Sunday, September 21, 2014

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!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Yesterday, James Crane and I headed to New York to see poetess, Jennifer L. Knox, read in Bryant Park. The reading was part of a summer series featured by local writing venues. Last night was sponsored by the KGB Bar.

The reading started at 6:30 and the ex-NY state poet laureate Richard Howard, opened the reading. He had great round mint glasses, that made him appear very animated as he read a few very funny poems about 5th graders. It takes a poet laureate to convince me and James that little Arthur Inglade needs a good beaten.

Next up was our main event. Jennifer L. Knox, reading from her book, Drunk By Noon. To give you a better idea of her work...I found this review by John Findura in Jacket 35 and said this about her, "In essayist Annie Dillard’s book Teaching a Stone to Talk, she asks ‘What surprises you: that there is suffering here, or that I know it?’ For all intents, Knox may as well have said ‘What surprises you: that this place is fucked, or that I write about it?’"

So Jen definitely talked about having a dick. Her poem about her ideal reader raised my eyebrows as I looked at James, mostly when she mentioned "is a man, dressed like a woman" and "parakeet aficionado" and "half-cowboy hat." She definitely screwed with the full crowd at Bryant Park (and I think they liked it), but the best part was that she made James excited like a 1970s giddy school girl at a Rolling Stones concert.

Dara Wier was the third reader. Her work has been included in recent volumes of Best American Poetry and The Pushcart Prize Anthology. The American Poetry Review awarded her the Jerome Shestack Prize in 2001, she received a Pushcart prize in 2002, and has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the NEA.

Her voice was beautiful and soothing as she read. Unfortunately, I was starting to lose steam since I had been up since quarter to six. Mix that with the high energy clever quips from Jennifer, the sundown's release from the mind-piercing heat, and my choice of heeled foot attire to trek around the city and I decided after hearing her that I would love to read her work. And so I did. Check out Peach Farm on Jibilat's website at Her work is amazing. I can't wait to get my hands on more.

The second reason to be in NY (other than any excuse is a good one) was to see Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, which opened at the Angelika Theater in NYC on 7-7. Johnny Depp narrated the film, which I couldn't resist, and the life and work of Thompson is just too damn mind-blowing to miss. While we passed up the 5:30 showing with the director and Q and A, we did get to see the film at 2:05 in the West Village.

I wasn't suprised that Thompson did as many drugs as the documentary showed, but I was amazed at his ability and drive to mind-fuck everyone around him with his words, even politicians. On a personal note, this documentary was a punch in the face reminder as to why I write what I write, and why I can't stop...and why I need to get a copy of The Great Gatsby (don't know how I missed reading that one when I was in school).

Watch the trailer to the film: and check out the myspace page at:

Also, as part of the trip, James and I decided to write Haiku.

Here's what I created:

Air conditioning
on the bus to New York City
elbow in my face

She's seat 25
salvation army sweater
reading todays news

i learn to tie knots
the clove hitch, square knot, taut line
on James black hoodie

i see graffiti
as we pass the water gap
city, nature -- one.

Falafel, Macdougal Street
two dollars for a sandwich
watching the meat spin

He carries flowers
bright orange with a quick step
on his way to her

The dark theater
subway rumbles below
Gonzo begins soon

They leaned in too close
his hand arched around her neck
his tongue in her mouth

I haiku all day
maybe i'm feeling spongy
my brain soft, eyes wide

Jennifer L. Knox
James Crane claps really loudly
he likes your poems

Hunter S. Thompson
of Gonzo Journalism
gun goes off, book drops

I can't stop counting
to create haiku phrases
somebody help me.