Because Of Course It Did

I suspect most parents have moments where they stop spinning in circles for a breath and wonder what the hell happened. I’ve been channeling my inner David Byrne (“My God/how did I get here?“) most of this year. While much of the country is getting back to “normal”, the weird and/or hard shit keeps happening here. Here, the land of decidedly not-normal, where we still don’t have indoor seating at restaurants, where I lost two friends in the same week–one to lung cancer and one to suicide, and where God only knows if we will ever be able to go back to work on Broadway.

Robbie, the original A2 on Jersey Boys in La Jolla, 2004.

Friday our minivan died. Two weeks before we need three cars for three very differently scheduled students commuting to schools nowhere near each other. Because of course it did. Thanks, COVID. Also? 2020 is an asshole. If 2020 were poised on the edge of a cliff and started to lose its balance, I’d push it right over. It’s a total dick.

The Zombie Van was a 2007 Honda Odyssey with 230,000 miles on it. It really didn’t owe us anything else. It had already over-delivered. CC took really good care of it, but after the door fell off we accepted it was time for palliative care. We’d make her as comfortable as possible and she’d let us know when it was her time.

She died in the parking lot of the storage unit where we were hauling the last of #2’s stuff, to be taken to her when she moves into her apartment in the Midwest. The shop called with the news:

“Vehicle not starting. Battery failed load test. Alternator not charging. Valve cover gasket leaking oil onto alternator. Transmission dry, fluid leaking out of transmission cooler lines and radiator. Cannot check for codes for engine or transmission due to battery being dead and won’t know if transmission is operating normally. Power steering pump is leaking as well.”

So $3600 to get to the point where we could find out if it also needed a new transmission. My God I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time. I guess she had one more gift left to give.

The punchline (no, that wasn’t it) was that we couldn’t get #2’s bed frame out because the back door wouldn’t open. BECAUSE IT’S ONE HUNDRED PERCENT ELECTRONIC. BECAUSE THAT’S BETTER. CC and #5 went back the next day with patience and ingenuity and successfully removed it. Sadly, the 6-CD changer (remember those?) held on to Operation Mindcrime, Clockwork Angels, and Hardwired to Self-Destruct and will take them to the grave.

A super bright spot is that I have an article in the September issue of Stepmom Magazine. If you’re a stepmom, this magazine is a lifesaver. There are regular contributions from therapists, stepfamily coaches, and smart, helpful stepmoms. I only got in because I told them if they didn’t take my piece, I’d send my house-bound kids their way, one at a time.

Don’t make me send them over.

My piece is about returning to a full house in quarantine when you were damn near an empty-nester. While you do have to subscribe to read it, you can subscribe a month at time and test it out. There’s even a free 30-day trial.

Meanwhile. . . have any of you ever beat my mileage on a drive-it-til-it-dies car?

Hope You Got Your Shots.

A rumble started in our neighborhood last week. A three-way rumble, amongst the people who still have their Halloween decorations up, those who already put their Christmas decorations up, and those people who take their holidays one at a time.

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In New Jersey, nothing says gratitude like a giant inflatable turkey. Sadly, no one house had all three sets of decorations up, and the giant inflatable yard menorah was noticeably absent this year.

If you’re traveling for any of the upcoming holidays, my post over at Family Circle may make you feel better. Just make sure everyone’s had their shots.

Drew Gehling, who plays Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys Broadway is doing a weekly vlog about what really happens backstage in New York. My favorite part of this one is Miles Aubrey’s opening magic trick. You think you know someone… I had no idea he could do that to a quarter. You can see me in this episode too, passionately talking with my hands and out of the side of my mouth about comb filtering. Also, some handsome actors take their shirts off.

Actors are fun at parties. Ballet dancers are interesting in everyday situations.

For more wildlife-based eye candy, here’s a short collection of some of the best shots you’ll ever see, on Rense.com

The last link today is a great story about how the best moments in life are rarely planned out. Poor Timing, Beautiful Surprises by Ariana Gruver.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Punk Rock Eulogy

There’s a statistic that says if you make it into the latter part of your 50’s clear of cancer and heart disease, there’s a good chance you’ll live well into your 80’s.

But there’s a corollary: all the other stuff that can take you out before you ever hit 60. Things you can die from at 18 or 53, 31 or 45, birth or 27.

Brain tumor, birth defect, suicide, landslide, broadside, embolism, aneurysm, undiagnosed diabetes, untreated depression, untreated alcoholism, overdose, stroke, heart attack.

No matter how many times it happens, it’s devastating when someone dies unexpectedly.

An acquaintance of mine– a really great stagehand– died all of a sudden last week. He was only 45, putting up a show, and his heart gave out. No warning. I can’t get him out of my mind even though I only played through his town twice.

How does someone you’ve worked with exactly twice leave a mark like that?

When you’re a stagehand on the road, everything changes with every move: Your home, your workplace, your co-workers. An awful lot of how it goes depends on the local crew in the new town. They can make your life easy or make it a living hell.

They can either tell you how to get in & out of the best BBQ joint in town on the lunch hour, or give you wrong directions on purpose. They can load your show in like a dream before you even ask for anything, or they can unplug cables on the sly. They can tell you how to make friends with the head carpenter or set you up to unwittingly play into their long-held feud.

When you played through Providence, Pop didn’t make your life easy or hard; he made your life interesting. He was a truly unique individual and had so much in his life in addition to being a stagehand. Outspoken doesn’t even begin to describe him. If you played through Providence and he liked you, he made sure to stay in touch through email and text before there was Facebook. His was, of course, one of the first Facebook friend requests I received.

He was so punk rock, in the truest sense: no bullshit, and never concerned about what people thought of him. His ideals, his friends, his family, and his work ethic were sacred. He always helped people get what they needed.

He was a staunch union advocate. He backed artists and spread the word on Kickstarter projects. He turned people on to local bands and was quick with gems of history from the scene. He sent comic books to little kids when they had surgeries. He spread the word for fundraisers.

When I posted about #4 being Gene Simmons for Halloween, he sent me a picture of himself as Gene from back in the day. He emailed me when a new guy I had trained played through Providence to tell me what a good job he was doing, how he was holding his own. When my niece Colby died, he shared with me how he was born prematurely and his own twin didn’t make it.

My favorite Pop memory was a small, perfect moment on a work day. We started the show call and I put on Queensrÿche’s Operation Mindcrime to test my sound system, quite possibly the most ridiculous thing that feeds my soul, and walked the house. When I went back to the console I saw Pop sitting in the seats with another stagehand. For some reason I thought they were having a meeting and said, “Sorry, Pop, I’ll cut the music,” and Pop goes, “Nah nah nah, leave it. Turn it up.”

I turned it up. Someone dimmed the house lights. Other guys drifted out and sat down in the dark to listen. We played the album out until they opened the house.

People die young and you’re left there going, What the fuck? 

Would they give anything for it to not be over yet, or in the moment they passed, did they suddenly understand everything they came here to remember?

I don’t want to spend much time thinking about that. I’ll get my own answer soon enough. I picture asking Pop that question and him saying, “Nah, nah, nah, leave it. Turn it up.”

Will do, Pop.

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Chris Popoloski’s Obituary

IATSE Local 23 Photo Gallery

Mindcrime: