Monday, August 06, 2007

Diary: August, 2004.

Once again I was involved in the Ojai Playwrights Festival, and again I worked as a literary assistant to Director Abigail Deser. This time we were developing Susan Miller's project A Map of Doubt and Rescue. As before, I was immensely impressed by the intensity and density of the work involved. It seemed a like a very pressured process – not in the sense of "high pressure" or "stress," but more like the compression of air in a kettle. It helped that the play itself was involted and complex.

I spent a lot of time with the intern students that week – Hallie was very busy – and Scott, Claire, and all of the others were a lot of fun. It was kind of nostalgic, too, since they were going through the same processes as I had in 1996 and 1997: college preparations and extracurricular mayhem. Of course, the landscape of Ojai itself is rich in poetry. One night I went on a solo nightwalk out into the brush. The stars were very bright, and the mountains were bulbous lumps on the horizon, but I was only out for maybe a half-hour before the howling of the coyotes chased me back. Another night, one of the technicians (from Seattle) took Scott and I out for a morning walk into the mountains. We walked for maybe three hours and must have climbed over a thousand feet. As with all mountains, they are much larger than they look from a distance.

After the Conference was over, Hallie and I drove back to L.A. and stayed with her friend in East L.A. The next morning they drove me down to Hollywood and took me to lunch before dropping me off for a day of traditional tourism. It was actually a blast, and Hollywood was much richer in character and poorer in glitz than I had expected. I wouldn't mind living there at some point, actually. I hiked Runyon Canyon and then took the subway to LAX and flew home.

The middle part of the month is a bit of a haze. Before moving to California, I'd finished up the most backbreaking (and soulsucking) assignment I'd ever worked for Advanced Resources. The Nocturnal had finally flamed out and I was starting to receive a surge of hate email in connection with a context page I'd posted for my play Canaryville Blues. This really depressed me, and I wasn't thrilled to be back in Chicago.

Fortunately, most of these frustrating things were behind me. I had a lovely afternoon when I went downtown with Lisa and my fiancee to watch OutFoxed and then we returned to Hyde Park and spent many more hours at the Medici. There is no coffee like Medici coffee, and those who think it is awful are dead wrong. That is all. Actually, I think we went to the Med and then the movie, then we walked through Millennium park.

Just a week after this, my fiancee was getting ready to graduate. Her family and mine came down for the ceremony, and the night before, her dad took a walk with her and I through Millennium Park (again). The next day, after the ceremony, we ate (again) at the Med. I had a chance to stay at a hotel in Hyde Park that I foolishly passed up for a ride back to my non-air-conditioned apartment in McKinley Park.

Just a day later, I had a housecooling party at my McKinley Park apartment. Colin and Nora came, as Hallie and my fiancee, my neighbors Ed and Carmen, and my to-be-roommate, Sam, who had recently graduated from Northern Michigan. We drank beer and played party games (Werewolf and Taboo) and eventually, everyone left but Sam.

The last few days of the month were sticky and sweaty and Sam and I scouted out and leased the perfect perfect bachelor pad in Edgewater Beach. Eighth floor ghetto concrete penthouse suite. But it had carpet. Cockroaches, but the sweet smell of roach poison. Tamales sold on the street, the beach less than a block away. It was hot hot hot that week. We spent days applying for every menial and half-romantic job across downtown and the North Side, and evenings schlepping carloads of my stuff from the South Side to the North. Sam got a job first, of course. He had more self-confidence, and I was holding out for better pay and a more regular schedule. Still, on our first night in Edgewater Beach, we played Worms on the computers in the dark (to keep cool) and we listened to kids throwing bottles on the street below. It was the official beginning of one of the Greatest Years Ever So Far.

Where were you in August 2004?

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