Scene report from inside my head

Written on June 15th

Some concerts are a joy and some turn into an ordeal that must be endured. Most are the former, very few are the latter. Last night’s Francis & the Lights show was somewhere in between.

Most of it was my own fault. I was coming to the end of some extremely stressful time at work up to and including that very day. I was sweating bullets hoping I would to get to leave on time. (the show had an oddly early start time of 7:00pm, and I normally leave work at 7:30). So I hopped in a cab at 7:30 while Dawn was texting me that despite the 7:00 pm start time nothing was happening. As it is, I got there in plenty of time, because opener Peter Cottontale didn’t go on until shortly after 8:00.

In my ignorance I’d never heard of Peter Cottontale by name, but he’s a member of Chance the Rapper’s band The Social Experiment. His band crowded the Metro stage, with a rainbow coalition of singers, a horn section, bass player, guitarist and drummer alongside his keyboards. On a better day I would’ve LOVED this performance with all my heart. It was a jumping, jamming, Parliament/Funkadelic-style joy. And it was all I could do to not burst into tears because I just felt empty. At one point he shouted “Do you all feel free tonight?” and of course everyone yelled, “YEAH!” and I was like, really? You do? Because I don’t. And then I was furious at myself for being unable to enjoy this beautiful thing happening in front of me, wiping away tears and trying not to look like I was having a nervous breakdown. All the bottled-up stress & anxiety of the last few weeks had chosen this exact moment to break me.

At the end of the set, Chance came onstage. He’s also worked with Francis so there was much pre-show buzz about whether he might make a guest appearance, and when Peter Cottontale was announced as the opening act the buzz was even stronger. So there he was, for their final song, performing “Blessings” and that was exciting! The crowd lost their collective shit and all the phones went up in the air (including mine).

Now that we knew Chance was in the building, it seemed inevitable that we’d see him again during Francis’ set. But the crowd was dragging me down. It was a sold out, all ages show and it was PACKED. Dawn & I were trying to hold our spot on the raised floor area where we usually stand at the Metro. But of course we were constantly being jostled and blocked by “The Talls” as Dawn has hilariously labeled them. We’re both about 5’4″ and I really wish I could institute standing zones by height at GA shows. (Any clubs interested in a pilot program, get in touch.) I know I’ll be banging this drum until the day I die, but maybe #TimesUp for tall men with no self-awareness at GA shows.
Then Francis finally appeared. Right off the bat, he jumped into his signature dance moves, and the stage couldn’t hold him for more than 10 minutes before he started climbing a lighting rig, and ended up on top of the giant speakers at the side of the stage. He didn’t bother climbing back down, he just jumped.

Later he climbed up the other lighting rig and maneuvered himself to the balcony with ridiculous ease. I don’t know how he does it, and he must have a hell of a liability insurance policy because if he fell, the best he could hope for would be broken limbs. (These are the thoughts you have at shows when you’re 51.)

Halfway through the set, Chance returned again, to perform “May I Have This Dance” (the song he features on with Francis) and cue everyone losing their shit again. I couldn’t see much (the aforementioned Talls being in full effect) so I put my phone up high and could actually see it better that way. I THOUGHT I was recording, but as the song came to an end I realized I hadn’t hit the button right and the delightful Francis/Chance choreography was lost to history. I’ll be periodically kicking myself until the end of days about that one (which I KNOW is not a big deal and there are a hundred other videos of it that I can watch on Instagram & YouTube, like this one:

But it just put another log on the fire in my head.

After a few more songs I started feeling really sweaty and nauseous, so I worked my way out of the crowd to get some air and shed a few more hyperemotional tears before walking around outside the crowd to the left side of the stage where I watched the rest of the show.

Then it was over, and we made our way out of the sweaty crowd into the cool night air and I felt a little better, but still annoyed at myself that I couldn’t get out of my own head and enjoy it more. Dawn and I walked down the block to Jeni’s Ice Cream and it was still open, so we had ice cream and talked about the show, and babies made of Jell-O, and all the other shows we’re going to see this summer and I felt more like myself again.

Sometimes you just have a bad night, and hopefully no one else can really tell.
Scene report from inside my head

30 days

I’ve been off Facebook and Twitter for 30 days now. Somehow it feels longer than that.

It’s been a relief to be out of the 24-hour non-stop Twitter cycle re: politics and the unending nightmare. But I’m still keeping tabs on the highlights by looking at the paper every day, and listening to the various podcasts I keep up with. I don’t need to be aware of every bread crumb of outrage as it flows through the day in real-time. An occasional summary will do.

Not being on Facebook makes me realize how central it’s become to keeping in touch with my friends. I’ve loosely kept in contact with a few people via email and texting, and I’m still on Instagram, so I’m connected with people there.

At least once a day I think about something I would post, some pithy little thought or observation I would like to share, but have no outlet to do so. If I can communicate it via a photo, I can put it on Instagram, but I don’t have a lot of followers there. I suppose I could be putting all my thoughts & observations into more frequent blog posts, but that’s an even SMALLER audience since basically no one reads this, especially when I can’t post to Facebook or Twitter to alert everyone that there’s a new blog post to read. (One obvious point being that if I posted here more often more people might read it. Ridiculous.)

What have I been doing with all the time I don’t spend scrolling through social media? I’m not quite sure, honestly. My apartment is still a mess. I did watch all 90 episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the last few weeks, but I could’ve done that any time. (It’s pretty good, I recommend it.) I’ve been working on the mess that my Duran Duran photo archive has devolved into over the past year (don’t ask), and made some headway on that. I spent 3 days at Pitchfork, and under normal circumstances there’s no doubt I would’ve been live-tweeting and posting endless pics. I could’ve asked Dan to give me back my password for the weekend, but honestly I didn’t really want to. Maybe I’ll put some pics here on the blog if anyone finds it, or I’ll flood Facebook with them when I return.

My Uncle Jerry died two weeks ago, so I went home for his funeral, and then a week later my Aunt Virginia died, so this past weekend I was at home again for her funeral. I hope the family is done with this for awhile.

Stuff is happening at work. We’re getting ready to move to a new office in two weeks. I’ve been sweating bullets over a couple projects that i just want to be DONE so I can quit stressing. I had constant nightmares for a week about a certain project, and actually had bags under my eyes from lack of sleep for the first time in my life. I think the worst of it is probably over but I have NO confidence that it won’t come back and bite me in the ass later. Whenever I do have confidence about something at work I am immediately offered an opportunity to feel shitty about some failure, so I try to keep my pride at an absolute minimum level. “Waiting for the punch,” as Marc Maron would say.

I drove through an epic thunderstorm on Friday night. I rented a car to go home this weekend for my aunt’s funeral, and about an hour into my trip, there was a lot of lightning in the distance, which I was driving directly towards. The closer I got to it, the more frequent the lightning came (or so it seemed) and it started raining, harder and harder. I made a pit-stop to see if the rain would pass, or at least lessen. After about 10 minutes it stopped, and I continued on my way. There was still a lot of lightning, but it seemed to be behind me most of the time. Then after maybe another half hour, it started up again. It rained so hard, I saw people driving with their flashers on. The windshield wipers werer at their highest setting and barely making a dent. All I could do was follow the taillights of the person in front of me, or the reflective strip down the middle of the road, driving 40mph where I would normally be driving 70+. I thought about pulling over and waiting it out but I just kept going, hoping eventually it would stop, or at least I would be on the other side of it. As much as I hate driving, even in the best conditions, I felt strangely calm during this experience. But I was also mad that I was driving and not a passenger because I could’ve gotten some AMAZING photos and video. I’ve never experienced anything like it — driving across the flat prairie in the dark, nothing for miles in any direction and the sky full of flashing light and electric bolts coming down to the ground. It was scary but also magnificent.

Now I’m back in Chicago and it looks like it’s about to rain again. I’m really glad Pitchfork wasn’t this weekend.

30 days

Body. Bags.

I wrote this a couple weeks ago, but I’m just getting around to posting it now.

My body hurts. It’s a reminder of how far removed I am from manual labor, that three days of standing at a big art table, cutting large pieces of paper and assembling them into shopping bags (or more accurately, wallpapering printouts of a new design over blank pre-made bags) at a fast pace can be so taxing on the body.

I’ll describe the process to you:

  1. The bags are approximately 18×18 with side panels. I built it in Illustrator and sent it to the big printer. The print comes out. (That’s the easiest part).
  1. I have to send the print through the Xyron adhesive roller machine so it’s sticky on the back. This is a two-person job, too, otherwise the print will get stuck in the rollers and then I’ve wasted a print. And then we have to make sure the rollers are situated correctly before we can try again. The machine is old and delicate and can smell your fear.
  1. After we get a print successfully through the adhesive rollers, the next step is to trim the pieces down for assembly. Which comes with all the potential X-Acto knife disasters you can imagine. But we’re professionals. We made it through three days with no wounds.
  1. Then it’s time to peel the backing paper from the pieces and smooth onto the blank bag one at a time, being careful to avoid air bubbles and creases and making sure everything is aligned and straight. This is harder than it sounds, which is why two people need to do it.
  1. Trim any excess paper from the sides if necessary.
  1. Oh, I forgot to mention, we have to take the handles off the blank bags before we paste the new design onto them. Then after the new pieces are pasted down, we can re-attach the handles. It’s a pain in the ass, but it makes nicer-looking bags if we do it that way.
  1. Repeat as necessary until 36 bags are done.

We don’t really do each bag in that order though. First we would run about 10 prints through the adhesive rollers, then cut out all the pieces and then start assembling, and repeat the process when the next batch of prints was ready. It went a little faster that way.

Part of the exhaustion is mental, I know. Being confronted with the task of making 36 shopping bags in 3 work days is daunting when you don’t do it every day. At least I didn’t have to do it by myself. Theoretically you COULD do it by yourself, but then you’d fuck up a lot and have to re-do a lot of bags. And there was not a lot of time in built into the schedule for fucking up.

I spent about 8 hours doing that on Thursday, and 13 hours on Friday, so we were able to finish by noon on Monday. My feet and lower back hurt from standing, my shoulders hurt from hunching over the table cutting precise edges. My hands also hurt from gripping the knife and holding paper down. I can’t wait for my chiropractor appointment next week. I wanted to take a bath in Vicodin last night. Vicodin bath bombs seem like a really good idea. Is anyone working on that? If you have access to a good R&D lab and you want to investigate that idea, please have at it. Email me and I’ll let you know where to send me a check after you make a billion dollars from it.

Anyway, combining mental stress and trying to work fast at a task that I am rusty at (at best), for long hours and you might as well just spend an hour pummeling me with your fists and the end result would be about the same.

I know, you’ve been asking yourself the whole time, “Why are you making fake shopping bags anyway? That’s insane!” Yes it is. Our biggest client requested them for a commercial shoot. All I have to say is, I better see a commercial with a WALL of fucking shopping bags. Or 36 people dancing around with shopping bags. Because I really don’t want to find out this pain and effort was all for nothing.

Ultimately I suppose it IS for nothing, because it’s just advertising and that’s about as worthless an occupation as you can get. And don’t think I don’t think about that every minute I’m working on this shit. WHY AM I DOING THIS? Why is anyone doing this?

Which then leads me down the path of wondering what I’m supposed to be doing instead. I’ve been wondering about that for years and I still can’t figure it out.

If you know me and you think I have marketable skills for some other more worthwhile, legal task I could get paid for, please get in touch.



Body. Bags.