August 3, 2009, 3:01 am
Filed under: art, Chicago, hooping, Uncategorized

Here I come again, slinking back to WordPress when my account doesn’t even remember me anymore and I have to log in from the home page.  I do have a few good excuses for my absence, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t felt it like an ache of impossibility crossing my awareness as I’m doing something else.   For nearly two years I have had a new but unassembled desk in the garage, awaiting time and fortitude.  Last week I attacked my office/bedroom with a hitherto unseen vengeance, first removing many piles of books to make room for the new desk, vacuuming entire hutches of dust bunnies from corners, and in the process finding things I hadn’t seen in years.  The room is still a work in progress, but my books for sale are now reorganized and I can happily report that I now have room to spin my desk chair.  Now all I need is a poster with a picture of a chimpanzee and text that says I Don’t Like Mondays.  I’d much rather have a taxidermied squirrel lamp, but I can’t afford it.

Pushing fifty like a bulldozer in heat and having apparently had the good luck to survive a major illness, I am more aware than ever of how choosing to do one thing means not doing ten others.  My spouse first gave me a hoop almost two years ago, and with the exception of a retreat or two, it has mostly sat in the basement, leaning sadly against a wall.  I kept wanting to attend a class or hooping event, but there was always something else to do.  This happened so many times I began to question my own sincerity about learning, so when my spouse offered to drive me to a class on a weekday evening in May, I decided it was now or never.  It was the end of a day of parenting, I was exhausted and distracted, wouldn’t hear well, and would fumble my way through the evening and would thoroughly humiliate myself as the one complete loser in the midst of a roomful of lithe hooperinas.  I pictured myself repeatedly dropping the hoop and saying DOH! as they twirled and whirled around me in unison, but I failed to make that a good reason not to go.  Clearly it was now or never.  Fortunately I am just stubborn enough to value my existential authenticity, so I said what the hell and got in the car with my hoop.

The person who had made my hoop was Mercedes Gomez, who was also teaching this class at OCE.  There were only three of us there not counting Mercedes, making it four when one of the event organizers stepped in.  Frankly I was grateful the organizer was there, as it quickly became clear my worst visualizations had not been not all that far off the mark.  Everyone was nice as could be and no one whirled and twirled around me in unison, but the other two students both could do things with their hoops that I found inutterably impossible.  Obviously they had put in a lot more hoop time than I had, but for a moment I allowed myself to think that perhaps I just couldn’t do it.  Oh well, if I turned out to be an embarrassing failure, I would at least have had the guts to put myself on the line and do it publicly instead of rationalizing twelve million reasons why I couldn’t.

Mercedes noticed the hoop she had made for me was not only starting to unravel but was also a bit large for me.  That’s not hard, as I stopped growing at 4′ 11″.  She kindly offered to trade me a newer, smaller hoop for my old one.  The size seemed to make a difference, but I still felt like a clumsy schlub.  I now had a sense of what to work on, namely keeping the hoop up on various parts of my body, in various directions, going back and forth between right and left hands.  I could see transitions between moves were important, but I didn’t have a name for that.  The one thing that was eminently clear was that getting good at hooping was much harder than it looked, given how difficult I found it simply to waist-hoop to the left rather than to the right.

Before the class I’d been at a loss as to what to do with the hoop, but now I faced an entirely different dilemma.  Obviously I had my work cut out for me and I itched to try things out, but I felt to shy to fumble in my own backyard while my neighbors did their yard work and chugged beers.  I did manage one or two short sessions in my driveway, where I felt a bit less on display, but I still felt a million miles away from being able to control the hoop.  I felt so frustrated with my own pitiful lack of progress that I almost didn’t bring the hoop along when we drove up to Pewaukee Lake in Wisconsin to visit friends, but at the last minute we squeezed it into the back seat.

Aside from the scenery, the great thing about hooping at Lake Pewaukee was that I was among friends who had not only already seen me make a fool of myself in more ways than I can describe but also were complete hoop-noobs.  There was almost no way I could be worse than them, but more important, no one cared.  I spent more time hooping that day than I ever had before, because it was the perfect set and setting.  Lo and behold, the more I handled the hoop and practiced basic moves, the more comfortable I became.  This day was definitely the breakthrough I needed, as since then my hoop has been more or less constantly in motion.  Consequently, so have I.

Having broken the ice in Wisconsin among friends, I could now hoop barefoot in the grass in my ample if humble backyard.   Since I was having fun, I did it until the sweat ran into my eyes and hearing aids.   One day I reached my stopping point when I smacked myself hard in my right (surgery) ear, causing my hearing aid to pop right out into the grass because I was so slick from perspiration.  I was bruised from head to toe, one of the worst spots being for some reason my right heel.  But I was also muscular and more aware of my body than I’d ever been.  Even better,  I was following my doctor’s orders to do regular cardio workouts without even trying to.   When my nine-year-old daughter saw what I could do, her competitive instincts flared up and she started fighting me for the hoop.  My mother thoroughly approves and says she’d try it if she didn’t have a bad back, and even my spouse occasionally picks up the hoop and flails with one hand out in the “stop” position and ignores everything I tell him to do.

The strangest thing about this whole hooping experience is that after we returned from that trip to Wisconsin, I had a bodily-kinesthetic epiphany with a guiding visualization.  This may very well be the most whackadoo granola disclosure I have ever made, but I could suddenly visualize and feel the path of the hoop through a lift-up from the waist.  I had been completely clueless as to what I would need to do to bring it up, but now, bingo, I could see where my hands and body would need to be to keep the hoop in a continuous circling motion as I moved it from my waist to above my head and back.  This visualization put the “dance” in my hoopdance, as the more effectively I could control the hoop and keep it spinning, the more naturally and spontaneously my body responded to the music.   The distinction between knowing this and actually being able to execute it smoothly is indeed a humbling one, and so now you know what I’ve been doing with my time lately instead of slouching at my Macbook.

The transitions between hooping movements are referred to as “flow,” and indeed, it felt like my body was learning to flow with the hoop more intuitively as I progressed.  Flow is also a concept in psychology originated by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that refers to a state of complete immersion in an activity, a way of being in the moment quite familiar to many dedicated hoopers.  I have felt somewhat the same thing in the course of my Pilates routines, but the effect is so much more pronounced when I hoop.  This is partly due to the exhilarating challenge of hooping to music, a form of creative improvisation that requires you to be fully in the moment.  For those of us who live too much in our heads and have difficulty staying grounded when we are overwhelmed, hooping provides a way to refocus our energies and stoke up those endorphins.  This biologically driven empowerment and sense of accomplishment then bubbles up and bleeds into everything else, and then I find I can do things that previously seemed overwhelming.  As coping mechanisms go, it’s a healthy one.

There are many things I love about hooping, one of them being that most moves are actually harder than they look.  This element of challenge makes it thrilling when you successfully make a move that has eluded you before, giving you an adrenalin rush without placing you significantly in peril in the manner of, say, downhill skiing.   It forces me to get outside and move, which can change the direction of a day and also gets me a bit of sunshine.  Although too much of this quantity is not good for someone with a history of chemotherapy and skin cancer, I was probably skewed in the opposite direction until I developed a relationship with a hoop that I named “SunFire” because the holographic tape sparkled when it caught the sun.   My favorite time of day to hoop is actually twilight, of which the bugs in our backyard thoroughly approve.  As much as I don’t care for the chemicals that keep them at a distance, it’s worth dousing myself with toxins to hoop in my own backyard when it’s cooling outside and the sun is sinking in the West.  I can fully understand why there are scads of YouTube videos of people hooping in every outdoor scenario imaginable, because it goes equally as well with nature as it does with music.   Now I just need a collapsible hoop so I can travel with it, and I’ll be in business, and perhaps an LED one so I can make trippy light patterns at night.  Whee.

If you are one of the people whom I haven’t emailed or responded to in some fashion, now you know what I’ve been up to.  I’ll try to be a better correspondent, but I was determined not to let another summer go by as a poseur d’hoop, with the durn thing sitting abandoned in the basement.   And speaking of the basement (which I like to refer to as my dungeon), I am now so hoop-obsessed that I have difficulty going down there without giving it a whirl.  This may finally be just the motivation I need to move that old, abandoned couch out of there.  If I clear the piles of debris away from the mirror, I could have a little hooping studio and try out moves too weird to risk in my backyard.   My vague hope is to perhaps put an (edited) video together by fall, but right now getting better every day is a blast and its own satisfaction.  I don’t know if you can hoop or even if you want to, but I do know I’m amazed and thrilled by what I’ve accomplished since I took that one single class with Mercedes.

If you are intrigued by any of this and are thinking about taking up hooping, here are a few suggestions to help you get started.  Apologies if any of this is old news, but I find a lot of people still have not encountered hooping as it currently manifests.  I am not providing detailed information as to how to do these things, but you will find a lot of such details at

Helpful Hooping Hints From an Old Hippie

  • Make sure you get an adult hoop, which is much larger and heavier than a child’s hoop.  It should come up to about the level of your lower chest.
  • Take a class, even if it’s just one.  You may not be able to process everything and learn the moves right there, but you will take a lot away from it that will help you as you progress.
  • If you take a class, make sure it is either mixed-level or for beginners.  Accept that you may look like a total klutz and it doesn’t matter, because at least you are out there trying to do something hard and not plopped on your couch like a lardass.
  • Practice, practice, practice.  Practice in different locations and in aesthetically beautiful spots, because it will inspire you.  Practice with people who are less advanced than you, because you will feel like a whiz.  Practice with people more advanced with you, because you will learn from watching them.
  • Speaking of watching, there are a million YouTube videos of people doing this stuff.  Tutorials, demos, festivals, you name it.  If you can’t get a move quite right, you just watch the video again or find a different one where someone is doing it more slowly, and you try again.
  • Don’t wear glasses while hooping.
  • Drunk-hoop at your own peril.

If you are one of those people who has watched someone hooping and thought “Gee, I’d like to try that,” what are you waiting for?  As with any emerging trend, some people will try hooping and move on to other things and others will delve deeply into their own psyches and capabilities to create striking works of performance art that reflect their unique styles.  I will leave you with a clip of my favorite hooper, Malcolm Stuart, who is quite unlike anyone else I’ve seen in an avant-garde and vaguely punkish vein.  Now here’s a man who knows how to have a good time:

Just for the contrast, here is Shakti SunFire, whose name must have subconsciously inspired that of my hoop and who is the most positively beatific hooper I have ever seen.  Waiter, I’ll have what she’s having:


The Future Has Arrived
May 5, 2009, 3:39 am
Filed under: Chicago, Music, Pop Culture, Uncategorized

I am heartened by the extent to which Leonard Cohen has been adopted as a beloved cultural icon by my generation, mainly because I think he is one of a divinely sanctioned few who have genuinely earned the title.  Although I had of course heard of him before that, I finally stumbled into his music in spring of 1992 in the midst of an emotional crisis.  His voice and melodies drew me in, but the words and their ever-changing shades of meaning are what have made Leonard Cohen’s songs so enduring.  A perfect example is “Democracy,” which is from 1992 but rings more true in my ears now than it did at the time:

It’s coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It’s here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it’s here they got the spiritual thirst.
It’s here the family’s broken
and it’s here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
It’s coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we’ll be making love again.
We’ll be going down so deep
the river’s going to weep,
and the mountain’s going to shout Amen!
It’s coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Of course we cannot be too self-congratulatory, because to hear this song also forces us to recognize that it has taken us seventeen years and a lot of harsh lessons to get to this point.

Not coincidentally, these last few years have also taught Leonard Cohen a few harsh lessons.   Everybody knows he wouldn’t be touring if he didn’t need the money, but that’s how it goes.  Wednesday will be my second time seeing him, as I was lucky enough to catch his Park West show in 1994 (not 1992, as I may have mistakenly written elsewhere).  We had seats near the front and this was his last U. S. tour with Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen, so I felt blessed and blissed indeed to be there.  I assumed it had been my one and only chance to see him, but now his fiscal misfortunes have compelled him to give things another whirl.  To see this show is an extravagance we can hardly afford, and I was initially baffled by the mad ticket frenzies that ensued when both Chicago shows went on sale.  Only since then have I really grasped that at least one more generation has wholeheartedly embraced his music since that 1994 tour, and for them it is not only their last chance to see him but also their first.

The great thing about seeing Leonard Cohen perform live is that he knows he is no musican.  He does LC as no one else can, but he also surrounds himself with outstanding musicians who provide a sweetly melodic counterpoint to his time-gravelled tones.  This is why his live albums are uniformly excellent, despite my habitual disdain for the form.  Cohen frequently directs attention to his band during shows in a way that shows he knows how good they are, which makes the whole thing even more of a mutual appreciation society.  The positive energy flows in all directions at a Leonard Cohen show.  The audience appreciates both Leonard and the band, Leonard appreciates the band and the audience, and each band member plays as if they are thrilled to be there and know they have an integral role in the proceedings.  Cohen’s whole approach to performing speaks of a deep respect for the audience, right down to the email reminder I received today that he will take the stage promptly at 8:00.  I appreciate the care and preparation this reflects and will accordingly return this respect by being in my seat at the Chicago Theatre well before showtime on Wednesday May 6, ready to give my full attention to a man who has earned it several times over.

Here’s a clip of “Democracy” from his new live video, filmed in London in 2008.  Leonard may admittedly be a bit more grandfatherly than he was in 1994, but I’d still hit it:

My Electronic Parotidectomy
April 27, 2009, 6:03 pm
Filed under: blogging, Chicago, deafness, hearing disability, Music, Uncategorized

The arrogance of me, ever thinking I know what’s in store.  I was all set for May to be a packed month, as we have a village-wide garage sale here in Evergreen Park next weekend (Saturday May 2, Be There!), and then we have tickets for Leonard Cohen at the Chicago Theatre May 6.  On May 14 and 16 I had volunteered to help document events for Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the second of which would be Chicago’s Beckoning of Lovely event (details here, location TBA).  Later in the month I thought I might try liquidating more junque at the Peoria Flea Market.  Last Thursday when I walked into the Cancer Center I was thinking how glad I was to be in slightly better shape, wondering if I should take up running to fill in the time before the local swim club opens.   Being an old pro at these things, I figured I was in for a biopsy to make sure the funny little bump under my right earlobe was benign.  When I found out I was in for surgery regardless, I passed on the biopsy.  After what I’ve been through, why on earth would I want to get poked any more than I have to?

The good news is that my little bump is still probably benign, but the bad news is that I’m now rearranging what was already a busy schedule to accommodate a surgery (superficial parotidectomy)  that involves peeling back my facial skin and slicing off a mass that just happens to be inconveniently located in close proximity to my right facial nerve.   I have never really thought about my right facial nerve before but all of a sudden I am realizing it is something I would like to keep.  The world of us frequent patients is a surreal one in which even the good doctors toss out phrases like temporary facial paralysis and nerve monitors as if these are normal everyday things you pass every day on your way to the bus stop or throw in your shopping cart at the grocery store.   There may be a slight sunken area at the surgery site, but we’ll try and reconstruct as best we can. I take it all in, leave processing for later.   Overnight stay, general anesthesia, hearing aids out for the surgery.  More IVs, I’m sure.  I’ll need a CT-Scan, an EKG, referrals, plus my doctor’s clearance for the surgery.   More busywork, because clearly I do not already have enough to do.

One of the few fringe benefits of this news is that it gives me an excuse to complain about the abomination that is health insurance in this country.  You might think I don’t have much to complain about, as I have Blue Cross/Blue Shield and almost everything I need is covered.   Of course those without insurance are in much worse shape, and of course there is no valid reason why anyone in this country who needs medical assistance should not have it.  Do I even need to go there?

That large, glaring problem aside, it is so absurdly clear that our whole system of referrals is designed to minimize the expenditures of insurance companies at the expense of patients.  All my doctors are at one institution, Loyola.  When my oncologist refers me to the ENT guy that information goes into my record, just as it does when the ENT guy orders a CT-Scan.  A doctor in your system said I had to have this, what more damn hell kind of referral do I need? I am contemplating unexpected surgery, struggling to manage all the tests and coordinate everything that needs to be done without completely sacrificing events I’ve looked forward to for months, so obviously there is nothing better I could do with my time than to sit on hold with my doctor’s office so I can tell them information that could all be conveyed electronically between medical personnel without any need for my participation.

Absurd as all of this may be, we are conditioned to do it because of course we don’t want to pay those bills.  I was reminded of this recently when I got a bill for well over $20000 and realized I had forgotten to call in the referral for my quarterly Zoladex injection.   I’ve been getting this injection every three months for a few years now and my primary care physician obviously approves of this or she would not have signed off on umpteen referrals.  Blue Cross/Blue Shield knows very well these injections are a regular part of my follow-up  treatment for breast cancer and they could easily confirm this, but they reject the claim and I get billed.   The primary concern here should be what is necessary for my treatment, not whether I remember to jump through the correct sequence of hoops, but a bill for $2500 is the kind of Gotcha! I can’t argue with, so I’m on the phone again.

The more I research this surgery, the more I understand I will not know what I am up against until it’s over.  Having placed myself in the hands of capable surgeons and anesthesiologists a few times too many, I don’t fret about the surgery itself.   I find the best way to go into these things is to collaborate as much as possible with the people who are kindly trying to save my sorry ass.  There inevitably will be some negotiations over hearing aids, more daunting this time because my surgery will be above my neck and involve my right ear.  Put that together with the likelihood of some facial paralysis on my right side and you have the makings of a communication fiasco, but I’ll find a way to make my needs known even if I have to wink in Morse code.

Speaking of winking or the inability to do same, my biggest concern about recovery is that some people find themselves unable to close the eye on the surgery side for some time after the operation.  I am not so nervous about drooping or talking funny as I am about having my vision interfered with, particularly with a hearing disadvantage.  I am also upset that I’ll have to keep the sun off my scar, as I’ve been so looking forward to swimming as one of the few fringe benefits of summer.  There are just so many variables, so many things that are undetermined until I am on the other side of this surgery, but at least there will be vicodin.

Some folks near and dear to me expressed surprise that I would delay this extravaganza, but I am bound and determined to have that Leonard Cohen show under my belt before I go under the knife.  Lenny and I, we have both taken a few bumps and bruises along the path to enlightenment, but we still keep seeking and singing because the alternative is unthinkable.  If by some chance I have cancer, I’ve been there and done that and I’m still here disturbing the shit five years later.  I could theoretically have cancer and a Leonard Cohen show or cancer and no Leonard Cohen show, so which of those sounds better?  Duh.

I may not be here much or I may feel the need to post more than usual, but either way I’m thinking I’ll be fine.  The sweet selfishness of this space dictates that it will be here if I need it and will wait patiently if I’m out of commission, but I always scuttle back to my lair because it feels like home.  Feel free to send good thoughts, because I’ll need a few.  If you have an irresistible compulsion to send chocolate I won’t object, but I think I need the good vibes more.  The best thing about having thus far survived breast cancer and chemo is that almost everything else seems like a walk in the park by comparison.  I may be as patched-up as my daughter’s teddy bear, with odd seams and depressions everywhere you look, but we both persevere, because we have a purpose.

To All My Frieeeends

Back in the days before Mickey Rourke’s face got really scary he made a great movie called Barfly, directed by Barbet Schroeder.  My favorite scene is the one where Henry Chinaski (standing in for Charles Bukowski) buys round after round of drinks for his friends:

I would like to do the same, but my friends are all spread out and it’s hard to get them in one place.  I have fantasies of throwing a big party and flying them in from all over the world for a gathering like the one in the movie, in which case I can only hope I have two men fighting over me like Henry did the ladies.  I am feeling even more celebratory than usual this year, because my friends have been up to all kinds of creative mischief.  Everywhere I look, they are blogging, publishing books and spooksmodeling, recording, touring, making videos, and just generally doing all kinds of cool stuff.  Needless to say, I am impressed, inspired and delighted to be hooked up with such a bunch of groovy go-getters.  Since for now we cannot all raise a glass together, this post will have to do and will at least not leave us indisposed and toothless in the morning.  Feel free to get smashed and wake up in a stranger’s bed tomorrow morning if it puts you in the spirit, but don’t tell your wife or dentist it was my idea.


First and arguably foremost simply because there are votes involved, Nora O’Sullivan is one of thirteen contestants vying to be Fangoria’s 2010 Spooksmodel.  She will be flying to Los Angeles for their big Weekend of Horrors from April 17-19, so if you helped vote her there on my behest, I thank you.  But we aren’t quite done, because now she’s in it for the win.   I need you to CLICKY HERE and cast your vote, which in this case requires you to register with your email address.  After that, they will send you an email, you confirm, and you’re all done.  If you want to be extra-kind, you can send the link on to a few friends and ask them to do the same.  Voting ends at midnight Friday April 17, so don’t wait forever.

You can see from the pic that Nora is lovely and vivacious, but what you cannot see is that she is a talented makeup artist, smart and friendly and industrious as all get out.  Once upon a time I was afraid of teenagers, but thanks to Nora and a few others of her ilk, I am cured.  I would like to see her win this contest, because so many teenagers are out there huffing, tipping cows and getting pregnant while this fine, upstanding citizen who is active in her local zombie community goes unrewarded.   End this madness with your vote and win my eternal gratitude.  Thanks!!

Nora isn’t the only O’Sullivan who’s been busy, though, as her dad Joe was recently published in the Spring 2009 issue of Farmhouse Magazine.  His story, My Day With Antonia, not only appears on the Farmhouse Web site, but also appears in the actual print publication.  I’ve known Joe for about 25 years, but not until he started blogging at the Sprawling Ramshackle Compound did I discover what a damn fine writer he is.   Joe also had a (very) short story published on Six Sentences.  Called Every Rose’s Thorn, it actually garnered more comments and ratings than Neil LaBute’s submission!  It is good to have friends, no doubt about it, and Joe gathers them more effortlessly than anyone I’ve ever known.  I’m intrigued to see what else he’ll come up with, as he keeps surprising me.


Another friend of mine currently experiencing a creative renaissance is the lovely and talented Marianne S., who not only posts something on her blog Diarrhea Island EVERY SINGLE FLIPPING DAY and has been doing so for over a year, but also has recorded two musical numbers (one original and one Led Zep cover) and made YouTube videos for them.  All of this while parenting not one but THREE kids ranging from six to seventeen.   Her secret weapons are naps, caffeine, ruthless efficiency, and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope.  No, not that last one.

Marianne’s first recording and video was If I Were Zooey Deschanel, a tuneful and gigglesome lo-fi macbook recording.  It impressed me quite a bit that my friend had written a song, recorded it, and made a video.  iMovie may be relatively intuitive to use, but GarageBand is a bitch and I miserably failed when I tried to use it for a class assignment.  Hats off to Marianne, because she not only managed to accomplish all these things, but she did them well enough that I looked forward to seeing what frothy creative efforts she might whip up next.  I done embedded it already, but if you missed it, by all means do click on the link above.

A little-known fact is that if you do a YouTube search for “marianne fish,” your top result will be this obscure gem:

Marianne’s rousing, Kinks-driven take on “Gimme That Fish” followed close on the heels of “Zooey Deschanel,” so close that I was shocked–shocked, I tell you–when soon after she released an mp3 cover of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.”  This techno version featured layered vocals that sounded like they took a lot of work to create.  I was impressed enough at this point, but then M followed right up with a video that knocked my socks off.  Now my little tootsies are cold, and it is all her fault, but I will forgive her because this is officially funny stuff:

Moving down the Pacific coastline a few miles, we find my old friend Jon Ginoli has been busy as well.  He has been talking about his book for years and it is finally out!  Called Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division, it is currently available from Amazon at a discounted price of $11.53 and is worth every penny.


Jon has referred to Deflowered as being probably the only book he will ever write.  He may or may not be correct about that, but for sure he is the only one who could tell this story.   I will have more to say about this book later, but I have enjoyed not only learning more about the bits I missed (including more than a few naughty ones), but also being able to line up Jon’s experiences with what I was doing at a given time.  Since in my case this involved school, work, and baby, the split-screen would show vastly different experiences on either side.  Vive la difference, I say, because Jon has some very entertaining stories to tell.

The quality I have always admired most about Jon is the DIY-drive and tenacity that not only gestated and built Pansy Division to a point where they had both the chops and reputation to tour with Green Day, but also has kept the band alive through many changes and upheavals.   Continuing in this vein, he has quit his job of ten years and embarked on a massive book tour, which continues through May and beyond.  Please go see him and buy a few books, and if you mention you heard about about his presentation here at Linkadelica, he might feel obligated to buy me lunch!  Yee-haw!!

If by some chance you are in the Chicago area, Jon will be here this week and has three separate appearances scheduled.  The first will be tomorrow, Tuesday April 7, at Homolatte.  Homolatte is a Big Chicks/Tweet, at 5024 N. Sheridan, and admission is free!  They do pass the hat for the performers, so I suggest you do throw in a few bucks.  This self-described bi-monthly all-ages queer music and spoken-word series recently was given accolades as one of Chicago’s Best by the Chicago Reader, so I’m guessing they’ll be packed for Jon.  If you want to see him play an acoustic set as well as reading from the book, this is probably the appearance you should attend.  Wednesday April 8 he’ll be at Quimby’s, a venue I am proud to say I suggested and at which I’ll be in attendance.  I defy anyone to walk out of that place without spending money.  For those who will be in or around Lincoln Park that day, Jon also reads at Borders at 2817 N. Clark Street on Thursday April 9.

That’s not all for Jon, who also has a new Pansy Division album out called That’s So Gay.  It’s their first in six years and I would have heard it by now if it was on eMusic.  I have high hopes, as thus far the band has just kept getting better as they’ve matured.  Pansy Division are also rumored to be touring later this year, although dates have yet to be announced.

I could not in all fairness refer to Amy Krouse Rosenthal as my friend, but I would be amiss if I didn’t say a few words here about her book tour and The Beckoning of Lovely.  Most of what you need to know can be found on this site, which will be relaunched soon with a thematic look and feel.  The short version of a long story is that Amy wants to make a feature film about all things lovely and toward that end has solicited several hundred submissions and enlisted a few hundred strangers to collaborate on the final product.  See, I told you it was hard to explain.  Amy has been traveling around the country making appearances on her book tour and also doing official Beckoning of Lovely gatherings, some of which may appear in the film.  She is also looking for opening acts, although I don’t know which dates have already been filled.  The Chicago Beckoning of Lovely event is scheduled for Saturday May 15 from 5:00 to 6:00 PM, although the location has yet to be announced.

I am honored to be working on the Beckoning of Lovely project, as I was one of eleven people chosen to serve on the Chicago-Based Panel of Supremely Excellent Judges.  Although my actual judging duties are over, I will be helping to document the above event and at least one other Chicago-area appearance.  I am also looking forward to more loveliness later this year, about which I shall remain mum for the time being.  I also participated in Simultaneous Mass Existence and would like to do more things of this nature, so we’ll see what comes of that.

I don’t know what else you should expect from me this year, but I do have a few surprises up my sleeve.  One of the best things about having busy friends is that it challenges and inspires me to get off my duff and do things, although I don’t think I’ll be recording any music soon.  I feel energized that all these good things are happening to my friends in the year 2009, a year in which I shall turn 50 on 09-09-1959 and on which my only offspring turns 09.  You can expect me to launch a small but amusing project of my own on my birthday, but in the meantime I’ll keep beckoning the lovely, blogging here and posting at my tumblelog, Herr Machine, and hawking the usual fab assortment of books and t-shirts in my eBay store.

One of the benefits of getting older is that I can now appreciate exactly how lucky I am to have such a creative and productive group of friends.  Many of us have been late bloomers or are currently experiencing a creative renaissance of some sort, which is the most life-affirming way I know to respond to the inevitability of that final taxi for which there can only be one destination.  They should hurry up and find a way to reverse the aging process so we can all just keep getting better until we are so awesome it is sick, because, well, because it would be far preferable to the alternative.  I never cease to be amazed at the things my friends and I are capable of accomplishing, thank goodness.  I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I cannot wait to find out what comes next.  I hereby raise my glass to all my friends, with an extra shot for Marianne S. on her birthday.

He’s Coming Now, He’s Coming to Reward Us
March 3, 2009, 4:30 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Internet Communities, Music, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

I still have a large stack of Beckoning of Lovely submissions to review today and don’t have as much time as I’d like to make this pretty, but I did want to share that four new Leonard Cohen dates were added yesterday including a second one for Chicago on May 6.  For the current list of dates and on-sale information, here’s the updated tour page.  This is just the public information, so if you want to know about fan presales and such, you’ll have to figure it out the same way I did.

I had quite an interesting day yesterday, with reverberations continuing into today.   I actually considered taking down yesterday’s post because I did not want to be misperceived as being angry or disrespectful towards LC, a man I respect and admire deeply.  Some folks on the LC fan forum perceived me as hostile because I dared to use the word “bullshit,” but I reiterated numerous times that I think le eau d’merde is emanating mostly from the Ticketmaster kiosk.  Folks accept and even endorse their practices because they are the status quo, but when I step in bullshit, I don’t whistle, look at the sky, and pretend I’m smelling roses.  I thought it sucked that there seemed to be no tickets left by the public sale date and I spoke up and said so just because I cared about it.  If I didn’t care about it, I sure wouldn’t have risked exposing myself to abuse and personal attacks from people who don’t know me.

I don’t feel entitled and I’m sure I won’t have a front-row seat for this show, because I can’t afford it.  But at least I now feel like I have a reasonable chance of going.  We have a good pair of binoculars, so I’m prepared.  I would like to thank everyone on the LC fan forum who has given me hints as to how to get my tickets, particularly the person who was kind enough to send me a private message when the new dates were announced.  I’ve got my monkey, but someone else will have to bring the plywood violin.

Take This Waltz and Shove It
March 2, 2009, 6:22 pm
Filed under: Chicago, Music, Uncategorized

I’ve been waiting since last year for Leonard Cohen to announce dates for his U.S. tour, checking his site periodically.  As will sometimes happen, I got very busy and missed the fan presale.  It was actually quite frustrating because I initially found misleading information and thought I HADN’T missed it, but I’ll spare you that rant.  Chew on this: as of Friday February 27, there were no less than six presales for this show listed on Ticketmaster.  In addition to the fan sale, there were two separate presales for American Express cardholders, one of which was for premium seating.  There was also a venue presale, the need for which escapes me.  I had the passwords for the fan and venue presales, but since both of them had apparently ended, there were no tickets to be had for yours truly.

Just out of curiosity, I then checked the online brokers.  Lots of tickets there, going for hundreds and even thousands of dollars.  Check.  Tickets had not yet gone on sale to the public, but the brokers were already cashing in.  Mind you, at that time TicketsNow were not selling tickets for this show.   Tickets Now is a subsidiary of Ticketmaster that sells seats at inflated prices (in other words an online broker), and they had already been called out for that sort of thing earlier this year.  At this point I was skeptical as to what would be left for the public and disgusted with the whole moneygrubbing process, but I had some hopes left for today.

Turns out my skepticism was justified, as there was not a single ticket to be had when I checked at 10:05 this morning.  Not only that, but TicketsNow (i.e. Ticketmaster) was now selling scads of them.  Not for one moment do I blame this on LC, who was robbed.  If anything, I felt it was an honor to contribute what I could to help him restabilize his finances, what with all he has given me.  I am pointing fingers here at Ticketmaster, American Express, and the Chicago Theatre, all of whom appear to be implicit in a scam to rip off fans and make as much money as they can possibly stuff into their pockets.

Just to be clear, I think fan presales are a wonderful thing.  It’s the other fifty bazillion presales I object to, rightfully so.

And just in case you are wondering, TicketsNow currently has 259 tickets available, ranging from $140 to $1177.

There have been vague rumors of a second show, but at this point I am so disgusted with the whole mess that I no longer seem to care.  This whole enterprise has been so crass that I am tempted to just hang on to my precious memory of the 1992 show at the Park West, but I might change my mind.  All I know is that I waited, I looked forward, I searched, and I’m now empty-handed.  Here I sit, broken-hearted.  You must know the rest of that rhyme, because you read it on the bathroom wall.

Halloween is Wasted on the Young
October 28, 2008, 3:36 am
Filed under: Chicago, Pop Culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

When I first read about The Big Wicked Online Pageant on the Sprawling Ramshackle Compound, I thought for a minute that I might just be able to find an old Halloween photo of mine somewhere in the stacks of albums and boxes of loose photos in my mother’s closet in Peoria.  Then I was hit with the awful truth, that my childhood Halloweens never quite lived up to my expectations.  On the plus side were the costumes, spooky decorations and obscene overconsumption of candy, but the two things that kept my Halloweens from achieving Dionysian transcendence were the sweaty plastic Ben Cooper masks that obstructed both my breathing and my peripheral vision (great for crossing streets in the dark!), and the well-intended but nonetheless overbearing presence of my mother.  An awkward adolescent with bad hearing and no friends, I missed out on the stage where kids are old enough to trick or treat in groups without escorts.  Instead, I just stole my little brother’s hard-earned Halloween candy and gained weight.

My delayed adolescence finally arrived at 25, when I left my first husband and started going out.  The peak of it occurred between 1985 and 1987 before I hooked up with my current partner, but for those first few years before I went back to school in 1990, we remained to some degree creatures of the night with relatively undemanding jobs and few other responsibilities.  My best friend moved to Chicago in 1986 and sometimes joined in the fun, as she did on Halloween of 1988:

That’s Marianne on the left, next to the Union Jack.  I was extremely jealous of her apron, which said “Be nice to me, I had a hard day.”  We called ourselves The Dead Housewives of Downer’s Grove, and we fully embraced our zombie identities that night at Club 950.  As much as I may have resented being by far the mumsier dead housewife, I threw myself into that performance with the zeal of an undead method actor.  Please note that we prefigured the zombie flash mobs by many years and should hence be worshipped as the highly advanced trendsetters we were.

As you may have guessed, this was no ordinary Sunday night at Club 950, the place where everybody knew my name.  October 30, 1988 was the club’s annual Halloween costume contest, and we aimed to win.  Accordingly, we spent the entire day before that combing thrift stores and costume shops for our gear and makeup and orchestrating our schtick.  Marianne may very well have had the coolest zombie housewife apron ever in the world, but I had THE BABY, and I knew what to do with it.  Called to the stage for our moment in the spotlight, I dragged that baby by the feet and stared vacantly into space while Marianne swept away pitifully at nothing with her broom and the crowd cheered and applauded.

We remained zombies on our way back from the stage and for as long as possible, because we had become our characters.  We also totally won the contest, splitting the $50.00 prize.  The real triumph was not in the money, but in that frozen moment of the perfect Halloween, free from past encumbrances of plastic masks and maternal oppression.

I’m sure there was alcohol involved as well, because that was what I did at 950.  As the place where everybody knew my name, it was also the place where I sometimes got drinks on the house.  These freebies made me feel both inebriated and appreciated, even if I never did understand or share Noe’s fondness for that sickeningly sweet concoction of Japanese vodka and peach schnapps known as the Silk Panties.  My financial condition at the time was such that I could hardly refuse any non-beer offers of liquid largesse, and I could hardly risk offending those who had offered me such a warmly shambolic refuge when I stopped going to the Orbit Room because I didn’t want to run into my ex.

Given the occasion, I was probably still moderately toasted when my partner and I boarded the Red Line to head North to Rogers Park.  Still fully costumed and made up and probably a bit the worse for wear, I saw a little girl in hysterics at the macabre vision of yours truly in full zombie housewife mode.  I waved and nodded, trying to reassure her that I wouldn’t hurt her, but she just cried harder and clung to her mother.  All prizes aside, that was when I knew my costume really was a success.

Some 20-odd years later, Marianne lives in Seattle and we don’t get to see each other very often.  She has three kids, I have one, and we no longer possess the existential freedoms or the constitutions that we had as young women on the loose in the Chicago nightlife.  She has said more than once that she regrets not doing more of everything, but I cannot echo that sentiment because I went through a phase where I did do more.  I sometimes went out three nights a week in 1985 and 1986 and it was grand, but even by the time of the Club 950 Halloween party, I was nesting with my partner farther north and had cut back on my clubbing considerably.  It was the beginning of the end of an era that finally arrived in earnest when I went back to school in 1990.

Maybe it’s because I had the opportunity to be so immersed in the club world for a time, but I tend to be more grateful to have had those experiences than I am regretful of the ones I missed.  Many of those nights in the clubs blend together, but that whole night of winning the costume contest represented the fulfillment of a lifetime’s worth of Halloween fantasies and I could not imagine having smeared on that greasepaint with anyone other than Marianne.  We may not have had as great a quantity of experiences as she would have liked, but we shared some peak experiences and that is priceless.

I still have that robe hanging in a closet in my basement, and I’ll never part with it.  I guess I should explain it to my spouse and daughter so they can save it for posterity if I pass away, because otherwise they would be a bit confused as to how it fits into my fashion scheme of black and more black.  I don’t know if I’ll ever have a Halloween that fun again, although I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.  I would have bottled that night if I could have, but the next best thing is to have that moment captured in the picture, while our makeup was still fresh.