Tag Archives: family

The A/A Meeting #45 – Jaqi Furback

10 Apr

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Jaqi Furback’s here! Finally we get the full story on that UG @ Mug show Alex keeps referencing where a fight nearly broke out. But first, we get to learn a little bit about Jaqi’s life and how she dealt with a somewhat tumultous family life, getting started in comedy, and when she bombed in a puppet clothing store. Then, after that, we talk a little bit about how she found management, how her career’s going along, and we bury some jokes in the graveyard.

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The A/A Meeting #39 – Frank Liotti

29 Jan

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I’m becoming more of a fan of Alex’s pithy (yet sometimes syntactically challenged) episode descriptions on our Libsyn page, so I’ll just copy/paste:

“Frank Liotti in studio. We talk Yale drama school, the art of acting, and getting acting notes from a washed up rapper. Angel really wants to talk about gay stuff. And because Alex is there, theres a 10 minute chunk about death.”

Yes, I admit it, the politics of race/gender/sexuality interest me way more than most other people, but since this is a stand-up comedy podcast and not “Liberal Arts Fancy Talk with Michelle Foucault,” we managed to keep it reigned in and mainly discuss the pathos of being a professional entertainer. I’ve been waiting a LONG time to do an episode with Frank, who’s one of my favorite comedians in New York, and he did not disappoint.

A Merry Christmas

28 Dec

Christmas was always my favorite holiday, thanks to the fact that I had a very comfortable upbringing. When I was younger, I would often try to sleep all the way through Christmas Eve because I knew Christmas morning there would be some particularly impressive present waiting for me, like a Nintendo 64 or complete set of X-men action figures or a bunch of Mexican wrestling DVDs (depending on the year).

As I get older, though, and as I start making my own money, the material aspect of Christmas starts to lose its luster. I can usually buy the things I want when I want them, so gift exchanges make me feel more and more like I’m just imposing on my people who have already purchased me an Ivy League education and now need to try and fund their own retirements.

In the time frame that Christmas has faded in awesomeness, both my mother and my aunt developed pancreatic non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. With that added development, Christmas time over the last few years has felt more and more like the time when I go back to Miami every year to dwell on bad news. This either exacerbated or was exacerbated by my previously-mentioned preoccupation with death and mortality.

Thankfully, my mom is doing well and is very healthy. Unfortunately, this past week I learned that my aunt has been moved to hospice care. The cancer has spread to her spine and brain, and she’s not expected to last long.

This Christmas morning came, and the gift exchange was a modest affair. Whereas years ago we’d be unwrapping presents for hours and playing with the gifts the rest of the day, assembling and installing whatever, we exchanged a few simple gifts, mostly just the things we had specifically asked for. It was a satisfying reminder that we all care enough to be considerate and thoughtful for each other, but it wasn’t the kind of gasp-inducing greed bonanza of childhood.

Then, after unwrapping everything, we visited my aunt. I was pretty much prepared for all Christmas-like cheer to end as soon as we left the house. We were told that her family had decided not to tell her the true extent of her condition, and she thought she was just in another hospital for more treatment.  We were to respect that choice, and as such, I expected the occasion to be us just feebly trying to make small talk while gritting our teeth and blinking back tears.

Nothing really prepares you for seeing what cancer can do to someone. Seeing my mom go through chemo and radiation therapy was rough, but I’ve never seen someone who was on the way out with no hope of coming back. My aunt had always been a radiant and warm person. The typical older Cuban woman who has a plate of sandwiches ready when you come for a few hours of gossip. That day she was on the bed, pale and totally bald. Less like a person and more like a wax dummy that someone was going to paint a living person onto later. I did, however, notice one thing that seemed to fight off the pallor overtaking the rest of her person: a smile. It was a tenaciously present smile that refused to yield to the inevitability of her mortality.

Ultimately, the tenor of that kind of situation is decided by the person who is the center of attention. My aunt, despite acknowledging not feeling that well bodily, was unequivocally cheerful, enjoying the presence of us, her husband, his sister and brother in law, and the other visitors who had been coming throughout the day. If she had been going through “good” days and “bad” days like most cancer patients, I guess we had come on a good day, because my aunt wasn’t fighting through any kind of haze to talk to us nor was she languid. She was every bit the person she’s always been: bubbly, social, and dying to know what’s going on in the lives of her nieces and nephews.

In fact, her condition never really came up in conversation. We talked about what was going on in my life, my sister’s life, our cousins, basketball, flim-making, we even talked about the Large Hadron Collider. We were looking at pictures and telling stories. She was telling me how much I looked like my father. It really felt just like any other visit with my aunt, it just happened to be in a hospice.

As the visit progressed I realized this is what Christmas has come to mean for me as an adult: a celebration of memories, life, and an appreciation of the company of your family, grounded in the knowledge that those connections are ephemeral and have to be cherished.

Against my expectations, I left the hospice with some of my anxiety about death assuaged. Something tells me that, even though nobody is going to tell her, she knows her time is near. You know what’s going on in your body. If not on a conscious level, then on a subconscious level. Even still, my aunt was fully enjoying that day. She seemed, for all appearances, happy. That’s how I want to go. Ideally I would like to be told if I am dying, but ultimately I want to be surrounded by those that matter to me, and my last days to be a celebration of the fact that I was alive rather than a grim countdown to the end of my existence. If the end of my life yields a group of people who will walk me to the door with a song instead of a dirge, then I hope that will be a reflection of a life well-lived.

In a time of my life riddled with uncertainty, that measure of solace was the kind of Christmas present I needed the most.

 

Her parents

27 Jul

For the past two weeks, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve been staying in upstate New York with my girlfriend, having to interact a lot with her parents. Of course, being the impertinent bastard I am, I feel like I have to post some of the odd things I’ve noticed about them.

I have a feeling that the two of them are (or at the very least her mother is) abusing the “foreigner immigrant who doesn’t understand America” image to just act plain weird.

Case in point: my girlfriend’s mom washes her dishes in the sink and then puts them away… in the dishwasher. Yes. The GF tells me that as long as they’ve lived in that house, the dishwasher has never actually been used to wash dishes.

Now, folks, I studied abroad in China. I spent three months there and saw many different places, from bustling cities to tiny villages. In all of those places, I think they all understood what the hell a dishwasher was for. This kind of behavior can only be explicable if her mom is from another planet entirely.

“On my world, we attach all of our cabinets to water lines for no reason! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to set my bookshelf to ‘heavy grease.'”

Some other things that I can’t help noticing stem from their constant clashing with my girlfriend’s veganism.

I myself eat meat, but I support the vegan lifestyle. As much as people who eat meat find it annoying when vegans lecture them on killing animals, it is just as annoying, if not more, to tell someone you’re vegan and then listen to them give you an unsolicited lecture on nutrition and the natural course of human evolution. Picking between people who are sanctimonious about being vegan and people who are sanctimonious about eating meat is like picking between The Westboro Baptist Church and Al Qaeda.

Anyway, the GF has been a vegan since college, but despite all that, they still will either outright harangue her about eating meat, or play dumb to trick her into it.

Case in point: They cooked us a plate of fried pre-made dumplings, which they said had no meat. I bit into one and distinctly tasted meat. I looked at the box the dumplings came in, and it said, in big letters, “chicken vegetable dumplings.” Pretty self-explanatory, right? “Chicken vegetable” = There’s fucking chicken. So I call her mother’s attention to it, and tell her that her daughter can’t eat them because they have chicken.

Her response was no, “chicken vegetable” means “chicken flavored vegetables!” See? It’s okay! Only vegetables!

Setting aside the possibility that yes, there’s no chicken meat in them, how do they think the vegetables got the chicken flavor? Apparently, in dumpling factories in some part of China I didn’t get to visit, there’s some live, plucked chicken that just sits in a tub of warm water all day until some guy pulls it out and rubs vegetables on his butt for a few minutes, then sits him back in the water, unharmed, for him to continue relaxing in his cluckuzzi (okay, yeah, boooo puns).

Perhaps some of their behavior can be attributed to cultural differences. There’s a stereotype about Asians being very concerned with appearances and saving face. Well, listen to this story:

One day, seemingly out of nowhere, the GF’s mother asked me if I could help them mow the lawn. Since I always like to be helpful around the house when I’m someone’s guest, I naturally agreed. It was kind of tiring and it was hot outside, but afterwards they gave me a bit of cash, so I had no reason to complain.

That night, at dinner, I learned the reason why they asked me to do that in the first place: Apparently a young boy from down the street earlier in the day came and asked the GF’s mom if he could mow the lawn for some money, probably just because his dad wanted him to learn the meaning of a well-earned dollar over the Summer. My girlfriend’s mom, however, took it as an implied criticism that the lawn was ugly and needed mowing, and apparently it would be less embarrassing if I, already being a member of the in-group, mowed the lawn instead.

The Asian, being embarrassed and afraid of losing face, thus got me, the Hispanic, to mow her lawn for money, stealing the potential job from somebody else.

I was just part of a stereotype super-combo.

Bowling

15 Jul

I know I mentioned how I was a professional wrestler before, but I also used to be a pretty good legitimate athlete. I wrestled all four years of high school, and placed fourth in the district my senior year, making it to regionals. I’ve won a few medals in tournaments for wrestling as well as Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The point of mentioning this is to say I am no stranger to sports and winning at them.

However, skill in bowling has always eluded me.

Bowling is frustrating because it seems pretty simple on the surface: roll ball down path, knock pins down. However, you get to the alley and they decide to fuck up your day by making the path this super-smooth wooden runway lubricated with what must be some kind of sentient flubber-like trickster substance, because no matter how straight-forward I felt I rolled the ball, it somehow skids out of control into the gutters while the pins stand as silent and undisturbed as the mo’ai of Easter Island.

Ever since I was young I was kind of a hothead, so the hidden complexities of the game were quick to frustrate me, often ruining what could have been a fun family outing with one of my temper tantrums. I am historically bad at dealing with anything I am not good at. If you don’t hand me a medal on a platter just for breathing, I will shit my pants crying. Somehow, after every time this happened, I somehow got flashed by a Men In Black neuralizer because the next time somebody brought it up, my response would be “bowling? That should definitely be fun!”

Throw. Gutter. Tantrum. Fun ruined. For everyone.

It was kind of worse whenever I bowled with my mom, because she grew up in Central Florida in the 60’s and 70’s. Now, for those of you who have never been to Central Florida, the cultural WASTELAND that exists between Miami and Disney World, I will let you know this: Going to her hometown in the 1990s, the most exciting thing to do there was go to Wal Mart. So imagine BEFORE all the wonderful technological advances of the intervening twenty years, how it must have been.

Needless to say, she bowled a lot, probably because it was the only way to keep herself from crying tears of blood from boredom. She bowled enough to have her own shoes and her own ball.

For some reason, whenever I think of that, I also think of how she told me her local bar would have a live music night and there would be a guy who played the spoons. As in that was his THING. He had his own special pair of spoons taped together, and that is what he played.

So yeah, my mom was a lot better than me at bowling.

However, more recently, now that I have become a slightly less whiny shitbaby about not being good at things, I’ve bowled a couple of times and calmed down enough to actually become NOT terrible. I actually can hit something most frames of the game.

I am currently visiting my girlfriend in Niskayuna, New York. If you don’t know where that is, don’t worry, nobody does. Not even the people who live there. They just leave work in the evening and drive around aimlessly before they reach a house and say “fuck, people LIVE here? I guess I might as well give up, too,” and they just sleep there for the night until they have to go back to work.

So because of the surrounding environment, naturally, we went bowling, just the two of us, 210-pound former athlete me and 98-pound never-played-a-sport-in-her-life her. We played four games, and we tied 2-2, and in those two I won, I narrowly beat her. Very narrowly. I still had a wonderful time, since I was so entertained by the way she beat me.

I was there trying really hard to do well, paying attention to things like the direction of my swing and my follow-through, which dots I was aiming for, etc. My girlfriend, on the other hand, just grabbed the ball, threw it forward, then turned away as soon as she released, not even caring to see if it hit anything. She just threw it and left it to the four winds to determine its fate.

She was scoring as much as me. She was essentially leaving it to random chance, and she was playing just as well as me, who would actually wave my hand over that jet of air and take a few seconds before throwing by taking deep breaths and practice swings, like I was on god-damned ESPN 2 bowling for the Brunswick championship.

It’s not like she would just hit A SINGLE pin or something like that, no, she would get full on strikes and do it with this amazing style. No aiming, no premeditation, just index finger, middle finger, and thumb in the holes, walk a few steps, PLUNK, and then she’d turn around and walk back to me as the ball knocked down all ten pins.

You know that action movie cliche where the guy walks away from the warehouse and puts on his sunglasses while it explodes, not looking back? That was her. If the pins being knocked down was an explosion, she was fucking Jason Statham walking away nonchalantly with no second glance. My tiny girlfriend turned our bowling game into Crank 3: Spare Time. I almost expected her to crack some kind of pithy one-liner after every strike, for example:

“You should get your mind out of the gutter… and your ball.”

or

“Let’s make like the 7 and 10… and split.”

“Spare Time” was actually the name of the bowling alley we went to, by the way, but it’s a bad enough pun that it could be an action movie title.

Despite my general open-mindedness about gender roles and equality and stuff, part of my mind is still going to struggle with my waif of a girlfriend being better than me at sports.