has recently been remodeled into a kind of "corporate mini-mall" (69). A smiling guy with a wicker basket (70) approaches me and asks if I'd like to buy a charity bracelet (71). I loathe those things - insulting little bands of dirty rubber with profane words like "joy"(72) and "hope"(73) and "eternity"(74) stamped on 'em. Why can't I have a bracelet that says "ennui" or "doomed" or "botchulism"?!? It's my dollar, isn't it?!?

I give him a dollar if he promises never to speak to me again, and he complies with a pert "have a nice day!" (75) The muzak speakers (76) overhead are pumping a Nickelback (77) song into our skulls. There's no such thing as proper Muzak anymore - the sickeningly syrupy-sweet instrumental renditions of current pop songs, re-recorded into edge-free, flute-heavy aural styrofoam. I'm sure it's because today's hit parade from Hell (78) is so aggressively devoid of character, remaking any of it as Muzak would be terribly beside the point.

Someone walks past me slurping from a bowl of what looks like frozen entrails, purchased from that insidious Starbucks of frozen sweets, Coldstone Creamery (79). I've tried their "food" twice - both times I noted that it had the taste and texture of cold Play-Doh. And the cult-like employees (80) need to knock it off with their little metal spatula hand jives (81) and the jarring sing-song chants (82) they're apparently forced to perform continually. I hate any kind of recreational service in which I'm expected to participate in any way other than as a passive consumer. I know I already listed it, but I hate interactive theater (83) so much that it warrants a second mention. If I'm expected to assist a production in entertaining the rest of the audience, I want billing and I want money. What I don't want is some laughing boy in a ren-faire (84) costume forcing me to take part in a knock-knock joke (85).

Quick summary: Interactive theater performers, please don't a) touch me, b) talk to me, c) acknowledge my presence. Thanks, kittens.

I forget where I am for a moment because I'm too busy fixating on Harriet Miers (86), and where she thought she got off in the first place. My rage is spacious enough for the entire Bush Administration (87), which I realize is fashionable, but I might even hate them if they weren't in favor of bulldozing kittens and coersing leaders of foreign countries to pose for polaroids dressed like Olive Oyl. I can't stand listening to our president (88) talk (89). He always sounds like he's trying to teach us something, like he's giving a little sermon. My stomach sours thinking about it, and I make a face like Dick Cheney (90).

I also abhor people who use vacuum cleaners around me (91), people who eat fast food on public transportation (92) and all forms of pickle (93).

And don't think I've forgotten about you, Andi MacDowell! (94)

Completely blown away in a haze of my own hate, I don't even realize that I've somehow wound up in an alley, rolling around in a mud puddle and drawing a crowd as I scream uncontrollably, "Hillary Duff! (95) People who wear baseball hats at dinner! (96) The current fashion trend of wearing bikini tops over t-shirts! (97) The cast of 'Friends' (yes, still)! (98) I can't take it anymore!"

I then begin to levitate and twirl, my own bile having become so all-encompassing that I have become a complete being of light, only not in a "good" way like Madonna (99) keeps ranting about these days. As I rise above the skyline of Chicago, I look down and experience a killer wave of vertigo (100). I can feel sickness coursing up through my guts and my esophagus, and finally I clamp my eyes shut and let it stream forth from my mouth:

"la la la, la la la-la la
i just can't get you out of my head"

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ten Responses To My Dinner

I spent last weekend languishing in lush, balmy Minneapolis, sipping on cocktails in coconut shells and skipping pebbles on the sapphire blue of Lake Minnetonka as my silk sarong flapped langorously in the sweet cloudless Midwestern sky.

Okay, so that paragraph was obviously bullshit, but writing it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Minneapolis was cold and mostly dreary, and I spent a lot of time huddled up in the backs of cabs using my friends' body heat for precious warmth, but hey - the part about the cocktails was true (no coconut shells, though).

One of many fabulous things about my visit to Mpls was the absolute ABUNDANCE of vegetarian-friendly menus to be found in the city. We started out at a traditional South Indian buffet joint which was all veggie - so much so that a sign hung in the front forbidding customers to bring meat into the establishment (so of course, we left the ground chuck in the Pinto).

The Indian restaurant was an extreme example, but I never felt alienated or at a loss for yummy eats the entire time we were running around the city. Even the lunk-head sports bar at Calhoun Square offered some creative pub grub, including a fantabulous quinoa veggie burger that I inhaled with no small amount of glee. Of course, the menu did puzzlingly offer the inclusion of bacon on their veggie burger for a small extra fee, which left more than a few of us scratching our heads...but hey, it's all about options!

I'm a little shocked to say this, but as a vegetarian, I came away from my weekend amazed that Minneapolis has got it going on way more than my current digs in Chicago, which as we all know is a mecca for big portions of good food.

Don't get me wrong: I'm absolutely in love with some of the restaurants in my city - Hema's Kitchen, Chicago Diner, Bite, Earwax Cafe and Sinbad's Falafel all make me a very happy fattie - but I couldn't help but notice a sense of fun and adventure in the menus I scanned while in Mpls. If I didn't know better, I'd suspect those people actually enjoyed eating new kinds of food.

I had mashed potato pizza last weekend. Twice. From two different pizzarias. And despite what some of you uninitiated folk may think, both pies were really, really good. Meanwhile, back in Chicago, I'm still at a loss for a good local pizza joint, because everywhere in the city insists on the traditional Chicago-style deep-dish goo (which I loathe).

There's a lot about this city that I love, and there's even more that I'm coming to love the longer I continue living here. Still, one issue I have with Chicago is that it's a meat eater's paradise, and there's no getting around it. It's kinda one of those "well, duh" statements, right?

I became a vegetarian when I was 18 years old. I was living in Indiana at the time. Being a vegetarian in Indiana is not easy. In Indiana, vegetarians are people you see on TV or read about in magazines, but you never think one might move next door or even be a member of your own family. I think many families in Indiana would rather their children turn out gay than ovo-lacto veg - if their child came out as a vegan, I think the poor kid would be taken to the riverbank and left to die of exposure.

Growing up veggie in Indiana was a bit of a boot camp. I went through college learning how to eat creatively and how to make the most of the limited choices I was given. Fortunately, college campuses know how to feed throngs of precocious little veggie gullets, so I didn't exactly starve...but there were always my trips home, in which I had to reprogram my mom's cooking. This wasn't a huge ordeal, as my mom was always an adventurous cook when I was growing up - during my high school years, she even played around with preparing her own falafel and veggie chili recipes - but she never had the pressure of catering to a full-on non-meat-eater. I'm sure it was just another sweet, sunshiney reason to love her deliciously low-maintenance son all the more (and if you can spot all the BS in that last sentence, I will actually send you a prize).

My first few Thanksgivings were especially rough during my early veg years. I remember one particularly white-knuckled family gathering at my grandmother's house in the sticks of southern Indiana, when the turkey plate was passed to me and I very offhandedly said "oh, no thanks, I don't eat meat" and I was met with such stink-eyed awkward silence that I might as well have said "I'm wearing frilly silk panties right now, and I brought extras for everyone!"

Fortunately, over the past 17 years everyone has gotten a titch more chill with my dietary habits. Maybe I'll actually chime in with the panties thing this year just to keep 'em on their toes.

After a few years of figuring out how to get by in the bowels of the Bible Belt without a meat-based diet, I moved to New York City and for the first time in my life experienced Vegetarian Nirvana. Long story short(er), I became spoiled. Being able to eat what I wanted was no big deal. People eat what they want in New York. You have choices out the wazoo. And it can be a vegetarian wazoo if you so desire.

Then, after six years of veggie wazoo, I'm in Chicago. Chicago's not bad. As stated above, there's lots of good stuff here. The groceries are pretty veggie-friendly, so I'm never without Boca or Morningstar Farms treats - and we also have a Trader Joe's nearby, so really, I have no reason to complain.

Honestly, maybe the weirdest thing about adjusting to Chicago is finding myself having to justify my vegetarianism again. I was used to it at first, living in Indiana, where our type were burned at the stake and thrown over cliffs in barrels - in fact, I'm glad I was asked to explain myself as often as I was, because every time I was asked "why?", I was explaining it again to myself as well.

In New York, I learned nobody cares what you eat. Just pay for it and don't make other people eat it if they don't wanna. The end.

In Chicago, I learned that there's a healthy slice of the population that still doesn't "get" it. In the more urbane and hipster neighborhoods, sure, eat your tofu, enjoy it, good times abound. When I'm toiling away at my job downtown, however, it's a different story. Folks who commute to The Loop from the suburbs (or from Indiana) aren't exactly Vegetarian Digest subscribers; and as my dear friend Stymie once told me about Chicago's Southside while she was trying to choke down a plate of twigs at a vegan diner in Boystown, "look, we don't have vegans in The Hood".

After my weekend in Minneapolis, it was nice to have a breather in a city where vegetarianism seems not only to be respected, but seemingly also a little bit celebrated. It also brought me back to Chicago reflecting on how ignorant people still can be about vegetarianism these days, and on how most folks consider it to be such a bigger deal than it really is.

I spent this morning scrawling down a list of things people say to me when they first discover I'm a veggie. Before I share the list, please allow me to cough out the basic thesis of my gastrophilosophy:

People, it's just food.

I think this whole topic is tainted by the oft-named "Nazi vegetarian" types who overzealously lecture and judge and make mooing sounds whenever you bite into your quarter pounder. I think it's also tainted by people way on the other side of the issue, who are so threatened by the mere possibility of a world without their precious meat products, the mere mention of vegetarian is enough to throw them into a foul mood for the rest of the day.

These people need to relax.

For me, what I choose to eat is part of how I define myself. I'm not going to lie and say that my diet is perfectly balanced or devoid of unhealthy crap - I'll eat a bag of cheesy corn puffs and wash it down with a 2-liter of Diet Coke and then I'll happily suck the corn puff powder goo off my fingers as if it were a thoughtfully-placed garnish. Ice cream? I'm there. With Magic Shell? Bring it on.

But I choose not to eat certain things because, well, at this's because I can tell myself that I've committed to one thing requiring a significant amount of discipline, and I've made that commitment for nearly two decades now. That kind of self-control is within my reach, and I prove that to myself every day, with every meal.

Sure, it's about health - the benefits of a veggie diet have proven themselves to me over the years, and I'm so appreciative of that; and sure, it's about ethical issues - I'm sorry, I love animals. I adore them. I don't like the idea of slaughtering them so I can devour their remains at Taco Bell.

But that's me. It's a big world, and results may vary. You go do your thing. We're all just trying to live a life here, after all.

It's when we stop respectfully teaching by example and start forcing our ideals into other people's lives that things get unattractive, regardless of the purity of one's intentions. And by "teaching by example", I mean this: In the space of 17 years, I've turned more people on to a veggie diet (or a more veggie-friendly diet) simply by doing my own thing, than I ever did when I was preaching about the evils of red meat and factory farming.

People look at what I'm eating. They get curious. They ask questions. They wanna try what I'm having. They usually tend to like it. They start trying other veggie stuff because they realize it's not as gross and bland as they thought it would be. They may not wind up giving up meat all together, but they eat a little healthier and a little bit of bad karma is shaved off my credit report because I helped make another person's life just a little bit healthier. It's all good.

And I wouldn't have it any other way, despite the days when I can't stop complaining about "if one more person asks me why I don't eat meat, I will SCREAM". At the end of the day, if I'm a walking vegetarianism kiosk, then fine. I'm putting something good into the world. I just have to remind myself of that sometimes.

That said, here are the ten most repeated comments and questions I've gotten over the years when someone first learns I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian:

  1. "I could never give up certain things - I mean, like, completely."
  2. "You do it mainly for health reasons, right?"
  3. "You just eat your tofu - I'm going to enjoy a big fat bloody steak, huh huh huh."
  4. "I tried being a vegetarian once, but I need more protein."
  5. "If I go without meat, I'll get sick."
  6. "You're a vegetarian? But you eat chicken and fish, right?"
  7. "At least you're not a vegan."
  8. "Will you have enough to eat tonight?"
  9. "Isn't eating fake meat just a passive-aggressive way of saying you like real meat?"
  10. "Come on. Be honest. You sneak a hamburger every now and then. Come on."

I was going to respond to each of these compiled comments in kind, but I dunno...I kind of want to leave them up for those who may read this post and recognize themselves in some of those comments.

And I'm not just saying that because I'm getting tired of writing this post. Nope. Perish the thought.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Everybody But Me

This weekend, I'm heading to balmy Minneapolis to catch up with a group of lovely friends I met last year during Prince's blitzkrieg 'comeback' tour of the states, and with whom I have enjoyed keeping in touch ever since. Veggie Indian chow and the Star Wars Holiday Special will be involved, as will The Decemberists and First Avenue.

Because I'll be away this weekend, I had to make up a writing class I'll be missing by sitting in on another class this week. This resulted in my sitting in a big circle of folks chatting about the comic genius of the television show Everybody Loves Raymond.

I have to tell you people, I don't love Raymond so much. In fact, I don't understand Raymond. Conceptually speaking, Raymond is a vast wasteland in my world. For all intents and purposes, Raymond is dead to me.

I've seen the show maybe twice, both times during visits to my mother's house, during which I was not give the option to avoid giving Raymond some love. As we watched, I grilled my mom. I told her I've seen bad sitcoms before, but at least I could understand what they were going for with the humor. I explained that I didn't understand what this guy does that was supposed to make me laugh. Watching Ray Romano is like watching sports (I'm a confirmed lifelong sports bigot) - I have no idea what those people are talking about in their windbreakers and their polo shirts. They could be talking Russian, for all I know. I'm sure those sports people on television are very good at what they do, but it doesn't keep me from feeling like that cartoon of the dog listening to a human and hearing "blah blah blah blah blah FOOD blah blah blah blah". I just. Do NOT. Get it.

Mother responded to my rant by saying, "well, he's know...funny."

An answer which helped me tremendously.

During this week's make-up class Raymond lovefest, I just kept my damn mouth shut. I pretended like I was around a bunch of my friend's kids talking about Japanimation or that I was around my co-workers talking about babies and reality television or that I was around whatever other group with whom I wanted to curry a modicum of favor without actually attempting to discuss something I knew nothing about, and more importantly, topics of which I am quietly proud to be ignorant.

So I just sat and listened, and when I was asked to share the things that make me laugh, my list elicited polite nods and disingenuously pinched faces cooing "...yeah...neat..."

I felt a nice little unspoken pact between myself and the fill-in class. "You don't belong here, and you are not of our tribe. Nod and smile a lot, and at the end of our three hours together, get the hell out." Okee-doke!

(I must state for the record that my regular writing class is far different. Everyone in the room, from the teacher to the other writers to the writing newbies, are completely and utterly brilliant, charming, fascinating and off-beat. I'm sure the people in this fill-in class are enormously virtuous on so many levels it could make my head spin, but I was just too blinded by the whole Raymond round-table thing to focus on the sterling energy that surely surrounded me at the time. This has been a message from my conscience, in connection with my karma. Thank you.)

Though really, I didn't mention my Raymondic dysphoria because, quite simply, I didn't want any heavy shit to go down. After all, this was a comedy writing class. What would have happened if I openly expressed my distaste for Mr. Romano's legacy?

I'm sure that after class, my instructor would be on the red phone to the Komedy Kremlin (and yes, I believe Yakov Smirnov has played there) to inform the Chuckle Chamber that there is indeed at least ONE person on this big blue marble who does not, in fact, love Raymond.

"But everybody loves Raymond!" they will say, baffled and outraged.

"Not this guy," my teacher would respond, defeated and dismayed.

"We must reprogram him!"

And I would be kidnapped in the middle of the night and sent to a safehouse, where I would sit in a small white room with a thin woman with owl glasses and a tweed skirt, and she would very calmly and dispassionately explain to me, point by point, the intended universal appeal of Ray Romano's complex web of humor technique. She will take notes as I respond negatively, and share her findings with a research committee tasked to the speediest recovery process possible.

Doris Roberts would be flown in via Air Force One to have a conversation with me. Having a modicum of respect for Ms. Roberts' career (I loved her work with Donna Pescow on Angie), I would beg my captors to at least apply a fresh coat of gel to my electrodes so as not to appear to slovenly in the presence of La Doris. Ultimately, this tactic would also prove unsuccessful.

After several more attempts to convert me to the "Everybody" camp, the worldwide scientific community would finally give up, throw me in a burlap sack and toss me in the back of a van, then throw me out on the side of a highway somewhere in Ohio. But their worst case scenario would come true: THEY WOULD HAVE TO RETITLE THE SHOW.

I mean, sure, it's not on the air anymore, but it is syndicated in reruns, and there is certainly a thriving DVD box set racket going on, if everybody (except for me, that is) indeed loves this person. Suggestions would include:

  • Most Love Raymond
  • We Found One Person Who Doesn't Love Raymond: Ignore Him
  • We Love Raymond, And That's Good Enough
  • If You Don't Love Raymond, Don't Watch - It's That Simple
  • Loving Raymond, It Has Its Perks
  • Raymond Loves Everybody (Except For One Person, And He Knows Who He Is)

This re-titling fiasco would lead to wide-spread global panic, causing earthquakes and falling skies to rend havoc in some regions, and giant lizards would appear and eat entire towns in other areas. Nostradamus would rise from the grave simply to appear on Oprah and say "I told you so", and all evildoers would win everything from bloody wars to games of Hungry Hungry Hippos, much to the chagrin of the U.S. government's current administration.

So, yeah.

One picks one's battles wisely when one has the presence of mind to do so.

As such, I just kept my big trap shut about the whole Raymond thing.

Monday, October 17, 2005

People Die (Reprise)

Just thought I'd follow up on my last entry with a review of Friday night's kick-off of Kiki & Herb's "Resurrection Tour" at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art.

I'm still scratching my head over how furtive the publicity for their tour has been. No ads, no press releases, no extended tour info on the web, no interviews or stories in the mainstream, alternative or gay press that I've seen.

Furtive is not a word that should be connected to publicity.

Yet, both of Kiki & Herb's Friday night shows were sold out and the auditorium was full of excited faces and newcomers who would soon be putty in Kiki's able talons...erm, I mean claws...ehhh, HANDS.

Friday night's performances followed the same formula that's made their shows a smash for the last ten years: They wound up the audience with an introduction wallowing in high-octane schmaltz, followed by some truly inspired cover versions of classic alternative songs (this time it was a riotous take on "Let's Go To Bed" by The Cure), seguing into a trip down the feverish rabbit hole of Justin Bond's mind by way of Kiki's wildly irreverent anecdotes, political rants, tragicomic first-person accounts and her bumbling turns of non-sequitur ("You should SEE what they're doing to cats these days, ladies and gentlemen....uh, Herb, what was I just talking about? ...oh well.").

By the last third of the show, as always, Kiki is on the floor from many sips of her infamously venomous on-stage cocktails ("Mommy's getting pretty", she growled after her first swig), followed by a suddenly-sobered and wholly re-energized encore, which of course ended up with one of their signature tunes, Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill".

Other songs given the Kiki & Herb treatment Friday night were Dan Fogelberg's "Another Auld Lang Syne", Spiritualized's "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space", "Cathedrals" by Jump Little Children, and their berzerk jaunt through the old standard "Make Yourself Comfortable", which becomes about as comforting as a shock therapy by the time Kiki is finished busting into her series of spastic dance moves, then screaming about "JUST WANTING TO MAKE YOU PEOPLE HAPPY!!!"

Kenny Mellman as "Herb" was as energetic and flawless as ever on the piano, though this time around his stage make-up was so over the top that he looked more like Sammy Terry than an aging lounge musician.

Of course, during the performance Kiki informed us that their stage wrinkles were in fact fake, and that they needed to draw them on before every show because they've been alive for the past 2,000 years due to an immortalizing incident at Christ's manger, and the duo didn't want to make the mortal public suspicious to their inability to kick the bucket...which also "explains" why, after they performed a kick-off show last year called "Kiki & Herb Will Die For You", they have come back from the dead.

Okay, kind of a flimsy excuse for throwing on the costumes and making some more money with a sure thing, right? Fortunately, they make the dumb excuse work for them with a series of jokes and schtick referencing their "revelatory" confession. ("I lived through the middle ages, ladies and gentlemen, and it wasn't cute.")

The funniest reference to this silly addition to the Kiki & Herb legend occurred every time Kiki mentioned the fact that they were playing in a museum, and hissing the word with a self-loathing shudder and sneer until finally breaking down and admitting "you know, I hate might be pretty to look at, but it's a pain to move."

Whatever caused Mellman and Justin Bond to consider "killing" their cult-icon alter egos is water under the bridge - the duo is back and stronger than ever. After playing Carnegie Hall last year, perhaps they wanted to tear down their momentum and return to the basics of their act. If this is the case, they've returned with a sharp focus for their characters and their act, and their show is more refined than ever, keeping the trainwreck energy of Kiki DuRane in tact but letting Bond's talent as a singer shine as brightly as her talent as a comic (in other words, more crooning, less screeching).

And this was only the first show of their tour of the States. If they can only get better, they're going to be downright transcendent by the end of their tour...whenever or wherever that may be.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

People Die, Ladies and Gentlemen. That's All You Need To Know.

...but then they come back from the dead, apparently.

So I learned when one of my favorite live acts turned up in the "Early Warnings" section of the Chicago Reader, two years after packing it in with a blow-out performance at Carnegie Hall, in which the very title of their show promised that they "Will Die For You".

Clearly, ya can't kill Kiki & Herb, because they died and now they're back. We might as well put them on that infamous list with cockroaches, Tina Turner, Cher and twinkies.

For those of you who don't know who I'm talking about (and unfortunately, there are far too many of you poor lambs out there), here's a quick primer.

After absorbing that clicky-treat and no doubt becoming even more bewildered by what I'm babbling on about, I shall attempt to conjure a dab of perspective by way of a creamy schmear of personal history:

Justin Bond (a/k/a "Kiki DuRane") is kind of a gender enigma - he/she (for the sake of argument, let's just say "she") has taken drag performance to the next level, where talent and original material far eclipse the novelty of a guy camping it up in a dress; furthermore, Bond has always lent a further air of dignity to her work by erasing the schtick of drag or "gender illusionist" typicalia.

Is "typicalia" a word? Can we let it be a word, just for today? Thanks.

Kiki is Justin Bond's alter-ego - an ancient, alcoholic, cheerfully embittered song-and-dance relic. Kiki is also half of the prehistoric lounge act known as Kiki & Herb. We've all seen their act before - two hip kids dressing like pathetic Vegas burn-outs, singing off key and telling the audience to tip their waitresses and try the lasagna.

This ain't your average SNL skit, however.

Kiki, accompanied by her "retarded gay Jew" pianist Herb (a/k/a the lovely and talented Kenny Mellman), turn cabaret performance on its ear with their mastery of pop-culture satire and their post-modern attack on threadbare retro stand-bys.

And the songs. Oh, my goodness, the songs.

If you go to a Kiki & Herb show expecting to hear a handful of showtunes and maybe a Gloria Gaynor song or two, you'll be in for quite a shock. A typical set list includes songs by Kate Bush, Radiohead, Prince, Wu-Tang Clan, Magnetic Fields, Suicidal Tendencies, Cheap Trick and whatever other insanely obscure treasure they can find to catch an audience off-guard.

Their show starts with a rickety vibe of glee and old-skool showbiz pizazz, and becomes progressively darker and, well, I'll just say it - more frightening, with each swig Kiki takes of her notoriously potent cocktails throughout the night's performance.

By frightening, I mean Courtney Love frightening. I mean a sloppy drunk septugenarian slurring the words to a gangsta rap song as she hulks toward your table and unsuccessfully attempts to pull the tablecloth out from under your drinks, after which she will hand you the microphone and break into a stumbling conniption of a softshoe routine before crawling back on stage and howling like a demented chihuahua until she finally trembles off stage in a defeated heap.

Then, five minutes and a visit to the ladies room later, Kiki's back on stage, all smiles and jazz hands, warbling her way giddily through a Belle & Sebastian song.

And it all manages to work out into one of the best evenings of live performance you're ever likely to see. Their comic timing is absolutely brilliant, Kiki's voice is impressively versatile (think one part Ethel Merman, one part David Bowie), Herb is a helluva piano man, and the duo make it work in a way that will endear the most jaded of hipsters and the most pop-culture-impaired alike (in other words, you can bring Mom).

It's not about drag or alternative music or gay stuff or any one thing. It's just good music and good comedy. Clearly, Kiki & Herb care a lot about what they're doing, and it shows.

I first saw Justin Bond (pre-Kiki?) in New York at a HomoCorps music showcase set at The CBGB's Gallery, circa 1996-ish. She was dressed in smart slacks and a sleeveless spangle blouse, looking like an unhinged Joan Lunden as she introduced tattooed punk bands named after lewd sex acts. It was a lovely evening, made even lovelier by Bond's own performance of - I kid you not - an Olivia Newton John medley, drawing heavily on the ONJ classic "Deeper Than The Night".

After this night, my undying love for all things Kiki was born. Understandably.

During my time as a New York resident, I saw Kiki & Herb a number of times - I can't count the times I saw Justin/Kiki hosting theme nights at various East Village bars and clubs, which is made sadder by the fact that most of those clubs no longer exist. I saw Kiki & Herb's early shows at Flamingo East twice - at one show, I was the victim of the tablecloth/softshoe routine mentioned above.

Eventually, their show moved to a slightly ritzier club called Fez, where I saw them twice more, including one occasion in which I brought my best friend and my mother, who was visiting from the midwest. As Kiki began warbling "Exit Music for a Film", my mother smiled and said, "is she singing Radiohead?!" to which my friend's eyes bulged in shock that my mother could identify a Radiohead song (what can I say, I have a hip mom). Ironically, my mother sat through the entire show blissfully unaware that Kiki was not, technically speaking, a woman.

I don't consider this a lack of savvy on my mother's part. I consider it Justin Bond succeeding in what she sets out to achieve. It's not about the drag. It's about the characterization. It's about the performance. It's Tootsie without the de-wigging scene. It's The Crying Game without the money shot. It's not illusion because we're not invited to the other side of the mirage. Reality is irrelevant - as should be the rule of good entertainment.

Their show became larger and larger over the years, eventually graduating into an off-Broadway stint, a Christmas CD with Debbie Harry and Rufus Wainright, and a glorious swan song performance at Carnegie Hall, followed by a live recording of the event.

Oh, and they were in a Sigourney Weaver movie not too long ago - the film's okay, but the scene with Kiki & Herb is the closest you'll get to a home video performance, and their few minutes on film are typically fabulous.

And after all that, I thought the we were through with Kiki & Herb, and all the delicious chaos they brought to the world. I was wrong.

Earlier this very week, an e-mail from my sweetheart alerted me to a listing for two shows at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art on October 14, 2005: "An Evening with Kiki & Herb".

I experienced a minor yet noteworthy bout of mental collapse.

Said collapse was not soothed upon my attempt to hunt down tickets online, only to find - not at all to my surprise - that all online ticket sales had been sold out.

Here's where I started to get all Darwin-meets-Almost Famous.

I pulled out all the stops. I called the venue, which was closed (Columbus Day, natch). I posted a mewling ad on Craig's List. I e-mailed someone I knew whose boyfriend worked for a museum and mewled some more. I even shot a message off to Kiki & Herb's web site, on the off-chance that the folks who maintain their fan site might have some pointers on how I could score tix.

I was determined. I would not miss this show.

The next day, I felt reluctantly resigned. I did everything I could at such short notice, no need to cry over spilled martinis, life goes on, blah blah, etc. Still and all, I felt one last little nagging gnaw at the ankle of my tenacity (sorry about that last metaphor thingie, I don't quite get it either), so I called the venue once more, assuming it would only result in a bored college student sighing the words "sold out" with that ever-so-familiar blend of disdain and dispassion that I still attempt to recreate at my job every day, to varying levels of success and/or failure.

So I called. And the very friendly young woman who answered the phone informed me that there were two tickets left for the late performance, though the seats were not together. Sadly, yet I guess fortuitously, I'd have to attend the show on my own anyway, as my favorite yarn spinner would be casting off for the East Coast this weekend. I was sadly on my own, but perhaps it would work out for me in some merciful karmic twist.

I ended the call one 7th row ticket richer.

The next morning, I got a reply to my Craig's List ad from somebody offering to sell me a ticket for the late show. I heaved a tasty sigh of relief, knowing that I already had my ticket. 7th row. That's right.

And a bit later, I got another e-mail. From Kiki & Herb. They got my mewling note from earlier in the week. And, um, well...

I'm two more tickets richer now, and I will be seeing both of their shows this weekend - one of them as a guest of the performers.

I'm so excited my eyeballs could literally explode at any moment.

So, to add to all of the blather above about what wonderful performers Kiki & Herb are, I now must add that they're a couple of absolute sweethearts as well. As a longtime fan, I must invoke the Wayne & Garth mantra: I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!

Though on second thought, what the hell - after all the grief I went through to attend their show, I'm worthy enough. Even if I'm not, I'm going to see one of my favorite acts return from the dead in my own home town, and I learned one thing long ago:

Never look a ghost-horse in the mouth.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Speedway Confidential

The following rant was originally written in New York City during the summer of 2000, for publication in an anthology called Swallow Your Pride. The anthology never happened...or if it did, I never found out about it.
A few years back, I unearthed this essay, cleaned it up a bit, and shared the results for a Pride Day post on a previous blog.
And so it goes once again, as a belated Coming Out Day meditation. It's one of my favorite pieces, and I hope you enjoy...

Supermarkets are much different in the midwest than they are in New York. The most noticeable difference is that they’re always open. One can always depend on a Kroger, a Marsh or an A&P to shine a welcoming light for feverish 3a.m. visitors in need of their all-important comfort food fixes.

Some supermarkets in the midwest have transcended mere produce and canned goods, and have become pumped-up mega-superstores, offering groceries, prescriptions, clothing, toys and lawn furniture, all available to hungry consumers at 5a.m., should the need arise. A person could concievably live in one of these steroid-charged markets, living on a steady diet of Little Debbie snack cakes and sleeping on the latest in chaise lounge technology.

Since there’s nothing really to do in the midwest, 24-hour supermarkets are the middle-aged housewife’s answer to the mall. Neighbors can view each other’s tragic new haircuts, or be a fly on the wall for countless delicious domestic arguments, or share the latest toxic gossip about the town skank. Midwestern supermarkets are a place to stare, to gawk, to analyze, to judge. It’s all we had in the midwest, in the mid 1980s, in Speedway, Indiana.

Around the block from my neighborhood 24-hour Kroger, however, stood a rickety treehouse shack of a gay bar called The Electric Company. We Didn’t Talk About The Electric Company. It was a neutral zone - a limbo. In the eyes of our vanilla suburban community, it just didn’t exist. In fact, fags didn’t exist in our eyes. To be queer in Speedway, Indiana was to be a grotesque tragicomedic Shylock - a darkly witty, cruelly entertaining, gravelly gutter-imp with a heart of coal, sinisterly wringing one’s hands in the shadows and feeding off the blood of cute kittens and newborn babes. Oh, of course, and fags were an abomination in the eyes of The Lord, unclean unclean unclean, blah blah blah. Blah de blah de blah.

The Electric Company was unceremoneously demolished during my junior year of high school, and in its place a church was built. Insert irony here. Not long after the demolition of the bar, I was walking to the 24-hour Kroger one day on an errand for my mom. As I passed through the gargantuan parking lot, I noticed an index card sloppily attached to a lamp post with masking tape. The card, in sloppy red marker, said this:


Welcome to Hoosier Queer Activism 101. In retrospect, that misspelled index card has done more for me than a thousand so-called “Pride Celebrations.” For someone to write such a statement, to post it in a public place in redneck Indiana, to risk getting, that was heroism.

Yeah, so the index card on the lamp post inspired me, but I wasn’t quite sure why. At 17 years old, my sheltered self had no idea that I could love another man and call it a LIFE. At best, I thought that the most I could expect from my mysteriously bent libido would be to one day get naked with a guy, get it over with, and say to myself I’d done it, and that would be that. I’d meet a woman, get married, have kids, develop a dandy collection of brandy decanters in the shapes of classic cars, and that whole gay experience thing would be my pervy little secret to pack away in the crawlspace of my memory. That’s how I thought it was done when I was a 17-year-old midwestern youth in 1987. I wasn’t aware that I could be “GAY AND LOVEING IT.”

High school was pocked with even more delicious complications. Our art teacher, a meticulously dressed nelly queen deluxe, insisted upon his heterosexuality and even spoke occasionally of his “wife” and “son,” neither of which had names, neither of which were ever really fleshed out as actual human beings. He bragged and cawwed about the art deco and interior design shows he had visited over the weekend, and he was in charge of stage design for the school plays. His hair color often changed. Yet, please don’t forget, this man was STRAIGHT. And that’s what we believed.

One of our math teachers, a gruff but loveable mulleted butch of a woman, was suddenly replaced by a young man who would later be involved in a scandal when he began dating one of his female students. Parents were riled at first, but I don’t know, I suppose everyone started to think they made a cute couple, and eventually the school came to accept their relationship. Meanwhile, we were told that our original math teacher was on “maternity leave.”

I learned years later that our dykey math teacher was “let go” by the school because one of the girls on the softball team she coached had come to her in confidence, and told the teacher she thought she might be gay. This teacher had the unmitigated gall to tell the girl that being gay wasn’t bad, and that she should accept herself. The girl then came out to her parents, relaying the math teacher’s words of wisdom. The parents, enraged, called the principal and demanded the math teacher’s dismissal. Soon after, the math teacher got “pregnant” and we never saw her again.

And she was replaced by a man who started openly dating one of his students.

The repressive nature of our school came to a minor boiling point - for me, at least - one day at the end of English class. It was during that free-for-all time after the lessons had ended and minutes before the bell was to ring, signalling the end of another school day. The focus of this day’s attention was an anemically skinny, pale, translucently-skinned, chronically silent boy named Phillip. Karen, the school shit-kicker, was letting him have it, not holding back, aiming for the jugular. Phillip didn’t have a chance against this frizzy-permed cat-fight championship contender in a Ronnie James Dio t-shirt and stone-washed jeans.

“Why are you a fag, Phillip?” Karen taunted. “You see, I don’t understand what’s so great about being a homo. Could you explain why you have to be a fag?” The kids around Karen giggled and stared. I watched Phillip turn purple, the veins in his see-through skin twitching and pulsing, his fingers digging into the splintery wood of his desk.

As Karen’s voice reached a shrill, nicotine-stained crescendo, Phillip could have no more. He stood up, threw his books to the floor, and had every last molecule of our attention. “I’M A FAG, OKAY?” He shrieked. “WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?!”

This was NOT said in Speedway, Indiana in 1987.

We were silent, every last one of us, even our teacher. We didn’t know what to do with that moment, how to digest it, where to take the strange, alien energy Phillip had unleashed in that room. We couldn’t look at each other. We certainly couldn’t look at Phillip. The bell rang. That bell was our savior. We tripped over each other getting out of that school, to our safe, secure homes, to our syndicated sitcom re-runs and the detatched bliss Nintendo video games. For all I know, the energy that Phillip let loose in that classroom is still there today, years and years later. I didn’t turn around that day, for fear of turning into a pillar of salt. I didn’t see if perhaps the teacher had a gentle word with him, or if the kid was dragged by his ear to the principal’s office to be “dealt with,” or if the evil Camaro-cruising Karen had decided to savage the poor lamb and was picking his bones clean with her stoned-out teen hyaena friends. I don’t know what happened to him. In retrospect, I wish I could go back to that moment and congratulate Phillip for what he did. Hell, he was cute in a “fetch my oxygen mask” kind of way, I wish I would’ve had it together enough to have asked him out. But at the time, of course, I didn’t know I could do that. I didn’t even know about the world what Phillip knew about himself.

After that incident, I once had a chance to say something to Phillip when I visited my class-mate Christian - a tragically cute, spindly spider of a pothead who lived in the same apartment complex as me. Christian was the object of my first notable boy-crush.

Phillip was at Christian’s on the day I visited - there were always stoners and drop-outs and outsiders hanging out at Christian’s - and go figure, Phillip was on his way out. I so wanted to open my mouth - oh my GOD, I was in the same room with The Gay Guy! - but I didn’t. I didn’t. I just said “hey.”

After Phillip left, Christian and I were alone. After some small talk while listening to Wendy & Lisa’s first solo album, Christian came at me from left field. “So, like, are you gay?”


I giggled. “Eh, not that I know of,” I lied dorkily. Despite the matter-of-fact way in which he asked, despite the way his Gummo-gear bare-midriff t-shirt was exposing bony angles of hips and ribs that seemed to be sending me loveletters with every shift of his weight, despite the fact that we were all alone in a dark apartment, Wendy & Lisa cooing sapphic ballads in the background, I didn’t trust that question. That question had been presented to me before, but in the context of: “Why are you different? What exactly is WRONG with you? Could it be that you’re...not One Of Us???”

“That’s cool,” Christian said. “I was just wondering. It doesn’t make a difference to me one way or the other.” We spent the rest of the night watching MTV and bullshitting about our certain impending fame and glory. I often think about how that night would have been different had I answered his question differently. It could have changed the course of my life, really. Or maybe not. Or maybe the evil homophobe Karen was hiding in wait in a nearby closet, and the whole thing was a set-up which I successfully diverted. Who knows, really?

All I know is, the last time I heard about Christian, he was working as a hairdresser and living with his boyfriend. Well, good for him.

I don’t know much else about Speedway, Indiana. After I graduated, I went to college and then moved to New York. My mother moved to another town, so there’s really no reason to go back to Speedway. It wasn’t that I had a particularly traumatic time growing up in Speedway, but I also don’t have a whole lot of nostalgia invested in the place, either. It was just where we lived for a while, and now we don’t. Meanwhile, one week out of every year, the Indianapolis 500 comes to town, and the streets are littered with mullet-headed good ol’ boys sitting on top of their winnebagos, flashing their grammatically-challenged “SHOW US YOU’RE TITS” placards. Who needs to revisit THAT?

Meanwhile, I moved to New York City, where I worked for almost five years, in varying degrees, for the New York City Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center. For five years, the job was like going back to school. I learned and learned and learned. Working at an LGBT social services agency, I learned terminology like polyamory, butch-femme, leathersex, harm reductionism, sex-positive and all things related to the transgender spectrum. I know what a radical faerie is and I know what a trannie fag is. I've plodded through my own dog-eared copy of "My Gender Workbook". I’ve debated the virtues and dangers of using the word “queer,” and during my time working at The Center’s information desk, I played impromptu case counselor, doorman and bouncer, part-time detective, as well as wearing at least a couple dozen other hats. I had to answer point-blank questions like “what do you think about Rogaine?” and “where in Manhattan can I go to masturbate?” I had to find temporary shelter for kids who had just gotten kicked out of their homes because they came out to Mom and Dad and it didn't go so well. I was also screamed at, spit at and attacked at this other gay folks. Interestingly enough, I can’t cite a single case of homophobic violence by someone hetero-identified that I’ve encountered at that job. Not to say it hasn’t happened there - I just never encountered it.

And through all this fancified big city education and experience, it’s easy for me to forget that scrawny-ass index card taped to a lamp post. It’s easy to forget how I used to wonder how much frustration and passion and will power it took for that person to tape that message in the middle of the Kroger parking lot in Speedway, Indiana. As I look at shops in my gay ghetto selling the Official Gay Bottled Water and as I hear about yet another garishly-advertised and outrageously pricey “Pride Event” (with obligatory drug-fueled after-party), and as I endure the mountains of rainbow-themed merchandise that will no doubt be snatched up like so much juicy pirate’s booty, I feel like the defining moments of what I consider “gay pride” happened in Speedway, Indiana, and can’t be re-created by a garish float topped with waving gym-rats, pumping late-’80s house music from speakers hidden within neon papier mache sculptures of unicorns and giant stilettos.

I can’t help but wonder what good a $65.00 rainbow-colored Beanie Baby leather bear is going to do for someone afraid to join a Pride parade, for fear of being spotted by a relative, or a boss, or a spouse, or a classmate. Maybe such an item of homo kitsch becomes a much-needed talisman of someone’s coming out, I don’t know. Every Linus needs his blanket, I suppose. But then, who knows - maybe the Speedway Kroger is stocking the Gay Bottled Water, and someone’s sipping away contentedly even as we speak, one less index card away from a life of alienation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Mr. Type-A Strikes Again

The Glee Club is under attack! my own damn self, that is.

In just a few short days, I'm going to be starting writing program classes at Second City. This means, of course, that every week I will need to prepare a new five-to-ten minute skit for class.

I am very excited about the class, though it may compete a bit with my attempts to regularly update this new blog. On second thought, I write all the time - so if anything, the class will motivate me to post that much more often.


November 1 marks the beginning of yet another year's National Novel Writing Month, in which participants attempt to clack their way through 50,000 words of new fiction in 30 days. I've tried my darnedest for the past three years to be a Winning Wordsmith, but the closest I got was 35,000 words. So close.

In the past, this event has been logistically daunting for me. Just as I would pick up steam with my writing and really feel like I was getting my mind wrapped around a full-on fiction piece, the holidays would rear their festive boughs of holly and I would end up sitting on my mother's sofa watching VH-1 throughout Thanksgiving weekend, feeling every last moment of those 50,000 words slipping through my fingers and bouncing off my bloated belly, losing themselves in the sky-blue shag sea of my mom's living room carpet. Woe.

But not this year!

Now that my sweetie has loaned me a laptop and the possibility of writing ANYWHERE has become deliciously real, I'm going to give NaNoWriMo another go. I will write at home. I will write outside on weekends. I will write at my mother's house. I will write at the airport. I will write wherever I damn please, thank you kindly.

While taking a comedy sketch writing class.

And attempting to maintain a new weblog.

Thankfully, I have a plucky, tenacious, can-do attitude.

That said, I'm going to wrap this up and go eat the rest of my Zagnut bar and hope that my bottle of RC hasn't gone flat.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Five Odes to Spam E-Mails (via Haiku)

britney spears, listen -
there's nothing i want from you
stop e-mailing me

free smileys, listen -
there's nothing i want from you
stop e-mailing me

nude celebs, listen -
there's nothing i want from you
stop e-mailing me

viagra, listen -
there's nothing i want from you
stop e-mailing me

septic tanks, listen -
there's nothing i want from you
stop e-mailing me

Friday, October 07, 2005

Here Comes Your Band

It's Fried-day (as in, the day on which my brain is most fried), so I'll leave the poor English language alone for now and post some pictures I snapped of The Pixies at this summer's Lollapalooza festival in Chicago's Grant Park.

Our EmCee speaketh: "Welcome tooo thee Moppet Show,
with our very special guests - THE PIXIES!!! YAAAAYYY!!!"

A full band shot that I managed to take in between
my many bouts of jumping up and down and screaming.

Kim is The Deal.

Black Francis Frank Black, whatever:
That Guy Who Screams A Lot

Yup, that's Kim Deal again. Sometimes crappy photography
yields trippy results, and I end up with pictures that look
like stills from Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' video.

The backdrop for our evening's entertainment.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Freaky Deaky Dee

For the past six or so years, I have worked as a legal word processor to support my out-of-control obsessions with writing and other vulgar outbursts of creativity. The work comes easily to me, the pay is good, overtime is rare (and when it happens, the pay is REALLY good), and the schedule is typically accommodating, especially at international firms with offices open 24/7.

As a result, I've spent most of the past six years working evenings. In the beginning, this was a dream come true. I could write all day, then arrive at work when most of the 9-to-5 rabble was preparing to leave. I could stay up late and sleep in if I so chose. What's not to love?

Well, I'll tell you what's not to love.

When one is 29 years old and living in New York City, one can get away with working nights. One has more of a propensity to go out after work and whoop it up, caring less about the possibility of returning to work the next night knackered and stinking of gin and ashtrays. When one is 29 and living in NYC, one has a wide variety of friends with crazy occupations and kooky schedules. One could easily choose from a wide palette of social contacts who would be only too pleased to meet for some chat'n'chew at 2:00 a.m.

When one is 35 years old and living in Chicago, the stakes change just a tad.

When the lyric "I want to wake up in a city that doesn't sleep" was written, there's good reason it was attributed to the Big Apple rather than the Windy City. Chicago is indeed a big city with a lot of stuff going on all the time, but the (for lack of a better term) working culture is of a far different mindset here than in New York.

Chicago is a 9-to-5 town. You get up in the morning, you come to work, you go home, and after 5:00 p.m., you live your personal life. You pursue your personal passions. You engage with other people who follow the same schedule, because that is what people do in this city until they have reached a point where their personal passions can pay for whatever kind of damn schedule they please.

If you choose another kind of work schedule, you're free to have at it, but you will most likely come to feel a bit marginalized. The Loop, which is the downtown business section of Chicago where I've worked most of the time I've lived in this city, closes down by 6:00 p.m. Restaurants, shops, library, everything - when the 9-to-5ers go home, there's no reason to stay open.

For people like me who worked night shifts in The Loop, it was like arriving at a ghost town every night - my own personal Day After, day after day.

Add to that the typical perils of a night shift worker - you miss out on night-time TV (I learned how to program a VCR over the past few years); you have to schedule time off if you want to see a concert at night, thus shaving off valuable vacation hours; you don't get to socialize with your friends or family unless they keep the same weird hours as you; and you have to deal with weird people in your neighborhood who don't work during the day, and the even weirder people who are wandering the streets when you get off work late at night.

When I moved to Chicago from New York in 2001, I scoured the want ads and drilled the employment agencies for a night shift job like I had in New York. Eventually, I found one that fit the bill. I took two years to realize this schedule wasn't going to work for me here like it could on the East Coast. Actually, most of those two years were spent knowing better but fighting the need to return to the 9-to5 world. As boxed-in as working nights could feel, the last thing I wanted back in my life were claustrophobic rush-hour commutes and frustrating throngs of lunch-hour street waddlers.

Fortunately, I was recently able to strike a deal in which I clock in and out a little earlier than the masses, which gives me the best of both worlds. I can now cook veggie korma with my sweetheart at night, and at the same time I can work days while still clinging tight to my neurotic fear of crowds (remind me again WHY I like living in big cities?).

I've been back on days for a week and a half now, after a couple of years of regularly working a night shift. I told one person that I feel like Morgan Freeman in that Shawshank movie, and I recently tried to explain the ways in which my neighborhood is creepy during the day, when most sensible people are downtown toiling away in their cubicles.

I find it a little unsettling to spend the day in my deserted neighborhood, then trek downtown to another deserted environment for work. I could spend entire days as a resident of Chicago, only seeing my boyfriend and the people with whom I work. Sure, there might be a couple of people in my periphery. A couple of people at the gym during the day. Some old folks from the local retirement community on their shopping day at my local supermarket. Six or seven strangers in my train car on the way to work. But there's no calling a buddy because I feel like getting together for a drink or a movie. Buddy's at work. I'm at home. Or vice versa.

And when I would step outside my apartment during my long days before work, I would notice myself among people who appeared to be unable to fit in among the 9-to-5 mainstream. My neighborhood resembled something half "Monster Mash", half Twin Peaks. People skittered around furtively, with strangely shaped hair and ill-fitting clothing. Or, worse, brazen extroverts would troll the streets, looking for poor souls to suck into their vortex of unfortunate behavior.

And of course, there were the mommies with their strollers. Oh, the strollers. And the screaming, kicking things inside those vessels. The horror...the horror...

This was my world during the day. These were the people in my neighborhood. All the pretty people with playfully messy hair and retro t-shirts and sassy shoes were all at work, fashionably oblivious to the bleary underbelly of our community. I got to see the pretty people on weekends. I was like a divorced parent with limited custody of having a real life.

Of course, the real divorce happened on my late night bus/train rides home from work, at which point most people have filed for a complete divorce from reality. Sitting on the northbound bus among drooling lumpen misfits trundling dozens of bags, and big scary seething things with large heads and bulging eyes, I am reminded of Mink Stole's classic line in the film Desperate Living, in which she is banished to a town for social outcasts: "Look around's a village of idiots!"

Fortunately, I was never directly accosted during my rides home at night, unless putrid stenches count as personal which case, consider me a serial victim. At worst, I've been the target of bizarre and promptly-dismissed chat-up lines, and I was nearly groped one evening by an out of control Mexican drunkard who appeared to be going through some kind of homoerotic sexual awakening - and was taking out his epiphany on all the men on the bus in a grisly act of mass frottage, much to our dismay. My usual bus driver at the time was a pillar of patience in dealing with the various crackpots who'd sit at the front of the bus and rant his ear off for entire trips - on his last night working the route, he stopped me as I stepped off and thanked me for not being insane. I didn't have the heart to correct him, but I knew what he meant.

When my job offered me the chance to work days, I was excited to be done with my not-ready-for-prime-time crew of reprobates. I was ready to surround myself with the workaday trappings of normal people. Pretty people. Witty people. At the very least, God bless 'em, boring people.


To quote a wise Taoist philosopher whose contemplations on the nature of irony have resounded with us for centuries: "HA!"

In the past two weeks of my life as a mere drip in the vat of daytime manpower, I've had two memorably bizarre Close Encounters of the Freak Kind - not just harmless little incidents in which I look on as some mouthbreather in a felt tunic eats raw hamburger on the bus. Oh, no. If only.

The first of my Dances With Freaks occurred the very first evening I returned home from my first day of work. My computer had come down with some kind of banal disorder and I had to walk it across the street to the local PC veterinarian. On my way back from dropping off my little black box of error messages, I passed a disgruntled looking old man who leered at me and barked, "YOU GOT BUCK TEETH!!!"

Soon after, I reported this story to my boyfriend, who then asked me to describe the geezer in question. After I did so, he replied, "oh, yeah. You gotta stay away from him."

After a bit of thought, I decided to take my beau's advice. So much for inviting grumpy gramps around for brunch with buck-teeth.

Incident number two occurred just last weekend, when we dropped by the local superdupermarket to pick up a family pak of low-carb toilet paper. While we were waiting in line for the self-serve check-out (one of my many mental issues is that I don't want anyone named Brenda handling my toilet paper), a creature in front of us spun around and looked at me as if little unicorns had just flown out of my ears. She was the shape and size of a tree stump, she was wearing an ill-fitting curly red wig, she had a voice like a foghorn, and she was clearly unhinged and aiming her crosshairs at me.

"YOU LOOK LIKE YOU SAW A GHOST!" she bellowed, gums aflap. And by the time she spat these words at me, I probably did look like a deer in headlights.

"Um, okay," I responded, aghast at this woman's very existence (and the way in which it was colliding with mine).

"YOU LOOK LIKE DRACULA! WAUGH!" she continued, her eyes popping like vienna sausages bulging from cloudy aspic.

"Why thank you," I said, my pissy-queen reserves beginning to kick in, "and have a nice day."

(I must add, I'm not too shabby at saying "have a nice day" and making it sound like "fuck you very much". I've heard people do worse at this than me. I've worked with secretaries for a long time. I've learned things.)

After this incident, I couldn't help but feel that I had suddenly become a bona fide freak magnet, and that my new work schedule was somehow to blame. Had I made a bad decision? Was working nights and sparing myself the bulk of waking humanity actually something that was keeping me safe from the world's droolcup enthusiasts and notable wingnuts? Had I willed myself into some kind of particularly shrill Twilight Zone episode?

Well, I don't know. I've had a few days since these incidents occurred, and all I can say is that I'm a little impressed at the quality of these two fine weirdos. The freakish behavior I encountered on my late night bus rides home from work was considerably wide in scope, but there was always a vagueness about their untoward behavior that was, dare I say, more predictable than disarming. The daytime freakazoids I have encountered in the past two weeks have what I must admit is a true flair - a commitment to their craft that I cannot help but call refreshing and vital to the world of freakdom. I'm proud of the wonky wombats I'm encountering in my neighborhood these days, and long may their freak flag fly!

Hey, we all gotta tell ourselves things to keep the bad thoughts at bay, ok?

And sometimes the tables do turn.

Last night after work, I was at the same supermarket, picking up some stuff for dinner. I was so proud, I was picking up a loaf of french bread and I could finally look like every movie character coming home from work with a bag of groceries with obligatory french bread popping out. I'd finally arrived at domestic ultimate Rhoda Morganstern fantasy!

I prodded at produce for a few minutes for no good reason, and I noticed a display of mini-pumpkins that I thought would make an atrociously precious accent for my desk at work. "Oh GOD, how FESTIVE", my co-workers would grumble as they passed me clacking away at my keyboard. I would pick one up for my sweetie, too.

When I settled up at the self-serve check-out, the mini-pumpkins would not scan. They weren't in the database, it seemed. It was as if the mini-pumpkins were retail stowaways - Charos in the Love Boat of digestable goods.

I asked for help, and the guy paid to stand at a podium and monitor the self-serve checkout stations slouched over and pointed at a sticker on the mini-pumpkin, mumbling something about keying in the number on the sticker. So I did that. Nothing happened still.

So I decided I was gonna get myself some god damn service.

I sighed with a volume handed down to me by generations of put-upon midwestern women and I dropped the mini-pumpkins, quite unscanned, into my grocery bag. The monitor guy got an eyeful of this performance and before I knew it he was leering over my shoulder, a hand already reaching around and pulling the mini-pumpkins from my grocery bag. Miraculously, he pushed a few buttons and the pricing for these purchases appeared. Apparently, customer service comes easier if you threaten to steal.

I felt bad about my performance as I trundled my goods home - what must that man have thought of me, putting unaccounted for items in my bag, I could have been arrested for shoplifting! But the cloud of guilt blew away quickly. I merely feigned a bit of bad behavior to get the assistance I felt I deserved in the first place. I got what I needed, and I was a bit dramatic about it.

I guess we all need to get our freak on, sooner or later.

Monday, October 03, 2005

My Name Is


I'm not sure if I know you, and I'm not sure if you know me either. Either way, allow me to introduce myself. You may find that you've seen something I've done in the past, and if you already know me, you may discover something horribly constructed and embarrassing from my past projects that you can use against me at a later date...and really, I'd love that.

Online, I started posting rants and diatribes somewhere around 1997-98, when I discovered I could design free web pages on sites like Geocities and Tripod. The free web space was great, but I was most fascinated by the pop-ups these sites generated. The Internet was fairly new and exciting to me at the time, and pop-up ads were just the cutest thing I'd ever seen. The casinos, the naked-women sites, the classmate-finders. Oh, how thrilled I was to be constantly reminded of all the possibilities the World Wide Web held in store for me!

Yeah. So.

Armed with my dazzlingly limited knowledge of HTML, I slapped together a piss-poor little page called "Anxiety's Toxic Snowglobe". At first, it was nothing but a whole bunch of words with a little picture of a chicken at the top of the page. I believe the page itself was light purple. It won many awards, and for some reason this early version of the site was extremely huge in Antarctica.

With time came boredom, and with boredom came that inevitable curse to which I am reluctant yet powerless: Growth. I bought a how-to book on HTML. I opened a new free account on Tripod and used it as a laboratory for my cruel and merciless experiments, and wound up with a second version of The Toxic Snowglobe that actually employed things like illustrations, links and site architecture.

But it still featured my beloved pop-up ads, which of course was the most important part.

I quit updating the Snowglobe sometime around 2000, but it still comes back to haunt me. Some folks have stumbled across my "Goddess" tribute pages to ladies like outsider music diva B.J. Snowden and staunch character "Little" Edie Beale, and to this day I get a couple of e-mails a month from people sharing their enthusiasm over "Grey Gardens".

I still also get a lot of feedback about one of the major projects I undertook on the Snowglobe, which was a full-blown mud-slinging countdown known as The Top 100 Trainwrecks of the 20th Century. This was a list of the most ill-behaved, poorly-raised, socially inept public figures who drew breath between 1901 - 2000, and it was probably the most ambitious chunk of the entire site. The Trainwrecks pages drew scads of response - positive and negative - when it first went live. It hit a high point a few years ago when a producer from a cable network contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in creating a series of television specials based on my Trainwrecks list. We got as far as registering the idea before the project went in the don't get any big ideas, dammit.

After I finished the Trainwrecks project, I was thoroughly tired of producing a full-on web 'zine with pages and link buttons and sections and all of the new ideas necessary to create and realize in order to keep all the plates spinning. I confess, I was tired of spinning plates. In fact, I was tired of plates. Give me Chinet. No, just heap it on a paper towel and let's call it a day. Enough with those pesky round things on which food is served. To hell with them.

Luckily for me, blogs were starting to happen. I could just puke my day's ramble into a little white box, click a few clicky things that would provide the appropriate links and pictures, et voila - low maintenance web project!

I bid my beloved Tripod pop-up ads a bitter adieu.

Just about all of my past blogging has been on Diaryland, which I hope I can mention on here without being tied to a tree and forced to walk a plank, or whatever it is those nasty sea pirates did when they robbed chuckwagons and referred to their feathered caps as pasta product.

I blogged for about a year under the name Anx, which was of course an abbreviation for my previous Anxiety's Toxic Snowglobe site. People ask me why I chose Anxiety as an Internet nickname, and why I've been using it in one way or another over the years.

My answer? I don't know. Simple as that.

I'm sure it's somehow subconsciously profound in a way that would trigger the psychiatric breakthrough of a lifetime, but really, all I know is I like how the word looks. I like that there's an X and a Y in the word. I like that people shorten it into "Anx" or "Anxy". I like when people say "HI ANXIETY!" as if they were the first ever to come up with the joke (I always let them believe it, by the way).

A friend from college once said that when I'm under great stress, I tend to be highly entertaining. Maybe I got the name from that comment. But as far as some deep personal/philosophical reason for the name? I really couldn't tell ya. Feel free to make something up for me. I may give you a prize if I like your fabrication.

I must have gotten tired of answering the "why Anxiety?" question, because a year after I started blogging as Anx, I dropped that page like a cold potato (Why drop a hot potato? Put butter on it and don't be wasteful) and started a new page under the name The Great Gadfly.

If Anxiety was a weird name, The Great Gadfly was just plain dumb. I don't particularly consider myself a gadfly, and I would not tag myself as consistently great. I'm aggressively okay, and I think it's prudent to let people believe what they're going to believe, whether it's bullshit or not. Iconoclasts and contrarians get on my nerves unless they have some kind of point, which most iconoclasts and contrarians do not, other than "I'm far more hip and cynical than you," which I'm sure is true, but how will that get me a hot potato for dinner, and how would I eat that hot potato since publically eschewing all forms of plate?

Still and all, I posted on the Gadfly blog for about a year and a half, and it was by far the most involved and perhaps the most rewarding experience of all my little web endeavors thus far. Lots of people started reading the blog, and lots of them sent me lots of nice presents, which eventually overwhelmed me and made me feel like a damn pig for perpetually being too broke to return the generosity.

I discovered and followed many blogs which I considered to be ridiculously brilliant, which I hope to re-discover with the launching of this here wee slice of e-sexiness. I also gained readers who found my blog by googling phrases like "Nude Dolly Parton sits on dead cat" and "Brad Pitt's dingleberries speak Mandarin". I welcomed these charming reprobates with open (but covered) arms. If you've found The Glee Club by way of the phrases I just wrote in this paragraph, then welcome. You have found your proverbial mother ship, you mothers.

I eventually tired of the Gadfly blog, for several reasons. I was getting a lot of readers, but I wanted to write something that didn't have to be experienced online. I wanted to write magazine articles, a short story, a play or two. I wanted to engage in creative projects that involved moving around and doing stuff with other people. Except for the drug-soaked Jell-O orgies and tri-state goosing sprees (Diaryland was WILD, honey), blogging did not afford me any of that kind of experience.

Also, with more people reading my blog came more problems. And honest, I only have SO much patience for problems. Internet trollery in the guestbook region and delightful follow-up e-mails inspired me to double-lock my door at night...and prompted me to shut the door on the Gadfly blog for good.

I felt like blogging built up a lot of great connections and rewards - National Public Radio even contacted me at one point about the idea of creating a radio spot riffing on the style of the Gadfly blog (and I would have gotten away with it, if it wasn't for that pesky Iraq War!) - but I also felt like it had built up more than its fair share of pent-up energy and bad juju. I felt bad for walking away from so many amazing people with such consistently great ideas and fabulous daily rants, but I had eaten my hot potato and all that was left were so many starchy crumbs. Which could easily have been cleaned if I'd only had a plate.

I should let you all know right now, I have since learned to love plates again. I'm stronger now.

Since quitting the Gadfly blog, I've been a busy boy online and off. I've studied improv at Chicago's Second City for over a year, where I begin classes in comedy sketch writing this month. I have become hopelessly embroiled in a relationship that for the past year has been creatively nourishing and weirdly emotionally stable (sick, I know). Also, for the past year I've experienced the crazy world of moderating a web site, when I signed on to organize news nuggets on a Prince fan site during the thick of his 2004 comeback onslaught. I hated the experience so much, I continue moderating at the site to this day. I've been forced to do horrible things like interview former bandmates and attend concerts and parties where people recognize me and are nice to me. I hate it all. It is torture. Please, Sir Royal Badness, can I have some more?

Most recently, I have channeled my music geek passion into one other site run by people who are not me: As an ongoing writing exercise to get my record review chops back up to snuff, I've taken on the task of tagging my entire record collection online (and it ain't just a few Jesus Jones tapes, kids) and I've vowed to review every single disc, slab and/or tape of music I own. It's extremely gratifying. I highly recommend it. It's better than plates.

Which, j'suppose, brings me to The Glee Club, and what the hell I'm doing on a blog again if the first two attempts made me run screaming.

Well, what can I say.

No, really - what CAN I say? I have no idea!

I began this particular blog months ago, when I told myself I would attempt one last shot at bloggery, provided I was able to snag a good enough name. I nearly threw in the towel, as most of the names I wanted to use were taken. "FryingEggsOnDollyPartonsThighs" was free, but I didn't want to encourage the raincoat Googlers any more than I already have.

Finally, I pecked in "The Glee Club", and the rest would be history if there were anything more to say about it. Which, lucky for you, there is:

I posted a few experiments on this blog, and shared it with a few close friends, who gave me some very positive feedback and then promptly had their phone numbers and e-mail addresses changed (I miss you guys! Re-think the restraining orders - please? Kisses!).

I considered limiting this blog strictly to comedy essay writing, partially as a sketchbook for my ideas and partially because I'm the kind of person who will scrawl some stupid little combination of words which someone will see and say, "Hey, damn it! That is funny! You just better send that to McSweeneys or The Onion or Shouts and Murmurs or something!" And so I do, and I am rejected with such quickness by these fine publications, the earth's rotation has actually hiccupped backwards a couple of times, as if God were a DJ and he were doing a fresh scratch on our phat blue marble, yo. So if you felt a disturbance in the rotation of our planet, not to worry - that was just me sucking.

Given my sparkling success rate of work submitted for publication (if mud could sparkle, that is), I decided to create a blog that would be my own little McSweeney's Discount Outlet for damaged and irregular funnies. The New Yorker may not think I'm up to snuff, but that doesn't mean I can't pass the savings along to you!

So, upon christening this space the Big Lots of comedy, I fell into a creative abyss. Well, not really. I just didn't want to write funny stuff every day. Or, really, every week. And I was busy improvising and moderating and boyfriending and working, all the while trying my damnedest to come up with newer and lamer ideas for the magazine world to deny with even higher levels of dismissive zeal.

Which brings me to now.

Long story short: oh wait, it's too late.

Long story less long: For the past few years, I've been working a night job, ostensibly because I wanted to use days for writing and nights for making money to pay bills. Once upon a time this worked. Over the past year or so, I've noticed this set-up is kind of crap. I've managed to seal myself off from mildly interesting things like a social life, prime time television, and the sun. As a result, I grew terribly suspicious as to why I was running out of things to write about, finally deciding that I'd try returning to the land of the living in hopes of the ol' creative juices perking back up as a result.

It's been a week since this change in schedule has gone into effect, and now that I'm among large groups of other people on a regular basis again, and now that I no longer have the sleeping habits of Courtney Love, all I can say is WOW.

I feel like I have a lot of things to say again, just like that.

And that seems to be as good a place to end this introduction as any.

Welcome to The Glee Club. Help yourself to whatever's in the fridge.