Thursday, December 22, 2011

a practical guide to 2012

You’ve probably already said it forty times by now.

Happy New Year.

We say it every year and it’s a nice thing to say.

It’s, rarely, a genuine wish for friends, family, that guy who just made you a sandwich.

Hey, I hope you have a good year and things, on the balance, tilt you way.


Usually though,  it’s just three words, hot-glued together the way the mind does that, that come out, unbidden, just there.

And usually, of course, we find ourselves in March or February or if we’re lucky sometime in the summer suffering through another goddamned year, another rotation of the sun and the moon and everything else out there, just holding on.

And of course, next year will be like this year, much like last year:  a grind, an uphill journey with unimaginable psychic and global weather storming both indoors and out.

Who can begin to predict who we’ll lose?

What single thing can you count on in this seismic, shifting landscape?  

So maybe we can put something in the bank now, before it all starts, and maybe it might earn some dividends.

Me being the financial wizard that I am, it’s bound to work.

Gob knows what’s coming down, but I know some things.

I was genuinely happy a few times this year.  And I’m remembering that it had nothing to do with the weather or the balance in my bank account, it was because of what I did or said or didn’t do. 

So maybe I can keep those times in the front of my brain in 2012 and have a happy new year.

Sometimes you’re with a friend and you find yourself telling them what a good person they are, that they just did or said something wondrous and they shrug and deflect and go on with the conversation and for some reason you stop and insist on them hearing that you think they’re amazing and that it’s rare and it should be noted and you are, in fact, noting it.

And they stop and you see that lovely weird light in their eyes and you both glow a little bit because the normal rules have for some reason been suspended and it’s cool to be unguarded all of a sudden.

I’m going to try to do that more often this year.

And sometimes you’re in a meeting or an interview or some other business-related situation and everyone’s nattering on the way they’re supposed to and you know your cue, you know your role, you’ve done the scene a hundred times on a hundred different sets, but the  sameness and the pretense get to you for some reason that one time, that hundredth and one time, and you hear yourself breaking from the script, breaking character completely and you blurt out a truthful sentence or two and instead of the director screaming cut and you getting  fired, everyone around you stops for a moment, breathes and either laughs out loud or says, 

Yeah.  Yeah!  That’s exactly right.

So I’m going to try to look for more of those moments this year. 

And sometimes, often if you're lucky, someone you love and live with and is right there, part of your world and everyday landscape, performs a simple, almost automatic act of kindness, something small but something that completely and objectively improves your immediate situation. 

It could be anything.

Your cup of coffee is re-filled.  

That person laughs, genuinely, at the oldest bit you do, the joke that started twenty years ago.

Or you're standing there, doing some dumb thing and suddenly that someone else's arms are around you and that someone's face is up against yours and there's a squeeze and you know that another person is saying, physically,

I'm here.  For you.  And I'm glad you're here too.

And if you're smart you take that moment to say I love you.

I'm going to try to be smarter this year.

And sometimes it’s the end of the day and you’re tired but also filled.  You can see the rest of the task and you know the next steps,  but there’s no nervousness or anxiety or thoughts of what has to be done because you know you did everything possible today and then some.

The job’s not done, but you are on the job.

And that makes you very happy.

I’m going to try to end more days this year like that.

I'm going to try to have a happy year.

Happy New Year, all.

Monday, December 19, 2011

bring down the curtain

Did you hear that the Iraq war ended?

Yep, over and done with like it never happened.

Of course we won't ever know what the four thousand four hundred and eighty seven young American men and women who were killed would have done with their lives, or how the lives of the thirty two thousand two hundred and twenty six Americans who were wounded would have turned out if they hadn't have been sent into harm's way in order to secure the non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

And then there's the estimated one hundred thousand Iraqi lives lost.

But that's just a number, not enough men, woman and boys and girls to fill the Longacre Theater for over 100 hundred nights in a row.

But at least we established a thriving, working democracy in the Middle East.

Good thing Iranian influence wasn't in any way increased over there, that would have been a mess.

And if our unprovoked invasion of a largely Muslim country was used as the perfect, gift-wrapped recruitment tool for the homicidal, fundamentalist thugs who were actually behind the attacks on September 11th, well. 

That would have been a shame.

So take a bow, Mr. Bush.  Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld.  Mr. Wolfowitz, Ms. Rice.

Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

curioser and curioser

It's true what someone once said about something else,

You wait around long enough and you'll see everything twice.

So here we all are forced into taking Newton Leroy Gringrich seriously.


Anyone who doesn't believe in artificial intelligence just needs to look hard into the Mittbot's eyes; the rise of Newt is killing his cyborg soul.  The pain, confusion and sorrow may not be human, but they're real and it hurts to watch.

The idea of Gingrich as a nominee, let alone a president, is of course alternately hilarious and horrifying.  For my Republican friends, imagine if the Democrats nominated George McGovern.  That's about the way it feels for you guys to be supporting Newt.

Everyone's going to be piling on but let's just clear up a few things at the start:

Having a lot of ideas does not qualify you as an intellectual.  If that were true, every cokehead would be a Rhodes Scholar.

Teaching history and geography at West Georgia College for eight years in the 1970s does not qualify you as an historian.  It makes you a former history and geography teacher at West Georgia College.

Getting older doesn't make you wiser, kinder or essentially any different than you were when you were young and active.

Newt may be a 68 year old grandfather, but he's a 68 year old grandfather who has cheated on two wives, shut down the US government partially because he was denied a seat on Air Force One, had 84 ethics charges filed against him during his term as Speaker and in 1997 admitted that "In my name and over my signature, inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable statements were given to the (House Ethics) committee".

He's the guy who led the impeachment charge against Clinton while engaged in an extramarital affair.

You can argue policies day and night, but you can't argue against the fact that Newt Gingrich is an undisciplined, unprincipled ego-crazed hypocrite.

And do you honestly think that the power of the Presidency is going to temper him in any way?

Like fighting fire with gasoline, folks.

Friday, December 09, 2011


Man, that week went fast.

Time flies when you're busy and broke.

I'm chasing three things, one is taking me back to the early days on the Lower East Side, another is a re-boot of a recent great idea and the third just might make me some money.

Here's dreaming, anyway.

Woke up this morning warm and safe next to Ms. McGee, the cat asleep at my feet.  Went out to the living room and the fire was still going low from last night.  Banked it up a bit and I had a blaze.  Coffee and a rolled cigarette on the porch, early winter sunlight bouncing off a random snowbank in the yard.

It's not an easy life, this life, but it sure can be a beautiful one.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

random shout out

I'm working on this thing for and I'm reading some plays that I've heard about for years but never got a chance to see.

All too common in my parish; a show rockets out of nowhere, everyone's talking about it and three weeks later it's gone.  And the company can't afford to move it to a larger space, the union won't let you transfer it to another 99 seat theater, you have to wait a year for a re-mount and by that time your creative team has moved on.

Which is why I missed The Adventures of Nervous-Boy back when.

And I count that now as one of my great regrets.

James Comtois, you well and truly rock. This is one of the best plays I've read in recent memory.

If my word is not enough for everyone reading this to click on the link up there and buy a copy of the play, here's a stage direction from about halfway through it:

(She collapses.  GUY makes noise of dismissive disgust and exits.  She's dead.  As NERVOUS-BOY talks two...vampires?  Demons?  Whatever the fuck they are, they slither to GIRL's body and slide her offstage as they drink her blood.) 

It's funny as hell and deeply disturbing and very, very true about what it says about living in Rat City and just being alive and young and getting older and not quite knowing why things don't seem to make sense to you like they seem to make sense to all the people you find yourself in the middle of all the time.

Just a great, great play.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

the phantom menace

Something scared the hell out of me yesterday.

Had a thought that seemed crazy, then brilliant, then all too inevitable.

Eleven months from now, we vote.  And it's shaping up to be a  photo finish, the economy isn't changing and Vegas money says the president and his adorable, photogenic family are moving back to Chicago in January, 2013.  I believe and hope and pray otherwise, but those are the odds.

That's not the scary thing.

It's the GOP field that makes that not so scary, right?  The president has to run against someone, eventually Someone has to get nominated and I see three plausible scenarios taking shape.  In order of descending probability:

1. Mittbot destroys all before him.  Comes in second or third in Iowa, wins New Hampshire despite the Union-Leader's whimsical Gingrich endorsement, goes down to South Carolina and wins a dogfight with whoever's left standing.  The only hurdle left is someone raising a constitutional challenge that the president has to be a human being, but I've looked and it's not actually spelled out, it just says "born in the United States".

 What do you think that whole "corporations are people, my friend" weirdness was all about?  The consortium behind Mittbot 2012 declares itself a person, with all of the rights of a person, including the right of their fearsome progeny to sit behind the Big Desk.

But that's not the scary thing.

2. The GOP base denies their only credible candidate the nomination.  The cyborg is unplugged and Newt keeps puffing up until he's a Macy's Thanksgiving Day float, soaring above us all as we point agog at his enormous inflatable head.  This could happen, which speaks to the profound intellectual impoverishment of the field.  In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, or in this case in the land of the dumb the man who speaks in complete sentences with subject and verb in agreement is Plato and wins the primaries.

Still not the Big Scary.

3. Most implausible but possible: The cyborg is denied, Newt collapses, Cain is gone, Perry shows up at a debate and forgets his name, how to pronounce "Texas" and to wear pants, so who's left?

It ain't Santorum or Paul or Huntsman, not in the basement of the GOP base, not in the basest of the base, anyway.

It's Michelle Bachmann, she who has never strayed from the strictest of the conservative orthodoxy.  Doesn't matter that she's unelectable, she's a True Believer and I think they'd rather go down with honor than ride into battle with a plan.

And that, kids, still isn't what chilled me yesterday.  Let's say one of the top two scenarios plays out.  It's Mitt or Newt.  So we go to the VP sweepstakes and we see very little.  None of the candidates left behind make any sense to balance the ticket on a national level and it doesn't really work like that anymore, anyway.

The point is to beat Obama, by any means necessary.

So you look to the sidelines, looking for someone to stand next to Another Bland White Guy and give him some spark against the first black man in the White House.  And who's that sitting there with her legs crossed demurely, her weird, sharp baby teeth flashing in the halogen glow?

Ladies and gentlemen, Ms. Condoleeza Rice.

And it's the thought of that lady anywhere near the seat of power again that stopped me cold yesterday.  Bush the Lesser's first National Security Advisor (who's job presumably was to advise him on national security, like, for example, if there were a credible terrorist threat coming down the pike) and then his Secretary of State, advising him on the intricacies of international diplomacy and well, you can see how well that worked out.

Why she didn't have her resignation letter on the Big Desk the evening of September 11, 2001 and why it wasn't accepted immediately is one of the little mysteries we'll never solve.  There are plenty of rogues and knaves and simple criminals that crowded the corridors of the Bush White House, but Rice has escaped a lot of the blame when I'd argue she deserves most of it.

Because she's smart.  You can't really blame an alcoholic for drinking.  But you can blame the bartender who keeps pouring him drinks.  You don't blame a child for starting a fire.  But you can blame the babysitter who kept handing him matches.

She knew better.  But she sat there and played along.  And now we're asked to forget or forgive the epic ineptitude and irresponsibility of her time of service to our country.  

Just wait. And I pray I'm wrong.

But when the dust settles and the Republicans have their candidate, I'm pretty sure we're going to start seeing Condi on all of the news shows, quick smile, furrowed brow, politely interrupting the host to correct him on the pronunciation of Pakistan's deputy foreign minister's third wife's surname.

She's smart.  And she's already proved she'll work for whoever's hiring.