Just my luck!

Stop or we'll shoot!

Nothing, and I do mean absolutely nothing, ever goes exactly as I planned. Sometimes that’s a good thing. I guess I’ve been lucky in that regard most of my life. But this time I was caught off guard. A few months ago, I received an e-mail from the Chicago Dramatists announcing a playwriting contest, so of course, I entered a play. I figured they would read it and then I wouldn’t win the contest anyway, but I felt compelled to at least enter the contest. I was totally prepared not to win. I have been writing this play since 1982 and someday I will actually finish writing it. But since it’s almost finished, I decided to submit it to the contest anyway. As luck would have it, I was able to edit it once more and submit it in the appropriate pdf format by the deadline. I knew this because I received an e-mail confirmation that my play had been received and entered into the contest. However, two days later, I received another e-mail stating that the contest had been canceled due to a lack of funds by the organization. I didn’t even have the luxury of waiting until May when they would announce the winner, even though I wouldn’t have won anyway because that’s how my luck runs. However, I didn’t even have the time to fantasize for months about not winning the contest. I was deprived of this indulgence in which I like to wallow. Sniff!

Why me? Why me all the time?

2009 Chicago Auto Show

2009 Chicago Auto Show

Last year, I wrote about going to the Chicago Auto Show. This year I actually went to it. I wrote about how my father used to take my brothers and I to the Chicago Auto Show. This year, my oldest son dragged me along against my will. I find this amazing because my son doesn’t even have a driver’s license. He’s nineteen and he’s never taken driver’s ed. I gave him the Illinois Rules of the Road book to study twice with the promise that if he studied I would take to take the written test to get his driver’s permit. But he never studied and he still doesn’t have his permit. He’s just not that interested in driving or he would have gotten his driver’s license by now. Which reminds me of my friend Vito who has never–to my knowledge–ever had a driver’s license. My life would have been so different if I would have never gotten my driver’s license. I can’t even imagine how could exist without one.

Anyway, the Chicago Auto Show was fun even though I didn’t really want to go. I enjoyed it vicariously through my son who seemed to enjoy looking at the expensive cars that I cannot afford and probably wouldn’t drive even if I could afford them. I took some pictures of the cars. And then I took some more pictures of some more cars, but this time my son was in the pictures because he insisted on being in pictures with him in some of the cars. Of course, he offered to take a couple of pictures of me, for which I posed begrudgingly because I don’t really enjoy being photographed. One thing I did miss was the celebrities that used to come and sign autographs. And they no longer had beautiful models in evening gowns posing for amateur photographers near the new cars. There were plenty of workers continually wiping fingerprints off cars and keeping them shiny. But overall, I did have fun and was glad I went.

How I became an interesting person

Jim Harmon, Will Clinger, and me

Once upon a time in Chicago, a long, long time ago, I decided I wanted to become a standup comedian. So, I started going to comedy clubs with my friends Jim Harmon and Vito Vitkauskas. Eventually, I took theater classes and attended the Players Workshop of Second City. I think Jim attended the workshop first, so I became interested in it. Will Clinger was in Jim’s class and they went on to do two plays together. One was Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party and I don’t remember the other one. Jim eventually rejoined the real world of the working and left theater altogether. Will, on the other hand, continued in theater and I would occasionally see his name in the entertainment section of the newspapers. Since I loved Chicago so much, I enjoyed watching Wild Chicago because the show featured interesting people and places of Chicago, one of my most favorite places on earth (But you probably know that if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time). One day, I was surprised when I saw a segment hosted by Will Clinger. It’s nice to see a familiar face on TV once in a while.

Jim and I have kept in touch on and off over the years. We’ve been friends since high school. That’s one of the things that I like about not having moved away from Chicago. I always run into old acquaintances when I least expect it. Once, when I lost track of Jim for a few years, he suddenly e-mailed. He had Googled my name and found my blog. Anyway, we met for lunch one day, exchanged stories about our children,and then I told him about how I had seen Will Clinger on Wild Chicago. Anytime I would see Will in the newspaper, I would tell Jim. A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from the Chicago Dramatists advertising a play starring Will Clinger titled How I Became an Interesting Person. I sent the e-mail to Jim just to let him know about Will’s latest theatrical endeavor. Jim responded by saying we should go see the play. I didn’t even think of that, even though I love seeing plays at the theater.

So last night, we saw Will Clinger in his play. I really enjoyed the play because it had been a very long time since I had seen a very funny play that made me laugh out loud. I would recommend the play to you, but you have to see it by Sunday because that’s when it ends. Of course, we had to meet Will after the play was over. He recognized Jim, but couldn’t quite place him. Will then looked at me and I said, “You don’t know me.” Jim finally had to say, “We were in The Birthday Party together” and then he remembered Jim. But Will still didn’t remember me since he never really knew me in the first place.

It all started with a matchbook!

Monty Python

I enjoy spending time with my sons, but I refuse to play video games with them. I just can’t get into them. I’ve tried playing them with my sons. However, I can’t concentrate because it’s just a game and I can think of other ways to idle away my time. Before video games were invented, they ask me, how did we have fun when I was a kid? I told them we used to play board games. So they asked, “Bored games?” “No, exciting games like Monopoly, checkers, and chess!” Okay, we occasionally play chess, but other than that we don’t play any games together.

However, we do have one thing in common: Comedy! We all have the same sense of humor. We love watching comedy in any form together. Whether it’s Saturday Night Live, Mad TV, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, or comedy movies. We also watch standup comedians on YouTube.com together. One day, they asked me what kind of comedy I used to watch when I was a boy. I told them about how I used to love watching Monty Python and how my friends and I used memorize their sketches. Well, this piqued my sons’ curiosity. I told them a little bit about their comedy troupe with their British accents and how they met at Oxford and how they loved to dress in women’s clothes. Then, I remembered that I had several Monty Python DVDs. Well, we watched them all in one day and were sore from laughing afterward.  I was surprised that they liked Monty Python as much as they did!

So then, they looked up more Monty Python clips on YouTube.com and showed them to me. Some of them were entirely new to me. Either I had never seen them before or it had been so long ago that I had seen them that I no longer remembered them. I was happy I introduced my sons to Monty Python because I got to enjoy their comedy again!

La cocina

Enchiladas suizas

In Mexico, I was surprised when my cousin handed me a bag of potatoes and a potato peeler. She actually wanted me to peel potatoes! In the past, whenever I went to Mexico, I was never allowed in the kitchen while the women cooked. So I sat down at the kitchen table and actually peeled potatoes while my cousin and my aunt prepared the New Year’s Eve dinner. Amazingly, there were two other males in the kitchen helping with the cooking. Mexico is changing. I remember when I was a boy and my mother and aunts were making tamales, I got kicked out of the kitchen while they were preparing the tamales. Once my mother made tortillas and she let me roll one tortilla, but then she kicked me out of the kitchen. My abuelita never even let me try to cook anything when she lived with us in Chicago. Now that I think back, most Mexicanas always tried to discourage me from helping in the kitchen. But I think that it’s a conspiracy. Because then when you meet American girls, one of the first things they ask is, “What can you cook?” And if you ever go to their place for dinner, they test your culinary talents by making you help with the dinner. They’ll let you cook the entire meal if you’re able. But if you’re like me and grew up in a traditional Mexican family, you won’t be able to do much more than warm up tortillas! And they’ll settle for you washing the lettuce.

Wow! That was deep!

¡Buen provecho!

Back of the Yards, Chicago, Illinois

What I love about going to Mexico is all the attention I receive from my relatives who are genuinely happy to see me. They ask me many questions about my life in particular and life in general in America. The only problem with this is that they tend to ask me these questions while I’m eating. So I was always the last one done eating.

I’m a slow eater anyway, but answering questions slows me down even more. And they ask rather personal questions, too. But everyone is so honest when speaking that I feel compelled to answer their questions honestly. And no one judges anyone about each other’s behavior. At least not that I noticed.

So, how did I enjoy a good home-cooked Mexican meal with everyone insisting that I answer their questions? Well, I didn’t want to be rude, so I answered all question immediately. Of course, sometimes I answered with my mouth full of food because I was caught off guard by the timing of the questions. I guess I was being rude by talking with my mouth full just because I didn’t want to be rude!