A Bees’ Christmas Carol, Part Three

22 12 2010

Read Part One Here

Read Part Two Here

 

Zachariah Scrooge’s eyes sprang open, immediately focusing on the clock on the mantle. The time read 1 a.m.. Not moving his body, his eyes darted around the room. No sign of the second Spirit. Scrooge settled back into his bed, turning his head to face the ceiling.  “Hello?” He called out with uncertainty.  No response came.  “Hello!” He called out again, louder.  Still no response.  Scrooge pressed the back of his head against the pillow, drawing the sheets under his chin.  “Just another horrible dream.” He muttered.

The TV in the living room sprang to life.  Loud music spilled from the speakers.  Scrooge sat up, wasting no time in springing out of bed.  He slowed down as he approached the living room.  Moving at a snail’s pace, Scrooge peeked into the room.

The movie “The Blues Brothers” was playing on the television.  Curious, Scrooge moved further into the room, eyes staying on the screen.  “Yes, I remember this movie.  It’s quite good, quite good!” His lips moved into a genuine smile as he watched Jon Belushi cartwheel down the aisle of the church presided over by none other than James Brown.

“Like that movie, eh?” A booming voice spoke from the couch.  “It’s a good one.  And just like Jake and Elwood, I’m on a mission from God, myself.”

Scrooge spun around and came face to face with a mountain of a man.  At a height of six-foot-two, broad-shouldered, with dark blond hair.  Scrooge stepped back slightly and shook his head in disbelief. “You…you’re John…”

The Spirit raised a large hand to stop Scrooge.  “I was, but not anymore.” The Spirit stood up, smoothing out his trench-coat as he moved into the kitchen.  “Now, who wants an orange whip?”

Scrooge couldn’t do anything but collapse back onto his couch. He leaned forward, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his palms. “All right, Spirit. I will take an orange whip.  And while we’re at it, perhaps you can verify for me that you are indeed the Spirit of Comedy Present.”

“Right-a-mundo, Scroogey.” The Spirit said, walking back into the living room and handing the citrus beverage to Scrooge. “You wanna drink that here, or take it for the ride?”

Scrooge sighed and stood up, holding the drink in his right hand.  ” I suppose take it with me.”

The Spirit clapped his hands together, grinning.  “Great!  Let’s go!”  Scrooge watched as the Spirit snapped his fingers.  Instantaneously, they were transported into a kitchen.  It became obvious that whoever was the owner of this kitchen was absolutely infatuated with Christmastime.  Numerous versions of Santa figurines lined the windowsill above the sink.  Gingerbread men sat cooling on a rack next to the oven.  The voice of Nat King Cole filled the air.  “Man,” The Spirit said, looking around, “These guys love Christmas, huh?”

Scrooge looked around, eyes dancing furtively across the linoleum floor.  “I feel like I know this place.”  As soon as he spoke, Scrooge’s suspicion became fact, as he and the Spirit watched Aaron Grant enter the kitchen.

“Be back in a second, babe.” He called out.  Scrooge watched as Aaron went to the cooling rack, expertly moving the gingerbread men down onto a plain white plate.

“Oh, hey, look at that! This is where Aaron lives,” the Spirit said, taking a drink of his own orange whip.  Scrooge looked back at the Spirit, a look of slight shock on his face.

“What do you mean, ‘look at that!’?  You’re the Spirit, you should know where we are going!”

The Spirit shrugged and smiled.  “I’m just doing a job.  Let’s follow him, shall we?” He nodded toward Aaron, who was leaving the kitchen, plate of cookies in hand.  Before Scrooge could offer an objection, he found himself being pushed forward by the Spirit, moving silently behind Aaron.  Scrooge and the Spirit watched as he placed the plate of cookies down on the coffee table and resumed his seat next to a red-haired young woman, colorful tattoos adorning her arms.

The Spirit let out a long, low whistle.  “Well now, who’s that fine piece of work?” Scrooge looked up at the Spirit and couldn’t help but laugh.

“That, Spirit, is Stacey, Aaron’s love.  So no, she’s not single.”

“Ah.” The Spirit shrugged again. “Bummer.  But I digress.  Let’s listen in on their conversation.”

Scrooge turned his attention back to Aaron and Stacey.  Aaron was already working on a gingerbread man, nibbling at the head, while Stacey knitted a blanket.  The pearls of the thread were determined, showing off the handiwork of someone adept at crafting goods just out of thread.

“What I don’t understand, Aaron,” Stacey started, keeping her eyes on the knitting. “Is what happened to Zachariah.  He used to have a joy about him.”

Aaron shrugged, a shrug born more out of disappointment than indifference.  “I wish I knew.  It’s never been this bad, really.  I mean, yeah, he’s had some rough spots, but we all have.  I just wish he would open up a little, you know, talk to me about it.”

Stacey laughed softly.  “You know he’s not going to do that, babe.  The man does not like to talk about himself.”

Aaron nodded and sighed.  “Yeah, I know.  You know I invited him out here tonight, and just flat-out refused.  And…” He crushed the remainder of his cookie into his palm, “He expects me to come into work tomorrow to work on some material.”

Stacey tossed down the knitting and glared at Aaron.  “You’re not going anywhere tomorrow, mister!” She smiled and gave him a quick, playful punch in the arm, laughing softly.

Aaron grinned.  “Oh, don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere tomorrow.” He leaned forward, he and Stacey sharing a small embrace.  He leaned back, picking up the TV remote.  “And hey, if he decides that maybe it’s time to end the partnership because I refuse to show up for work on Christmas Day, then maybe it’ll be for the best.”  With a quick hit of the On button, Aaron and Stacey became awash in the glow of Netflix.

Zachariah stepped back in slight shock.  “End the partnership?  No, I never wanted anything like that.  I just need to work, to find that one thing that I’ve been missing for God knows how long!”

The Spirit laid a massive hand onto Scrooge’s shoulder, squeezing gently.  “But it seems that your drive has alienated those you once called friends.  In short, you’ve become a jerk.”

Scrooge moved the Spirit’s hand off his shoulder with a quick shake.  “I never meant to be like that.  I just…There’s no excuse, Spirit.  In my drive for comedic perfection, I’ve lost sight of the more important things in life.  Things like friends; like a favorite song playing on the radio; like an..orange whip.” He sniffed and laughed, holding up his now-empty cup.

The Spirit nodded, knowingly.  “Come on, Zachariah, time to get home.”

Immediately, Scrooge was back in his bedroom.  He looked around the barren room.  Save for his bed and a dresser, there was nothing that would make someone feel welcome.  No pictures.  No music.  Even the pillows weren’t decent.  “I can’t sleep in here,” Scrooge said aloud.  He grabbed a blanket and moved into the living room.  Turning on the TV, his eyes lit up when the image of Jake and Elwood filled the screen.  They were singing, dancing, entertaining five-thousand of their closest friends.  Zachariah’s eyes grew heavy as he heard this last bit of dialogue before falling asleep.

“Who wants an orange whip?  Orange whip?  Orange whip?  Three orange whips.”

To Be Concluded…





A Bees’ Christmas Carol, Part Two

8 12 2010

Read Part One Here.

 

The clanging bells of Scrooge’s clock awoke him with a start. “What?! What’s this?” He cried, glancing over to the timepiece, its first and second hands currently resting at 12. “Blasted alarm. Once again something else that needs to be fixed in my life!”

“And it’s not even the most important thing that needs to be fixed, Zachariah.” A voice from the ether said. It was a woman’s voice. Delicate. Lilting. Scrooge would have found it relaxing, if there had been a body to place with such a heavenly sound. Instead, he clutched the worn sheets of his bed to his body, hiding the lower half of his face.

“W-who’s there? Show yourself!” He cried, with more terror than anger in his voice.

“Calm yourself, Scrooge,” The soothing voice said. Out of the darkness, a woman appeared. She was petite, with brown hair that draped over her shoulders. Her face was one of kindness, with a genuine smile for the miser. “I am the first spirit of Comedy your dear friend Thomas mentioned to you.”

Scrooge slowly let the sheet down from his face, his body still tense as he rested against the large headboard. “Oh, yes. Of course.” His eyes narrowed as he studied the spirit before him. “You look…familiar.”

The spirit smiled, her arms lifting from her lithe body slowly, then brushing her hands downward. “We spirits take on a form that can be found comforting. I believe the woman you are seeing was from a television show, with new episodes still being played to this day. A show that is found late at night on Saturdays.”

“Yes, well,” Scrooge muttered, sitting further up in bed. “Let’s get on with it then. Are you here to show me slides or give some speech about how comedy was simpler when you were around?”

“Nothing like that, Zachariah.” The spirit whispered softly, gliding to the side of his bed. She reached out with her right arm toward Scrooge, who shrunk back, his hands clutching his sheet tighter. The spirit laughed. “Zachariah, I am here to take you back to when you first started comedy. To a more innocent time, when laughter was all you needed.”

Scrooge’s eyes darted down to the spirit’s hand, then back to her face. Though he had spent the past few years of his life with the inability to trust anyone, he found the spirit calming, genuine. Tentatively, he held his right hand out. The spirit grasped it gently, whispering thanks.

Suddenly, Scrooge found himself no longer in his bedroom, but on a black stage. He peered out into the darkness, instantly recognizing the faded blue upholstery on the seats in the audience section. “But, it can’t be…” He muttered, stepping forward onto the stage.

“Yes, Zachariah,” The spirit clasped her hands in front of her, floating serenely in the upper left portion of the stage. “This is your old high school.”

“My God!” Scrooge cried, his bare feet padding along the stage. “It’s been 8 years since I’ve seen this place!” He turned around, his eyes wide as he took in the architecture. “I spent so much time in here. It was like a second home.”

“And you can’t have a home without a family.” The spirit said just as the doors from the hallway opened. Scrooge’s mouth went agape as he saw himself from 11 years ago. Hair curled high, a hawaiian shirt, and ill-fitting jeans. His hand ran over his head, kept clean by a #1.5 razor. “Good lord, look at me. Not a care in the world.”

The door swung open again, three more people entering. The first was a tall young man, with straight red hair in a bowl-cut that extended to just above his ears.  “Nathan!” Scrooge exclaimed. The second, another young man, around Scrooge’s 5’5″ height, with dark blond curls piled on his head. “West!” He exclaimed again, a hint of joy beginning to stir within his soul.  And the third was a young woman. Straight black hair pulled into a ponytail. At the sight of this girl, Scrooge stumbled back slightly. “…Laura.” He whispered.  Scrooge shook his head, the back of his hand reaching up to his eyes, wiping them quickly before spinning to face the spirit. “We must hide, spirit! I’ve seen enough of those time-travel movies that I know if my past-self sees me, then my future-self could no longer exist!”

The spirit laughed kindly, raising a hand up. “Relax, Zachariah. We are merely spirits, the same ghosts that haunt all theaters. We will not be noticed.” Scrooge’s body relaxed slightly as he joined the spirit at her side, growing silent. The four young people in front of Scrooge all moved to the stage. Nathan was the first to speak, stepping into the middle of the circle, the clap of his hands echoing throughout the auditorium.

“All right, guys, we got a competition to get ready for this Friday! It’s time we showed those fools over at Wayville that Lee High is as talented as they are!” The four of them nodded vigorously. Scrooge couldn’t help but smile at the sight of his younger self, balancing on the balls of his feet, bouncing his body slightly side to side. “Look, spirit! Look at that! I remember this! It was the practice before my first improv competition.” He couldn’t help but smile slightly at the memory. “It was an exciting time. A new time.” The sound of the group warming up brought his focus back to them.

The four young people were in a circle, tossing an imaginary ball around. “Zach, green ball!” “Green ball, thank you! West, green ball!” “Green ball, thank you! Laura, green ball!”

“Laura…” Scrooge chuckled under his breath, turning to the spirit. “Behold, spirit, the girl who got me into comedy in the first place.”

The spirit laughed, tilting her head. “Is that so, Zachariah?” Scrooge smiled and nodded, turning his attention back to the group.

“Indeed, spirit. I always had an interest in comedy. But, it was when I found out that she…” He gestured toward Laura. “…Was joining this improvisation group…You couldn’t sign me up fast enough.” He grinned at the thought, shaking his head ahead. “I was a young man in foolish puppy love.”

“Zach, green ball!” “Green ball, thank you! Laura, green ball!”

The spirit turned toward Scrooge. “What happened to these people, Zachariah?”

The joy in Scrooge’s eyes faded slightly, the smile from his face eroding slowly. “…I don’t know. After graduation, we all went our separate ways. Nathan went north. West stayed within the area. Laura went south, then north. And I…” Scrooge shrugged. “…I went my own way. I thought I had to get as far away from this place as possible. Become my own man and all that. And I did. I did become my own man.” He laughed bitterly. “My own man who isn’t able to keep in contact with people in his life.”

The spirit said nothing, her eyes softening as she reached her hand out, placing it gently on Scrooge’s shoulder. “Come, Zachariah. I believe you’ve seen enough.”

Scrooge looked at the spirit’s hand, then into her eyes. “Please, spirit. Let’s stay a while longer?” He could feel the spirit’s hand squeeze his shoulder, and knew her response before she even spoke.

“I am sorry, Zachariah. But what’s in the past is in the past. And, if all you think about is the past, then you won’t see the opportunities you have in the future.”

Scrooge nodded sadly. “Yes, spirit. Of course.” He stood up straight, hands smoothing out the front of his wrinkled nightgown before once again wiping his eyes. “Take me away, spirit. There’s no longer any need for me to dwell here.”

The spirit smiled softly, and within an instant Scrooge was back in his bed, under the covers. He sat up with a start, looking over to the clock. It only read five minutes past the midnight hour. “A dream,” he said, laying slowly back into bed. “Nothing but a…wonderful dream.”

He rolled onto his side, staring at the wall. His own words echoed through his mind. “There’s no longer any need for me to dwell here.” He whispered, before sleep finally overtook him.

To Be Continued…





A Bees’ Christmas Carol, Part One

1 12 2010

Zachariah Scrooge sat alone in the office, before his writing desk, his worn overcoat wrapped around his large body.  His hazel eyes narrowed at the laptop screen in front of him, the flashing vertical line taunting him, daring him to type words.  Fingers tapped along the keyboard, only to be followed by an angry mashing of the Backspace button.  Staring at the faint glow of his laptop’s monitor, he finally slammed it shut, his hands raising up in frustration.

“Bah, humbug!” He cried, standing and moving over to the minifridge adjacent the glass panel windows. Pulling the door open, he bent down, peering long and hard before finally grabbing a Diet Dr. Pepper. The sound of carbonation filled the air as he popped the tab and took a sip, staring out onto the nigh-deserted street known as West Broad.

“Are you all right, Zach?” Came a voice from the hallway.  Scrooge turned to see Aaron Grant, his comedy partner, emerging from the shadows, arms filled with wrapped boxes.  “I heard you all the way from the mailroom.”

Grant was, by all accounts, a good looking man.  Tall, toned body, a perfect smile that was roofed by a perfect head of brown hair. His winter beard was supple.

Scrooge peered into his reflection of the window.  He was short, rotund, a fair smile, with his  dark blond hair receding into a widow’s peak.  His winter beard was but a patch on his chin and sideburns that grew unruly far too fast.

“I’m fine, Grant,” Scrooge muttered, his eyes remaining forward.  “Just another mental block, is all.”

“Oh, all right then, nothing too terrible, then.” Grant said, unloading the packages onto an empty desk. “I was wondering if you wanted to come by my place tonight. Stacey and I are doing a little gift exchange.”

“Gift exchange?” Scrooge turned to face Grant.  “What for? Her birthday’s already past, and yours is in June.”

“July, actually.”

“Whatever.”

Grant laughed, shaking his head.  “No, for Christmas.  It’s Christmas Eve.”

Scrooge rolled his eyes, putting the cold can to his lips.  “Christmas Eve. Harumph, just another day where I sit, attempting to think of clever things to say to the peons.” He waved his can toward West Broad, his eyes narrowing as he watched a man and woman walk, fingers intertwined with each others’.  Turning away from the window, his eyes focused on the pile of gifts.  “For a little gift exchange, that’s quite a few presents.”

“Well,” Grant said, smiling. “There are only a couple in here for Stacey.  I have a few for my parents, and a couple for my son.”

“That’s right, I forgot.” Scrooge muttered again, his eyes scanning the packages. “You and Stacey are having a child soon.”

Grant nodded, grinning wider. “April.  I know it’s a little early, but I just couldn’t help it.” He laughed, shrugging his broad shoulders.  Scrooge peered at him, then smiled.  It wasn’t a kind smile, however.  Far from it.

“Well then, if you are exchanging presents tonight, you should have no problem with coming in tomorrow morning.” Zachariah moved back to his desk, sitting down and reopening the laptop.  Grant stepped back slightly in surprise.

“But tomorrow’s Christmas Day!  That means food!  More gifts!  Sleeping in!” He moved his arms outward, palms toward Scrooge, attempting to appeal to the generous spirit of the large man in front of him.  Scrooge looked up briefly, then moved his attention back to the computer.

“That’s not possible.  There is work to be done.  Humor to be published.  You will be here at 8 a.m., or I replace you with a joke book sponsored by Garfield.” Scrooge’s fingers began clacking against the keyboard. “Be glad I’m letting you go home early tonight.”

Grant moved his arms down, shaking his head slightly as he scooped up the gifts.  “I really hope you understand what you’re asking is a very mean-spirited thing.  Christmas is supposed to be spent with family, not with a sly wit and a cynical point of view.”  He moved over to the door exiting out onto West Broad, pausing and turning back once more. “At least promise me you’ll go home tonight, and not spend the night here like you did last Christmas.”

Scrooge’s eyes never wavered from the screen. “I make no promise I have no intention of keeping. Now go.”

Grant’s eyes filled with pity as he turned away, leaving Zachariah Scrooge alone in the office.

One hour passed.  Then another.  Then another.  West Broad progressed from a steady stream of people crossing the window to a trickle, until finally it was barren.  Zachariah Scrooge leaned back in his chair, taking one more look his blog post.  He glanced down at his watch.  11 p.m..  Surely the roads would be clear.  With a stifled yawn and a shrug, Scrooge saved the post and stood up.  “I’ll finish it tomorrow.” He grumbled, ambling to the exit.  Placing his wool cap on his head, he stepped out into the cold.  “Harumph, blasted weather.” Scrooge said to himself as he slid into the driver’s seat of his Camry.

The engine came to life, and Scrooge’s face twisted into a mask of pain as he heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” come blaring through his car’s speakers.  “Blasted Christmas music!” He yelled, twisting the volume knob to the left so violently, it threatened to snap off.  Scrooge took a moment to enjoy the silence and solitude, and let out a long exhalation before pulling out onto the empty street.

As he drove, his thoughts drifted to Grant.  He could just see Aaron and Stacey, sitting together in their living room, exchanging gifts and looks of love between each other, both eager for the future.  “Children, hmph.” Is all Scrooge could say as he shook his head to clear out the vision.

Finally arriving to his home, Scrooge shrugged off his overcoat.  Locking the front door, he moved over to his couch, sitting down and picking up the TV remote.  “Christmas.” He growled as he clicked through the channels, his heart growing darker with each commercial or sitcom that espoused a holiday cheer which he did not feel. “Blasted holidays!”

Scrooge turned the TV off, tossing the remote down onto the couch and standing up. “Best get to bed and get the day over with.”

He moved to the bedroom, getting into his nightgown and sliding into bed.  His eyelids grew heavy, and he was just about to fall asleep when he heard a voice.

“Zachariah…” It was ghostly, faint.  Scrooge sat up in bed, his body tensing with fear.

“What, who’s there?!” He whispered.

“Zachariah…” The voice said again.  From the living room, Scrooge could see the glow of the TV.  His body relaxed, laughing at himself.

“Fool I am, I must have left the TV on.  I’m more tired than I thought.” He padded back into the living room, grabbing the remote and pressing the Off button.  But the screen stayed on, playing a cliche-filled commercial with holiday sentiment.  Scrooge slapped the remote against his hand, pressing the Off button again.  “Damn batteries.”

Suddenly, the channel changed! No longer was it a commercial or a sitcom, but rather a man dressed in a black bowling shirt with white down the front, cargo pants, and a Philadelphia Eagles baseball cap turned backward.  Scrooge peered closer, his eyes narrowing.

“…Thomas?  Thomas George?”

The man in the TV nodded.  “Yes, Zachariah, it is me, your old improv partner.”

Scrooge sat on the couch, slack-jawed.  “But, it’s not possible…you’re dead!”

Thomas nodded again.  “I am dead, Zachariah, and now I must roam the airwaves, amidst all the pop culture that I exploited within my improv scenes.  Reality shows, game shows, terrible sitcoms…They are my residence.”

Zachariah leaned forward. “But why are you here now, Thomas? It’s been ages since we performed together.”

Thomas raised an accusatory finger.  His dark eyes blazed with passion. “You have grown complacent, Zachariah!  Your humor once brought joy to hundreds, but now you have allowed your cynical views of life to overpower that humor!  I come with a warning: You shall be visited by three spirits tonight…the Spirit of Comedy Past; the Spirit of Comedy Present; and the Spirit of Comedy Yet to Come.  Heed their lessons well, Zachariah!  And also check out ‘Modern Family’, Wednesday nights on ABC!”

The television screen blinked off.  Scrooge sat on his couch for a long moment, keeping his eyes focused on the screen.  It blinked on again, Thomas filling the viewspace.

“Seriously, you need to get to bed so the spirits can come.” The screen turned off for the final time.

Scrooge stood up quickly. “Hmph, spirits.” He spat out as he moved back to his bedroom, crawling under the covers.  “Spirits…” he grumbled one more time before his eyes closed, drifting off into sleep.

To Be Continued…





Improv. Why?

9 05 2010

That question is one I’ve found myself asking a lot the past couple of days.

Before we go any further, just so you know: I’m not retiring from improv.  I’m not even close to thinking about quitting this art that I’ve loved for the past 11 years of my life.  So if you’re hoping that this is going to be a big Lou Gehrig moment, I suggest you stop reading and do something else, like building a birdhouse.  Seriously, I don’t see enough of those small architectural wonders.

Back to the question at hand; Why in the world, for the past decade, have I spent my time studying, watching, performing, and loving this art form?

This question formed after reading Molly Buckley’s blog entry on her improv experience (Found here, on her brilliant website).  She posits that to her, the stage is her church, improv her religion.  Some may call it an extreme statement, but after seeing her perform for the past couple of years, I’d say it’s right on the money.  Molly rocks it out every time she performs.  So does everyone who’s a part of Made of BEES.

But why?  Why do I feel the compulsion to get up on the stage, perform for the masses, and bring smiles to faces?  Why am I not content to sit back, relax, and let the thousands of other performers through this great world do the entertaining for me?

Life would be so much simpler if I just threw in the towel, proclaimed “I’m done.”, and never worried about setting foot on the stage again.  There would be time to do normal things, like watch TV and go to bars and debate the merits of my favorite NFL team’s draft picks.  I could even try to breach the dating scene.  It’d be jarring at first to keep my focus on the beautiful girl in front of me than the dozens of potential characters that always frequent the restaurants, bars and bowling alleys.  But eventually that temptation would fade, and I’d be a simpler person.  A normal person.  A saner person.

So the question remains.  Why?  Why have I devoted 11 years of my life to studying, seeing, and performing improv?  After some soul-searching, I think I’ve found some answers:

  • Improv accepts.
  • It encourages.
  • It emboldens.
  • It always says “Yes”.
  • Improv never calls in the middle of the week, telling me that things just aren’t working out.
  • It never sends me an email, saying that I’m not qualified enough to be a part of it.
  • Improv shows me where I shine brightest.
  • It shows me my weaknesses, and then strengthens them.
  • Improv doesn’t discriminate.  It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, how much money you make.  All it cares about is you perform to the best of your ability.
  • It teaches me how to trust.
  • It proves it’s all right to be vulnerable.
  • Improv brings people together.
  • Improv helps me become the person I want to be.

There are more answers.  I just haven’t found them yet.

To Molly, improv is her church.  To me, it’s a mentor.  It develops me.  It pulls me out of my shell, telling me it’s all right to be who I am.  I can succeed, or I can fail.  Whatever happens, improv will be there for me the next day, and the day after that.  It doesn’t discard me.  It needs me as much as I need it.

There’s no telling how long this mutual need will last.  Maybe I’ll wake up one morning and find myself lacking the desire to get on stage.  Maybe the time will come when I have a career and a wife and a mortgage and I’ll have to put it aside.  Maybe I’ll finally take the advice of some of my more practical friends, and “grow up”.

But until then, I’m here.  In the present.  And presently, I’m about improv, and all the hope and joy and love that comes with it.

Yes and.

-ZA





Confessions of a Frustrated Blogger

17 04 2010

Such a sad, strange, man.

Disassociated Press, 4/16/10

Zach Arnold takes a long drag off his Marlboro Light before tapping the ash down to the concrete.  He’s a short man, rotund.  Comparable to the Penguin, one of Batman’s several nemeses.  Or perhaps that Travelocity gnome, which proclaims affordable deals for all travelers.  Tonight, however, as we sit on the patio of a TGI Friday’s, he most resembles what several of his generation have become…a frustrated blogger.

“You see people…” He takes another drag off his cigarette.  “…When most people go online, they aren’t looking to expand their worldview.  Nah, they wanted to do that, they’d read a book or…or a newspaper.  Nah, when people get online, they’re looking for escapist entertainment.  I mean, how else can you explain LOLcats and keyboard cats and dramatic animals…”

I nod.  Not in agreement, but to avert Arnold’s eyes as I close out my Twitter page on my iPhone.  Our drinks arrive.  The waiter sets my cranberry juice in front of me, and a Yuengling with a tiny umbrella inserted into the mouth is placed in front of Zach.  “That makes it classy,” He chuckles, pulling the umbrella out, nearly stabbing himself as he sucks out what little beer was absorbed into the wood of the toothpick.  He then asks me where he was.  I slide my notes over to him, which he pores over with intent eyes.

“LOLcats…dramatic animals…right, yeah.” He shoves my notepad back over toward me before leaning back in his chair, the tempered steel of the seat groaning under the massive pressure his grotesque body exerts upon it.  “Now, you see, I started blogging a while back.  Probably 2002, 2003, something like that.  And at first I was having fun with it.  LiveJournal.  Just putting random thoughts down, entertaining the few friends that read it.  Then I got to thinking that hey, I could use my writing prowess for something productive.  Get some debate going.  I was having people write some decent comments out, so why not fan the flames a little?  The first entry was supposed to foster a discussion on if our President at the time, George W. Bush, was using appropriate measures in his fight against terrorism.  I put that blog up and guess what?  Not one single comment.  Only 2 hits.  I know one of them was mine because I logged in at the library, see if anyone had posted anything.  That night, I put up a post debating the merits between eating ice cream in the hot seasons, and eating ice cream in the cold seasons.  Know how many hits that one got me?  65.  The writing was on the wall, baby.”

I had no idea why Mr. Arnold had addressed me as “baby”, but decided to push that aside.  This man was obviously getting drunk off one beer, or had been drinking before arriving at Friday’s.  I glanced at my watch.  Where the hell were my fried green beans?  A loud belch from across the table snapped my attention back toward my portly interviewee.  Swallowing the small amount of bile that had crept into my throat, I asked him to continue.

“Let’s see…ah, yeah, after that LiveJournal thing, I stumbled onto blogspot, and spent maybe a year or so using that thing.  My heart wasn’t really into it, though, and I stopped posting maybe 8 months in.  But!” He exclaimed, snickering as he leaned forward, resting his short arms against the table.  “I got asked to join this spectacular improv group, called Made of Bees.  And whaddya know, we get a website going on WordPress.”

I nodded again, this time in agreement.  Yes, Made of Bees was an improv group nothing short of phenomenal.  Over the past two years, they had entertained hundreds of people, leaving a residue of hilarity with every crowd they encountered.  Truly, greatness personified.

My eyes return to Mr. Arnold, who while I pontificated on the magnificence that is MoB, had fallen asleep.  A quick shake arose him from his slumber, followed by five minutes of assuring him that yes, only five minutes had passed.

“Sorry about that.  Anyway, I decide that hey, I’m in this group, I need to start contributing in some way, other than sheer sexiness.” He leers at me, a sloppy grin across his face before continuing.  “So I start writing on there.  And I figure that since we’re a comedy group, I need to write some funny stuff.  So I had blogs about me and my cousin wrestling in the backyard, how I named my sideburns, all that crap.”  Arnold accosts our server just as she places my appetizer down, requesting another Yuengling with umbrella, punctuating his drink order with a “darlin'”.  After watching our server leave, he continues.  “So I get a few posts into it, and once again, I got people putting comments up!  Telling me how they’re enjoying the hilarity and cleverness and that they’re looking forward to my next tale.  Once again I had ’em in the palm of my hand.”

Arnold looks off into space, a mix of nostalgia and drunkenness clouding his eyes.  “I had power.  That felt good.  It felt…right.  But I wanted to use this power for good.  To bring some light into this world.  So I started writing some satirical stuff, like about how Obama was getting in trouble because he wanted to address all the schoolkids.  People reacted well to that.  And once I got that reaction, it was like a drug.”

His euphoria wouldn’t last long, however.  Arnold’s eyes grow dark as he begins the next part of his saga.  “And then…Aaron had to come and screw it all up.”

Aaron Grant, another member of the spectacular Made of Bees, was also a regular contributor.  He had written three pieces.  One decrying the former Ukrop’s market chain for utilizing senior citizens as cart pushers, and two which detailed his adventures in the gym.  The first entry discussed a woman with a horrible tattoo on her lower back, while the other discussed the inability of old men in gym locker rooms to be clothed.

“And what do you know?” Arnold slurs, his eyes closing and opening slowly.  “When I come back on to check the blog, the views on Grant’s entries sky-freaking-rocketed.  I looked at the search terms, the words people used to get to the site.  I was…shocked when I saw that 20 people had come to the site using the search term ‘elderly nudes’.  I mean, ‘elderly nudes’? What kind of sick freak looks up ‘elderly nudes’?”

A plethora of them, apparently.  Grant’s blog entries quickly became the crown jewel of MoB’s site.  In fact, his first volume on the disturbing things he’s seen in his gym has garnered over 3,500 views alone.  That’s almost half of the total page views for the Bees’ site itself.

I look back at Arnold, who is now weeping openly.  There, at this TGI Friday’s, sits a broken man.

“I’m done, baby…” Again with the baby.  I brush it off.  “…From now on, no more suave political commentary.  No satirical stuff.  Just straight, flat-out funny stories about my life.  I mean, everyone loves to hear stories about fat guys getting stuck on things, right?”

I assure him he’s correct.  He smiles a sad smile, leaning back in his chair, of which the legs are now bowing out.  “I’m proud of Grant, I am.  That boy knows what the people want.”

I nod in silent concurrence, glancing back at my iPhone, enjoying a silent triumph as I become the new mayor of Friday’s in 4square.  My victory is only slightly marred by my now-cold fried green beans.

Fin

-ZA





I Salute You, Chris Dane Owens

5 04 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a pessimistic age we live in.  Everyone expects the worst from everyone else, and most people are all too willing to live up to that expectation.  Sarcasm reigns supreme.  A perpetual bitterness in our mouths for someone who dares to go outside what we consider the realm of good taste.  Our vitriol all too ready to spill over and crush the optimism, the dreams, the effort put forth by a person who merely wanted to express themselves.

Express themselves like this:

The majority of responses to this video have not been kind.  Several label it “the worst music video ever made”.  Others have recorded their responses to the video, and post them on the internet.

I’ll admit, when I first saw this video, I snickered.  What was this guy doing?  Pirate ships, horseback riding, explosions, 2-second sword fights?  It was horrible!  Terrible!  The only logical path was to expose this to all the world to forever be mocked.

Now, a year later, I find myself coming back to this video.  Maybe I’m a little wiser.  Maybe I’m a little more mature.  But now, when I watch this video, I find myself grinning.  Not from the joy of knowing the amount of mockery I can cull from those 4 minutes, but the joy of knowing that this guy went all out in an attempt to make what he felt would be the greatest video ever.

Would I nominate it for anything?  No.  But, I will defend it as a piece of art.  It’s not high art.  I doubt that it would receive airplay on MTV or VH1.  But for the effort, the enthusiasm behind it, I’ll gladly go toe-to-toe with somebody who decries it as shit.

According to his website, this is the first video in a trilogy that Chris Dane Owens is making.

To that, I say bring on the next two, Chris.  You got at least one person waiting for them.

-ZA





It’s Been a Ride…

1 04 2010

Hey everyone, Zach here.  I got a little bit of news.

If you look at the previous post, you’ll see that there’s a video posted called “Footlooser”.  This was a video Aaron and myself did a couple of weeks ago.  If you’re familiar with the 1984 film, you realize that it’s a reenactment of the famous “Warehouse Dance” scene in the movie.  Several who have viewed it have said it was fantastic, really enjoyed my sweet moves, and so on.

There are those, unfortunately, who did not get as much amusement out of it.

It’s crazy, this business we’re in.  Everyone is a great mix of competitive and creative.  They come up with something fantastic, and then do their damnedest to ensure no one will steal and exploit their concept.  Which, if we’re being fair, is what Aaron and I did.

So, with that, it seems that the company that distributed Footloose, Paramount, has decided to place a law suit against myself for the “Intentional Theft of Intellectual Property”.  Apparently they have someone working there whose only job is to make sure that the budding filmmakers out there don’t exploit its ideas without proper compensation.  Basically, the studio’s miffed that we made this spectacular video, and they’re not receiving credit for providing the idea in the first place.

It’s only a civil suit, fortunately.  But still, this means I’m going to be wrangled up in legal red tape for a long time.

This is a long way of saying that I’m going to be forced to bow out of Made of Bees for a while, along with the other comedic ventures I’ve embroiled myself into.

It’s been a great ride the past couple of years, everyone.  I’m going to fight this thing from start to finish.  Maybe I’ll win, maybe I’ll lose.  I mean, what are they gonna take?  My car?  Hell, they can have it.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand.  I’m hoping this won’t take longer than the summer, but who knows.  Maybe they’ll try to make an example out of me, use me as a warning against other performers who desire to emulate Kevin Bacon.  The 21st-century equivalent to a head on a spike.

Stay good, everybody.

ZA