Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The March, Chapter 35: Mornings After

Chapter 34
How about a nice greasy, pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray?
-Weird Science

Rosie and Tré

At noon the next day, Rosie was startled out of sleep when Tré entered the apartment.  Slammingly.

“Rosie,” he said, striding angrily into the bedroom.  “Wake up.”

She rolled over and looked at him.  “God,” she said.  “What?”

“Did you talk to your father about my pay?”

“Yeah,” said Rosie, in a sleepy, bleary, hungover voice.  “You said you were out of money so I asked Daddy to pay you more.  So?”

Tré took a deep breath and then, very slowly, “I need you to understand this: your father thinks I asked you to ask him for more money.  Do you have any idea how embarrassing that is?”

“So,” said Rosie.  “What does it matter so long as you get some extra money?”

“Oh my fucking GOD!” Tré burst out.  “I didn’t get any extra money.  What I got was humiliated.  Do you know what it’s like to have my boss accuse me of sending in his own daughter to do MY dirty work?  Look – don’t talk to your father about me again, ever.  Ever!  Do you understand?”

“He didn’t give you the raise?” asked Rosie indignantly.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” said Tré, exasperated and furious. ‘No, he didn’t give me the raise.  Your father is paying me exactly as much as he should.  I’m less than a year out of college and he’s giving me a great fucking opportunity.  It’s my job to earn it.  Bulstrode is doing his share. I’m doing my share.  And you, Rosie, you don’t have a share.  So back the fuck off.  Do you understand?”

She nodded. And then said quietly, “I’m sorry.”

“Fine,” said Tré.  “I have to go back to work.”

Rosie woke up and headed into the bathroom. She had a terrible taste in her mouth and felt queasy and headachy.  She brushed her teeth and took a long shower.  After the shower she drank a huge glass of water and took two aspirin.  She wanted a greasy burger, but decided she’d calorie blasted enough last night, so instead, she ate six saltines and had more water.

She thought about what to do with her afternoon and decided to worry more about her night.  She hadn’t been to the clubs in a few days and it was probably time to head back.  Since it was just a few weeks before Christmas, she started thinking up ways to style herself as a sexy elf, or a sexy Christmas tree.  She picked up the phone and called Will.

Why not?  Tré wasn’t going to go with her.

Celia and Gio

Celia and Gio slept in, legs intertwined across the bed. She was hungover, but happy.


Will lay in a shitty mood beneath a shitty blanket in the shitty month-to-month in the shitty neighborhood he was renting.  When Rosie called he accepted her invitation to come over and hang out.  What the fuck else did he have to do?


Broke had been up for hours, unable to sleep through the tail end of her hangover. She wandered into the kitchen at shortly after 10:00 to find Teddy, in his ratty bathrobe, frying his own eggs and reading a book.  He looked at her over his shoulder and smirked, “Maybe you should head back to bed for a while.”

“No,” said Brooke wearily.  “I’m fine.  I just need a little breakfast.”

“Do you want so eggs,” asked Teddy.

“Ugh, no,” she grimaced.  “Just toast.  I think that’s all I could handle.”

“You and Celia had quite a night last night,” said Teddy, scooping eggs out of the pan and not putting toast into the toaster.

“And Rosie and Will,” said Brooke, getting up to make her toast. “It was fun.  We played this stupid game called Thumper.”

“Will?” said Teddy, stopping en route to the table.

“Yeah,” said Brooke.  “He came into the March kind of late and joined us.  So, what are we working on today?”

“I don’t think you should spend time with Will,” said Teddy, still standing in the middle of the kitchen, plate in hand.

“Well, Teddy,” said Brooke.  “It’s not like he’s my best friend or anything.  He just sat at a table with us, played a stupid drinking game and walked me home.  It’s not big deal.  Now let’s talk about work.”

“He’s dissolute and irresponsible and you shouldn’t be playing drinking games with him,” said Teddy firmly as he sat down. 

“Whatever, Teddy,” said Brooke.  “My head hurts and I really want to get to work.  Can we just do that, please?”

“Look, clearly you’re hungover which is affecting your mood. I’m going to the Newberry today and I think I’d rather go alone.”

“Come on, Teddy,” said Brooke, desperate and weary.  “Please don’t be mad at me.  I won’t hang around Will anymore.  Let’s not make a big thing out of it.”

“I’m not making a ‘thing’,” said Teddy.  “I’m just doing some research and I’d prefer to be alone when I do it.”

And with that he finished his eggs, got dressed and left for the library.  He did not, it is worth mentioning, wash his dirty dishes.


Across the street from the Newberry Library is a one square block park, formerly informally called Bughouse Square.  In the old days, anarchists and communists and segregationists and suffragettes would stand on soapboxes and preach.  They’d yell at and over each other, passionately imploring the crowds to join their disparate causes, change the world with them.

Teddy, who did not believe the world could be changed, sat quietly on a bench in Bughouse Square, sorting through his feelings.

Why, he wondered, was he so unsatisfied?  Maybe he was too old for a woman in his life, especially one as young as Brooke.  But still, she should have been a satisfying amanuensis.  She was bright, interested in his work, confident he was on the path towards greatness.  He should have been happy to have her sit next to him while he worked.

Of course, she had changed a little. It’s only natural that as a relationship progresses, the parties should begin to lose some of their previous deference and grow more relaxed and casual.  He understood that Brook couldn’t always be the wide-eyed, worshipful girl he’d first met.  Her sometimes sharp tongue and infrequent eye-rolls could not, alone, account for this uncomfortable dissatisfaction.

The reason for that lay just beyond his mind’s reach.  And he felt miserable trying to grasp it.

I wonder if you can spare some pity for Teddy.  I appreciate that this might be difficult.  Here, I’ve written him as this lazy, domineering asshole who doesn’t do his own dishes.  He’s either ignored or never bothered to earn the wisdom that comes with experience and struck up an insta-relationship with a woman 30 years younger than he, based solely on her agreement that people do not treat the world well. Or, if we’re being really honest, because the adulation of this beautiful young girl worked pleasingly on his already substantial ego.  He’s cold, manipulative, and passive-aggressive.  He is not a good man.

Ah, but his world is so narrow and bleak.  And, even if it’s a world entirely of his own creation, it’s still a sad place to live in; and sadder still for his growing awareness that he will always be its sole, sad occupant.  If we have joy in our lives, if we love and are loved, we can pity Teddy a little for his lonely, narrow world.

At least I do.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The March, Chapter 34: Party Time at The March

Hey Bud, Let’s Party!
-Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Fred finished his sad beer and went home.  Rosie stayed.  She danced through the room, lighting on different tables, chatting with old regulars and friends from other bars, playing songs on the jukebox. Teasing Caleb about how much he must miss her crazy cocktailing magic.  She felt relaxed and happy, entirely confident in her position, certain her mother would back her up.  Once Tré’s money situation improved, he’d go back to being a nightclub superstar with her.  Besides, working the room at The March was a hell of a lot easier than out-sparkling everyone at Lobo. She was the kind of radiant that comes from being the most glamorous girl in the room – even in these ridiculous tennis shoes!

Brooke and Celia came in about an hour into Rosie’s performance, and she squealed with excitement to see them.  Two more girls to eclipse.  Fun!

Brooke and Celia were both generally uninterested in either eclipsing or being eclipsed.  They were having fun just being together.

Earlier in the day, Brooke had been sitting in the apartment with Teddy.  It was her night off and she was wondering what they’d do with the evening. There was a documentary playing about a meat packing plant that was supposed to be good.  But Teddy wasn’t interested. He wanted to stay home or maybe go for some drinks at The March.  But Brooke didn’t feel like cooking him dinner and doing dishes while he carried on with his ancient theories about American doom.  Not that she didn’t love to her him expound on his theories!  But, really, a break would be nice.  So she asked if he’d mind if she went out without him.  She hadn’t seen Celia in a while.

Celia and Brooke met up for Indian food way up north in their old neighborhood.  Since Brooke’s relationship with Teddy was a verboten topic, they talked a little about Celia’s burgeoning relationship with Gio and how happy she was.  They talked about Celia’s plans for a job after graduation.  Rather than pursuing a career as a buyer, which was dicey and hard to break into, she was thinking about moving into some of the new technology careers springing up.   Brooke thought that sounded great!  

“Computers instead of paper!” she said.  “That will do wonders to reduce waste.”

When the meal was finished, they went ahead and ordered their third Kingfisher.  Conversation veered away from the future and into the past.  They reminisced about their parentless teenage years.  They told old familiar stories, laughed and finished each other’s sentences.  They were having such a good time, they decided to carry on with the night.

“Let’s go to The March,” said Celia. “We’ll drink beer and play 80’s songs on the jukebox.”
Brook giggled. “Definitely.  I want someone to bring ME drinks!”

So they jumped into a cab and headed downtown.  Celia was happy to see that Jorge was still at the door and that Teddy was not at the bar.  Brooke may have been relieved by the latter, but Celia knew better than to ask.

As they chose a table, Rosie ran up to them and embraced them both.  They were surprised by her almost genuine affection, until they realized that it was coming their way courtesy expensive vodka and bullshit pretty-girl competition.  Still, when Rosie ordered them a round of lemon drop shots and suggested they play a drinking game called Thumper, Celia and Brooke decided why not?

They did the shots and started the game.

Here’s how you play Thumper: all players drum roll on the table when the leader (Rosie, natch) says, “What’s the name of the game?”  The other players yell “Thumper!”  Then the leader asks, “How do we play it?”  And the respondents yell even louder, “Dirty!”  And finally the leader asks, “And why do we play it?”  And then the players stop drum rolling and pound the table with both hands simultaneously as punctuation for each of the following words: “To get FUCKED UP!”   Each player has their own hand gesture, agreed upon before the start of the game.  And these are best if they’re a little nasty.  Celia’s signal was a middle finger.  Rosie’s was the “wanker” symbol.  Brooke did an index finger from one hand into the hole made by the index finger and thumb on the other hand.  To play the game, the leader does her own symbol and then another player’s.  That player than does her own and someone else’s.  And so on.  If you miss you turn: DRINK!

They were too old for this game.  Thumper is a game for high school kids at parents-out-of-town parties.  These twenty-somethings would claim they were playing ironically.  But not really.  Really, they were in their own world, playing the game, drinking their drinks, and laughing.

They were having a blast.

At around midnight, Will passed by The March.  He was heading home after dropping a movie off at Blockbuster (there were many midnight movie return trips to Blockbuster back in those days) and stopped to say hello to Gio.  Gio told Will about the drunk girls and the stupid game and the lemon drops. “Man,” he said, wistfully.  “I wish I wasn’t working.”

Will wasn’t working, so he decided to head in and join.  He approached the table with a round of lemon drops and said, “Is this ladies only or can anyone join?”

Rosie squealed, leaped up and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Will! It’s so awesome that you’re here!  With DRINKS!”

Brooke smiled and rolled her eyes, but a little affectionately and asked, slightly slurringly, “Do you know my sister?  This is my sister! Celia.  I love my sister.”

Celia waved from across the table and said, “I know who you are!  You’re Teddy’s nephew or something.  SHHHH!  We’re not talking about Teddy tonight.  Let’s PLAY!”

“Sounds good to me,” said Will, taking a seat.

“What’s your sign, Willie,” said Rosie.  “If you’re gonna play, you need a sign.”

“Hmmmm,” thought Will.  And then he held up the index and middle fingers of his right hand in a reverse peace sign.  “This is what they do in England when you cut someone off in traffic.”

And Rosie started the drumming and yelled, at the top of her lungs, “WHAT’S THE NAME OF THE GAME!?!?!”

And the game kicked off again.  They had such a good time.

At last call, Caleb said to GIO, “I’ll break down the bar tonight. You get your drunk friends home.”

Will, Rosie, Brooke and Celia stood outside the March in the brisk winter air as Gio tried to hail a cab.

Brooke shouted, “Let’s walk!  It’s so awesome walking home with it’s like this.  Walk walk walk!”

“Are you fucking kidding,” said Rosie. “It’s freezing outside!  And there are taxis that will drive us home and I still have $15!”

“Come on, Brooke,” said Gio, as a cab pulled up.  “Just get in with us.”

“Nononono,” said Brooke.  “I know what to do!  Celia! Come and spend the night and we can walk home together.”

“No, thank you,” said Celia.  It’s too goddamn cold to walk and you live with that creepy old man.  SHHHHH!  We’re not talking about Teddy.”

Brooke rolled her eyes and then pointed at Will.  “You can’t talk about Teddy either,” she said.  “Only people who like Teddy can talk about Teddy. But you live close, right?  Let’s walk.”

“She’s right,” said Will.  “It’s just a couple of blocks.  I don’t mind walking.”

“Are you guys sure,” said Gio, reluctant to leave them on the street.

“Oh My Goooooood!  We’re sure we’re sure,” said Brooke, and the two headed north back towards Teddy’s apartment.

“I love it at this time,” said Brooke.

“What? Freezing your nards off?” asked Will, shivering.

“Oh, quit being such a wuss,” said Brooke.   “And you need a better coat and a hat.  Now listen!”

“To what?”

“Nothing,” said Brooke. “You can hear nothing at 4:00 am in Chicago. I love that.  It’s like a secret.”

They walked down the street together, listening to their footsteps and the quiet.  Will decided that it was kind of nice.  And that he did need a better coat and a hat.

There may be something portentous in that cold, quiet air; a possibility of romance is brewing between Brooke and Will. But not yet.  Even if the shine has come somewhat off the Teddy apply, Brooke is still fully committed to that relationship and to saving the world with him.  And the gruesome specter of his loathsome cousin loomed too close when thoughts of a kiss or a reach of the hand passed unbidden through Will’s loopy brain.

When they got to Teddy’s, Brooke sang out a goodbye and headed up the stairs.  Will went home.  But in his rapidly clearing head, he wished passionately that his horrible cousin would just go away and leave Brooke alone.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Toleration Matrix

So, there's this sitcom called The Middle that I like a lot. I like it because they have the best depiction of teenagers on TV (Sue Heck is a damn national treasure) and because they are a little poor; poor because of the twofold effect of an economic system actively fighting against them and also because they are a kind of sloppy with money.  They are poor like people are really poor.  They are not poor.  They are actually lower middle class.  I love to see this on television especially right before Modern Family, which is chockablock with crazy rich people. I've decided that Jay Pritchett's closet business is actually a front for some kind of Gustavo Fring style drug cartel.

Anyhoo, I keep urging people to watch The Middle because it's a great little sitcom, but I've been told by many people that they will never watch it because the matriarch, Frankie Heck, is played by Patrica Heaton, a person many find irritating beyond the point of toleration.

You may remember Patricia Heaton from such twitscapades (I just made this word up.  It's mine.  You can't have it) as mocking Sandra Fluke for being a slutty mcslutterson.  This is the kind of stupid stuff she says.  Here's some more.  She dumb. And I get that this would make people not want to engage with her on a weekly basis despite how awesome Sue Heck is.

Moving on: I've begun rewatching Firefly which is the funnest show in the Whedonverse and which I just adore.  My adoration of it has not been diminished by discovering that Adam Baldwin, who plays the entirely delightful Jayne, has outed himself as quite the homophobic libertarian fuckwit.  I remain sympathetic, though, to The Middle avoiders for reasons that can be represented mathematically:


You guys are impressed with my crazy math skills right?   When I was in elementary school, my math teacher taught me to think of the greater than/less than sign as an alligator and the alligator  always eats the bigger thing… which means I just said that Jayne was bigger than Frankie Heck which, while true, is not what I was trying to say.  Is there a way to represent "Jayne is better than Frankie Heck" mathematically?  Probably not.  You guys are probably less impressed with my crazy math skills now.

But I'm fixing to bring back your admiration by laying this out on a graph* that I made in Microsoft Word (that's right… I said Microsoft Word, bitches.  Deal):

I'm calling this "The Toleration Matrix."  If the level of artistic output is high enough to graph above the dotted line then you are free to enjoy it. 

Let's chart my guy, Kanye West.  Many people would chart Kanye West here:

...as they find his level of odiousness far greater than his artistic output.  I, however, think that while Kanye is a guy prone to narcissistic bouts of assholery, he's not beating anyone up or breaking any laws.  He's not out driving drunk or advocating against a minority group.  He's just a really big fan of Kanye West.  Also, his music is amazeballs.  So he rests squarely above the Line of Toleration for me.

Chris Brown, on the other hand:

Squarely below.

Your assignment, Shouters, is to map the following brief list of celebrities onto the Toleration Matrix.  Which ones make it above and which make it below:

  1. Roman Polanski
  2. Ike Turner
  3. James Brown
  4. Penn Gilette
  5. Keith Olbermann
  6. Jenny McCarthy
  7. Britney Spears
  8. Woody Allen
  9. Charlie Sheen
  10. Justin Bieber
  11. John Mayer
  12. Jennifer Aniston
I was going to do more, but I gotta take the dog to the groomer.  So help me out: Got any other folks to add to The Toleration Matrix?

*If you watched How I Met Your Mother, this was definitely inspired by Barney's Hot/Crazy Scale, which makes me think the next matrix is how much sexism will I tolerate thanks to really good story telling and casting?

Friday, September 26, 2014

The March, Chapter 33: Rosie Makes a Bad Decision

Chapter 32

Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame. Darling, you give love a bad name.
-Jon Bon Jovi

When Tré got home, he found Rosie on the couch experimenting with avant garde makeup.  She’d painted yellow suns around her eyes and was teasing her hair out.  She was wearing a neon tank top over leggings and was listening to Skinny Puppy, turned up to eleven.

“Can you turn it down?” Tré yelled over the music.

“It’s awesome, isn’t it?” said Rosie, turning it down.  “Fred and I used to listen to it in high school when we wanted to make Daddy go bananas.”

“Yeah, awesome,” said Tré, who did not think it was awesome at all.  “But I need to talk to you.”

Rosie walked over to Tré and wrapped her arms around his neck.  “Let’s talk after a nap,” she said.  
“We could sleep together and then you could sleep alone.”

“Not now, baby,” he said.  “We have to talk.  Come and sit with me.”

Rosie shrugged and followed Tré to the couch.   He pulled out his checkbook and showed it to her.  

“Look,” he said.  “I’ve got a balance of $31.50 and I haven’t paid rent in two months.  I can’t keep living like this. I can’t keep going out every night.  I just can’t afford it anymore.”

“Oh my god, Tré,” said Rosie, shocked. “I had no idea!  I thought Daddy was paying you a decent salary.  I’ll talk to him.”

“No,” said Tré.  “No no no no no no!  I do make a fair salary.  I couldn’t expect to make any more on a foot-in-the-door job.  But the drinking and the clubbing is too expensive and too exhausting.  I’m so tired, Rosie.  I need to start staying home at night.  We can hit the clubs maybe on Sunday and Monday, but I need to work and rest the other nights.”

“We can’t do that, Tré!” said Rosie.  “People will forget who we are if we only go out on industry nights.  Look, I’ll go back to work and make some money and help out.  We’re a team, Tré.  We’re practically celebrities.  If we stay home five nights a week, people will forget who we are.”

“I don’t care,” said Tré.  “I sick of all this partying.  I'm too broke and I'm too tired.”

“But this doesn’t last,” said Rosie.  “We only have now to be this.  We need to enjoy it while we can.”

“But, baby,” said Tré. “I’m not.”

They argued for a while, but eventually Rosie realized Tré wasn’t going to change his mind.  It was OK, she thought.  He was just tired.  Of course he was tired.  She hadn’t thought about it.  He was only getting a few hours of sleep every night and that must have been wearing on him.  They’d take a couple of nights off from the clubs.  They’d stay in tonight and tomorrow she had plans with her family. She would talk to Daddy about what he was paying Tré.  She’d be able to convince him to loosen up the purse strings and pay Tré what he was worth.  When Tré got the raise he’d be too happy about the money to be upset with her.  And they could go back to being the fabulous couple they were.

Yes, this was a good plan.

(This was a TERRIBLE plan)

Rosie kissed Tré and said, “You’re right.  Let’s stay in tonight.  I’ll run out and get pizza and a movie from Blockbuster and we’ll just relax.”

By the time Rosie got back, Tré was sound asleep on the couch.  Rosie put his head on her lap, had exactly one slice of pizza and watched Pretty Woman by herself.  At the end of the movie, she kissed him gently awake and sent him off to bed.

When Tré woke up nine hours later, he felt better than he had in weeks.  He went into the office early and finished all the tasks he’d laid out for himself.  He wrote up a proposal making the case for incorporating a “green” philosophy into the rebrand.  He designed three table tent promotional tools for Bulstrode to choose from.  He drafted out some sample beer menus.  And he was still able to be home by 6:30 with Chinese food and a copy of Dirty Dancing.  But when he came home, there was a note instead of Rosie.

Having dinner with the family and then drinks with Fred.  Don’t wait up!  Love you!

Tré ate the Chinese food himself and watched the first half of the Bulls game before falling blissfully asleep on the couch.

Rosie had dressed carefully for night out with her father.  She needed to look like Daddy’s little girl, but not so much that it was obvious.  They were just going for pub grub at one of the Lightweight restaurants, so she didn’t need to look too fancy.  She decided to just wear jeans and a pink sweater.  She pulled her hair back into a ponytail and wore just a little makeup.  She’d eschewed her lovingly compiled assortment of fabulous footwear in favor of a pair of plain white keds.  When she got to the restaurant, she gave her father a big hug.

“Rosie,” he said.  “You look very nice tonight.”

Susan wasn’t at the family dinner.  She’d been expected, but had been called to an emergency board meeting.  Rosie decided that this could work to her advantage.  She would slip into Susan’s role as family facilitator; steer conversation, be pleasant, make her father happy.  She’d shine especially bright in filial attachment what with Fred so bummed out and quiet.

But Bulstrode seemed determined to be distracted and crabby.  Rosie asked questions about the rebrand, discussed church politics, gently teased her brother for his layabout tendencies, but nothing seemed to improve his mood.  So, over dessert, she decided just to go for broke.

“Daddy,” she said.  “Don’t you think you could pay Tré a better salary?  Things are so tight for him and he works so hard!”

Bulstrode, unsurprisingly, went apeshit.

He ranted and raved about “this generation,” who expected everything handed to them on a silver platter.  He blustered and bloviated on his own self-made-ness.  No one ever gave Bulstrode anything!  He’d worked hard and socked his money away diligently. He hadn’t blown his earnings on bars and nightclubs.

“Actually, Dad,” said Rosie wryly.  “That’s exactly what you did.”

This unwise, if technically true, statement sent Bulstrode off on a re-energized rant.  He gestured angrily for the check, paid it, tipped poorly and stormed off.

“That went well,” said Fred, finishing his beer.

“Oh whatever,” she said.  Rosie wasn’t particularly bothered by her father’s rants.  She didn’t take them personally.  “I’ll talk to Mom tomorrow.  She’ll get him to come around.  Whatever he’s paying Tré it’s not enough.  And what’s the point of dating the boss’s daughter if she can’t grease the wheels for you a little.”

“Does Tré know you’re asking this,” said Fred.

“No,” said Rosie. “But he’ll be glad enough when the money starts rolling in.”

“Yeah,” said Fred, dubiously. “I don’t think you’ve thought this one through.”

“I have,” said Rosie.  “Now, I got fifty bucks from Daddy before he went off the rails.  Let’s go to The March and spend it.”

“I can’t go if Mary is there,” said Fred, miserably.

“It’s almost ten o’clock,” said Rosie.  “She’s never there that late. It’s cool.”

When they got there, Gio was standing at the door, chatting with one of the regulars.  Rosie asked him if Mary were still there.

“It’s all right, Fred,” said Gio.  “She left right after her shift. You can go in.  What happened anyway?  Why is she so pissed at you?”

Fred just shook his head and said, “I need about 14 drinks before I get into that and, what’s worse, I need my sister to pay for them.”

As they walked in, Fred could hear the regular begin, “You mean you didn’t hear what happened…”
Fred just shook it off.  He figured he had it coming.

Rosie bellied up to the bar and ordered a top shelf vodka and soda, with a splash of cranberry and a Bud for Fred.  But before he accepted it, he shot an inquiring look at Caleb.

“It’s OK, Fred,” said Caleb, squeezing a lime into Rosie’s drink.  “Sit down.  I want to talk to you anyway.”

Caleb handed Rosie her drink and she wandered off to find someone more fun to talk to.  Caleb put his hands down on the bar and looked Fred in the eye.

“I gave Mary the money she gave your bookie,” he said.  “That means you’re into me now.  I’m a little more flush than Mary so you can pay me back without feeling obliged to do anything stupid.  When you get a job or, more likely, get back on your Dad’s good side, pony up.  Understood?”
Fred nodded guiltily.

“Now, look,” said Caleb.  “I was pretty hot that you brought that shit into my bar.  But I don’t believe you did it on purpose. And I hope you’ve distanced yourself from that man now.”  Fred nodded again.  

“I’m not one to hold a grudge. It’s all right if you come in here when I’m working.  I won’t be looking sideways at every $2 beer.  But, you know, Mary isn’t cool with you.  And I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that felicitous moment.”

Fred nodded, guiltily.  And sipped his beer.

He sat alone at the bar while Rosie flitted and flirted around.  Fred thought about how he was 24 years old and had been bailed out by a guy who worked for his father, how the girl he was in love with couldn’t stand him. How he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life.  He settled deep into a morass of uselessness and depression, with no idea how to get out and no energy to look for one.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The March, Chapter 32: Scenes from Outside the March

Chapter 31

There’s no basement in the Alamo
-Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

The March was on a brisk, busy street.  Hundreds of shoppers, commuters, tourists and working folks rushed past its doors every day.  The March, like the businesses that surrounded it, was background to the individuals on that brisk, busy street and those individuals rushing past the bar blurred into indistinct parts of a crowd to the folks inside.  Indoors, an interesting event like Mary’s brush with the criminal element captured the attention of The March staff and patrons for days on end; outdoors, other interesting happenstances enjoyed perfect secrecy despite happening amidst of throngs of incurious souls.

Take for example a reedy looking Karl Rafferty lounging about on the steps right outside the March, rolling cigarettes and taking inventory.  Bulstrode walked down the street and caught Raff in his eye, battled for a moment with his fight or flight reflex, and then steeled himself and strode purposefully toward his new nemesis.

“Why are you here” demanded Bulstrode.  “I thought we had an agreement.  Why are you so determined to destroy my life?”

“Least you had a life,” said Raff, bitterly.  “I never had no place but The March and the joint.  I’m going in for a drink soon. “

“I’ll give you two hundred dollars in cash right now to walk away,” said Bulstrode.

Raff took the money and walked away.

Bulstrode walked past the bar, turned the corner and then took a moment to lean against the wall.  He knew this would not stand.  He knew something would have to break soon.  Eventually, he’d figure it out.  Right?  Something had to change.

He turned around and walked back to The March, where he had a meeting with Tré and Caleb.


Tré had just had his own moment outside The March.  He was standing outside, preparing to present his plans to launch the rebrand at The March when suddenly he found himself so overwhelmed with fatigue and nerves that he had to rush around back to the alley to vomit.  “That’s it,” he thought. “I’m puking in an alley at 11:30 in the morning.  I’m talking to Rosie today.  Something has to change.”
He walked to the convenience store across the street for a coke and some gum.


Later on, you might have found Will hiding in the apartment building steps right by The March, where he’d ducked in after spying Brooke and Teddy walking into the bar.  He lurked there, listening to them arguing.  Teddy was insisting that he would finish his book but that when he did, it would make no difference.  He told Brooke to make sure she had no children.  “They’ll be no world for them, my dear.  I’m just glad I’ll be dead before the end.”  Brooke was clearly frustrated with Teddy.  But rather than argue, she just sighed deeply.  Will could practically hear her rolling her eyes.  He found the exchange surprisingly inspiriting, despite Teddy’s depressing commentary.


Later still, you’d have heard Caleb pop up for a visit with Jorge.  Celia had finished her shift at Marshall Fields and was hanging out in the door, making plans for a movie with Gio.

“Gio,” said Caleb.  “I think it’s time we got you trained for the bar.”

“Really?” said Gio, excited.

“Yeah,” said Caleb.  “It’s time to get you and Brooke trained.  You’ll start Fridays week after next.  And, Celia, it’s nice to see you. Now go away and let Gio do his job.”

Celia laughed and said, “You bet, Caleb.”  But when he left, she jumped up to hug Gio and they started kissing right there on the street.

It was a pretty good kiss, too.  But no one stopped to notice.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The March, Chapter 31: Companion Comfort and Some Good Old Gossip

Chapter 30

I cannot believe I just gave my panties to The Geek
-Sixteen Candles

Mary held onto her fury all day, wearing her mood on her face and in her gestures.  The daytime regulars focused conversation away from her, making sure to ask for drinks politely and with casual deference.  They tipped well, but not so well as to draw attention.  They hoped she’d be back to normal tomorrow.  By late afternoon, the evening regulars had gathered around.  John Farebrother was there, sipping an Old Style.  Mike, the passionate Black Hawks fan, sat arguing with his friend, Grant, about something inconsequential.  Wally Cadwallader, who’d had an after-work Ooh La La related errand near The March, had stopped in for a martini.  He was discussing men’s skin care with Gilbert, a computer technician.  It was a typical after work crowd and Mary couldn’t stand the sight of a one of them.

When Caleb came into work, he headed behind the bar, prepared to switch for the night shift.  He paused, cash drawer in hand, and took a good look at his daughter, who was furiously polishing an already gleaming cocktail shaker.  “Mary,” he said.  “What’s wrong?”

“Fucking FRED!” she exploded.  “His fucking bookie came in today and I gave him all my money to save Fred from getting beat up.”

All conversation around the bar stopped.  All the patrons tuned into the much more interesting conversation happening behind he bar.

Caleb set his drawer on the back bar and walked Mary to the opposite end, away from the regulars.  Only Teddy sat there, and he wasn’t interested in their conversation.  Caleb put his hands on Mary’s arms and looked her in the eyes in such a way that she wouldn’t be able to look away.

“What happened,” he said, calmly.  And Mary told him the story, tears pooling in her eyes.

At the end, Caleb was angry.  “Why didn’t you call me,” he said.  “Jesus Christ, anything could have happened You should have called me!”

“I couldn’t,” said Mary, shaking her head  “He told me not to pick up the phone. But he wasn’t interested in me.  Only Fred.”

“Mary” said Caleb, moving to embrace her,  “Mary, shit. Are you ok?.  Do you know his name, I want to find him and make sure he stays the hell away from here.”

“He will,” said Mary, bitterly.  “I asked him if he was coming back and he gave me some bullshit line about honor among bookies. But why would he want to come here?  I told Fred not to bother coming around anymore.  At least not while I was here.”

“Still,” said Caleb.  “We need to get your money back.”

“It’s not the fucking money, Dad,” said Mary.  “Well, it's not just the money. It’s the whole engaging in criminal activity while actively planning for a career in the U.S. Attorney’s office. If it comes out I could be screwed.” She paused and leaned into her father a little more.

“Maybe I’m just being paranoid,” she said quietly.  “Maybe it’s not that big of a deal. What do you think?“

“Well, baby,” said Caleb. “You never know.  But if it ever does come up, I’ll tell them it was me.  We look alike. People will buy it.  How much money was it?  I’m going to give that back to you and then let Fred owe me.”

“Dad,” she said.  “You know I don’t take money from you.”

“You’re not,” he said.  “Fred is.  Besides, Mary, I’m your father.  I want to help you.  And if you can’t count on your Dad to pay off your bookie, what in the hell is the world coming to?”

Mary laughed out loud and felt better.  Caleb tightened his arms around her, and Mary relaxed into the hug, accepting the embrace, the offer and the comfort.

The bar regulars strained their ears from the cool side of the bar trying to figure out what was going on.  It sounded very exciting!  Bookies and the boss’s son!

“That Fred,” said Wally Cadwallader.  “He is as shameless as his father.”

“Mr. Bulstrode,” said Farebrother, sarcastically feigning shock.  “Why he is a captain of industry! A fine, upstanding member of society!  A godly man!”

“Whatever,” said Mike.  “Mary could do better than that rich shit anyway.”

“Fred’s not a bad guy,” said Farebrother. “But, you’re right, Mary could probably do better.”

“I wonder how much money he was into the bookie for,” said Gilbert.  “I bet it was a lot.”

“Seems pretty shitty for some rich boy like Fred Bulstrode to be taking money from a hard working girl like Mary,” said Mike.

“Oh, he’s not that bad,” said Wally.  “He’s just careless. I think the boy has a good heart. I regret my earlier harshness.”

A fevered debate broke out regarding the general character of Fred Bulstrode.  Everyone had an opinion that they were eager to share.  Their argument grew louder and more heated until Caleb walked toward them, at which point a rather guilty silence descended.

“Can it, you guys,” said Caleb.  “It’s not your business.  Another gin martini, Wally?”

“Please,” he said. “Only, Caleb, the proper term for a gin martini is martini.  It’s a vodka martini that gets the qualifier.  Honestly, what is happening with the world?  ‘Gin martini’ indeed.  How’s Mary?  
Shall I go give her a shoulder to cry on?”

“Leave her be,” said Caleb.  “She likes it better that way.”

“Caleb, can you put on the Bulls game,” said Farebrother.  “And get me another Old Style.”

“We’re watching hockey!” objected Mike loudly.

“Mike,” said Farebrother.  “The goddamn hockey game doesn’t start for an hour.  Do you mind if we just check in with the best basketball team in America for a bit before we watch the Hawks lose?”

“Basketball is a stupid game,” said Mike.

Caleb headed off to fetch the Old Style, grateful for the shift in conversation. But he knew it wouldn’t last.  The Mary and Fred gossip would prevail until the next scandal broke.  He just hoped it would break soon.

The March: The Story so Far, Chapters 23-30

The March., Story so Far - Chapters 1- 22

When we last left the "story so far" Brooke and Teddy had begun an extremely inadvisable cohabitation.  Tre and Rosie had begun a super sexy love affair and found that they were just the kind of people to rule the school in the Chicago club scene.   Mary was carrying on her in her plans for a career in the states attorney's office.  Fred was gambling and meandering.  Bulstrode was looking to become a noble King of Chicago.

In chapters 23-30, Fred's gambling spiraled completely out of control and he was visited and threatened by his bookie during a morning visit to the March.  Mary ended up paying off a $5000 gambling debt, thereby committing a crime and endangering her future. She's pretty pissed at Fred.  Tre is burning the candle at both ends, and overextending himself financially.  Rosie's having the time of her life.  Brooke is still living with Teddy but the shine may be starting to come off that apple. She's also passed a pleasant afternoon with Will.

Meanwhile, back in the executive offices of The Lightweight Group, a squirrelly figure from Bulstrode's past has emerged and is threatening to come clean with the real story of how Bulstrode financed his business.  It seems that he owes his success less to diligence and savvy than he does to a timely affair with Teddy's aunt Ellinore (Will's grandmother).  On her deathbed, Ellinore tasked her lover, Bulstrode, with finding her wayward daughter (Will's mother) and making her the beneficiary of a certain rather substantial sum of money.  That money never made it to its intended recipient and Bulstrode shortly thereafter had the scratch to start buying up a bunch of other properties.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Buffy vs Angel

Let's start by agreeing there is no reason to pit Buffy against Angel (Although, obviously if we did Buffy would kick Angel's sorry vampire ass). Both these two shows are both delightfully available to stream and meant to be enjoyed in tandem.  And, oh, how I do.  But it is hard not to compare them, right?

Here's something from Noel Murray's recaps over at the AV Club that I liked a lot:

They're different kinds of shows, these two.  Buffy is punchier in a lot of ways, and more intimate.  Angel is the epic adventure, that takes its time to build and pay off a story.  But both are witty, thrilling, heartbreaking, and astoundingly mature about what it means to be alive in this world, and to assume responsibility for who we are, what we do, who it affects and what it means.

I really love that quote.  I love the way he calls the shows "astoundingly mature" because they've both long been reviled as kid stuff by people who've never watched either show.  But after my second run through both series, I am even more blown away by just how goddamn good they are; thought-proving, emotional and so satisfying.  

But if I'm gonna sum up the differences between the two shows, I would do so thusly:


Buffy saves the world.  A lot.  Angel doesn't believe that the world can be saved.  It's a bleak worldview, but also one that I find strangely comforting.  You learn by my age that you're not going to save the world once, much less a lot. Decency is its own reward and might, in fact, be the only reward.   But decency still matters. You don't have to contribute to the bullshit.  You are still the captain of your own shit.

Enough of this pontificating. Let's get to the numbers!

Favorite Episodes - Buffy
#5 - Innocence
In which we learn that Whedon doesn't have to kill anyone to shatter your heart

#4 - Dopplegangland
I am totally gay for evil Willow
#3 - The Zeppo
And I loved seeing Xander get a win
#2 - Once More with Feeling
Everything about this episode is perfect. Except Giles should sing more.  Giles should always sing
#1 - Hush
I gotta say - this is my favorite.  So fun, so smart and so scary.

Favorite Episodes - Angel

#6-4 - The Whole Pylea Arc
Pylea is peak Cordy!
#3 - Waiting in the Wings
Such a great, creepy, cool episode that should have been it for Angel/Cordy smooches
#2 Not Fade Away
Best. Finale. Ever.
#1 Smile Time
But this is my favorite episode in the whole damn Whedon world.  

Let's Bring the Pathos - Buffy
I'm not sure any television show has gotten the death of a parent down better than The Body.  Maybe Friday Night Lights.  But the way the camera angles were always a little askew,  and everyone felt confused and comforted by tasked minutia.  That episode was hard to watch.  It broke my heart.  It was perfect.

Let's Bring the Pathos - Angel
Oh, Fred, when you died there really was A Hole in the World.  And when you said, "No, I am not - I am not the damsel in distress.  I am not some case!  ... I am not gonna be cut down by some monster flu.  I am better than that!"  You summed up why we love Joss Whedon so much and then he killed you before you even got to spend a night with the love of your life and we hated him a little.  How perfectly Whedonesque!  Cordy should have gotten an ending as poetic as yours.

Let's Bring the Hathos - Buffy
You're probably expecting me to say Beer Bad, aren't you?  I'm not - although that was a true nadir in the show.  You may be expecting me to say Riley.  But I'm not even going to say that.  I'm almost going to say that most of my Buffy hathos is for Xander's endless tendency to question Buffy's loyalty and direction.  Remember when they yanked her out of heaven and then threw a party for her, but ignored her through it and then Xander was all "You're not being a good enough friend?"  Shut up, Xander!

But worse than that:  Xander left Anya at the alter.  Xander was heartless and then never made it up to her and then she died. Hated it.
Let's Bring the Hathos - Angel
Oh my god, you guys ALL of season 4 but especially what happened to Cordelia.  She and Angel are falling in love (what?)!  She's a higher power (wait...what?)! Higher powers don't have any powers (huh?)!  She's sleeping with a kid who is, for all intents and purposes, her son (WHAT!  GROSS!) She's evil (WHAT?!)  I just hated the whole thing.

I enjoyed the quick redemption of her character in season 4, but didn't cleanse the bad taste in my mouth.

So, Meg, Which One Is Better?
It sort of seems like I liked Angel more, right?  But I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I watched Angel last.  In a nutshell: while I may prefer the themes and philosophy of Angel, I prefer Buffy Summers to Angel.  She's a better character (which is saying something since Angel is a great character).  Thus, the shows share equal parts of my affection.  I love them both a lot.  They make me happy Let's do a dance of joy.