Friday, April 27, 2012

The Best of Homes, The Worst of Homes

I closed up the old apartment today. I can't believe I lived there seven years. That's how much I hate to move.

I moved there for several reasons. First, as a theater actor it was getting embarrassing living in a downtown semi-luxury highrise. I could feel friends' discomfort when they came through the door.

Second, I longed to live in an actual neighborhood, where I didn't have to stand behind indecisive tourists any time I wanted a bagel or a cup of coffee.

And the third factor, and not an incidental one, was cost. Moving into the Lakeview place lowered my rent to a level that was less than my first rent payment in Chicago a decade before.

And I chose this particular apartment for several reasons. The first three were, of course, location, location and location. A drug store, 7-11 (nee White Hen), and dry cleaner right on the corner. Grocery just steps away (until it burned down just weeks after moving in). And hundreds -- literally, hundreds -- of restaurants, bars, cafes, stores and other things within a 5 minute walking radius.

It was also at the nexus of the Chicago public transportation universe. The 22 and 36 buses stopped at either end of my block and took me downtown in 20 minutes or so. And I was less than a 10 minute walk from the Lakeshore Drive express buses and the Red and Brown Line trains.

Other than location, the apartment was huge and had tons of light -- 7 big windows along the south wall. Built in the 1920s, it had a few charming architectural touches, like arched entrances and stained-glass windows.

On the other hand, it was kind of a pit. It hadn't been rehabbed since the '80s. The management company sucked. And noise, both from the street and upstairs was an issue.

But it was home. It was where I culminated the last few years of my theater career, including the production of my short plays. It's where I had the best commercial year of my career (so far). It's where I wrote my book. And a lot of personal stuff happened, good and bad.

I just realized it's the one place I've lived in longer than any other in Chicago. So I dragged out the farewell, cleaning it out bit by bit. Today I took the last two things I didn't sell -- the vacuum and the printer -- to the alley for pickup by some thrifty neighbor.

Then I left the keys on the counter, took a few pictures, and closed the door.

That's it. I'm working without a net now.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Your Friendly Neighborhood Druggist

A while back I did this job for a, uh, major drug store chain and suddenly this week the campaign has exploded all over the place.

I'm on the website, accompanying their new Find a Pharmacist feature: 

I feel like they photoshopped my jawline. It's awfully square and Draper-like.

Then a friend spotted me in an online ad on a radio station's website:

Guess my non-du-pharm is Frank.

Another friend saw me (or at least the screen grab of me) on the Dr. Oz show yesterday:

But what I'm really looking forward to is the in-store signage, where I'll be sliding down a firepole. For realzies. I was in a store yesterday and saw another version with an actor/pharmacist swinging from a rope:

Between this and Scottrade, I am a multimedia sensation ...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Judgy McStaresalot

This is what cohabitation is like. Someone there to judge you constantly, then forget about you temporarily until they round the corner, see you and go, "Crap! You're still here?" Then they sit and stare at you for an hour, willing you away.

Luckily, the two-footed member of the household is a little happier to have me around.

Either way, it's a brave new world. I've lived alone more years than I've lived with people. Fortunately for all of us I am incredibly laid back and easygoing. Not all hung up on the need to lock doors and not let the house burn down. Isn't that what insurance is for?

I'm also highly adaptable. I was 95% unpacked by hour four. And really most of my most stringent demands center around diet Coke, egg whites and the need to hear every line of a favorite program even if it means pausing and rewinding the DVR five times.

So with a final round of storing, stowing, selling, and tossing, I am just about settled in and ready for this new adventure.

Bring it!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Boss and Me

When I was a kid, my older brother loved Bruce Springsteen. Old school Bruce -- like The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle and Greetings from Asbury Park Bruce.

I couldn't stand the sound coming out of his speakers and through his louvered bedroom door. That voice? It was horrible!

Like the rest of the world, I started to get on board around Born To Run (which isn't as bad as not getting on board until Born in the USA). By then, though, my brother was getting over Bruce. And when Darkness on the Edge of Town was released, he pretty much gave up. "He should put out a live album!" he demanded.

So Darkness was the first Springsteen album that was truly "mine." And as with every album or CD I've ever purchased, I played it over and over and over and over again, studying the liner notes, memorizing the lyrics, playing air guitar, etc.

I was reminded of it as I was packing up my old albums. Most of them I never replaced with CD or digital versions because, as I said, I pretty much played them out in my childhood and college years.

But that album really was special so I finally bought it the other day on iTunes. I've listened to it a bit and it is, obviously, a masterpiece. And timeless at that. (Old man wanna be rich/Rich man wanna be king/And the kind ain't satisfied/Until he rules over everything.)

Like my brother, I became a little less enchanted with Bruce. For me it was the douchebags in my college dorm who championed him during The River era and played (and sang to) Out in the Street ad nauseum. And then Bruce pumped his body up and took dancing lessons and his Born in the USA message was co-opted as a patriotic anthem ... bleh.

I've loved some songs since then, and even albums (especially Nebraska), but they were never quite the same as the two I started with.

I'm going to take it easy and not play Darkness 20 or 30 times in the next few days so maybe I can continue to enjoy it for years to come.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The best laid plans

It's a good thing I got all that trashing and donating and organizing done so far in advance, because the one thing I did not do in advance? Schedule a mover. Because I didn't really want to commit to a solid move-out date. Which is ironic.

Anyway, they only had two days left this month so it turns out I'm moving ... ONE WEEK from today. Yipes!!

So tonight I started packing for real. And actually, I think I was right. With all the culling I've done, there's not that much left. I have a list of 10 steps and I just got four done in the past couple of hours.

So I think I'm just, oh, 20 boxes away from being ready to go. Which should be pretty doable in my remaining 110 or so waking hours. I'm not even going to do the long division ...

Saturday, April 07, 2012


This week I took two boxes of books and a big box full of pots, pans and glassware off to charity. With that plus the clothes, CDs, videos, files, photos, stereo, baseball cards and assorted junk, I feel I'm about 30-40% lighter, material possession-wise.

It feels good. Plus it will make my next move, which is coming soon, sooooo easy. Especially when I dispense with three tube TVs (including the 150 lb. 32-inch number I've had since 1995), two window AC units and a big old oak table and chairs.

After all that I think I'll be able to pack up my entire apartment in under 8 hours. I started March with a to-do list of 38 items. By the end of the month I had 30 of them completed.

I think the only really hard thing (other than selling the table and ACs without being murdered by a crazy Craigslist person) will be change-of-address notifications, which almost never, ever seem to work the way they should.


Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Original Bad News Bears

I've been slashing and burning mostly unsentimentally through the accumulated material detritus of my life -- photos, CDs, videos, clothes, books. This one, however, is a keeper.

It's my jersey from my first season of Little League baseball. I was in third grade.

We were the original Bad News Bears and I was about the weakest link on the team. I played outfield and am certain the coaches said a few Hail Marys every time the ball was hit in my direction. I was a dropper, a bobbler, a whiffer and a world class faller.

One game toward the end of the season I was out in center field when the batter send a high, short fly ball my way. A blooper. I started running in toward the infield. I ran and I ran and I ran as the ball arced downward. At the last minute I dove, my gloved hand outstretched, and tumbled across the grass in a somersault.

At the end of it all, no one was more surprised than I was to see a bright white half-sphere poking up above the webbing of my glove. I snow-coned it.

The entire team came out and dogpiled on me and whooped and hollered and celebrated like we'd just won the world series. I don't remember whether it was the end of the season or the end of the game or even the end of the inning, but that catch was a landmark for me, and maybe for the team.

My Little League career would extend for another five seasons. Some years I was the goat and some the all-star. (The latter when I was at the upper limit of the league's age range -- a 12-year-old in the 10-to-12 league, for instance. When I was a 13-year-old in the 13-to-15 league I didn't fare as well.)

No matter. For that brief shining moment I was in a proverbial league of my own.

Incidentally, it wasn't until around the second year of college that I finally outgrew that shirt.