Monthly Archives: February 2012

Family; the Book of Laughter and Remembering

This blog post was written in July 2011

Just got back from Minnesota, and sadly it is warmer here in normally tepid LA than it was there. Everything feels dull compared to the pretty green landscape and gorgeous blue sky dotted with little white clouds I saw in St Paul and surroundings.  I have re-entered la la land, the land of bland, the city of blah.

It was a fun holiday weekend, filled with all the typical Minnesota good clean fun and quirks I have grown to love. We ate, we drank, we played lawn games, we watched dvds, we played with cats, we got dusted with fireworks cinders.  Much of the agenda is created to please our little niece Ellie, who at nearly thirteen is not so little anymore.  With three doting aunties and her very patient mom Ellie is the only one of the next generation in our family.  Oh the pressure.  As a result of being an only child she is a picky eater and a stickler for rules.  I have a one-up on my windbreaker wearing sisters in that I am a “girly-girl” as Ellie puts it and can coach little miss Ellie in all things hair, nail polish and clothes, clothes, clothes.  She once asked me, “Claire why are you a girly-girl?” “In this family someone’s gotta be it” I answered. I deserve to have this special privelage.  I live 1300 miles away.

Ellie isn’t like the kids in LA.  She is more innocent. Less sarcastic.  More interested in what’s going on among her friends than Hollywood, although she was vaguely interested to know that I actually know Nikki Reed from the Twilight series.  Ellie lost interest when I mentioned Nikki was engaged to someone she hadn’t heard of, namely Paul with the Rod Stewart like voice and cute smile from American Idol.  I think she just wanted to polish her nails and watch High School Musical with me which is what we ended up doing. We watched all three!

I was surprised when on our little sojourn to the Fraconia sculpture park that Ellies’ sullenness wasn’t due to being away from her friends and stuck with her aunties in a car on a holiday weekend.  “What’s wrong Ellie?”  I asked. She surprised me with, “We should be interacting!  We should be connecting!  Instead we are walking around looking at these big art pieces.”  WOW.  She actually wanted to interact with us!  What to do?  It took me a while to really get it.  First I told her “Oh hey I know the drive was a drag but we’re e going to a fun dinner tonight…”

What she was asking for was interaction.  NOW.

We climbed atop the giant skin segment wart installation. I ventured to give her what she wanted.  “Okay.  So you want interaction.  We’ll ask each other questions!  I’ll start first.  This is an easy one.  What’s your name?”

“Ellie.”

“Your full name.  And what does it mean to you?”

Jackpot.

“Ellie Raine Martinson”

“I like your middle name”

“Yeah.”

“How do you spell it?

“Raine”

“That’s cool.  Another question.  If you could be any other name than your own what would it be?”

“I like Raine.”

“That is a pretty name.  Are you thinking maybe you will switch to it in college when you need to break away from your childhood identity?”

She pondered that for a bit.  She didn’t answer but maybe five years from now we will all be calling her Raine.  She spoke.

“My turn; what’s your name?”

“Claire Louise Partin”

“Louise?  I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah – it’s my mom’s middle name too.  Grandma Martha’s middle name.”

“Neat.  Okay more questions.”

And so I created a monster.  We all asked each other questions the whole ride home and I found out about my sisters’ favorite teachers, Ellie’s favorite foods, places my sisters wanted to live, and dreams of careers we wished we would have pursued.  We remembered things we’d forgotten about our childhood, we laughed, and we gave Ellie some fun new knowledge about her family. Ah youth.  Thank you Ellie for expressing your concern.

I can’t wait to go back to Minnesota and play the question game again.

Negotiating with the Deaf

While driving along Fountain yesterday I spied the coolest looking yard sale on my way to pick up a co-worker for our job working a party in the Palisades. I am a mid-century modern fanatic and my radar can always pick up on it.  I’ve seen this sale on Fountain before, a block or two west of Highland, but never stopped by sensing these are pro yard sale sellers and prices won’t be so negotiable. I spied more cool kitsch than usual such as a set of green wakefield chairs, atomic barstools, yellow mod file cabinets, a fabric rainbow wall hanging and a patio set (Brown Jordan, perhaps?) It was only 10:30 am. I was hoping the really good stuff might still be out later. Not everyone is a mid-century modern fiend like me.

Later after working this awesome gig in the Palisades at a charity event where we all got a very handsome tip, then navigating pre-grammy night party traffic and dropping off my co-worker, I was ready to hit the sale again. Sure enough the cool stuff was still there, and lots of it.  “Uh oh,” I thought, “They must be charging a lot since everything is still there.”

I sloppily parked my car.  It was starting to rain but still light out.  There was a gorgeous sunset in the west and I was hoping for a rainbow.  The only rainbow I saw was the fabric wall art.  I flagged down the seller and he told me the wall art was $100.  Despite my generous tip burning a hole in my pocket that price was too steep for me.  I remembered we are bordering Weho and rainbows, not to mention kitsch, are popular here.  I asked some more prices.  He had to go across the street to ask the sellers over there.  I figured this must be a joint yard sale.  But he had to walk all the way over there, not yell, because the other sellers on the other side of the street were deaf.

Ahh the infamous deaf yard sale.  I have heard about this for years and have never been.  Because they are deaf they have no problem staying up all night and selling.  One of the guys across the street is only partially deaf and the hearing guy on my side of the street could in fact yell to him if only to get his attention, but not always.    You can’t read lips or sign that far away.

To be clear there were two deaf guys across the street, one completely deaf and one partially hearing, and one hearing seller on the side of the street I started on.  They were all gay (I presume) and all quite savvy about their pricing.  Whereas they used to sell a lot of mirrors and more current decor they seemed to have recently switched more to vintage and nostalgiac kitsch (my kind of merchandise.)

The negotiations went like this.  It took forever to get prices on things because the hearing guy had to keep yelling and/or going across the street to ask about prices.  I wasn’t clear who’s items where who’s. It took frigging forever.  I was starting to see that the reason they still had so much product was not just because of their pricing.

I got answers on some prices right away: the 50’s styrofoam wig heads with authentic painted faces were $20 each, the atomic coffee table with black legs was $60 (reasonable – I would take it if I actually didn’t need it), the atomic barstool was $30 but apparently there were two others across the street.  I never saw them.  When it came to the tin laquered camping mugs the hearing guy had to ask deaf guy if he would go a dollar less for the chipped one.  He also had to ask about the price on a lamp and a trunk. I had to go across the street to find the plates to match the tin cups.  I wanted to negotiate a price on a coat.  They wouldn’t go down.  Crazy.  There was an amazing daisy painting in late sixties hand carved frame that would have matched a similar one of mine with purple flowers, but whereas mine was $12 at a thrift store, they were asking $75 for theirs. I ended up buying the cups for a dollar less but decided the rest of it just wasn’t worth it.

Neighbors complain about this sale.

I think it’s hilarious. A yard sale that goes all night.  They have so much stuff they just keep it out all night for a two days sale.  I wanted to go back later to see if the sale was in fact still going on in the middle of the night, but the Grammy traffic was too daunting to deal with.  Seriously, the only worst night to drive through West Hollywood than the weekend of Gay Pride is the night before the Grammys because of all the parties in the Hollywood Hills.

I am happy with my camping mugs but to be honest I never would have bought them if not for the nostalgia factor.

Next time I go back maybe I should learn sign language and they will be more willing to negotiate.  Everyone appreciates when you at least try to speak their language. They speak mine: mid-century modern.

Boo Yeah

I recently started doing stand up comedy. It’s hard. Not because I get nervous in front of a crowd – I don’t. What’s hard is developing a voice and connecting to my material then editing it down to make it funny then getting enough practice. The good thing is I get to write it all by myself and I don’t need anyone or anything to do that besides remembering to carry around with me my writing tools and the discipline to write stuff down when I think of it. The bad thing is I cannot perfect my material without getting in front of an audience, and getting in front of an audience without perfect material is in fact a little scary for me. If only I didn’t have the kind of artistic ego that needs to be in front of an audience. If only I wanted to sit alone in my room and draw silly cartoons all day and sell them to The New Yorker. If only I didn’t need approval in person.

The other night I was at a comedy gig I ended up doing last minute. I met three tall, cute white young men who were performing that night as well. They were friendly enough, despite the expected natural wariness of other performers all comics seem to carry on their shoulders. I think they were taken aback by me wanting to know their names. I am not hitting on you, mr gangly white boy comic. I just am flirting with you because I am a little nervous.

I have been there and done that. I used to date a comic, years and years ago, and here is what I found out.  Male comics don’t laugh at other comics.  They nod if it’s funny, or do a single clap.  I laugh.  I like to laugh. It feels good to laugh.

First gangly white boy gets up on stage and spews out a series of one liners he has written on a note card. None of them funny. He gets into a dicey area of one liners about women rejecting him. “Uh oh” I think, “Here it comes.” The inevitable next line in his anti women trajectory is particularly offensive and comes out of nowhere besides his own insecurity. I cannot remember what he actually said. I must have blocked out his entire set by instinct to protect my brain from useless poisonous crap. In the pause he has learned to take to see if anyone laughs, and the silence of that laugh deprived pause, I found myself saying “Boo.”

Another puase, maybe some nervous giggle from the people in the back, and the white gangly young man says ” I see we’ve brought back the boo.”

That’s right. I’m bringing boo back.

Second gangly white comic I met before the show gets up onstage and he’s a little funnier but lost me at “I’m married” and some jokes about what a pain in the ass it is to be married. All I could think is “You’re lucky to be married with that attitude, especially considering you’re an unpaid stand up comic.”  I wouldn’t have thought that if he were actually funny, but I just couldn’t relate to his bordering on anti-female line, and mind you we were a primarily female audience.

Third tall white guy comic I chatted with before the show is someone I have seen before. He’s good looking and somewhat charming, but the last time I worked this gig he didn’t know I was performing later and made fun of my table and me the entire time. Tonight when he started on a rant of animated movies that make no sense and are stupid, particularly digging into the movie “Up,” I couldn’t help myself and heckled him. Out of my mouth came “I liked the movie UP.” Two women chimed in, “So did I” and, “Me too.” What I think he might have been getting at was not relating to sentimentality, but going there without making it funny just alienated all of us. He said something back to me and I muttered “This is payback” hoping he didn’t hear me. But he did and now it’s on.  Oops.

Later in the set another guy I hadn’t met thought it was hysterical all the women let that guy know they liked the movie “Up.” I liked this comic. He was more in touch with the audience and a little scruffy, probably a cat lover. However despite my redemption by the later comic I still felt bad for being the house heckler that night. I mean, karmically speaking, I better be ready when the heckles come my way now.

Now that I think about it it’s hysterical the subject of my heckling was an animated children’s movie. Watch out comics if you put down my sentimental favorites.  I’m just saying.

Earlier in the evening I had done something new which is the improvised Set List at Flappers, run by Mark Troy.  It was my first time up and I learned a lot, mostly how our insecurities are more pronounced when put under pressure.  The way it works is you don’t know your four topics before getting up onstage and you have to improvise your jokes as if this was your actual set.  I noticed my go-to place was talking about my body insecurities and relationship regrets.  Ugh I am that person too that resorts to insecurities. But why do both sexes take it out on women?  Men take it out on women and we take it out on ourselves.

Here was the set I was given: God tee shirt, Last Accountant Standing, Aids Marathon, Donkey Dilemma. For God tee shirt of course I thought of a brilliant couple of lines after I got off stage but instead went into tee shirts from the 70’s with sayings on them like “Have a Nice Day” “Keep on Trucking” and “Hmmph.”  When I was younger I didn’t want to wear these tee shirts because they advertised your boobs and my boobs weren’t my best feature.  I was happy when sweat pants came out in college with sayings across the ass like “Alpha Ki” or “Juicy” because that was my better feature.

I don’t want to be known as the girl who brings boo back, or even sexy back.  I want to be known as the girl with a sexy back.

What would have been funnier would be if I imagined what God’s tee shirt would say if he/she had one.  Maybe sing a little of the Joan Osborne tune “If God had a tee shirt” which was the original title to “What if God was one of us.” Would God’s tee shirt say “I heart my gay son” or “Virgin AIrlines, the only way to fly?”  Or maybe since this is an election year “I’m God and I approve this message.”

The Last Accountant Standing is an obvious take on the show Last Comic Standing which of course I didn’t get when I was up there, probably because I am new at this and not aware of them having auditions.  My take was no one would hire me as an accountant even if I was the last one standing on earth.  I should have thrown in even God wouldn’t want me as an accountant, and the fact I got audited once and am fearful this might keep me out of heaven.  See if only I had stuck with the God theme.

Before they even had put up my list I saw “Jesus Email” from the previous guy’s set and said “I’m glad I didn’t get Jesus Email.”  But there’s a joke there too.  I should have added “Isn’t that was praying is?”

Third topic was Aids Marathon.  Still I could have kept up with the God theme or tee shirts.  God wants more people in heaven.  He’s lonely and needs some good jokers up there to keep him company, hence the Aids plague. Instead I went on about how people do these walks for aids and I’m thinking don’t you want to walk against aids? And how an aids marathon sounds like a giant orgy of people with STDs, and that’s icky.

May segway into the last topic was it’s even ickier. Donkey Dilemma reminded me of a time I went to Mexico with this kite boarder.  I tried kite boarding, totally not my thing, mentioned I am not a water person.  I acted out the kite boarding thing a bit.  Then I mentioned how I am stuck in Mexico with this guy who keeps bringing up that we should go see a donkey show.  How do you get out of Mexico and away from a guy like that.  I didn’t even say that a donkey show is where a woman who has been kidnapped and drugged has sex with a donkey for all to see. Here’s the obvious joke that it still kills me I didn’t go to:  “I did it.  I did the donkey show.  I mean I was in the donkey show and I was not the ass.  I made five hundred mexican dollars that night. And you know what they say.  Once you go Donkey you never go back.”

Would that have got a boo?  I don’t think so.  Maybe a groan.  But not a boo.  The only one I am offending here is the donkey, and everyone knows donkeys don’t laugh; they just nod when it’s funny.