August 4th, 2005

flavored with age

The power of affirmations

Here is a sentence I never thought I would write in any context but pure fantasy: I am going with my girlfriend to see MC Chris play a show for my birthday.

Since that sentence miraculously has come true, let's try another one: I will be traveling to Ireland using my lottery winnings just after the publication of my third book, which I hope former President Bush will read in his prison cell.
flavored with age


Hey, it's another article I wrote for Metromix! Tying in local restaurants and bars to the release of The Dukes of Hazzard movie! And it's been severely edited to ramp up the number of trite hillbilly cliches and completely excise all the cool historical background about the history of country music and southern culture in Chicago I painstakingly researched so it wouldn't be quite so lame!

Sometimes I think this whole entertainment writing thing isn't for me. Then I get the fat paychecks from the Tribune Company and think, well, then again...

Also, if I didn't mention it already, here's the beer-road-trip article I wrote for the latest UR. I "researched" it in the guise of driving to Minnesota a million times to visit my brilliant and beautiful girlfriend and her awesome kid, and buying lots of beer. Also, I met my editor at UR finally and she was gracious and kind. Although the staff at Park Place look at me like I'm a homeless food delivery guy.

Finally, Chicagoans, come see me, meet me, hear me read things that aren't bowdlerized, hackneyed entertainment features, at the next Funny Ha Ha. It's always a blast, and I'll be reading alongside amazing folks like Claire "Klar" Zulkey, John "John" Green, and WBEZ sketch comedy dingbats Schadenfreude, who once gave me five dollars. It's next Wednesday at 8PM at the Hideout (which, if you're not going there on a regular basis, you's crazy), and show up early, because (a) the last two shows sold out and (b) I'll be the second reader, and if you miss me, I'll pound you like veal.
flavored with age


MARY ARKWRIGHT: I suppose, in retrospect, I was perfect for the role.

INTERVIEWER: How do you mean?

MA: I was a chump. A sucker. A lot of bright kids are. We think the world revolves around us. We’re totally oblivious to reality – pardon the expression. Isn’t it ironic we have to put quotes around “reality” now, to call attention to the distinction between reality-the-television-genre and reality-the-reality? Oh, good grief, I’m doing it again.

I: Doing what?

MA: Wandering. Letting myself get distracted by the shiny little thoughts I find in the cubbyholes of my own mind. Impressing myself with how clever I am, when really I’m quite stupid. Smart kids. We think we’re so much better than everyone else that we don’t even notice what’s happening around us.

I: Like what?

MA: Oh, there were so many things that should have tipped me off. The fact that my younger brother and father didn’t look anything like me. The fact that everyone around me talked in clichés and punchlines. The – well, I guess let’s call them what they were: the extras in my life, the supporting players. I mean, who names their kid “Six”? And then there were the sounds.

I: What sounds?

MA: The laugh track. I thought I was schizophrenic for the first twenty years of my life, and for the next ten I thought I was just colossally self-absorbed. I would hear people laugh when I said something funny, or sigh when something sad happened. Even my name was a contrivance.

I: You mean your real name?

MA: Please. Blossom Russo isn’t my “real” name any more than Joey is my real brother. Christ, that “whoa” alone constitutes pure child abuse in my book. I changed my name because “Mary Arkwright” is a lot more real than “Blossom Russo”.

I: Was there anything that finally tipped you off?\

MA: Well, I mean, in hindsight, it’s all so easy to see. Once you learn that your whole troubled adolescence has been covertly filmed and selectively edited into a low-rated sitcom as an experiment by the networks to prevent having to pay writers, it all falls into place. You find a traumatized and dysfunctional but witty and clever family, stick some cameras behind the walls, hire a guy to play the father and give him a music career to explain all the buzzing noises and recording equipment and mechanical sounds – it should have been obvious all along. But I suppose in the end it was the girl.

I: You’re referring to your sister.

MA: Kennedy was NOT my fucking sister, all right?

I: I…I’m sorry.

MA: No, I’m sorry. I had no call to yell at you like that. It’s just…well, even if she WAS who she CLAIMED to be, she wouldn’t have been my sister. She would have been my dad’s second wife’s daughter, my stepsister. But in actuality, she was my fake dad’s second fake wife’s fake kid, and she had the fakest English accent I’ve ever heard in my life. My fake boyfriend, Vinnie Bonitardi, could do a better English accent than her, and the only English accent he’d ever heard was Sting’s. That’s what finally did it. That’s when I learned.

I: So you changed your name…

MA: Yeah, moved away, left Vinnie Retardi behind to his important hobbies of flipping bottle caps and writing bad poetry, went to Brown. Got a decent teaching job. Found out I like girls, or at least girls who aren’t named after numbers. I’m even in a support group for people who went through the same trauma as I did.

I: Really?

MA: Yeah. There’s a guy from Chicago who was convinced he was from some made-up eastern European country, another guy who had seven fake brothers and sisters, and one girl who grew up thinking she was a robot built by her father but she had to keep it a secret from her neighbors. It’s a wonder she can even get up in the morning.

I: Fascinating.

MA: My best friend was the only white girl at an all-black college and no one would tell her why. And my girlfriend…

I: Yes?

MA: I almost want to let her tell the story, but you’ve chosen to talk to me. Let’s just say…well, she thought she had it good. She was a gifted child, like me, and went to a good high school with a special program for advanced students. She thought she liked boys, and thought she had found someone she could spend her life with. Another dumb-looking kid from the streets with a secret sensitive soul, just like me and Vinnie Retardi. They never get tired of that gag.

I: What happened?

MA: It turned out her teacher was Dr. Johnny Fever.
flavored with age

Should this surprise anyone? No, it should not.

So, on a music/culture forum where I hang out, time has been wasted by everyone preparing a list of their 100 favorite movies. Amongst the things I already knew that were confirmed by preparing mine:

1. I don't watch that many movies.
2. I'm a sucker for noir, experimental film, and postmodernism.
3. I like old stuff.

But here's something I didn't know:

1. I have no favorite movies that star Greta Garbo, but two favorite movies that star Whit Bissell.