Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Story Time (Reunion Edition IV)

Tomorrow I will be leaving for St. Louis and the reunion. I probably won't be able to write anything until after the reunion, but I promise to give details (to my one reader, maybe two, out there). I won't lie and say I am excited, because really I'm not. This is not something that I look forward to with bated breath. Reunions are like parties: everyone ends up trying to one-up each other and it ends up being a pissing contest. Sample converation heard at another reunion I attended:
Man 1: "Well, I'm a lawyer now. Yup, I defend the people no will defend."
Woman 1: "I'm a doctor, and I work for the CDC."
Man 2: "That's nice. I work for the government. I'm the guy who watches over the
other agents and makes sure they don't go rogue."
Woman 2: "Hmm. Well, I'm a psychologist."
Man 1: "A psychologist? That's it? Well, you don't get paid very well."
Woman 1 and Man 2 laugh.

See the problem here? Everyone ends up trying to boost their ego and put everyone else down. It's just sad.
As for my story? I'll keep it simple. My Freshman year, I was one of the overflow students who were sent over to the Fontbonne campus to live in Wash. Hall. It was interesting to say the least. Our common room was the chapel, which made it hard to relax. Nothing like watching movies while a giant crucifix looks over your shoulder. Beyond the extra long walks to campus (and even farther walks to U-City), there was the fact that we were essentially ostracized from the regular students and became a giant family. This idea of family led to me getting into a fight.
Wash. Hall had the annual "Where in the Hell is Wash. Hall?" party and many people showed up. As the night went on, the two hundred or so students in the dorm paired up with guests for some carnal knowledge. One of my friends, Nancy, was with a guy who went from Prince Charming to Son of Satan in about ten seconds flat. He had gotten her extremely drunk and was going to attempt to use her body without her knowledge. I noticed this right away and called him on his plan. After a brief "Fuck off," from him, I decided that I could not let this happen. As Nancy lay on the floor, I grabbed this guy and threw him into the hallway. Quickly, I turned and locked the door, leaving Nancy and I alone in her room. As he beat on the door, I picked her up and put her in her bed face down. (If she was going to puke, I didn't want her to choke.) Still, he continued to pound, like a predator who smelled blood. With no other options, I opened the door and asked, "What do you want with my girlfriend?" I was sure that would do it. Nope. His reponse? "I want to fuck her. That ok?" Now, a rational and clear headed person could be talked out of certain actions. Unfortunately, anyone who is very drunk needs to be tricked or removed. In this case, only removal would work. I summoned all the strength I could and bull-rushed him, slamming him into the wall opposite the room. As he lay on the floor, stunned from being hit, I grabbed Nancy's keys and locked her door. As I turned back to check on the Romeo, I heard the tell-tale sign of the person who has had too much to drink: He was getting ready to puke. I couldn't have him puking on the floor, so I grabbed a nearby trash can and forced his head into it. Sure enough, he vomited. After a few minutes, I helped him stand up and start down the stairs.
The kicker? As we reached the bottom, he realized that I was the one who had bum rushed him and took a swing at me. He did hit me, right in the chest, but his follow up was so off course that he hit a door jamb. He held his hand and cried out in pain and another denizen of Wash. Hall, who had witnessed this event, helped me push the guy out the door and shut it before he could get back in (oh how I miss those Smart Cards).
The next day, Nancy didn't remember anything. I never saw Romeo again, and all I got for my heroics was a bruise on my chest and puke-covered shoes. The irony of it all: a few days later Nancy accused me of not being a, "stand-up guy," because I canceled a date due to the fact that the girl was crazy (she apparently would watch her roommate sleep and talk to her, even though she was asleep). I never told her about what happened. I doubt she found out about it from anyone else.

Hence the Term: Fanatic

Yesterday, in Italy, a soccer match was delayed due to the fact that the fans got overly rowdy. How rowdy you say? They were throwing flares at Dida, a goal keeper. He was, unfortunately, hit in the head with one of those flares and suffered first degree burns to his shoulder. Now, we all remember the incident a few months ago when Ron Artest launched himself into the stands to attack a fan. Here in America, the general public went insane. A few days after the Artest incident, I discussed this issue with a few other faculty members. Most of them found it upsetting and deplorable. Here's the thing though. The fan, though acting incorrectly, obviously loved his team and probably believed that he was sticking up for Ben Wallace by throwing his cup at Artest. Am I defending the actions of a crazy fan? No, but there are multiple levels of fanaticism. There's the casual fan who likes the team. The fan who always wears the team's colors on gameday. This goes all the way up to the fan who believes that he or she has to stand a certain way, or eat a certain item, or do some kind of ritual at a specific time in order for his team to win. I knew a guy who, whenever the Mets had runners on first and second, had to turn his hat inside out, hold a drink in his right hand, and the progam in his left. All of this, because the Mets had once scored when he sat this way, so he did it everytime. I don't know if he still does it, but I wouldn't be surprised.
This goes beyond sports, however. There is a joke that if fans of Star Trek and fans of Star Wars were put in the same room, they would brawl. Probably in character, but they would still fight anyway. There's a reason the term "Fanboy/Fangirl" was invented. For sports, these people are known as diehards. If a person can rattle off the names of every character and every line from a film, then how is that any different then knowing who the starting nine were in the first game for the Colorado Rockies?
Back to the point. I remember a time when Philadelphia fans booed Santa Claus. Santa Claus! Still, if that's the worst we as fans can do, then we have a long way to go before we can equal what happens elsewhere in the world. I don't recall anyone ever shouting, "He's a rapist," when Kobe was playing. In Mexico, the fans started shouting, "Osama," at the American Soccer team during the World Cup qualifying match. There's a reason why certain matches in Europe are played in empty stadiums: the fans are extremely passionate about their teams. Have you seen that commercial for Fever Pitch where Jimmy Fallon's character ranks the important things in life? "I say Red Sox, Sex.....and breathing." That would be considered barely a blip in other parts of the world. I once saw a Euro Cup match between the French and the Germans. At one point, a German player's leg was broken, and the bone was sticking out of the skin. If that happened here, the crowd would go quiet, and many of the players would circle up and pray for him to be ok. That night, the other team was not as merciful, and the French fans cheered and even through bottles at him as he lay on the field.
So what's the point? Well, there are a few: 1. we Americans, though ugly at times, are not at a level of fanaticism (outside of religion) as the rest of the world. 2. If the fans really love their team, they won't try to hurt the other team (remember that the next time your star player leaves and returns on another team. No batteries should be thrown). 3. If you can't be civil, you won't get to watch a game that you love.
I hope that Dida is ok, and I hope the Italian Prime Minister, who owns part of AC Milan, puts his foot down on this subject.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

More Story Time (Reunion Edition III)

When I was a freshman, the Performing Arts Department put on Cabaret. This was before Broadway decided to revive the show. Because the production was on the main stage (Edison), it was to be very elaborate. Huge sets, lots of lighting, grand costumes, the works. The director was given carte blanche. Her vision was to have a cluttered stage, and slowly, as the Nazis take over, the stage becomes bare. At the very end there is nothing left, except for one thing: A giant Nazi flag. This flag was the size of the stage: 30 feet high and 50 feet wide. It was hit with a bright light just to remind the audience about the power of the Nazis. In some ways, her idea was quite brilliant. The problem, however, was not when it was on stage, it was when it was made. The play took place at the end of April of 1997. At the same time, Hillel (the Jewish Community Center) was bringing Holocaust survivors to the school to discuss what had happened to them over fifty years ago. Part of their time at the school included a tour of the campus and facilities.
As the survivors were milling about the campus, I was in the scene shop with Drew (who was the foreman at the time), and Caroline (who would later become my wife, but was with someone else at the time). To paint the giant flag, we had to add on to the paint frame to make it longer and slightly wider. For a few hours, we built the frame and then painted it to make it look like a giant flag. As we got to the end, Drew and Caroline were finishing the red, and I was putting the final touches on the Swastika. At that very moment, we heard the tour guide and several members of the Holocaust survivors were led into the Scene Shop. Many of them gasped as they saw a slightly Jewish-looking man and two Aryan-looking (blond and blue-eyed) working on, what in their eyes was, the very definition of evil. The tour guide had no clue what to do. Drew and Caroline looked at each other and slowly moved toward Drew's office, saying "Weeellll. Break time." I, on the other hand, was on a ladder with no place to go. As the survivors continued stare and talk amongst each other, I smiled and waved, saying, "hello," and then returned to painting. After what felt like ten minutes (but was really one minute), the tour guide asked me what I was doing. None, and I do mean NONE, of the Hillel guests moved toward me. I turned on the ladder and explained that we were, "finishing the flag for the upcoming production of Cabaret." Still, none of the survivors moved toward me. The tour guide asked if I could, "make the thing go away." When I replied I could not, she quickly gathered the masses up and moved them out of the Shop and back into Mallinckrodt. As I stood on that ladder, with my face extremely red and burning from embarassment, Drew and Caroline returned to finish the red part of the flag. After a few minutes of awkward silence, we all began to laugh.
The kicker was that a few weeks later, after watching the show, I listened to two people arguing about the flag. One man was saying that the Swastika was facing the wrong way. A woman was arguing that, in fact, it was right. As they argued, one of the Holocaust survivors who lived in the area and had seen the show, approached them. He quietly said, "I saw them painting it. They did it right. Very good. Very authentic." He then walked off. It was nice to know that we had painted the flag correctly, but it was horrifying to frighten that group of people. Every time I saw Drew after that incident, we laughed at the fact that we had been caught, literally, red-handed.

Monday, April 11, 2005

I Know More Than You Do....

Have you ever been at your job, just plugging away and getting the work done, when a co-worker starts telling you what to do? This person hasn't been on the job as long as you have, and he or she does not know what you're working on. Still, this person is convinced that he or she knows better than you do. Now I have no problems with suggestions. "Hey Leab, if you did it this way, would it make it easier?" That's a great way to ask me or encourage me to see it another way. But here's what pisses me off: If you have never once done my job or lifted a finger in the profession I am in, don't tell me how to do my job. For example: if you are an actor or actress and have never EVER done tech before, don't come to me while I'm building a set piece and say, "I think I can do that better." Really? Then shut up and help me. Don't make a flippant remark and walk off. That makes you a diva. If I create a special piece for you and have gotten you to check it along the way, don't come to me two days before final run and tell me, "This isn't working for me. Change it." That just makes me want to laugh in your face and tell you to get over yourself.
I mean really, if you are giving me tech advice, can I give you acting advice? No? You don't like it when someone tries to affect the way you approach the craft? Wow, now you know how I feel.
And on another note: Kallie loves Robby. Remember that kids. That's why she smiles so much.

More Story Time (Reunion Edition II)

In most American high schools, the sacred time of Prom is approaching. Students will make elaborate plans, buy expensive dresses, rent tuxs, and even make post-Prom plans. When I was in high school, Prom never turned out well, but when I was in college, I attended a Prom that was actually quite fun and had its own share of drama. This Prom was the brainchild of myself and two ladies known as Liz and Tijuana. It was called One Last Chance.
It all began on a warm summer night. As we sat in the living room of the apartment Liz and Tijuana shared, stories were shared about past Proms and the way they ended well, or sucked, or whatever. After a few minutes, the idea was broched: why not throw our own Prom? At first, we just laughed it off, but as time progressed, the idea began to take form. The only unresolved issue was where to host this shindig. Now, it was quite obvious that it was supposed to be at my house, because it was spacious, and I lived alone. Plus I had a large yard and places where people could mingle. After a few minutes of convincing, I agreed. Prom would be at my house.
We created invitations and had a cover charge in order to pay for food and alcohol (we had a buffet, wine, punch, and other goodies). Everyone had to bring a date, and, according to the invitation, they had to dress up. Black tie only. I even wore a tuxedo. One student, Craig, offered to be a bouncer for the people who didn't pay or weren't invited. I set up a backdrop and took pictures of couples. We even had two faculty members offer to be chaperones. Unfortunately, one teacher, Anne, ended up being stalked by a student who attended the party. A few of us had to teach him a lesson, but that's a story for another day.
The Prom itself was....interesting, much like a real prom. There was excitement, drama, and even surprises. Liz, perhaps a little too drunk, wandered off, leaving her date behind and sent her friend Sarah searching for her. After a few hours, Sarah was able to find her. The real surprise, however, was the free show everyone got to watch. Two of the attendees (we'll call them Alison and David to spare them the embarassment) also got a little too drunk. As the night went on, the two began talking, then making out. Finally, as the party was starting to wind down, Alison and David moved into the kitchen and began having sex on my stove. Let me make that clear. Not against, not near, they were ON my stove. What made it worse was that as more members of the party stopped to watch the kitchen action, the two participators got hotter and heavier. They had to be stopped before they made the mistake of getting naked in front of people they knew quite well. With no other course of action visible, I turned on the stove. That jolted them back into slight consciousness. As they looked around the room at everyone staring at them with open mouths, David grabbed Alison and raced to the loft area of the house. As the music started back up, people standing near the loft could hear the noises that were undeniably easy to identify.
Other interesting outcomes of the party included my porch swing being destroyed by patry-goers, a guy who attempted to crash that had to be knocked out, police officers that ended up joining the party when they were off duty, a few party crashers that got past the door and attempted to steal all the alcohol for themselves (they failed miserably), a few people who slept on my lawn and hammock, and Alison and David each coming to me, after spending the night, and begging me not to tell their signifcant others. Oh and one other interesting aspect: I got a stalker. Yup, there was a gal who came to Prom and she ended up being enamored of me. She would call me at odd hours of the night and followed me around campus. Sweet girl, but she picked the wrong guy.
To this day, whenever I run into people who were at that party, they tell me they had a great time, and that I know how to throw a party. Most people came out of that party with a good story or positive feeling. Some just enjoyed the party atmosphere. Maybe, one day, when I'm 64 and dying, I'll throw one more Prom just to have one last party before I go. I'll call it: One Last Breath.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

It's Story Time (Reunion Edition I)

This next weekend is my five year college reunion. In honor of that momentous (ok, ok, it's not momentous. However, it is amazing I survived this long) occasion, I will be presenting a few interesting stories from when I was in college.
The following story is sadly true. A few of the names have been changed to protect the innocent (and because of senility).
In the fall of 1998, I was a junior at Washington University in St. Louis. On one fateful October night, I was driving to a rehearsal of a show I was working on at the time. I admit, I was distracted that night, but as I looked up at the stop light at the corner of Big Bend and Forsyth, I noticed I had a green arrow. Unfortunately for me, as I turned, a car coming in the opposite direction was doing about 50 and slammed into me. The details for that night are hazy, but between my memory, the other driver's memory, and the Police Report, this is what happened:
I had a green arrow, but the other driver also had a green light. After we hit each other, my head went into the windshield (I have the scar to prove it). Beyond the cut on my forehead, I also dislocated my left shoulder. As the blood came down my face, I did what anyone would have done: I got out of my car and went to check on the other driver. Now, imagine you were in your car after an accident and someone looking like Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein with blood running down his face comes toward your car. You first reaction would be to:
A. Panic and grab a weapon
B. Roll up the window and duck
C. Get out of the car and make a pre-emptive strike
D. Wait until he gets close and then hit him with the door.
E. Get out of the car and make sure he's ok.
I would answer E. You probably would too, but the answer here is, unfortunately, A. This guy, we'll call him Dave, got out of the car wielding an ice scraper like a knife.
I asked him, "Are you ok?"
He responded, "Yes, just bruised. You?"
"I can't see well, kind of a red blurriness. Also my arm hurts. I think I'm going to sit here for awhile, maybe pass out. Just let me know when the ambulance arrives."
"Umm. Ok. Wait, did you say pass out? I don't think that would be a good idea."
At this point the cops arrived and found me sitting against Dave's car with a towel he'd given me. The police woman, we'll call her Bonnie, wondered what had happened. As she asked Dave about the accident, I began to slid more and more to the left. When Bonnie grabbed my left arm (remember it is out of place), I slid right back into a concious and pain-filled state. As I stood up, I noticed that an ambulance had arrived. This is where the story gets even more fun.
Now remember, I am bleeding from the forehead, and my shoulder is dislocated. The two EMTs assess my situation and do the following: One puts a band-aid on my forehead. The other asks me my name, the date, and then asks me to count to ten:
"Ok," I respond, "One, two, three....."
At this point the EMT puts my shoulder back into place. After a loud pop and what felt like a crunch:
"You can stop now."
After exchanging insurance cards, I prepare to go to the hospital, but the EMTs leave without me. As Allison, an EMT-in-training would later tell me, "That's not good." I ended up having to go to the hospital two days later, because the pain in my shoulder wouldn't go away. They had to re-pop my shoulder out then in again. Not fun. Still, I have to give thanks to Robert again for taking me and then buying me ice cream while I was on pain killers. That was awesome. Thanks again.
Anyway, Bonnie offered to take me home, which was good, because I had no ride otherwise. I later found out that she had asked me for, and I had given, my parents' phone number. She called them and told them not to be hard on me, because I had been so polite. I don't remember that part, but she did.
Here is where the story takes a Kafkaesque turn. About two months after the accident, I opened my mailbox and found a letter from the University City Police Department. Inside was a warrant for my arrest. However, beyond that shocking revelation was the fact that there was no charge. That's right. The paper was blank. It only had my name, address, and date. Everything else was blank. I thought it was a prank. (wouldn't you?) So, I just put it on top of the "to do" pile. Life went on, and I continued to walk everywhere. (Yes, I even stole a grocery cart for shopping at Schnuck's. I returned it after I graduated....Really.)
At the end of January, I received another warrant for my arrest. Again, however, the charge was blank. With no classes that day, I decided to find out what the heck was going on with these warrants. I walked over to the University City Town Hall (where the police station was) and walked down the two flights of stairs to the basement. With warrants in hand, I asked the lady behind the glass, "What's going on? Why do I keep getting these warrants?"
She looked at her computer screen, looked back at me, and then said, "Jim, 63-40!" Suddenly I was grabbed by a large officer, put against the wall, and handcuffed. Then I was led into a small cell where I sat and conversed with a man named Bubba (and his is the only name I haven't changed, because I was really shocked by the fact that his name was Bubba). Bubba was a nice guy, very large, and was shocked that a "college kid" would end up there with him. After five hours (yup five HOURS), I was brought back to the lady behind the glass.
"What did I do wrong?" I asked.
"According to our records, you were issued a subpeona to appear in court last December. When you did not show, a warrant was issued for your arrest."
"I never received a subpeona, and no one came to my home. How can I be arrested for that?"
"According to the law, once the subpeona is issued, it is binding. Just because you didn't receive it doesn't mean that you shouldn't know about it."
Let that sink in for a minute. Just because I didn't have it or hear or about doesn't mean I shouldn't know about it. What great logic! No wonder our legal system is so messed up. It turns out that Dave was suing the city of University City and St. Louis for the accident. He was convinced that the stop light had malfunctioned and his pain as well as car damage was the fault of the two cities, not his or mine. He had requested me as a witness in order to corraborate the malfunctioning stop light. A subpeona was issued, but never sent. It was finally sent to me in April of 2000. That's a long time after its issuing. She continued:
"You will be free to go if you pay us $100."
"What about the court appearance? Do I still need to testify or whatever?"
"No, you'll need to fill out this form with what you remember about that night. That's it."
I ended up writing a mini-essay about what happened that night. I was allowed to go back to my house with a cop in order to write a check for my fine/bail/whatever it was. Then, a few days later, a cop came by my house to tell me that Dave had lost his court case. I was fortunate that he never sued me after that. The sad part is that while on pain killers I took my mid-terms and did quite well. I just don't remember taking the tests. I don't remember the three days after the accident except what people tell me. It's like being a blackout drunk but without the fun.

Ironic Theatre 4/10/05

Today's production stars Mark, a friend and former colleague of my wife. Mark is a very funny and very wicked person (which will set up tonight's play very well).

The scene: A very rainy night in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
A man is standing out in the rain. He is homeless and looking for help. As he searches through a trash can, a car pulls up and the passenger side window rolls down. The driver is Mark, a thirty-something year old engineer. Mark looks over the man and begins to speak.

Mark: You look cold and hungry.
Homeless Man: I am. Could you spare some change?
Mark: C'mon. (He waves the man toward his car.) I'll get you someplace warm.
Homeless Man: Really? Thanks man!
As the man starts to move toward the car, Mark laughs and hits the gas. The tires spin and Mark.....goes nowhere. The car's tires are slightly worn down, and the street is slick from the rain. Slowly, after about five seconds, the Homeless Man starts to realize that this was all a prank, and Mark realizes the car is not going to go anywhere. Mark lets off the gas and looks back at the Homeless Man.
Homeless Man: Sooo....Are you not going to give me a ride, or money, or anything?
Mark: Uhhhh. No. Good luck.
When Mark hits the gas this time, the car catches and shoots off. As he speeds off, he hears the Homeless Man yell at him.
Homeless Man: Thanks for nothing, asshole. As if my life wasn't hard enough already.

And now the moral of tonight's play:

This is a two-parter:
1. Don't try to mess with people for fun, because it will eventually backfire.
2. If you're going to try and pull a prank like this, make sure you have every aspect covered.

This has been Ironic Theatre.....