Monday, April 27, 2009


Today everyone at the Cracker Factory was forcibly given a pay cut. It applies to about two weeks of work days spread out over the three months of the summer. The good news is that I'll now have a bunch of Fridays to spend with the baby and take three-day weekend trips. The bad news is, well, that's pretty obvious, but it's not crippling, and Erika is gainfully employed, too.

The refrain for these times has been "At least you still have a job." I'm getting sick of hearing that, as they chop off more pieces of us, week by week. Now's probably the time for a good Karl Marx quote about worker exploitation, but that's too much effort to dig it up right now. I'm tired. We still have to sail on through this week, patching up all the holes they punched in our ship.

I'm pretty sick of talking about work, so I'll stop. What I'd really like to do right now is get a drink at the bar at the Chicago Yacht Club and stare drunkenly at the nautical maps on the walls. Or better yet, I'd like to get a drink with Charles Barkley. Can someone make that happen?

No? Well ... I'll settle for comics in bed. However, I don't have anything to read on the bus tomorrow. Maybe I should go with Karl Marx. Or the Marlene Dietrich story, which I actually own. Yes. I don't know. … It's time to go to bed.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Never relent (circa 2009)

Tomorrow begins Painful Writing Ordeal 3.0. This play has gone through more rough waters than the two before it, and still it has persevered. Reading back parts of the last revision, I've begun to develop an affection for it hitherto absent. In my own personal awards ceremony, I will give it a medal of honor.

I've also begun to realize that I'm soon going to toss another virgin play into the maw of the Theatrical Industrial Complex — a machine mostly indifferent to new work. It doesn't help I have a writing style the majority of its officers seem unmoved by.

I'll run this poor play through the gauntlet, and if it, too, does not win a full production by next fall, I will have to consider other options. Wearily I wince, knowing that means self-production. I see how others in my shoes have done it, and perhaps I will have to follow them. I'd rather just write these things and have someone else take care of it. But that someone may not be in existence.

All I can do at this moment is apply massive heat and pressure to the last draft until it is a finished piece. Though it's painful, I enjoy this process, and I honor that thing its creates. To me, that thing is unassailable.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Three things

1. The rough seas at work now are calm. And as I look out from a 23rd-floor perch at the great Lake Michigan, I'm filled again with a desire to steal away to our favorite vacation spot. I have some new schedule leeway, so getting there will be even easier this spring. … Two years ago we went for the very first time, and when we go next it will be Ella's first. I'd love to move there — sometime in the next 10 years but hopefully sooner.

2. I've become obsessed with the English Civil War. I think seeing "Cromwell" on TCM in Iowa earlier this month got me pumped up. I believe this was the first time in history (let me say "European history") a regent was overthrown for an alternative form of government. It certainly set a tone for the next three centuries.

3. I don't really have a third. Uh. Lunchtime's almost here: leftover BBQ seitan, roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes. I eat like a king (or a Rump Parliamentarian).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Job rap

What a week at the Cracker Factory. It started out mellow but harshed by Wednesday morning. Now, well, I guess it's almost over. We've had a lot of people leave here, a lot of organizational shock-waves and still no clear structure in the aftermath. I guess the same could be said for many (most?) businesses across the country. Dad just needs to keep his head in the game, though understandably it can be hard. Some of this static was externally applied, but two problems were of my own creation, based on snap decisions. I need to better question my choices before I make them. (How about that for job commitment?)

Seriously though, I do take pride in my work here. I know it's not my life's work, but I'd like to think I do it well and help those I'm in with. Recent circumstances have made it a bit harder for all of us to truly take as much time as we'd like on all of our tasks. I only hope that by year's end we'll get some kind of relief.

Of course, I don't ever have it as tough as Erika, who had to go on a field trip to Champaign this morning against the wishes of her boss. She'll get back by 10 p.m. tonight. I cannot wait for the weekend to start. I plan on spending it exclusively with my wife and baby. It makes me very happy to know we'll all be together at this time tomorrow. Hang in there, Woundup.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

His jumper's like a Pound Canto

Hmm … Scanning the headlines here. … Something to write about. … Well, I was reading from the newest issue of SI with Ella — one of my favorite things to do with her right now — and I was struck by the erudition of the Houston Rockets supporting cast, as evidenced in the feature about Ron Artest. Brent Barry used the word "idiosyncrasies" and Shane Battier made a James Joyce reference. Once in awhile you'll get one cultured nugget in a sports story, but two? This piece really raised the bar for years to come.

Of course, Ron Artest remains a bit of an idiot savant. Great player and maybe he's mellowing out, but he'll always be remembered for … well … you know.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Walking the line

When curling comes on the TV is it instantly time for another beer, no matter what time of day? Truly one of the toughest questions that confronts humankind. I'll say no, though it's tempting.

I've been indulging myself with the ol' converter box tonight, nearly overdosing on WTTW Prime big blocks of documentaries. Now I've turned to the 24-hour NBC winter sports channel and here the grand game is. There's one beer in the fridge. Ah, but it's too late. Erika, Ella and Suzi are getting in after 9 tomorrow morning from Florida. (Wait, the French play this game, too?) I don't think I should tempt fate. What I should do is TURN OFF THE TV.

Well, not just yet. SNL, Antiques Roadshow, Burt Wolf. Did you know Burt Wolf has a Cedar Rapids P.O. box? I think that's the most interesting thing I've learned all day. See, that's the line I walk: between sound mental health and television-induced temporary insanity. … It's probably time for bed. Yes.

P. Allen Smith's Garden Home.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Fade away

Wow, Ken Burns' "The Civil War" is nearly 20 years old. I remember very distinctly watching it with my family when I was 14 years old. They're showing it now on the new WTTW Prime on the converter box.

I loved "Baseball" and "Jazz," but I believe this documentary is Burns' best. And how good is Shelby Foote? When Foote says the bit about the North fighting with one hand behind its back? It feels tremendously anti-climactic at first, but he has such a understated way of conveying Southern resignation to their loss you feel bad for the Confederacy, if just for a few seconds.

Tonight is 1865 and the end of the war. Burns has footage of the remaining vets marching in the 1920s as old men. Seeing my own grandmother now at the end of her life at 95, the idea of "living memory" is a powerful one, as links to the distant past leave us. I feel for people in these positions, who daily lose those they could truly reminisce with, unable to fully convey what they've seen to a world that can never fully understand it.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Rebels are we, born to be free

Back in Chicago, the sun is shining, and though it's a bit busy at work, a great deal is now behind me and I'm breathing easy. The residency at the college last week went really well, and I was very happy with the staged reading they did. I'd like to bring some of those people to Chicago if anyone ever doubles down on this play. We'll see.

Erika has the week off, so she's enjoying it at home and out and about with Ella. Tomorrow, the two of them are flying down to Ft. Lauderdale with Suzie, whose mom has a time share there. Dad will be left home alone. … Sniff … I've got a great picture of Ella by my desk at the New Cracker Factory, and it really captures who she is. When I look at it now, I wish she were here. It's going to be tough to be apart for nearly five days. I expect they'll find me in my underwear covered in Thai takeout boxes and the hard ends of pierogies, the TV on, Okocim empties all about. It's not going to be pretty.

Well, if I rent "Bananas," I'll probably make it thru the week. Yes, that sounds like a plan. Let's make it happen.