Charlie Radio

This is a short story that I wrote for Fundamentals of Character at Ringling this semester. Hope you like it. Parameters were 3,000-4,000 words. Let me know your thoughts!


Spirits of the dead live on in imagination, music, creativity, and humor.
And the written word.

Charlie was always on, like the small radio that played from the kitchen table. The radio, though, was more easily tuned. His grandmother called from the stove.

“Charlie!”

Ba-drump, ba-drump, ba-drump. Charlie galloped down the stairs in the familiar cadence, his steps like sharp stick strikes on a tight snare drum. The radio sang high with trumpets and trombones.

He wriggled around the living room, shuffling torn spiral-bound notebook pages in his small eight-year-old hands. He paused upon inspiration, making hurried scratches on his messy script with a pencil that doubled as a makeshift microphone. His trusty tape recorder was slung across his body with a chewed-up belt. The dark metal hunk bounced on his hip with his spasmodic, amusing movements. He muttered attempted versions of radio show introductions until he smiled with satisfaction.

Granpa scanned Charlie without moving his head. “We’ll be right there, Shirley.”

Charlie squirmed over the ottoman, around the couch, around the chair. Granpa pretended to watch the five o’clock news.

Finally, Charlie sat on the stool next to Granpa’s favorite recliner and pressed the stubborn red button on his recorder. Before Charlie could arrange his notes and speak, Granpa leaned close to Charlie. “Do you know Mr. Scravuzzo?” with a slight chuckle.

“What?” Charlie squealed just above the tape recorder.

“Do you know Mr. Scravuzzo?” Granpa asked again with one very arched eyebrow, as thick as his occasional Italian accent.

Charlie was near hysterics. “No! Who is Mr. Scraboozoo?” Charlie was trying, but failing, to summon all the determination of a dime-store-novel detective. His stifling of titters resulted in sputters of spit from his pursed lips.

“He shit on the floor.”

Charlie collapsed onto the living room rug, laughing without sound and convulsing until his abdominal muscles seized. He never understood the meaning of this oft-repeated joke, but the flagrant use of profanity was exotic and hilarious. He buried his face and gasps of laughter for fear of inviting the attention of his always-busy Gramma.

After a few moments, Charlie spread his arms out and indulged in the familiar braids of the well-worn rug. “Granpa.” He soothed himself with that whispered word. The word cracked off his tongue like fresh bubbles from a soda pop. His notebook pages crumpled on the floor beneath him, the detective story he was about to share forgotten for a moment.

Charlie knew that his grandfather was not his biological parent. Charlie knew that his own parents were gone. The only father he had ever known was Gaetano Gianfranco Guerrieri–his dad’s dad. He peeked up as he felt the recliner footrest pushed down by his grandfather’s legs.

Granpa slowly limped to the TV set and turned the power dial to “Off.” He turned, grabbed his cigarettes from the TV tray, and headed to the small metal kitchen table near his pot-stirring wife. Charlie followed, pushing his papers into a deep jean pocket. He tucked his microphone behind his ear. The aroma of simmering sauce was calling all hopeful diners.

Gramma chopped Charlie’s clean, white plate with her messy, red spatula. “Washa you handsa!” Shirley was neither Italian nor did she have an accent, but after living with Gaetano for over thirty years, she had fun bellowing commands in a horrible imitation of him.

Charlie didn’t look at Gramma. He simply pouted into his sauce-splotched plate. “You washa the hands or I washa the hands.” Charlie knew what that meant. Gramma would grab his ear, lead him upstairs to the bathroom, and use only hot water and too much soap.

“Okay.” Charlie stomped up the stairs to pretend to wash his hands.

As Charlie loudly reached the top, he paused and lingered near the bathroom door. He picked at the dry skin and dirt on his index finger with his thumbnail.

“I don’t hear any water!” Gramma shouted from the kitchen.

“Fine!” Charlie relented and quickly rinsed his hands under the cold water of the sink. He scrambled down the stairs. Ba-drump, ba-drump, ba-drump. Back at the table, he sat on his hands. Gramma stood still at the stove; she lifted lids, checked sauces, turned spoons.

“Show me.” She didn’t turn.

“Fine!” Charlie raced back upstairs and used soap this time. His feet barely touched each step on the way down. He nearly stumbled on the third step disturbing his usually perfect stair drum march. Ba-drump, ba-drump, ba-dump, dump-dump.

“Grazie!” Gramma sang. “Mangia!” She had already filled Charlie’s plate with linguini, sausage, meatballs, and sweet, smooth succo. The table was full with a bowl of grated Parmesan, a basket of torn stirato, napkins, silverware, extra sauce, and that small radio.

The radio played: a 1939 RCA Victor Tabletop Bakelite in Avocado with illuminated dial. It was the fourth diner. Usually tuned to the Big Band station, it was soft and low while they ate.

Charlie took the radio, dinners, his grandparents, and most things for granted. He did not consider familiar objects; inconsequential items did not have lives of their own. These substances did not exist if Charlie was in another room. Things, bodies, spirits lived in his imagination. Life borne on those scraps of paper tucked in his jeans or in his constant, shifting thoughts of possibility and humor. He stuffed his emotions down deep in those pockets; love poured out into silly scripts. Drawing a grin on Granpa’s lips was his sole desire and goal.

Charlie ate quickly. He mindlessly hummed to the swing song playing next to his elbow. Charlie thought only about his script: if Granpa would like it, if there was any action to add, how to say the things he wanted to say to make his grandfather crow.

Detective Scravuzzo? Would that make him laugh?

Gaetano and Shirley were still finishing their plates when Charlie asked to be excused. “Washa you handsa!” Charlie spoke in perfect unison with his grandmother.

“Don’t be smart,” she called after Charlie as he drummed up the stairs, back to his room. Inside, he carefully tip-toed through the galaxy of Star Wars action figures, working model of the Millennium Falcon, and Darth Vader’s bodacious-black Tie Fighter. Charlie sat down in the vacancy he had used to set up this space scenario. He gave the Tie Fighter a squeeze on its tail just to hear the laser fire a short blast at the ol’ Falcon.

He pulled his faceted sheets from his jeans. With some resistance, he finally freed the pages, a small Matchbox car that had belonged to his father, and other bits of metal. The car, some jacks, a few paperclips jangled to the floor. He unfolded the paper wad and savored the rereading of his dashed-off detective story from earlier. He fetched the pencil from his ear and scribbled a few more notes.

He would try to show Granpa tomorrow. Saturday was always a good day for their own program of pretend–Charlie Radio.

He recognized the fanfare floating up the stairs. It was his grandparents’ favorite radio repeat. He grabbed Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, crept quietly to the stairs, and sat down on the top step. He remained very quiet and listened intently to the radio show his family enjoyed.

After several harp flourishes, the crescendo of the brass, an announcer calls,Welcome to Magical May Mystery Theatre. Every week we recall a chilling tale from yesteryear. Let us turn to the wonderful works of Sir Stanley Bunion Boyle. This week is Hemlock Jones and the Case of the Missing Miss.”

The narrator, “It is a brisk fall evening in London. At 411 Butcher Block, the flickering gas lamps illuminate the slightly fogged, second-story window. We peer in to see our veteran detective, Hemlock Jones, relaxing by the fire. He is cranking the handle of his newly-purchased gramophone. After laying the needle, a gentle etude emerges from the decorative horn. Jones reclines on a wingback settee, his feet crossed upon a well-worn pillow. Jones enjoys his elaborate pipe. His trusted companion, Nurse Watterston, seated to Jones’ immediate right, is pouring three cups of tea. An anxious man sits opposite of Jones and the nurse in an upright parlor chair. He pleads with the pair.”

“You must help me find my daughter, Mister Jones! I humbly rely upon your unequaled skills.”

“Certainly, Lord Ghaddi! All in due time, old chap. First, Nurse, a cuppa for the journey.”

Nurse Watterston asks, “Where was your daughter last seen, my lord?”

“Lahdi was at home with my wife, Lady Maia. Her mother sent her upstairs to play while she arranged the house to receive Lahdi’s music teacher.”

Nurse, “And then she was just gone?”

Jones, “Dematerialized?”

Ghaddi, “Beg pardon?”

The nurse explains, “Vanished.”

“Oh. Yes. Quite.”

Jones explodes, “No matter! We shall pinpoint your precious progeny and restore the House of Lord Omar Ghaddi! Nurse, two lumps and away! Hither and thither in the ether!”

The narrator, “The trio gulped down their tea and dashed out into the street. Hemlock Jones used his best disguise to hail a hansom cab at that late hour. He lowered his head, pulled his overcoat away from his trouser hem and rolled his checkered pant past his knee. He revealed a rather racy, lacy white stocking. Immediately, a hansom cab driver diverted his apparatus to the curb and halted abruptly. Hemlock sprang to the carriage step and shouted to the cabbie.”

Jones, “Thank you, Driver! To Paddington! Make haste!”

The narrator, “The driver looked quite disappointed.”

The driver with a cockney accent, “With those gas-pipes, I thought you was a lady.”

Nevermind! Drive on, my hansom man.”
A horse whinnies. Horse hooves clop. The sound of carriage wheels hiss through puddles.

The narrator, “The gentlemen and nurse nestled inside the vessel, drawn by horse on their terse, cursed course. The perplexed party hustled and bustled to address the mess and wrestle with the troubling, tussled puzzle. Phew.”

The harp chimes. The announcer calls, “We shall return to Hemlock Jones after these important messages.”

Commercials. Commercials are so boring. I bet Nurse Watterston looks like my mother. Big, friendly cheeks and soft eyes. Light hair and pink lips.

Charlie laid down on the top step. He took off one of his no-name sneakers and laid it behind his head. He flew Luke Skywalker back and forth, twirling the figure with his nimble fingers. He toyed with the fading light from the lone stairwell window.

He dreamed of adventures with Jones and Watterston.

I’ll be Hemlock. Mom could be Nurse Watterston. Dad could play any character.

Lord Omar Ghaddi would have a snowy beard and large glasses, but just behind those spectacles, at the very top, he would recognize those brows. The entire Guerrieri family had those thick, arched expression-makers. Even the women.

Is that Granpa?

But. Just below the fake-white, bushy mustache would be Frank’s charismatic smile. When Charlie detected his disguised father, Frank’s face wouldn’t change except for a small, twinkling wink.

Charlie’s eyes relaxed. His lips made sound effects for Luke. Pfff-shew. He remembered a novel, comforting tune.

“In me you see a man alone, behind the wall he’s learned to call his home…”

Charlie’s arms became heavy and he yawned.

“…walking in the rain, expecting love again.”

He imagined the thin white line that moved behind the numbers on the dial of the radio. The line turned into a rocket. The rocket launched. The exhaust swirled into curled hair.

“…learning to live with memories of midnights that fell apart at dawn.”

He closed his eyes. Bits of light flashed at the sides of his mind. The stars warped and stretched.

“A man who knows love is seldom what it seems, just other people’s dreams.”

Charlie drifted away before the radio program finished.

Charlie could only hear the hiss and hush of the radio off-air. The light was gone from the stairwell. He felt around for the hand railing to his right. He touched the cool wall by his bedroom door. It was damp. Now he heard the bathroom sink drip echoing through the hall. He couldn’t move very much for fear of falling.

“Hemlock?” A friendly female voice called to Charlie. “Hemlock, is that you?”

Charlie’s mother, dressed in a long, white gown, floated up the stairs, out of the darkness of the living room. She reached out for Charlie.

“Mom?”

She didn’t reply. Charlie felt another presence by his shoulder, pressing into his sleeve.

“Hi, son.” Charlie felt a voice on his neck, a small fire in his ear. Charlie turned to see an old man–top hat with silk trim, spectacles pinched to a round nose, a wiry pushbroom mustache feathering into cheek-tickling chops. “Where have you been, Charlie?”

Charlie’s embarrassment and confusion crackled like pops of static between stations. “I was lost.”

His mother consoled him. “We’ve been so worried, Charlie. We’ve been looking everywhere.”

Charlie brightened. “I’ve been here the whole time. I was waiting for you. I can play now.”

“Sorry, Charlie Radio. It’s bedtime. We can play tomorrow, Sweets. I would love that.” His mother combed his hair off his forehead with her fingers.

“No! Please, don’t leave me. Please. You just got here. I’m here now.”

Charlie’s mother drifted down the steps. “Goodnight, Charlie.”

Charlie turned to his father, an attempt to keep him, to make him stay. “Lord Ghaddi, did you find your little girl?”

“Goodnight, Charlie.” His father winked. He shifted his weight to stand.

The static returned. Charlie’s eyes blurred with tears. He howled.

“Don’t leave me! Please! Please!”

“Charlie,” Granpa whispered. A little louder, “Charlie.”

Gramma gently rubbed Charlie’s arm and called, “Charlie Cheeks.”

Charlie roused; he wasn’t fully conscious. “Hm?”

“Time for bed, Puddin’.” Gramma steadied Charlie under his arm as he rose and turned slowly, aiming for his bedroom door.

Charlie swiped his face with his sleeve. His lashes clumped together. The tears were real at least.

Granpa picked up Luke and Leia from the step and placed them carefully on Charlie’s homework desk. He turned Charlie’s blankets down and fluffed his pillow. “Night, Charlie.”

Charlie woke. The sunshine streamed through his sheer, white curtains. The white panels reminded him of his mother’s midnight gown. He could hear soft voices downstairs. The radio was strangely silent. He slid down the stairs to listen. He stopped on the fourth stair; the third stair squeaks.

“He was listening, Gae.” Gramma was exasperated.

“We don’t know that,” Granpa reasoned.

“Gae, he was listening to the show. I just wonder how many times he’s done that.” Gramma was nervous.

Granpa dismissed her concern. “Let’s not say anything. He probably didn’t even understand.”

“I always thought we should tell him. This is nonsense. I let you ignore this for years. I can’t even say my own boy’s name in my house because you feel guilty.” Shirley trembled. Her eyes flickered and shone with mourning. “He’s mine, too.” Now with pride, “He’s still mine.”

A silent moment passed, like a prayer. Neither knew what to say. The wood step groaned when Charlie shifted.

“Charlie.” Gramma knew he was listening from the stair. “Charlie, come down.”

Charlie lost his cadence as he crept to the edge of the rug. “Am I in trouble?”

“No, Sweets. No.” Gramma stretched her arm and offered her curled palm. “Come here, Charlie.”

Charlie sat beside her on the scratchy tweed sofa. “Why are you mad at Granpa?”

“She’s not mad. We’re sad.”

“Is it my parents?”

“Yes. Were you listening to the show last night?” Gramma asked.

Charlie nodded. “It’s one of my favorites. It’s Sherlock Holmes, right? Sort of.”

Gramma sighed. “Yes. It’s a recording.”

Charlie agreed. “I know it’s not like a TV show. It’s really old.”

“We listen to it when we miss your dad,” she explained. “That’s your dad. And mom.”

Charlie wasn’t certain. “Frank? And Dianne?” Charlie guessed at what she meant.

“Yes. They recorded that just before their accident.” Gramma crossed to the credenza. She cupped her hand and whisked her fingers to summon Charlie.

She lifted the lid, like a hinged upright piano top, and showed Charlie a large device. Brown strips of tape lay loosely pooled around a metal spool. The reels reminded him of his own recorder, but bigger. The holes in the reel made him think of surprised giant panda faces. It looked like a film projector on its side.

“You mean it’s not the radio?”

“I’m so sorry, Charlie.” Granpa shuddered and his breathing changed. He sat forward in his recliner. “It’s my fault.”

Charlie ran to his grandfather and sat beside him on the stool. His small hand patted Granpa’s back. Gaetano broke. He was shaking. “I told them to go have fun.”

“Fun is what you do, Granpa.” Charlie kept patting.

Gaetano stood and grabbed his cigarettes. He coughed and sniffed. He wiped his eyes with his collar as he headed for the stairs.

Charlie sat beside his grandmother; she had returned to the rough couch. He laid his messy hair and muddled thoughts on her lap. Gramma tamed his tangled fringe with her careful fingers.

Granpa wasn’t driving the car. I don’t understand. Gramma told me to go play with Jimmy and I scraped my chin. But she definitely told me it was my fault. I don’t get it.

Charlie knew that his parents had died in a car accident together. Gramma had told him when he was five.

“Why don’t I have parents?” Charlie had asked after spending an afternoon at Jimmy’s.

Gramma’s answer had been short, but reassuring. “They had a bad accident, but we’re your parents now.” Her smile, at that moment, paired with a bowl of ice cream seemed more than adequate.

Charlie’s questions changed that morning. Why don’t we talk about them?

Charlie did what all children do, he grew. Granpa did what all humans must, he died. Gaetano passed during Charlie’s senior year of high school.

When Gaetano died, Charlie didn’t remember that dream, the radio show, or his offering of cold comfort. Almost ten years later, though, the vision drifted in on the billows of his first morning cigarette.

The old tabletop RCA, now permanently silent, sat on Charlie’s shelves, high above his writing desk. It rested next to the sleek Tie Fighter. Both had survived two moves and a pawn shop.

Granpa. The word no longer popped. It welled and bubbled like a tear–slow and full. What’s it like to lose your child? What’s it like to feel guilt for your child’s death?

Charlie plugged in his comfortable padded headphones.

I didn’t even know my parents. They were just pictures in an album, a fairy tale of sweethearts. How could I miss someone I never met? How can I grieve people I didn’t know?

I was never lonely or sad.

Granpa was sad and that worried me.

My friend, Jimmy? His loss was huge.

Granpa–his loss was the worst I’ve known.

My parents? They were…clouds without rain.

Listening to–Pink Floyd. Dark Side? No–Wish You Were Here.

Charlie stared at the open document on his laptop. He pressed his index finger against the edge of the desk, hoping to make his already-popped knuckle crack again.

I want to write a story. But–what?

Pop. The joint gave into pressure.

Nothing seemed worthy. His fingers cramped at the thought of typing anything. He cradled and pulled his jaw to one side, performing at-home chiropractic services. His eyes found the radio.

Avocado. Radio. Charlie Radio. What if…?

His fingers began whisking over the keys like Gramma pinching pepper into a pot. A story whistled on the stove.

In 1939, while the world was falling apart, I was put together.

My illuminated dial dimmed. I can’t play tunes any more. My mind forgot the music. My voice is silent. My faded avocado body has scratches and scars. No one thinks I can hear, but I can. I still remember.

I watch over Charlie. I listen for his voice. I listen for his laughter, stories, dreams, and pain. I listen for his thoughts tapped out on the keys. I listen for his words.

My life began the summer Gaetano Guerrieri walked into the small appliance shop at the end of 15th and Main. He was dressed in an olive-green uniform, holding hands with Shirley. Shirley pointed to me. The shop owner placed me back in my box, wrapped me in thick brown paper and delicately handed me to Gaetano.

“Grazie,” he said.

We strolled along 15th…

THE END

FINE

Christmas Cast

I’ve been busy at Ringling College of Art and Design trying to be a 46 yo freshman. I’m going after my first BFA in Creative Writing. It’s my first bachelorette of anything.

I took 4 courses and I learned a lot. One course was “Writing for Money”. Very helpful for those who want to make money at writing, which I do. But not from my blog. That’s just for fun.

But I did learn how to do podcasts. I didn’t really ever see this as a writing opportunity, but I came up with a writerly cast, reading flash fiction, and celebrating unpublished prose.

I originally thought this was an outlet for my fellow classmates, but no one was really interested. Who doesn’t want to share their stuff? I would love to have any of you contribute. Simply record your favorite prose and send to me! I would love to add it to my blog.

Miss you all. Hope you enjoy this little ~5-minute pod. 🙂 Let me know your thoughts! And Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and peace to you all. Truly. We need a little magic now, yes?

TEA! Yas, please.

So this is a concept for a Mary Poppins parody that my daughter and I were laughing about one day. I wrote the poem in about 30 minutes, so excuse any rough structure! But it’s supposed to be a song as well. It’s all things British and that sort of thing. 😀

Would you see this at your local theatre? I’m thinking it would be a cute scene for a children’s acting workshop. 🙂


Messy Misadventures of Missie Drippins

I Love a Good Cuppa Tea

When there’s something wrong with me
And I can hardly see
What to do or who to be
It’s quite elementary
I have a spot of tea

Steaming, swirling,
Polish up the Sterling
Don’t limit the Darjeeling
Darling, pour me a cup with feeling

No need to stop conferring
Pinkie out while stirring
Delicate teaspoons start me swooning
Talk of tea will send me crooning

I take mine sweet with lemon
They even guzzle tea in Yemen
Some say they prefer the coffee drip
But I’ve seen them take their fair sip

Earl Grey drives the gray away
The rising sun is here to stay
The Old Grey has bergamot
And I say, “Why ‘the berg’ not?”

No matter how many lumps you’ve got
Even the angels have a spot
Pip, pip, cheerio, and all that, Love
Tea is sent from God above

Ear-roll Greeeeeey
Take me away
All my troubles will drain away
High tea will end this difficult day

Bergamot oil is heaven
Have a cup or two or seven
Sit on down, drink it up
Joy is found at the bottom of your cup

When you get a troubled letter
When life has turned you bitter
Have a cup and you’ll be better
Just a sip and you’ll feel fitter

If you prefer dairy with your leaves
Tea doesn’t mind, as you please
Just remember the milk in first
Then life can do its very worst

After a good cuppa tea

Put a kettle on for a cuppa
Keep your quivering chin uppa
Straighten your back
Plan your attack
But first have a cuppa tea

Stiffen that uppa lip
Pour a cuppa for the trip
Drink it down, fill it up
Time for just one more cup

Sip with me
And you’ll agree
Clouds will part
Over calmer sea
Drink’s the key
Hear my plea
Free the tea
God save the Queen

Here’s my theory for when you’re weary
Don’t be leery, ban the bleary
Cheer up, Sweetie, wipe your teary
Pour a cuppa for you, Deary?

Clearly you are nearly
In need of tea severely
So have a good cup of tea
Order a cup, on me

I luva good cuppa tea

Woods

I went with my family and a friend last night to see Venice Theatre‘s production of Into the Woods. Such a great show. I’m so glad we went.

First, Venice Theatre has such great shows. For a community theatre, in an area littered with community theatre, you might think this smaller-community budget and/or stage might suffer, but you’d be wrong. More theatre only seems to foster better theatre! Here in Florida, at least.

Last night, the summer stock production for high school and college students opened. It was so well done. The sets, costumes, lighting and SOUND! The sound team at Venice is professional and detailed. The baby cries sounded like they came from the stinking fake baby. Woah! Impressed!

The witch. Oh, the witch. She’s probably my favorite character. I am the witch. Every mother is the witch. Wanting to hold onto your child. Willing to go anywhere, do anything: fetch white cows, gold shoes and red capes (or make others go get them) to save your relationship with your child. Misguided as she may be, we can all relate. And Alyssa Pasick portrayed the witch with heart, passion, emotion and a well-trained voice. She was so amazing. I cried during all of her songs. She was moving, compelling and so beautiful. Just absolutely perfect. Hilarious, as well!

The baker’s wife. Hannah Beatt was enchanting. Absolutely adorable, lovely. Loved her. She sang beautifully and she was also moving. Loved her voice.

The mysterious man. Kenneth Glesge. What a great voice! I hadn’t heard this young man sing before and he just blew me away. He played the part (well beyond his years) with maturity and grace. He really understood the character. He nailed the whimsical nature, but also the emotional depth of this smaller role. Well done! So impressed. I would have loved to see you play the Wolf! 😀 In our production, back in KC, our Mysterious Man doubled in the Wolf role. Quite a stretch! But this guy, last night, could have done it!

I loved most aspects of this well done show. The pacing was just right. All the voices of the main cast were superb! There were a few times I couldn’t hear un-mic’d actors, but that is to be expected. I know the show well enough to not miss the dialogue or song lyrics, it was a minor (just a few seconds) glitch. Every character was so committed to their role, even through minor (super minor) tech issues.

This show was excellent by any standard. Professional, semi-professional, adult vs. high school/college. I loved it! Brava! Bravo! Congrats to the cast and crew of Into the Woods! You deserved your standing ovation on opening night.

So glad we have this gem of a theatre right here in our backyard! So lucky! And they are very kind to their actors and volunteers! Love you, VT!

Radio(active) Disney

First, I’m sorry. I’m about to attack Disney and I understand–for some? That’s like burning the flag.

But what’s the deal with Disney cranking out prostitutes at their whore factory?

Britney Spears. Christina Aguilera. Selena Gomez. Bella Thorne. Miley Cyrus. Lindsay Lohan. Ryan Gosling! (JK)

I shouldn’t say prostitutes. That sounds judgmental. But why, in Walt’s name, do all (or alot) of ex-Disney princesses go from Snow White to Toxic Tinkerbell?

This has bothered me for some time. What happens to these preteen pop stars? Too much pressure? Backlash from some secret Disney purity pact? An attempt to tarnish their goody-two-shoes act? What in the wide world of Disney is happening???

Disney,
Whatever you’re doing, stop! Please. For the sake of Disney and all that is holy, stop.

If you doubt me, all you have to do is Google any of the above names and you’ll see the very un-Disney images that pop up.

Am I too old to understand?

I don’t mean to blaspheme the Mouse, but I just wish Disney was what I thought Walt wanted it to be. We’re both Kansas Citians and we both went bankrupt. I live in Florida now. I grew up on Disney. I thought he was a kind, decent man, always telling a story of hope, purity, nobility and modesty. And I just wonder what he would think about his pop princesses these days.

This is just my opinion!

Tell Me About Chris Churchill

I love interviewing people. I just wish I knew more awesome, famous people. 🙂 But I know at least one and he’s super awesome and almost famous. To me anyway. He’s brilliant, creative, fascinating, funny, talented, accomplished and so, so friendly. Embracing. Welcoming. Decent, kind, inspiring. He’s my friend, Chris Churchill.

He so kindly agreed to let me interview him. He has quite a few things out right now. Book, songs, documentary. Thanks for reading and checking out my friend, Chris. He’s the coolest. Thanks, Man! for letting me probe your brain.


Background about Chris:

I’m an artist of many types of art. Writing, visual art, music, comedy, film-making. But, of course, not many make a living doing these things. So, I give tours and have recently started teaching.
Where did you start performing?

Started performing in high school. School plays, etc. Also tried, here and there, to play in bands. Wrote a lot of stories and little plays. In retrospect, any shiny artistic object, pulled me away from the previous one. I saw a good friend in an improv show in 1992 or ’93. I thought, “That’s really funny. And I’ll bet I could do that.” So, I auditioned for Lighten Up Improvisation Company and got in. This is where I met your husband (Guy Maggio).

How did you get to Chicago? What led you there? Anything you miss about KC?

I miss everything about KC. Home is always home. When I come home, the wind is the right kind of wind. The birds and insects are the right kind. The sky is the right sky. The Chiefs. The Royals. And all the people of course. My whole family is
still there.

I got to Chicago because I met Adam McKay and David Koechner at an improv fest in Austin, TX (I was performing with your husband and others). They were teaching an improv workshop which I took twice when I was there. Once as a participant. The second time, I just sat in the back and watched. I had never had a conversation with a famous person before. And Koechner had this amazing, positive, “you can do it” energy. He told a group of us that if we were serious about this, we had to move to Chicago. Eventually, I did.

What’s the best thing about following your love of and talent in music? Improv?

The best thing is that you can go to a place on your heart that needs massaging, when it needs massaging and massage it. Flood yourself with serotonin when you need it. The finished product has never really gotten me too far. The process makes me happy, though.

What inspired you to come up with “Abraham Lincoln: The College Years”? What is just improv or something you thought about?
When I was recovering from a psych issue I’d had a few years ago, I finally got to the point where I could artistically express myself again and it helped me get back to “normal”. At this point, I just made up the worst ideas for television pilot episodes and wrote 12 of them. For fun. Because I was crazy.
Later, I decided to have staged readings at Second City for four of them. Well, obviously, they’d need theme songs. So, I made up these silly theme songs and recorded them. Originally, I thought I’d just play them at the live show but, since I already had an audiobook on Mint 400 Records, I asked them if they’d put out my “Doomed Pilots” soundtrack. As far as the Lincoln song goes, I started with the lyrics, searched within the lyrics for the rhythm and recorded that. I added the simplest of bass-lines so that when I sang the lyrics I’d be on key. Or at least I’d know where the key was. Then, from within that framework, I improvised the recording or the rest. The guitars, the backing vocals were improvised because I don’t like planning too much when I’m in creation mode. I think it worked out. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever recorded.
How did the project “Tell Me About My Mother” start? (check out the video here)

My siblings and I constantly find ourselves telling these old family stories over and over again about how crazy our mom was/is. After I’d had an internship at a video company and had begun to make more of my own independent stuff, my sister Deb said, “This should be your next project.” And she was right. It turned out really well. It’s been getting a lot of emotional responses from people.

I’m sure it was difficult reliving the past, was it healing or just messy?

It was definitely healing. My mom needed validation for a lot of what she went through. It was nice to hear my dad’s side. Even though some might say he doesn’t come off smelling like a rose in this movie. And my siblings, as usual, served as comic relief when necessary. Some of these stories are pretty intense.

Do you think that your past/childhood set you up for how you live your life now in terms of music, improv, life goals, career choice, or creativity in general? Do you think it propelled you? Or do you think it was a detriment?

My childhood gave me both the artistic tools for survival as well as the need to use those tools to keep my sanity (most of the time). The problem and the solution are wrapped up in the same thing. My upbringing was alternately exciting and fun and sad and lonely. In terms of being able to make any money, it’s never really happened for long stretches. That is probably just a case of not having the right backing, connections, luck and also, let’s face it, I’m not making mainstream anything. I don’t know how to do that because I don’t feel the same way most people do.

What are you working on now or hope to be hearing about in the near future? What’s coming up for you?

Always working on something. Thinking about raising money so I can edit the rest of the story of me and my family and release the whole thing on DVD. Mixing an album for the label. Writing for an online magazine called Literate Ape. Teaching one college course and still giving tours of Chicago.

Thanks, Chris! You’re amazing. ❤

Gonna Wreck It!

I used to be an acting coach. We would put on classroom sketches to show what we had learned in class that semester for the parents. For our showcase, we picked Wreck-It Ralph and used themes from the show to connect acting, Christianity and Wreck-It Ralph. Here’s our opening intro music composed by my daughter, PenPrin, with video game sounds and my husband doing the voice of Wreck-It Ralph. Thanks, Kacey Moe. You should do radio or something. 😉

You know, Ralph sacrificed himself at the end for his friends. Just like Jesus. He was definitely a Christ-like figure at the end. We love you, Ralph. Can’t wait for the sequel!

Enjoy! Let me know your thoughts. Lilli loves composing music. She uses Noteflight. She has a whole bunch of songs.

Oh! And I edited this all together using Audacity. 😀

Love Words

I’m in love with your words.
They seduce me with sounds like:
grace
mercy
comfort
unconditional love.

I’m in love with your face.
It draws me with lines like:
chin
lips
cheek
eyes.

I’m in love with your hands.
They play me with strength like:
pluck
stroke
feather
hold.

I’m in love with your heart-and-mind.
It’s a mystery to unlock like:
LIFE.