Friday, December 28, 2007

Coming Up For Air

I've been neglecting the regular updates lately, but not because nothing is happening. Indeed, more like because so much IS happening.

I got another job about a month ago, bartending in a small French bistro called Café Bernard. Yes, there is a Bernard. He looks a bit like Obi-Wan Kenobi, which makes me giggle. It's in the more upscale neighborhood of Lincoln Park, which means the clientele has more disposable income than I do (not a difficult task, frankly). It takes up my time every Friday and Saturday evening, and pays decently. I don't expect it to last more than a few months, however, as Wrigleyville bars will start hiring within a few months, and the busy season at this restaurant will be over about the same time.

Actually, I'm working enough hours at enough jobs that my income is nearly what it was in Dallas, which is nice. Bills are getting paid, credit cards are getting paid off—if only I were to make a few more sacrifices, I just might make a financial goal or three by this time next year.

Time is a sacrifice to be had, however. My office job is officially from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. In truth, I get to work as early as 8:30 and leave as late as 10, though 8:30 or 9 is the average. Also I've been working Saturdays and the occasional Sunday. It's paying off, though, because this could lead to a permanent position that's only being offered to a few of us; I'll have details on this if it actually becomes something noteworthy. It feels wonderful to be both appreciated and compensated for a job well done; I get a few advantages not offered to others because I'm on-time, I'm accurate, and I work hard. Let this be a lesson—take pride in what you do, and do it well. You never know who may be watching, and what they may be able to do for you.

So in short, I'm putting in about 70-80 hours a week. I bring my laptop with me to the office, and turn on TV I've recorded while I work. Since the data entry job started, I've seen the entirety of The Sopranos, The Shield, Entourage, Band of Brothers, half of The Wire, as well as keeping up-to-date with SVU, CSI, Life, The Office, Family Guy, South Park, and whatever shows I watch regularly. Data entry is easy.

Not true for everyone. It continues to amaze me how often someone can't do their job properly. Example—we're given a piece of paper. We type the information from the paper onto the screen. Once completed, there's a simple combination of keystrokes taught to all that allows us to check our work and make sure the numbers match, which is a fine thing to do before handing the work back in. Perhaps the key reason I work so many hours is that I spend them checking (and correcting) the work of others before it leaves the hands of the temporary employees and goes back to the people who handed it off to us. This leads to more people trusting me, and my superiors rewarding me. I love it.

I have yet to do what I came to Chicago to do, which is become an actor—yet I'm not distressed about this, not yet. I'm doing a job I enjoy (which, frankly, is any job not waiting tables). I'm respected, appreciated, and financially compensated for my work. I have comfortable bars in which I can sit and relax with friends. Best of all, I have Heather to come home to every night, who loves and supports me with her whole being. I'm in a good place, all told.

Shoulda done this years ago.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Chicago smells like chocolate. Especially around the river. I can't understand it, or explain it, but almost every time I'm near the river, no matter at what point along it, I smell chocolate. No one who lives here seems to know what I'm talking about. I just take it as one of life's little joys.

I sit in an office Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 doing very little. The work that comes in is both rare and simple, which gives me more than enough time to watch TV shows I missed over the last few years. I've seen Entourage, and I'm getting up to speed on The Shield and The Sopranos. Maybe by the time this job has done, I'll have seen Prison Break and Dexter as well.

I sold my truck. It hurts, but it had to be done. Paying for vehicle upkeep when there's no need to drive it is just silly, so I threw it on eBay and the new owner picked it up last night. It was the first vehicle I ever bought, and I had it for exactly nine years and one month. At least I can put the cash toward credit cards, get one more of them off my back.

Bouncing is fun. I'm amazed at the stupidity of drunken people. I kicked out a guy tonight who'd taken his pants off. He was surprised that there was more than one person who was upset by that—I was glad it was 40 degrees and raining.

I love this town. It's regularly twenty to thirty degrees colder up here than in Dallas. I have all this cold weather gear and clothing, and I love the fact that I get to wear it all the time. Of course, I may not be so cheery when it's March and the temperature is still freezing. Hell, I'm already looking forward to the way my street is going to look in the spring, when all the trees go into bloom and the world starts waking up again.

I'm sad to hear that Industry Bar closed. I was so looking forward to going back when I'm home for Christmas—not just to see everyone, but because I haven't shot pool since August, and it kills me. Maybe when I start making money around here, I'll find where I can afford to play a game. At the moment, the only places I know the bartender (and therefore can afford to drink in) are sports bars, where I have to pretend I know/give a shit about sports. And frankly, I'm amazed that I hear more country music in the bars up here than I ever did at home. Damn it, I'm hitting the wrong places, I guess.

Speaking of Christmas (which I suppose I was just barely doing), I'll be home late Friday night through late Tuesday night, so someone from MTM better pick a new place to hang out by the time I get there (I suggest TNT, it's the most similar atmosphere to Industry I can think of). But maybe by then there'll be a new sign hanging over the door of the old place, and there will still be Stone Temple Pilots on the jukebox, dollar pool tables, and $2 wells on Sunday night.

Either way, I miss my friends. Please be available this Christmas.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Just Like A Real Life Adult

I started my office job this week—well, sorta. Three days in, and we have yet to do a lick of work. That's okay, we get paid either way. And it's much cooler than any of us thought it would be. We're on the 28th floor in downtown Chicago, with a full wall of window that gives a view of the lake and (if I stand up) the river. I have my own work e-mail account, and my own phone with my own number and my own voice mail. We understood this is pretty long term for a temp position, but it's strange to us how much we get treated like this is more important and permanent than the data entry position it really is. My office has just me and one other guy, who's also a movie buff, which gives us no end of conversation topics during the eight hours a day we sit and do nothing. Next week will probably be different, though.

It's still fun getting to be a bouncer, too. It's a completely different work environment, and I get to toss drunken idiots out for almost the exact same pay (which is not good, but at least it's something) as when I sit at a computer all day. Each of these jobs is keeping me from stressing out about the other. Then again, one job is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the other is 7 p.m. until 2 a.m. It's a good thing I don't do the night one very often, or I'd been two steps from dead by now.

But so far, it seems Chicago is being good to me, though the good parts come at the last possible moment. I'm doing what I should have done six years ago, and while it feels good to finally be doing it, I'm a little stressed over the fact that I haven't done this before now. But I try to ignore that which I cannot change.

It usually works.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Is it my turn yet?

The office job doesn't start until next Wednesday; fortunately, the Cubs did just well enough to let me work a few more days at the bar, so I was able to keep my head above water and keep most of the bill collectors off my back for another month.

I wonder how long I'm going to live like this? Credit card debt has trampled me for years, and I never figure out how to get it gone. It only ever gets worse. Obviously, I never learned what to do with my money properly when I had it. Now I'm making half what I used to and I'm still able to stay afloat, if barely—this means the last nine years I worked in Dallas I could have been putting half my income at my debt, into savings, or what have you, and never have to worry about money again.

Why is it we only figure out what we should have BEEN doing instead of what we should BE doing?

Am I going to figure it out before I die? Does anyone? Or do they just get lucky?

I'm glad to be up here with Heather, that's a fact. She's helping me out with rent—a fact that shames me a bit, but makes me honored to be with her. She knows how many times I sacrificed going after a career because of the impact it has on my financial situation, so she's making sure I don't have a lack of money as an excuse to not go out and audition for things in the evenings.

I'm worried, I'm scared, and I'm stressed, yet I am more fortunate than others.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Running Headlong Into My New Life

Ah, blessed be the job opportunities.

In spite of the fact that I had no income, I kept hitting the local bar once a week for a) my sanity and b) networking. Both things occurred, and now I have two jobs.

The first one started Friday night. I'm a bouncer at a place called Bernie's. It's literally across the street from Wrigley Field (about a 10 minute walk from my apartment), and it's been there for 50 years. It's amazing, too, because the Cubs are winning. They haven't won a championship in 99 years, yet they have an incredible fan base. I've never cared anything for sports, but being in a room with 100 people shouting, cheering, and sharing a joy over their victory on Friday was infectious. No one alive has seen them win a championship, and now they have a real shot. It's making a fan out of me, slowly but surely—I've had the song "Go Cubs Go" in my head for two days.

On Monday morning, I start training for my office job. Five days a week from 8 to 5, then a few (3 or 4) days a week as a bouncer for some extra cash means I'm going to keep my sanity as well as the roof over my head. Each of these jobs is going to counteract the other, and I'm going to have three things I haven't had since I got here: a reason to be out of the house for more than 2 hours at a time; a social outlet; money. I'm breathing the first sigh of relief I've had since I got here.

In other news, my debit card was cloned and someone charged $600 at a Wal-Mart in Islandia, New York, my computer died and is at the Best Buy repair center until God knows when, and Sunday is my last day off for at least two weeks. But those are just inconveniences.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


I gave up on the teacher's aide thing. They seemed to want far too much of a commitment from me than what I wanted to give. And frankly, I have a college degree--I can't accept less than $10 an hour until I get more desprate, rewarding though the work may be. I'm still doing Mad Science, though, it's extremely part-time.

I got in with a temp company, too. The only job they have at the moment starts October 1st and runs through the end of the year. It's an 8 to 5 office job, data entry. Sounds boring, but it pays. In fact, sitting in that environment for that many hours a day sounds like my own personal vision of Hell.

As long as I get what I want in the end, right? Maybe it'll lead to something better, and maybe it'll just kill time until the better thing rears its head.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


So I may become an educator. I applied (and was accepted for) Mad Science, a program that teaches one hour science lessons to grade schools. It's just like the elementary school chemistry shows we put on when I was in high school, only I get paid for it. A little.

I also have a lead as a teacher's aide at a school for emotionally disturbed children. If I get it, it doesn't pay well, but it pays enough. Most importantly, it's a day job. Leaves plenty of time in the evenings and weekend for theatre type things.

I'm trying. Swear to God I am.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Getting Nervous

So I haven't worked in a month. This would be much cooler if I wasn't living on a dwindling supply of borrowed cash. I've turned in a half-dozen applications, but even the people saying they're hiring (via Craigslist) don't look twice at me. I think I can make it another month, *possibly* two, before I run completely out of cash, but I'll be whoring myself before that happens.

Mostly, I'm just bored. It's a good thing I'm comfortable in this apartment, because I'm never gone from it for more than about three hours at a time. I watch movies & downloaded TV shows. I play with my cat. I'm happy my furniture is all comfy. And sometimes I seriously consider going for a jog or something before I think better of it and do something else. I'm even embarrassed to call my friends who live here in town, because I can't think of anything to do that doesn't involve coming over and watching TV, because that's all I do all day anyway.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A week in Chicago and all is well

A couple of hours a day spent unpacking, figuring out where things go, and we should be pretty well set up around here—in about a month. The apartment is really coming together, and is starting to feel like home. Pictures are hung, furniture is arranged, and though some boxes haven't been unpacked, I can't see any full ones from where I'm sitting. Progress is being made.

The bad news is that I feel I can only guarantee a job in a bar/restaurant, which a) is exactly what I was doing in Dallas, and b) takes up those night and weekend hours when I'd want to do theatre. The good news is that a) there is a bar/restaurant literally right around the corner from my building, I have lots of experience so they're likely to hire me next week (knock, knock), and b) craigslist has lots of voice-over jobs in this city. So far, it sounds like the same formula I lived with in Dallas, which makes me raise an eyebrow.

But this town is different. Why? Because I say it is. I know it's all in the mind, but it's still the case that here is where I always wanted to be, and here I am. I'm uncomfortable saying I needed to move to make a fresh start, because I like to think I have the mental discipline to be able to do whatever I want wherever I am. If I put it into my head that this was possible in Dallas, then it was. And I'm sure it was, but I wasn't ever doing it—I was just making excuses.

I'm fresh out of excuses. Now all I want is to make something of myself professionally, something I can be proud of. When someone asks, "What do you do?", I want to be able to say that I do something . . . well, important. I don't want to be an actor who does something for money; I want to be an actor. Period.

Maybe I'll get it for Christmas...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sweet Home Chicago

First, may I say that if you've never tied a tarp over half of what you own, then you're not good at it. Try and take that tarp 938 miles, however, and you can become a pro REAL fast.

It took a day longer than we thought it would to get here, but we gained some experience for the journey. Poor kitty didn't have enough sedatives for the whole trip, and grape flavored children's Benadryl she just won't eat. Phooey.

We made it here about 11:00 a.m. Thursday morning. We were *nearly* done unloading into the lobby four hours later before I heard two words I never expected to hear: "Tornado Warning". We got everything inside in time, but the heavens opened, flooding was rampant, and trees were blown into the streets all over Chicago.

Incidentally, Chicago drivers are some of the rudest people I've ever witnessed.

Our apartment holds all of our furniture with room to spare (not much, but more so than any other one bedroom apartment I've ever known), so we didn't feel bad about grabbing a comfy chair and little table from the dumpster area earlier tonight.

I've reconnected with friends I knew from college and since, and got some notions about where to start looking for a job as well as some actor resources. The people in our building are quite friendly, and some of them even helped us move the heavy stuff. Not bad for two days in town.

Tomorrow is Blue Man Group, and Monday is the start of the job hunt as Heather starts class. Soon, I'll be in touch with the family I have up here. And some time before Christmas, I hope to be unpacked.

Of course, I hope to have a job by then, too.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Goodbye, Dallas

In less than a day, I'll finally be leaving here and going there. "Are you excited?" I'll hear. "Are you scared?" others say. I don't really have an answer to those questions. I got depressed after losing the opportunity for Moscow. I know this probably means better things are on the horizon, everyone says so. But what things can match what I lost?

Here's what I mean. I screwed up a chance—a very good chance—to study at UCLA for my masters degree (see a blog I wrote last December or so for the details on that one). I'd have graduated by now if I had gotten in. At any rate, when I got the opportunity to go to Moscow, I was handed the chance to make up for that error, so I went at it full force. Yes, there were other graduate schools I could have tried for, but they were more expensive, and honestly—they weren't in another country.

The biggest part of going to school in Russia was actually going to RUSSIA. And not just going, but living there for three years, learning another culture, another language, another perspective through which to view the world. Everyone here teaches method acting, somehow or another based on Stanislavski's teachings. In Moscow, I'm learning Stanislavski's method from Stanislavski's school, his theatre, his students. Essentially, I'd have been Stanislavski's grandson (maybe great-grandson), learning the Russian technique in the Russians' house from the Russians themselves.

What local opportunity can compete with that?

I didn't lose Heather, which is wonderful. I didn't lose a job, not really, for who can't get a job in Chicago with eleven years of restaurant experience? What I lost, what was my favorite part of going, was the chance to live in a country whose culture I've romanticized and held enthralled since I was a kid.

DAMN it.

I have no idea what awaits me in Chicago. I know what my plans are, which include a) unpacking and helping set up our new home, b) getting a job working at/taking improv classes from Second City, and c) getting ready for grad school auditions in February.

Yes, I'm excited. Yes, I'm scared. But I can't tell the difference.

Does that answer your question?
When I get depressed, or lost emotionally, I always turn back to one story: Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman. The first book is all I had to read this time (though, of course, I'll finish off the entire series again). The main character, Dream, is captured and imprisoned for a period of several years. After breaking free, he takes revenge on his captor, then begins a quest to obtain the items stolen from him during his incarceration.
Once he's done, he's left with a sense of great emptiness, and loss of purpose. Smacked in the head with a loaf of bread, he's told to quit feeling sorry for himself; if he wants to find something else to do with his life, he should DO it. But don't sit around and complain that there's nothing to do, nothing to be done.
I built up so much momentum and purpose and focus for Russia that once it was taken away from me, I felt empty. Now my target has changed, but my purpose has not.
We must adapt and change as the world changes, or we will die. For all of us, there is a limit to how much we can change. Perhaps between now and death, I shall find that limit.
And now that I'm merely philosophizing, I shall go to sleep.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nearly Done

After more than nine years working at Magic Time Machine, my time there is nearly done. I can't say I'm too sad about the prospect. I have some measure of pride for being there so long, and having affected so many people's lives. I've had a few regulars come in over the last few weeks, writing me lovely messages of farewell and thank you for the good times they had over the years. It's nice to be recognized for a job well done (nicer still to be paid for said job).

Magic Time Machine is a place that no matter what you thought of it, you'll always remember. Every customer I talk to remembers exactly how old they were and what the occasion was every time they've walked through our door. They remember the waiter, what they ate, what jokes they heard. Some people love us and some people are thoroughly unimpressed, yet we still make an impression on people's minds that lasts, literally, a lifetime. I'm honored to have been a part of it for as long as I was.

Nonetheless, I'm over it. It's past time to move on, and move on I shall. Heather and I found an apartment in Wrigley Park in Chicago, and we move in less than two weeks. I have a few preparations to make before I go, but there's a week in-between my last day at MTM and the actual start of the move. I regret to say that I'll immediately be looking for a job at another bar/restaurant, but it's not a permanent thing. Most of my time in Chicago is going to be spent making an actor out of myself and preparing for grad school auditions in February.

Life as I know it is about to change more drastically than ever before, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't been losing sleep over the prospect. I'm excited, I'm scared . . . . but I'm no longer docile. No longer complacent with my lot in life. No longer depressed. By the time I turn thirty next summer, I expect my life to look very dissimilar compared with the one I have now. Or, at least, it goddamn jolly well BETTER.

My last day at Magic Time Machine is this Monday night. The move begins eight days later. Parties and such will happen in-between. Call me, my number hasn't changed. Write me, and we'll make plans. Otherwise—perhaps I'll see you this Christmas.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight


Now that I've had a few days to reflect, I've come to a few conclusions. I've been dealing with the possibility of not getting to Moscow ever since October, when they first started to take this opportunity away from me. I remember thinking how horrible it would be, to have planned and prepared for so long, only to have it turn out--well, exactly as it did. I worked hard and sacrificed much just for the possibility. Often people asked me if I was certain it was a sure thing, and I suppose I never really was. But I had faith, and that faith was what kept me going no matter how many bullshit hurdles they threw in my path.

And I can say with pride that I gave Moscow my best shot--I didn't ever give up, as often as it crossed my mind. Even though I didn't make it, I gave all my effort and took the chance they offered to prove my ability. I'm proud of myself for seeing this thing through to the end. I never decided not to go. They told me I couldn't in spite of how hard I tried (and in spite of how well I performed, so I'm told), and that distinction gives me a good measure of self-respect.

Sure I feel screwed over--the response I got from the school spelled out the fact that this really was just a pipe dream from the beginning--but I wasn't blindsided by the outcome. For months, I was forced to consider what would happen if I didn't go for some reason. Finally hearing the news last week was like hearing that a sick friend finally died. Now I can move on with my life.

I spent the last few months toying with ideas of what I would do if I didn't get to go: sell my stuff, which I was going to do anyway; move to Chicago with Heather and try to make a living as an actor in a real theatre town; sell my truck and get a motorcycle; live in a Blue Man town; audition for an American grad school again, and ask which language they want to hear my monologue in; see how much credit card debt I could clear out; get a new, cool cell phone this December when I get eligible for my rebate; keep rock climbing; see how high the TKD belt ladder I could climb. As the time to leave approached, all I could think about was how many of these things I wouldn't be able to do for three years while in another country. It made me more than a little sad, to be honest, but now I get to do them.

So now Heather and I just need to find an apartment in Chi-Town big enough for the two of us and our cats, and close enough to the train for convenience; then I find a job that allows for a flexible schedule. My last day at MTM is Monday, August 13th (I think), and we head to points North a week later.

Suitable farewell parties shall be held in the interim.

Stay posted.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

News About Moscow

Okay, Chicago it is.

I guess I can kinda speak Russian now.

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Anatoly S
To: Mark Lancaster
Sent: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 4:02:54 PM
Subject: Re: Audition

Dear Mark,

I just got Igor (he is on vocation). Despite the good audition he is not
ready to take you aboard of the School. The reason - his team is shaped he
is afraid of taking you now. He is talking about ART program that would be
probably better for you under given circumstances. The tuition now is 6000
euro a year (this is more then $8000) and on the top of it Dorm...

So I am sorry to bring that kind of news to you but I have to do it.

If you have any questions call me!

All my best,


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Say, Friend, Can You Spare a Dime?

Dollars, actually, lots of 'em. Or euros. I'll take rubles, pesetas, pesos, yen, lire, rupees or francs. I'm taking whatever you're givin', 'cause I got no other choice.

The trip to Bahston was wonderful. My audition was the second day in town, which meant I got it out of the way fairly early. I re-connected with a friend from college, saw Blue Man Group yet again, and spent time in the place that began to change my life two years ago.

The audition went as well as I'd hoped; I performed, if not to the best of my ability, at least as well as I wanted too. I got a "positive reaction", so now the dean calls up my teacher and asks for final permission for me to go, which looks pretty likely—in the meantime, I try to scrape up the cash.

I hate it. All my life, money didn't really matter. Of course it was important, but failing to have money never kept me from anything really I really needed, or wanted as badly as I want this. Now that it looks like it's within reach I don't have the funds necessary to go, nor do I know how to find them.

Student loans are not currently possible, because no financial institution I've looked into will give a student loan for my school. There's a paperwork process they (the school) have been working on from their end for a while now, but the red-tape business is a booming one. I certainly don't have the money saved—in fact, I have quite a substantial debt. All I can think to do is get a loan that will not only consolidate my current credit card debt, but will pay for the first year of school AND not have to pay that loan back for the three years I'll be spending getting my degree.

Frankly, I just don't think that's likely.

So what does this mean? Am I going to Russia? I don't see how. And it kills me. I've wanted this so badly for so long, and it kills me to know that all that's keeping me from it is money. So if anyone out there has any suggestions—or knows a sugar momma—or sees some spare change lying on the ground—tell me. I'll take it. Every little bit helps.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Coming Together

First—my tattoo isn't finished yet, but I got some black shading done. It's really coming together, and I love it. Pictures to be posted soon.

Second, I love the rain. Even the excessive amount of rain we've been getting for the last month or so is wonderful. The drought is over, the reservoirs are bursting, and no one is literally dying from the heat. I'd honestly rather be wet than hot—it's easier to dry off than to cool off. And I'm going to hate when the rain finally DOES stop, because Texas heat plus a month's worth of saturated ground equals a humidity that will probably make me want to crawl into a hole and die.

I had my last Russian lesson before I leave for Boston today. I leave Monday morning, audition either Tuesday or Wednesday, and come home Thursday. Again, I feel just fine with the monologues I picked; my biggest concern is how to get the money together, which I don't have long to figure out.

One way or another, a week from today, I'll know whether or not I'm accepted. A week after that, and I expect to know whether or not I'll be able to pay for it, and therefore able to go.

My hands are starting to shake.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Virtue of Ink

Oh, the pain of a tattoo is great--but in the long run, it's COMPLETELY worth it. My first ink was six years ago, and I was the tinest little baby about it. It was a traumatic amount of pain, and I couldn't conduct myself like a functional human being. The only reason I kept going after I started is that a tattoo isn't a job you can half finish. And after a few weeks, the pain is gone, but the artwork remains.

What I heard was right--you can't get just one. Once the memory of the pain faded, I got a feeling of survival. Rough as it was, I made it through intact and complete. Complete, and yet more than I was before. I lost nothing of who I was, and gained something powerful and permanent that would be who I would be for the rest of my life. I needed another.

Three years ago, I got my second one. Nothing as important as the first, but it was time. The second wasn't as hard to endure as the first. I suppose I was just prepared, knowing what had happened before and knowing I could make it through a second time. And I did.

I still felt I was incomplete. I needed a balance, another picture as an equal and opposite to what I already had. Now that process has begun, and I couldn't be happier. It'll still be a month or so before I have my back filled out to my saticfaction, but filled out shall it be.

Pictures are up now--more to be posted as I get them.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Who I Am

I like being able to help others. I like it more when I can repay a favor.
I'm living in a new place now, and I really like it. It's just Heather and I, in a place we're sub-letting from a friend until she comes back into town in August. After that, Heather's off to Chi-town and I'm going either there or to Moscow—I won't know which for certain for another three weeks.

My God, but that seems close. Of course, compared to the last year and a half I spent preparing for it, it IS close. I'm getting more and more ready for my audition, and it scares me a little. I performed it in front of an audience today for the first time, and I didn't like what I did. I know I'm capable of better work than that, but to my credit, it's the first time I actually performed the piece instead of merely reciting it while driving. Big difference.

I get my new tattoo on Monday, thanks to the love of my little sister. I'm such a wimp when it comes to taking the pain of getting it done, but all told, it's a pain that doesn't last forever, and the artwork will.

Back to my original statement—Eric helped me move into this place, and I know it wasn't any easier for him than it was for me. He's moving this weekend, and though he got to borrow my truck, I didn't feel like I lent him as much of a hand as he gave me. I spent a few hours after work tonight helping him make another trip, and I feel uber-refreshed for having done so. I hate taking without giving back, and with this done, I can sleep a little easier tonight. I wish I could do a little more, though.

Some time ago, last November I think it was, I changed the "about me" section of my profile, and included a paragraph describing a few of my beliefs. It's a list of things I hadn't ever thought about before. But to name it and to publicize it as I did made me evaluate who I am and what I want in this world, including how I want to affect it and how I want to be affected by it. As a result, I very much like the person I'm becoming. I have pride and respect for myself, and I'm beginning to see some of that reflected back through those who surround me.

There's always something I wish I could change, but mostly it's superficial stuff like the length of my hair or the size of my gut. The biggest thing I lack now is discipline. I wish for the discipline to fulfill my responsibilities, to meet my goals and reach for my dreams, and to shape myself and my environment to meet the standards of what I want for my life. Perhaps that's a little esoteric, but it's all I feel like describing in a blog at this hour J
And now, bedtime.

Thank you for reading. Again J

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Life is Grand (no, really)

Spent some time in a great town with a wonderful woman. Heather is so much fun to be with, it makes me ache a little...

I had a wonderful birthday, thanks to my friends and co-workers. They're awesome. Last year, most of the happy birthday messages I got (aside from the obligatory ones from the family) came from things like Defensive

We got a kitten, too. My boss found him in the engine of her car, so we pulled him out and Heather and I took him in. His name's Fred. We need to get him to the vet, but we're looking for the mobile services that sometimes appear in front of various pet stores during certain hours on certain days. Any information leading to the whereabouts/times of these things will be greatly appreciated.

We're moving again soon, too. Pain in the ass that it is, the lease here is up in a few days, so we're sub-letting from a friend for the next couple of months. I hate moving with a glorious passion, but it's gotta be done.

Maybe someday, I'll have a true "home" where I stay for years—maybe the rest of my life, and maybe just until retirement. Either way, I expect/hope it's soon. And if not . . . . maybe I'll be able to afford movers.

And I'm working on selling most of what I own, whether I leave town or not. I'm in a quite serious amount of debt due to the fact that I failed to live my 20's in squalor so that I could afford the lifestyle I've lived the last several years. Kinda bass-ackwards, but there it is. If I can sell off most of what I own, perhaps I can equalize and start this whole thing over again. And maybe if I find success fast enough, I won't have to.

Damnation, but if only I could get a grip on my life before it's gone. I found an amazing, beautiful, passionate woman to spend my time with. Now if only I could add a career to that, I think I'll be completely happy.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


It's nearly 6 a.m. as I write this, and I can't sleep.
In three hours, Heather and I are getting on a plane to New Orleans, where we'll be spending the next few days.
My mother got Librarian of the Year for Lewisville ISD.

I met with two of my best and oldest friends, both of whom haven't lived in the same town as me in years.

My 29th birthday is Friday.

Another of my friends became a father for the first time.

I'm trying to lose weight, but I can't tell if it's working.

I'm afraid of the future. Specifically, the next 2-3 months.

Then I'll be afraid of the next 2-3 years.

I can't think of anything else.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


I got confirmation from Moscow this week about my audition. I'll be in Cambridge Monday, July 9th until Thursday, July 12th. I don't need that many days, I'm sure, but I haven't been in two years, and I want the chance to go back and enjoy myself. Any of you Stanislavskians (most especially the Stanisomniacs) who can be there that week has a drink on me.

That's A drink. One. I love you, but I'm poor.

Furthermore, being back in Taekwondo has been amazing. I feel the changes, the discipline and control within myself that first made me love the artform. On Thursday, April 5th at 6:00 p.m., I have my first belt test in more than two years. It's Chung's Taekwondo, at the corner of Marsh and Trinity Mills in Carrollton. All are invited to watch me kick a little ass.

A note on my birthday; it's two months away, true, but I got my present all worked out. Six years ago, I got my first tattoo--now I'm ready to finish it. Anyone who wishes to get me anything at all can help me pay for my ink. My sister, who is a piercer at a tattoo shop, has me connected with an artist already.

Let's do this. I'm a cashew.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


So I wrote to the dean of the MXAT school in Moscow to make certain I'm still on track to join them in August. He wrote me back with a polite "Who are you again?"

Reminding him wasn't difficult, but he faced me with a new hurdle. There's a new master instructor, which is to say one who doesn't know who I am. In short, I have to fly to Cambridge MA this July to audition for him (any Stanislavskians up for a reunion?)

It was frustrating, because it says to me I no longer have a guaranteed shot at this school, as I have believed for the last year and change. Indeed, I won't know before July if I'm even actually going at all, and then, if I'm accepted, I leave for points East a month later. And there's still the selling of my things and loans to be obtained during that month.

At first, MXAT was chasing me. As time has passed, it became more a case of me not only chasing them, but having to remind them who I am each time I catch up.

When I got the news, I panicked a little, and considered my options as I will should I not pass the audition, or discover that I can't get the money together. I have Heather in my life now, who happens to be also leaving Dallas in August. She's going to Chicago, a city I fell in love with from the first time I visited there--a place I have wanted to end up since I was 17.

Going to Chicago wouldn't be a bad idea--not one iota--even if Heather weren't in the picture. But after much soul-searching and important conversations, I decided NOT to give up on Moscow just because the road got difficult. If I'm not going, it won't be because of my own decisions. It will be because it's not possible.

And if it's not possible, I have no problem starting my career in the city I love with the woman I love. And I'll get to keep all of my stuff. Well, most of it. Probably.

Sunday, March 4, 2007


Well, I didn't find out if I got the part with FUNimation; in this case, no news is bad news. They usually start recording less than a week after the audition, so whoever got the part(s) has surely laid down an episode or two by now.

Eh, whatever. Life is one long string of rejections and failures, accented by the occasional victory. Besides, it wasn't the only thing going on in my life.

Yesterday, I had the kind of day at work that makes me both proud and sad. Proud because I felt like a superstar--my tables and the tables around me loved me so much, every word I said was gold to these people. It was the kind of experience that makes me happy to be doing what I do. I gave several dozen people an amazing experience, and I had so much fun doing it that I felt better about not having my career yet. At least I'm entertaining people, and I made great money doing it.

On the other hand, it's that kind of complacency that keeps me from pressing my carreer, and a few years down the line I'll get depressed again for the fact that I haven't been pressing my career. But I guess as long as I realize my mistakes, I'm less likely to continue to make them . . . . right?

At any rate, I came home from work to find that Heather had put away my laundry and cooked me yummy dinner. Pasta and broccoli and shrimp and cheesy goodness. I even got a backrub, not for the first time.

Mark Happy.

In other news . . . .

Last July, I found out my older sister was pregnant again.

Last Monday (ten days past his due date, mind you), I found out my older sister was no longer pregnant again. Three days before his older brother's birthday, and three days after his mother's birthday, Matthew Ryan Nelson was born at 8 lbs 2 oz.

These pictures were taken just a few hours after his birth--the youngest baby I've ever held.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The God Thump

My life is really looking good lately. I've got so much of what I want, I feel guilty wanting more. Money is good, my relationship with Heather is wonderful, and my TKD and Russian lessons are going very well. but I had an audition with FUNimation that could give me a principle role for the first time in the three yeas since I started working with them. But can't that be okay, to want that, too? For so long, I've tried and I've waited for different things to come my way, and one by one I'm getting them. It's enough to make me feel a little nervous, wondering when, if, and how any part of it is going to come crashing down.

About two years ago, I found something out about instant karma. I was in a restaurant. I was holding a Coke over the table, bragging about how good I am at my job. I can make anyone laugh who comes through. I make buckets of money, when I really try. I give people life-long memories for the hour or two they spend in my company, pictures and laughter and an experience that will be with them forever and ever, something they will always talk about. I was emphasizing my points with the hand that was holding the glass, and the very moment I made my final point, I dropped the damn thing.

It was a really good drop, too. I hosed down the entire table, along with myself and the three other people I was sitting with. Quite an embarrassment, considering I had *just* finished bragging about what a good waiter I am.

It was then I began to realize any time I get too cocky or overconfident, I believe that God himself reaches down, curls His forefinger beneath His holy thumb, and thumps me back into place. Sometimes, like with the Coke, it's a little thump. Sometimes it's bigger, like hitting the only other car in the parking lot because I was too involved in looking cool driving my big red truck, listening to my music all loud and trying to tear ass out of the parking lot.

I've found that I can be confident without being cocky. If I stay humble and realize that I'm lucky to have my fortunes instead of bragging about them, then everything tends to turn out okay. But as soon as I begin to act like I have what I have because the universe owes me a favor for being cool, the back of my skull feels divine intervention in the same manner as the jerkoff kids who sat behind me on the bus in middle school.

It's very effective.

I'm thankful for what I have, knowing that if I don't take care of that which I hold most dear, I could lose it forever; this has happened before. But I still strive to get more of what I want, because I believe complacency leads to stagnation, atrophy, and my ultimate demise.

Someone asked me recently when on Earth did I find religion. I wasn't raised going to church, but I wasn't taught anything against it, either. It's just in recent years I've begun to see and experience enough in this world that I cannot deny that there is a presence beyond the individual lives of humans, being. Maybe it's the Christian God. Maybe it's The Force. Maybe it's my own spirit animal. Maybe it's the psychic energy of billions of people that harmonizes and makes us all One, flowing around and within and through every living thing on the planet and through every non-living thing on the planet that humans hold dear, working on us to give us ultimate balance and harmony on a universal scale. Whatever it is, calling it God is simplest for me, since the terminology is already in place.

Besides, I think God Thump has a nice ring to it.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

New Start

This week beats last week.

Last week, someone I know came to me and let me know she was interested in me. I took a couple of days to think about it, because I was scared. After all, hadn't I *just* recovered from a relationship? Hadn't I decided it was time to start living for myself? Wasn't I finally comfortable being who I was when I was alone? Yes. Yes I was.

But then I thought, why not? I achieved the goals I had set, which was to start living for myself. I made myself happy first. I worked, I studied, I exercised, and I went to bed peaceful and content every night. I decided as long as I don't sacrifice the life I had begun to make for myself, why not share my time with someone who wants to get closer to me? Besides, she's cute. Smart. Funny. Charismatic. Everyone I know (and more importantly, everyone whose opinion I respect) really likes her. So last Sunday, I decided to give it a try, and start dating.

Since then, I've hardly spent a moment out of her company. She's wonderful. She's sweet. She's fun. She makes me laugh. She's great to go out with, and she's fantastic to stay in with. Heh—and I thought I was going to go home sad and alone on Valentine's Day. Fooled me.

I was scared at first, because my future plans are still intact. I'm still going to Moscow, unless something unforeseen and out of my control stops me. But she accepts this along with the rest of me and who I am, and she's still here, and everything is happy and comfortable and wonderful and . . . . and, and, and. What's going to happen as of August is something we've not yet discussed, but since we've only been together for a week and have six months to go, it's a conversation that can wait a bit.

Grin :)

Her name is Heather.

What else can I say?

"Sing like no one's listening,
dance like no one's watching,
and love like you've never been hurt."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fresh Air

This past week has been the best I've had in a long, long time.

It started Monday, when I found out for certain that my roommate's boyfriend is moving in with us. I like my roommate, and I like her boyfriend, and we all get along—but one of the coolest things about it is just how much MORE money I'll be able to save for the fact that bills are being split between three instead of two. In fact, the drop in rent alone is EXACTLY the cost of Taekwondo lessons. Woot!

This information drove me straight back to Chung's Taekwondo, where two years ago I earned my green belt. Tuesday night was the first class I had in a year and a half. I was proud of how little ability I'd lost since I was last there (much less since I took classes regularly), and proud of the fact that I was able to keep up with such an intense workout without it killing me. I'll be taking four (and possibly five) classes a week. About a month from now is the next belt test, and I'm going to make certain I earn my next belt by then. Everyone capable of showing up to Carrollton one Saturday morning in the near future will see one of the most happy and proud days I will have had in a VERY long time.

On Wednesday, thanks to Eric, I finally discovered the joy of rock climbing. I love it, and I'm going to add it to my repertoire of ways in which I exercise with immediacy. I also, thanks to Eric introducing me to a brand new physical activity, got sore muscles in places I've never had sore muscles before.

I'd ask you now to stop your juvenile giggling if I wasn't doing it myself.

For those of you who were at Josie's party Thursday night—thank you. I can't remember when I've had so much fun, or laughed so hard, or felt so refreshed and rejuvenated and validated as a human being. There's nothing about that night I wouldn't repeat. Thank you to all who were there and made that night what it was, but more thanks go to Megan and Heather who put forth such an imaginative and hilarious invitation that I couldn't refuse. The voice of a hot Russian chick who can't understand (let alone speak) a word of Russian asking about my body hair is a memory that will have me giggling incessantly when I'm actually IN Russia listening to Russian women speaking English. You guys rock.

Then I went to work this weekend and made $500 in two days. THAT should get the bank off my fucking back. Just last week I wouldn't have thought I'd be saying this—but let's hear it for Valentine's Day.

And finally, after work last night, getting to re-connect with an age-old friend for as many hours as I did and vent a few things is perhaps the primary reason I'm so thrilled, emotionally, as I write this.

*sigh of relief*

Sunday, February 4, 2007


I would like to take this moment to lament how horrible it is that in this consumer-based economy, there are those who would prey on the inexperienced. They feel no remorse for helping to over-extend the financial responsibilities of those who don't know any better, and make a quick and easy profit when said inexperienced soul has to pay a 19.99% interest rate on all purchases via "credit".

Responsibility without education gets one . . . . let's just say "into trouble". And while I'm on the topic, education without ambition gets one "depressed".

And now I'm done lamenting on THIS particular topic. Why stop now? Because not only am I one of those who got preyed upon, but I'm one who knows exactly how to get out of the forest of debt, and has thus far taken no serious steps (read: sacrifices) to get OUT of the forest. One of the aspects of my personal philosophy states that one should not complain; one should alter the situation, or adapt to it.

Or just not bitch.


I'm annoyed about it THIS week because I managed to do one of the most embarrassing things I've ever done YET AGAIN this week—I overdrew my checking account. About every six months or so, I stop acting responsible and I start forgetting that the amount of money I'm spending doesn't equal the amount I'm making, and the bank charges a hefty sum for that. I know what it is I'm supposed to be doing to make certain my financial responsibilities are met, and yet time and again I refuse to meet them. Maybe this is why God hasn't seen fit to let me win the lottery, or put some large sum of money in my hands—He knows I'd just abuse it. No matter how much I seem to have, I keep finding ways to overextend myself.

I feel better. Thank you.

But it's particularly annoying this time, not simply for the fact that I've wounded myself in the wallet once more, but because it puts a dent in my plan of action that I came up with just a day or two ago.

First, it's time to begin Russian lessons once again. Sure, I can learn one way or another on my own, but paying for the 1-on-1 lessons with another human being is a) necessary and b) expensive. I'm hard-pressed to start up again when I'm not completely certain how I'm going to pay for food or gas or rent over the course of this next month. Hopefully I'll do well at the restaurant during Valentine's Day weekend.

But more—I'm trying to no longer be the person I was, or the person I am today. I'm trying to become the person I'm GOING to become. To that end, I have another means in mind. I'm going to get back into Taekwondo.

Taekwondo quite literally changed my life. It wasn't just a matter of harmonizing my mind with my body (which it did quite well, thank you very much), but it was infusing my very soul with an inner peace and sense of accomplishment I hadn't known before. My life became more structured. I became more self-disciplined. I set goals for myself, and met them every time. Almost exactly two years ago, I had one of the most proud experiences of my life there—but that's a story for another time.

I stopped taking it because of the expense of Russian lessons. But since I've come into my new apartment, I've realized a few things: Rent is cheaper by nearly the cost of a month's worth of TKD lessons. When I take into account that my other bills are only half what they used to be, freeing up my financial structure even more, I see that going back to the study of martial arts is once again within my reach.

Besides, as much fun as it's been hanging out with friends at the bar, I've come to realize that I have more to learn and more to gain through TKD than through socialization. No disrespect intended to ANY of my friends, but knocking back bourbon has NOTHING to do with the discipline I desire in my life.

I'm trying to change myself so that I may better respect the person I see in the mirror. That man is my greatest enemy, and no one else on this earth knows my weaknesses like he does. I'd better kick his ass before he kicks mine.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Phoenix Rising

Immediately upon posting my entry last week, I made a realization, and then a determination.

The realization is that I've spent too much time living in the recent past. Constantly have I played and replayed events of this past year in my head, fantasizing repeatedly the things I wish I'd said or done differently that would have avoided the pains and traumas I (and others) suffered as a result. I believe this is normal, and to some extent, healthy. Why do we study history in a classroom? The standard argument is that if we do not learn from our past, we will be forced to repeat it.

Dear Lord, may I pretty please NOT have a repeat performance of the miseries of this last year. Thank you, and Amen.

I find it's necessary to explain that not everything about this last year was miserable--but for every joy I felt, there was an undercurrent that I was making a painful sacrifice to obtain an opportunity I truly wanted. I was never as confident as I pretended that I was doing "the right thing". I'm still not, but for now, that's neither here nor there.

It's time to force myself to see the present day as well as the near future. The ties to my past are clipped, and I can no longer change my past any more than I can change the position of the heavens. For months now, I've complained about my lot in life. The time for that must end if ever I shall find myself among my goals and desires. I went through something rough recently as I have done before. It will never cease to be a part of who I am, but I refuse to let it define me any longer.

No one event, nor a series of related events, can define a person. No one color or song can describe a whole entity that is a human being. No one philosophy can contain the entirety of a human heart. The person I am shall no longer be constrained by the short-term ramifications of a single mistake.

Beginning today, I define my destiny. I will shape my world around who I am and what I want. I WILL not let the shape of the path my life has taken turn me into some complacent, comfortable, and ultimately unhappy little man.

Not again, anyway :)

Not anytime soon.

Besides. I got tired of sounding like I was a whiny little bitch every week.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Nothing To Say

For the first time in months, I find I have nothing to say.

Last week saw the culmination of the last year of my life. From the moment I started thinking about going to Moscow and what that would mean, a chain of events began that didn't end until last Monday afternoon, when I walked out of that apartment for the last time, turned in the keys, and said goodbye. Up until then, my life had been redefined and re-shaped by that one decision, and everything else in my life--every decision and every choice, every day--produced a further alteration. I had a life established, and every aspect of that life was affected.

Now, that life is gone though the decision remains. Now, my life will form around the choices I've made instead of be destroyed by them.

Since Monday, I've been on quite a mental vacation. I have done nothing significant. I washed some clothes and I saw a fantastic movie (Pan's Labyrinth). I went to work, made some money, and went home again.

At first, I was a little concerned that I wasn't doing anything with myself. I began to fear that I was falling back into sheer anti-social laziness. But then it occurred to me just how stressful this last year has been on me, especially these last few months, and I decided it's okay that I took a few days off. As long as I get back to the grindstone this week, that is.

Working hard, in my current case, is under the same category as changing my diet to lose weight, as I've done recently. It's okay not to stay within the strictest interpretation of what I'm trying to achieve, as long as I spend 80% of my time being good, and only 20% being undisciplined, lazy, and selfish. Once the habits become better established, I'll move it to more like 90/10.

I successfully lost and kept off weight. Now I must do the same trying to get an agent for the rest of my time in Dallas, and learning Russian. Thinking of how much I've grown up and changed this last year, I think I can do it.

Time will tell for certain.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Imagine No Possesions

Just over an hour ago, I woke up on the floor of an empty apartment. It's the last day of the lease, and I'm here to make certain the place is all cleaned up and cleaned out. Sleeping here again brings back fresh memories of why I had to get out so desperately, but it will be okay--fourteen hours from now, at midnight, the lease will be over and I'll be at Industry Bar drinking bourbon and, if they let me, smoking a cigar. And that should be the end of this mess.

When I was in college, I got intensely depressed. As in, I only got eight hours of sleep a week and started going to the therapy sessions provided by the school. Getting away from there, physically, was the only thing I could think of that lifted me out of the bleakness. I remember going to visit my oldest friend in Louisiana, and with every tick of the odometer on the seven hour drive, I felt myself able to breathe a little easier.

It was about that time a rather romantic notion came into my head--an idea for a fresh start. When I was a kid, about nine if I remember correctly, I saw a story in a magazine called "The Walk West". It was about a man named Peter Jenkins, who (for whatever reason) crossed the country on foot from the northeast all the way out to California. The trip took years as he'd settle down for a bit here and there, get a job, recuperate, and move on again. This remains one of the most inspiring stories I've ever heard.

When I was in my depression in college, I adapted Jenkins' story to what I would do for myself to get away. First, I would sell everything I own. I'd keep a few clothes, obviously, and a few personal keepsakes, but I'd get rid of the rest. My truck, my furniture, my books, movies, toys, games, all of it gone. The revenue would get me out of debt and earn me some extra cash besides, which I would use to make a walk north--to Chicago, a city I've seen a few times and love most dearly, the place I first wanted to end up when I left college.

The walk itself would probably take months, during which time I'd change myself. I'd see and learn more about the world around me. I'd experience places and people, hear their stories. I'd certainly drop the pounds I was looking to shed then, too (this has kinda been a life-long battle for me). But most important, the time it would take me to get there would really allow me to feel the physcal distance, the separation from the place I lived when I got so screwed up inside. When I got there, as cleaned out in the head and the body as possible, then I'd start over with my life. I'm a little sad I never did that.

Now's my chance to modify that plan to today's situation. I'm getting rid of everything I own. No more furniture. No more books, movies, or pieces of art for my wall. No more truck. I'm selling every stitch of it if I don't just give it away, and the sentimental stuff to keep will fit into a single box over which my loving parents will hopefully keep a watchful eye. Then, instead of walking to another city, I'll be flying to another country. Another culture. Another language. A place where I'll spend years enveloped in study. I'll have the chance not simply to get away, but to BE away from the place I lived when I made so many bad choices, so many mistakes. The place where I so very often chose stagnation over adaptation.

Dallas has treated me well, and it gave me everything I wanted. But I became complacent here, too. Too often have I watched the deadlines for my dreams slip by without taking action. Too often have I complained about this happening.

It's time to grow up.