Thursday, October 31, 2019

Good night!

So apparently THIS happened

Remember when Ann was caught screaming about being forced to fly coach and sobbing that she’s gonna die alone? I can’t decide if that Ann or this one is the most punchable.

Red: The hoodie of angry men! Black: The T-shirt of ages past!

Jake: The lazy man who’s trying to recast the narrative of his randomly chosen outfit as the banner of an 1832 student-revolutionary rebellion inspired by the cholera death of French Parliamentarian Jean Maximilian Lemarque, a popular anti-royalist and champion of the poor, as depicted in a popular 1980 musical inspired by an 1862 novel by Victor Hugo!

Happy #Hallowmeme!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Nobody thought it would be one of the kids

Nobody probably thought the Boat Crew would last this long, actually.

When four young couples from the same Cedar Rapids Lutheran church rented a houseboat and sailed up and down the Mississippi River for a long weekend in the summer of 1971, nobody probably even thought it was more than a one-time vacation.

But the couples invited more couples and did it again the next summer, and the next. Over time, a few couples came and went, but the tradition lived on summer after summer. Eventually a core group of seven couples emerged, and the Boat Crew was established … and a vital extended family was born.

Unofficially (or officially, depending on your personal opinion) the group’s name was the Mississippi River Marching and Drinking Society. But “Boat Crew” was easier to say. And less complicated to explain to the couples’ children, who were all about the age of the Boat Crew tradition itself.

As lives and careers evolved, many of the couples moved away … but everyone came back summer after summer for what had become an annual gathering of Boat Crew family with bonds as strong as any biological family.

And that family bond extended beyond the relationship between the seven couples; their children often spent the Boat Crew weekends together in one couple’s house, under the probably exhausted watch of two or three weekend-long babysitters.

Naturally, the kids developed a family bond as strong as their parents’. They were unofficial siblings in an extended family network, and they felt confident in the parental love they received from every member of the Boat Crew.

As the summers passed, the Boat Crew bond continued to grow and strengthen, especially over a developing collection of in-jokes, funny stories and traditions that became almost sacred. The most prominent tradition was Joy. It started when one couple brought a large white flag emblazoned with the word Joy in bright colors and displayed it on the ship’s mast. The flag appeared every summer, and eventually it inspired the regular exchanging of Joy-festooned knickknacks, shirts, Christmas ornaments (all collectively over the years described as "Joy shit") and even one summer little bottles of Joy dishwashing soap.

Music—an integral part of the Lutheran church where they all met—was just as important to the Boat Crew. The group contained many talented singers, and as they gathered under the stars with a guitar and a couple bottles of wine each summer, they sang hymns and folk songs and show tunes and whatever else they could think of. Their unofficial anthem was “Beautiful Savior,” which they sang together—in full, glorious harmony—on every gathering.

As the kids grew over the next four decades, the Boat Crew also started convening off-season for confirmations and graduations and weddings and grandchildren and the occasional family tragedy … and the inevitable deaths of the Boat Crew couples’ elderly parents.

And through it all, the Boat Crew became a bit of a statistical anomaly: seven couples who lived into their 50s and 60s and 70s and now 80s … and stayed friends … and stayed married … and stayed alive.

As they started to retire from their jobs and prioritize grandparent obligations over Boat Crew gatherings, the group wasn’t always able to find a summer weekend that all seven couples could attend. And the “boat” part of Boat Crew became a bit of an anachronism; the summer reunions were happening now in Bed and Breakfasts overlooking the Mississippi instead of boats on the Mississippi.

And as they started to navigate the medical infirmities and physical indignities that come with age, the Boat Crew members started to contemplate their own mortality. Never ones to face life with fear or even reverence, they were realistic that eventually they were going to start dying … and they were not above having betting pools over who would go first.

But it never occurred to anyone that the first to die might not be one of the adults.

Robbie (who as an adult called himself Robert but I’d known him since we were toddlers and I could never think of him as anyone but Robbie) was 42, pretty much right in the middle of the range of ages of the Boat Crew kids. He started getting sick seven years ago last summer, but he didn’t think it was much to worry about: just some lower back pain, fatigue and abdominal discomfort. But then the guy behind the Chicago neighborhood deli counter where he went every day told him he looked yellow. And he became painfully constipated. And on a trip home to see his parents in Iowa, he decided to see a doctor.

And that’s where he found out.

Colon cancer.

Stage 4.

Colon cancer patients at stage 4 have an 8-15% chance of being alive five years after diagnosis. And Robbie, forever the optimist, dove right into surgery and chemotherapy while his parents took care of him in their home.

But it quickly became obvious that he was losing the battle. And as he eventually slipped into a coma, his parents—buoyed by the love and calls and texts and emails of Boat Crew members across the country—kept a vigil by his bed.

And six weeks after his diagnosis—six weeks after driving himself and his two cats seven hours from Chicago to his parents’ house, five weeks after walking into the doctor’s office with what he thought were just stomach pains, three weeks after cheering on friends in the Chicago Marathon via Facebook—Robbie drew his last breath, sending waves of shock and devastation throughout his extended Boat Crew family.

Robbie’s father had died of cancer 40 years earlier, before the Boat Crew had been officially established. His widowed mother and the man who eventually became her next husband had been regular Boat Crew members from nearly the beginning.

While she was still single, though, she and Robbie had taken vacations with our family a number of times, often to Adventureland amusement park in Des Moines, Iowa, and once on a Bicentennial road trip to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell and to Washington, D.C., to see pretty much everything else associated with America’s birth.

Robbie and I went to different high schools and colleges, but we eventually both found our ways to Chicago. We kept seeing each other at Boat Crew gatherings, but we’d slowly drifted apart … as had many of the Boat Crew kids as we scattered about the country and built our own families.

Robbie’s parents and mine, of course, had stayed fast Boat Crew friends. And when Robbie was facing the first weeks of his cancer treatments, my parents made a trip to Des Moines to stay with them.

Robbie died eight years ago today. Even though I knew it was inevitable, I was more choked up than I’d expected to be when I got the call. We hadn’t seen each other in probably eight years. And I knew that he was no longer suffering through an excruciating illness. But his death—especially as a Boat Crew kid and not an adult—was a shock to all of us … and an indescribable devastation to his parents. And though nobody in the extended Boat Crew family has died since Robbie did, we are all tacitly preparing ourselves for the next passing.

But for the first time in many years, the entire Boat Crew—along with a handful of Boat Crew kids—dropped everything in their lives and appeared at the funeral. Forever part of the family, we walked in with Robbie’s parents and biological family members and were seated right behind them. And when the congregation sang “Beautiful Savior,” the Boat Crew’s beautiful harmonies rose above the music as if to lift Robbie to whatever awaited him in the afterlife and remind him of the loving extended family he’d been a part of on earth.

His parents asked me to be one of his pall bearers, which I accepted as an honor. Escorting a lifelong friend to his grave is overwhelming—especially when we’re both so young—but I felt giving him a solemn, respectful final journey was the best gift I could give him. He was family, after all.

Old-man shoulder hair: gross

Primer: dry
Paint: grey
Hair: high
Shirt: really bad planning because it has no sleeves and it’s cold out and I’m freezing but with me every day’s a GUN SHOW
Gender: guy

Don’t look now—or don’t even look at me when I try to take your damn picture—but someone we know is 15 years old today

That’s 76 in bitch years.

5 days till #Hallowmeme!

Friday, October 25, 2019

What a dick

Let us never forget this auspicious anniversary of the day our Very Stable Genius with Great and Unmatched Wisdom blithely retweeted at 4:31 am a "rock on" tweet about his "integrity sir" from a supporter named catpenis.

6 days till #Hallowmeme!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Throwback Thursday: American Boyfriends Edition

Fun fact: The house in Grant Wood's American Gothic is a real place that Grant Wood happened upon in his August 1930 wanderings around Iowa. It's in the city of Eldon 120 miles southwest of Cedar Rapids, so Grant Wood had to do some serious wandering to stumble upon it. He made a sketch of the house, painted his sister and his dentist in front of it when he got home to Cedar Rapids, and got a measly $300 when he sold it to the Art Institute of Chicago after entering it in a competition there.

Other fun fact: There's a visitors' center near the house that has an array of calico dresses and overalls you can borrow for keepsake photos, but if your boyfriend at the time is a no-fun stick in the mud you have to resort to getting photos in whatever you happen to be wearing.

Other fun facts: The house is built in the Carpenter Gothic style. The curve-up-to-a-point top of the Gothic window is called an ogive. The 1930 painting (Grant Wood conceived of and completed it in a matter of weeks) is in the Modernist style. You're welcome.

7 days till #Hallowmeme!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Guess who’s now parking at the far end of the lot so nobody will ding his precious new baby

Guess who’s now anthropomorphizing his mighty new car as a helpless infant.

Guess who’s been at the gym for half an hour and already fallen in love seven times.

Guess who just took more than 10 gym selfies in an attempt to find one that’s suitable for public display.

Guess whose super-cute Wolverine shirt keeps riding up over his bloated dad belly like he’s a turgid dirigible.


9 days till #Hallowmeme!

Monday, October 21, 2019

We’re only an hour into our first Oklahoma! rehearsal and after many grueling rounds of auditions and callbacks I’ve already snagged the coveted first chorus solo


One show closes and another opens

And this one has elephant-eye-high corn. And apparently a severed thumb.


When I pay a hella lot of money THAT YOU BARELY NEGOTIATE ON to buy a sexy new Kia Forte 2020 from you [JUST LOOK AT THIS SEXY INTERIOR! CAN YOU BLAME ME FOR BUYING IT? NO, YOU CAN'T.], you owe me two things:

1. A bag to put all the stuff from my old car in when I do a final sweep of its contents. Seriously. Why isn't this a standard thing you do when you sell a car? I can't be the first person ever who needed a small bag for the crap in my glove compartment when I traded in my old car for a new one from you.

2. A final sweep of your own through my old car to find things I overlooked. Like my damn garage-door opener. Seriously. Why isn't this a standard thing you do when you sell a car? I can't be the first person ever who accidentally left a garage-door opener in my old car when I traded it in for a new one from you. And now you have to wait around tonight for me to pick it up after work. How is this efficient for either of us?


10 days till #Hallowmeme!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Our first concert with our Orchestra Iowa season tickets!

And our seats turned out to be pretty freaking awesome.

I haven’t had a car payment in 15 years. BUT I DO NOW!

The transmission in my trusty silver 2004 Kia Spectra started feeling a bit iffy this week. And the rust spots over the rear tires were growing so big they’d been issued their own ZIP code.

So my sister—my sweet, sweet sister who turns into a take-no-prisoners pit bull when she buys a car—and I headed out this morning JUST TO LOOK at cars ... and five hours later I came home with a shiny new MEGA HIGH TECH black 2020 Kia Forte.
TWENTY. TWENTY. My car is so shiny and new it hasn’t even been built yet.


Once the car was all mine and I started it and turned on my shiny new SXM Broadway channel to accompany my first official drive in my shiny new car, SXM WAS PLAYING XANADU, which as we all know is the best show ever.

Friday, October 18, 2019

I am 10 months pop-free today

Granted, I’m not over the ambrosial fizziness of bubbly beverages so I’m now living with a three-can-a-day addiction to sparkling water—which is the quién-es-más-macho equivalent of saying I’m living with a three-rainbow-a-day addiction to majestic unicorns—but I’ve successfully broken free from the bonds of pop’s unpronounceable-chemicals elixir soup. And for that I toast myself with my first icy cold can of cherry bubly for the day. ¡Salud! I mean ¡Princess Sparklepony Unicorn!

Happy half birthday to me!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Live-blogging the debates

Pete: I don’t feel like you’re getting a fair amount of screen time tonight.

Kamala: I feel like you’re getting even less.

Joe: You stutter and stammer like you’ve spent all of seven seconds preparing for this debate.

Beto: You’re still here?

Elizabeth: I normally love you but you seem a little stabby toward people tonight. It’s beneath you.

Andrew: Decriminalize opioids? I think that’s going to require a little more nuance to sell as a viable policy proposal.

Anderson: CALL ME.

Tulsi: No.


Pete: Your lashing-out at Beto about courage is out of character for you.

Cory: I always agree with you, I always like you ... but I can never find anything interesting to say about you.

Julián: I always agree with you, I always like you ... but I can never find anything interesting to say about you.

Amy: Why did your people just call us in the middle of the debate? Are they not watching you right now?

Everyone: You’re all a little wobbly at directly answering the questions you’re asked.

Bernie: I pretty much always agree with you. But you’re yelly and disconcertingly old and please groom someone younger and less abrasive to carry your torch.

Tom: I’m wary of the personal influence of your personal wealth on your policies, so I’m equally wary of your populist messages. But I’m listening ...

Everyone: Please shut up when your time is up.

Joe: I admire and appreciate your vast political experience, but more and more it feels like it’s creating baggage and distraction.

Tulsi: No.

Andrew: You’re an example of how a REAL businessman knows REAL things and how they can thoughtfully, practically, REALLY work. I have faith in you.

Ron Reagan: Ballsy ad buy.

Elizabeth: I greatly admire your knowledge, intelligence and preparedness. You set the bar high.

Tom: YES! Take on trump and crush the shithole.

Cory: Nice dig at trump’s health. I hope he chokes on his bile and dies.

Marianne: Why aren’t you here tonight? Too weird?

Joe: You meander and stumble like a trump when you talk. I’m concerned.

Kamala: You’re so freaking smart and I love your take-no-bullshit prosecuting-attorneyness. I’d be proud to call you President.

Pete: I’d still be prouder to call YOU President.


Pete: How did I miss your proposal to expand the Supreme Court? I’m skeptical, but I believe in you and your thinking so I’m listening ...


Pete: “That’s not how donald trump got within cheating distance of the White House in the first place.” I LOVE YOU.

I have to pee and I’m tired. I may have to cut this short. Tell me if I miss a big splashy production number or something at the end.

Hello, ab machine. Hello, long-dormant abs.

Hello, dawning realization that I do indeed have a weird haircut.

What’s your sign?

I’m tonic C major on the cusp of dominant G major with E minor in retrograde arpeggio.

I’m wide awake at 6:00 for no useful reason

I might as well get up and get dressed so I can make things happen.

Monday, October 14, 2019

I think I might have just gotten a weird haircut

But hey—the moon sure is bright tonight.

So what's this stuff in my hair?

What total dumbass would absent-mindedly rub hair pomade not in his hair but all over the Frankenstein scar from his summer mole excision in the morning and leave his wound covered in a thin sheen of goo that won’t wash off all day? (Though it leaves his wrist hair delightfully shiny and manageable.)

Donald Trump?

No. But that’s a highly plausible, highly informed guess. Five points for you!

It is actually I, your surgery-scarred, shiny-wrist-haired, correct-pronoun-using protagonist. And “protagonist” is an Old Norwegian (as in Jake, the Old Norwegian) word for “dumbass.”

Good morning!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The set is struck, the Jake twins have parted ways and Dolly’s not coming down those stairs again anytime soon

It was a fun show, but I’m greatly looking forward to washing and putting away all my knee braces and compression sleeves and getting a haircut and going back to the gym without worrying that I’ll get a show-compromising injury. LET THE LAISSEZ-FAIRE-ING BEGIN!

Closing show!

It’s my last opportunity to sport my jaunty cap (twice!) and race up and down the Story And A Half Sub Basement Spiral Staircase Of Certain Unstoppable Grisly And Disfiguring Death.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Where did you come from ...

Say you’re walking through downtown Cedar Rapids (hypothetically) from your car to the theater where you’re doing Hello, Dolly! (hypothetically) and you walk past the convention center where a bunch of kids are having their homecoming dance (hypothetically) and a girl walking by with a couple friends looks at you very excitedly and exclaims “Hi, Joe!” and looks still very excitedly at you as she waits for a response, do you:

1) Do what we all know is probably best for her and excitedly say “Hi!” back to let her keep living safely in her delusional Joe universe
2) Yell “I’M NOT JOE!” and embarrass her in front of her delusion-enabling friends
3) Use her greeting as an in to say “Gurrrl you are ROCKING that knockoff Prada!”
4) Explain solemnly that Joe died and you’re his inconsolable twin brother on his way to the funeral
5) Look frantically over your shoulder and run away as though you know there’s a hitman named Joe lumbering after you with a chainsaw and William Shatner mask
6) Toot audibly and say “oops—you startled me!”
7) Melt into the ground in embarrassment because people terrify you
😎 Get really pissed that typing 8 and ) side by side automatically and irreversibly turns into 😎 on your phone
9) Tell her where you did come from and where you did go
10) Post an online survey

Friday, October 11, 2019

My eyes are up HERE, Miss Money

Last-minute tips from me to you for getting the most out of Sunday's Chicago Marathon:

1. Do your crying up front. You'll be emotional at the starting line as it is, so let your tears flow then. Trust me: You won't have any moisture left in your body at the finish line anyway.
2. Speaking of moisture, PEE BEFORE THE RACE. Then get back in the porta-potty line and pee again.
3. There are very few people in the world who get to be cheered and screamed at by literally a million fans for plus-or-minus four hours. You're one of them. Drink it in.
4. That said, don't let all that screaming distract you from the race. It's fun to smile and wave at everyone, but doing so burns precious energy. Find the balance between being a rock star and being a disciplined runner.
5. THAT said, all bets are off in Boystown. The second you turn left from Addison onto Broadway, you will be overcome by megatron levels of cheering and screaming and drag queens and music and pure unbridled joy. It is the BEST mile of the race, so smile and wave and cheer and pump your arms and maybe even cry a little. You won't be able to stop yourself anyway, so dive in and enjoy it.
6. There's no shame in walking if you need to. Your legs will start to stiffen up if you walk too long, though, which will make it harder to resume your running. But you probably already know that by now.:-)
7. That said, suck it up, put on your badass runner face and start running like a world-class athlete whenever you see the marathon photographers. (See photo below.) You'll thank me when it comes time to buy your commemorative marathon photos.
8. I'm not gonna lie: Your last few miles running north up Michigan Avenue will suck like you won't believe. The cheering crowds will thin, your feet will hurt all the way up to your neck and you will swear that someone has put the Willis Tower--your one shining beacon leading you to the finish line--on wheels and is slowly pushing it farther and farther north just to mess with your mind. Rest assured that's not the case; there seriously isn't time to get all those wheels installed.
9. The route is pretty uniformly, blessedly flat. For the first 26 miles. In a twist that can only be described as Geneva-Convention-defying cruel, the route becomes a st-e-e-e-e-p hill once you pass the 26-mile marker and turn right on Roosevelt. To mitigate the situation, though, there will be another massive crowd there to cheer you on. Drink in as much as your body will let you.
10. Check out your skin after you cross the finish line. You will be covered in homemade salt. You're a margarita! So drink it in again! So to speak.
14. And you won't want to, but you'll thank yourself later if you do some gentle stretching as soon as you get through the finisher crowd.