Sunday, September 21, 2014

A NEPA Tee Party

Whenever I go through my clothes in preparation for the summer, I always run into a few shirts I justify keeping, even if they present a pitifully unwearable sight. This year, I found a great excuse to keep them. Megan Nicolay, author of Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt, starts her T-shirt revolution in Brooklyn, calling to mind overpriced boutique items that can be made by hand for next to nothing. As Nicolay teaches the reader the basic principles on how to refashion an old shirt in her book, she helps the "craft-illiterate" with a 1-5 rating system (5 being the most difficult), a set of easy to follow steps with hand-drawn pictures, and by making a third of her projects "no-sew."

For the record, I have no arts and crafts skills whatsoever. My only experience with arts and crafts was in middle school, when I was forced to take Home Economics class. My complete lack of sewing skills warranted barely passing with a 70. So even though Nicolay assured me in her introduction that I would be able to follow her instructions, I was still concerned that my lack of proficiency with a needle and thread would have disastrous results with the shirts I loved.

I looked over Chapter 1, in which Nicolay delves into a variety of materials and stitching techniques that appeared daunting. So, I decided against indulging in a margarita during the process. I collected about 20 green-tag sale Salvation Army T-shirts in various colors with funny logos. Then, I had a group of my girlfriends come over to alter the Salvation Army T-shirts with a bunch of scissors, needles, and thread. If the night was a success, then I would attempt the revamping surgery on my own shirts in the future.

At my friend Lauren's apartment, we placed the T-shirts along the walls of the living room floor, so all six girls could walk the room and choose two T-shirts she would transform. When the girls arrived, we each chose our first shirt and attempted to follow the book's instructions. Nicolay gave us 108 different choices for renovation, including the creation of skirts, tank tops, purses, book bags, wristbands, and even a blanket and a wedding dress. Everyone was a bit hesitant about altering the shirt's original form, so we decided to stick to the basics: we'd do minor alterations on the T-shirts or make them into tank tops. After each girl made her first incision into the cotton material, the fun began.

With my first tee, I decided to try #7, the comfort corset. The pattern had six easy steps that I altered as I worked my magic with the scissors. I kept the sleeves instead of cutting them shorter as suggested in step 1, and I guestimated the 10" back scoop in step 3, since I used the book as a ruler. I can proudly say that when I finished the last step, the comfort corset matched the photo in the book - and it complemented my tattoo.

As for the other girls: Sarah created a combination of #18, "ties to die for," a sleeveless tie over each shoulder, and #22, "diamondback," a skin revealing diamond-shaped pattern. Donora tried #1 "scoop, there it is," with her orange tie-dye. Cindy made her red I've got my dancing shoes tee into #26 "sew easy." Andrea boldly attempted #32, "all strung out," with her dead rat cafe shirt. Lauren successfully turned the Team Zissou shirt into #15, "shoulder chic." The next day, we wore our new hand-made clothes and each of us was complimented. This craft-illiterate writer may not be ready to start spending entire paychecks at Michael's or Jo-Ann Fabrics, but I do feel more accomplished and crafty.

So, the moral of today's story is: getting rid of your favorite T-shirt isn't so hard to do when you can recreate it. I suggest you get out your scissors and gather your friends together for a tee party; just take it easy on the margaritas.

A Politically Incorrect Christmas

You can say there’s no such thing as Santa, but as for me and the audience of “The Eight: Reindeer Monologues” at Paper Kite Press in Kingston on Dec. 12 , we believe we’ve seen the real Kris Kringle and his eight reindeer … in a darkly comedic and sinister work environment.

So this is Christmas … and what has he done? Mr. Claus has been a sadistic pervert who molests poor little reindeer on the job while Mrs. Claus has been drinking herself into a daily eggnog stupor and pining over the male reindeer, making an embarrassment out of herself during holiday celebrations. Who knew the North Pole had so many problems with sexual harassment in the workplace?

As the accusations begin to unravel, the eight reindeer, a group of seriously flawed characters, stand before the audience, much like at a news conference, each professing their own points of view in this extended one-act directed by Ilvin Nieves and Kimmie Wrazien of the Bracken Theatre Company.

Upon the opening of the play, Alicia Nordstrom sets the tone and plot. Nordstrom plays the lead reindeer (Dasher) in the “Elite Eight” and does a convincing job of ranting like a senior-level worker about the ridiculousness of the accusations in her workplace and gushing about her amazing on-the-job feats.

In the second monologue, Ilvin Nieves “makes the yuletide gay” with Cupid, the only openly homosexual reindeer in the elite eight. Nieves convincingly flames around the stage, dirtily discussing Santa’s secretly placed candy cane tattoo and North Poles. Under these strange circumstances, Neives convinces us that Cupid is happy that he is the only reindeer that hasn’t been molested by Santa, and his overly boisterous tone hints that his open homosexuality is what keeps him safe.

As the monologues evolve, the play becomes more sobering as confessions and loyalties become clear. The character of Blitzen is an extremist who is protesting Christmas this year and is bent on a walkout. Unfortunately, Donna Vojtek’s Blitzen was timid and line-reading compared to the angry feminist the audience might have expected from such powerful lines as, “When a doe says ‘no,’ she means ‘no’.”

Also, personally embarrassing situations become clear as the audience is lead to wonder, what is the truth about how Rudolph got to lead Santa’s team that year? Apparently, once a part of the team, Rudolph did join in the reindeer games and was permanently traumatized as a result. The tension in the room rises as Billy Joe Herbert, who plays Donner, Rudolph’s guilt-ridden alcoholic father, distressingly admits the sick details. While we do feel pity for his character, Herbert himself needs to work a bit more on his blue-collar noon drunk.

After the complex and unrepentant Wrazien (Vixen) speaks a captivating fall-down wine-drunk, emotionally detached and unsettled final monologue, the audience members are left to squirm uncomfortably in their seats. Especially when they hear her profess a very real and distressing question: “Why is it a woman is only a slut if she meets with some degree of success?”

Overall, all the actors, including David Giordano as Hollywood (formerly Prancer), Will Moore (Comet) and Christine Skiro (Dancer), bring depth and emotion to their roles so well that you may forget that they’re wearing bright red antlers. This play was definitely not for children, and now that I’ve warned all you friends and neighbors to watch out for a man who drives a sleigh and plays with reindeer, let’s just hope this holiday’s a good one without any fear.

(Photo thanks to )

Monday, May 11, 2009

Zine Workshop Flyer

At Paper Kite Press in Kingston/Edwardsville.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Remembering Snail Mail

Wendy from A Passion for Letter Writing and a handful of her readers have begun a correspondence with me based on Wendy's writing prompt called Let's Freak Someone Out!

I received 5 letters: Bonnie from Pittsburgh PA, Lisa from Flower Mound TX, Danielle from Rochester NY, Ilona from Newport RI, and Monica from Chicago IL. Each letter was more exciting than the last. Thank you for the amazing letters. I'll be getting back to you all soon.

In this throwaway world, do you even remember the last time you actually got something in the mail that was worth keeping? Something that wasn’t a bill? Something that wasn’t a pre-scripted card? When was the last time you actually scripted or received a letter? Not a business letter such as a cover letter for a job, but a hand-written cursive letter just discussing or contemplating the day’s events without fear of judgment?

For most of us, we might recall that we had a pen pal in elementary or middle school. I personally remember for over a year, I wrote to another girl my age that was living in England. While, I’d lost contact with her in my teens, especially after learning to drive, I still kept all of her letters in a box under my bed. Last fall during a cleaning spree, I pried open the box of memories and rediscovered them. As I read through each of the letters, I was flooded in memory. While her letters took almost a month to arrive, as soon as I mailed mine, I would check the mailbox excitedly for her response in the red white and blue international envelope with the words “Par Avion Air Mail” strewn across the front near my scribbled name. I recall once, after the lengthy correspondence, I received a phone call from her. We talked for approximately 2- 5 minutes and then her phone card ran out. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life. It was more wonderful than any of the other random memorabilia (blank concert wristbands, photographs of strangers, the dateless dried flower) that remained forgotten inside the box.

Over the last month, I have been reading “Love in the Time of Cholera.” The majority of the important correspondence appears in letter form between the two main characters. Suddenly, I had the striking realization that letter writing had become a lost art form. Since the only excitement in the post office box is a paycheck (as long as you don’t have direct deposit) and the hopes of a random postcard leave you feeling quite depressed since you aren’t the one on vacation, in an effort to regain enjoyment of opening the post box, I have begun corresponding. Now my words are inspired by the gentleman I write who lives in Kingston, a mere 15-minute drive from my home.

I began sending and receiving letters almost three months ago. This might be seen as ridiculous considering the more simple forms of communication: phone call, email, Facebook, MySpace, text messaging, and meeting in person. However, pre-generated text and email is easily disposed of, phone conversations are faceless communications, and I am convinced that the importance of words is lost to the ease of innovation and business side of communication. So while the “snail mail” pace of communication is a laughable amount of time considering the day or two it takes the postman to hand over my thoughts from days prior, there is just something about the magic of the letter that I keep close to my heart. It may be the swirls and swooshes that slow the mind when I make pen strokes that force me to consider spelling, word choice, and most importantly, a deep thought or two, because those things that are easily brushed over with spell checks, networking business letter structures, and the stiffly blocked fonts of computer programs. It may also just be the ever-so-rare excitement of receiving a letter.

No matter what the reason, this letter writing must continue. Receiving a handwritten letter is reliant upon a meager.43 cent stamp. And so, I am giving all writers a call to action. Hunter S. Thompson’s books did not take off until after the Fear and Loathing film. Many were published posthumously after carbon copies of every letter Thompson ever wrote were found, thus publishers discovered that the author had major talent beyond journalism. So this week, write one letter to someone and mail it from your local post office. Write a friend, pick a name out of the white pages (that’s the phonebook for you who use 555-1212 or 411 too often), or even write yourself a letter under a different name. Write the letter in your own handwriting and pour out your day, your heart, your soul, your hopes, your beliefs, and your dreams. Try writing more than one page and staying on topic.

*Published in The Weekender

Other interesting links:

Give your best wishes to Ilona's sister Esmerelda and future brother-in-law for their wedding:

Give this guy your address and he'll write you a letter:

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Leadoff hit for Bonazelli

“Despite the stopwatch efficiency that cast a pall of mechanical inevitability over the game, there was one moment of transformative emotion to be had, and everybody had it,” writes Andrew Bonazelli, managing editor of music mag Decibel, editor-in-chief of multiple in-store music magazines, including Monitor This in Gallery of Sound locations, and now, debut author of his first book, “Mechaniks.”

While the 162-page novella is based on a news story Bonazelli read a few years ago about Morgan Ensberg, then a third baseman for the Astros, and Bonazelli admits being a baseball (Mets) fan since he was 9, the reader can expect to strike out if they think that “Mechaniks” is only another typical baseball story. Rather than baseball being the focus, it is more the venue through which the real story begins. Bonazelli refers back to Ensberg’s story as inspiration: “Apparently, when he was in the minors, he and four of his roommates were held up at a hotel room. One of them disarmed the mugger. So, [Ensberg] had a pretty serious crippling life experience. I just remember reading about that and thinking, this is a good diving off point for something a bit more sinister between the players.”

Only the reader and teammates, Flynn Marlowe and Heath Hunter, share the truth of what happened as Bonazelli writes, “The fuzz very kindly bit the line Flynn Marlowe had cast — that two bums looking for cash and jewelry broke into the room during a poker game, and shot Mick and Ramon when they resisted. It was feasible enough.”

With terse and episodic influence of Flannery O’Connor’s Southern style and Dennis Cooper’s progressive storytelling, Bonazelli shows his reader pieces of photographs “in chapter form.” He writes, “Just before the boys took the field, Heath Hunter was visited in the bullpen by a man in obsidian sunglasses and a starch-hardened dress shirt. They shook hands, held a hard shoulder-to-fist embrace for 15 seconds and shared whispers. The whole while, Heath Hunter stared over the man’s back into the outfield like a pilgrim at the frontier. Nobody applauded or carried on at the sight of these two; the world simply sat on its hands and let two lost souls find one another. ‘Your signing bonus. Then you get the gun.’”

From this moment, Bonazelli allows the unfolding events to carry his reader ravenously to the next innings in his characters’ lives. Readers will struggle to put the book down and instead they’ll entertain just one more chapter, delving deeper into the “twisted and parasitic brotherhood” of Heath and Flynn. Bonazelli writes, “These were mechanics issues, small procedural irregularities that conspired to ruin everything. They could be fixed.” By the bottom of the ninth, Bonazelli has set the batting order down, loaded the bases with plot and sent his readers a grand slam story.

Check out: and who for comments about the book and a mention about my article!