So what have I been up to? Theater, theater, and more theater…

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We usually subscribe to three theater companies per year:

  1. Always Steppenwolf: we love our seats, we love the ensemble, and they seem to be the only major Chicago theater company who continues to invest in finding, developing, and showcasing local talent.
  2. Often Court Theatre.  We’re UofC’ers, but more importantly, we’re huge fans of Charles Newell and Court Theatre’s mission to bring classic plays to life.  When we drop this subscription, it’s almost always because the trek down to Hyde Park is getting to us.
  3. Something local.  Usually non-equity, relatively low cost, and an identifiable mission or distinct personality that we like.

So this year, our slate was Steppenwolf, Court, and Profiles.  All decided upon and purchased last spring.  But then I found out about Theater Wit’s subscription/membership…  For less than the price of cable, we could be members of Theater Wit and partake of all the theater we could possibly enjoy.  Theoretically we could see something every night of the week.  Realistically, we could go every other weekend and still get a great deal.  So we signed up for that too.

All that said, over the three weeks, I’ve seen:

  • BoHo’s The Rainmaker @ Theater Wit
  • We Are Wyld Stallions! @ Theater Wit
  • The March @ Steppenwolf
  • The Iceman Cometh @ Goodman (thanks to a friend who invited me!)
  • Angels in America, Parts I & II @ Court Theatre
  • Bachelorette @ Profiles
  • Timon of Athens @ Chicago Shakespeare (half-priced tickets from Goldstar)

Not a single dud among these shows.

Iceman was very, very long (5 freakin’ hours!) and could have used a bit of editing, but the acting was uniformly stunning.  Stephen Ouimette should get more (or heck SOME!) attention in this play, but Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy are soaking up all the ink.  Patrick Andrews is also wonderful; I remembered him from Steppenwolf’s American Buffalo and if there’s any justice in this world, he will be a star.

The March was also very, very long (only 4 hours – ha!) and since it’s a new adaptation, will probably be pruned down over the years to come.  Ian Barford was, as usual, wonderful.  Harry Groener is, arguably, the “stunt” casting (although I may overestimate his star wattage as a fan of Buffy and the original Cupid series) and if he’s not quite as good as he was as King George last year, he’s still remarkable here.  Carrie Coon disappears in her role here: I had to double check to make sure she was the same woman we had seen in Steppenwolf’s Virginia Woolf.  She’s going to take Broadway by storm when VW moves there later this year…

The Rainmaker was low-key and simply lovely.  I loved how this play centered around a smart woman who struggled and overcame her insecurities with a laugh at the very end.

Wyld Stallions was just good fun, explaining how Bill & Ted saved the world.  Pure camp in the best sense.  That was a great show to watch with a drink in hand!

Bachelorette was more than good fun: the three main gals were fantastic and if the guys were a bit weak, then that works for the play overall.  I’m curious to see how Profiles grows into a larger space: this production demonstrated just how awesome they are in their current, intimate space.  I do wish I had had a stiff drink in my hand during this one too!

Timon had a perfectly cast lead actor and overly-well cast comedic touches (Timothy Edward Kane was truly, criminally under used) as well as a stunning production design and a truly interesting perspective on the play.  Barbara Gaines also effectively edited the play down to a mere two hours.

Angels is a masterpiece, with what should be (but won’t be) a star-making performance from Larry Yando.  Tribune’s Chris Jones got this one completely and totally wrong.

And there’s still more on the horizon:

  • Rent @ ATC (directed by David Cromer)
  • In a Forest, Dark and Deep @ Profiles

I’d also like to see (but don’t yet have tickets):

  • Light in the Piazza @ Theo Ubique
  • Tigers Be Still @ Theater Wit
  • Tick, Tick, BOOM! @ Stage 773/Porchlight Theater
  • Freud’s Last Session @ Mercury Theater

Who needs cable when there’s so much awesome theater here?

So much for April…

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Well, I was going to blog at least twice a week.

Or at least once a week.

Or, at the very least, once a fortnight.

Then April happened…  And I don’t have any good excuses except to say that the writing muse wasn’t with me.  Which is, frankly, a sucky excuse because I know better than to wait for the muses to move me.

Spring has sprung in Chicago (kinda), which gets my gardening nerd going.  One problem for my inner gardening nerd: we have no outdoor gardening space.  Just a tiny deck in the back that has just enough square footage for the grill and ZERO sunlight.

What about indoor gardening?  Well…  I’m lazy.  Which means that watering doesn’t happen as frequently as it needs to happen for an indoor garden.  Also, we don’t have much direct sunlight.  Oodles and oodles of indirect light (our home is wonderfully bright and airy), but not many actual sunbeams.  Since I favor planting useful, edible plants, that is really a problem.

Nevertheless, I keep dreaming about a little container garden in the sunroom/office.  Cat-friendly plants in self-watering containers that require little direct light but still look and taste good…  Yeah, this is a pipedream.

But dreaming is free and fun (in moderation).  And in the meantime, I’ll plant our Aerogarden with chives and basil in the kitchen (where there’s easy water access and we’d actually use the plants!) and try to be content with that.  Even though the Aerogarden totally feels like cheating…

Money and religion

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I find it mildly annoying that many personal finance gurus (and their books) are tied to strong religious views.  The heavy-weight champ is, of course, Dave Ramsey.  That dude can find a proverb to support whatever it is that he’s selling.  Then again, one can usually find a bible verse to support whatever one is trying to say…

Getting off track.  My point was going to be: why does there seem to be a strong correlation between money and religion?  What is it about how we spend our money (or rather how we think we should spend our money) that ties with God?

It’s actually an honest question.  I left the Christian church many, many years ago and never really picked up another one.  (Some friends think I’m a closet Unitarian-Universalist, which is probably not false.)

Some insight came from the Williamsburg trip: there’s a bit of ink spilled on how the Rockefellers believed that with great wealth came great obligation/duty/service.  Amassing great wealth and failing to do any good with it is generally unseemly.  For example, there’s quite a bit of speculation as to if Steve Jobs left anything anonymously; worrying about that has to stem from really, really hoping that he did or else he really was a “bad guy.”

My own view: I don’t care.  Really, I don’t.  I’d like everyone to do the touchy-feely good thing, but I don’t care if someone doesn’t.  What bothers me is a show of compassion without the actual compassion.  Or financial assistance with strings that compromise the value of the assistance in the first place.

So, going back to personal finance: there’s quite a bit of ink spilled on debt (which is a moral no-no), tithing (which is “a good thing”), other charitable donations, etc.  All of which is often, but need not be, tied to religious obligations.

I’d rather believe that most people are motivated to do good and contribute to organizations doing good because they are (or want to be associated with) good people.  Not for some heavenly prize out there in the afterlife.

Okay, not the most coherent blog post.  Then again, that’s not really the purpose of blogging, is it.

The future is now.

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Hardly insightful; however, I’m often astounded by current technology (when it works).  I just spent a long weekend visiting Colonial Williamsburg.  One of the first sites I went to was Bassett Hall, John D. Rockefeller, Jr’s country cottage.  Chris and I were wondering how the Rockefellers could travel from location to location and still conduct business and found this home was restored in 1936 with all the bells and whistles: phones, radios, full electricity, a recognizable kitchen, and walking distance to Western Union for easy telegram access.

Compare to our communications while touring the home: we each carried an iPhone (an outdated one at that: we both have the iPhone 4).  I had my iPad as well (because I had downloaded a lovely HD version of a Williamsburg guidebook).  Chris’ iPad and MacBook were in the hotel room, which provided free wi-fi.

Then yesterday, Chicago enjoyed some fabulous weather.  So I settled in my apartment building’s courtyard with my iPhone and iPad.  Since I could access our wi-fi network outside, there was very little, work-wise, that I couldn’t do from my iPad: I spent yesterday reading, researching, and writing in the sun.  (The glare off the iPad was a bit annoying, but I made do.)

Every time I stream video to our TV or a mobile device, I’m happily surprised.

Every time I use GPS to pin-point my position and obtain detailed directions to a new destination, I’m truly astonished.

Every time I open my iBooks on my iPad and see the thousands of books I’ve already managed to acquire (yes, legally!), I’m astounded by the quality and quantity available at my fingertips.

I’m of a particular generation who grew up with computers in the home, but also remembers things like expensive long-distance calls, hand-written letters, black & white tube TVs, 8-track players…

Louis CK sums up my view on technology most of the time:

Home Is Where the Cat Is…

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We went to view an apartment today.  And now I’m totally bummed out.

Some background: we have been homeowners.  And we have come to the conclusion that homeownership bites.  Bites hard.  With condos, there’s HOA dues and HOA members and HOA management to deal with.  (And speaking as a former president of a HOA, it sucks to be in one as well as to be on the board.)  With houses, there’s so much maintenance to deal with.  The costs of homeownership are not just the price of entry, but also property taxes, roofs, garbage collection, utilities, HOA fees, insurance, lack of mobility, opportunity costs…

So after selling our last place, we (well, Chris who then convinced me) decided to forego homeownership for the long-term future.  Which leaves us with the joys of renting.  On the plus side of the ledger:

  • If something breaks, it’s not our problem.
  • If heat is included in the rent, that’s a fixed cost for us (which in Chicago is often in our favor).
  • No worries about homeowner liability (and rental insurance is so much cheaper!).
  • Many landlords allow custom painting (which is the only improvement we ever made on any of the homes we ever owned).

Of course, on the negative side of the ledger:

  • If it breaks, we need to wait for the landlord to fix it (or pay to fix it ourselves and wait to get reimbursed).
  • The quality of most apartments leaves much to be desired.
  • Neighbors are usually much more transient than in condo buildings (although there was quite a bit of come-and-go in our last condo building too).

Our current home is wonderful in many respects: the light is wonderful, the layout is great, there are beautiful vintage features (built-ins, 10 ft ceilings, crown moulding, mosaic tile floors in the sun room and bathroom, hardwood floors elsewhere), heat and water are included in the rent, and the neighborhood is awesome.  We’re a 10-15 minute walk from some of our favorite theaters, restaurants, coffee shops, three major grocery stores, oodles of Zipcars, public transportation options galore…

But there’s very little outdoor space (just enough for our grill), I’m getting tired of the neighbor upstairs (or rather, her dog — which just barked as I was typing this sentence and loves to run back and forth through the length of the apartment), I’m tired of the inconsistent heating, I’m tired of the inconsistent hot water, I’m tired of the crappy water pressure in the shower, and I’m getting tired of nagging our landlord to fix non-urgent issues.

So when I found a coach house a couple of blocks from Chris’ office in the suburbs, I thought I had hit a jackpot.  The rent is pretty much equal to our rent (but utilities aren’t included), but it’s a private coach house with its own fenced-in yard.  The pictures looked adorable: grey-blue siding, a cute front porch, picket fencing…

So on the coldest day of the week, I dragged Chris to view it.  The outside matched the photos perfectly and it just looked too darn cute!  And the private yard had beautiful, southern exposure.  Then we went inside…  again, very cute!  Of course, I loved it.  By the time we were back outside, viewing the private yard again (which would be a perfect vegetable garden!), I was smitten.  I could overlook the too-low ceilings.  I could overlook the awkward layout.  I could overlook the cosmetic blemishes.  I could overlook the fact that our cat is beginning to show signs of arthritis and wouldn’t appreciate the stairs.  I could overlook the fact that the heating bill would be astronomical.

Fortunately, I wasn’t completely stupid.  I had brought Chris with me to serve as the reality check.  Which he did: upon leaving, he asked me what I thought.  I, being me, immediately started in on how cute it was, how wonderful the private yard was…  He let me go on for about five minutes.  Then he reminded me of all the flaws.  And he asked if I could really live in the suburbs.

No.  I really can’t.  I don’t want to give up easy access to theater.  I don’t want to give up my 2 minute walk to my favorite grocery store.  I don’t want to subject my 12-year-old cat to staircases.

I just want that yard.  In the city.  In one of the most dense neighborhoods in Chicago.

Oh, and the privacy of a coach house.

For the price of an apartment.

Yeah, I’m now bummed out.  But it will pass.

Sleep. Glorious sleep.

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(This musical sprang into my head, and this is the most famous number…  Although I really am shy.)

So when I turned 30, my back decided to be lame.  Seriously: right after my 30th birthday, I began to experience chronic, but low-level, back pain.  Just enough to remind me that something’s not 100% but not enough to really complain most of the time…

Except that I also began to notice that I felt especially creaky when I got out of bed in the morning.  Our mattress (which was about 7 years old at that point) might not be the culprit, but was complicit.

That was also about the time of my employment instability, so while I wanted an awesome new mattress, I also wanted to pay the mortgage and buy groceries.  So a few more years slipped by before I finally yielded and bought a new mattress.

But I made a HUGE mistake and bought a cheap mattress.  So while the first few months were fan-freakin’-tastic, the mattress started to get soggy pretty quickly.

So, fast forward about a year later: I’m now newly fiscally responsible but I want a shiny new mattress.  While I absolutely advocate buying or trading for a lot of things second-hand (i.e., our dining table, our dining chairs, some office furniture, some kitchen tools, quite a lot of our books), I draw the line at soft furnishings.  (Well, I draw the line at buying soft furnishings.  I have no problems selling ours on Craigslist.)

The child in me just wants to slap down a credit card and hope we pay it off sooner rather than later.

The newly fiscally responsible adult in me says to save for it and buy it with cash.

My back is wondering if the couch is more comfortable.

So I’ve spent the day on business development (as well as blogging) to try to speed up the cash flow so that I can get my new mattress soon!

Dreaming

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It’s February, it’s cold, and I still dream of moving to warm weather.

Then I remember: I have theater tickets next week.  And the week after that.  And the week after that…

I honestly do not believe there’s a better theater scene in this country than right here in Chicago.  It’s one of my many, many vices and I can’t imagine giving up attending live theater.

Yet, if one is supposed to convert one’s passions into one’s profession, could I do that with this passion?  A friend of Facebook once suggested it and it stuck with me.  One problem, of course, is that I’d really like to preserve this passion as a passion: in other words, I’m concerned that if I worked in the arts, that I’d get sick of the arts.

The bigger problem: I’ve got the performance talent of a stick.  Wait, no, that’s insulting to the talents of sticks.

Well, what about behind the scenes?  No, not making my toes curl.  The biggest challenge facing the arts, the biggest challenge that has forever faced the arts is fundraising.  And I’m the chick who couldn’t sell Girl Scout Cookies when I was a kid.  (This is the same reason why I’ve crossed politics off my list.)

But I’ve got plenty of other vices I could consider converting into a profession…

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