Archive for September, 2003

Do Not Call

Tuesday, September 30th, 2003

Anyone who has ever spoken to me on the phone knows that I always begin conversations the same way. I identify myself and then I ask the person if they have a minute or two to talk. Even if it’s my mother or father, I identify myself and ask if they have a minute. I would never assume that the person I am calling wants to talk to me, unless that person’s job is to answer my phone call. I learned these lessons as a telemarketer.

I was very good at cold calling. I never worked in a part of the industry that demands that you call people at home, although that doesn’t seem like such an invasion to me. If you have a phone line and you answer the phone, you are giving permission to the person to call you. If you don’t want to be called, turn the phone off and get some sort of answering system to deal with your incoming calls. And don’t tell me you don’t want to spend money on a system or a service, you had to buy a phone and pay for the phone line. You have to pay for stuff you want.

This “Do-Not-Call” list is going to be really tough on a lot of smaller businesses. The truth is, there is no better way to get someone to take a look at your product than to speak to them person to person. The Mormons have always known this, it’s why they go door to door instead of doing ad campaigns.

I run a pathetically small business, one that might make a hundred dollars this year if we’re lucky. In order to get people to come to my show, I have to send out tons of postcards and emails and set up reminders in parts of the city where my customers might be. But the very best way for me to get people to be interested in my show is to speak to them.

We have a responsibility as Americans to investigate the advertising that is given to us. If you believe in the free market system, you have to do your part as a consumer to discover the goods and services available to you. The people who buy my product (in other words, come see the play I’m producing) have been really happy that they did. Many people are coming back our last weekend, implying that the experience wasn’t just worth the asking price, but actually worth twice that for twice the experience.

But if direct marketing ceases to be an option, what is a guy like me supposed to do? What are all those telemarketers going to do? Why, when hours and hours of our television viewing, a majority of the print we read and a large chunk of our mail and email is advertising are we making it more difficult for people to call us and offer us their product. Advertising is the way we learn about stuff we didn’t know we want.

Seriously, those knives on tv that can cut through a boot? I’d never buy them off TV or the internet. But if someone came to my door with a set of those knives, I’d probably buy them. Hell, I’d definitely buy them.

When you get spam, don’t you wish you could tell the person who sent it to you not to send you any more? With telemarketers, you can. People did all the time. I was calling businesses and offering them competitive quotes for their business insurance. But many of the people had long standing relationships with their insurance provider, some even got their insurance through family members. So when they told me they weren’t interested, I took them off the list. FOREVER. No-one ever called them again.

I only had one indignant person the whole time I was working the phones. Someone owned a chain of dry cleaners, he had about twenty employees, and I asked him if he was the person who made the decisions about the company’s insurance. He flew off the handle. “DO you really think I have the time to answer these questions?”

“I don’t really know, sir, but if you aren’t the person who can answer this question, can you put me in touch with the person who does?”

“Oh no. I’m the boss around here. I make these decisions. What makes you think I have the time to answer your questions? I have a string of businesses and they all take my attention. Why do you think I can just sit here and answer your questions about my business? What are you trying to sell me, exactly, and why are you wasting my time?”

“Actually, sir, I’m not trying to sell anything. We’d like to prepare a quote for you, but only if you are actually looking for quotes each year when your insurance comes up for renewal. If you don’t take quotes for your insurance, I’ll mark that in our list.”

“I didn’t agree to be on any list. Where did you get that list?”

“Dunn and Bradstreet, sir. They prepare a list of companies in your community that make a certain amount of money and have more than eight employees.”

There was a pause and he said, “We take quotes, but only from local businesses, we keep our business here in Texas” and I told him who I was calling for (a company down the street from him) and not only did he set an appointment, he went with that company on his insurance three months later.

And, y’know, the part where he was yelling at me about how much time he was wasting was less time than it took to set an appointment.

Look, I’m not interested in breast implants and I don’t want your fake vacation giveaway, but there are already laws against that. If you really think that the seven seconds it takes for you to tell someone to take you off their call list, even if you have to tell them ten times, is too precious a gift to give up in order to live in a free market society then you need to re-evaluate your priorities.

I’m on the “go ahead and call me” list. I got thirty seconds, no matter what I’m doing. And if you’re selling those knives, call me soon.

You should write

Sunday, September 28th, 2003

Hey, I know I said your blog sucked but… go ahead and write. I mean, if you want to.

Look, I wasn’t saying your blog sucks. I know, I know, it *sounded* like I was saying your blog sucks, but I was just… it’s just that sometimes I feel bad and I have to lash out, y’know? I feel so all alone, and that makes me say things I wouldn’t normally say.

C’mon, baby. Write something. Go ahead. Tell me how you’re feeling. C’mon honey. Remember when you had all that knitting? That was *great*, you should tell me about it again. Remember when you thought that thing? You should totally tell me about it again. The famous person you met at that wedding…?

Okay, honey, I just checked again and there have been no blogs posted. You really should. Just think about what’s happened the last little while and post a blog about it. Honey, I don’t want to have to be like this, but, y’know, it’s your responsibility to post a blog. I mean, I don’t want to pressure you, but if you don’t write a blog, I can’t promise you that I’ll keep writing mine.

Look. I’ve been nice. But there’s still no posting.

You know what? Your blog sucks. Don’t post, I don’t care. No. No, don’t even try. Don’t you fucking post, not after all this. I don’t even *want* to read your crap.

Lucretia Jones

Sunday, September 21st, 2003

Our show opened tonight, I just got done writing the production Blog about it. It was warmly received and well attended.

I was asked afterwards which of the pieces in the show were my favorite, and which were my least favorite. It was only after answering the question that I discovered how much distance there is between the kind of artist I am now and the kind of artist I was ten years ago.

We start off as actors for a thousand different reasons, maybe we didn’t get enough attention as children, maybe we feel like telling stories means we don’t have to be ourselves, maybe we’re just handsome, whatever. But at a certain point you do the math and you realize, almost immediately, that you have to be famous in order to do the work you want.

It’s this bullshit mantra repeated a thousand times over and over. I want to get a sitcom so I can have enough money to run my regional theater. I want to be on Oprah’s book list so I can go back to writing short non-linear fiction and poetry. I need to shoot my indie film with pseudo-stars so I can get enough industry attention so I can work with real stars, so I can be famous enough to make my indy movies with the actors I want. It’s a kind of lying logic that we tell ourselves constantly, and meanwhile our actual art is getting made by these focus groups in our minds…

It’s this internal combustion engine who’s petrol is celebrity. It isn’t as important to be good as it is to appear to be good. What you do is just slightly less important than the number of people who know that you exist.

And that’s fine, I mean, it’s just that most people don’t know what to like, especially anymore. When you see some chick in the subway and she sounds better than Jewel, but she’s ugly and that’s why she’s in the subway, and you just think, ‘well, if she was as good as I think she is, someone would know about her, and since they don’t, I must be wrong.’ I understand that impulse. It’s just being lazy, and God knows, I aint got that on anyone.

But at some point, that pursuit started to kill me. I think it was when my first marriage died. It died because I forgot that famous people aren’t any better, and I started trying to get commercials and sitcoms so that I could open my regional theater. I started sprinting towards these lies.

Those lies poisoned me. It is a purely artificial way of looking at the world, and it invalidates the personal and small things that happen between me and my friends. I say John Hurley, I say Dan Kois, I say Mike Johnson, what does it mean to you? I get desperate and say “John Hurley, graduated from Syracuse, works all the time as a director…” and I’m already buying in to the poison, I’m drinking it down. Then it becomes, ‘works with APAC, with John Knutson, who is doing the Royal Shakespeare…” God, how do I make this man mean something to you? TV? Movie? Remember the write-up, remember the review, didn’t your friend have a friend with a friend and a friend’s friend who said they saw that he was with the guy who everyone…?

What the fuck ever. It’s all part of those lies. John Hurley, the man who gave me the experience I had tonight, along with Jordana and Mac. I don’t even want to tell you his name, I just want you to not know. I don’t want you near, even. I don’t want you to come.

I have a long, long list of people I haven’t told about this show. Every company I produced in Indivisible doesn’t know about this show, even though I get emails every day from these people about shows they’re in. No-one in any of my other casts knows about this show. I just can’t make this show an opportunity for the next thing. I would love it if someone else did, but I just can’t.

When I was asked which parts were my favorite, I described the scenes in which I got to play something true. They weren’t the funniest moments- actually I take that back, one of them is a really funny moment. But there are moments where the character exists not as a type or as an inside joke, but as a person.

And the lies of this industry have poisoned me so much that creating characters whose job is to create opportunity, even for other characters, is much harder for me. That actor in me died at the same time that my ability to work on my career did. I just want something this good, and if I have to make it from the ground up like we just did, then so be it.

I didn’t do anything I didn’t want to for this show. I didn’t work with anyone I didn’t want to, and I didn’t have to bend on anything. It’s an hour long, it’s funny as hell, you get a free brownie, and if you don’t come, that’s fine by me. I can’t ask you, I can’t do anything else but put out this expression, and if it becomes part of a larger thing, I can’t be the one to do that.

Hey. They’re called ‘rants’ for a reason.

Fortunately, I can at least still try to make a little money as a musician.


Saturday, September 20th, 2003

I woke up at about 9:45 this morning, about half an hour earlier than I wanted to. I was alone in the room, but I woke up because of the palpable air of panic in the house. At 3 minutes to ten, Jordana came in the bedroom and sort of stood there shifting her weight.

“Home Depot. Toys R Us. Brownies don’t look done. Are you, y’know, finished sleeping?”

So I got up, made some coffee and said, “Give me ten minutes to get through the news and stuff and then I’m all yours.” “Sure, no problem.” Then, about thirty seconds later. “Um, seriously, I think we need to cook these brownies longer…”

It’s childish to assume you can set parameters around things like anxiety. Jordana’s parents are coming tonight to our opening, they are going to comment on everything from her outfit to the lighting to the language to, well, to the brownies. And although I think they’re funny, for Jordana, these comments are real.

So, I closed the laptop, heated up the oven to cook the brownies another fifteen minutes (they just came out a second ago and they’re perfect now) and we went to get the last minute props we were missing.

Sometimes loving someone is prioritizing away a tiny little thing. For me though, I generally don’t make any sacrifices or do any work without expecting tons of credit. Which is why I write this blog.


Friday, September 19th, 2003

Tomorrow The Lucretia Jones Mysteries goes up.

It is great to be in charge of so much of a piece of art. It’s great to be able to produce, set design, sound design, act, write music, record music, hang lights, build sets, find props and find costumes for a show, and it is thrilling to be able to do all of that for one show.

I have a friend who hates the fact that off-off theater requires so much of the actors, that actors are expected to create more of the show than just the characters and are also required to try to bring in audience. I love it.

But I wonder if I love it because I have chosen to. I am doing a play written for Jordana, and I get to act in it with my two best friends. I don’t have a right to complain. But I’m tired, and sometimes I am a little sad about the fact that no matter how hard I peddle, this is a stationary bike.

But it is better than not peddling at all, or, to extend the metaphor, to stand with my nose up against the glass looking at all the gorgeous bikes I can’t afford. If all I have is a stationary bike, then I am going to keep peddling and hope that I’ll eventually get where I’m going.

Legal Tender

Tuesday, September 16th, 2003

I have touched two important legal papers in the last six weeks. The first was at Ian’s wedding, where, as the theoretical best man, I signed his wedding certificate as the witness. The other was just a few hours ago when I opened the papers finalizing my divorce.

Anyone who has been divorced knows what it is, anyone who hasn’t, no matter how close you were, doesn’t. It is a singular experience.

There is the same heartache that goes with the end of every love affair, and I don’t think it’s any more or any less with divorce, that kind of pain is universal. But added to that is the idea that you might be insane. You look at your ex and you know why you liked them, can imagine how you loved them, can fathom how you sacrificed for them and fought for them and cried over them. But you just can’t imagine marrying them. You can’t imagine that you didn’t see this coming.

The first time you fall in love like that, it sends a crack right down the center of your being, like dropping an old hot pan in ice water. And that’s just that, the crack is there and will be there for the rest of your life.

I’m getting remarried next May, so it’s not like I’m hurting because of this. I was told the other day that my relationship with Jordana isn’t fair because she does everything I want to do. I mean, the reason we are together is because we both do everything we want to do, and almost all of that intersects. The happiness I have with Jordana would have been impossible for me to come close to with my ex-wife.

But I feel so bad for young Sean. I feel like I let him down. He saw a star and he grabbed hold of it and suddenly it was right there in the car next to him on road trips and in his bed and at his side. That girl never understood a goddam thing, that girl always asked for things that young Sean didn’t care about and didn’t care about the things that young Sean loved. But, man, the myth that Li’l Sean attached to the girl, the myth that was the star, that was a beautiful story, and I miss that story, I miss that star.

My family and my fiance read this, sure, but that doesn’t make me want to qualify this. It is an awkward thing, feeling sad for getting release from ultimate doom and sadness. I think about my own parents, and how grateful I am that they are not still albatrossed around each other’s necks. I know that what I loved was never actually there, and I know that she is happier now, released from the lies she told herself about me.

It doesn’t have to be true to miss my belief in it. I’m sure ex-patriots miss home cooking, I’m sure fallen church members miss God even when they quit believing. Too many times did she look me in the eye and gaslight me, too many times did I find myself facing west, waiting for the sun to rise. The things I believe in now are keeping my head down, keeping my cards close to my chest and trusting people who see with my eyes and no-one else.

And after all that, I just sometimes miss that big blank smile and stringy-armed hug after the few moments that our myths about each other matched our realities. I miss the couple we became when, for a few moments, we were able to bend and stretch ourselves into the couple we pretended to each other that we were. I miss being able to say something without always thinking, ‘but, y’know, I thought I was in love, I thought this marriage would last forever, so, I mean, what do I know?’

Mostly? I miss the feeling that I can trust my self.

Our Dinner Party

Thursday, September 11th, 2003

I can beat myself up all I want, but my friends and I decided to have a really small little dinner party, just a couple of sweet people who wanted to get together on the anniversary and feel better. We did.

I made amazing food. I’m starting to get really good at a pretty limited menu. I want to be better with vegetables, but I feel like I have a good feel for fish and meat.

Of course, right now, my stomach is killing me.

It was really nice, and we managed to miss all the 2 year crap on TV, which I have to assume was just unbearable. We drank wine, we talked theater and art, we talked about bullshit, we played basketball on tv, and we didn’t think about terrorists. I don’t know if that means they won or what, but we just didn’t think about it at all, all night.

The War

Thursday, September 11th, 2003

I have only a minute or two. Last night was excrutiating, today’s hangover from the piercing migraine I had feels almost worse, but you can’t let a day like today pass without comment.

For some reason, the only thing I feel about today is shame. There is something amusing about figuratively standing up and shooting out your shame instead of just feeling it privately, but sometimes this blog is just me standing in judgement over just me.

I felt ashamed of the people who attacked us, other people who are exactly like me, and, after about six weeks, I felt mounting shame for our President’s reaction to the whole ordeal. For those six weeks, New York came together under our Mayor and seemed to stand together, united in an effort to heal each other and to help each other. The fact that it didn’t last and didn’t work at all makes me feel ashamed as well.

My brother Kent has our emails from that time posted elsewhere on the web, and I honestly can’t read them. My emails just seem like self congratulatory lies. I did do all the stuff I wrote about, but I did them half so I could write something cool and half because everyone else was doing it, which sums up my life basically. I always have one eye on the audience and one eye on the other actors, judging myself as comparison and by applause, not by action.

It is a sad time for me right now. Realizing I could easily leave my theoretical dreams behind to pursue a life on more solid economic footing, realizing that many of my friendships are with people I don’t have any admiration for, just a shared history, realizing that having ideas is about 2% of getting those ideas implemented. It’s a sad time, sad changes are happening to me.

But on a national scale, I am humiliated that the victims can sue the city, I’m dismayed that a once united western consciousness was essentially disregarded by our president, and I am appalled that many of the firemen who were lucky enough to survive the WTC attacks are now losing their jobs to the new economy.

Even more so, I’m ashamed that I didn’t change for the better, that we didn’t learn, and that we couldn’t make anything good come from this.

All kidding aside

Tuesday, September 9th, 2003

I got some funny responses from my last blog. Relax. You can’t help it if your blog sucks.

On a completely different note, it’s interesting to me that everything in life involves some kind of compromise. It may seem simple to say, but it is profound as hell to me. The people who learn to balance and compromise their lives seem to be a shitload better put together than I am.

There is a sort of fantasy that I guess men must have about women, My own fantasies are too twisted for print, but I see these idealized Madonna/Whores everywhere in popular culture, so there has to be something there. We apparently want a woman who will have sex with us with relative ease, who will do kinky ass stuff with us at the drop of a dime, but who wouldn’t do it with any other human being on the planet. Unless, of course, we wanted them to and we could watch.

So, right away, y’know, just forget it. You aren’t gonna find that geisha prostitute virgin with the double jointed hips who will hold your hand when you have the pukes, so make peace with it and decide what your priorities are.

New York is a clusterfuck, to be sure, but the give and take here is obvious. I have never lived anywhere where the truth of this idea was more apparent. How much money do you want? Where do you want to live? How much room do you need? How many people do you want to live with?

See, the answers to these questions can’t be what you think they’re gonna be. Because all of the things you want become mutually exclusive. My poor sister made some decisions based on what she really wanted, and her whole life became the commute to and from work, the picking up a billion extra shifts, the nightmare of living hand to mouth. Now, she is realizing that she has prioritized these answers, and she’s gonna change her life into somethings she doesn’t want so she can have all the things she *really* wants.

I want to live, just me and my fiance. And, I want to have money, lots of it, money left over, y’know, all over the place. I want money all over my bed and I want to roll around in it. So, this aint happening, obviously. But I have discovered that my priorities are such that making money is way more important to me than I realized.

And you got to love that about a place. New York forces you to make decisions, to prioritize, and that’s gotta be the way you learn about yourself.

All right, this blog wasn’t all that funny. But seriously, it’s funnier than yours.

Holy Crap

Sunday, September 7th, 2003

All right, my only excuse is that I am up at ten to two in the morning because I might have a small-scale life altering job, and I am waiting for a west coast call. And I am tired as ballsacks. But *seriously*, folks.

Y’all’s blogs is boring as *SHIT*.

First of all, everyone’s blog contains somewhere a disclaimer about how you don’t really care and shouldn’t read it. You also say that I shouldn’t care about your life. Then why the hell are you keeping a blog? Man, after reading your blog, how the hell do you care about your life?

Did you go to work today? Really. How did that make you feel? Hm. Right, right. No, no, go ahead. Your co-worker? No- what did he do? He didn’t! He did?! So, what did you eat when you got home? Hot dogs? Really? Just the hot dogs, without any veggies? Wait, wait, hold on a second, you haven’t told me what you bought at the Labor Day Sales. A suede skirt? Is that the one from the HOLY LOVE OF GOD, I AM GOING TO SHOOT MYSELF IN THE HEAD JUST KNOWING YOU SHARE THE SAME PLANET AS ME.

Jesus Christ. Think about it. Give yourself five years, wait – no, give yourself two weeks. If what you are doing right now won’t matter to you in two weeks then you have three choices. 1) do something more interesting, and then write about that, 2) keep doing the same boring ass “I heart McDonalds, I shop at the Gap, I hate my job, I want a nicer boyfriend, I eat little kid food and claim it’s ironic when actually it just dulls the pain, I talk about my weight, I love Friends” fucking life and don’t write about it, or 3) be more goddamn funny.

Look, I know some people read this shit. The only reason you’ve read this twice is because I don’t tell you about my boring ass day, I don’t talk about how stuff feels good that’s supposed to, and I don’t complain about the same shit frickin’ Dilbert complains about. And if I ever do these things, I’m funny. I’m goddamn irreverent. It’s a gift, really. Everything I do is art. Everything you do is boring.

But you can do whatever you want, if you can be more goddamn funny. My brother Ian’s blog is actually never about anything. No-one cares about his pumpkins. Seriously. No-one. His pumpkins don’t care about his pumpkins. But I read his blog because he’s funny.

I know, a lot of people were born without a quick tongue. It’s a *BLOG* for the love of God. Take your time. My brother Kent can write his blog without thinking and it’s awesome. You can’t. And by you, just assume I mean you. Almost every blog is bad, so if you’re reading this and you have a blog, that means you.

Not you, Mac.

Be more goddamn funny. It is no wonder Americans are hated. We actually think people want to read about our *jobs*. You don’t even like being there, why are you writing about it? JESUS CHRIST! YOU HATE IT, DON’T MAKE IT THE THING YOU WRITE ABOUT!!!!!!

Again, 1) do something cool and be a bad writer, that’s fine. 2) do something inane and don’t keep a blog, also fine. 3) do something cool and be a cool writer. (That’s where you come in, Mac.) I mean, you can do whatever you want, but I aint gonna troll for blogs anymore, I’m just gonna read what’s recomended to me. And if any part of your introduction implies that your blog is boring and shouldn’t be read, I’ll just trust you on it.