Saturday, January 2, 2016

Erstwhile Dreams: Goals and Resolutions for 2016

Last year, I made separate lists of goals and resolutions. I adhered pretty well to the list of goals (I got a metric shit ton of writing completed, I did some traveling (somewhat), I expanded the Recorder, and I have kicked smoking out of my life) and didn't get through some of my other goals (I only traveled a bit, I definitely didn't get new headshots, and I cut auditions out of my life completely. And the less said about running 5K races, the better.)

My resolutions list surprised me - I actually did most of it while having forgotten that I'd written it. I saw more live shows last year than I've seen in a while, I attended the theatre regularly, I watched a bunch of TV shows I'd wanted to catch up on, and I did explore the city a bit more. Spending remains a problem, but I have plans to work with that.

This year, I figure to do the same thing and make lists of concrete goals to accomplish, as well as a list of resolutions that I want to try and forget making about midway through the year and just go about doing them anyway. If I look back at this time next year and see that I did half to 75% of my goals and resolutions, then I'll feel pretty good about life.


1. WRITING - I was mildly surprised to fall for writing as much as I did in the past year. I had always wanted to be associated with film work or theatre work, and was working really hard to convince myself that this was what I wanted without having any real understanding of what I was doing, why I was doing it, and why I cared so deeply about it. Essentially, I've been running on auto-pilot for several years, just going with the ride because it was a thing to do.

While at home over the holidays, I discovered my old High School Career Passbook. The passbook was a collection of my high school diploma, my resume from 2005 (how charming that my only job of record was "farmer"), and a list of honors, career goals, and my high school transcript. Related note - judging by my high school grades, I was basically a straight B student in everything but English, History, and the Arts. Coincidentally, I work in most of those fields now. Joy.

Anyway, there was also a letter in that passbook from my 18 year old self to prospective employers stating our career goals and desires. At the time, I envisioned myself as a filmmaker (oh ye of past hope and faith) and begin that letter with my intentions to make movies. I'd not forgotten that I wrote that, and it was a nostalgic blast from the past to read that.

What I had forgotten writing was the second paragraph. In that section, I talk about wanting to either become a writer (at the same time as a filmmaker) or in place of becoming a filmmaker. Clearly, 18 year old me knew more about what I wanted to do than I cared to admit, than I care to admit 10 years later, and than I care to admit moving forward. I've wanted to be a writer for a long time, and it's the thing that I've been doing for the past five to ten years without fail.

So, in a way, I'm living up to what I promised myself I'd be doing in high school. I'm not the overnight success that everyone dreams of becoming, but I'm pretty good at what I do, and I feel like with enough hard work and determination, I'll be able to look back in ten years and say that I chose my career path correctly.

How does that factor into my goals? Well, last year it was the first three goals I had listed, so this year, I'm consolidating:

- Finish three drafts of the book I wrote last fall. One draft is down, and after two, I'll feel comfortable passing it out to people. I figure to start sometime in mid-January on the 2nd draft, with the hope of working on a third draft by April. I'm legitimately excited about this book, and am excited to see where it goes from here.
- Finish two to three full length plays/screenplays. This was a goal from last year, and a good one, as I wrote 2.5 plays. I'm going to roll that half of a play over to this year and finish it up this month, and again, I'm very excited about it. I refuse to give up on the dreams of the theatre, and if that means writing plays that are seen/read by ten people, then so be it.
- Finish five to ten short plays/sketches/scripts. I blew this one out of the water last year, and intend to do so again. I'm going to be working on a one-act play this week for submission to a festival - that will be #1 of this list.
- Write a couple of short stories. I've gotten away from this goal in year's past, and would like to revisit this if for nothing else than as a writing exercise.
- Get paid for writing. An ambitious goal, but an unaccomplished goal from last year. SO - I'll roll with this one again. And if it's accomplished, then we'll add the work "again" to the equation and repeat.

2. Get a Play Performed/Read/Put On - I had one play performed last year as a Staged Reading ("The Woodsman"). I would like to ideally get two put on in such lights this year, but I'll start modestly and go with one. Again, a call back from last year that I'd like to stick with.

3. Get a Short Film Made - While I am aware that my dream of making movies is a pipe dream, I'd still like to try and get one made before I turn thirty, if only to be able to say I did it and move on from there. We'll see what happens, but I feel confident about doing this sometime this year.

I technically did help to get a short made last year - this video here. It was a work sketch, and it was a lot of fun to do. We'll probably do it again this year. However, I'd like to have a film made outside of my day job as well. Even if it's just a vanity project, I can live with that.

4. Travel More - I only did a bit of traveling, and this year, I feel as though I'm much more financially stable than I've been in the past. With that in mind, I'm gunning hard to travel to New Zealand in the fall. I've set aside a good amount of money so far, and am hoping to have that be my big vacation that I've been wanting to take for several years now. Here's hoping that everything goes well enough that I can make that trip and see another part of the world which I have never seen before. I'm also looking at traveling to Baltimore at some point to visit a friend who will be moving there soon. Minneapolis is in the works as well. Let the traveling begin!

5. Run Two to Three 5K marathons - I'm rolling this one over because I failed at it miserably. Time to get back on the road and get running again.

And now for...


Be a More Outgoing Friend - another roll-over from last year. There's no joy in being cooped up, and I hate always having it be "hey, we hang out at parties, we should hang out more!" and then it never happens. SO, I want to be a better friend. Let's hang out, guys.

See More Live Music - I'm seeing Muse in a couple of weeks, and that'll be great. If the Counting Crows come back, I want to see them again. There's other shows I'd like to see this year (Pearl Jam, etc) and I want to keep having that option.

Exercise More/Eat Better - a double resolution shared by probably everyone. I've got a gym membership that's just underutilized, and I want to be in prime shape (if I'm running races, then hell yes I need to get that fixed up) especially if I want to hike mountains in New Zealand in the fall. Time to go to the god damn gym!

Cook More - another rerun from last year.

Keep My Apartment Clean - a new one. Now that I live alone, it's on me to make sure that I'm not living in filth. That means clean dishes, a clean dresser, and no more piles of stuff I'm done working on. I resolve to be much cleaner in my own apartment.

Explore Parts of the City I've Always Wanted To But Never Have - Looking at you Logan Square/Andersonville/Wicker Park/Brookfield Zoo/Field Museum Special Exhibitions/Etc.

Get Out of the City More - I grow weary living in this concrete jungle. More day trips out of the city are in order. Anyone have any suggestions?

Date More - I've grown stagnant and kind of stopped trying to meet new people. This means that, well, I'm more and more the single guy. 2016 is essentially the last year of my 20's (woah) and I increasingly feel an internal urge to settle down. All of that will come in a later blog entry where I talk about conflicting issues of settling down/living free/not conforming to societal expectations/not living up to personal expectations. So more on that later.

For now, here's to 2015 being over and to the start of 2016.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Moving Forward: An Erstwhile Life Update

Meet "Jane".
I've been taking the last month to adjust to a new living situation. This might seem as a cop-out for not writing (which, to be fair, it is), but I've been readjusting a life that's completely shifted in several ways from what it was before. For example, it's now twice as far to my grocery store of choice as it was before, which makes for a longer and more comprehensive grocery trip when I take it. This is also impacted by the fact that I have no roommate to pick up groceries that are shared/communal...nor are there any shared/communal groceries. If I want food, I have to get it for myself.

Again, none of this is particularly new or life changing in and of itself, but there's a whole bunch of little things that have rocked my tiny world sphere:

- I have been living without Internet for the past month. This is in part because I'm still slightly recovering from six months of under-employment, but it's also a lifestyle choice. Without Internet, I've been forced to read more, to watch more of the hundreds of DVDs I own, and to go out and explore, live life, and discover new things about the area. That being said, when I want to check the Web beyond the means of my smartphone, I need to venture elsewhere. The good news is that there's an abundance of coffee shops nearby, and iced coffee is still relatively cheap.

- I'm removed from my usual haunts. This might not be such a bad thing - I don't really feel the need to go hang out at places like Murphy's or the Holiday Club like I used to, and literally removing myself from them being next door makes it far less likely for me to just hop over if I'm bored. This alternately saves me money and frees up more time for reading/writing/watching movies and shows I've been meaning to catch up on.

- I'm now realizing that if my apartment is a mess, it is completely my own fault. Again, this is an extrapolation of something I discovered before when living in my own apartment, but it's like I'm relearning what that means now that I'm living in a studio apartment.

- No Central Air/AC makes for a jolting experience during heat waves. Winter is a distant memory. My pile of blankets has apparently been all for naught. Send fans, quickly.

- I'm closer to the Halsted bus, which drops me right outside of my workplace. This isn't really a big change for getting to and from work, except that leaving work can now become a crowded situation. Planning accordingly is of higher importance. Also, it's harder to read on the way home, and the trip to work is short enough that we're only talking about a few pages at a time. Again, not complaining about how easy it is to get to and from work, but it's a change nonetheless.

So that's a bunch of small changes that add up to a new way of living in the day to day. Which has made it a bit harder to feel the urge to sit down and write out something new. However, after a month of living in minuscule upheaval, I'm feeling better about where I'm at, and am ready to get back to doing what I wanted to do in the first place - which is write.

Of course, some other updates were needed. I'm happy to say that I'm writing from a new laptop. For the longest time, I was picking up refurbished computers from Micro Center. There's nothing wrong with that, but older computers tend to run...well, slowly. They also tend to weigh a ton, which is muey no bueno when you're walking all over the city. The Old Lappy had also started to run at a snail's pace, which is frustrating when you're trying to get things done in a multi-tasking sense. So it was time for a new computer.

This would normally be hard, as I've been, well, broke for a while. Fortunately, the funds from my dear departed Uncle Jerry's will continue to produce dividends - this time in the form of an unexpected distribution. He was a strange man, and ultimately a very lonely person, but the money he left for me, my brother, and my cousins has helped me out enormously in the past year. It's been able to pay off my student loans completely, pay down my other debt (damn you credit cards), and to refurbish several aspects of my life - specifically allowing me to quit working at the restaurant, a job that was swiftly sucking all of the joy from my life. This time around, I deposited a great portion of this distribution into my savings account (more on that to come), and then paid down over 50% of the debt I racked up during my aforementioned under-employment.

From there, I narrowed down my needs to three specific things that were luxury purchases: a new dresser, something I've wanted for a while and will need for my new place; a new guitar, something I've been dreaming of getting since I moved back; and a new lappy. I was tempted to just go on a buying splurge at Reckless Records or Unabridged Books, but as I've grown older, I've learned some manner of restraint, and was able to stick to the mantra of getting things that I've wanted for a long while but have until now been unable to afford.

The dresser will come from IKEA sometime in the near future - not too worried about it, as the money exists, and the dressers there aren't going anywhere anytime soon. The guitar came from Guitar Center (just down the street!). She's an electric acoustic guitar with a beautiful blue finish and a nice, mellow tenor sound. As "Jane" by the Barenaked Ladies was playing when I purchased her, giving her a name was easy. You can see her at the top of this blog post. The lappy came at Best Buy, and has been everything I've needed and more. I splurged a little bit here because instead of going with the refurbished junk computers I'd been doing, I wanted a laptop that would last this time. The extra terabyte of hard drive space, the processing speed, and the capabilities on this laptop have impressed me greatly - for the time being, my yelling and shaking my fists in frustration are a thing of the past.

So that's my life to date. I'm starting work on the sixth draft of "The Woodsman" now, finally taking the feedback from the terrific staged reading a month ago and applying it. Each time I finish a draft, I feel good about what I've done, and I'm incredibly excited to start this next read - the feedback was straight, honest, and provided constructive criticisms that I think I can utilize to make this an even stronger piece than it was before.

In addition, I'm starting to take baby steps towards starting work on a new play. The recent controversy regarding the death of Cecil the Lion seems to directly feed into an idea about poaching that I've been turning over in my head for eight months now, and may have provided the spark I need to churn out a first draft of a new play. It might even be topical! Who knows?

For now, though, I'm enjoying life. I've joined a work softball team (which is alternately good and bad), and I'm currently 6-9 with a couple of RBIs, some runs, and a solid double to my credit. (I'm a slap hitter as ever, and feel no shame in hitting like Ichiro. At least, I tell myself that in my head.)

I've got enough things to keep me busy around town, and do not want for things to do. There's always ways that life could be better, but then again, there's always ways that life could be worse. For now, I'm just going to sit back, write some stuff, and maybe play a song or two with Jane as accompaniment. It's a beautiful day outside, not too hot, and there is plenty to see and do.

More iced coffee, please.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Place to Hang My Hat - An Erstwhile Apartment

I fully expected to move around a bit once I moved to Chicago. My first apartment was a reasonably sized studio in Rogers Park that lasted for about seven months before I realized I wasn't ready to live alone. (Sudden loss will do that to you) At the same time, it was a healthy distance from friends, a social life, work, and countless other things that I really enjoyed doing. So I moved into my second apartment in Wrigleyville.

It was a garden unit, which meant few windows, low ceilings, and a far higher proportion of spiders to living space than I was initially prepared to accept. My bedroom didn't actually have any windows, which made for an interesting devolution of my internal clock - I could wake up anywhere between 4:30 am and 1:30 pm without any guessing at all. I came to overly rely on my alarm clock...which isn't good when you know where the snooze button is. With my full time job being as a server, complete with irregular hours, sleep came hard. In addition, the sense of living underground without the luxuries of being a hobbit makes for a depressing living.

That being said, the apartment did have some perks. I was across the street from one of the greatest sports facilities in all of America. I was close to public transit and to grocery stores. I was a quick walk to most of my friend's abodes. All in all, it wasn't a bad place to live for three plus years.

However, after three years, the negatives start to outweigh the positives. My grieving period lasted for a while, but eventually started to settle as I regained the inner strength to push forward with new projects. Comfort is an easy fallback for anyone - but at some point, you just have to move forward with change, with different experiences. It's scary, but if I never did anything scary, I would never have left Ohio.

Which means that I'm writing this blog from a Starbucks down the street from my latest apartment.

After several months of agonizing about where to live, I came to two decisions - I was ready to get out of that shithole apartment in Wrigley, and I was ready to live alone. It took a while to reach that decision, but with stable employment for the first time in years (since post-college really), I was ready for the challenges that come with living an adult life.

The search for a place was a little protracted, but ultimately wasn't that painful. I viewed a total of five apartments, and settled on the last place I viewed. Within a couple of weeks, I had a studio apartment secured near Belmont and Halsted, close to the Red Line, the Halsted bus, my favorite record store, my favorite book store, and not one but two Chipotles. Last Wednesday, my friends Alex, Leigh, and Catherine helped me load up my belongings into a cramped U-Haul truck and then unload me into my new home for the next 1+ years.

There's a couple of observations that must be made here:

1) I own enough books, CDs, and DVDs to fill 20+ boxes. In moves past, the packing wasn't that good, but I feel like I did a better job this year of spreading around the weight to make them all manageable. (Alex and Leigh might disagree)

2) I own far more shit than I realized. Granted, a studio isn't the most spacious of rooms, but even taking that into account, that 10' truck was filled to the brim. My next move will probably require a 14' truck. But that's a ways off, to say the least.

3) Continuing with the theme of I own a lot of stuff, I have to say that not everything survived the move - my CD rack had nowhere to go, so that $20 purchase from Bed, Bath, and Beyond bit the dust after eight quality years of service. Ditto to the banker's boxes that I'd been using since moving into my very first apartment in college with Alex in 2007. In addition, the tree that I'd kept since As You Like It also had to go - there just wasn't any room for a falling apart tree in my new abode. But that's okay - I've still got the poster for the show, and more than enough friendships that mean more than any tree made of reconstructed plywood.

(My Nerf gun also didn't survive...though that wasn't really that hard of a decision anyways)

4) I had to rebuild one bookshelf that was falling apart. It was previously the weakest of my three mega-bookshelves. After my repairs, though, it might be the strongest of them all.

5) I initially put my bed together backwards. I didn't discover this, though, until it collapsed under me in the night on my third night there. Fortunately, I've acquired a very comfy couch (which served the first two nights I was there) and didn't suffer too badly. I've since repaired the bed and have no reports of similar accidents happening since then.

6) I'm going to see how long I can make it without having a TV - I did it in Rogers Park, and I have Netflix for my laptop now as well, so I don't think it'll be too hard. My shelf of DVDs, however, says that I should at least get an external DVD player sometime in the near future.

7) I've had a giant dresser since junior year as well. The thing is long and serviceable, but at this time, it takes up a bit more closet space than I'd like to admit. My first furniture purchase will probably be a more vertically inclined set of drawers to replace that monstrous hulk.

8) In keeping with my Chicago tradition, boats hang in my bathroom. It's a long story, and I'll just say that it also involved keeping my boxes of pasta in the bathtub for at least a little bit. Comment below for details...or don't. I don't know that anyone actually reads this far.



10) I'm very relieved that it's been a mild summer so far, as I haven't had to splurge on a fan or air conditioner to make my renovated apartment livable just yet. A ceiling fan has been more than enough to suffice. Of course, now that I've written this, I'll wake up to it being 95 degrees and humid for the next eight weeks. Me and my big mouth.

11) Chipotle being so close is pretty damn dangerous - and this when I've decided to start saving for an upcoming world trip. Time to start regularly visiting the gym again, you guys.

12) I've spent the last three nights sitting in my living room blasting music from iTunes and reading on my couch. This is heaven.

So far (five days and counting), I'm really enjoying my new digs. It's slowly starting to feel like home. There's a few posters to hang, but for the most part, I'm really pleased with everything. It'll be a great "bachelor pad"* for the coming year or two. I'm sure I'll move again (such is life) but it's perfect for where my life is right now - no longer in transition, but moving forward.

 Pictures below!

Aforementioned Boats.

*I've dubbed this a bachelor pad if only because I am single and living in my own apartment. Does this technically make it a bachelor pad? Or is that an actual term? On a related note, I'm currently searching for a name somewhere beyond "Fortress of Solitude", if only because that's super lame. If anyone has any super dope apartment name suggestions, please let me know!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Coming Soon: An Erstwhile Staged Reading

 When I came back from Dayton in the fall of 2013, it was to recharge, to regroup, and to establish what I actually wanted in life. I'd been spinning my wheels, so to speak, and wasn't happy with what I'd been doing with my life. So began a long course correction/life adjustment/attempt to take control of my life.

It started with taking classes at Second City, working to get better at something I loved doing - writing for the stage. Over the next year, I felt many times like quitting; I could use the money elsewhere, I wasn't getting what I wanted out of classes, I wasn't learning what I wanted, I wasn't applying myself, etc. (Excuses make excuses) I stuck it out, and wound up putting on a show with my classmates that seemed to kick a metric ton of ass.

It didn't stop there - I focused on revitalizing my career. Waiting tables was paying the bills, but it was far from fulfilling. I've learned that I need to make a difference in my life, or at least feel like I was doing something to make the world a better place. In addition, I learned that I needed - craved, really - some sense of stability. So I got a temp job, hoping that it would lead to something stable and fulfilling. And it did. A temp position of 3-4 weeks turned into 3 months turned into a part-time offer turned into a full time job. I've gone from dazed and confused to being in a position where I'm actively helping people throughout the day. I still am adjusting to the rigors and responsibilities of the position, but I'm not stressed out by work like I used to be.

It's not been easy, but I'm feeling as good and confident in what I'm doing as I have ever felt. I've not felt this creatively charged since college - and now I have the benefit of five years of life experiences (good and bad) to fuel what I'm trying to do: tell stories that move people, that speak from experience to experience, that look at how people connect and break apart in this world.

Which is good, because it all comes back to the overall purpose of my goal - to allow me to thrive in my artistic mediums of choice.

Since quitting the restaurant (Day 0 of this real renaissance), I've written a novel, multiple short films, and a screenplay. I've also been hard at work on what I've come to call "my baby" - a full length play. I'm wrapping up a 5th draft of this piece, and have shared it with multiple friends and colleagues. Advice has been taken, and I've forced myself to go deeper on this piece than I have on anything else. It's been trying, but it's been rewarding.

I'm happy to announce that a staged reading of my new play, The Woodsman, will be taking place right here in Chicago, using local Chicago actors. It's going up in a nearby Irish pub - because theatre can and should happen in any location - and will be a one night only affair. It's technically the last step before readying the play to submit to theatres for consideration for full on production, but feels in no small way like an achievement. This is happening. It's humbling and terrifying, and I'm as excited for this as I've been for anything in recent memory.

A summary:

Nick Carpenter, famous rock star and world class screw up, is in trouble. His band has fallen apart. His love life is a joke. And worse, he finds himself unable to play his guitar any longer. On the verge of a total collapse, he retreats to the small town in the woods he ran away from fifteen years ago, seeking solitude as he tries to write his comeback. However, as shadows of his past reemerge, he learns that not only will it be a challenge to start his life over, it might be damn near impossible.
The Woodsman will be performed as a staged reading on June 27th at the Galway Arms at 7:00 pm.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Wild for the Wild: An Erstwhile Hockey Fanatic Confesses

It's been a long couple of weeks for me with a number of turbulent ups and downs.

So now it's time to talk about hockey.

I grew up in southwestern Ohio, which is a hotbed of baseball and football. Basketball as a sport crossed my radar mostly during the NCAA tournament, with teams like UK, Louisville, Cincinnati, Xavier, and UD serving as hot topics. I grew up in the Jordan era, but the NBA wasn't anything to get really excited about - the Cavs were perennially mediocre until LeBron came in 2003, by which point it was too late for me to get really excited about them. (And then he left, which wouldn't have helped anything, but now he's back, so...there it is.)

Ryan Suter - Defenseman
 As for hockey, was strange. There really weren't any major hockey teams nearby for me to cheer for. I vaguely recall hearing about the Cincinnati Cyclones growing up, but that was minor league hockey, if anything - as were the Dayton Bombers. Both teams I believe are now defunct, or at least I didn't feel like researching those teams. (I know the Bombers are kaput, so there) Columbus got a team in 2000, but as with LeBron, I just couldn't bring myself to care.

See, hockey wasn't a thing we grew up playing. Nobody in my circle of friends really went ice skating, any hockey we played was roller hockey (and I still can't roller skate), and nobody had any passionate interests. It was all Reds/Bengals/Buckeyes all the time.

When I moved away to college, things changed. Bowling Green is only two hours time from Detroit, so there were a great number of Red Wings fans in the immediate area, but BG has/had/still has a reputation as a great hockey school (they even won a national championship several years back!). During my time, it wasn't anything to write home about, but games were fun. I didn't understand anything of what was going on, but the students made it enough of an event that games were fun to go to.

But I still didn't care about it. I didn't have a team to devote my interest to.

Zach Parise - Left Wing
My friends can't say they didn't at least try to get me invested. My longtime roommate, Alex, was a fan of the Red Wings and pulls for various other teams depending upon the playoff situation. My other roommate, Tyler, is a passionate Colorado Avs fan with a deep rooting interest in the sport. J. (who lived above me for one summer) currently writes about hockey for the Addison Recorder. Other friends root for the Buffalo Sabres, the Blue Jackets, the New Jersey Devils, and so on and so on.

It seemed as though if I wanted to continue to have a vested involvement in friendship/sports talk, I needed to pick a team. But how does one go about that? I wanted to pick a winner, but choosing a current front runner would essentially mean becoming a band wagon fan - something I've hated after years of watching Cincinnati Bengals fans. I had no strong regional ties and just couldn't get involved in the Red Wings, no matter what. So I punted, staying just knowledgeable enough to get by in conversations and to cheer on playoff hockey once it got going. I do recall speeding home from work to watch Sidney Crosby beat the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals one year - and I also recall watching Canada's Gold Medal game in the 2010 Olympics.

And that was about it.

I moved to Chicago in 2011/2012, the year after the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup. They had a relatively off year (i.e. they didn't win the title), so hockey talk wasn't as crazy as it could've been. The next year, when they did win, I was out of town, though I did have a rooting interest in watching them beat the Bruins. I told people I was happy for Chicago, and remember watching the streets around my apartment fill up on live TV. It would've been the perfect time to become a dedicated Hawks fan...

...except it still felt like jumping on the bandwagon. Heck, I wasn't even in Chicago during the playoffs for the most part. Pulling for them would be cheating. I couldn't do it. Plus, I still didn't really care enough.

And then came the 2014 playoffs. Once again, I settled in with no real interest or knowledge. Teams were involved, and if the Hawks went far, I figured I'd pull for them from a distance, unwilling/unable to get involved.

One night, early on, my friend Tyler (who lives in Oregon now) posted a comment on Facebook complaining about his team's performance. The Avs were a highly favored top seed playing the lowly Minnesota Wild, a team that had sprouted up in recent years as an expansion team, much like the Blue Jackets. They don't have much of a history - though the former North Stars did, and Minnesota is called 'the State of Hockey'. Anyway, Tyler complained about going to a bar and being annoyed by some obnoxious Wild fans. (Let's be real - how are there Wild fans in Oregon? The team's not two decades old, and I don't think a diaspora of Minnesotans could have carried that passion that far that quickly. The whole thing seems strange to me. But I digress.)

As many of my friends will tell you, I take an obscene delight in ribbing/trolling/annoying them with regards to their sporting interests from time to time. (Ask Alex for my thoughts on Michigan) So, I naturally responded to Tyler's post with a declaration that I was "WILD FOR THE WILD". I didn't think anything would come of it - again, the Wild were a low seed, and I couldn't even name two players for them at the time. It's my belief that if one wants to declare fandom for a team, one should at least be able to name five current players for that team. If one can't, well, then you're a terrible person.*

Color me surprised, but the Wild went on to beat the Avs in the first round. I was shocked, and found myself greatly excited about this - and not just because they'd beaten the Avs. I actually rooted for them to win - I wanted them to win. I was, in fact, WILD for the WILD.

I relayed this information to Tyler, stating something roughly along the lines of "I think I've chosen my hockey team". For his part, Tyler handled this graciously - somewhat ecstatic that I'd finally found my hockey team. I mean, he was sore, but sometimes victory can be won from the snatches of defeat - I had become a hockey fan.

I continued to pull for the Wild, even after they got knocked out in the playoffs (by the Hawks - ugh). Later that summer, Tyler sent me my first hockey jersey - a Wild sweater. At this point, it's one of the only sports jerseys I own (I need a new Reds jersey to replace my Austin Kearns relic, but I've been too poor of late to get that Votto jersey I've been craving), and I'm really okay with that. I've been gifted subsequent Wild shirts and memorabilia (thanks Karen T.!), and have standing invitations to travel to Minnesota to attend a Wild game sometime in the future. (Thanks again, Karen T.!)

Why am I writing this now?

Devan Dubnyk - Goaltender/Savant
Well, it's been a long couple of weeks, as I said at the beginning. I've finally settled the question of my employment (i.e. how I'm supporting myself and my work by day), but I just came to a decision to look for a new apartment - a single unit this time. It's been a great three years having a roommate, but I finally feel emotionally stable enough that I can live on my own-some. In addition, my relationship status/love life is once again up in the air - i.e. I'm single again. It's a low priority compared to, well, most other things in my life, but it's still something I need to think about. (what do I want in a relationship, do I want to be single or in a relationship, where am I going with my life, etc. all the usual fun questions) In addition, I'm continually working on getting my play put together/read/put up here in Chicago, and that brings about a whole 'nother set of questions.

Basically, as soon as I get one situation under control, another two spring up to take its place. Nobody told me being an adult was like fighting the Hydra.

So trust me when I say that it's been fantastic to have the distraction of the Minnesota Wild in the background. As I type this, they just won their first round series against the St. Louis Blues, clinching it with a dominant 4-1 victory. They're hot, and this year, I sincerely believe they can beat the Hawks in the second round. Possibly even make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Possibly even win the whole damn thing. Which, as I try and continue to figure my life out, would be a fantastic thing to have to keep me positive.

Rooting for any sports team is an irrational act. We don't do it for practical purposes, unless our living depends on their success. We have no connections to the teams we cheer on. There is nothing to be gained or lost by our rooting for one particular team. If a team loses, life goes on. If they win, life goes on. There's an argument about identity being forged by a team, that sports teams as civic operations boost local economies, yada yada, yes, yes, we get that. I'm talking about why we root for certain teams.

In my case, I root for the Wild because of my friends. Because everyone who taught me about hockey understands that once a team gets its claws into you, it's hard to shake it. Because it's great to turn on a hockey game while I'm working on a scene or a chapter and tune everything else out for a minute. Because seeing that the Wild won on a particularly crappy night for me can help to cheer me up. And because...well, when they win, it just feels good to know that this is my team that I found in my own way in my own time for my own reasons...and they stick with me.

And that's why I'm WILD for the WILD.

*Five players for the Wild, because I hold to my rule. Center Mikko Koivu is the team captain. In the 2012 offseason, Zach Parise (LW) and Ryan Suter** (D) signed to the team. Other wings include Thomas Vanek, Justin Fontaine, Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter (who is now the Wild's all time leader in game winning goals in the postseason!) while Keith Ballard and Matt Dumba help hold down the blue line on defense. The year started crappy for the Wild until they traded for Devan Dubnyk (G) in January. Since then, they're one of the hottest - if not the hottest - teams in all of the NHL. I could name more players, but then you'd just be bored. Besides, I'm too WILD for the WILD right now to focus any more.

 **Also, while I still want a Votto jersey, I think I might spring for a Suter jersey first. Though, again, the costs of living/putting together a play/film take precedence. In which case, you now know exactly what I want for Christmas.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Seeking for Stability: Bidding Farewell to Erstwhile Chaos

I started this year with a number of goals. Most of it was writing-oriented - tangible, achievable goals that I could check off, one by one, without facing much in the way of adversity. If something stuck, or I didn't get far in a storyline, I could rest easy in the idea that there would be something else I could work on. Ideas could develop slowly or quickly. The pace didn't matter - I would control what I was accomplishing.

So far, it's been very successful. Leaving my restaurant job was the best decision I could have made for getting more work done. I'm free to write unrestrained, without having to worry about the stress of a job that I'm dreading. I've been sleeping better, I've been managing my weight, I'm happier, and I'm free to have more of a social life than I was able to before.

The trade-off? Financial stability.

I haven't exactly been starving here, but I've definitely not been able to live comfortably within my means. I've had to put a little more debt into my credit cards (which were paid off at the start of this grand experiment, so it really hasn't been that bad), I've been forced into missing out on some social events (I know, I know, woe is me), and I've had to curtail plans on traveling, something I was really looking forward to this year (I know, again, woe is me). The most humbling thing was asking for momentary financial assistance from my dad when my tax bill came due and I owed money for the first time. (Hopefully, that won't be an immediate problem moving forward, as I'm no longer taking in tips and not paying taxes on those tips. But then, who can say what's going to happen in the future?)

Upheaval is something that I've dealt with before, but this was a different kind. It's self-inflicted upheaval. Well, upheaval might be too strong of a word. Uncertainty. Trusting that hard work would lead to my being able to rest comfortably in the fact that I'm making enough money to live comfortably, without worrying about running out of the small fund I've saved up over the past year.

I'm hopefully reaching a point where that uncertainly will be put to bed. I can't say anything just yet, as nothing has been set in stone, but after several months of hard work, a few lucky breaks, and pushing myself to meet and exceed my personal goals, I will hopefully be free once and for all from having to resort to a second job. (Or from walking back to my old job and asking them to take me back - which was always my last resort.) My tentative goal was to have something figured out by May, so I'm again ahead of schedule as far as where I'd like to be...but again, nothing is settled, so I'm not going to talk much more about that.

The most important thing I'm taking away from 2015 so far is that I'm one step closer to determining my life on my own. In years past, the plan was to turn to grad school and figure life out from there. It would be an easy set of pre-determined goals: complete these classes, earn this degree, qualify for this job, figure life out from there. It was always about looking ahead, at the expense of living life in the moment.

In hindsight, not getting into most of the schools I applied for was a good thing. Theatre-wise, I'm figuring out how to get my own work produced, which was an early goal that seemed too daunting at first to even think about accomplishing. Now, I'm taking strides towards getting staged readings of my first full-length play completed...and towards possibly getting it put up as a full production. (Again, early stages here. Nothing to see, nothing to see, just keep moving on.) Writing-wise, I felt that the only way to grow was to get my MFA, where I could set aside years to hone my craft. Now, I'm enmeshed in a circle of fantastic writers who are willing to offer advice and critiques that have helped me grow and build my work in all fields. I've learned where my weaknesses lie, and what my strengths are, and I've taken strides towards putting better and better quality work onto paper.

Had I gone to grad school, I might have foregone the necessary learning curve I needed - essentially, answering my question of 'do I really want to do this or is this some flash in the pan dream'. I still want to write. I still want to get my work produced/published/performed. I've learned that my goals are attainable, and with the help of multiple people I've met while staying in Chicago, I know more ways to attain them than ever before. Plus, I'm not going into mega-debt for a degree that I might have to pay for throughout the rest of my life.

When I came back to the city from Dayton in 2013, I realized that I needed to make changes in my life. Since then, I've refined my writing, honed my craft, learned better how to support myself, and identified where I need to continue to make improvements. I've disciplined myself better - I just started back up at the gym, and the early results are really encouraging, which makes me feel better already. (I'm not as out of shape as I thought I might be.)

Having said all of that, there's still a lot of uncertainty in my life. Where I'll be living after June 30th is very much up in the air. I don't like my apartment - it's a hole in the ground with low ceilings and very few windows. While I love my location, I'm willing to trade that for other elements that will lead towards me being happier and healthier at home. I'm at a point where I feel I can choose how I want to live my life as opposed to making complete sacrifices/concessions in the hope of just getting by - and that can start with where I choose to make my home. It's a transition that started when I picked up temp work instead of relying upon the restaurant for all of my income. It continued when I said that I wanted to live healthier and joined a gym. It continued again when I said that I wanted to focus more on my own personal work rather than bounce aimlessly from audition to audition. It will continue as I figure out where I want to live.

I'm a little bit closer towards becoming the person I ultimately want to be. That journey will never be finished...but I'm still taking steps on it. (Gawd, I hate terrible metaphors, but it works in this case) In the meantime, I'm enjoying the ride.

Also, I wound up at a random Cubs game today. The Cubs lost, but fun was had. If I had gone to grad school, who knows when I would have been able to go to a ball game. Not really a wrap-up thought, but for what it's worth, I'm happy with the ability to make spontaneous decisions and not suffer for them. Which is something.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Recharging: An Erstwhile Break from the City

A walk through the back fields...
 I don't get out of the city very much. Truth be told, I'm fine with that. I love my job, I have great friends, I don't lack for things to do, and I'm getting more work done than I have in ages. Truth be told, I'm in a really good place right now, as good a place as I've been since first embarking on the next step in my life back in December 2011.

Having said that, I needed to get out of the city.

The grind wears me down. Being surrounded by concrete day in and day out wears me down. The constant noise, the hustle and bustle, the having to be three different places a day just to get things done, the monotony of it all, everything combines to wear me down. There's a bunch of different stresses in my life that come from various places - taken all together, they really don't add up to a lot, and are completely manageable. (Like I said, I'm in a good place) But people take vacations for a reason, and I needed a vacation.

Cows in the rain...No fucks given.
Luckily, a free weekend isn't so hard to come by, now that I'm no longer beholden to a restaurant schedule (Work all the time or be broke forever!!!). Megabus is still not my bag, baby, but it gets the job done, and can be got on the fly for cheap. One $25 round trip ticket later, I'm set for a weekend.
Zorro and Evey Cat - pre-pounce.
I knew things were bad when I couldn't get to sleep the night before. The resulting fever-dream trip through public transit to the Megabus stop in the middle of a sudden snowstorm right out of the finale of It's a Wonderful Life didn't exactly set me off on the right foot either. Nor did the bus being half an hour late. Once it arrived, though, I slept nearly the entire trip home, which was fantastic. My brother picked me up, we got Chipotle, and it was home to see Zorro, my beloved akita.

I don't want to brag, but Jason and I won our first game 10-0.
Friday night was spent in the company of friends downtown, on a pub crawl with the Dayton Ballet, fresh off a performance of Peter Pan. Much fun was had, and the night ended at Trolley Stop, my favorite bar in Dayton, playing euchre upstairs with my friends Jason, Jessica, and Sara. It's my sincere wish that more of my friends played euchre in Chicago, though it remains a highlight of my trips home.

Saturday was spent with a semi-surprise lunch with my friend Bethy and her son Michael. It's great seeing friends whom I don't see regularly - even more so when there's kids involved, because I can watch them growing up in short installments. It's almost like an mini-segment from Boyhood (this blog isn't that deep, just a refresher on life being a heck of a lot more relaxing when lunch is a highlight of my day). That fulfilled one of my other necessities of a trip home - a Skyline Chili fix.

This picture was sent to me by an offensive party. Those responsible should know...vengeance shall be mine.
The evening was spent with a family dinner - my dad, my brother, and I grilled burgers on the porch and fixed up leftovers. Following that, my brother and I went to the Greene for a beer before seeing Kingsman: The Secret Service, a belated birthday gift for my twenty-five year old brother. It was a great time, made all the better by our getting to watch that killer Kentucky-Notre Dame basketball game right next to the Minnesota WILD beating up on the Kings. Oh, and the movie was fun, too.

Sunday was Quaker meeting, probably the best occasion I get to recharge and refresh my senses. While I enjoy getting to go to Quaker meeting and find it spiritually fulfilling, I do want to point out that I don't consider myself a spiritual person. As an agnostic, I believe more in centering the self through silent reflection and meditation than I do in communing with whatever deity you believe in. (Coincidentally, one of my biggest pet peeves is when someone tells me to have a 'blessed day' or that I am 'blessed'. The only time that it's okay to say the word "bless" to me is if I just sneezed.) Having said that, Meeting today was a good time to just sit and reflect upon a lot of things on my mind. It's not the highlight of my trip, nor the most relaxing, but it helped add to the overall condition of relaxation.

Sheer bliss.
The rest of the day was spent on a family lunch with my grandmother and a long truck ride with Zorro to pick up milk and eggs from a farmer friend of my dad. Zorro loves truck/car rides, and I look forward to that Sunday trip like few other trips in my life. The look of joy on his face when I pick up empty milk jugs to take with us is palpable, and the grin on his face the entire trip fills my heart with utter joy. At that moment, there is nothing on earth that can make Zorro happier than simply riding in the truck - that is literally as good as it can possibly get for him, and it is an absolute high. That kind of high is contagious, and is one of the best reasons I can think of to own a dog.

Waterfall at Fossil Creek
I also took several long walks through the countryside of the farm, including a venture down to the creek I've called "Fossil Creek" since I was five years old. I kid you not, I've been collecting fossils from down there for my entire life, and there's still nothing like discovering something new. Today, for example, I found just the third trilobite fossil I've ever found down there - they're the state fossil, but not at all plentiful in our creek. So, finding one was pretty cool.

I just finished doing some work for NCSA at home, and I feel ready for the next few months. I think I know more about what I need to pace myself in the city - looking into a nearby Quaker meeting might be a start. But there's really nothing like getting away from the urban jungle for a minute, even if it is just going home for a weekend. Here's hoping that the next two or three months will have infinitely less winter and infinitely more spring (