Pulp Fiction
January 11, 2015, 12:35 PM posted by Maria Choban

December 1994, Pismo Beach CA. My partner and I lie draped over chairs like cats suffering severe torpor, wondering what to do on a vacation day riddled with rain. The movie Pulp Fiction came out a couple of months before and we'd both been attracted to the trailers. Trading one set of chairs for another in a movie theater seemed an okay choice for our afternoon stint.

My ennui seeing movies back then matches my ennui attending concerts now. Back then we'd dissect movies we'd just seen much the way my partner and I now dissect concerts we attend - me with anger, he forcing a more rational analysis, cataloging where the movie/concert lost our interest and why. Back then, we didn't understand the success of Forrest Gump (which was released 3 months before Pulp Fiction) when Being There was so much funnier and tighter. We felt we were watching happy shiny movies narcotically designed to make us think we actually felt something.


When the lights came on after the movie ended no one moved. Pulp Fiction produced the same impact as a guerilla attack . . . without the death toll: numb shock. Eventually, my partner and I turned and looked at each other and he slowly said "Let's go get a drink and figure out what the hell just happened."

What just happened was that someone - Quentin Tarantino - finally rose from the murk, unobserved, with a radical new impassioned vision and without draining the fucking life out of it with rewrites and Ambien, got it in front of us - raw and pulsing, like an open-heart surgery.

It took several drinks for us to calm down and make sense of what went right. Mostly we giggled maniacally and reveled in our insides being so rearranged by the experience.

David Mamet did this for the theater with Glengarry Glen Ross. Trent Reznor did this for pop with Pretty Hate Machine. It doesn't last forever. But for the brief time it energizes the genre, what a ride!

My Parents' Epic Big Fat Greek Wedding Anniversary
December 26, 2014, 04:59 PM posted by Maria Choban

10:00am: I phone my mom to wish her and dad a happy 54th anniversary.

10:05am: mom's voice is shaking, angry at dad because he's going to throw a dinner at their house for 11 people and she's not up to cleaning, cooking, planning this event. She's right.

10:20am: I call my sister and plan an intervention on dad.

10:30am: Sis and I meet at mom and dad's.

Sis and I: Happy Anniversary Dad!

Dad: Thank you - now let me tell you about this dinner I'm going to host in 2 days.

Sis and I (in unison): NO DINNER! Mom can't handle the pressure!




Me: NO - FUCK YOU!!!!

Believe it or don't you can actually escalate to infinity and beyond just starting from trading Fuck Yous! at fairly high decibel levels. Dad started screaming "I CAN GET LOUDER THAN YOU AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!" but I'm not sure if that was after or before he disowned me. My sister sacrificially placed her body in between us.

I sat down and buried my head in my hands in disbelief at the moronic childishness of it all.

Mom walked in the room, dad told her in Greek that I screamed fuck you at him, mom said that meant he was full of poo and not that I meant fuck you, my sister tried to tell my dad I said fuck it and not fuck you (I said fuck you). Dad called her a liar, sis retorted with "Well goddamn it, then, I'm leaving!" and we were off and running once more.

Dad: You're damning me??!!!????

Sis: I said goddamn it, NOT goddamn you!!!!! (she said goddamn it).

Dad: I'm canceling the dinner but I'm not going to forget what went on here today. I can forgive, but I won't forget.

Me: Forgiving IS forgetting.

Dad: You use your definition, I'll use mine!

Me: Fine! But that makes me a better person!! JUST KIDDING!!!!!!!!

Believe it or don't he actually chuckled.

The problem with starting with a bang is where do you go from there?

My parents are 85 years old. Both my sisters and I pitch in to help wherever we can. I was cleaning old papers off the kitchen table with dad a week ago and dad came across a note mom penned in all caps to him about 3 weeks before. Dad smiled as he handed it to me to read. I pocketed it already thinking anniversary gift.

With help from online clip-art, I found a stylized fly, carefully cut it out, pasted it to the top of the note, laid the note in an anniversary looking frame my sister dug up in her closet and wrapped it up as their anniversary gift from all of us - dogs, cats, children, grandchildren, spouses and partners.

My other sister and her family took us all out to celebrate.

During the course of the meal the gift was unwrapped by both parents together. We howled as it was read out loud then passed around. Mom's a lioness, a protector, a killer, a comedian. Her daughters inherited all of the above. What chance does my father have in a house full of . . . what did he call us by the end of the meal? . . . Conspirators!






THE GREEK NAME - VROMOMYGA [dirty fly in Greek]


Pity Humanity
December 21, 2014, 07:45 AM posted by Maria Choban

I am reading Robert Fisk's Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon; his account of Lebanon between 1976 and 2001. He lived and still lives in west Beirut. I am concurrently reading Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote.

They are kind of the same side of the same coin. Fisk unsentimentally details atrocities that unarmed women, children and old men endure by brigands (regardless of their allegiance because as Fisk points out - every leader, every faction is a bad guy in this book). I punctuate reading long stints of ideology advanced with realpolitik diplomacy (with its impending atrocities) - with romantic ideology practiced by the ridiculous Quixote with equal impending atrocities that befall not just him but benefactors of his chivalry: flogged slaves and cruel masters he blindingly separates, blithely riding off into the sunset with only his romantic and-they-lived-happily-ever-after scene in his head, impervious to the realpolitik outcome that ensues when he departs.

My only self-centered question: Why am I reading these books during a season when I go fetal anyway??

December 07, 2014, 06:44 AM posted by Maria Choban

Although I knew it was coming I finally read that Richard Taruskin is retiring from Berkeley this year. My father, with whom I've had a less than smooth relationship, is in his mid 80's and still going strong yet . . . . And last night I attended an event feting 75 years of Tomas Svoboda, my favorite composer of all time. Unlike most people who never get a chance to shake the hand of their rock star idols, Tomas has been in my life for most of it. I have fought with him and laughed over really dumb jokes with him (neither of us are very mature and we bring out the dumb and dumber in each other). My father and I have mostly fought with each other for the entire time I've been around. I'm sure I'd find something about Taruskin to throw a pie at if I actually knew him.

A friend stayed with us a couple of days ago and over breakfast we were discussing friendships. I was gushing about someone and he reminded me that we were frequently at loggerheads. Taken aback because I didn't initially see the connection, I finally realized and responded: I trust that my friends accept that I'm volatile (though hopefully not unthinkingly so), hot-headed and totally devoted to them regardless of how stupid I might find their stance on a point on any particular day. That's the nice thing about age; my father knows that I'm there despite the vitriol I'm capable of spewing in his direction (hopefully not too unthinking). Tomas knows that whatever I scream at him about the correct way of playing his pieces, I will still cool down and crack a fart joke with him. The not so nice thing about age is that . . . . well, it comes to an end.

I Had a Dream Last Night
December 01, 2014, 05:50 AM posted by Maria Choban

I'm in bike wear - black padded shorts, a short sleeved bike top (white with neon green central portion - short), helmet. It's warmish. mom is also in gear, riding with me. We're in a peloton of 5 to 7 women, standing still. We're in a crush of 6 lane traffic, stuck in the left most lane 6 over. I think that was my fault. The cars are small, smaller than normal and I don't feel scared but I do feel like I'm unsure how we're going to work our way 6 lanes over to the shoulder where we also need to find a bathroom. We're out for an extended trip gauging from the weird square backpackish thing on my back: maybe black mesh, has a frame, 30 inches across by maybe 34 inches long, not deep (maybe 6 inches deep). No one's scared or annoyed by the traffic. Beautiful sunny day but we (particularly mom, I think) have to find a bathroom.

We finally work our way over to the shoulder which coincidentally is a tunneled walkway into a bathroom. I offer to stay with the bikes while the others find/use the bathroom. I either release my rear tire now or find it like that later. Shortly, one of the women comes to relieve my watch so I can go find the bathroom. Oz! I follow the walkway but it takes me to a cross between an underground village, mall, office complex. Dark but not at all scary. I find a universal sign for bathroom (white stick figures on a blue background) and go through the door . . . . which leads into another passageway. Now it's like an underground suburban city without cars or roads or parking lots. No people, no signs of life outside the buildings. The universal sign points up a ramp or staircase and I go. At the top is a young woman who may or may not be part of my peloton. She's standing in front of a door looking like she's waiting to use the bathroom. 5' 7" short dark brown curly hair, wearing a dress. Friendly. Door opens by a gatekeeper - might be in a hood. Friendly. S/he informs us that this is a gym where people work out to strengthen their BDSM qualities. This doesn't surprise either of us in line. We ask if we can use the bathroom. The gatekeeper asks whether or not we also want to use the gym. The woman declines and so do I, telling the gatekeeper I have to get back on the road. Gatekeeper is fine, only asking for info, not pressuring.

We walk into a campy lobby. I see one work-out glassed in room off ahead at an angle to my left behind a lobby desk. Workouts look static. People hanging or stretched out on the floor maybe one leg raised. One is in full body paint - kind of green camouflage-y. Oddly, all bodies are young, tight, beautiful. We go up the stairs. All carpets are red shag. Chandelier over bottom stair. At the landing hangs an empty cradle. We continue up. Gatekeeper is no longer with us. We're now in a classroom. It might be a spinning class but denizens are BDSM-ing solo in myriad positions with pulleys. It looks not at all interesting. Very static. I don't look closely because I'm only here to use the bathroom and I feel bad staring in addition to thinking this is boring. We stand in the back of a normal looking classroom: bright fluorescent lights, acoustic tile ceiling, linoleum floors, sink at the front of the room. A 65 year old (maybe older?) man in a light (white with pattern) short sleeved button down cotton shirt and light (maybe light grey) shorts and tennis shoes with socks is sitting in a school chair directly in front of us talking to the room full of exercisers. He's not shouting exercise orders or chatting, but it's clear whatever the patter is, it's part of the regiment like a coxswain on a canoe team.

The young woman's turn comes up and she walks through the exercisers to the sink, washes her hands and walks back and out the door. I do the same. When I walk back I thank the gentleman in the chair : "Thank you Mr. Reznor for everything you've done for music." I don't know at what point I recognized this as a quite a bit older Trent Reznor (thinning buzz cut black hair, paunchy). I leaned a little bit over to impart this but I didn't stop to talk. Everything else in the dream is kind of a cool journey - I'm a leaf floating on a stream experiencing a fun ride - emotionally detached. But when I thanked this man I actually felt genuine thanks, gratefulness and while the man said nothing, his eyes softened. I was still my present age - an active 53. my mom was maybe only 10 years older than me in this dream and still very active.

I find a bathroom when I leave this room. While I'm on the toilet I notice white stuff oozing out of the bottom of the bottom drawer on my right ahead. Now the bathroom looks like my own downstairs bath. I remember I just bought huge new bottles of shampoo and conditioner and stored them in this bottom drawer on their side wondering whether they would leak in this position. The stuff has gushed all over the floor and I know there will be a huge mess to clean up inside the drawer. I open the drawer and see the bottles. I think about cleaning up but I have to join the riders. I remember that I don't necessarily have to use this bathroom in conjunction with my regular upstairs bedroom. Illogically, I can use another bedroom - further upstairs, hidden behind yet another bedroom. Both bedrooms do not exist in my house but they come up in a lot of my dreams. Both are dark, the second one has 2 beds in it, a tucked away respite I usually visit but never sleep in. No one does though it's there to be used. Angled dark ebony-stained cross-beams, like an attic room. Maybe gold shag? To access the favorite dream bedroom I have to walk through the first dream bedroom. There is no door to the second; it just appears.

I might find myself outside with the group, my back tire attached to my weird backpack. We're standing around but mine is the only bike I see on the ground minus back tire. Maybe the rest are fetching theirs. Seems we're ready to journey on.

("I Had a Dream Last Night" by John Prine)

"Dying is Easy"
November 29, 2014, 06:49 AM posted by Maria Choban

I read my first David Sedaris book 2 weeks ago and 3 more since.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim


Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls

In that order.

My bookclub did not find him funny - this in an email synopsis of the last meeting which I could not attend. I agree. In large doses, 4 books back-to-back or even one book straight through, his humor is dwarfed by his vulnerable self-insights; stabs which probably prick all of us (though he is never didactic). I bristled defensively through-out looking in the mirror (particularly at his last words) in "Standing Still" an essay on smug (pseudo) self-satisfaction and the fear that keeps me there. I bristled at a lot of other stuff (self-congratulatory anti-racism, poverty) and oddly, had enough perspective to laugh at myself when he described addictions. It's so much easier when shit is behind me, no longer staring me down (for now).

I don't know what I was expecting or why I never got around until now to Sedaris. Maybe I was thinking Dave Barry (funny in very small doses), Seinfeld (never funny). My favorite funny writers aren't pitched as humorists: Richard Taruskin, Tolstoy, ? ? ? (I'm trying to think of other writers . . .

"Comedy is Hard."

My favorite funny writers courageously combine bits of their vulnerable selves with insights gleaned from watching. They tend to not be didactic or mean-spirited although their inability to people-please makes for wicked straight-shooting zingers.

How We Rehearsed a Screaming Successful Show
November 21, 2014, 11:47 AM posted by Maria Choban

August 26: 12 weeks out - Notification of upcoming show on November 20 and inquiry: Would I be interested in performing in this show? (It was late notice because the first pianist contracted moved out of town). The show: Carla Rossi Sings the End of the World!

September 28: 8 weeks out - first rehearsal. Me and singer/clown Carla Rossi show up well practiced, rehearsing the feel and the sculpting of the interpretation of 3 of the eventual 9 numbers (around 40 minutes of music). 2 consecutive rehearsals the following 2 weeks cover the other numbers in the same way. We set up weekly 2-hour rehearsals.

October 15: 5 weeks out - I'm off book, everything more or less memorized.

October 22: 4 weeks out - Both of us are off book, everything more or less memorized.

November 2: 2.5 weeks out - First of 3 off-Broadway shows (at ClassicalRevolutionPDX waypost jam) presenting portions of the November 20 show.

November 8: 2 weeks out - Second of 3 off-Broadway shows (special guest on Leo Daedalus' The Late Now) running different portions of the show.

Carla and Leo; photo by Gene Newell

November 16: 4 days out - Morning - Dress rehearsal at the Alberta Rose Theater with The Dolly Pops dancers.

November 16: 4 days out - Evening - Third of 3 off-Broadway shows at Christopher Corbell's Muse:Forward. Again, running other different portions of the show.

November 19: 1 day out - Another run-through with everyone: Carla, Dolly Pops dancers and me.

November 20: THE DAY - Tech run and show. Full House! Lots of electricity - neither under nor over rehearsed. Smooth, spontaneous, successful, FUN run! Raucous, enthusiastic audience.

My personal practice time:
52+ hours
includes arranging songs, memorizing

Carla's personal practice time:
100+ hours
includes writing dialogue, learning songs, memorizing everything!

Dollypops personal practice time:
100 hours

Rehearsal time:
50+ hours
includes rehearsals between Carla & Maria, Carla & Dollypops, Everyone

3 Test Runs:
20+ hours

320 hours

Raucous, Enthusiastic Audience, many of them newbies and now new fans!!!

November 18, 2014, 05:41 AM posted by Maria Choban

My father, trying to remember exactly how a room was set up 40 years ago, called a friend to ask. When the friend answered he shoved the phone at me to take the call. Off guard, I shoved it back. His retort: "I HATE being bossed!!!" My reaction: "Me Too!!!"

Listen To Music, Dammit! - an article in NewMusicBox exhorts us to open our ears and our minds to sounds outside our own box. And this kind of shit always feels to me like someone's shoving a phone in my face. I'm all for curiosity and being curious. But I don't think it's as simple as being too lazy to be curious, to venture into new areas. I do think it has much to do with self-esteem (not simply defaulting to our comfort(able) zones), to affirmation by others that our tastes are valid even if they're not the affirmers', to luck - being slightly bored and maybe someone being in the right place at the right time on the phone, asking us if we want to speak to a mutually adored friend about a new artist they're gaga over. And that's just for starters.

November 17, 2014, 05:36 AM posted by Maria Choban

I saw Masque of the Red Death yesterday - produced by Shaking the Tree theater company. What a fun production! Audience participation, recreation friendly - you get to dance, walk to different scenes in the play, drink up at a wine bar across the street for intermission personally ushered by the Edgar Allan Poe characters. There are stand out performances, fair to middling performances, Escheresque-gee-whiz concepts mostly laudably carried out. There was so much to comment on why this event shook the tree and alas I was left to listen to an ape at half-time gaga over the hollywood beauty of the actors - the thing that most (or perhaps only) impressed him. While nothing in the play moved my insides like reading The Alexandria Quartet (with all its flaws) or Karenina, I would definitely see it every year if STT would consider doing it as a Halloween Holiday event. At intermission I'd hide in the bathroom.

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