Friday, November 27, 2009

Come Find Me Here!!

I finally did it, got off my duff and got my personal site up and working where my blog continues to flourish. Come follow my adventures on the high-seas at:

Thanks for following!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Real Deal Behind D&D over a year now I have been living in other people’s spaces. Spaces that are devoid of my own personal things. I have with me some basics; clothing, computer, royal blue Snuggie and everything else, is somebody else’s stuff.

Its amazing what you learn by living in someone else’s space. Not only about them, but about yourself too.

In 2008 Rance and I had to move out of our apartment six weeks before the start of a contract job working on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.

With nowhere to go we made plans to sell off a great deal of our belongings, and put the rest of our stuff in storage. We talked about the idea of traveling for six weeks, which would have us spend money we were trying to save, or the possibility of going back to Portland, OR and spend that with our parents. Which had us both breaking out into a cold sweat.

And then thankfully our dear friend Rene came to our rescue. He offered us his guest room/office in his  hip, cool condo for six weeks, rent-free while we waited for our contract with Second City to start.

Rance is in heaven. Not only because Rene is a great guy, he’s also a gaming geek. His condo is decked out with every electronic doo-dad a gamer dreams of owning. Huge flat-screen TV. stereo surround sound, Blue Ray DVD, Xbox, Wii, Rock Band with multiple instrument upgrades, and EVERY Xbox game Rance has ever wanted to play at his fingertips.

So this morning after Rene gets up early and leaves to go to his job that affords him all these wonderful toys. Rance gets up puts on his gaming sweats and sits on the couch to spend hours shooting snipers, fighting demons or playing electronic Uno.

Here’s the deal, if you have surround sound, you lose all sense of how loud and agitating the sound of gun-fire and a running footsteps and people dying can sound when you’re not involved in those activities.

To try and escape, I create a little corner in Rene’s guest room to read or work on my computer. Please note that “work on my computer” actually means check Facebook statuses regularly and search for reruns of Little People Big World on YouTube. We all have our coping mechanisms.

It’s in this room that my eyes are opened to a whole new world. There are multiple bookshelves filled to the brim with books like: “Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka”, “Star Wars Galaxies: The Ruins of Dantooine” “The Courtship of Princess Leia”, “Boba Fett: A Practical Man”, “Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook: Roleplaying Game Core Rules, 4th Edition”, “Dungeon Master's Guide: Core Rulebook II”, and “Tuesday’s with Morrie”.

I am clearly in a strange, new world.

What helps to get over any judgment I may have about all of this is that Rene is a really interesting, multi-faceted guy. He’s got an IT job he’s good at, he was in the air force, he skydives, he performs with and produces some of the best improv in the city, he loves to travel, his condo not only has the best electronics but he has great taste in art which is evident in his d├ęcor, and he would give you the shirt of his back if you needed it. So knowing all these other sides to this complex man help me to reconcile the library of geekdom.

And if I am to be completely truthful, I’ve always had a thing for geeks. Not that I want to live in their world of wizardry and make-believe, but even in high school I believed that it was the geeks who would ultimately have the last laugh and become the successes of our graduating class. I am also drawn to the kind of people geeks usually are: kind hearted, thoughtful, intelligent. They play enough games for entertainment that they don’t usually spend a lot of time playing them in their relationships. It’s when they get together and start talking about their passion for the game that I lose interest. I’m a realist and have always preferred dealing with actuality than fantasy.

Rance takes a break from playing Halo and I come out of the bedroom to the welcoming silence to make lunch and talk about what our respective mornings have been like, which lasts all of about 30 seconds. When Rance drops the bomb.

“Hey, some guys are going to come over tonight to play D & D”

“D & D, Dungeons and Dragons, you’re going to play Dungeons and Dragons here?”
I feel an undertow of anxiousness begin to build. I don’t have anywhere to go tonight. In fact I need to stay home and finish writing a piece I am working on.

“Why do you have to play it here?”

“Rene’s the Dungeon Master and he’s gathering everyone.”

Dungeon and Dragon’s here in this house, while I’m here. My breathing shallows. I’ve never had one ounce of desire to take part in a D & D game. In my conservative suburban upbringing, if D & D was mentioned it was quickly followed up by words like dark, sinister, evil a disturbing game played by troubled kids.

For me it conjures up images of glassy-eye guys, in dark basements, role playing with swords and eating babies. I mean there’s a dungeon master, and spells and dwarfs all of this points to something terrible.

I knew Rance had played D & D when he was younger I just really wanted to believe he had no interest in that sort of stuff now as a grown man with limited responsibilities.

“Do you have the right clothes, don’t you need a cape or something?” I asked in a desperate attempt to abort the event.

Rance burst out laughing, “A cape? What would I need a cape for?”

“I don’t know, isn’t that what you do? Fight each other with swords and twirl around in a cape while casting spells?

Rance doubles over in laughter and I join in reluctantly. I am sure at least some of my assumptions are based in fact. Why else would my parents and the rest of the Christian right be so up in arms over this game.? Clearly they had to know something.

So as the afternoon wore on, my anxiety grew. Rance discussed setup plans with Rene over the phone. Move the table, arrange the furniture, gather the snacks, darken the room, light the candles, assemble the torture devices, slaughter the goats. Yes, I had walked out of the room when the phone call started but I knew the plans they were making.

Rene gets home and the energy in the condo ignites. As Dungeon Master he clearly has a very important role and I watch him from my vantage point of the guest bedroom/office. He rushes into the room with an evil glint in his eye and a  lust for blood, grabs a few aforementioned D & D books. The demonic powers are about to appear.

And then the first D & D gamers arrive. I stand in the hallway to get a good look and hopefully enough details of the evil-doers in case some serious shit goes down. In my mind they’ll be dark, gothic looking guys, wearing dark hooded cloaks to cover their tender pale flesh. So imagine my surprise when Neal one of the nicest, dare I say bubbly guys you’ll ever want to meet, walks in.

“Hey Deanna, it’s good to see you, you gonna play?”

“Uh, no”, I reply as I shuffle back to the guest bedroom. Trying to hide my confusion as my brain computes what I’m seeing with what I know is going to happen once the game begins. Neal’s here? I never would have taken him for one of those kind of guys.

Quickly the remaining players all show up and they toss around a light-hearted banter that seeps through the closed door to my room. And then I hear it, a sound that makes me tilt my head like a cocker spaniel trying to figure out his owner’s command. Wait, there it is again.…a woman’s voice. A woman? This does not fit into any imagery I’ve ever conjured of a D & D game. Does she play the role of some sort of token wench? Is she a virgin to be sacrificed? Is she supplying the baby? I come out of the room once again to say “Hi” and let them all know I’m in the spare bedroom. I’m hoping with the knowledge of me being in the house they’ll keep the evil down to a minimum.

What I see stops me in my tracks. I look into that room and am completely confounded. These are all people I know, and moreover I like them all! And the woman’s voice I had heard is the girlfriend of one of the guys now gathered around the table. The lights aren’t low, there are no candles, no torture devices, no goats. In fact if anything can be said they’ve got too many lights on, let’s save the earth people. There’s pretzels, chips and sodas and beers. They’re all laughing and clearly having a great time.

Dungeon Master Rene sits at the head of the table with a pile of books next to him. Now opened these books read more like technical manuals and how-to-references rather than evil scripture of destruction.

The best part though is that instead of whips, and weapons of torture, each of the players has in front of them what looks like a job application and grocery list. Dungeons and Dragons is a game of filling out forms!

And that’s when I lose it with laughter. All these years I really thought D & D was a dark and sinister game and in reality people who play are getting practiced and skilled at filling out a sheet that resembles a form 1040A.

So, for anyone out there who has children and you’re worrying because they play that disturbing game D & D you can stop. Geeks aren’t evil, or sinister or dark they’re just in training to become our future highly successful tax accountants.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Till Death Do Us Part

Here's a fun movie short that my friend Scott asked me to help him out with for the show "Impress These Apes." They scored 10's across the board from those damn, dirty apes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What A Friend Will And Won't Do For You

It’s 1994 and five days ago Paul Moffitt and I got married in Vancouver, Wa. We’re now in Cozumel, Mexico on our honeymoon along with four of our friends. Let me correct that by saying four of MY friends. It should have told me something about my marriage to Paul that I asked my best friends to come along on our honeymoon but that’s a different story for a different time. Today, we’ve planned a day of adventure by renting a jeep and our goal is to find some of the fantastic snorkeling that we’ve read about in the travel books.

As unofficial tour guide I tell the group that there is a private marine park that costs a whopping $3.00 per person, which sets every one off in an outrage.

“Three dollars per person that’s crazy!”
“I don’t want to spend money to snorkel”
“That is such a rip-off!”

We become determined to find a free beach for snorkeling. While driving along we stumble upon a seemingly perfect little cove area, that has all the prerequisites: it’s free, there’s not a crowd and it has a little hut where I can rent snorkel equipment which benefits only me since everyone else has brought their own.

The only other people on the beach are two old, wrinkled, Texan dudes playing poker at a picnic table. They break their game long enough to size us up and down and when they surmise that we’re not here to cause any problems they go right back to their game.

In broken English the guy that rents the equipment tells us that the best snorkeling is beyond the buoy line. Inside the buoy line is good for swimming, beyond is good for snorkeling he says.

I’m so glad they rent fins as well as masks and breathing tubes. I’m not such a hot swimmer and having fins makes me feel like I can swim further and for much longer. They also give me an extra 5 – 6 inches of leg in case I need to stretch my foot down and touch bottom.

It’s perfect weather and we’re all excited about the possibilities. Everyone waits for me to get my equipment and as soon as I’m geared up we’re all in the water swimming for the depths past the buoys.

I immediately encounter problems. My rental equipment is cheap and has been overused. The mask takes on water and the fins are flopping around on my feet. I have to make a stop at the buoy line to adjust my mask.

Even with my leg extender fins, the water is too deep for me to stand so as Paul and my friends swim under the buoy line to the great snorkeling beyond. I pause to make some adjustments. To help keep me afloat as I try to tighten my fins I put my arm over a buoy, which is really nothing more than a volleyball that the rope is strung through.

Within moments I experience a deep, penetrating pain that radiates through my entire right side all the way through to my heart. I feel like my insides are exploding, or my lungs have collapsed or an angelfish has shived me.

It is a pain so severe that I am gasping for breath.
Though I don’t know what it is, I am sure that I’m about to die. And without saying a word to anyone I put my head in the water and propel myself as fast as I can towards the dock.

As I’m swimming my constant thought is just to get land before I die. I don’t want to be one of those bloated bodies of a drowning victim. I believe that I break some sort of torpedo speed record and as I climb up the ladder to the dock I see Paul and my friends all swimming towards me. Though I never said anything to them before racing back they all cut their snorkeling time off abruptly to see what was wrong with me. I am so glad I won’t have to die alone.

I collapse on the dock with my arms raised above my head the pain is unbearable. As soon as my friends circle around me the sounds of their gasps and the look on their faces tell me all I need to know. I’m a goner.

“Deanna, what happened?” Linda asks.

“I don’t know, I think I was stabbed or I’m having a heart attack”.

“You look like you’ve been hung over a fire.” Julie says.

And for the first time I actually look under my arm down my right side. It is fire red and bubbling with welts and blisters.

One of the old, wrinkled Texan dudes stops his game of poker and comes over to see what the commotion is about.

As he joins the circle of my friends he takes one look at me and gives his diagnosis.

“Oh, she’s been stung by fire coral”

“What’s fire coral? What can we do for her? Do we need to take her to the hospital?” my friends ask.

“Am I gonna die” I feebly whisper.

“The best thing you can do is pee on her.” He says

And as I lay there in complete agony feeling like a roasted pig on a spit, I say the words I never thought I would say in my life.

“Please, Please someone pee on me.”

I watch my friends and Paul in complete shock silently weighing in on their ability to rescue me.

Linda and Julie are immediately making excuses because they don’t feel like they can squat and pee out in the open. It does seem ridiculous to have one of them do it when there are three capable men with their own personal hoses available.

The men make their own excuses.

“I don’t’ have to go to the bathroom” Bryant says. “I just went in the ocean.”

“I can’t do that dude, she’s your wife.” Chris says to Paul.

And Paul just looks at me with the most pathetic face and does nothing. I’m laying on a dock in Cozumel in the most pain I can remember feeling in my life and the man I just married can’t even pee on me.

The old, wrinkled Texan dudes tells me not to touch the blisters because it will spread the poison. And then he remembers a salve he has in his little dingy of a boat. He goes to fetch it and brings back a vile of what looks like crystallized urine.

A chorus of thanks rises up from all of us. From me because I’m hoping this salve will help me avoid a trip to a Mexican hospital and everyone else because they don’t have to perform under such stressful conditions.

My friends help me dab on the ointment, we say our goodbyes to old, wrinkled Texans and we climb back into the jeep for the journey back to our hotel.

Two hours later the blisters have all gone down and I’m left with what looks like a horrible rash that stays with me for the next few days.

I learned some valuable lessons that day:

$3.00 is not too much to pay for a private beach.

You should always carry your own snorkeling equipment.

And your partner for life should be willing to pee on you when you need it most.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jokes of the Week

I'm currently writing 10 jokes a day, here's some of the best of this past week.

The Obama's next door neighbor is selling his home in Chicago and predicting the home will sell for somewhere around $2 million because while the kitchen and bathrooms need substantial renovation, the home has "good bones." The real estate agent added, some of which have found their way from Burr Oak Cemetery, so you know they're good.

Gertrude Baines, the world's oldest person, has died in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 115. Her nurse said she never drank, never smoked and never fooled around, which ironically means she never lived.

Walt Disney World is about to embark on a sweeping facelift for the Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom, in what the resort calls the biggest overhaul in the theme park's 38-year history. "It feels like we might be starting a little late at 38 years old", reported project foreman, Joan Rivers.

The USDA says struggling pork farmers are being hurt in a big way when the virus is called “swine flu.” And are hoping their proposed name “every other kind of meat flu” will stick.

Happy birthday, Catherine Zeta-Jones. You are turning 40 this month. Forty may be the new 30 but your husband is the new mummy.

Dangerous bacteria may be spraying out of your shower head and right into your face, according to a new study. The study discourages people from rubbing spoiled chicken on their showerheads.

Jessica Simpson's beloved maltipoo Daisy was grabbed by a wild coyote that then vanished with the small dog. Turns out the coyote and maltipoo eloped and were located in the honeymoon suite at The Hotel for Dogs.

Facebook has beat its goal of getting out of the red by the year 2010. While celebrating that goal it's downplaying it's other goal beater, of how many annual productivity hours lost to the "What Kind of Fairy Are You?" quiz.

Jon Gosselin in prep for his divorce from Kate is getting rid of his dogs, saying "I'm tired of living with bitches."

"The Newlywed Game" is bringing on its first gay couple. George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu on "Star Trek," will appear with his partner, Brad Altman. In answering the question why were you attracted to your mate George answered, he went where no man had gone before.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Going Down With the Ship

I have now lived twelve months of my life, a whole year, on a cruise ship. I have traveled to places I never dreamed I’d see, let alone on someone else’s dollar. Malta, Athens, Messina, and Istanbul all thanks to Second City for casting me in their shows aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines. It is a great job, a really great job, I make people laugh for money…but it does have its drawbacks.

One of the drawbacks is that for 12 months of my life I have lived with Rance, a man who is 6’5” with size 14 shoes in a 143 sq ft cabin.

If you’re having trouble imagining what 143 sq feet of living space is like, let me help you. Upon opening the door of our 10th floor, passenger cabin located at the back of the ship you are welcomed into a short six-foot hallway that is approximately two and a half feet wide. Immediately on the left wall of the “hallway” is a door that leads into a bathroom containing the usual commodities: toilet, sink, shower all arranged so compactly that it’s impossible to sit on the toilet normally; I ride side-saddle while taking care of business.

On the right side of the “hallway” are foot-wide floor to ceiling shelves, a small closet, and three compact drawers that are at capacity when filled with only 5 shirts, 4 pairs of pants and a handful of underwear and socks. The hallway opens up to the “living area” that is a 9x9 square foot space, housing a small table and chair, with a TV mounted above it, a “desk” which is basically a triangle piece of laminated wood, and a king size bed that allows only a foot and a half of space on either side of the bed.

All this means that there is approximately a 3 X 2 space at the end of the bed for standing room and this is where Rance likes to leave his size 14 shoes.

I like space, I like to move in my space, I don’t like shoes in my space.

“Why do you have to put your shoes right here?”

“I dunno, ‘cause.”

It can be a little crazy making. There’s no window, no room to move, no outlet to the outside world. The cabin can become a cave of hibernation shutting us off from the constant stimulation of the ship. The world could be ending outside and we’d never know it while we’re locked in our 143 square feet of space.

And tonight that’s exactly what happens. We have spent the entire day at sea after leaving New York yesterday for the start of another seven-day cruise to the Bahamas. It’s been a little rocky but nothing out of the ordinary for the trip down the eastern coastline.

Like most evenings Rance and I who have discovered an aversion to hanging out with passengers telling us how funny they are, while spilling strawberry daiquiris down their shirts, and Lady GaGa blaring in the background. We escape to our room around 11pm to slip under the covers of our trademarked Bliss bed and enjoy the subtle rocking of the ship in the relative quiet of our room.

Kaboom! What sounds like a bomb has just dropped on the top deck of the ship, the red lights of the digital clock go out. The room is pitch black. Seconds later the faithful hum of the air conditioner falls mute. And then something you never want to experience on a 93,000-ton ship. The engines go completely dead. There is silence. It is absolute quiet on the ship. We are floating in the middle of the Atlantic with no power.

On a ship with 2,500 passengers 1,000 crew members I have a constant desire to find a place that is completely quiet with no music, no external voices, no constant drone of activity nothing to intrude on my own thoughts and daydreams. It’s impossible to find. Even here in our small little room, the hum of the air conditioner or the random interruption of announcements is heard. So the moment that silence arrives I am completely freaked out because it’s not supposed to be here.

Rance fumbles for his iTouch and turns on the handy flashlight application that I scoffed at and said he’d never use, and now I’m so grateful he has it. We sit up in bed and grasp for each other and whisper as if on cue “what the f*#k”!

We quickly speculate on what just happened. A North Korean missile? Somalian Pirates? ACORN? I’ve only had FOX News as my news source since being on the ship, so it could be any one of those things.

It’s only dark for about 30 seconds before the lights flash on, the air conditioner begins to hum and we hear the growl of the engines start back up. And then. BEEP, BEEP, BEEP the abandon ship alarm which consists of seven short blasts and one long one, that could wake the dead from any watery grave, begins it’s wail.

Oh. My. God. Rance and I look at each other…”WHAT THE F*#K”? Even before the abandon ship alarm is over Rance is dressed and putting on his shoes that were so easily found at the end of the bed. His mission: to get to our muster station, which is oddly placed, at the complete opposite end of the ship. I however am in a state of shock and not sure what is happening and I’ve made little progress in the act of getting dressed. “Is this for real?” I ask. “I’m not gonna sit around and wait to figure it out, get dressed.”

Rance opens our cabin door to see what if anything is happening in the hallway. The emergency lighting that runs down the entire length to guide people in case of darkness has been turned on.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to determine which clothes would be best to drown in. Do I want something heavy but warm or something I think I can swim in for a while before I drown. I opt for a sweatshirt and yoga pants but I’m still working on the shoes. Tennis shoes? No, too many laces? Italian sandals? No, I don’t want them to get ruined if I die. Crocs? Yes, crocs!! I’ve struck the perfect balance. I’ll be warm in the sweatshirt and float a little while longer before dying in Crocs.

Brett, our cast mate and next-door neighbor opens his door and steps into the hallway, looking like he had just awoken from a winter’s slumber. “Hey, what’s going on?”

BEEP, BEEP, BEEP…the abandon ship alarm starts up again. “Looks like this shit’s for real.” Rance says as I come up behind him, fully dressed for my death at sea. He grabs my hand and without another word to Brett busts past the door and drags me down the corridor.

My mind is whirling with all the possibilities we’re about to face. Oh god what if we’re going down? What’s worse getting caught on the inside or thrown to the ocean? What if sharks are circling? What if Rance and I get separated? What if I’m in the same life raft as Julio, the creepy Argentinean chef, who’s always trying to kiss me? How do you go number two on a life raft?

“Excuse us, Excuse US!!”

We pass a few passengers, Rance practically stiff-arming the confused, helpless souls that have wandered into the hallway. I’m a bit embarrassed and yet oh so grateful to realize the man I love is a take-charge kind guy; a real hero. I get the sense that if need be, he would throw me overboard to save my life.

We round the corner and head down three flights of stairs to reach Deck 7 where all of the main public areas of the ship are located. And what strikes me first is that none of the passengers seem concerned or frightened at all. They are all milling about with their cocktails. They’re talking and laughing as if what we’re experiencing is some sort of high school prank.

And then I see them, groups of crew members, mostly young Filipino women, huddled together, crying, they are losing their shit. There are other groups of crew just standing motionless with their mouth dropped open realizing all of their worst fears of living and working on a ship are coming true.

The dichotomy of this situation leaves me to believe that Rance and I are the only ones who will actually be alive once this ship goes down. The passengers will be too drunk and the crew will be too incapacitated by fear to save themselves. And then I recall an odd statistic that was reported in our safety training. In the last five out of seven ship catastrophes it was the guest entertainers on board who went above and beyond to help people to safety. That’s us! That’s Rance and I! We’ll be the ones to save these people’s lives! Rance will lead the charge!

“Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I apologize for the alarms and momentary loss of electricity. The ship was hit by lightening causing a power outage. The abandon ship alarms went off during the reset process of our security and monitoring systems. Again, I apologize if this has caused you any distress, have a good evening.” And with that our life and death moment is over. We won’t have to save any lives tonight, least of all our own. I won’t have to worry about being eaten by sharks, or getting too close to Julio, or going number two in front of people I don’t know.

Rance, whose adrenaline has shot through the roof, lets out a long stress relieving sigh. He grabs me by the waist and hugs me tight. We turn and walk back arm in arm, laughing with the other crew members we pass who are just as relieved and thankful as we are that the drama is over.

I tease Rance as we head back to the room that he was like George Castanza in the Seinfeld episode where George runs out of the children’s birthday party knocking over an old lady to escape a small contained fire. But truthfully, I’m proud of the way he reacted in the face of danger. And I don’t get mad at all when he gets undressed and puts his shoes at the end of the bed. A hero has to be ready in a moments notice.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Comedy Snips and Bits

I'm working on my comedic writing skills with the help of this book. It's got a TON of exercises that force you to work and flex some rarely used muscles.

The author also challenges you to write way more than you think necessary, in the hopes that you'll get one or two gems in the list of 50 that you just wrote.

Below are sample set of some of the exercises, it's a fun process to work through, though these first few exercises are not necessarily the types of comedy I'm drawn too. It's fun to think about comedy in a different way.

Ten Tom Swifties

  1. "Kathy you're a bitter old woman," Jake said shrewdly.
  2. "Looks like this one was killed by a hammer blow," the detective said bluntly.
  3. "Doctor, I need a boob job," she said flatly.
  4. "Honey, thanks for changing the light bulb," she said brightly.
  5. "I'm so hungry for donuts," Tom said with his eyes glazed over.
  6. "Your father died," the doctor said gravely.
  7. "I can't answer that question", the defendant said blankly.
  8. "Brad, please don't pop your knuckles," his mom cracked.
  9. "Tony, have you seen my ruler?" his wife asked measuredly.
  10. "Chef, I have to tell you these frog legs are fantastic," she croaked.

Visual Jokes

As if there were cartoons but you'll create the visual in your own mind.

One lone sock left in the bottom of the washer.

Two cherry tomatoes sitting on the cutting board next to a full salad bowl.
"Okay, let's come up with a code word in case one of us wants to leave early."

A pair of reading glasses sitting on a table next to sunglasses.
"Wow, nice tan, have you been on vacation?"

The number one on a page next to the number three.
"Nice boob job."

An evergreen tree next to a deciduous in autumn time.
"Listen Carla, I'm not going to have sex with you so you can just put your clothes back on."