The Ties That Bind

I’ve repeatedly dreamed of snapping my phone in half while my family watches, handing them the pieces, and telling them to cut the line. Complete separation, no more contact. I have two weeks left in Chicago. In the swirl of emotions that has been the past few days, one thing has been clear: a voice crying out within me, begging me to leave.

Other stuff:

  • Part of leaving involves making things ready for my arrival, so I’ve been shopping for new clothes, furnishings, etc. It’s been both exciting and exhausting.
  • I also deleted all my pirated music. Figured it isn’t great artist karma to steal the work of other artists, and since my iPod is broken it seemed  as good a time as any. Replenishing my collection will be so emotionally/financially painful though 😦 but it’s worth it.
  • Reached a new level in cooking by successfully making french toast. Won’t be on Food Network Star anytime soon but at least it’s not a sandwich.
  • Great writing tips from Alyssa Wong (her short story Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers is phenomenal).  Also, this Lithub article about the journals of famous writers was an engaging read.
  • Saw the musical Northanger Abbey at Lifeline Theatre and it was such a joy, especially as an Austen fan. It was in a small theater and I had a front-row seat, which ended up being a perfect viewing spot. Also, each seat had a blanket; it wasn’t cold but covering myself with the blanket meant that I couldn’t distract anyone with my excited hand movements. All in all, definitely worth seeing (and student tickets are only $20!).

Nothing But Other Stuff

I’m stuck in Chicago for the next month and am crazy bored/boring, hence the lack of a real post topic. I only leave my house to go to Wendy’s, Jewel-Osco, or the library, and while the life of a homebody is pretty relaxing and one I’d recommend, it doesn’t give much blog material, so move on down, nothing to read here.

Other stuff:

  • Going back to Tucson next month, thank God. (Can’t believe I just thanked God for Tucson). Being at home is suffocating. My mom says I act like I don’t have a family, which is fair, but I can’t help it. I’m ready for an evolution and that’s not happening around old people or in old places.
  • I need to live somewhere cool and rainy once I graduate; I can’t take any more heat. All suggestions are appreciated. Seattle seems pretty perfect except that it’s in a major earthquake zone 😦 Though I’d rather risk an earthquake than deal with an Arizona summer.
  • Went to Chinatown today with some very cool family friends. Gorged myself on chow mein, potstickers, and sweet and sour chicken without a lick of shame. Also learned that proper chopstick use isn’t something my muscle memory covers.
  • Nothing makes you feel like you’re putting your English degree to good use like recognizing the Mrs. Dalloway allusion at the start of a New York Times short story.
  • Have eight books out at the library plus a suitcase full of my books. Please send help.
  • Basking in The Kilroy’s 2016 List. The Kilroys are a group of playwrights and producers fighting for gender parity in theater. Every year they publish The List, a list of the best plays by female and trans playwrights, so that underrepresented work gets more exposure. The plays are always killer and it makes searching for stuff to read a lot easier. Check it out, you won’t regret it.
  • Reading Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor only reinforced her position as my favorite author. Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks was also quality. Currently reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
  • New season of Star vs. the Forces of Evil premiered Monday! (Wrote a spec script for the show in high school so I have a soft spot for it). Disney XD released the premiere on their YouTube channel for free so you can watch it here. Also Steven Universe is back on the 18th 🙂

Through The Mire

My experiment is failing. I didn’t get a job this summer so that I’d have more time to read and write and it’s been a mess. Issues:

  1. It’s hard to set a schedule and stick to it when you only have one task a day. When I procrastinate I note how I have the whole day to write, until I don’t.
  2. I keep getting distracted in the morning. Waking up late and playing video games with your brother doesn’t make for a good writing life. 
  3. I beat myself up for not spending more of the day writing even when I do write. 

I’m trying to straighten the whole thing out now. Hope it works out.  

Other stuff:

  • Hung out with Kasey and her family which was great since they’re my favorites. Also Kasey’s a really good cook now. She made tacos with beans, baked sweet potato, and sauce that were phenomenal. Watching her prepare the meal felt like watching a magician. And here I am barely able to make a sandwich.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a crazy good novella. Do yourself a favor and read it (and if you say you’ve already seen the movie I’ll smack you). The fact that Capote was able to craft a character like Holly Golightly makes me jealous. No Longer At Ease and Hooded or Being Black for Dummies were also quality. Currently reading Every Day  Is For The Thief by Teju Cole.
  • This unreleased St. Vincent track from her last concert is adding to my constant hunger for new St. Vincent songs.
  • Helped build a hoop in our backyard for my little brother. He pledged me 10% of his future income should he make it to the NBA so this could be the most lucrative work of my life.
  • Kevin Durant is such a loser for going to Golden State. Moving to a team because you’re not good enough to beat them is not superstar behavior in any way. Should’ve stayed at OKC.
  • Went to a 4th of July get-together with family friends in St. Joseph, MI that was pretty fun 🙂 The highlight: watching the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Describing the winner, Joey Chestnut, who ate 70 hot dog in 10 minutes, the announcer said, “He has God’s username and password and he does with it what he chooses! He is American exceptionalism! He is America!”


Long Day’s Journey: A Saga

Alternatively: Why I Need a Driver’s License

The reason I never learned to drive is simple: I don’t want to die in a car crash. This might seems irrational to some, but it makes perfect sense to me. I regularly zone out and I’m often tired; these traits don’t lend themselves to operating two tons of metal at high speeds. Worse than my own ineptitude, though, is that of others. I might not drive but I do know the rules of the road and know when they’re broken, which is all the time. And it doesn’t stop at texting and driving. For instance, when driving me to school, my mom (aka someone who actually cares about my safety) would buy a plate of McDonalds eggs and pancakes, then eat as she weaved through traffic. I have never prayed with as much frequency or desperation as when in cars. Thus, no driving.

That all changed a few weeks ago when I went to Navy Pier for an America’s Cup event. I went by train and a free trolley to Navy Pier, and the experience was fairly nice. I ate Epic Burger for lunch and read Gone With The Wind while riding. I sat next to a nice man from western New York (not NYC) and we made polite conversation. The event was fun and when it was over I rushed to the trolley pick-up site; after several hours in the sun I was ready to go home, shower, and rest.

The waiting area was a small blue tent, and I sat there with a few others. Despite being shaded, I was baking. Sweat drenched my thin shirt and bugs buzzed nearby. I eyed them warily, keeping watch over my exposed skin like a guard dog. Where was the trolley? As time passed, some got tired of waiting and called Ubers to pick them up. Watching these fortunate few, with their money and phones, drive off in air-conditioned cars while I roasted alive filled me with jealousy and made my suffering all the more acute. I’d have killed for an Uber. Hell, I’d have killed for a drink. Outside drinks weren’t allowed at the event and I’d refused to pay Navy Pier prices for one, so I was stuck with my saliva as the nearest liquid. Eventually one woman saw the blue trolley coming down a street and left the tent to line up on the curb. Seeing her, a few others lined up behind her, including me. No way was I gonna end up at the back of the line because I was too lazy to stand. Besides, if she saw the trolley, it couldn’t be more than a few minutes away.

How wrong I was. Twenty minutes later and the damned trolley still hadn’t come. The line was much longer now, walling off the sidewalk and blocking pedestrians. Each time someone came by, I and a few others had to move aside so they could pass. I wished harm on each and every one of these walkers. All I wanted to do was stand still and conserve energy. Why couldn’t those jerks go around? And this damned heat! Because I was on the sidewalk, I’d stood in direct sunlight this whole time, after being in the sun for 3 hours at the event. My head spun and I longed to sit, but I couldn’t lose my spot, so I stayed standing.

There was a large black woman near me in line who tapped my arm. She had a stroller in one hand and her two children stood on either side of her. “You’re a pretty tall guy,” she said, an original sentiment. “How tall are you anyways?” “Six three.” “Wow. Can you see if the trolley’s near?” I looked. It wasn’t and I told her so. “Oh, okay. Thanks anyways.” I shouldn’t have responded at all the first time, as she tapped me every few minutes for trolley updates. However, she was far better than the family that came later.

The father caught my eye first. He was a white man, perhaps in his mid-thirties, with brown hair that had been slicked up, small teeth, a smile full of gaps, and stubble. He was dressed in a shoddy tank top and cargo shorts, and when I saw him I thought he must’ve been one of the trashiest people I’d seen all day. My judgment was confirmed when, after being near the substantial line for about a minute, he proceeded to go to the front with his wife and daughter, even having the gall to make conversation with the woman at the front of the line, as though he hadn’t cut nearly thirty people to get there. Gone With The Wind fresh in my mind, the parallel between Scarlett O’Hara’s plight during Reconstruction and my own right then was only too obvious: in both cases trashy people got ahead dishonestly while good people suffered in silence. I was dying to tell him off and certainly would have if not for his young daughter, who I felt shouldn’t be made to suffer for her father’s poor breeding.

The trolley arrived ten minutes later and what was once a line became a wave as people swarmed the entrance. As boarding began I inched forward, using my size to avoid losing ground to the vultures around me. There was a couple who kept prodding my back, and it took all my control to not turn around and smack them. We were both right by the entrance and I feared I’d never board; I was in an unfavorable position, off to the side of the door while they and the remaining masses were directly in front of it. Thankfully, the woman who’d tapped my arm earlier was also boarding, and she blocked the couple with her stroller. “Get on,” she said, and I smiled.

I’d assumed the trolley would be empty but there were already plenty of people. Because I was one of the younger ones there, I stood in the back so others could sit. When the trolley was full, I looked out a window and saw the substantial crowd that couldn’t get on. They’d have to wait another thirty minutes for the next trolley to come, and I thanked God I wasn’t them. My situation was far from ideal though. The trolley was packed and had no A/C, and many people loudly complained, as though that would make it cooler. Plus, the back of the trolley was made for handicapped passengers, so there were no seats and no bars to hold. I stood in a corner and pressed a hand against each wall to keep from tumbling around as we moved. A nearby mother who had a seat to hold onto saw me and grinned; my suffering must have amused her. It was then, while tired, sweat-drenched, sore, and agitated, that I knew I must learn to drive. I pictured myself at the mercy of the elements, public transit, and my fellow passengers for the rest of my life and suddenly dying in a car crash didn’t look so bad.

Other stuff:

  • Gotta get paperwork in order and find a driving school before I can do anything though, so hopefully that happens sooner rather than later.
  • Puberty 2 by Mitski is a must-listen. Such a good album. It’s also on Spotify if you wanna listen before you buy. More quality music: Trans Day of Revenge by G.L.O.S.S
  • The Eclipsed reading went well. The actresses were predictably awesome and I participated in the post-show discussion without fainting 🙂
  • Spent most of the day listening to various Sun Ra albums, which I can now say has been time well spent. Here’s a song from one of his earlier albums for those curious.
  • Just got a book about Yves Saint Laurent (the designer, not the brand) and I’m pretty excited to read it. Reading No Longer At Ease by Chinua Achebe right now though, so it’ll have to wait 😦
  • My little brother turned 12!

Big City Living: A Very Short Play

Characters: HOMELESS MAN  – Late 40s, early 50s.

Setting: Downtown Chicago, summer afternoon, present day.

Note: No seats for the audience since they’re in the play. City living is not a spectator sport.

Scene 1:

HOMELESS MAN sits on top of a milk crate and visibly urinates while the audience walks briskly on-stage, going about their business. When he is finished, he stands up, grabs his milk crate, and walks off-stage. 


Other stuff:

  • Based on a real event. You see a lot of odd stuff walking around Chicago.
  • Finished Gone With The Wind which was highly entertaining and wholly depressing.
  • The reading of Eclipsed by Danai Gurira I’m involved in (assistant dramaturg) is tomorrow which is exciting. The actresses were fantastic in rehearsal so it should be a great time. There’s also a cool pre-show event which will hopefully come together well. And I’m doing the post-show discussion O.O
  • I really need to do some more writing 😦 Not writing when you should be writing is gross.
  • Don’t stay up until 3 am Skyping if you have to go across the city the next morning.

Typical Conversation With My Brother

Mikey, my little brother: My team the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.

Me: Dang. I can’t believe it’s leaving Chicago. It’s been like an old friend.

Mikey: Don’t worry, it’ll come back. Love always finds a way.

Other stuff:

  • Helped with an anniversary party a few days ago and made $75 🙂
  • Past the 1000 page mark in Gone With The Wind! (~450 left)
  • Upgraded my New Play Exchange account for my birthday and now have a very long play reading list, which is exciting. If you’re interested in making an account and reading a ton of free plays, I’d recommend Alice in War by Steven Bogart. Read it today and it was great.
  • After a year of fast food I’m in the very early stages of cooking my own meals. It might be sandwiches every day, but it’s a start.

Full Reset

My novel draft was already suffering from my lack of planning (no subplots, far too short, etc.) but when I realized a few days ago that a major structural change wasn’t working, I decided to set what I’d written aside, take a few days to outline, and start a new draft. I’d attempted a two-setting novel in two parts, but all the tension and character dynamics in Part 1 were lost when the main character went to the new setting in Part 2, so I scrapped it, and once I did that it seemed best to address the other issues too. Most people caution against restarting a first draft since you might never finish if you keep going back. For a time I listened, pushing forward despite my doubts. Now that it’s clearly wrong, though, I’m trying something else. No sense in holding on to a failing strategy (in writing or life). The outlining has been going well so far, and hopefully it’ll lead to a stronger story. Worst comes to worst, I’ll still have what I’ve already written to fall back on.

Other stuff:

  • I’m the assistant dramaturg for The Yard x Steppenwolf’s reading of Eclipsed by Danai Gurira (an excellent play by the way). I wasn’t gonna do anything but read and write this summer, but I was offered the position and it seemed cool so I said yes. I then googled what a dramaturg was. My only production experience is being in the PR crew for a play as a high school freshman, so this is definitely a step out of my comfort zone. It’s been going well so far though 🙂
  • In more theater news, I saw Mary Page Marlowe and enjoyed it. Especially liked the structure: a non-chronological account of Mary Page Marlowe’s life with seven actresses playing her at different life stages.
  • The only thing more entertaining than watching a play is arriving early and people-watching before the play starts. A man a few rows behind me was reading about the performers in the play guide. He then asked his friend, “Why are there so many Mary Page Marlowes?”After his friend explained it, another of their friends said, “Oh, I thought they just had a lot of understudies.”
  • Why did no one tell me about Love & Friendship earlier? Saw it today and it was great. It’s a movie adaptation of Lady Susan by Jane Austen, an excellent epistolary novella she wrote when she was 19. As if that’s not great enough, it’s getting rave reviews. Can’t believe I’ve been blessed with this and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in the same year.
  • Staying at home all day is boring but also the only thing I’m interested in doing.
  • I did end up getting a ticket to for the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series. Going on Friday since those had the cheapest tickets. It’s not a race day (it’s just the practice day) but it should still be pretty cool. Hoping for a nice turnout. Also hoping to meet my rich, posh, gorgeous future wife. If you’re wondering what it’s like, here’s the promotional video.
  • A friend hooked me up with a gig serving at an anniversary brunch for her friend’s mom this weekend and I’m hoping it doesn’t bite. On the plus side she pays well so that’s exciting.
  • Gone With The Wind is the truth. Am about 550 pages in so far and loving it. Only 900 pages to go!