Friday, December 24, 2010

Beautiful glooms

I'm spending Christmas in a beautiful (and warm) place, and maybe that's what it takes to get me to blog these days.

Thanks to the generosity of mine uncle, my family is staying at the Cloister at Sea Island, which is both a "five star resort" and an "ultimate spa escape."

Karl Rove is reported to have slept in the master bedroom where my parents are now staying. So far, they're not acting any differently, so I guess it's okay.

We crossed the bridge named for my ancestor, Sidney Lanier, who wrote:

Of the dim sweet woods, of the dear dark woods,
Of the heavenly woods and glades,
That run to the radiant marginal sand-beach within
The wide sea-marshes of Glynn

He looks quite a bit like my dad.

We went horseback riding on the beach first thing yesterday morning.

My horse's name was Talladega, and he wanted to eat the marshes of Glynn.

Hopefully the tide washed away Talladega's poo (nitrogenous waste, Dad reminded us), because my sis and I are going for a walk on the beach. And then we're going to check out the spa.

I'm only mildly afraid that they won't let us in . . .

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I grind my teeth. That's not a total revelation, just lately confirmed by my dentist. "A lot of people in this country grind," said the hygienist.

They offered to make me a guard. But what I really want is to stop grinding my teeth.

The prescription for that is leaving the country.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Remember that annoying plea I made to get you to join Chase Community Giving on Facebook and vote for Barrel of Monkeys? Well, it worked. It and lots of other pleas. So thanks!

We've known for a while that we were one of the 200 companies that got enough votes to win a $20,000 grant.

What we just found out is that of all the nonprofits to receive at least one vote in that competition, we were one of 17 chosen by an advisory board to receive an additional $30,000.

17. Nationwide. Chosen not by popularity or hustling ability but by worthiness.

That means more money for our work with CPS, more men in wigs, and more silly dances.

Pic from Celebration of Authors by Dean Ponce.

Friday, October 1, 2010

How I Spent My Summer, Part the Second

I got distracted from this blog by another blog.

Laura Grey is to blame. Laura Grey of The Laura on Laura Comeback Tour:

Those Lauras, they're funny, y'all.

Anyway, the new blog is called Girlpocalypse, and it's about "The trials and tribulations of a Lincoln Park Trixie surviving the Apocalypse."

It allows me to combine my love of dystopian futures and horrifying disaster scenarios with funny.

FAIR WARNING: Girlpocalypse may be inappropriate for younger or more sensitive readers. I can't quite bring myself to type that with total seriousness because I doubt that a lot of this blog's readers are super-sensitive eight-year-olds, but you know, there's like, cursing and pictures of skeletons having sex.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

For Mom on her something-somethingth birthday

As I approach my Jesus year, I thought
I'd dye my hair Deep Copper
On Facebook I called it My So-Called Life Moment
Which you, Mom, didn't get.
Well, here's the moment:

Angela's color is Crimson Glow
Mine's supposed to be Deep Copper,
And Mom, because I know you'll ask
That's Claire Danes at fifteen or so

So why did it take me so long?

There was no point in rebelling against you
You wouldn't have cried, like her mother did
You would have said, "Express yourself,
If that's what makes you happy,"
and not in a snotty way.

You were better than that Mom in the Target commercial
with the improbably cute triplets
You never would have made me color code

And now my hair goes with my dinner
Rainbow chard, toasted millet pilaf, and pan-seared
summer squash
You taught me to cook like this
Even if you never really taught me how

So what am I rebelling against?
Maybe I'm having a third-life crisis or maybe I'm
catching myself creeping boring
Probably I'm attention-seeking
Definitely I'm experimenting
But mostly I think I just felt like it

Maybe there's power in doing that thing you just feel like doing
I mean, maybe my hair really has been holding me back

Because you asked for a picture
And because it's your birthday,
I will post these here
Even though they don't quite catch
the iridescent-ness of my new head

It's hard to get the color right in the kitchen at night by myself when I just got back from the gym and don't want to show too much of my sweaty face

The color's redder than it looks here
More radioactive "fashion forward"

Friday, September 17, 2010

How I Spent My Summer, Part the First

This has become the saddest blog. I know.

Instead of a big update, I'm going to do several little ones to catch myself up, and maybe I'll leave some things out entirely, because the present is what it's all about.

But because it was a packed and positive summer, I'll try to hit some of the highlights . . .

I worked at a summer program in Wilmette during July, helping 3rd-5th graders create both a short film and a short play. They had two weeks total to create the film, and they shot it in two days. The result was a dystopian action flick in which a child becomes governor of California, and I'm so proud of them!

And here's more about the program, with some shots of me teaching. In one shot I believe I may or may not be crawling on the floor like a jungle cat. Yes!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


So, I've been having a nice conversation in the comments on the last post. And I keep meaning to write something more about ladies in movies, but maybe I won't get around to it. Maybe I'll just post this awesome vid about the Bechdel Test and leave it at that . . .

I also keep meaning to do a giant catchup post with links about my weird new blog and my summer program and pictures of me wearing silly costumes and acting with two different types of produce -- as Evan says, one more makes a triptych! That will come, soon.

For now, though, I'll just say that I've been making a conscious effort to pursue a more sustainable way of earning a living while pushing myself to get my novel in shape to send out, and the coolest things keep happening.

They are little things . . . unexpected gigs, fortuitous conversations, but they add up to make me feel like I'm being supported in my efforts, like the universe is saying, "Oh, you're trying? Well, let me help you out." That doesn't always happen when we try, I know, so I feel lucky, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the support continues.

Some of that support has come from family and friends, so thank you! And let it be known that I am "gigging" as the rockstars say and looking for flexible work that pays well by the hour. Dirty jokes need not apply.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Thank you for calling me out

Last night, I went to see Salt, a super fun action movie about Angelina Jolie kicking butt. And my friend pointed out that one of the coolest things about it is that she doesn't show any skin -- less than a male action hero would usually show. For a lot of the movie, she looks completely androgynous, and not in a sexy way. (Can't find any screen shots of her dressed that way to support my point -- no big surprise.)

The only time she shows her body is when she's covered in blood and being tortured, which is shot mostly at a distance and in low light -- it makes her vulnerable, and it's disturbing as it should be. There's no sense of the camera fetishizing her body -- contrast that with Daniel Craig's naked torture scene in his first Bond movie.

Then there's all this talk about how the role was originally written for a man, and kudos to Jolie for scooping up a script she liked. But when the guy next to me in the theater turned to his girlfriend and told her that fact, there was this glee in his voice, a kind of marvel . . . he was excited to be at an action movie starring a hot woman AND he got the added bonus of knowing that the story was fit for a man.


And then, upon leaving the theater, my friend and I are joking about how empowered we feel and how we're going to use all our new spy moves to beat up guys, and we see this giant ad for Eat, Pray, Love, and I've never read the book, but my immediate reaction is contempt. My friend called me out. She'd had the same knee-jerk contemptuous reaction, and someone showed her Melissa Silverstein's post on Women and Hollywood with the same title as Entertainment Weekly's interview with Elizabeth Gilbert: If Women Like It, It Must Be Stupid.

And I felt mad with myself -- not for failing to be excited about that movie. That movie's not made for me and my friend. Neither one of us is going to get super excited about a rich lady's spiritual holiday starring Julia Roberts -- although I've got friends who love that book, and I should maybe read it and see why.

I felt mad with myself because I had that built-in reaction that because this movie's popular with women, it deserves my contempt -- that it deserves it more than a similarly pop-hit movie starring oh-how-bout Hugh Grant? About a Boy is the story of a rich man on a journey of self-discovery. That book is loved by both men and women and is not hyper-literary, but there's not really a male equivalent to "chick lit," is there? And so it's popular fiction.

So where does this contempt come from? There's the widespread contempt for stories that fall into the "chick" category. But part of my contempt comes from something else that Silverstein's blog post touches on . . . for a movie about a woman to get made, it needs the built-in audience of an Eat, Pray, Love and a Julia Roberts. And so, part of my contempt comes from the fact that I don't see myself in the story of this woman, and yet, this is one of the few stories about women offered. I'm mad at it because it has to represent all women, and that's not a fair burden to place on any movie.

Two of my favorite movies are Garden State and Rushmore. I'd like to see more small, quirky movies starring women, and I don't doubt the stories are out there, but it's even harder for them to get made, and when they do get made they're almost always deemed "chick flicks." The lady characters in the man-movies aren't enough. I do like Olivia Williams' character in Rushmore -- she has some complexity and a larger share in the story than a lot of love objects get, but I don't love her or get her point of view the way I do with the guys. The teen girl in Rushmore has it all figured out, and Natalie Portman's just a manic pixie dream girl.

I have friends who fell all over themselves for 500 Days of Summer, and that one just makes me so angry. Zooey Deschanel's character is a mess. She works as an assistant in this retro-styled company in a much crappier job than what's-his-face's and yet, she gets to be the guiding light who tells him to follow his purpose? Her purpose is apparently getting married to someone hotter than him, making origami, and wearing lots of Anthropologie.

I'm not sure what the answer is -- it's not rushing out to see Eat, Pray, Love. And it's not forcing boyfriends to sit through it as the end of Silverstein's post seems to suggest -- yes, as one of my male friends pointed out, she gets a little ranty.

Recognizing and fighting the bias though, I think that is part of the answer. So, thank you, my friend, for calling me out on mine. I will try to pass it along.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's been too long

I know.

There are things to share. I'll share them when it's not so late.

But the only thing on my mind tonight is that I just gave my apartment a deep cleaning. The hands are raw, the back is tired, and I feel pretty great about it. It's good to take care of my space, and myself, and all those good things. I should do more of that.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

End of Time

I keep hearing the words "END OF TIME." Not "endtimes." "End of time" itself.

I saw an article about time disappearing from the universe. Listened to a podcast about Mayans and 2012, and another about Haiti being the harbinger of decline.

And the oil spill. I have trouble even thinking about the oil spill.

Tomorrow I start a summer job helping a group of 3rd-5th graders make a movie and a play about, what? You guessed it. The end of the world -- or to be a bit more positive, about starting a new world after the old one is gone.

2012 hasn't been in my consciousness, and it's not something I worry about, but I'm curious about the cultural impact it may or may not have over the next year and a half. Y2K was interesting, and it's kind of cool that we have these two big dates so close to each other. The fact that they matter to a good number of people makes them mean something, whether we think they "mean" something or not.

And I'm full of energy, not because I think the world is coming to an end, but maybe because it isn't. I mean, it is all the time, but right this minute, I'm here, and doing interesting and energetic things. It's a good time to be in the world.

Tonight was a good night to put together the Ikea bookcase that's been sitting in pieces in my bedroom for a number of months now. This morning it was lumber. Tonight it's furniture. Why did I wait so long to put it together?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Kids Don't Vote

That's my favorite line in the series The Wire, suggesting basically that education gets shafted because "kids don't vote."

So we have to vote for them. My theater company Barrel of Monkeys teaches writing workshops in Chicago Public Schools and performs student writing, building self-esteem and enthusiasm for language arts. And we have a chance to win a grant from Chase Community Giving.

Yes, this is an extended ad for Chase, and yes, it's a lot of jumping through hoops, but the money would make a real difference to BOM's budget, especially in the coming year when so many schools are being forced to cut outside programming.

So search for Chase Community Giving on Facebook and give us a vote. Or use this link:

I wouldn't be posting this at all, but we're slipping on the leaderboard, and to win money we need to stay in the top 200. Thank you, thank you!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My personal Blair Witch Project

I promised photo evidence of my trek with Laura into the woods on the block where we grew up. It's a nice woodsy neighborhood, lots of hills, and a garden club so people take pride in their lawns.

And in the middle of the block, it's all thick, humid, poison-ivy-tangled, mosquito-breeding, honey-suckle-sucking, Deep South woods.

We tromped around for a long time without finding my graveyard. Dad had some memory of where it was, but it was deeper back than he thought, and we were pouring with sweat and about to give up when I noticed something catching light.

See, when Katie and I found the graveyard, we found a trash heap first. What I'd seen was a section of forest littered with broken glass and other treasures.

Who knows what "Trend" is. Searching for a product named "Trend" on the internet is a losing battle.

But here's where things get creepy. A few yards away from the junkyard, we started to see markers. There are maybe thirty scattered in the underbrush.

Most of them are just rough stones, but a few have simple markings.

Okay, so maybe it's a pet graveyard . . . for someone with a lot of pets? But no, because there are a few real headstones.

Lucinda Ambrose, Born Nov. 22, 1881, Died May 18, 1923, Ambrose Chamber-4849, Stiratt, W. VA.

Louis Ambrose, Died Dec. 29, 1920, Ambrose Chamber-48??, Stirrat, W. VA

And a baby . . . DMCA Dory, June 15, 1956-June 19, 1956

There's another carved stone so buried it can hardly be seen, and the ones that really get to me . . . in the sunken grave. Here's Laura standing beside it.

There are two stones, one granite (a large slab with a thinner slab for the marker) and one pinkish marble (upper right corner), both tilted downward so they can't be read and covered over with fallen branches.

Not creepy enough yet? Am I disappointing you? Well, how about this rusted shovel sticking up out of the ground beside the sunken grave, because to me that is simply creeptastic.

How many unmarked graves can you find in this picture?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ghosts ghosts ghosts

I have graveyard pictures. I'll post them.

But this weekend was all about ghosts. And weddings. They do go together. If I have to explain that, you're either very young or very lucky.

Some of the ghosts aren't mine -- they're loved ones who aren't here. That part makes me cry.

Some of the ghosts never lived, so they're jealous. They tease.

Some of them aren't sad. They lived, but a long time ago, and they stand by their new selves and trade jokes. They laugh, and it's fun to laugh with them.

Some hold up mirrors that cover their faces. They say, "Uh oh! You're a ghost too."

My memories and the things I remember are not the same thing.

Not all ghosts have names or faces or fingers. They're tricky like that. Some of these ghosts are shared. They come back to life in a circle of friends around a cooler and a candle. We make them dance.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ghosts in the graveyard

I've been in Birmingham with my family for a week. Before I leave tomorrow I want to visit the "Indian graveyard" that's deep in the woods in the middle of the block. My childhood friend Katie and I found the abandoned graves while hunting for a better "hideout" -- one safe from her brother and the other sometimes attractive but always irritating boys on our block. When we were nice we played "Ghosts in the Graveyard" and "Kill the Man with the Ball" with those boys. When we were not nice, we set up booby traps for them with yard tools and sinkholes.

When Katie and I found the graveyard, we figured it was a secret or haunted or both, an eighties horror movie starring us. We made rubbings of the graves and took treasures (vintage soda bottles) from the decades-old junkheap nearby. We couldn't resist telling the boys, and Alan Picknose had the gall to lay down in a sunken grave so he could pop up and scare everyone.

My sister Laura calls it an "Indian graveyard" because that's how she remembers it. In my memory, the graves belonged to Victorians, or cowboys, somebody from the late 19th century . . .

Probably the graves aren't as old as all that, but I plan to find out tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nice and Mean!

At VCFA, I had the pleasure of rooming with the amazing Jessica Leader. We stayed up late rehashing busy residency days; we co-conspirited about Super Secret Society shenanigans and party decor. When the inevitable winter plague hit our dorm room, we got giddy and co-wrote a picture book about dying of consumption.

And sometimes, I left Jess in peace so she could work on revisions of her debut novel Nice and Mean.

It releases today, and I'm so excited for her . . . and excited to read the whole thing. Jess is an expert at capturing middle-grade girls in all their quirky, between-things interpersonal drama. It's my favorite age group to work with, and Jess gets what makes middle-grade so fun and fascinating.

Happy Release Day, Jess!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The News

1) My theater company got reviewed by a five-year-old!

I think all ages would like this play. You could just cover the little kids’ eyes at “Destroyer.” Grownups would like the play because grownups like funny. I think people would like it because it is very good and the acting is good and everything about it is thrilling. I think Barrel of Monkeys want to make everybody happy who comes to see the show. I think they think the kids who write the stories are smart and cool.

And she liked it (except for audience fave "Kool Yum") but Ada, that one's been in for like a year, and girl, I am over it too!

2) I was seeing this guy about once, maybe twice a week. I started to think maybe he was my boyfriend. This went on for a couple of months. But it turns out, he wasn't my boyfriend. He was my very patient and determined optometrist. And I've got contacts that allow me to see well without crossing my eyes for the first time in maybe ever!

3) I'm working with some Monkey friends to bring this hot mess to the stage in July, one night only:

4) Last night I walked Parker two miles to the Edgewater to sit on the patio for an hour, and then back, and that's because summer is magic!

5) Five or six years ago in an optimistic moment I bought some pants that didn't quite fit, but they almost fit, and it was summer, and I'd be losing weight, so I bought them, and they never fit. They got farther and farther away from fitting, and I don't know why I even kept them, except that they were so nice and I felt so stupid and guilty for buying them. But I wore them yesterday. And they fit. And I love them! . . . I'm annoyed at my lack of writing progress this week, at my constant messiness, at a number of wasted moments and social gaffes, but none of that can squish down my giddiness that I'm the healthiest I've been in YEARS.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I've been thinking a lot about impermanence. Part of it is from reading Pema Chodron. And part of it is being human. Chodron says to recognize it in everything, to acknowledge it when we see it, get used to it, make friends with it. I'm paraphrasing, but you can read it here.

So I finish eating that really nummy meal, one last bite -- impermanence. A jerkface runs into my car and takes the side mirror off (that was last week) -- impermanence. I say goodbye to a child I taught with no clue whether I'll see her again -- impermanence. I meet someone new -- impermanence. I'm rocking my adoptive niece to sleep and noticing how long she's grown -- impermanence. My dog, my best friend Parker, is going to die one day. I think about that one a lot.

I sobbed when I first met her thinking about that. I was depressed at the time. I don't think it was wrong to feel the sadness of anticipating her loss just when I'd gained her, but it was overwhelming sadness, sadness that kept me from being in the moment and appreciating the feel of her tiny, tiny body in my lap. There are always two sides, and I could only see the sad side then.

And I think about how much of my life I spent terrified of change. Well, things change, and I'm trying to let them.

I didn't know Guy Adkins personally, but he was in a couple of productions that affected me greatly, including one of my top ten theater experiences of all time, The Time of Your Life at Steppenwolf.

That's him dancing.

That play changed my life. I sat next to my best friend, my creative partner I'd been missing, who was only in town for a night or two, and Jeff Perry looked me in the eye and said something that pierced me to my core, and something broke apart in me, and things came back together a little bit sweeter, bittersweet maybe, like Pema says, but better.

Recently I had that dream of cancer, in which I had all the terrible conversations, said goodbye over and over. A good friend of mine had a really similar dream just a couple of weeks ago. Maybe we're the right age for dreaming of cancer, but all that scary stuff really happened to Guy. I spent a lot of time yesterday reading his blog Notes from a Candyman about his time with cancer. It's gut-wrenching, but also hopeful and so, so generous. I'm sending love to all my friends who knew him well and to his loved ones who must be missing him but so proud of him too.

"So I forgot my troubles and just got happy. Try it. I mean really try ... I still think this life we have is a gift and we have to try to be happy. I don't know if it's a right or a privilege, an accident or a figment of our imaginations. It's something everyone wants so much. It's everything, Happiness. And I really have it. At least it seems like I do. If I'm deluded, don't tell me." -- Guy Adkins

“In the time of your life, live - so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite variety and mystery of it.” -- William Saroyan

"Our fundamental situation is joyful." -- Pema Chodron

Monday, May 10, 2010

Last night I woke up kicking

. . . and terrified, dreaming about some new monsters, something like vampire demons. The younger one was a friend, turned. I knew I could take her. The other one had some ancient, evil mojo that I couldn't fight. I kept locking the door, but she had a key.

The nightmare itself was cool. The gasping, violent kicking at my mattress, not so much.

But when I woke in the morning, I wrote like crazy. I felt like something hard got pushed out of the way -- not from the dream so much as from the work I did last week. I hope it stays like this all through the draft, that I finish it quick.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Oh, how I love . . .

Thank you, Tai.

Friday, May 7, 2010


I am proud of myself this morning. It was hard, so hard, to wake up and write when my alarm went off. People are always saying, "you have to want it more than sleep," and that worries me because often there is nothing I want more than sleep.

Allergies, the crazy-shifting temperatures, the rain, mid-week shows that I promised to see, sore muscles from cardio dance class, the children with their intermittent rage and their spring fever . . . all conspire against me.

But I passed up a video game party last night to get rest. I set my alarm, and I planned to write, and if I don't finish this draft soon, I might lose it.

The biggest thing working against me this morning was that I really, really didn't want to even look at the scene I've been stuck on . . . it's important -- it keeps coming back in different versions, refusing to die -- but I've been having trouble wrapping my head around why it's there and how to end it.

And this morning I wrote the end of the scene. I figured something out while I was writing, something that makes me happy at least for today, and I wrote the stupid scene, and I'm excited to work on the next one.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tango, Swing, Ghost Tap Dance

I'm ashamed at my blogging delinquency.

All is well.

Well, except for my apartment. It's a mess.

But today is a good example of how my days are going (this week anyway):

8am -- writing
10am -- rehearsal
1pm -- teacher meeting
3pm -- nap, assorted chores
7:30pm -- cardio dance class!
9:30pm -- leftover Heartland macro plate and Season 3 of Weeds

Sometime in there I wiggled like I had a chair stuck to my booty, sang with a zombie, learned some West Coast Swing, heard a Radio Lab podcast on numbers, read about Edwardian love triangles, talked with my dad about the deplorable behavior of a certain ladies' clothing website*, and walked my dog beside the lake under the moon.

* So, Boden has this nifty "style guide" for dressing in your 20's, 30's, 40's and so on. I dare you to click on the 30's section and not be annoyed that it's ALL about pregnant ladies. Because apparently ladies in their 30's do nothing but breed. I mean, make a style guide for the pregnant ladies, delightful, but don't let the babies hijack an entire decade!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

More weird things I do

Remember when I was Mary Poppins? I took pictures!

It was an exhausting day but really fun. We got kids up to dance and sing into the microphone throughout the movie -- kind of like The Rocky Horror Picture Show for kiddies. Afterwards, kids swarmed us for pictures like we were at Disney, and I'm pretty sure the four-year-olds thought we walked out of the screen. They stared at me in that awed way kids do when they're not sure you're real.

I'm never sure I'm real, so we have that in common.

I'm almost fashionable!

"How is your book?" you ask.

"How's the writing going?" you ask.

Wouldn't you rather know the things I do when I'm not writing, like enter contests on fashion blogs?

I'd rather talk about those things.

I made it to the top five in Delightfully Tacky's contest to use Polyvore to style a Dynamite Dress with items from Modcloth. I'm new to Polvore and Modcloth and fashion blogs, and I love them all!

My entry is on the top left.

I call it "Rites of Spring" because it's layered for crazy Chicago weather, and the antler necklace makes me think of rutting.

Among my friends, I am not known as "fashion forward," or even "fashion-able." Geoff regularly berates me for the time I wore my mom's discarded super-white uber-practical Wilson tennis shoes to the Monkey retreat. I still say: Retreat! Messy activities! Free shoes!

So, I'm elated to have this teensy bit of affirmation, even if it does come from a blog called "Delightfully TACKY!"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Go to sleep so you can wake up again

Last night I dreamed I had cancer.

The apes at the zoo sat real close.

My alarm clock can't trust me to wake it.

I never returned that one message.

I still believe I'll know it when I see it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ehhhh, Mary!!!

There's a Mary Poppins Sing-Along happening in Wilmette tomorrow.

That live cast of professional actors mentioned in the Trib?

That would be me and Philip, who keeps saying, "Ehhhhh, Mary!!!" every time he sees me. He's trying to be Dick Van Dyke trying to do a Cockney accent.

I'll be talking British which is way easier, but not as easy as I thought it was in high school. I'm sure it will be fine because Mary Poppins is practically perfect in every way and not to be mocked.

Things I've learned by revisiting Mary Poppins:

a) There are two lullabies built into the movie. That's why you always got groggy and ill-tempered or fell asleep entirely during all the creepy bank stuff at the end. I hope this won't happen in the theater tomorrow.

b) Mary Poppins is quite vain and a lot-a-bit sassy-pants, which I can do, so that's good.

c) It is way more fun to watch this movie when you are adult enough to recognize how dreamy Dick Van Dyke was. Swoon. Drool.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hack-fest 2010

I'm getting a bit better I think. Last night wasn't quite the hack-fest the rest of this week has been. Hack as in coughing, not hack as in can't write anything worthwhile, but both feel true at the moment.

I got bronchitis once a year in my childhood, but it's been a long time since I had it this bad, and I don't remember it taking a month to go away. I hate taking antibiotics, especially if I'm not sure they're justified, but I'm on my second round. I'm going to share something really gross now . . .

Wait for it.

If you don't want to read the gross thing, stop now.

Backstage at the show on Monday night, I cough-wheezed so long and so hard that I puked a little. That was about an hour after I started on the antibiotics, so I'm glad I got to the doctor when I did.

The antibiotic says stay out of the sun, so I'm a vampire these early days of spring.

Over the past few days I've slept - a lot - but mostly in four-hour increments because that's what the codeine is good for.

I've worked on my taxes.

I've worked on a proposal for something silly.

I've spent a lot of time wandering around both my neighborhood and online in a cough syrup haze.

And I've gotten through the first half of Battlestar Gallactica Season 2. Admiral Cain! I'm so glad I don't have to wait to watch the next part of the season, but I made myself stop there last night in honor of those who did.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I am super sick again, but that's boring.

This isn't!

Lacy has replaced Barrel of Monkeys actors with robots!!!

Internet ROBOTS!!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I am making progress slowly. Progress is slow.

But it's progress. No going backwards. I'm adding a scene to my book that was missing. It's obvious how missing it was, and I understand the changes that need to happen in that scene but not the actions. So I'm working on it. I'm freewriting, and wandering, and collecting web detritus, and today I wrote a bridge leading up to the scene.

The challenge is that I've given my character a challenge. I'm making her come up with an awesome plan . . . which means I have to come up with something awesome for her to come up with, and when I think about it that way, it makes perfect sense that it takes time.

I'm making my character work, so I have to work. Fair enough. And she'll be better for having to take some strong action at this point in the story.

I wish wish wish it wasn't taking me so long to revise this book, but it is. It does. Take time. Deal with it.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I'm at jury duty.
I don't mind it, but in this weird purgatory
it is hard to write anything that matters
or to censor my emotions about things that aren't really my business

And so I'm blogging

I am grateful for other people's
grateful when information is power
and I don't have enough of either

Saw the picture of the boy of a boy I used to love
he was really a boy
the photos
not even the same person
and I look exactly so much the same

How did he manage to hide himself, his old self
while mine hovers?
He recognized me on the street once
and I had to ask, "how do I know you?"
There was power in that too.
In not having knowledge
that one little moment

I don't know you
You look so different I don't have to acknowledge
how I embarrassed myself at the age of seventeen

It's impossible not to embarrass oneself at that age
or at mine, apparently

it's not a new thing
this feeling
that made a man lock eyes with me twice on the train
Maybe he wanted my attention, or maybe he was trying to figure out
was it the sun or
something inside me
making my eyes tight that way?
it was both

thinking about what to say and when and how to be a good person
it's boring
it's nothing to share, but you can have it

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I don't handle weather changes well

Does anybody else have this problem?

It's spring -- there are shoots popping up in lawns on my street. I got hot driving around in my car and opened the windows. The sun is bright and encouraging.

But all I want to do is take a nap and play video games. Indoors. I don't want to know how sunny it is. I don't want the pressure to be living every moment to its fullest.

Maybe spring reminds me of LA, or of allergies. They're similar.

I will adjust. I will love the warmth once I get used to it. I'm just not ready for it yet. And I'll always prefer the sharp gravitation of fall.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Joe and I made a vlog in the middle of all our Monkey work today, mostly to keep me from falling asleep on my bed before I had to drive us to Grandma.

Joe & Rachel's Big Day from Barrel of Monkeys on Vimeo.

We did! We made it! As in my last attempt at video-taping myself, I talk funny and make lots of awkward, over-eager faces at the camera, but that's how I roll. That's how I vlog roll. I'm over it.

On the dreaded Spring Forward Sunday, I had a four-hour rehearsal followed by a matinee and was up until one last night doing last minute prepping and planning for today . . . which was a craze, but a happy craze. I got to play a country diva, a talking apple, and sing about IRS Moles in my loudest belt. I got to watch 7 and 8-year olds do a postmodern (POMO, for real, I am not even joking!) adaptation of a group story written by other kids. I got to wear my Barbie dream jacket that I bought at a thrift store in Belfast my second summer out of college. I got a BamBam's Pocket with house dressing.

AND I got official word that my friends' new baby is finally, finally here, fat and happy!

Banner day.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Happy Book Release!

They're releasing them right out into the wild!

Varian Johnson is my buddy and VCFA classmate, and his THIRD book Saving Maddie is out today on his BIRTHDAY!

I've already read it, but I still plan to get my very own copy because I am a little bit in love with Maddie, because Varian workshopped a scene from this book in my very first workshop at VCFA, because it's dedicated to our class (I think? gotta get my copy to verify), and because there's a really cool character in it -- okay, well, she's not that cool, but that's kind of her charm -- who shares the name Rachel.

Plus, how sexy is this cover?

Varian's doing a blog tour right now. Check it out.

Jandy Nelson was in the class two ahead of mine, sort of our big brother-sister class, and I still have a vivid memory of her grad reading in which she read from The Sky is Everywhere. It's poetic and gorgeous, like Jandy.

Here's a trailer:

The Sky is Everywhere from YR Penguin Books on Vimeo.

AND, I'm belated in congratulating my Chicago and Monkey friend Cesar Torres on his first book, a short story collection called The 12 Burning Wheels. You can get it as a book or an e-book from the publisher M-Brane SF or on Amazon.

Cesar's writing is dark and creepy and weird in all the best ways, and he creates new worlds so quickly I don't know how he stays as grounded in this one. Cesar works HARD on a lot of things at once, as do Varian and Jandy. I am trying to learn how they do that, but in the meantime, I congratulate them!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I've become that boring person who does nothing but whine . . .

. . . about how sick they are.

But it's all I can think about.

I tried to go to the doctor today, but the clinic I tried was done taking patients due to "high volume." No one was there. But whatever. I'm hoping my fever breaks by tomorrow and I can forgo the doc altogether. That's my main symptom at this point -- achy, sweaty, chilly fever, and a cough that hurts my head.

Rather than complain about it anymore, I leave you with some music:

I'm having some serious fever dreams, but sharing them here might be illegal.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

From the sick bed

It's all laughs under here, under these covers,
where my funny dreams feel real on waking,
where my funny actions feel like dreams,
where the buzz of the humidifier drowns the neighbors,
where I sweat enough to keep from needing to get up to use the bathroom,
where starting to do anything remotely productive leads to fear of terrible mess-ups and immediate work stoppage,
where standing on the table to change the kitchen lightbulbs feels like some serious living on the edge,
where the entire first season of Battlestar Galactica passes before my fuzzy eyes, and it's almost like I'm one of them, their problems are so much more immediate, more worthy, and their passions so unnecessarily complicated but more satisfying for it.

I slept eighteen hours from around midnight on Monday to 5:40 pm on Tuesday. Last night only twelve, but still, I think I'm undergoing some sort of -- dozing brain can't find the word for it -- metamorphosis.

It might just be a part of spring. Last night, I thought, "I'm going to miss this winter." That's the cold talking, but it's still a little true. In one of my dreams, they already have Halloween on display -- skipping ahead two seasons. I hope that was just a dream.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Happy Pulaski Day!

It's Pulaski Day in Chicago! That means there's no school (or after-school program) for me to teach. It also means something about an awesome Polish man and the Revolutionary War, but I'm not going to learn you about that because there's NO SCHOOL TODAY!!!

It ALSO means it's March, which means that my deadline has come and gone.

Did I finish revising everything?


Did I get deep into the terrible, terrible middle where I am writing lots of new stuff that I'm confident will make my book better?


So that's what a deadline is good for.

I'm going to keep it up and be ready to send it out sooner than later.

And may I just say, that the beginning of March means something here in Chicago.

The terrible winter is not entirely past, but the darkest time is. Soon we'll be getting that balmy meeting of chill air that scoops across the lake to mix with settled warmth as the sun sets, turning us into empowered, giddy, charismatic creatures of the spring . . .

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Monkeys in Review

Barrel of Monkeys has gotten great reviews for the current round of Grandma! Check them out:

Gaper's Block

Chicago Theater Blog

Also, I'll be representing on the Monkey team at Strawdog's Late Night Theater Wars, Saturday, February 27th, 11pm. Apparently, we'll be kicking the booties of WNEP, New Leaf, and British Stage Company Family Feud style.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stupid February

No, I'm not complaining about the weather. I'm complaining about the 28 days.

28 measly days. I know that's a proper month, but it's doesn't seem fair when I've given myself this arbitrary deadline.

I made it about halfway through by the 15th -- Valentine's Day was a wash writing-wise -- and since then I've been tweaking in the first half rather than forging ahead to the second.

Can she finish revising the whole second half of her novel in TEN DAYS???

No harm in trying.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Be Mine

All I want for Valentine's Day is to be halfway through my revision.

I've just worked some numbers, and it looks like if I can get through my "Act Two," by tomorrow I'll be right on schedule. That's about 43,000 words into the present manuscript.

The problem with this is that the second half of the book seems to need a lot more wrangling than the first, but I'm not going to worry about that.

I have a bit more free time in the second half of this month, and I've done some outlining that makes me confident I know where the story needs to shift, even if it will take some new writing to push it there. Hopefully the changes in how I've set up the first half will lead organically into the second.

Please, please, universe, send me novel love!

Oh, Canada!!!

In honor of Canadian Olympics, I ate poutine sans gravy, which probably means it's not really poutine, but whatever.

And I ate a Nanaimo bar, which is like baselining powdered sugar with chocolate. I recommend SMALL PORTIONS. I ate a LARGE PORTION.

And I drank Fin du Monde.

There was also a Falafel sandwich and some Mexican soup, in the spirit of international cooperation.

I intend to go to the gym today and watch the Olympics. I might be there a while.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I just held that bat up and barely made contact with today.

Yesterday, I'd set my alarm for 7, but felt so crappy with a sinus infection when I woke up that I reset my alarm for 8. EXCEPT that I fell asleep while resetting the alarm? Or something.

Then my dog saved me by licking my face at 9:15.

On a normal day, this would have been plenty of time to get to my teacher meeting WAY on the southside fifteen minutes before class.

As it was, it was kind of a miracle that I made it to class with not a minute to spare. See, my car was plowed in -- snow one foot high and 3 feet out from my tires, and I don't own a shovel. So I kicked it around with my galoshes on. I LOVE my galoshes! And scraped at the the windshields wearing my ski gloves, and I got the thing out because my car may be old but it does have some four paw pickup as we used to say of the family dog.

It got free. I got Dunkin' Donuts on the way. One of my co-teachers gave me Advil. Once it put out the pounding headache, teaching was lovely.

As I tweeted, my favorite moment involved a girl choosing between playing Invisible Girl and Nose-Picking Boy. She stared at her choices, so serious, for a really long time, and then said, "They're both good."

So far this week, I've done lots of good teaching, made revision progress, started a new round of Grandma, and tested several boundaries. I've been having good nights with friends -- making February less mean. Today I went swimming, and after I sat in the steamroom and let it wrap around me and burn the inside of my nose in a good way.

So today may not have been super productive, but I'm happy and I can breathe through my nose, and for me, the day after a Chicago blizzard, in February, that's an accomplishment unto itself.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The other half of the rant . . .

. . . had to do with friendship and boundaries, and per usual, my thoughts are coming partly from my book and partly from real life.

There's a line in my novel that sticks in my head. My main character's estranged from her childhood best friend, and when she sees her again, she thinks, "There is not a single person on this planet who gets to know my everything anymore."

That is lonely.

But it's also pretty normal I think for adults. It's easy to get jealous of the openness between really good couples, but even for people in relationships, the older you get before finding each other, or the farther apart you grow after finding each other, the more likely this is to be true.

So there's the fantasy of grabbing a friend (or a blog) and sharing everything -- oversharing. It is tempting and fearful and almost always a bad idea.

An alternative is to share a little bit with a lot of different people -- different secrets for the different people who can handle them. That works, but it makes me feel stretched out, transparent, like I'm forgetting where I put all the little pieces of myself. I might lose some, or a couple of the pieces will snap together without me knowing, start running around doing damage, Bonnie and Clyde style.

We need a little bit of that freedom with someone, even a stranger. It's worth feeling transparent or losing a bit here and there -- otherwise, we explode.

About boundaries . . .

I've been told that my last post was titillating and kind of a tease.

Well. It's that constant question of how much I is TMI? I want to be myself on my blog and not feel paranoid about imagined, conservative ghosts of the future haunting me.

Even now, I feel compelled to say that taking off clothes is a metaphor -- a real common, overused one, I know, but still good. And that kind of disclaimer just makes me feel silly. It's a little bit like the fifties sitcoms with the couples sleeping in separate twin beds. Who am I trying to please?

I work with young people. I want to write for young people. And I'm afraid of the ideas people have about how people who do those things should and should not behave. That was part of my unpublished boundary rant.

Any healthy person establishes their own lines and boundaries for sharing online. But I am an adult, and I don't write this blog for young people -- not particularly -- I write it for myself, and my friends, and other writers, and any other humans who stumble along. And when I stumble on strangers' blogs, I like the ones that open a door onto other lives. I don't need gory details, but I like to discover a human behind someone's words.

If I ever write about anything truly titillating -- and let's be honest, that last post wasn't very -- anybody who's not old enough for it won't stick around to read it. I'll bore them to tears.

Writing and making plays for young people shouldn't mean that I'm not allowed to do those things with adults in mind. Obviously. So why does this freak me out so bad?

Monday, February 8, 2010


I just spent a long time blogging about them, how crazy they make me.

I saved the post instead of publishing. Because it's too close to the middle of the night for me to tell which boundaries I'm willing to cross and with whom.

I'd like to live more of my life in the middle of the night.

It's cold here, but more clear, and no one's surprised when you take off your clothes.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Five acts

Over the last couple of days, I've been trying a new outline.

I broke my book up into acts -- five of them, because if it works for Shakespeare . . . T.S. Eliot thinks he's a hack, but I still think he's pretty swell.

I think it might want to stay this way, with act and scene breaks rather than chapter breaks. And moving one pivotal scene has cleared up a lot. I think I mostly have scenes to add rather than major revision to what I have now. That means the book keeps getting longer, but I can always cut it back later if I need to.

End of February, people. There will be a draft. And I will be asking agents to read it.

As for today, it's 9AM and I'm already through with Act One.

Act One: Writing
Act Two: Voice work
Act Three: Dentistry
Act Four: Spy games or Cardio
Act Five: Jazz

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Oh, yes.

A) I discovered She Writes today via publicist Lauren Cerand on Justine Larbeleister's blog.

Said discovery paid off immediately as . . .

B) On She Writes, Lauren B. Davis posted the exact thing I needed to read today. I've linked to her blog: 10 Questions Never to Ask a Writer.

I like when people ask me about what I'm working on because it means they care, but the answers are not always easy, and it's hard to explain why without feeling ungracious or pathetic or both.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thanks for visiting

For reasons mysterious to me, blogger has sent about 400 visitors my way this week via the navbar. I had stopped checking my analytics because they stayed pretty constant, but several comments from new visitors made me wonder . . .

And in honor of wonder, here's are some pictures of whale songs by Mark Fischer and AguaSonic. Here's how they were made. (Via dhruva on metafilter.)

I'm happy to see strangers here. What's the fun of a blog if it's only read by people you know in real life?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Reading the phone book

I had a "phone audition" yesterday to read a narrative for what I think is a consumer research agency. It's a gig through a friend.

I had to read a paragraph about one lady's church-going experience in a slow and reflective way. I did it from my car parked outside the gym in between the elliptical machine and the pool. When I finished the lady said, "That was just perfect," and now I'll get paid a decent wage for an hour's worth of reading.

I'm not flattering myself that my performance was actually "perfect." This is a non-union thing, they don't need a pro. But I can give them what they need, and they're paying me in one hour what I might expect to make in a full day of babysitting.

In high school, people used to tell me they would pay to hear me read the phone book. It's one of those hyperbolic things people say when you're in private school and everything you do is supported and the sky is the limit. And I knew that then, but when people would say it, it still gave me a sense of security, like, "well, I have this one thing people like." I actually pictured myself sitting in front of a microphone reading names and numbers, like that might be one way I would survive my adult life.

I'm not making a ton of money right now. I'm afraid of filling up my schedule with part-time jobs and never finishing my book, so when a gig like this comes up it's kind of a big deal to my wallet.

And it feels a lot like getting paid to read the phone book -- which is kind of magic.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I've done it again

For the second year in a row, I've agreed to be part of a Monkey-O-Kee number based on some sliver of pop culture that may or may not be appreciated or even recognized by the audience.

Last year it was "Why Do You Think You Are Nuts?" a reproduction of a performance by crazy people on some public access channel in the seventies that was apparently a Youtube craze for a brief moment in time -- so brief that the faces of our audience were mostly blank with cringe-worthy wonder as we performed. Still, it was really fun.

This year it will be 2ge+her's "U+Me=Us," a song from a 2000 MTV movie satirizing boy bands, which then became popular for a brief time almost like it was from a real boy band -- the band toured with Britney Spears -- making both its own point lots of money. How meta.

I'll be playing "The Cute One," because he looks the most like a girl.

See I missed all this because I was busy doing college, but my so young friend Philip is making sure I'm up on what all the cool twenty-somethings are nostalgic about.

For a small donation to Barrel of Monkeys, I will be more than happy to send you a link to a video of me performing in this parody of a parody!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Did you know that karaoke can save the world?

Barrel of Monkeys is having our annual Monkey-O-Kee benefit! It's this Sunday, and I would love for you to come and/or donate money online!

This is the place to do it . . . Monkeyokee 2010. It's easy to buy tickets (plus two free spins of the prize wheel) or to donate money in $10 increments.

We all know, and will keep hearing, that the economy is making it hard for non-profits. It's true that giving is down.

This company is a big part of my livelihood (both financially and spiritually). I believe in the work we do. I spent Monday doing a show at the Kohn School, about as far south as you can go without entering Indiana, then taught afterschool on the far north side. Yesterday I worked with fourth and fifth graders at a new Monkey school way southwest where kids are really struggling with writing, and today I taught fifth graders on the far south side at a the Dixon school where kids recognize us from past years and welcome us as part of their community.

All three places need us in different ways. Please consider donating some money to keep us strong! And tell them Rachel sent you! It is good for my Monkey street cred.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I got back on my grad program's student forum for the first time in months today. Guests can visit parts of it here. A graduating student was saying that she expected to take a break from all things VCFA for a bit until she got closure.

It may have taken me a whole semester to get closure. I really loved my program, and somehow in missing it I've failed to appreciate one of the most incredible things about it, which is that it has an amazing alumni network and sense of continuity and community beyond graduation.

All sorts of exciting things are happening for VCFA people.

Board Member Katherine Paterson is the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature!

Kekla Magoon just won the ALA's Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award for The Rock and the River!

Carrie Jones' Captivate
made the NYT's bestseller list!

My third semester advisor Uma Krishnaswami is having a book turned into a play.

A couple of my classmates, Jessica Leader and Varian Johnson, have books coming out in the not-so-distant future, Nice and Mean and Saving Maddie respectively. I've read Saving Maddie and heard readings from Nice and Mean, and I'm so excited about both of them.

There are more people with books coming out from other classes than I can even start to name here, but off the top of my head, I'm really excited for Trent Reedy, Marianna Baer, and Jandy Nelson's debut novels. I'm psyched for a deal Micol Ostow has on a book she read from at her graduation.

There are a slew of books that are already out that I haven't yet read. It is hard to keep up with the talent.

And I guess that's why I'm posting this -- because my withdrawal from the student forum is directly related to crossing that bridge from student to alum. Over here on the other side, there's some pressure to rise to the level. It's a high level.

Everyone is always learning. I know that. And I won't keep learning anything by distancing myself from this fantastic community.

Congratulations to class who are about to graduate -- I hope you "get closure" faster than I did. And I really hope to see you all at the mini-res next July!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I joined a gym . . .

. . . for the first time ever in my life.

It has a pool. I swam more than half a mile and was real embarrassed about how many times I had to stop to catch my breath. I mean, back pressed against the wall, heart beating overtime, trying not to show how badly I needed to catch my breath.

But I felt really good about it because I've "returned" to swimming before, and I know it doesn't take that long to feel strong at it again.

Perhaps unsurprisingly when I went to bed without setting my alarm, I slept until nearly three in the afternoon. It's okay because today was a stay-at-home day. I have things to do but no set time in which I have to do them, but I did NOT see that coming.

Now I need to novel. I wrote more than 1000 words yesterday, not necessarily words to use, but words to get me going. I'm going.

Monday, January 11, 2010

In defense of being interesting

As promised, I've been working on my book this morning. And while I still feel lost with it, I'm confident I'll be able to sort it out one way or another.

I'm working with Hamlet in my book -- my main character's real into Ophelia. In reading some articles this morning, I stumbled on talk of T.S. Eliot's "objective correlative."

This term is popular at VCFA, but I'd never read the essay where it originated, which is called, incidentally, "Hamlet and His Problems."

And in that essay T.S. Eliot goes on and on about how Hamlet as a work of art is a big failure.

So far from being Shakespeare's masterpiece, the play is most certainly an artistic failure. In several ways the play is puzzling, and disquieting as is none of the others. Of all the plays it is the longest and is possibly the one on which Shakespeare spent most pains; and yet he has left in it superfluous and inconsistent scenes which even hasty revision should have noticed.

There's a hint that Shakespeare's failures are part of what makes the play so enigmatic and engaging:

And probably more people have thought Hamlet a work of art because they found it interesting, than have found it interesting because it is a work of art. It is the "Mona Lisa" of literature.

So the "Mona Lisa" is kind of a wash too.

Eliot says, "We must simply admit that here Shakespeare tackled a problem which proved too much for him."

Basically, Shakespeare bit off more than he could chew.

I am not aspiring to Shakespearean or DaVincian levels of greatness, and according to this other supersmart hero of mine, T.S. Eliot, even the great guys mess up. There is no way this book will ever be as perfect as I want it to be.

But I really hope it will be interesting.

At this moment

The VCFA residency is happening. I am not there for the first time in two years.

Sooo, sooo sad!!!

I wish everyone a great residency. I promise to work on my book and get it out into the world so my education will not have been for naught. I'll be working on it tomorrow morning and trying to channel good rather than jealous energy to Montpelier.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I posted a New Year's resolutions post a couple of days after I wrote it, and in setting the date, I made it publish for January, 2009. I'm used to messing that up in my checkbook but not in my blog.

Error corrected. 2010 is still for dancing!

I've done all right so far this year. My new room arrangement makes sleeping warmer, darker, and quieter. My new galoshes are helping me hate the snow less. I've been working out, cleaning, organizing, started a new residency, did a great show, and what was that other thing? Writing?

Oh yeah. Let me get on that.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010 is for Dancing

I made some New Year's resolutions.

I don't usually make them, but this year it feels right. . .

There are some usual ones -- eating better, exercise. Specifically I want to take up swimming again. Swimming in a heated pool makes Chicago winter so much more bearable.

Yoga gets more attention.

I'm going to send my book to agents this year -- sooner than later.

My apartment will be welcoming a new couch, and I will make sure that new couch has a good home. No more boxes for file cabinets. No more screaming blank walls.

And more dancing! I don't know what this means yet, but I went to a pre-choreographed dance contest/party last night to see Mr. Donnell do his stuff.

With homemade trophies, a speakeasy vibe, and multiple spontaneous dance battles it was kind of like being in an 80s movie. I thought for sure I would be too intimidated to join in the party once the contest was over, but the contest put everybody in such a good mood!

I have to hand it to one very drunk man who gave a solo performance with zero choreography and pretty awkward dance moves. There were some tense moments when it felt like the audience might turn on him, but they laughed and clapped and backed him up. I did not want to dance WITH him at the end of the night, but I was happy to dance near him.