Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"Warp your mind, curve your spine and lose the war for the allies."

When I was in fifth grade I was stuck on this book called I, Trissyby Norma Fox Mazer. It's a fictional journal, told from the point of view of an adolscent girl and her new (manual, of course) typewriter.

My obsession probably stemmed from 1) my fascination with anything that explains the inner workings of the female mind, 2) its frank and harrowing description of what it is like to watch your parents separate, which, at that point in time, only my best friends' parents had done and so it had a perverse fascination for me and 3) its colorful use of obscenities.

Also, I think the typography appealed to me, appearing as it did like poorly typewritten pages, complete with typos and a creative use of ========+++++!!!!!!!@@@@@@@@$$$$$$$$#########!!!!!!!!!!s.

So, of course, I was inspired to use our own manual typewriter to empty my head and write whatever the f*** I wanted with it, even about dark, personal issues and other b***s***. And that urge has never gone away.

Once my brother Henrik was in my room (this would have put him in ninth grade) and saw one of my "articles" replete with Carlin's Seven Words You Can't Say On Television (oh, and, yeah, Denny had a copy of that albumand I had been listening to it - I didn't understand it, but I listened to it) and said to me in that voice (if you've seen the show, you know the voice) "I don't want to see this ever again."

You know, it's better than that - I was in the middle of asking him a question, as part of this comedy routine I was recording on a cassette player when he gave me that little reprimand. That's why I remember it so well, I have it on tape.

I was ten. I wasn't quick enough to say, "Stay away from my desk, you never have to see it again."

I got a very kind email today from Jennifer D. at Akron City Hospital today about the performance there on Oct. 6. She had an evaluation for me, and the thing that struck me the most were the comments about language. I have gone back and forth about certain words I use in the show, but in spirit of realism (i.e.: what really happened) there are some I don't change.

However, on that very hot afternoon - 80+ degrees in the room, and the a/c was broken - I could feel a discernable chill when I uttered the "c" word. And from that point on I started censoring some of the more colorful language. Not that my show is foul, you understand, but you know, some people would rather you say "poo" or nothing at all.

The radio version has been entirely bowdlerized, but at least I wasn't doing it on the fly.

I don't know. The show went over well, most respondents got something out of it, and our hosts were excellent. And I know these comments are just going to piss all of you off.

... So I'll include all of them.

Difficult to follow. Boring.
All the programs were excellent.
Good but way too long!
David Hansen too long - lost my interest.
David - amazing!
"I Hate This" - Remarkable.
Good play but too long.
I did not appreciate the use of certain cuss words beginning with the letter "C"! It was not necessary!
Mr. Hansen, excellent - heartfelt.
Play was good but dragged a little too long.
David Hansen - bring him back - others need to see!!
The last guy did a great job - could have done without the swearing, esp the 3 times he used God's name in vain.
Thank you (David Hansen) for teaching us more.
Suggestions: Like uplifting things better than sad at the end of program.

Seriously, that was the last comment. Let's keep it light.

Remember, these are nurses. Go nuts, people.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Origins of a Tradition

We have been celebrating the Day of the Dead in our own little way since 2001. It wasn't only for Calvin, though we would not have thought of it without him, but that whole year was a season of death, and we wanted some way to create light where there seemed to be only darkness.

We use the mantle of our fireplace and decorate it in a pseudo-traditional style, with a lot of our own stuff thrown in. I get a new, little skeleton figure each year, we cut crepe paper, light candles, offer food, water and salt - and Halloween candy. And then put at least one thing on the "altar" for everyone who touched us who died since the previous October.

Zelda is becoming aware of things, and we have been pretty open with her about death (I hope not too much) and in anticipation of this season we got a great book out of the library called Day of the Deadby Tony Johnston and Jeanette Winter. Sweet book, lovely pictures, I get to speak in Spanish a little.

UPDATE: Just wanted to get this article about a new Day of the Dead parade on the page itself so no one misses it. Thanks for the tip, Brian!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

And speaking of music ...

I hate it when stuff like this happens. Okay, so it's Friday morning early, and we're watching The Wiggles, (quote of the day; "Of course they're the biggest moneymakers in Australia, they don't spend anything on their shows." - TKT) and they're doing the "Fruit Salad" song again. Maybe for the second time this episode, it's hard to remember.

There's this guy in a chef's hat who isn't a Wiggle, and I say, "Hey, that looks like the drummer from Crowded House." Couldn't remember his name, but I did this free-association, sure CH is from New Zealand, and the drummer, as I recalled, was American, anyway, but why wouldn't he have worked with the Wiggles? Besides, it looked like him. And he was always such a clown.

My ex-wife and I were big CH fans. Saw them at least three times, loved to get down in front. Shame about Tim joining the band near the end but Neil Finn was just a genius, a really great songwriter and I love his voice. And the drummer was just your basic cut-up, like so many drummers are. But he was funny, and a great drummer.

So I look up his name, Paul Hester, of course it was.

And I Google him and find out a couple of things in succession, and very quickly, too.

That was him in the video. Paul played drums on the Wiggles album Toot Toot and appeared occasionally on the show as "Chef Paul".

Then I found out he died in March. He was 46.

Then I found out what happened was he set out one morning with his dogs and hung himself in the park. He is survived by two daughters, aged 8 and 10.

It's one of those facts I just can't pinpoint an emotion for. Others might get angry at him for abandoning two kids like that, all I can think of is how I cannot fathom the kind of torment someone must be going through to do that.

And then there's the music. This morning I was channel flipping and stopped at VH1 Classic.

Everyone in the house is ill, by the way. I haven't watched so much tube in five years.

Anyway, the video was Into Temptation from Temple of Low Men. One of my favorites - and I didn't even know there was a video for it. There he is, happy, rubbery face.

It's like when Spalding Gray died. Not the most important person in my life, to be sure, and yet, when that much desperation creeps into my life at the edges, I am truly at a loss.

We put our "Day of the Dead" altar together next week. There are too many people to remember on it this year.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Dynamite & Pizzazz

What we listened to: 1976 - 1979

My parents are visiting Britain this week, and I gave them a mix-CD for Henrik. A snapshot of life listening to G-98 and WMMS in the mid-to-late seventies.

It wasn't until I passed the disc off (to Dad - they will be visiting Hansens UK this week) that I realized the first song is London Town and the last is Cleveland Rocks, like that is supposed to be touching or something. Except it kind of is.

Looking at my children, I wonder what their memories of childhood will eventually be. I remember Watergate and the Bicentennial ... and really upsetting stuff like the "Hey You!" ad from Saturday Night Live (as well as all of those disturbing sketches with naked people in bed together - I never found them funny, only kind of sad) and the deep, troubling issues found in The Pina Colada Song which were parsed only too-well on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Growing up in a house of shame ("Don't do that - it's childish.") I dismissed my single-digit years almost as soon as I was through with them and never looked back. Ditto my teens years, my early-twenties, they were all mistakes. Not simply childhood embarrassments to be laughed at and shrugged off, but errors. I wasn't a child right.

Toni helped me get over a lot of this. And shortly before Calvin was born, I began revisiting these days with a vengeance. And then he died, and I was cut adrift. I had dreams, waking and otherwise. And in spite of the sorrow, I was grateful for that gift, another gift from him.

I wish I had at least one child with me I could say was born before 9/11, but I don't. They will both grow up knowing the Twin Towers were destroyed before they were even conceived. I don't know if that will be relevant to them (Kennedy was dead five years before I was born, b.f.d. and I wish people would stop talking about it) but it is to me.

Dynamite & Pizzazz

01. London Town - Paul McCartney & Wings; London Town
I can smell the petrol fumes.

02. Mr. Blue Sky - Electric Light Orchestra; Out of the Blue
Dorky Beatles knock-off, rendered retro cool thanks to Volkswagon.

03. Take A Chance On Me - ABBA; The Album
Their music always made me feel so mature.

04. Sir Duke - Stevie Wonder; Songs in the Key of Life
On one of the audio channels on our flight to London in '77. Who is 'Daisy Miller'?

05. Lonely Boy - Andrew Gold; What's Wrong With This Picture?
Yes, I actually like this song.

06. Heart Of Glass - Blondie; Parallel Lines
She said ass.

07. Pop Muzik - M; New York-London-Paris-Munich
One of those "it needs that wobbly 45 sound" tunes.

08. Just What I Needed - The Cars; The Cars
First Mom's-not-home party at the Curry's. How about a whiskey and TAB?

09. Is She Really Going Out With Him? - Joe Jackson; Look Sharp!
Riding our bikes on the wrong side of town.

10. Somebody To Love - Queen; A Day at the Races
No one sings like Freddie. Except George.

11. Doubleback Alley - The Rutles; The Rutles
Why the hell wasn't Neil Innes part of creating Spamalot?

12. Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty; City to City
Henrik thought this had to do with Sherlock Holmes. Makes me think of Captain America for some reason.

13. Black Cow - Steely Dan; Aja
This isn't about a rootbeer float?

14. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot; SummerTime Dream
I learned my Great Lakes from this ... and from Paddle to the Sea.

15. Year of the Cat - Al Stewart; Year of the Cat
Claugue Pool.

16. The Things We Do For Love - 10cc; Deceptive Bends
Backyard at the Hammonds.

17. Cleveland Rocks - Ian Hunter; You're Never Alone With a Schizophrenic
"Wash up, punch out, come back and wrap things up." Thanks, Kid.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

New Look

Yeah, now mine looks like everyone else's. I was just never happy with the "scribe" thing, I always thought that was too precious. Maybe I'll toodle with it some more.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I Passed - Again!

Got my grades back from the Metro Health performances. I love these evaluations, they're fun. They're mostly yes-or-no questions, which don't give you much to work with, unless the question is interesting.

"Were the objectives met?" 36-yes 0-no


"Will the information presented alter my performance?" 35-yes 1-no

(That doesn't make me think the one dissenter is arrogant, maybe they know what they're doing - it's the fact that the other 35 attendants found something in my show that they do wrong. Wow.)

This one threw me, though:
"Did the speaker show bias during presentation?" 7-yes 27-no

(Woo! What does THAT mean? And two people didn't answer!)

If it's of any interest to those involved - after doing the show more or less in the dark last May, all participants said "the room was conducive to learning." Way to go, Emeri! Makes a big difference when you can see me.

One of the best Grand Rounds.
Excellent presentation.
Very worthwhile presentation.
Touching, but not really helpful to us.

... Hmn. Maybe we should be worried about that one dissenter ...

I HATE THIS radio drama photos now posted at the I HATE THIS Photo Gallery.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Non-Linear Script, Non-Linear Editing

The past two days Dave, Al and I have been stringing together the radio play. I can't remember when I first heard the term "non-linear editing" but I do remeber I couldn't comprehend it. That was maybe two decades ago, like when I started working at the green radio station at school.

I was truly surprised at how much we were able to accomplish in two, two hour sessions. Wednesday we (mostly) took all of the audio we had recorded with the actors in August, which were entirely out of order, and put them in order. That included remembering which takes we liked and which we didn't. Thank God Dave took very good notes, because I had no idea.

At the end of that session, I was also struck at how much I thought the show was going to sound ... not good. And it was 1 hour and one minute long - that was before adding music and sound effects. We need a 00:58.30 program, period.

Yesterday we finished stringing the dialog together, and added music and available sound effects (those already part of the show - we need to create a dozen or more new ones) and Al and I took a lot of the more obvious pauses out of mine and Brian's delivery. Brian is the "voice of the slides", basically, announcing the beginning of each scene.

By the time we were done with that rough edit the show was - one hour and two minutes! We had added an awful lot of time with the music, but apparently we had also taken out a lot of dead air. That was a thrilling relief. There's still a lot of work, but I think we have nowhere to go but down - chronologically speaking.

Target airing is the day after Thanksgiving, at noon. It will be a "Very Special" episode of Around Noon, which would have been a re-run on that day, anyway. We have a lot of work to do before then, but I like to think the hardest part is done.

I will need to cut certain passages, and going over the rough version there are a few places I want to re-record entirely, but only me, not any of the other actors. Anyone who has any suggestions for cuts is welcome to make them.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Google Game

My name:

Where I was born:

Where I live now:

My eldest child's name:

The name of my first pet:

My favorite playwright:

My favorite food:

My favorite drink:

My favorite song:

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Double Play

Yesterday was a first for me. Not only was I performing my one-man show at MetroHealth, but The Vampyres opened at CPT. Two plays in one day. Neat.

It was a good performance. I still love to tell the story. I messed up a surprising number of words, and I can't account for that. It was a very supportive crowd. I think I was just getting ahead of myself. One reassuring constant is my stage manager Kelly, who knows the show very well and can cope with almost anything. Today's performance and yesterday's were flawless on her end.

It didn't hurt that since May, MetroHealth's tech guy, Emeri, has been on the case. Last time there was no front lighting, now there was, and how. And they rewired the PowerPoint and sound so Kelly could run it facing the stage, instead of sitting on it. Yay, Emeri!

As the final moments came, I wondered how I was doing (just another sign I was rusty, I shouldn't have been thinking about that then.) The proof came in the Q&A we held with the attendees. Nurses asking "how can we not be Nurse Evil?" and doctors asking "what can we do for the other family members of bereaved parents?" They wanted to know. They were engaged in the subject. Coping with parents with a loss was important to them.

Catherine and Steve were there. It was so nice to meet them in person, finally. I was reminded, when I introduced them to Kristen F. (who, along with her husband, Dr. Phil, was instrumental in getting me this performance) what a short time it has been for them since they lost Alex.

In the play, I re-enact a part of our memorial service for Calvin. It took place in late May, 2001. Alex was born im May, 2005. At the service, held two months after Calvin was born, I mention "how long" it had been since Calvin's death. Two months. So long. It's true.

Today was very different. The performance at Akron City Hospital was much more technically correct. But no one laughed, at least not out loud, not once. I can usually tell what kind of audience reaction I am to expect by the time I say, "I guess the only way I can express my feelings is through laundry." Nothing. It was like Minnesota.

I don't believe there was a single man in the room, it was a conference of nurses, and by the time I describe my wife's former boss with the "c" word I thought I was skating on thin ice. I couldn't blame them, though. The air conditioning had gone (I can't believe I did the show in my sweater, anyway) and they had been there all day.

We did have a nice, brief talkback at the end, and that went a long way to show I was just missing something. A woman sitting near the front simply thanked me for a wonderful show. She was quiet, and her eyes were red. Maybe I should remember some people can't find this amusing at all. And that that is their right.

My contact, Jennifer D. was extremely wonderful throughout, and took very good care of Kelly and I. And I have to admit, again, I was truly enjoying the experience of living it all again. Living it is remembering, never forgetting. I surprised myself during the "Memorial Service." It has been so long since he died. So long. It will never end.

I miss you, boy.

UPDATE: Just read Catherine's "review" of the show (I call it a review, it's so much more than that.) And I don't know what to say. Toni was reading over my shoulder and said, "that's why you do that." And so it is. Thanks again, Catherine. I am so glad you two came.

Monday, October 03, 2005

What Am I Doing Here?

Okay, I am going to take a deep breath, and try to get this out in the appropriate way. Not sure if it makes any difference, I am not sure who still reads this blog.

It has been a humbling year. Maybe that doesn't make any sense. Personally, things are great. The kids are big and healthy. There were lots of children in the yard this summer, neighborhood kids and friends. So much to be grateful for, all the pain faded into the general background of our lives.

Professionally, again, who could complain? The summer spent on-stage in the repertory company of Great Lakes Theater Festival. Things are swimming for the residency program. My "new" play The Vampyres did very well at Big Box and has a short run beginning this week. And then there are all those appearances as "Mr. Shakespeare" for GLTF, on the marquee on Euclid, and now, on the cover of NO Live because GLTF won their "Award of Achievement."

And what about I Hate This? A dizzying performance last May, within forty-eight hours of Orson's birth - and three shows this week alone: Wednesday and Friday at MetroHealth, and Thursday at Akron City Hospital.

But after two years, I finally find myself in the place where I am questioning my continuing to perform it. Does it still mean as much as it did - to me? Is the WCPN version going to sound all right? Is it a story I have told too many times, at least like this? There are so many ways to remember Calvin, has this one lost its importance to me?

To put it another way, has I Hate This become a commodity? Or a party trick?

The sad fact is, I wanted this show to get the nod from NO Live, to get a nomination. It got great recognition in New York, it's an important show. I can't take anything away from those who did get recognized - especially Sarah Morton, whose 4 Minutes To Happy is another deeply personal show about an all-too little discussed issue. Not to mention the fact that Sarah is a dizzyingly talented writer of whom I have always been in awe. And a uniquely stunning performer.

And so the Fates said, oh, I get it. You just want your picture in the magazine. NY Times not good enough for you, Sherrod Brown not good enough for you, you need some more validation, you want to be in a magazine now, too. Well that's fine, here, put on this silly costume, we'll put you on the cover of the magazine, if that's all you want.


There is a song. It is my song, mine and Calvin's. I first heard it while receiving massotherapy, in April, 2001. It's on one of those "world music" compilations you find at Starbucks. I won't say what it is.

I have listened to it, I think, a dozen times in the past four and a half years. I can't hear it without going back, without being there, in that imaginary summer. This morning while I was in the bathroom there was a traffic report, and, well, it wasn't that song being played under it, but it must have been that artist, from another album. Close, but not it. I sat there on the toilet and closed my eyes. Something new. Something different. I won't call it a "sign" - but if I can imagine "fates" messing me around one way, I am entitled to imagine this.

And then I received an email, seemingly out of nowhere, from someone I met once a long time ago. Not just a long time ago, but then. She brought a young man from Akron to audition for Bad Epitaph's The Alchemist. He got cast, by the way, he was a very talented young man. The auditions were about a week before we learned Calvin had died.

This woman lost a child a few months later, in July. I did not know this. She came to see the Big Box perfs in February, 2003 - and dragged her husband along, who did not like theater, let alone theater that might, you know, hurt.

She wrote:

I too, found out in an ultrasound. That image is still and will forever be in my mind. I too, after finding out through autopsy that he had died many days before, stood there with my mouth open thinking "but I felt him move just the other day...he couldn't have been dead". I too spent many evenings crying in his 1/2 painted nursery. Right down to the divine flight of a sparrow (that's my fav too), I felt like for the first time somebody had a clue of what I was feeling.

So many of your experiences are frighteningly similar, so much so that after the show I became appalled that so many people go through such similar circumstances and nothing is done about it. I'm proud that you are not one of those people. I am so glad you are making change. Many of the most insensitive things I heard during that time were from medical professionals, and my closest family members. Exception given to Scholastic who kept telling me they wanted to send me free books to read to my son - a**holes. We got a lot of Gerber coupons too - a**holes. I couldn't be happier to see you perforating for medical professionals who deal with this kind of thing everyday, and yet, don't seem to notice that we are here.

I still to this day want to know why I needed to be ushered past the nursery filled with warm babies and happy mothers every time I wanted something to drink. Why did I have to wait in triage with mommies having contractions as I sat thinking I would never feel mine move again? Why do they press so hard for you to be medicated into delirium to give birth? What is with family forcing you to eat? And doctors giving you sleeping pills? And people wondering when you will get "over it"? Not him, it. Oh the many important and dumb questions we ask when our babies die. But they are important, and I couldn't see than being asked more eloquently than your show.

Yes. That's right. Thank you for that. I can feel sorry for myself and get wrapped up in all that other nonsense I get so neurotic about. But I have three shows to do this week, and those are important. I have medical health professionals to smack around. I have friends in grief who are coming to see the show for the first time. And I have friends who have lost children recently to remember while I am doing it.

So excuse me. I need to rehearse.