Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Green Sweater

I wore a green wool sweater today over my usual ill fitting work clothes, it’s still summer but it was chilly.I knew deep down that I looked ridiculous. It didn’t help that I was wearing green pants and a green and blue shirt with a green backpack. My shirt is constantly coming untucked, my shoes are falling apart. But in my mind, I am able usually able to convince myself that I look great, which is a quality that I like about myself. Saves a lot of time.
I like to imagine that I look like Kurt Cobain in that green sweater he wore on MTV Unplugged in the 90s, shortly before his death. This is so far from the truth, I am as far away as you could possibly get from angel haired, heroin chic. The only similarities to Kurt Cobain and I are that we are both male and we are/were usually struggling with some sort of mental health symptom (I’m assuming this on Kurt’s part). I have never done heroin, as Kurt did, but I have been known to enjoy a Vicodin or three even though any pain from dental procedures is long gone or was never there in the first place.
When I got out of work, I had my sweater on again and it had warmed up outside and I was gross and uncomfortable but I didn’t feel like taking it off. I walked to the bus stop with the sun blinding me because I forgot my sunglasses. I think my sunglasses are a promo gift from an insurance company or something and I would never buy real ones because I would just lose them. I actually think those who do buy expensive sunglasses are very foolish and I am pretty sure they lose their sunglasses all the time and just throwing money down the drain.
The green sweater began to feel like I was wearing an electric blanket on an uncomfortable and annoying “medium” setting. I still refused to take it off because then I’d just have to walk around carrying a ball of green wool or even worse somehow attach it to my backpack and have it drag on the ground and fall off. “YOU DROPPED YOUR SWEATER!”
I waited around for the bus to come, smoking a cigarette and not enjoying it. Papery, hot and dry. Not like a cigarette with coffee or even better, a cigarette after Taco Bell.
One bus came and it was too full for there to be any seating available. I really didn’t feel like standing. Too much going on with the sweater and the mild heat and the sweater. Another bus came that looked promising in the open seating department. I got on and realized this might not be the case.
I went into my seat seaking missle mode. Like a very competitive game of musical chairs that only I am playing. More that willing to plant myself next to a crying child or a demonic crazy man, all I care about is the seat.
I saw a few open seats in the back of the bus. Not completely sure, there was a possibility there was a seat mirage. A miscalculated equation of sitting bodies or standing bodies just getting ready to sit. With hope, I made my way back to the bus. It turned out there was one seat left! In the back, where it’s a little tighter, a littler warmer, but a seat is a seat.
Just as I was about to triumphantly sit my ass down, I saw that sitting in the seat next to mine, was my therapist.
I stopped, confused, frozen, just staring at him and smiling idiotically. He smiled, waited a beat, and then waved his hand at the open seat like a “Price Is Right” model after she opens the door of a brand new refrigerator or front loading washing machine. We both laughed a little “this is awkward but this is happening and there is no way out of it” laugh. I sat down and stared straight ahead, sweating, in my sweater. I chose to stare straight ahead. And then realized that because I made that choice I had to stick with it through the entire bus ride.
I thought of anything I could possibly say or do that would make this less awkward for both of us, as the bus made it’s clumsy way down Michigan Ave. There was nothing. Every thought, everything I observed, every person's face I saw looked back at me in awkwardness.
A therapist isn’t like your teacher or boss or former one night (or ten minute) stand that you can be like “It’s so crazy to see this person in real life” and move on. They know every issue you deal with, every tragic thing from your past, every stupid little thing. They know things your family doesn’t know or your partner or spouse doesn’t know. And this is for good reason. So you have a safe space to share your absolute crazypants thoughts, and so your family, spouse or partner doesn’t have to deal with it. The only thing is, you can’t really have a relationship of any kind outside the therapist's office. With the clock and the books and the neutral artwork.
Could I make casual conversation as I would with a coworker who I was forced to sit next to on the bus? No. Because that might open up a Pandora’s box that (as the myth goes) can not be closed. In this case, the one to close it might be the therapist. And I did not want to have some comment or topic fly out of my mouth that might get a blank stare. Not that I would ask him to compare dick sizes (that’s silly no one would do that on a bus, not during rush hour) but I just couldn’t think of anything that might be appropriate for a therapist and patient to talk about on the fucking bus.
So I said nothing and he said nothing. I looked out the window on Lake Shore Drive at the beach at all of the shirtless, tanned, perfectly toned men bobbing along in their endless jog to nowhere. I swear they are hired models. Then I started thinking he probably thinks that I am looking at all of the shirtless models who are jogging along the beach to nowhere. And then I was like, fuck it. I was too tired from this mild trauma to care anymore.
As we neared my stop, I got up and smiled at him. He grinned oddly, but happily and I got off the bus. I wondered if he was watching me as he passed by the bus and again decided I didn’t care.
I pulled and grabbed at the fucking green sweater trying to get it off me as if it were on fire. I walked down the street, my shirt partially tucked in, carrying the sweater in the aforementioned ball. Relieved to be away from that silent, seemingly benign but in the moment, horrific situatuon.
As I waited for my next bus, a bus that always has open seats, a homeless man came up to me and asked me for a cigarette. We go way back, he knows I’m good for it. After he took it he said, “George Burns lived to be 120.”

Lithium Benzoate

Before I was brought up to the Psychiatric Ward last summer, I was put in a wheelchair and told to wait. I still had my bag with me, so I dug in my bag and grabbed three Klonopin. Just some anxiety pills for the road. I thought I might as well be chilled out for a bit while I was getting accustomed to things. Just as I put them inside my mouth and was about to swallow them, a nurses hand reached into my mouth and pulled out the wet pills. “Nope can’t take anything that’s not prescribed!” She quickly took my bag away from me. I never saw her face.
As I was being brought up in the elevator with the EMT, he told me that I had the biggest room up there. It seemed exciting, despite the circumstances. The room was big, with a tiny bed, nightstand and huge window overlooking the buildings in Streeterville. I could see my work. From the high floor I was on, I imagined my coworkers as tiny little people working at tiny little computers. Their voices were muted behind the double thick glass.
It’s difficult to remember why I was there, and even when I remember I forget again. Although I don’t remember feeling particularly traumatized (it wasn’t my first time at the rodeo) I guess your mind does block out unpleasant feelings and memories. I was extremely depressed and anxious. A series of events unfolded to the point where I felt completely helpless. Wherever I turned, whoever I called, whatever was prescribed didn’t help. Nothing broke through the fog. I felt myself falling, closing up, shutting down.
The next day, I noticed a young guy and I decided to chat him up. He was cute, seemed nice and made eye contact with me. He also seemed “high functioning.” Which is a code word for “not completely batshit” in the psych ward.
He told me he wasn’t depressed. He liked the outdoors a lot and wanted to be a Park Ranger or have some other outdoor job. He said his parents put him in there because they didn’t like his life choices. He was really angry that he had to take a pill- Prozac. I nodded my head, sympathizing with him, thinking about the seven different pills I was happily taking.
I didn’t buy that he wasn’t depressed. I did believe that he didn’t need Prozac and definitely didn't need to be in the psych ward. He said his father was very verbally abusive and overbearing. I saw this later when he met with his parents during visiting time. I caught flashes of his dad pointing his finger in his son’s face as if to tell him what he really needed to do and what his real problem was.
A soon as I got in there I desperately wanted out. I did willingly check myself in. I knew that my medication needed to be adjusted and I needed to be forced to try to fix some of the issues in my life that were really, truly threatening my sanity and existence. But I wanted out.
I became obsessed with leaving. I had an irrational fear that I would never be let out. I felt like people were forgetting me. That the outside me, the functioning me would slip away, like a ghost. Like there was a shell of me walking around outside and I wanted to jump back into that shell before it disappeared.
I had been hospitalized before, multiple times, but I never remember being so afraid of being locked away. I made sure that I said all the right things to the nurses and doctors. I lied and said I was fine when I wasn’t. Which is not typical of me, I don’t think. I remember answering questions about my mental health like I was a politician. Everythings fine, nothing to see here. Just let me out.
I read “Postcards from the Edge” by Carrie Fisher that Erik had brought me. That was a tremendous help. Carrie Fisher was and still is so comforting. Basically, she taught me how to laugh at the ridiculousness of dealing with mental illness. I sat on my bed and read that book if I wasn’t being forced to attend a group.
They did have a “comfort room,” which was a small room with a flat screen tv playing nature scenes on a loop. There was LED lighting on the ceiling and floor that slowly changed soothing colors while sounds of the rainforest or a light storm played. There was a weighted blanket that you could put on you that really felt like a hug. I looked into buying one and they are outrageously expensive! Not that great of a hug.
We had Art Therapy which I really enjoyed. I decorated and painted small cardboard boxes in the style of “The Memphis Group” which was a collective of artists whose style influenced a lot of fashion and decor in the eighties. This style also matched the paperback cover of Postcards From The Edge.
I sat and designed my boxes with the Park Ranger guy while he colored in coloring books. The very happy and encouraging art therapist asked if we wanted music on. The Park Ranger guy said yes and suggested a Classic Rock station. This gave me anxiety. I didn’t realize until then that Classic Rock really does give me incredible anxiety.
Sometimes though, instead of Art Therapy we were forced to play games. Playing Scattergories with a group of depressed anxious people is not fun. Trying to think of an animal that starts with X while you are under the influence of sedating medication and a timer is clicking away is incredibly challenging.
They didn’t tell me I was leaving until about an hour beforehand. I gathered all my stuff and was ready to go but I was delayed because they were waiting for my Lithium levels to come back. Lithium is a mineral that humans ingest and is also present in our bodies. Taking bigger amounts of Lithium helps with depression, bipolar and mood swings. Taking too much is dangerous. The window between what is effective and what is toxic is small, so people who take Lithium have to get their levels checked.
As I waited, I sat down at a table in one of the little common areas. A woman who was not “high functioning” sat down at the table. She said she had a question for me. Normally I would be frightened or put off by a person like her, not wanting to risk somehow falling down the hole of crazy she was in. Because I was so happy I was leaving, I was totally down for chatting.
She asked if I would be interested in opening up a Southern style spaghetti restaurant with her. I didn’t commit but I told her I was open to it. She was very excited and ran to her room and came back with a menu she had created. The menu was just a piece of paper with some chicken scratch on it. She started listing off things we would need, “Wood, bread, blankets, pinecones…”
The pinecones got to me. I could imagine sleeping too long and dreaming about a weird spaghetti restaurant that served pine cones. But this woman actually lived in that confusing nonsensical and frustrating place in your brain where your dreams come from. This was her reality.
I gave her as much encouragement as I could as I was getting ready to leave. She looked so happy. I hope she really did get some happiness out of it and she is happily opening up her pine cone spaghetti restaurant in her head. I hope she is surrounded by people that smile and agree and laugh with her and don’t make her feel anymore scared and confused than she already is.
When I got outside I couldn’t believe how hot it and loud it was. I was only in there for a week-but could everybody keep it down? I sat on a curb on the sidewalk and orgasmically smoked a cigarette. I settled into the real world in a few minutes. I went directly to a group therapy session at an outpatient center, then had a meeting with the therapist at the center with Erik and then I went to see my regular therapist.
When I was in the psych ward I had my little ritual every night of drinking my disgusting decaf coffee and looking down eighteen floors onto the crowds on Michigan Ave. I desperately wanted to be out of there. And not just because I wanted a cigarette. I wanted to be in the real world, the sane world.
Going to bed in my own room the night I got out, I could ummeel the pressures and stress and irritation of living in the sane world slowly pouring onto me like wet cement.
The Park Ranger and I emailed back and forth for awhile but lost touch. I think at some point, you don’t want to go back there mentally. It’s scary and you feel ashamed and you want to pretend it didn’t happen and move forward. It’s hard for you to talk about and it’s hard for other people in your life to talk about. I still feel myself, even as I write this, trying to push back or ignore the memories of being hospitalized and pretend none of it happened. But it did.

Monday, February 22, 2016

There is only ONE STAR on The Jeremy Show

How can I make my words electric, magnetic, crazy and sexy and cool? It's not like it was kids.  Too much stuff coming at us all the time. Too much information and pictures and GIFs and videos and memes. Everybody shut the fuck up! Everybody except me!

When I started this blog I was working in the box office of The Chicago Center for Performing Arts. The name makes it sound much more prestigious than it was. It was my first real job after moving to Chicago. I sat in a box office for eight hours a day with literally nothing to do but surf the internet, so I decided to start a blog. Publishing on the web back then was so exciting. It was like I unlocked a special door that pushed me on stage and I could write or say anything I wanted. And people read it! This was before Friendster, Myspace and Facebook. I felt like a star.

We are all stars now. We are all on our own little reality shows on Facebook. Documenting our every move. I don't have to tell you this. We all know about our own love hate relationships with social media. Our attention spans are tiny.  And if you've read this far I am surprised. I'm writing this and I've already checked out.

So much has happened since my days at the box office. I think I was hospitalized for depression twice or once, I can't remember. I've worked as an artificial Christmas tree salesperson, a wallpaper librarian, a recruiter for Redbox customer service agents. I was writing in this blog when the Iraq war started, when the financial collapse occured, when everyone started shooting each other.

So what do I do now? Start a podcast? Start doing porn? Take some improv classes? Start making my own small films? How do I fill the void? Deep down there is a screaming child in a sequin vest and tap shoes that needs to put on a show. He will not be happy until he has an audience.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Jeremy Show Interview: Rob Christopher's Pause of the Clock

I sometimes think when I am laying in bed, covered in Cheetos dust and watching Netflix that I consume so much art, media, music, and film but the amount that I give back is very small. I take some pictures, write a little, etc. Wouldn't it be great if we created  or contributed just a small portion of the amount of art we consumed? That's what I thought about when I gave what I could to my friend Rob Christopher's Kickstarter fund to finish his film "Pause of the Clock." At the time of this writing he has raised $9524. He needs $5476.  In nine days all that money that was pledged, will be flushed down the internet toilet if he doesn't raise it all.

His film was made twenty years ago- preserved in amber since the 1990's. I think if you look at the trailer, you'll be teleported back to 1995 and want to see more. 

I command you to pledge $5476 or $5 here

First, the most important question- What’s your favorite memory of me?
That summer afternoon we were hanging out on my back porch and you were smoking cigarettes and I took all those black & white photos of you with my 35mm camera.

Are you sure that was me? I don't remember that.
Yes it was. I have some them.

My favorite memory of you is you going with me to see Bette Midler...begrudgingly. Very sweet.
I'd forgotten about that till just now! I had fun.

How would you describe Pause of the Clock?
It's a movie about friendship and stories, and how two people can somehow communicate by working on a film together but can't connect on a personal level because they don't know how to talk to each other. It's also a movie about movies. How, perversely, it's easier to look at something honestly when it's in a movie than when you see it in real life. And it's also a study of the questionable fashion trends of the mid-1990s. Big hair, windbreakers, pastel t-shirts.

Why did it take so long to put this all together? 
When we finally finished shooting the movie, in 1996, I was exhausted. I was really ready to edit the movie and finish it, but I was also flat broke. I was so tired of asking people for money and trying to get funding. The dream was over. It was time to get a job. I guess it took 20 years to build up the necessary energy to dive head-first into it again! Also, it wasn't until last year or so that I started to feel I could edit this film in such a way that it would work. It was much easier, 20 years later, to start from scratch and be pragmatic about what scenes worked and didn't worked.
Are there parts of your autobiography in this film? Traumas, childhood, etc...
There's a ton of between-the-lines stuff, but I don't know that all that is so important to the audience. It's important insomuch as it adds a lot of texture to what's on screen, and makes it feel more real. Anyway, I don't want to go into all that. Gotta preserve the mystery.

Did you have any reservations about crowdsourcing?
The single best piece of advice I got before starting to plan my Kickstarter was from my friend Gabe. He said, "You have to consider it a full-time job." He was right. It's been a lot of hard work, but it's also been exhilarating to see people get excited about this weird little movie. I was, and still am, nervous about such a risky undertaking. But I also don't know anyone who would be ready to write me out a check for $15,000. Crowdfunding was the best option to get the money.

So you were raised pretty hard core Christian, tell me about that and tell me if religion or spirituality still plays a part in your life.
I was. I was still very much a church-going, committed Christian when I started making "Pause of the Clock." But less than a year after we finished shooting it, I finally started coming to terms with the fact I was gay and stopped going to church and drifted away from religion. Even today, personally, I do not find Christianity compatible with being gay. Or a lot of other things that are important to me. Maybe this is shocking to admit, but I guess I don't really consider myself that spiritual. Zen, maybe. John Cage zen. Que sera sera is my motto and has been for a long time.

We both went to Columbia College. Is there anything at Columbia that actually helped you with filmmaking?
I have often said that I learned more about filmmaking from my poetry class, taught by Art Lange, than I did from any of my filmmaking classes. Now partially this was just me being a know-it-all kid who wanted to do things his way and didn't understand that Columbia is, primarily, geared towards being an industry school. Any art that occurs gets in through the cracks, not through the front door. To look at it another way, Columbia actually did teach me a lot about filmmaking; only, they weren't lessons I wanted to learn. I learned that the industry is rigidly broken down into roles, and genres. And woe to them who try to be a "total" filmmaker, or try to make anything that's hard to classify. Columbia helped me the most by nudging me into concentrating on my writing. I'm a much better writer because I got so disillusioned with filmmaking that I stopped doing it for so long. That, in turn, has made "Pause of the Clock" a much better film now simply because I'm a better editor now than I was back then, because I'm a better writer.  

You are a big fan of David Lynch, what is it about his movies that you love?
Seeing "Twin Peaks" in eight grade was a eureka moment. Along with seeing "True Stories" for the first time, it made me realize that film could do more than just tell a story. I have basically been obsessed with David Lynch ever since. The most important lesson he has for filmmakers is that one must respect the mysteries of life. Mystery is a thing to nurture and cherish, not to explain away. Lynch has helped me see that you really have to trust your gut as a filmmaker. Your gut is a much more valuable tool than your brain. Or rather, without your gut your brain will always get you into trouble.

If your movie became a huge hit would you ever consider moving to LA?

Do you have any other projects in the works?

I am nearing a finishing point on my work-in-progress, "3 Things about 1000 Movies." I would still love to turn it into a book with drawings. For my next film project, whatever that turns out to be, I'd really like to collaborate with another writer and fashion a screenplay. The thought of working together with a writer and bouncing ideas off each other really gets my juices flowing.

You are having an Oscar party! What kind of punch are you making this year?
I haven't settled on my punch recipe yet. A bit worrisome. Some people agonize over their Oscar ballots, I agonize over what punch to make for my Oscar party.

If you were going to have themed foods for each Best Picture nomination what would they be?
"American Sniper" would be, umm, a bowl of really spicy chili mac. "The Imitation Game" would be a bowl of Skittles. "Birdman" would be a platter of chicken fingers with Velveeta dipping sauce. "Boyhood" would be, I dunno, something with tater tots and BBQ brisket. "Selma": Hoppin' John. "Whiplash": chicken fried drumsticks, haha. And "The Grand Budapest Hotel" would be an elaborate tray of hors d'oeuvres that no one was allowed to touch.

Tell me your thoughts on the movies nominated for best picture. What movies are missing from the list, what movies shouldn't be on there?
Mostly I'm just pleased that "Boyhood" is on the list. The others, I haven't seen all of them but you know, it is what it is. I wasn't surprised but was still disappointed that "Interstellar" was missing. And really, really irritated that "Life Itself" wasn't a Best Documentary nominee.

So about the time Harry Potter finished up...you posted the ending online- which was very controversial in our little blogosphere at the time. I think you have an aversion to pop culture and things that are overhyped, etc. Is it about the content, the value of the mass media- what is that about?
No, it's about this completely annoying, repulsive sanctity we seem to have for spoilers. Spoiler alert this, spoiler alert that.

Luckily you took me to Trader Vic's at the Palmer House before they closed. There will never be another place like it. Tell me about your love of tiki culture? Where did that come from?
It's a beautiful form of escapism that partially inoculates me against cynicism. If I'm sitting in Lost Lake with some friends, listening to some steel guitar tune and sipping on a powerful rum drink, at least at that moment everything's all right.

Tell me why people should crowdsource your film.
It's a 16mm time capsule unlike any other indie film project out there. It captures the mid-1990s but also tells us something about our own time, what has changed and what hasn't. It's a fun, homegrown movie. It's got some awesome music in it. And, every pledge counts! It all adds up. 

Tell me everything that’s in your backpack or bag.
Diary notebook, cell phone charger, Kleenex pack, Moleskine daily planner, a pack of cold tablets, iPod, combination padlock, Norman Mailer's "Miami and the Siege of Chicago," and a single strawberry Starburst.

Pledge whatever you have here and read more about Rob Christopher on his website www.randomcha.net 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Jeremy Show Interview: Big Brother Winner Andy Herren

I think I love Big Brother so much because I love observing people, looking at people do extraordinary mundane things, I always look in other people's medicine cabinets, sociopathically stare at people on the train, etc.And I am going to go out on a shaky limb here and say that Big Brother is one of the most underrated documentaries of our time or ever in the universe.  

The television show has all the over produced, cheesy, offensive (to some) trappings that come with all reality TV shows. And I eat that all up and love it.  The video feeds are something different. You can watch a group of people fight, be bored, sleep, make out, make friends, eat, cry, laugh and take showers for three months, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Like any fan describing their obsession to a non-fan I can't articulate how much I love Big Brother- it's heroin candy.

The premise is simple- the houseguests are locked in a house for three months. The show is on on three times a week every summer. Every week 2 houseguests are nominated for eviction. Every Thursday, during a live show the house votes to evict one of the nominated houseguests. The strategy for being the last houseguests standing (and winning $500,0000) varies- but always includes lying, deceit, physical endurance and social manipulation. On the last episode, alll of the other houseguests who have been evicted vote on who (out of the two remaining) they think should win the money. All the while everything is filmed and viewers have access to watch everything that goes down.

This summer Andy Herren of Chicago won Big Brother. Not only was he the first openly gay person to win Big Brother but he’s from Chicago and he’s delightful. I had a chance to speak with him and talk about his time on Big Brother.

You said you weren’t an insane fan of Big Brother but a pretty big one. How did you get into watching Big Brother?
I got into watching Big Brother by accident, actually. I was flipping through channels, and somehow landed on CBS. What was on? Big Brother 3! You know, the season where Marcellas used the Power of Veto on someone other than himself. I started watching, and the rest is history!

So...You won $500,000! Congratulations! Did your thoughts on what you would do with that amount of money change when you actually had the check in your hand?
I always knew I would be smart with the money. I'm investing it, for the most part. I want these winnings to turn into more and more winnings as the years progress. As for frivolous spending, I'm going to travel extensively! Europe, Australia, Japan, and Hawaii are on the agenda at the moment.

This season was hailed as the "Most Controversial" ever. One of the houseguests, Aaryn did say some ridiculously racist things and a handful of other houseguests said stupid things. Besides Aaryn- who I truly don't think realized that what she was saying and the way she was saying it was going to cause a lot of problems for her -- I just think the rest of it was just general jackassery like any group of young bored people. Did you have any idea that all of this would be so controversial when you were living in the house?
NOBODY had any idea this racist stuff would take off in the way it did. Granted, we all did notice Aaryn's comments, but I believe you are correct in assuming that she had no idea her words would cause such an uproar. She even started saying racist things just to say them, as we would all joke that she was the house racist. Do I condone her comments? Hell no. Do I think she is young and ignorant and not actually an evil racist bigot? Hell yes. I was very surprised by the attention this all got. I mean, any comment that makes others feel bad isn't right, but I really never felt like I was in a hateful environment. I very strongly believe that nobody in the house is actually racist, and I hope that we can all move on from this and remain close with one another. As for me...I am MUCH MORE offensive in real life as opposed to the house. I'll leave it at that.

You tweeted, "It's slightly discomforting that I was so hated while on BB. Not because I'm embarrassed, but because in real life I'M SO MUCH WORSE." Explain this tweet.
Basically, I say ridiculous things all the time. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm actually a very kind, loving person, BUT I have a filthy, vile, disgusting, awful sense of humor. Nothing offends me, because I am usually the one doing the offending. This is especially prevalent when I'm drunk. I wasn't drunk too often in the Big Brother house, but when I was, I said some gross things. Remember my "Elissa is a chronic masturbator" rant? Yeah, I was drunk during that, and it was not meant to be taken seriously. The problem? Many Americans do not sense sarcasm, and they took it seriously.

Do they even give you enough alcohol in the house to get drunk?
If everyone has a drink, they do not give us enough alcohol to get drunk. If people give up their share of alcohol, then others can drink the shares that have been given up and feasibly get drunk. For example, I gave up my alcohol 90 percent of the time, and then on the rare occasion that I wanted to get drunk, I would remind people that I had been giving up my shares, so they would give me theirs. I rarely drank because people would get super selfish about alcohol, and it put me in good graces if I gave it up. Looks like that strategy paid off.

One of the best moments of the season was after you were announced the winner- you came down and hugged your parents. They looked SO proud of you. Tell me about them. What did they say was their experience like when you were in the house?
THEY ARE AMAZING. They were so damn happy for me while I was on the show. My dad is a very quiet, stern guy for the most part, but after the show he gave me the biggest hug and said he had never been more proud of me. It was a lovely moment. My mom watched the feeds 24/7, and my dad would get updates from her. My mom was actually so scared about my possible eviction when I was up against Aaryn that she couldn't watch. She said she heard my dad screaming/cheering, and she knew all was well. They loved me being in the house, and, according to them, all they really experienced was positivity. They aren't on Twitter, and that is where most of the stupid assholes who hate me dwell.

How was your experience coming out to your parents? How did you tell them?
I was outed by a neighbor before actually telling my parents about me being gay, but they were both cool with it. There's nothing much more to tell! My mom was sad I didn't come out earlier.

Tell me about the transformation from relative anonymity to instant fame. What are the good things and bad things about it?
It's been pretty easy! I like people recognizing me. It is sweet. The only negative side is the INSANE hate I got once I left the house. I'm used to being well-liked, so it was odd to see so many people wishing me nothing but the worst. I played the game I needed to play, and I have no regrets. I get that I didn't play a very likable game, but anyone who respects the game should see what an amazing job I did. I played EVERYONE, and was rewarded for it. I also like the free stuff people give me! That's a neat perk of being "famous."

Rumor has it that you lost your job over your appearance on Big Brother. Did you lose your job and if so, what was the reason? What happened there?
I did not lose my job! :)

Who are you still in contact with outside of the house? Who do you think you won’t keep in touch with?
I have been in good contact with most of the cast. The only two people I haven't talked to are Elissa and Howard, who I have no ill will towards. In the house I hated Elissa, but outside of the game I would like to be on good terms with her. I talk to Amanda and McCrae every day, and I talk to Judd, Spencer, Helen, Kaitlin, GinaMarie, Candice, Aaryn, Jessie, and Jeremy relatively frequently as well. I also text back and forth with with David, who is a hoot. I don't like having negative relations with anyone, so hopefully we can all move forward and be pals, because we all shared such a unique experience.

Is Judd as adorable in real life as he was on Big Brother?
Judd is EVEN MORE ADORABLE IN PERSON. He is wonderful. I can't imagine anyone meeting Judd and not loving him. He does have a fiery side though (that temper!...fiery yet still ADORABLE).

What has been your best experience with a Big Brother fan and your worst experience with a Big Brother fan?
Best experience with a Big Brother fan: My roommate and I were running late to the movies a few weeks back, and a car pulled up beside us. It was a husband and wife, and they were big fans. I then asked them for a ride to the movies, and they obliged! Ha! I haven't really had any negative experiences with fans, except online, but most of the online fans are complete waste of space morons who don't actually understand the game, so they don't bug me too much.

What are some things, secret little behind the scenes things that you think most Big Brother fans would be shocked to know? Did your gaydar ever go off on any of the male houseguests?
We NEVER see any people while we are in the house. It is weird. Like, I didn't know what the producers looked like until the show wrapped. Another secret: They give us the same food week after week, which can get monotonous. I wanted a bit more variety! Although they fed me all summer for free, so I shouldn't complain.

Did your gaydar ever go off on any of the male houseguests?
My gaydar went off on Nick a little bit, because he would do odd things like always call me over to talk while he was in the shower. I'm 50/50, though. If he's gay, I wouldn't be shocked. If not, I would also not be shocked.

Do you think there could have been a possibility of a bromance- whether or not it would have just been used to get you or whoever else further in the game? Did any of the straight guys ever flirt with you?
I was in a bromance with Spencer!!! We were BFFs from the beginning, which you NEVER saw on the show. He kept me sane in the house. He is an intelligent and hilarious guy. SPANDY FOR LIFE!!! I do believe our bromance got him further, as I never wanted to sever ties with him. I wanted him at the end because I liked him and I knew I could beat him.

What is your dream “Celebrity Big Brother” cast? And who do you think would win?
Oh goodness, I have no idea who my dream Celebrity Big Brother cast would be. It would most certainly include Anderson Cooper, Ryan Gosling, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, and myself. I say this because I selfishly want to meet these people (and school them at Big Brother).

You said that you were rejecting friend requests on Facebook like it’s your job. Are a lot of people asking you for money?
I basically reject Facebook friendships because I like to keep Facebook personal. Like, only people I actually know or could see myself getting to know in real life are people I will be friends with on Facebook. Twitter/Instagram/etc are for people who I may not know to be able to interact with me. And nobody has asked me for money yet! I think people know I'm smart with my money and won't fall for any hair-brained schemes. I also think my friends and family know how hard I worked for the money, and they aren't the type of people who would see my winning as a way to better themselves financially. When I left the house I wanted to get back to Chicago to retain my strong personal relationships with friends and family, so relationships haven't been strained at all. I love the people I surround myself with!

Are you dating anyone?

I am casually dating, but nothing serious. I'm SUPER picky and tend to lose interest quickly, so I don't bother really dating anyone unless they seem very right and I see long-term potential. I'm also a hopeless romantic and retain the belief that one day I will meet the man of my dreams and it will happen exactly like it does in cutesy romantic comedies (I know, I know...BARF). And when I go on dates, I love it when guys don't know about Big Brother. It's nice to know that they like me for me and not for me being a television personality.

What are your plans for the holidays?
For Christmas I'll be going to my parents' house in the suburbs to spend time with friends and family who are at home.

Can you tell me what you have in your medicine cabinet? Please list all the contents, brand names, etc.
Flintstones Chewable Vitamins, Advil Liqui-Gels, Crest Whitening toothpaste, Edge shave gel, contact solution, a toothbrush, Old Spice Aqua Reef deodorant, cherry Chapstick.

Do you ever still feel like cameras are watching you?
When I first came back, I definitely woke up a few times thinking I was being watched (which was super weird), but, to be honest, the whole being filmed thing faded quite quickly. I was back to picking my nose and masturbating in no time!

What are you buying yourself for Christmas?
I have no idea what I'm buying myself for Christmas! I'm very low maintenance. Maybe a book or something?

Last question- If you were describing to a four year old how you won the money how would you say you won it?
I lied to lots of people, and then the people I lied to gave me tons of money.

Who should I interview next? Why should I interview you? Email me at jeremy@thejeremyshow.com and let me know.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

You can have it all

I fired my therapist and psychiatrist yesterday. It was a dispute over a balance that I had incurred. Ask anyone who knows me and the first thing they will tell you is that I am knows that I am meticulous with money. So the blame is obviously on the evil psychiatric behavioral industrial complex. And not me. Never me.

Wednesday was awful. I got in a raised voice with the receptionist at my behavioral health center on Chicago's fabulous Magnificent Mile. Exchanged icy looks and words with my psychiatrist, abandoned my umbrella that obviously had a hole in it, fought with Sallie Mae, stood outside in the rain waiting for busses for 30 minutes multiple times, lost my headphones multiple times.

My only saving grace was listening to the angry sexy genius raps of Mr. Marshall Mathers. My beautiful blond Eminem. My angry best friend, my muse. Allegedly misogynistic, playfully homophobic and slightly deranged. Just how I like him.

Until I losty headphones. Fucking stringy, tangled, earpieces always falling off, balled up in my pocket. I had three pairs and left them all at work and they were.gone the next morning. On the floor. Cleaning people at work? Good for them.

You can have them. You deserve it. Cleaning up after me. Take everything else while you're at it. My files, my computer, my pens that are all out of ink, my job, my life. Take it and run with it. See if you can make something out of my island of misfit toys, my menagerie of hopes and dreams and cigarettes and lube and neurosis and Direct TV and various magazine subscriptions I dont read. Take it, cleaning woman or man. Clean it all up, organize my internal and external crap, Windex the shit out of it and sell it all on eBay. My heart, my soul, my life. Get 20 bucks and order a pizza. Make a night out of it.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Jeremy Show Interviews: Mister Rogers Archivist Tim Lybarger

Tim Lybarger visiting X The Owl in The Neighborhood of Make Believe.
It was announced this week that a film about Fred Rogers (based on a book by Tim Madigan's memoir I'm Proud of You) is in the early stages of development. I sat down with the Internet's authority on Mister Rogers Tim Lybarger, the creator of The Neighborhood Archive: A Collection of All Things Mister Rogers. Read what we talked about as we took a nostalgic walk through The Neighborhood of Make Believe.

So, what are your thoughts on the movie coming out?
I'm actually pretty surprised. There was a lot of talk a few months ago about this but it was all so vague that it didn't seem anything would really come of it. Looks like that may not be the case. I'm thrilled for Tim Madigan -- his book is wonderful and he's such a great person!

Jim Parsons

And who do you think should play Mister Rogers?
That's a tough call to make. I'm not sure that the actor have to be a spitting image of him, but thinking that way, Jim Parsons would be great!

I was a big Mister Rogers fan. My Mom said that she thought Sesame Street was too fast and loud for me. I didn't really get into it. Do you find through your archival work with Mister Rogers that their are Mister Rogers people and Sesame Street people? Is there anything specific you've noticed about a Mister Rogers fan? 
Not to say that there aren't kids who enjoyed both programs, but there are definitely Mister Rogers kids and Sesame Street kids. These two programs were groundbreaking in very different ways. Likewise, they were applicable to children in very different ways. While one was fast-paced and emphasized the ABCs and 123s, the other kept a slow tempo and taught kids that it's okay to have feelings. Is there anything specific I've noticed about Mister Rogers fans? Absolutely. Among the many that I've heard from through the Neighborhood Archive, they are a very kind, caring, and patient group of people. Whether this is fully attributed to their appreciation of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood or not is up in the air...but I certainly think it's no coincidence.

You have six different websites/blogs which are all amazing. On the main portal to your site TimLybarger.com your intro line is "archiving the insignificant." Tell me about that statement.
It takes a certain kind of person to have any kind of interest in what I do. Either you get it or you don't. My brother has a pretty solid music collection and I remember him jokingly saying once that he was "archiving for future generations." I, too, am archiving for future generations. I'm just archiving stuff that only myself and a very small niche of other people are interested in. To most people it's insignificant.

I think we are all librarians of pop culture in some way. We all have our libraries of DVD's and books and toys from our childhood. What is the focus of your collection? How much do you have? And how does your wife feel about it?
I guess the focus of my collection would be things that remind me of my own childhood. I've often said that I had a wonderful childhood and given the opportunity, I would relive ages 2-17 over and over again. So I often find myself picking up items at flea markets and garage sales that I owned as a kid -- books, games, toys. Likewise, I love watching television shows that I enjoyed when I was young. I'll take the A-Team or a healthy dose of Saturday morning cartoons over America's Got Talent any day. As for my wife...she's doesn't get it. I don't mean that in a negative way either. She's the type of person who is content to take a picture of something and throw it away while I love being able to physically see something to bring back memories. She does a good job of tolerating my collection and humoring me when I start telling her about the latest thing I've found.
My favorite Mister Rogers song, or the one I remember the most is "I Like to Be Told." Bette Midler sang it in a concert I saw and I cried. That song has so much meaning. The idea is mainly- children (and adults) like to be told the truth. And with truth comes trust. The more I think about it the more I can see it applies far beyond children and into the adult world- work, relationships, government. What Mr. Rogers song resonates for you?
This is exactly what got me into archiving the career of Fred Rogers. I had grown up watching the Neighborhood program and as an adult, parent, and educator, I began to recognize that his message was one that wasn't just for kids. I Like To Take My Time can be applied to rush hour traffic and Let's Think of Something to Do While We're Waiting can help during a lengthy stop in any waiting room. I can't say that I really have one specific Mister Rogers song that resonates with me any more than others, but I often think about his overall message of patience, love, and compassion for others -- our neighbors -- in this world.
Lady Elaine Fairchild
OK tell me everything you know about Lady Elaine. She is my favorite. What's her deal?
She's a feisty one, that Lady Elaine. Fred often talked about how he expressed his various feelings through the puppets in Make-Believe. No doubt any mischief was expressed at the Museum-Go-Round! (Most) everything I know about Lady Elaine can be found on her page of the Archive site - http://www.neighborhoodarchive.com/mrn/characters/lady_elaine/index.html

Tell me about the evolution of your amazingly thorough and beautiful archive. Where did it start? What are your future plans or developments do you have coming for the Neighborhood?
My brother and I had a Mister Rogers record when we were kids and one day I was looking for some details about it online. I figured surely there was some catch-all site detailing every nook and cranny about the long and influential career of Fred Rogers. Much to my surprise, there was nothing of the sort. Having spent several years detailing the career of constantly-touring folk singer Todd Snider on EighteenMinutes.com, I figured there was only one thing I could do. From there, the site just caught on like wildfire as other fans of Fred and his work picked up on my efforts. As the site continues to grown, I'm constantly amazed by the response I regularly receive from Mister Rogers fans around the world.

Did you ever get to meet Mister Rogers or other cast members? Tell me about that.
Although I never had the chance to meet Fred in person, I did invite him to my college graduation (sort of). Finishing my undergraduate degree, I was sending announcements to family and friends and had a few left over. Not expecting any sort of response, I sent one of the extras to Mister Rogers with a note thanking him for the message he instilled in me and countless other children around the world through our childhood visits to his Neighborhood. Much to my surprise, within a matter of just a few days, I received a personal response in the mail from Fred. It was at this point that I knew this man was so much more than just the host of some show I watched when I was a kid. As for others, I've had the chance to meet David Newell (Mr. McFeely) a few times and very briefly met Betsy Seamans (Mrs. McFeely) once. I've had a few phone conversations with Audrey Roth (Miss Paulificate) and Burt Lloyd (Mr. Allmine). Betty Aberlin (Lady Aberlin) and I have corresponded off and on through email and Twitter over the past few years and I've recently been in contact with Francois Clemmons (Officer Clemmons). In every one of these cases, I can say that each and every one of these people have been wonderfully kind and generous as they are very clearly not far removed from the characters they portrayed on the Neighborhood program.

As for the Neighborhood of Make Believe itself- it seems to be a trippy mirror image of what's going on in Mister Rogers "television home." What's the psychological reasoning for all of this as you see it? Why is the show set up in this way?
The shows were scripted from start to finish and no detail was left unaccounted for, so the similarities between the "real" neighborhood and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe were certainly intentional. I've always felt that the show spoke to children on various levels in different ways. While some where able to take away Fred's message from his "real" neighborhood segments, others were more comfortable with the make-believe portions. To me, this provided children at various stages in their lives with the opportunity to pick up the same important message being shared on any particular Neighborhood episode.

Yo Yo LaBelle
Who is your favorite Neighborhood of Make Believe resident and Neighborhood resident?
In the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, if I had to pick a favorite, I'd say it'd probably be X the Owl as I appreciate his light-hearted outlook on life. That being said, I have a somewhat weird obsession with the alien character -- Yo Yo LaBelle -- that only appeared in a few episodes. In the "real" Neighborhood, it's hard to pinpoint a favorite. If I had to chose, probably Mr. McFeely simply because of the regularity of his appearance and his fun interactions with Mister Rogers throughout the run of the show.

Do you know what happened to the set and props of the show?
Up until recently, most of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe set was on display throughout the building which housed the office space for the Fred Rogers Company. Earlier this summer, the FRC relocated to new space in Pittsburgh and I'm not sure if these pieces went with them or went into storage. The Neighborhood of Make-Believe models were on display in the FRC offices at their previous location and I can only assume that they are on display in their new space as well. I've also been told that the street display seen in the opening and closing of the program is on display in the new office location, too. As for the set of Mister Rogers' television house, the last I knew is that those pieces were in storage.

Why wasn't there much merchandising for the show?- it seems like Sesame Street was all over the place. I would have killed to get my hands on that playset.
Yeah. The playset. Tell me about it. I'd do anything to get my hands on one of those. I've tried asking everyone from the Fred Rogers Company to the individuals who designed that piece and have come up with nothing. The best I can put together is that a prototype was created but never marketed on a mass scale. I think the fact that there wasn't a huge market for Mister Rogers merchandise can be attributed to Fred's nature of simplicity. I think his one and only focus was reaching out to children on a personal and individual level. He could have taken the Neighborhood to a mass market and capitalized in a major way through merchandising opportunities. Instead, he chose to keep the focus on the message rather than the market. Typical Fred, from what I understand.

With your own kids, do you see anything else on children's television that gets close to Mister Rogers' style?
Nothing. There's Daniel Tigers' Neighborhood which is the "next generation" of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, but there's nothing out there that comes close to a daily visit to the Neighborhood. Everything on TV for kids is either fast, flashy, commercialized, or all of the above. I've yet to find a children's program that has reached the masses that Fred reached in such a simple yet unbelievably influential way. For the record, my kids LOVE Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and I could not be happier to see Fred's message carried on in such a positive and popular program. The response to Daniel Tiger has been phenomenal!

What is known about Mister Rogers private life? Is there anything that has surprised you or that you found interesting in your research? Has there been any good biographies you can recommend?
When it comes to Fred's personal life, everyone has this part of them that hopes there's some dirt somewhere...some sort of secret life that could tarnish the seemingly perfect persona seen on television. While I hate to disappoint, everything I have gathered over several years of researching his life and career has pointed to one thing -- he was the same kind and caring person in real life that you saw on TV. There are two different biographies that I would recommend for anyone interested in a quick look at Fred and his career -- both in video format. The first is Fred Rogers: America's Favorite Neighbor. This one is a fantastic look at Fred's life and career scattered with many clips from the show as well as lengthy interviews with Fred himself. The other is Mister Rogers & Me (available on Netflix Prime) -- a documentary featuring various individuals touched by the message of Fred Rogers.

What do you discuss on your podcast?
The podcast started out with conversations with a few other fans of the Neighborhood and has evolved a bit into mostly interviews with people who have been involved with or heavily influenced by the Neighborhood program in some way. I've spoken with a handful of Neighborhood cast members such as Audrey Roth (Miss Paulificate) and Bert Lloyd (Mr. Allmine) as well as others who were involved behind the scenes (Eliot Daly). I have to admit that the podcast is one aspect of the Neighborhood Archive that I tend to neglect. For some reason it always seems to go to the back burner as you can see by the fact that there are only about 20 episodes.

Clearly, you were a child of the eighties- what is it about the eighties? What do you remember as the vibe of that decade for you?
It might just be that I was a kid and things are simple when you're young, but I feel like the 80s were a much simpler time than we live in now. We didn't have the flashy movies and video games we have today...but we didn't know any better. We were content to drop a quarter in a machine for a few minutes of Pac-Man or to hear a song we liked played from a jukebox. I'm sure that the 80s were no less complex for adults than today is for people my own age, but the feelings of comfort and simplicity that come back to me with memories of my childhood in the 80s cannot be matched.

When people are passionate about something (for me it would be Madonna, Martha Stewart) I find it interesting, no matter what it is. My boyfriend is a BIG Disney fan. I might be wrong but I do feel like you can follow the trail of our deep passions (like everything else) back to our childhood. How do you feel about that? Do you think that you are trying to get back something from your childhood? Or does your passion for pop culture relate to something else?
I think you've hit the nail on the head. Many people -- myself included -- find comfort in remembering simpler times. Being able to thumb through my baseball card collection from when I was a kid immediately takes me back to summer afternoons of backyard baseball and trips to the drug store to buy wax packs of the current cards. Listening to certain songs will immediately put me back in my bedroom on a warm summer evening with the windows open while I listened to the local pop music request show. I've often said that I can't tell you much that I learned in college, but I can easily come up with any detail from my childhood that you'd care to request. While some people may say I'm stuck in the past, I look at it as a recognition of the wonderful childhood that I was blessed enough to experience.

Visit Tim at The Neighborhood Archive and follow him on Twitter!