Sunday, December 31, 2006

Young decided we should have a New Years party. So we cleaned. We got a keg. We bought wine and champagne and cheese platters and vegetable platters and chips and dips, etc. I made a 11.7 hour new year playlist on my iPod. Sarah and Young made a pyramid of plastic champagne glasses.

Then it was just time to sit and wait. That horrible time when you nervously eat baby carrots and think, "What if no one comes?"

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A conversation I once had with my dad.

Me: You're pretty lucky. You grew up playing basketball, liking basketball and now you coach basketball.
Dad: You know... I always liked baseball a little better.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Sometimes there's work, sometime there's not. Some contracts continue. Others end. A few more people trickle out the door. It's the nature of the business, I guess.

Today was Shane's last day.

Shane: I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this job saved my life. It got me back on a writing path. It reminded me I can be creative.

Shane left a very stable hotel job to come work with us, knowing it was a gamble if there would be enough work to keep him on over time. Sadly, to everyone's dismay, there wasn't. But Shane already has another job lined up as an editor out in the suburbs. "The old resume is looking better and better."

He sent out a goodbye e-mail that ended, "So, to avoid getting maudlin, I'll just say thank you, and look forward to the time when our paths cross again. Because that's what paths do." He also left me his 'World Almanac 2006.'

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Job #12: Texas Instruments Clean Room (cont.)

I worked 12 hour night shifts (three days on, three days off, four days on, four days off). I wore clean jumpsuits (called "bunny suits") and gloves and goggles and a face mask.

At first it seemed kind of funny. Everyone looked pretty much the same. White blogs with eyes. It was hard to know who you were talking to at any given time.

Co-Worker: Hey, this is Red. Red have you met Arnie?
Red: No.
Co-Worker: Well, Arnie, this is Red. I've always meant to ask you, why do they call you Red?
Red: My hair. It's red.
Co-Worker: Oh.

I had the following conversation with a guy who had worked there, in bunny suits, for 25 years.

Co-Worker: So, you used to live in Chicago, huh?
Me: Yep.
Co-Worker: Cold, huh? I don't know. I don't know if I could do that. Get up every morning, it's cold, you have to get all bundled up.

The novelty wore off pretty quickly. When a shitty job is no longer funny, it's just miserable. Still, when I recently stumbled across a website selling bunny suits, I ordered one for myself, and had it sent to Jellyvision, just for the hell of it. When it showed up it was a few sizes too small, but I tried it on anyway. It gave me an unflattering back and front wedgie.

Amanda: Take that thing off! It's disgusting!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Back at work.

Most people are still out of the office for the holidays. In the front room, there are a few of us working on Jack questions. But in the back room, it's just Evan all by himself. Seems pretty lonely.

I asked him if I could take his picture.

Evan: You want me to turn the lights out?
Me: No. Why?
Evan: I was sitting back here before with the lights off. It was pretty depressing.

I took the picture.

Evan: Well... thanks for visiting. Stop by any time.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sarah's plan for the holidays was to fly from Boston to Chicago on Christmas Eve morning, leave her stuff at my apartment (while I'm in Ohio) and head out to the suburbs to spend Christmas Eve with her family.

Here is the series of messages I received from Sarah on Christmas Eve.

9:14am Voicemail: [crying] Hey. I don't think I'm going to get home for Christmas. I'm at the airport. It's crazy here. I'm standing in a long long and I'm crying and... disgusting. Give me a call if you can.

10:07am Phone Conversation: I missed my flight. They put me on a flight at 8pm and I'm on the waiting list for a flight at noon and 2:30 and 5. If I can get on the noon or maybe the 2:30 one I can maybe get there in time. If not I'm probably going to miss Christmas. This sucks.

10:25am Text: There is a guy at the gate that looks a lot like Meador. It's super creepy.

11:00am Text: Didn't get on flight. Number 6 on standby for 2:30 flight. Not looking good. But Meador is on his way to Chicago.

12:50pm Text: Slowly losing my mind. And I look like poop. Poop!

1:26pm Text: Didn't get on 2:30 flight. No christmas eve for me.

2:35pm Text: Ahhhh!!! Got on a flight! I will have a christmas eve after all! Yay!

3:17pm Voicemail: So uh, they just put me on a flight.... I'm on the plane, I'm on the plane, I'm seated, my bag's on the plane, my coat's off... and then they come and say, "Nope, you're not on the flight, this is someone else's seat," and they just kicked me off the fucking plane. And I'm back in the terminal. This sucks. I'm so angry I don't know what to do.

4:15pm Text: It's ok, but i was pretty mad when I called you. I'm boarding a flight now. I'm ready to get to your house and go to bed!

10:31pm Text: [with picture of her family] I made it!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day with the family.

My sisters all wanted to go see 'Dreamgirls' but it wasn't showing in town.

Allie: Have you ever noticed they never show movies with black people in them around here?

Instead we just ate dinner and opened presents. Ty gots 'Cars' on DVD. I got 'The Wire: Season 2.'

Me: Look, Ty. I got the Wire! It's a gritty depiction of crime, corruption and bureaucracy on the streets of Baltimore!
Ty: You like that movie.

After that we played board games. Allie had bought 'Battle of the Sexes.' Men versus women. The men answer female oriented trivia questions and vice versa. None of us thought it would be too hard. The women in my family are all very athletic and the men... well... have spent a lot of time around women. But both teams did very badly.

Eventually the board games were set aside and we all just sat around and talked. Somehow conversation turned to times when we had each either crapped or almost crapped ourselves. In the car. In bed. In Home Depot. We all laughed and shared and it was probably the nicest moment of the holiday. A very merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve with Dad's extended family.

Me: How is Grandpa Paul doing?
Dad: He seems to be doing pretty good. He came out to one of our games last week. I hear he's been playing a lot of cards.
Me: This is sort of a weird question, but... where was Betty buried?
Dad: Oh, I'm sure she was buried next to her first husband. Just like how Grandpa will be buried next to my mother. They discussed all this before they were married.

Later I talked to Grandpa myself.

Grandpa: Yep. Yep. Not the best year. A real bummer.
Me: Well, hopefully 2007 will be better.
Grandpa: Here's hoping it's not worse.

He handed out sheet music and led everyone in Christmas carols. His sons, his daughter-in-laws and his forty-some grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The men sang a song. Then the women. Then the children. Finally, he sang one by himself. "Ihr Kinderlein, kommet," a German carol his mother used to sing to him when he was a child.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The entire family took Grandma Anne out to Applebees for an early Christmas lunch.

Me: Do they do much in the nursing home for Christmas?
Grandma: I had my picture taken with Santa Claus. He came around. When you're in a place where everyone's my age, they have to come up with all kinds of monkey-stuff for you do to.

Grandma Anne usually comes carrying some kind of newspaper clipping. This time it was a wedding announcement for the son of a rich man Mom had dated before she met Dad.

Dad: Your mother's old boyfriend. I see.
Mom: [laughing] That was a long long time ago. I've let that one go.
Dad: Well, Doris, you should know that one of the old ladies at the nursing home said I was a "handsome man." Isn't that right, Anne-Marie? What was her name? The one in the wheelchair who said I was handsome?
Grandma: Oh, she likes all men.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Hometown, Ohio, for the holidays.

Moments earlier, Ty and I had agreed that we would make crazy faces in this picture. He lied.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I've fallen behind in reading my e-mail-a-day excerpts from 'Hard Times.' Very far behind.

Any thoughts of periodically quoting Dickens for ironic or poignant effect have gone out the window.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Allard: Someone keeps drawing penises in my sketchbook. I've found, like, three in there in the last month.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The annual holiday meat-scursion with friends. We had dinner at Fogo de Chao and then executive cocktails at the Coq d'Or in the Drake Hotel.

We talked about hopes for the coming year: new homes, new children and for several friends, probably new jobs. Meador is considering going back to school to become a nurse.

Trupe asked Meador to show us what his face would look like after he saved his first life. Meador pantomimed taking off gloves and nodded slightly, a small satisfied smile on his face. Then Trupe asked him to show us what his face would look like after her lost his first life. Meador pantomimed taking off gloves again and made the face in this picture.

Trupe: What will you look like when you have to clean up your first pool of vomit?
Nick: Don't take your gloves off. Why are you taking your gloves off?
Young: What about you, Hansen? What do you hope to accomplish in the next year?
Hansen: Mostly just crush Meador's dreams.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas cards on the fridge.

The bottom card is from Wilson (Student Financial Counselor), who is on Otis, and his wife, Emily (Creative Recruiter/Manager).

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Shane's Christmas party. Marla was there. She showed off the new surgery scars in her knee.

Marla: I have a dead person's achille's tendon now. I'm part zombie!

Just like the time Steve got a cornea transplant we all made jokes about getting a murderer's tendon or a murderer's cornea.

Me: Is it weird?
Marla: I honestly don't think about it that much. Although... I've always been a beer drinker and I swear now I find myself wanting wine instead. So maybe I got a wine lover's tendon. Either that or I just matured a lot overnight.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Two improv shows tonight. Whirled News at 8. Otis at 10:30.

After the Whirled News show, Chin (Improv Director/Teacher) gave the entire cast journals with the Whirled News Tonight promotional poster as the cover, for Christmas.

Chin: We can all write in them for a year and then next year exchange and read them!

Part of the appeal of improv is the "you had to be there" quality of it. The fact that it is there for one moment and then lost forever. Still, there's a natural impulse to want to hold on to a show, to try to explain some funny moment. But you can't really recreate what makes a good improv show good and, on the flip side, you can make a show seem better than it was with a list of funny things people said (Similarly, I could tell you, honestly, that I've performed in showcase auditions for Saturday Night Live, among other things, and it would sound more impressive than it really is).

Still, some funny things people said:

* During the second act of Whirled News Tonight, we improvise scenes inspired by true stories from our lives. It was a very Christmas-themed set (our suggestion was "egg nog"). I told this story:

"My family always celebrates Christmas at night. We go out to dinner or see a movie. My father used to take us out looking at Christmas lights, while my mother would go home and quickly put all the presents under the tree. When we got back, my mother would say something like, 'Look what happened! I went to the bathroom, and when I came out, I saw that Santa Claus had been here?' Eventually, we all knew that there was no Santa Claus, except for my youngest sister, Allie. And even she started asking questions like, 'Have you ever noticed Santa always comes while Mom is in the bathroom?' To which I answered, 'Well, maybe that's part of his Christmas magic.' That year I stayed home with my mother while everyone else went out looking at Christmas lights. I hid in the garage, with my finger on the switch for the outside Christmas lights. When I heard the car pulling up the driveway I flipped the switch and all the lights outside seemed to magically turn on. And Allie got to believe in Santa for one more year."

* After the Otis show, we were all out behind the theater, getting notes from our director, when a homeless person walked up and joined our circle.

Homeless Guy: Hey. Hey. I've got an idea for a great sketch. I'll give it to you, and you can go in there and the audience will go crazy for it. It's the idea that you can't always believe what you see. You can't. You guys could make something out of that, right?
Shotts: I'm sorry. We're kind of busy right now.

He went away but came back a few minutes later.

Homeless Guy: Hey. Excuse me. I've got a question. Do any of you know how I can get in touch with a famous Hollywood agent?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Megan: Well, I finally broke up with my job.

Today was Megan's last day at her old job. A bunch of people went out for drinks to celebrate.

Megan: What are you all doing on Monday? Working? Suckers.

She's going back to college in January. She's going to be a teacher.

Megan: I told myself I was going to be completely honest in my exit interview, but I wasn't. The only thing I did complain about was the guy who always picked at his butt and crotch.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

We had a power outage at work today.

Woody: If we can't work on anything, we should play 'Call of....' oh wait.

Everyone wandered around aimlessly for five minutes, then we all gathered in the conference room and played a round of 'Balderdash.' I am terrible at 'Balderdash.' I'm more compelled to write funny definitions than genuinely convincing ones.

Next we played several rounds of 'Murder.' Someone in the room is a murderer and everyone else has to guess who they are before they murder everyone. I am apparently terrible at this game as well. I was personally responsible for about half the company being falsely executed for murders they didn't commit.

After a couple hours, the lights came back on and everyone went back to work.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Job #2: Dominos

I spent the summer after graduating high school delivering pizza for Dominos. There's me in my uniform, with my childhood friend, Andy (Deceased), who worked for Godfather's Pizza.

I was a horrible pizza delivery driver. Despite having lived in Hometown, Ohio for nearly a decade, I still didn't know the majority of the street names. I spent the summer driving around in a constant confused panic.

I kept the uniform, though, and in college (Ohio University) wore it for Halloween one year. It was a last-minute, what-have-I-got-laying-around costume choice, but it seemed to strike a chord. The pizza man is very important to college students. I've never gotten so many high fives in my life, and was even surprised by several ass pinches.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Back near the end of the educational project, we spent an afternoon doodling pictures that were supposed to look like self-portraits drawn by children. This is the one I drew. Fire. River of blood. Screaming. It was a joke. A reaction to how censored we were, working on an educational project (I spent an entire day taking out all the farts and burps which the client had decided at the last minute wouldn't be appropriate for school children). Also we were working pretty long hours at the time and I was feeling burnt out.

Obviously, it didn't make it into the final product. But I did tack it up over my desk.

It's been a busy two weeks at work. A lot of late nights. I've already missed three rehearsals and a show. But this is the job... and even a job that I like.

Still, if my mind ever snaps, I imagine this picture will start talking to me.

Monday, December 11, 2006

So, what is the project I've been working on at Jellyvison? Well, one of the things (one of the main things) is on-line now. We're bringing back You Don't Know Jack as a free on-line game.

You can go to and play the Daily DisOrDat. The game will throw out seven choices and you have to decide whether each is an international airline or an erectile dysfunction pill; a U.S. government agency or a member of the Wu-Tang Clan. Like that.

Check it out. There will be new stuff daily. And there's even more stuff on the way.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Had a read-through with my sketch comedy group, The Backrow, for our upcoming Sketchfest show. We ate sandwiches, looked over scripts and ate mouth-staining candy canes.

Meador: Sorry I'm late guys. Someone stuck a bunch of adhesive rat traps all over my car. The glue kinds.
Katie: That's horrible.
Nick: Rat traps? Was it some kind of message? Have you ratted anyone out?

This is the sixth year of Sketchfest and the sixth year of the Backrow. Before that, most of the cast performed together in college (I'm the only person in the group that didn't go to the U of I).

Trupe: We've been performing together for ten years now. Wow.

And now, ten years in, most of the cast is married (many of them to each other) and it's not unusual for there to be a baby or small child at rehearsal. We do less shows each year because it's harder and harder to get everyone together. We're growing up.

Nick and Katie brought their daughter, Jane, to rehearsal. While reading through the scripts we had to be careful to "watch our language" around Jane. We didn't want her to pick up any new words. Mostly she seemed disinterested in the sketches, although, during a sketch involving a "trail of turds" she did have a rare post-potty training accident in her tights.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Shelly (Second City Las Vegas Performer), a member of Otis, is back in town, visiting from Las Vegas, where she's lived the last few months.

Shelly: Have you ever been to Vegas?
Someone Else: I was there for a day, once.
Shelly: Yeah. That's the right amount of time. I live there now. I'm there for a year.
Me: Do you gamble?
Shelly: No, I don't. But I do take risks.

Last year, I quoted a voicemail I received from Shelly, in my blog (that blog was about a break-up). I had accidentally left my phone at home. I e-mailed friends and asked them to leave me messages throughout the day.

Shelly's Voicemail: Shit, you're not there. Ah man, I had some really important questions for you. If you get this before 5, call me back, otherwise I'll just probably Google it. One, does everything in the world happen for a reason? I just didn't know. And two... oh, this I actually did want to know... do you think that not talking to people is a healthy thing? Do you think that it actually works out? 'Cause I don't think that, you know, you stop loving people, you just get over relationships. Isn't that just time? Or does not talking help? I think that's kind of asinine. But maybe it's healthy. Again, I'll probably ask somebody else if I don't hear from you by 5.

Gianni (Patent Attorney), who has been dating Shelly long-distance from Chicago, recently read this entry in my old blog.

Gianni: I immediately called her voicemail. I read her voicemail [to you] back into her voicemail. It took her a while, but she figured out that it was her own words, but couldn't place them or figure out how I had gotten a hold of them. She spent a few paranoid hours wondering if someone was secretly recording all of her thoughts. Basically, she said it was a total "mindfuck."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Chris changed his desktop wallpaper to a different picture of himself.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sarah has been doing some temp work lately to make a little extra money. She sent me this picture message with her phone.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Lately, there have been some problems with the connection between Poland's basement in Michigan and the office here in Chicago. Today, the screen froze while he was mid-laugh. We could still hear him talk, but his picture was stuck in this vaguely unsettling position.

Throughout the day, if someone made a joke that fell flat, they'd point to the screen and say, "Well, Poland likes it."

He looked like he was in an end-of-episode freeze frame from an old sitcom. I would occasionally sing, say, the 'Happy Days' theme song and scroll my fingers up the front of the screen to signify the roll of credits.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Lacy came in today to record some audio for us. She was only here for about an hour, but it was nice to have her in the office again. As usual, I took pictures.

An hour later, Lacy IM-ed me from home.

Lacy: hey, could you send me those shots of JV? Especially the sound booth one? I'm always trying to explain the setup to my family.

I sent her the pictures and mentioned that I was thinking about blogging about her visit, but didn't know what to write.

Lacy: "(freelance actor, artist) visited jellyvision today. [insightful comment] I think she's lost weight. she smelled like flowers. then asked me to send her pictures of herself."

Monday, December 04, 2006

I took this picture last Christmas.

My Grandpa Paul (Retired), my father's father, remarried a few years back to a woman named Betty (Retired). They didn't seem to have much in common besides having recently lost spouses and going to church (where, I believe, they met). But you never really know the inner workings of other people's relationships, least of all your grandparents. And he deserves the comfort of having someone around the house, someone to sit next to him while he hands out Christmas presents to the grandchildren.

Grandpa Paul has had his health problems on and off over the last year, thankfully recovering each time. Betty, sadly, passed away over the weekend. I only met her a few times, but she seemed very sweet.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Job #13: Charter School Teacher (Cont.)

Many charter schools are just places where students take computerized classes, trying to burn through them to get as many credits as possible in a short amount of time, while the school gets money for giving them a place to do this. To its credit, the charter school where I taught was slowly trying to get away from this, offering real classes with real teachers. But there were still a number of courses that were only outdated computer programs. ("Write a brief paragraph that tells how you think the world will be dressing beginning in the year 2000.") Mostly I taught classes, but part of my job was also to grade the essays students typed into the computer programs. "Grade" isn't the right word. I was told to "go in and just make sure they're putting any kind of effort into it."

An example:

"Q: Begin an etymology list. Look up 5 vocabulary words and write their etymologies. As you come across new words, add their etymologies to your list.
A: No."

Some of their essays would have been funny if weren't so painfully obvious that many of these high school students could only read and write at an elementary school level.

"Q: If you could change one thing about society what would it be?
A: That ever body would stop being stuped"

And then there were some student essays that were just wrong in so many ways.

"Q: Each decade during this century has received a nickname that seems to summarize the entire decade. What is your nickname for the 1990s. Why?
A: My nickname would be hitman because i would kill and kill and no one would know it was me it would be a mystery"

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Went out for dinner and drinks with friends last night. We ate at the Brauhaus. Meador (High School Science Teacher) broke his diet for the occasion.

Me: What kind of diet?
Meador: Pretty basic. Smaller portions. More rounded meals.
Nick: Plus, you crab-walk to work every morning, right?

Nick has started working out. His school opened a new exercise facility and he's been getting pointers from the gym teacher.

Meador: When do you go? After school?
Nick: No. During my free period. I work out, shower, and get back to teaching.
Me: That's great. It would be ridiculous not to take advantage of that.
Meador: Do you ever feel weird... being naked in your school?
Nick: No. Except for that one time I had to run to my office... I forgot my deodorant.
[everyone laughs]
Nick: No. There's a staff locker room.
Meador: I had a wrestling coach in high school who used to take showers along with the students. It was weird.

Friday, December 01, 2006

December brought our first snow. Beautiful yes, but also cold and inconvenient.

I thought about taking the L to work, but heard there was a fire on the Red Line. So, I dug my car out of the snow, scraped off the window, and drove through the slippery roads, all the time knowing that at the end of the day it would be hard to find an empty spot that someone hadn't plunked lawn chairs down in to "save" for their own car.

I listened to the new Tom Waits album during my drive. As I pulled into the work parking lot he sang, "You can never hold back spring. You can be sure I will never stop believing."

As I got out of my car, I saw a homeless woman trudging through the snow down the otherwise empty street beyond the parking lot fence. She was half-yelling half-singing a song that she seemed to make up as she went along, almost as an S.O.S. to the blank industrial buildings on each side of the road.

"I am freezing, I am freezing
It is cold, it is cold
I am freezing, I am freezing
Just for you, just for you..."

Later in the day, sitting at my desk, I caught myself humming and realized it was her song.

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