Saturday, September 30, 2006

Young does a Roasted Scrotum shot at his 32nd birthday party.

For once I thought I was going to get someone a birthday gift on their birthday. Young bought an X-Box 360, so Hansen and I decided to go in together and buy Dead Rising, a zombie fighting game.

Earlier today, Young said, "Look what my friend, Popio, got me." He was holding the game Dead Rising.

I smiled, excused myself and made a frantic call to Hansen. "Return it. Get him Lego Star Wars. I think he wants that."

Two hours later Young said, "Look what my girlfriend got me." Lego Star Wars.

Maybe Young is too easy to shop for. Hansen and I resigned ourselves to getting him something belatedly.

Nick: How about a painting on black velvet with Young and his X-Box 360, and his X-Box 360 is smoking a cigar?

Friday, September 29, 2006

My favorite thing about the office, aesthetically, is the collection of old-fashioned lights hanging from the ceiling in the main room. Nate probably likes them less. As an intern, he has to change the bulbs when they burn out, which is often.

Nate: It's kind of terrifying. The wiring is a mess and half the time the bulbs flash out the second you screw them in. One of these days I'll probably die.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sarah is visiting from Boston. We ordered Chinese food and watched Survivor. A nice little thing that we used to do together on Thursday nights before she moved away.

This is the fortune that came in Sarah's cookie.

Sarah: Consider yourself reminded.

My fortune read, "Look ahead for a new beginning."

Sarah: [sigh] Oh man.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Using an exclamation point instead of a question mark can make all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The office across the hall from Jellyvision is called Krull. I don't know what they do in there but I imagine them fighting the Beast and his Slayers with a giant throwing star/boomerang which has five points extending out like goblin fingers.

I asked Allard if he knew what they do in there.

"They smoke a lot of cigars. I think they run some kind of photography studio."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Over a month ago, when the old project was finishing and none of us were sure if we'd be back, Chris planned a trip for himself to Arizona, to go out into the desert alone for two weeks to battle the elements and work through some things.

At his birthday party people brought him survival kits and protective tarps. I didn't give him anything. It actually hadn't occurred to me to bring a gift (I'm a bad friend). I told him not to try to camp in the desert by himself for two weeks because he'd probably die.

A day and a half after he went out into the desert I got this text message from him: "Back already. couldn't find water. thought I would die. very ill feeling right now."

Chris is back in the office now, back at work.

Allard: How was your walkabout?
Me: It was more of a walk in and walk out, right?
Chris: It was harder than I thought it would be. I couldn't find water. The protein bars I brought were inedible when warm. I feel like I would have lasted a little longer if my girlfriend, H, hadn't called and broken up with me over the phone the night before I went out into the desert. I was in a bad place, emotionally. There was a lot of screaming into the desert.
Me: What did you scream?
Chris: "Why don't you love me?" "Why do I still love you?" "H____." "H____." "H____." Stuff like that.
Me: Well, I'm glad you're not dead.
Chris: I'm doing much better.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Job #1: TV-47 Cameraman

When I was 16 I spent the summer in this building working as a cameraman for Hometown, Ohio’s local television station, TV-47. It wasn’t much of a station, mostly set up to air local high school sporting events (and those weren't even live, but taped and then aired the next day). There was also a morning show, a noon news, an evening news and a late night news. Every day I was the cameraman for all of these shows. I was constantly driving back and forth to work, technically only working (and being paid) for forty hours a week, but from 6am to midnight, I was always on my way to or from work.

There was very little actual news to be reported. A large percentage of each newscast was simply pulled from the satellite feeds. Over that one summer I say half a dozen reports on bungee jumping accidents because there was nothing else to fill the time.

I’m not sure why, but everyone at the studio seemed to hate the weatherman. During the commercial break the anchors would sing “Bring in the Clowns” as the weatherman would come out to the green screen to give his forecast. He did his best to ignore them and remain professional.

I only worked there for the summer. When the high school student cameramen went back to school, the only people they could find who would take the job for minimum wage were senior citizens. I tried to train a few of them but they seemed baffled by the cameras and whenever the director would bark orders at them through their headsets, they would become frazzled and shout back things like, “I’m doing my best here,” in the middle of a live news broadcast.

TV-47 didn’t last very long.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Walking home after performing in two improv shows, I got a text message from my Whirled News Tonight castmate, Glynn (Assistant Property Manager), that he was at a bar talking to a girl named Sherry, who grew up in Ohio.

It took several text messages back and forth to realize a.) this was Sherry, my sister. b.) she's in town without telling me. c.) this isn't a joke. d.) seriously, I'm not kidding this girl is a friend of a coworker of my roommate and she is your sister!

So, I met them at the bar where Sherry (Project Manager) and I briefly, awkwardly caught up.

Sherry: [to everyone at the table expectantly watching us] We see each other about once a year.

I tried to figure out if I was overstaying my welcome. Sherry seemed to not be having a very good time. Was I ruining her evening? Sherry's always been somewhat quiet and disinterested, but I've never known if that's just the way she is around the family or if that's the way she always is.

Me: [to Glynn] This is going to sound like a weird question, but... did Sherry seem to be having a better time before I showed up?
Glynn: Um... no? When she was in the bathroom her friend said that Sherry is "the girl that always looks like she's ready to leave."

I'd like to think that she's happier when I don't see her, if only because I'd like to think of her as happier.

Sherry doesn't like to have her picture taken but after several tries she finally agreed on a picture that didn't have to be deleted immediately.

Me: [giving Sherry a hug as she was leaving] It was a pleasant surprise to see you. I love ya.
Sherry: Okay.

Friday, September 22, 2006

It's tough to get good gifts for Hansen. But I came up with the idea to commission one of the artists at work to paint a portrait of him in velvet (my only instruction: "It's impossible to make it too weird"), and a bunch of us chipped in to pay for it. We gave it to him tonight, while drinking at Glunz, as a surprise belated birthday present (very belated... his birthday was in July... I'm a bad friend).

Hansen: This is, without question, the greatest present I've ever received. My favorite part... who's in charge here? Clearly it's the monkey. I do the monkey's bidding. He's a capital partner at my firm.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

About a month ago, as my old contract was ending my mom e-mailed, "Tell Amanda if she doesn't fire you, I'll send her Dietsch's chocolates!?!?!?"

My Mom is good to her word so I delivered those chocolates today. This was good timing because it happens to be Amanda's birthday. Everyone in the office went to Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse, to celebrate.

Bob: So how old are you now? 29 again?
Amanda: That's not what I said. I said I'm 32 again. And I will continue to be 32.
Me: So, how old would a lesser person be at this point? 34?
Amanda: Did you not hear me? Do you not understand? Do I have to fire you?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Shane and I spend a good portion of the workday testing puppets.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I brought the 'School Years' book back to Chicago with me. Each grade has a "WHEN I GROW UP I WANT TO BE -" section, with a fairly limited selection of boxes to check off. I've never wanted to be a fireman or even an astronaut. Certainly not a soldier. I never wanted to be any of the choices given.

As an adult I did spend some time as a school teacher and briefly as something akin to a secretary, even though both of those choices are on the not-so-subtly female half of the checklist.

Every year the thing that I wanted to be when I grow up had to be written onto the blank line provided by the 'School Years' designer on the off chance a child didn't want to be a cowboy or an airline hostess.

For my kindergarten "WHEN I GROW UP," Mom wrote in, "'Producer of Funny Shows in Hollywood'." It's in quotation marks which I hope were not intended as ironic commentary.

My handwriting has not improved much since kindergarten.

Monday, September 18, 2006

My first day back at Jellyvision. It's nice to get back to work. Or... it's nice to get back to work that it's nice to get back to.

The office was very quiet today. A number of people were out sick. Mostly, though, it'll be a smaller team this time around. Some people will be trickling back in over the next week or so, but some people won't be coming back at all. Someone said, "We have about fifteen extra desks." So, yes, very quiet.

The work, though, seems more interesting than ever.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Went out to brunch yesterday with friends. I brought a Netflix movie (Hustle and Flow) with me, thinking I'd drop it into a mailbox on the way back. At the restaurant, I stuck it under my chair. Later, when I got up to leave, it was gone.

Nick: Did you look everywhere for it?
Me: I looked around. The envelopes are hard to miss. They're bright red rectangles.
Nick: Yeah, I know what they look like.

We walked to Young's car... or rather, the spot where Young's car had been.

Young: Shit! Shit! Did my car get towed?
Nick: ...Cubs game.
Me: They must have towed all these cars.
Young: Wait... is that my car across the street? Would they have towed it to the other side of the street?
Me: I don't think they'd have any incentive to do that.
Nick: Yeah, maybe they towed your car back to your apartment.
Young: Shit! I've got to call and figure out where they took my car. Fuck!
[long pause]
Nick: So... how was Hustle and Flow?
Me: Good.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Backstage at the three year anniversary show for Whirled News Tonight, a longfrom improv comedy show I perform in every Saturday night. Three years is a long time for a Chicago improv show.

Before going on stage, someone said, "This is the longest relationship I've ever been in."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Drove my friends Marla (Freelance Writer) and her husband, James (Receptionist), to the lakeside. They'd been trapped at home recovering and wanted to get outside.

Last April James was hit by a car while riding his bike. He ended up with a pretty nasty bump his face, but was relatively uninjured. Two weeks ago Marla and James were riding their bikes to iO and were both hit by a van making an illegal left turn through a red light. Their bike helmets were split open. Marla's shoe was lodged into the middle of the shattered windshield.

Marla has a dislocated shoulder and a torn ACL. "My new nickname is QB because I have all Quarterback injuries."

James broke his leg and lost the use of his spleen. It's still in there, because it would be more invasive to remove it, but it's no longer connected to anything.

Marla: Does it still hurt?
James: Like, do I wake up in the morning with phantom spleen pains?
Me: Like, "I woke up this morning and could swear my spleen was processing certain bacteria but, no, it was a phantom spleen."

Marla may try to start working again sometime next week. It's still up in the air as to when James will be able to go back to work.

The man driving the van was three times over the legal limit for blood alcohol level. Word is he had been drinking since Thursday. He has no insurance and hasn't had a driver's license since 1972. He has decided to plead "not guilty."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I am plagued by typos. Mostly my own.

When I went through the application process to work at Jellyvision last October, I scoured my resume, cover letter and, later, writing samples for typos. After several interviews I was offered a contract position by Amanda. In my e-mail thanking her, I spelled the word "probably" wrong. Three times.

Amanda would remind me of this even up into my last weeks at Jellyvision.

Amanda: You spelled it wrong the same way three times. "Probalby." I thought, "He really thinks the word is 'probalby'." I asked Steve-o if we should rescind the job offer. You almost lost the job. Probalby!

I'm starting a new project at Jellyvision on Monday. Back to work.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Went out to dinner at Las Tablas with Tom (Copywriter), a friend from high school and college. The dinner was his belated 30th birthday dinner (very belated... his birthday was in June... I'm a bad friend).

Tom: At work there's this guy and he'll make jokes that don't make sense, but he'll keep telling them. The other day he said, "We should put up a sign that says, 'The _________ Report Will Be Done Tomorrow.' And I said, "Um... oh... you mean, like an 'On the Air' sign?" "No, like in a bar where they have signs that say, 'Free Beer Tomorrow'." I didn't know what to say so I just turned back around to my computer.
Me: Wait. 'Free Beer Tomorrow'? That doesn't make any sense.
Tom: It kind of makes sense, I guess. As if the _________ report is always going to be done "tomorrow."
Me: Oh.
Tom: Throughout the day I kept overhearing him telling it to other people.
Me: Did they get it?
Tom: No. They kept saying, "It'll be done tomorrow? Really? Does Todd know?"

[For some reason, whenever I take a picture of Tom, his eyes are closed.]

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Drinks with Lacy.

Lacy and I have both done promotional work in the past (although not at the same time). She talked about her stint as an Axe Bodyspray Girl.

Lacy: Basically, I'd have to go up to men on the street, ask if I could spray Axe on them. If they let me, I was supposed to lean in really close and smell them. Then I'd say, "This smells really good on you. I've smelled a lot of guys with this stuff but it seems to really work with your body chemistry." Then I'd pause. "You know, I'm not supposed to do this, but could I give you my number? I get off work at 5. You could call me then." I'd write down this number I had to memorize and when the guys called it they'd get this recorded message saying, "Congratulations! You're an Axe Man!" [laughing] It was horrible.

[To Lacy's left is a Chicago Reader article about how even the actors at some of Chicago's biggest theaters are struggling to get by on what little they are paid.]

Monday, September 11, 2006

Didn't leave the house today. Meant to. Didn't.

Watched 9/11 anniversary coverage and a four hour Spike Lee documentary on the post-Katrina devastation in New Orleans.

Sarah [on the phone]: You sound weird.
Me: I haven't left the house all day. It's made me antisocial and strange.
Sarah: I imagine you in a white t-shirt with a crazed look on your face.
Me: You're not far from the truth.

Some friends were recently released from the hospital and need to stay home and recuperate. I gave them a call to see if they wanted any company. They said they were pretty busy. Maybe some other time. So, right now, I've got less going on than shut-ins.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Went to see the Late Night Late Show, a live talk show run by some friends of mine at iO, the theater where I perform. The night's first guest was Harry, the founder and head creative mind at Jellyvision.

Me: Hey Harry, it's good to see you.
Harry: Do you mean outside of Jellyvision or just in general?

Here, during the interview, Harry turns to the audience and asks, "How many of you have heard of 'You Don't Know Jack'?"

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A text message from Sarah.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Drove back to Chicago last night and had a few drinks with Hansen.

When I first met Hansen in an improv class back in 2001 he wore a ring that had been angrily thrown at him by an Eskimo. This happened because of a court case in Barrow, Alaska, the northern-most city in the United States, 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Hansen: I was there for a month. There was nothing to do. It was always night. When I went to the courthouse I had to be escorted by the owner of the hotel who would carry a gun in case we were attacked by a polar bear. Barrow is the kind of small town where everyone knows everyone, so the strangers in the suits... they knew who we were. We were the lawyers. We were not liked. The Inuits have these soulcatchers that they put over open wounds where you can see the hot air steaming out of the body. They're supposed to keep the soul from escaping. Anyway, this guy had a soulcatcher made into a ring and one night in a bar, as he was leaving, he took it off and threw it at me. He said, "You'll need this." [laughs] It could have been worse. They spit in the face of one of the other lawyers.

Hansen used to wear the ring all the time. He doesn't so much anymore. After his daughter, Kate, was born, his wife gave him a ring and he wears that now.

Hansen: I still have it, though. I'll never get rid of it. That and the walrus penis bone I was given. It's mounted on a wall in my office.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I was going through old junk in my parents' basement. Old action figures and my sisters' complete collection of Babysitters Club books.

I also came across this book. "School Years." It's a scrapbooking-type book Mom bought to keep track of my "Activities," "Achievements," and "Awards." There's a page for each grade, kindergarten through twelfth, and each page has a pouch for "Enclosures." Mom seems to have gone a bit overboard, overstuffing each page to the bursting point with report cards, swim team ribbons and a school bulletin, announcing, among other things, that I was elected 5th grade team captain for the "Just Say No" Club.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Whenever I'm in Ohio I try to visit Grandma Anne (Farm Widow) at the nursing home. She's always happy to see me, but small talk can be difficult. All roads lead back to "I hate this place." There's a nurse that she particularly dislikes. Twice, while talking about this nurse, Grandma said, "I wanted to kick her in her dirty ass."

At one point, out of nowhere, she said, "So, one of these days you're going to be a movie star."

"No," I replied. "I don't think so."

"I have a drawer full of your writing from when you were little. I'm going to hold on to that stuff. Someday it'll really be worth something."

She asked me about work, what I'm doing now.

Me: Oh, well, I was working on a project writing scripts for games. Educational software. I was writing stuff helping kids improve their reading skills.
Grandma: I can't wait until I open a newspaper and see the headline, "Arnie _______ Gave So Much To Education."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My nephews, Will (7 Month Old) and Ty (2 and a Half Year Old).

I said to Ty, "Let me get a picture of you and Will. Get close to Will. Get lower so I can get you both."

He immediately plopped down on the ground as if making a snow angel. Later, I watched Ty hit whiffle balls off a tee. He would hit the ball and then run and immediately fall down, yelling, "Whoa!"

Julie: He likes to fall down. I think that's his favorite part. Maybe he's getting baseball and football confused. Maybe he thinks that's what has to happen.

We talked about who reminded us of who.

Julie: Will's going to have the family unibrow.
Mom: Ty's a pretty dramatic kid. He reminds me of Arnie when he was little.

I was a dramatic kid, always playing out elaborate scenarios while making faces into mirrors. As an adult, I'm more stoic, though, like Dad.

Julie: One thing I got from Mom is the sighing. Loud sighs.

My mother sighs a lot, without realizing it. As a kid I would get bored in church, and run through funny stories in my head. Mom would tell me to stop and I'd always wonder how she knew I was goofing off in my head. She knew because it would all flash across my face as different characters talked to each other. Mom's sighing is like that, something close to the surface. My parents' house is almost empty now, all four of their children have moved out, and from other rooms you can hear Mom sighing and "hmm"-ing to herself, always worrying over some secret burden.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A Labor Day fish fry at my parents' house. My oldest sister, Julie (Product Manager), and her husband, Matt (Land Use Planner), came over with their sons.

Me: So you moved within the company? You sell propane now?
Julie: Yep.
Matt: [laughing] "Propane and propane accessories."
Julie: Yeah, people make "Family Guy" jokes all the time and I've never seen the show.
Matt: "King of the Hill."


Julie: It's an interesting time to work for an oil company. When I'm on a flight or something, I hope people don't ask me what I do. I just don't want to have that conversation.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hometown, Ohio.

Because I have the time, I drove out to Ohio to visit Mom (Retired Math Teacher) and Dad (College Basketball Coach).

Mom: I like being retired. I think about volunteering, but I'm enjoying not doing anything.
Dad: Yeah, she's had it pretty rough.
Me: When do you think you'll retire?
Dad: That's the question. Not for a few years, I'm sure. Retirement seems great, but it's probably not. Who would you talk to? No one has to pay attention to you anymore.
Mom: Sometimes it gets boring. I don't mind being bored.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Back in February, a sad little resale shop, the Mini Flea, opened in the storefront below my apartment. Over the last seven months, I've never once seen a customer inside. I've rarely seen anyone inside.

Today, a Store For Rent sign went up in the window. The Mini Flea is closed, despite the fact that its Grand Opening is still ongoing.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Maloney: Ever since I got laid off, Young has been trying to think of different kinds of jobs I should get.
Me: You should be Young's agent.
Maloney: Oo, yes!
Young: Why would you want a job that would pay you nothing?
Maloney: But I could boss you around.
Young: Actually, if you were my agent you would be working for me, not the other way around.
Maloney: No, I'd tell you what to do and you'd have to do it.
Young: Oh great.
Maloney: For starters, you should be wearing your seatbelt.
Young: You're fired.

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