Power Love

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20 June 2011


In one way or another, I'm telling a whole bunch of stories this summer. Hope you can make it out for all or some of these events, Alert Power Love Reader. Don't have all dates for all events. Updates will follow. Thank you for your support.

Fillet of Solo Festival--Performing an original show with Scott Whitehair
Where: Heartland Studio Theatre, 7016 N. Glenwood Avenue, Chicago
When: Saturday, 7/23, 8:30pm
Friday, 7/29, 8:30pm
Saturday, 7/30, 7pm
Thursday, 8/4, 8:30pm
More information here.

We Live Here--10-minute piece in this full-length play produced by Theatre Seven
When: Opens 8/4
More information here.

This Much Is True--straight-up storytelling
When: Tuesday, 8/9
Where: Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark
More information here.

Chicago Fringe Festival--I'm honored to be one-fifth of ToddsBurn Productions
When: Festival dates 9/1-9/11
Where: Pilsen
More information here.

11 June 2011


Enough about your issues. There's crime fighting to be done. As you may know, Alert Power Love Reader, our former goobernor is on trial for being a Colossal Dickhead. This is a watershed moment in American judiciariness because if His Hairness is convicted, it will set a precedent and henceforth all Dickheads will be eligible for prosecution and most importantly, it will expand opportunities for those of us in the crimer fighting field, which is why I'm currently building another wing on my estate so look for an invitation to the party to celebrate that!

However, I'm not gonna waste my time waiting around for some "judicial process" to make its way through "the courts" (patience: Not My Thing), I'm gonna start prosecuting Dickheads now. Technically, my job description doesn't include the prosecution of crimers, I'm actually just the super hero who catches them, but I have an expansive skill set and we're in the midst of budget cuts, so I've taken on some extra responsibilities.

At The Office of Super Heroes--which looks much like the Bat Cave, not incidentally, and I don't mean the Bat Cave from the movies of Batman, I mean the Bat Cave from the TV series, complete with that rockin computer that had lots of lights but which seemed to have only one function, to spit out very small pieces of paper, one at a time--we have The List of Dickheads thumb tacked to the cork board in the kitchen.

I'm not gonna lie, we've kinda been treading water ever since that bin Laden thing--I mean, Navy SEALS, who knew those guys were out and about? And don't think that whole thing didn't throw our marketing department for a loop, we've been trying to expand into the global market for years, but we keep getting sidetracked by McDonald's French fries and now do you see what happens when you don't consume a diet of green leafy vegetables, boys and girls? Right! You miss out on global expansion and Dickhead kills. Trust me, this will be much discussed at the Annual Conference of Super Heroes (November, Vegas, I'm giving the keynote address: How to Stop Picking Your Cuticles in Three Easy Steps).

Number One on The List of Dickheads is: The Assumption Pumpkins. Dose guys. I think you're quite familiar with the Assumption Pumpkins--they're the punks who think they always know why you're doing what you're doing, even though you never tell them and they never ask. Also, they are actual pumpkins, which is why, taped next to The List of Dickheads on the cork board in the kitchen of The Office of Super Heroes, there is a recipe for pumpkin pie. I ask you--can the Navy SEALS take down a Dickhead and then make a nice pie out of him/her/it? Well, probably. But they have to deal with that whole "code of conduct" thing and, like, Congress, so good luck at the next pie contest, boys!

I have a personal problem with the Assumption Pumpkins, mostly because I'm not one to state my motivations clearly, except for that whole skywriting phase I went through in high school, so I frequently find out the Assumption Pumpkins have spread salacious rumors about me and this makes me mad because I can spread my own salacious rumors about me, thank you very much.

While drinking my coffee in the kitchen of The Office of Super Heroes, I write my name next to the Assumption Pumpkins, thereby alerting my colleagues that this was my mission. I'm not the world's best baker of pies, however, so I'm gonna have to cross that bridge when I get to it.

I decide to invade the Assumption Pumpkins's hideout on a Monday evening, after watching a rerun of "Gossip Girl," which is one of my all-time favorite shows because there are cool clothes, all of which seem to fit awkwardly on the characters, as though they're lined with whipped cream that the actors are contractually obligated not to disturb, and also I have a wild fascination with Chuck Bass, which I simply cannot fathom because if I knew Chuck Bass in Real Life, I'd have to eat him for breakfast. I don't mean that to be a sexual innuendo, I mean I would literally crush him and sprinkle him over my eggs. Entitled white American men get on my last nerve. But apparently not when they're fictional characters on the Upper East Side.

Enough about me. What do you think about me? So after "Gossip Girl," I head over to the Assumption Pumpkins's hideout, which is located in the back room of The Grafton. I'm a big fan of the Irish and beer so The Grafton isn't a hard place to be. Plus, they have food there, which I'm also a big fan of.

There's a fire going when I look down through the grate of the ventilation duct, which is conveniently located in the middle of the ceiling of the back room. I'm happy I'm not directly over the fireplace because catching on fire is one way to blow a top secret ops mission and let's face it, The Office of Super Heroes cannot handle any missteps here. We have a budget, you know. And skyrocketing expenses. You can't buy these tights just anywhere, m'kay?

The unfortunate thing is, I forgot my glasses, so everything is kinda blurry and also, you know that cool telescope thing that Matt Damon uses in "The Bourne Ultimatum" when he's in one building and looking across the city into Landy's office--it kinda looks like the thing jewelers use to see chips in diamonds--I'm talking about the telescope thingy here, not Landy's office--and this thing is so precise Matt Damon can actually read the words on a folder that's being placed into a briefcase? Well, I don't have that.

All I have is my own proficiency at squinting, but squinting kinda makes me tense, which makes my shoulders cramp up, which gives me a charley horse, which I have to stretch out immediately and also makes me grunt because charley horses hurt, and this sudden movement causes me to fall through the ventilation grate on to the floor below and my grunt causes the secret meeting of the Assumption Pumpkins to suddenly turn and look at me and this is why I'm really thankful the ventilation grate is not placed directly over the fireplace.

I'm briefly stunned, but I'm also a super hero, so I jump to my feet, ready to defend America's honor. The Assumption Pumpkins continue to eat their artichoke dip and sip their imported Belgian beers.

"No Guinness?" I say, pulling my machete from its sheath at my side. Incidentally, my machete is not in its sheath at my side because I left it on the table at home, right next to my glasses.

"The Irish have drunk all the Guinness," one of the Assumption Pumpkins says. I know this to be a blatant lie because Guinness flows from never ending streams, which are located throughout the world. I suspect this lying Assumption Pumpkin is the leader. This is because he is wearing a headdress with the word "leader" embroidered in gold string across the front.

I glance around the room. The rest of the Assumption Pumpkins are looking at me--looking me up and down--no doubt impressed with my orange tights and flaming orange cape, no doubt jealous of my gleaming tiara. Thought bubbles pop up around their pumpkin heads. Most of them have forgotten to turn off their ovens. One is dreading the test results he was supposed to get yesterday but which have been delayed because the clinic lost power. Nice job, ComEd.

I whip out my metaphor gun and make a sweeping motion around the room. The thought bubbles all pop and disappear. The leader squints at me out of the corner of his eye. "You haven't come for dinner, then?"

"You're quick, Pumpkin," I say. Sometimes, when I'm in super hero mode, I talk like Clint Eastwood. It's a gift. "And not all Irish drink." I know this because some Irish are no longer alive and I've been to the afterlife and--spoiler alert!--there are no bars in the afterlife. You can smoke cloud feces, though, which provides the same high as a bottle of Jameson. Anyway, I don't know why I'm on the Irish thing. Defending my ancestors is not today's mission.

"Not all pumpkins make good pies," the leader of the Assumption Pumpkins says. Clearly, I'm making an I'm-gonna-make-a-pie-outta-you face, which is not the best approach to this secret ops mission. I shake my metaphor gun.

For the record, I love my metaphor gun. You should get one, Alert Power Love Reader. They're on sale at Target this week. Metaphor guns look like water guns, but instead of squirting water, they squirt magic cinnamon dust, which has multiple effects depending on which setting you choose: you can rearrange facial features; you can recalibrate brain waves; you can apply allergies; you can soften hearts. It's a multifaceted weapon that I invented and patented ten years ago and only use occasionally because the quality of a human can be seen in how she wields her power.

"All reports suggest you have been assumptioning cruel things about the staff of The Office of Super Heroes," I say to the leader, flicking the safety off my metaphor gun. "I'm here to put an end to that."

The leader of the Assumption Pumpkins looks around the room. The rest of the Assumption Pumpkins are staring at me. Little known fact: I used to hang out with the Assumption Pumpkins. Get a little tequila in them, and they're fun as hell. In addition, I have sat around campfires with quite a few of these pumpkins and shared some truly intimate memories. We don't talk anymore.

"Well," the leader says, "hard to know what to think when no communiques are transmitted."
"So you make shit up? That's lame," I say.
"You make shit up."
"Yes, but I have an MFA in fiction writing, so I'm morally obligated to make shit up. It was a condition of my loans."

I don't tell the leader I've already paid off my loans because I am remarkably financially savvy.

"Well, we had to fill the vacuum with something," the leader says. I hear the thought bubbles of the rest of the Assumption Pumpkins pop open with the same sound those bits of irrelevant information used to pop on the screen during music videos on VH-1's Pop-Up Video show. Do they still have videos these days? I metaphor gunned my TV about 10 years ago and now it's the world's biggest ball of twine. A real tourist attraction, by the way, please see the aforementioned remarkably financially savvy comment.

"You're manipulators," I tell the leader of the Assumption Pumpkins.
"You give us too much credit," he says.

Probably. I flip my metaphor gun to heart softener and start shooting. I blanket the room with magic cinnamon dust. The Assumption Pumpkins look not too surprised. I suspect they assumed the worst anyway. I wait for the dust to settle, then look around the room. On a table next to me, there is a plate of chips and partially attacked artichoke dip. "You gonna eat that?" I ask the Assumption Pumpkin nearest to it. "It's just that we kinda missed you," he says. "You stopped coming to campfires."

"You stopped listening," I say. I plunge a chip in the artichoke dip and toss it in the air. I catch it in my mouth expertly because in addition to being a super hero, I am also a top-tier member of the Morris Brother Barnum Bungling Circus and this move is kinda like what I'm known for on the circus circuit.

"Sometimes super heroes and pumpkins just move on," the leader says. "Sometimes it's just that. No malice intended."

This is a good point, although it means I have to release my long-held grudge, which I have been cultivating with great care for quite some time. Releasing this grudge is a double-edged sword: it will make me 10 pounds lighter, which is good because I have that recurring role on that soap opera; but it's also not good because it will leave me with a lot of time on my hands. I have closets full of Jameson, so time is sometimes not my friend.

I place my metaphor gun against my right temple and pull the trigger. A quick insuck of breath later, I tell the Assumption Pumpkins that I'm buying dinner. We gather around the fireplace with our drinks and our headdresses and our weapons and our thought bubbles and we swap stories about inside-out socks and documentary film making.

I decide not to make pies out of the Assumption Pumpkins.

01 June 2011


I'm trudging across the parking lot like a zombie, not because I am a zombie, not today anyway, but because my pyramid of bricks is shackled to my ankle. I have an impressive pyramid of bricks. You do too, Alert Power Love Reader. Your pyramid is comprised of many bricks: a brick for indecision, another for self-doubt, another for regret, for shame, for fear, for that time in 4th grade when you called Sally Googapalooza fat so you could be cool in front of the cool kids, but Sally heard you and never spoke to you again and it didn't help that the cool kids never liked you anyway because they thought you were fat, and you were, and still are, and that's about 30 bricks right there. You have one Sally Googapalooza experience in each stage of your life, so at this point, you're hauling around a hell of a lot of bricks and it'd be nice if you could count that as strength training, maybe get some muscle tone out of the deal, but that's not how the pyramid of bricks works.

I have been told by a very serious source that I will grow old alone, and this is my weightiest brick, which balances precariously on the top of my pyramid, which kinda makes it an odd looking pyramid, I guess, kinda like a pyramid wearing a sun bonnet, or a geometry puzzle, or like something you'd see on Sesame Street in the shape episode, which concerned parents would tune into expecting enlightened conversation about body image, which of course they wouldn't get, they'd get a bunch of triangles and rectangles and then they'd have to figure out how to handle the body image conversation with their kids themselves and to avoid that, they'd write scathing letters to Obama about his disastrous choices in teleprompters, "You're a reader, not a leader," they'd proclaim, until some well-meaning Democrat would bash them in the head with a mallet.

For the record, we here at Power Love HQ do not advocate violence as a means to conflict resolution, despite the fact that we have several mallets on staff.

Anyhoodle--you have issues. Me too. I prefer to shackle mine to my ankle and drag them around in public because I usually don't have pockets and I rarely carry a purse. It's hard enough just to get pants on in the morning, let alone remember to carry receptacles with me and this may or may not have something to do with my issues, but nonetheless, here I am, dragging my pyramid of bricks across the parking lot, minivanned families stopping to stare at me as I do, me grunting every five paces, wishing I would just take the time to exercise more often, dammit--this is brick #42, you'll find it third row center--so I smile and wave, but the minivanners don't acknowledge me, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that I'm not wearing pants.

Into the forest I go. The trees don't have pyramids of bricks, because trees have neither issues nor ankles, so while they're basically empathetic to my situation, they can't fully understand it. "Humans," I hear a maple say to an elm and in that instant, I realize I don't actually know the difference between a maple and an elm. I don't even know what poison ivy looks like. Saw the movie, though, it sucked.

I trudge on. "Trudge on" spoken quickly sounds to me like "truncheon," which sounds to me like a medieval torture device or a really bad heavy metal band, so you can imagine my mood at this point. I imagine that there is another me operating in a parallel universe and the other me is making all the right decisions and getting all her hopes fulfilled and I kinda hate her because she's probably not getting mosquito bites on her ass right now, but also, there's something inherently negative about hating yourself, even your other self in a parallel universe, so I instead turn my hate towards someone who deserves it, like the minivanners. This makes me feel much better because as you know, Alert Power Love Reader, judging others is the first step on the path to enlightenment.

Finally I make it to The Waterfall, who, like the trees, has neither issues nor ankles and so can empathize with my situation but can't actually understand it. Band name: The Lucky Fuckers.

I crawl inside The Waterfall. I have to yank the shackle around my ankle in order to pull my pyramid of bricks away from the crashing water. It's okay for the mist to hit the pyramid of bricks, but shit, man, don't get that thing soaked because you will live to regret it, trust me on this one, Alert Power Love Reader, you simply don't have the disposition to handle a soaked pyramid of bricks. I do, of course, I'm far more perfect than you know, but we're all about the PSA here at Power Love HQ, so: you're welcome.

The Waterfall falls. It sounds like it's humming. I close my eyes. "Act of grace," I whisper to myself. "Act of grace. Act of grace. Act of grace." After a while, my mantra starts to sound like "sack of mace," and that appeals to me, probably because I've been inundated with violent images that today's society deems socially acceptable, so I train my precision vision on the canyon outside The Waterfall. I've come here today to get rid of the bricks, but I've tried this before and even when I've walked out of the forest, unshackled and light, I end up jumping in my car, rolling down the highway, turning up the music, feeling happy and hydrated and then I look in the rear view mirror and there on my back seat, what do I see? My pyramid of bricks, luxuriating like a spoiled cat.

Today I'm heartbroken and determined, less trying to unload, more trying to survive, and I can't help but think if I don't get rid of my pyramid of bricks soon, I'm gonna get sucked under by the undertow, which is quite a feat in the landlocked Midwest, so maybe I'd make headlines, but only until some other fucker gets sucked under by a magic dragon and then, even in the after-the-undertow life, I'd still be a nonentity.

"You should write a book and call it Self-Indulgent Bullshit," The Waterfall says.
"I like you better when you sing 'Amazing Grace'," I tell it.
"Hey, I don't come over to your place and play DJ, do I?"

True. I haven't invited The Waterfall to my place since that disastrous dinner party with Kid Rock. In my defense, I really didn't think break dancing and juggling were mutually exclusive. They don't give you a rule book, you know. Plus, up until that point, I was considered proficient with flaming swords.

"I was hoping I could leave my pyramid of bricks here," I tell The Waterfall. "Maybe you could erode them a bit? Perhaps to the point where I could at least keep them in my pocket?"
"You're not wearing pants."
"Neither are you."
"When was the last time you looked at your pyramid of bricks?" The Waterfall asks.

I have to think about this for a bit. I have many times glared out of the corner of my eye at my pyramid. Occasionally I zen out and can see it in my peripheral vision. But in terms of straight-on, direct eye contact, I'd have to say that's not an activity I'm particularly fond of.

"Last Tuesday," I say.
"Bullshit: Brick #13, row 2, second from left," The Waterfall says.

In addition to my mind-numbingly awesome proficiency with flaming swords, I am also a world class bullshitter, particularly when it comes to me talking to me, which is how I spend most of my time. "I don't want to look at it," I mumble, embarrassed. "I'm afraid it's gonna fall on my head."
"Maybe it won't."
"But maybe it will."
"But maybe it won't."
Band name: Stubborn Motherfuckers.
I say, "But if it does, no one's around to help me out from under it."
"What am I, invisible over here? I'm around." The Waterfall snaps.

It's true--The Waterfall is literally around me. It's splashing in front of me, pools of it are collecting at my feet, rivulets of it are slinking down the wall behind me. "Are you suggesting I use my laser precision vision to erode my pyramid of bricks myself?" I ask.

Just between you and me, Alert Power Love Reader, sometimes I exaggerate slightly, so I'm not altogether confident I possess the laser precision vision I brag about. Even so, I don't have a better solution. I glance quickly at my pyramid of bricks, then turn away. Good news--the world does not swallow me whole. I turn slowly and really look at it.

It's less red than I thought, more purple. And kinda wonky in its balance, like someone tossed each brick on a pile without caring where it landed. The individual bricks are held together by what looks like grape jelly. It does indeed appear to be wearing a sun bonnet.

The Waterfall falls. The trees hum. I want my pyramid of bricks to disappear, but they don't. Instead, they seem to lose mass from the inside, until there is still a definable pyramid, but one that is more like a triangle of balloons in brick shapes. I tug my shackle. It feels like an ankle bracelet. I take a few steps. My pyramid of bricks still follows me, but I don't have to trudge now. I do a quick kick-ball-change maneuver. Still there, but I'm nonetheless moving easily. I roll out a series of Rockette chorus line kicks. Perfect. My pyramid of balloon bricks settles in comfortably by my side.

"I'll take requests now," The Waterfall says.
I stretch out in The Waterfall's puddles and close my eyes. "Thank you," I say to The Waterfall.

The Waterfall clears its throat and begins to hum "Amazing Grace." After a while the trees join in, and everything else is quiet.