Stronger Roofing Together, Or, Making Roofing Great Again

So here’s what I think.

The roof has some problems. I mean, it’s a pretty great roof, and in the last eight years it’s done the job ably and well, and better than the roof that was there before, but it’s time for a new roof whether I like it or not. This is just the schedule for roofs.

Now there was a roofer I really liked. Been roofing for what seems like forever. Reasonable prices, good demeanor, but in the end had some roofing ideas that were just too out there and Yelp determined that he just wasn’t cut out to be a roofer anymore, and that’s just the way it goes.

The next best choice, I gotta be honest I’m not psyched about. She seems to just be in it for the glory of roofing, because she’s been wanting to be the top of the roofing game her whole adult life. Maybe her work is sloppy at times, and maybe her quote was not quite right and maybe her roofing ultimately will look a lot like the roof I’ve had the last eight years, but at the end of the day, I’ll have a roof.

You know who I’m not going to call? The plumber. Don’t get me wrong, he’s made his name being a good plumber; whether that’s actually true or not seems unclear, based on his Yelp reviews. But a plumber is not cut out to handle the nuances of roofing. Just doesn’t have the right demeanor for it. It might seem like roofing is really easy, and he might even have some of the tools in his belt to do some of the job, or he can ask the guy holding the ladder, but in the end it seems more likely the problems with my roof are going to get way worse and cost way more money and time than I’m comfortable with. Also the plumber seems kind of racist.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. About roof repair.

My Interview on the “This is A Thing?” Podcast

7281093Recently I sat down with Kerri Wilson on her new podcast “This Is A Thing?”, and we had a great time discussing acting, writing, and 90’s-era animation/live-action comedy “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”.  It was a great time and also brought up some interesting memories.

Check out my episode here!

FringeNYC 2015 – Post-Traumatic Stress Disclosure

I finally got to the point tonight where I could tell the full FringeNYC story to someone without a full-blown attack of PTSD. So now I guess I can tell the internet too.

Creative License – A New Musical which I wrote, composed and produced, was performed Off-Broadway this summer at the Fringe festival. It was a well-received, if imperfect, production with some great folks.

Here are some things I learned:

-Don’t drive a moving truck in New York City if you have had to pee for two hours, are out of toll money, and have just been told you might be arrested by random gesticulating van drivers for driving on the FDR illegally.
-The police will pull you over at a checkpoint and ask to look in the back of your truck EVEN IF YOU’RE WHITE.
-They will do it even MORE suspiciously if you drive past the same checkpoint again because you were turned around at the Brooklyn Tunnel for having run out of toll money.
-I will never be frustrated by tech rehearsals again, because a long, fairly well-organized tech well in advance of your show is better than a midnight tech that is canceled, a 5AM tech in 90 degree heat the day of your show, and a two hour sorta-tech with a last-minute lighting person an HOUR before your show because you were moved to a new venue and additionally have to cut half your set pieces.
-Never again take for granted the following: air conditioning, competence, deodorant, sobriety, cool-headedness, Amanda Ostrow or Olivia Gemelli.
-“Kings” is a fun game, especially if one of the rules is speaking with foreign accents.
-People in New York will not take postcards from you.
-Guitars.
-I need a new summer fedora. As Bishop Mike Levesque said, it’s great but “it’s kind of without…shape.”
-Beer for sale at 7-11 will never not be weird to me, but on the other hand it is very cheap.
-It’s all right to cry in front of your cast and crew, because we all did at one point or another. That said, I did it alone and as soon as I got to Brooklyn, because that was the only point I had time to do so. There was work to do.
-And finally: Some Indian restaurants put chicken with bones in chicken curry, but only because it’s your last day in New York and you needed an extra little “fuck you” to send you on your way.

I described the whole experience this way, I think first to Katie Anne Clark one exhausted night toward the end of the festival:

“The door to the apartment in Brooklyn doesn’t lock easily, you know? It doesn’t lock and it’s kind of annoying. You have to kind of push and pull the door, jiggle the handle a little, and it would finally fall into place. When we got to the SoHo Playhouse, I went to the men’s room, and I found it was kind of the same thing; the door would close but it wouldn’t lock right. You kind of had to pull the door, jiggle the handle and the lock would finally fall into place.

I love Boston. I belong in Boston. While I’ve been here, I’ve felt like I haven’t really fit in New York City. It’s less scary than it was, and I kind of know my way around a little, but I don’t really…fit. This whole time I’ve just been jiggling the handle to make everything fall into place.”

Well, I was glad to come home, and now with the benefit of distance and hindsight, I’m sure I’ll go back to NYC sometime sooner or later. And it was ungodly expensive, scorchingly hot, and incredibly exhausting. But I gotta, say – New York, summer of 2015? If nothing else, it’s a hell of a story. Thank you to everyone who could be a part of it.

Don’t Forget the Cardio Abs: A Journey of Figurative Insanity and Actual Terror

After
Real men don’t manscape (see also: Draper, Don).

“I’m smilin’ cause I love it.”

This ubiquitous phrase is an oft-heard refrain by the demon-spawn who calls himself Shaun T, the purveyor and inventor of Insanity, a high-intensity home workout regime that is a favorite of late night commercial airtime.  The TV ad features various fit people sprinting, jumping, and doing various football and basketball drills at Shaun T’s urging, all in the name of getting into great shape by “digging deeper”.  Insanity touts its sixty-day program to drastically improve your shape, weight, and cardiovascular health.  Today, I finished the sixty-days (it actually turns out to be sixty-three when it’s all said and done).  It was a long, trying battle, and more than once I wanted to quit, but today I’m alive and, at the risk of sounding cliche, am in probably the best shape of my life at thirty-five years of age.

Why I did it

Many a night I lay half-awake in my bed watching The Colbert Report and when Insanity appeared during the commercial break, saying to my wife “I should do that sometime.”  And then I would drift off to sleep and likely eat a bunch of crap the following day.

As a former fat kid, I’ve struggled with weight my whole life, but even in recent years when it’s been at least at a “healthy” level, I still had roughly about the same muscle tone as a jellyfish.  Still, as a would-be actor, I kept things in check as best I could, slid in a few pushups and situps when I thought of it, and coasted through a mediocre acting career with a mediocre physique.

I knew I should be able to do better.  I consider myself some kind of stage actor and yet my legs got tired standing still in a scene for more than a few minutes.  I was on the verge of turning thirty-five and was looking a midlife crisis square in the mouth.  And to top it all off, I had just been cast in a feature film in which I was the male lead.  Action-oriented.  Running.  Shirtlessness.  Scary stuff.  That really should have been enough to shame me into working out.  But somehow my stubborn foothold on inaction would know no defeat.  It would take something more life-changing, more permeating.  A wake-up call.  I reminder of what I used to be.   I reminder that I used to have heart.

It took an act of terror.

On April 15th, 2013, I was one block up and one over on the corner of Hereford and Boylston enjoying warm weather and the camaraderie of watching thousands of tired runners finishing what had to be a crowning achievement of their lives, when the Boston Marathon bombs went off and everything went crazy.  Everyone was urged to run up Boylston away from the explosions and most of us did so.  I did not – I immediately began running backwards along the race route.  Why?  My wife was running her first marathon, my cell phone was dead, and I had no idea where she was.

Furthermore one of my friends had been waiting for her husband to finish and I had lost track of them before things went crazy, and didn’t know if they had gone toward the finish line or away from it to find him.  I found them fairly quickly, but no sign of my wife.  I kept running, as runners had been stopped in pockets along the route and it was unclear where she could be.  Then it turned out they had re-routed her elsewhere into Boston.  It took over two hours to find her, with the help of a hastily purchased USB phone charger and the laptop in my car.

I’m not going to pretend my story is as sad as the many stories of tragedy and heroism that came out of that day.  It was an emotional day for a lot of reasons, and it was with tears in our eyes that my wife and I reconnected at a Panera and got out of the city.  And some time after the tumultuous events of that day resolved and the perpetrators were found, something came to my mind: my body was not capable of performing in a crisis.  Running along that route was slow and exhausting, and when you’re looking for your family every moment feels like forever.  For that matter if I had been closer to the finish line and, God forbid, had to pull someone to safety or remove debris or something like that, would I be able to do it?

I’m not much of an agent of social change.  I don’t think much about abstract things like alternative energy and economic slavery.  But I like to think if a big fucking rock is laying on someone’s leg I would try to push it off them.  I like to think if a child is in immediate danger I want to get them out of it.  To me that’s not even the act of a hero, that’s the act of a human being.  And I had doubts of my ability to be that guy.

Long story short, I ordered Insanity.

Sixty-four days ago Insanity arrived in the mail.  It contained 10 DVDs, a chart to mark your progress, a nutrition guide.  Plus a lot of Shaun T and friends, smiling ’cause they love it.  It looked innocuous enough.  It was not.

How I did it

First off, Insanity is intensive just on spec:  six days of high intensity exercises of 30-40 minutes, and one day off, with one day of “recovery” exercises in the middle of the week.  This continues for a month, followed by “recovery week”, where you do some much more intensive “recovery” exercises for a full week.  Then Month Two begins, and that’s when you want to fucking die, because the high-intensity returns with a vengeance in 45-85 minute workouts six days a week.

Here are some observations and some things I did to make it work for myself.

  • It’s fucking hard.  In every workout I delighted in finding creative ways to swear at Shaun T.  Even the “recovery” days are anything but – hard exercises and stretching but just moderately slower.  What helped was that I acknowledged the difficulty right up front, and it made life easier.  I knew I was going from not exercising to exercising a ridiculous amount and it was going to be an adjustment.  The people on the DVD can’t even do it full out the whole workout, so don’t try to keep up.  Accept the fact that you will just suck at it for awhile.  Even at the end of sixty days I suck wind in many exercises.  The goal is to just keep doing the best you can, and you’ll automatically get better over time.
  • Promise yourself you’ll do it and then DO IT.  I didn’t do a great job of making Insanity a habit, ie. doing it the same time every day.  Especially in Month Two with the hour-long workouts, it’s not always easy to find the time.  Depending on the day, I would do it in the morning, I would do it after work, and occasionally, if my time management was particularly bad, I would do it at 11pm after a comedy show and a couple of beers.  Let me tell you, beer might ease the muscle pain during a workout, but it does not help your cardio.  The point is, I did it, and I hated it every time, but I was always glad I did it once I was done.
  • Accountability.  I posted on Facebook after every Insanity workout.From May 29th:  “Insanity. Day 36/63. Month Two Begins. Fit Test AND Max Cardio Circuit. Holy f**king god. Lessons learned from this first foray into the “Max” variety of Insanity workouts: 1.) I need to adjust my sleep schedule. I worked out for 85 freaking minutes today. 2.) Month One is not a workout, it is training for Month Two. You know all those exercises you hated doing? Well, they’re coming back combination-style. 3.) Number of times I said “ARE YOU F**KING KIDDING ME?” Four. This sh*t’s not bananas anymore, guys. This is full-blown plantains.”I found that posting was a motivator to do the workout, because a.) I like to write and share my creative Shaun T insults, and b.) it made me do the workouts because I did not want the shame of  admitting defeat to my Facebook friends.  Maybe it’s lame, but it worked, and my friends were extremely supportive as they saw the journey unfold.  I highly recommend this kind of approach, or finding other ways to keep yourself accountable.Rejected Facebook statuses:”Max Interval Plyo?  Should be Max Interval Cry-O, am I right?”
    “Dumbledore and Grindelwald must have been jacked after their ‘two months of Insanity'”
    “I don’t have calves anymore, I have full-grown cows.”
  • Watch the eating.   I didn’t really pay attention the diet at first, and exercise also always makes me hungry, so for the first few weeks I wasn’t seeing visible results.  Over time my metabolism got better, or I just got tired of the numbers on the scale, and ate better.  In particular I got used to eating protein after each workout – either a Powerbar or a can of tuna mixed with pickles and a little soy mayo (until someone mentioned that this was a great way to get mercury poisoning).
  • Control your breathing.  This is probably a no-brainer for people who actually exercise, but I found just doing the exercise was a lot harder than figuring out how to breathe during the exercise, and making myself actually do it made the work easier.
  • Focus.  Another thing I inherited from long ago martial arts training – focusing your attention helps.  Pushups suck, but if you watch a single spot on the floor you’ll find you can do more of them without failing.  P.S., you will be doing a LOT of fucking pushups.
  • Carpets suck.  I did Insanity in my carpeted living room, which made some moves pretty hard (particularly Suicides, Hit The Floor, and anything else with fast footwork).  I’m assuming hardwood or exercise flooring is more ideal, but to compensate I just had to learn to pick up my feet higher than they do on the disc.

The Results

Well, I showed you the after picture above, so you can use that as you will (on second thought, forget I said that).  However, being an engineer, I like numbers and trend lines.  Every two weeks during Insanity, you do a Fit Test, which is a series of eight exercises which you do as hard as you can for one minute each.  I charted the numbers from those fit tests and here are the results:

It’s a little tough to tell but generally speaking I improved around 10-20% each week, which is pretty great (the exception being the tests that span the recovery week, where you’re doing less intense exercise).  That first week each successive exercise was less and less impressive, mainly because I was exhausted from doing the first few exercises.  Over time as your cardio improves you can do all of the exercises full-out.  I found the key to the Fit Tests is that you just have to try to beat your last number.  As a result, it never gets any easier, but you keep seeing results.

Weight wise, I lost 12.2 lbs.  Weight loss wasn’t a primary goal, but it was extremely gratifying and also made the results more visible.  Today I weigh 199.2 lbs., and considering I haven’t been under 200 lbs. since around 2007, I’m pretty excited about it.

The cast of Legally Blonde knows why that first upward slope happened.
The cast of Legally Blonde knows why that first upward slope happened.

The aftermath

So what next?  I found online that there’s not a “best practice” when it comes to what happens at the end of sixty days.  Presumably they are hopeful you’ll buy another Insanity or Beachbody product to keep things going and fresh, which is something I might entertain eventually.  I’m looking at some of those cliche Warrior Dash-type obstacle races, as the idea of overcoming challenges seems particularly compelling and a better fit to someone who has done so many varying exercises for so long, but we’ll see.

For now, I am going to start the Insanity cycle over again and do another 60 days.  And maybe I’ll blog again about it, or at least post some current stats.  I am going to try to make it more of a habit and do it every morning, and keep watching what I eat, and try to feel a little contented inside my new, somewhat more jacked skin.  To avoid annoying my friends, I might not post every day on Facebook, so I’ll be on my own for accountability, or will find another way to do it.  But who knows?  Maybe tomorrow will have a new Facebook post on my timeline.  If there is, I’m thinking it will look like this:

Insanity.  Day 1/???  Plyo Interval Circuit.  Once more into the breach, dear friends.  And I’m smiling, ’cause I love it.

A Look Back On the Eve of the Apocalypse

For those of you who have been living in a cave since the beginning of the millenium, first off, you might want to stay there, because if the world does in fact become a smoldering ball of ash, you will be occupying some prime listing cave property.  You will suddenly become the Tom Brady of subterranean real estate, minus the droves of hot post-apocalypse biker chicks that want to nail an MVP quarterback.  Anyway, due to your cave-dwelling status, you might not be aware of the fact of the commonly held prophecy that, due to a quirk in a centuries-old system of time-telling, the world is going to end pretty soon.  Specifically, about three weeks from now.  Well, not a prophecy so much as an anti-prophecy – it’s a prophecy the way that running out of pages on your desk calendar is a prophecy that it’s time to buy another desk calendar.   Regardless, there are plenty of people who firmly believe it’s nearly time to settle in for a Slim Pickins-style rodeo ride to Oblivion – the philosophical abstraction, not the Bethesda software title of the same name.

I happen to believe that, despite what Nostradamus, the Mayans, and the plot line of Assassin’s Creed would have you believe, there’s a pretty good chance we’re all still going to be here come December 22, 2012.  But just in case we aren’t, there are a few people, places and things that I think deserve special mention.  So when the next civilization penetrates the grey ash-shield that comprises our atmosphere, finds an ancient Chromebook, and fires it up to read this, it will be documentation of a very key part of our history: a poorly-researched rant laced with semi-topical pop culture references and probably at least one dick joke.

With that in mind, I’d first like to thank a few people.

1.  George Lucas.  Thanks for both broadening the imagination of my childhood’s generation and filling it with a sense of wonder with the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, only to crush it years later with a series of pandering, meandering and poorly-written follow-ups.  I was pretty excited when you sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney, and am sad that mankind was hurled into the abyss before we had a chance to see Chewbacca and Ariel do it.

2.  The Middle East.  Thanks for keeping things interesting over there in North Africa, or southern Europe, wherever the hell you guys are.  Also thanks to multiple decades of the U.S. government for propagating the situation and then letting it fester, resulting in loss of human life and spectacular video of missiles hitting school buses on CNN.  While it seems obvious we could have turned the Gaza Strip into the Gaza Strip Mall pretty much any time we wanted, our dependence on the crude black stuff you guys sell (heroin) made us a little skittish.  Kind of a shame things were wrapping up for us over there just in time for holy fire to rain down and four guys on horseback to come riding through town fucking shit up.

3.  Al Gore.  Without you, my e-mailbox would not, even now, be filled with CVS coupons and an invitation to view some stranger’s webcam.  Not because you invented the internet, but because my laptop runs on compact fluorescent light bulbs.  By the way, to balance out this environmentally-friendliness, it also has a custom-made casing made from polar bears and is transported to and from my job in a Hummer with a leaky manifold.  On an unrelated note, it’s sad that the man never really got into fighting shape for the presidency.  I enjoyed his appearances on 30 Rock, even if Rachel Dratch’s character vanished into his chin folds.

4.  Facebook.  First off, everyone reading this is probably only doing so because I posted about it there, so I’ll go a little easy.  But thanks all the same for reducing the productivity level of the U.S. desk-based workforce to whatever amount of work they can quickly do between crop rotations in Farmville.  If only more people had used Facebook for rant-based blogs instead of pictures of their dogs.

5.  Winston.  Please look at this picture of my dog.

WHO'S A GOOD BOY? WHO'S A GOOD BOY?
WHO’S A GOOD BOY? WHO’S A GOOD BOY?

6.  Oracle.  You and I may not always have seen eye to eye on certain business practices, but I appreciate your ability to deliver me cheap healthcare, a warm office, and most importantly, the employee benefit of an adamantium-lined underground bunker to ride out the storm.  Perhaps I’ve said too much.  Let’s just say the post-apocalyptic internet will not be Windows-based.

7.  The Avengers.  I’m sorry, but this movie kicked so much ass, I wanted to join the 1940’s military and get frozen in ice.  It also gave our soon-to-be absentee species hope that, should the End of Days be upon us, a group of hand-selected and possibly mutant heroes would rise from obscurity and save us from certain doom.  If that *is* going to happen, the clock’s ticking guys.

8.  Abraham Lincoln.  For giving half a nation its freedom, giving history a hero, and giving Hollywood an endless supply of Lincoln-based action franchises (For those reading this post-annihilation, see also Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Abraham Lincoln: Civil War Ninja, and the critically panned Abraham Lincoln 2: Electric Boogaloo).

9.  Creative License.  Thank you for existing in some form in my head for several years and being finally on the verge of completion.  I face obliteration at the hands of the alien race that spoke to the Mayans content in the knowledge that I wrote something that was kinda funny, had some intrinisic entertainment and emotional value, and wasn’t entirely rage-based.  Thanks also to whoever invented the shameless plug.

10.  David Letterman.  Without you, there would be no top-ten lists, and this blog would just be paragraphs without numeric headings.  HOW WOULD WE KNOW WHERE WE WERE ON THE PAGE????

In closing, I want to thank my wife, my family, and all the readers of this infrequent blog for supporting me in my pre-Rapture endeavors.  I look forward to sharing a beer with you in the bunker, Heaven, or wherever your final destination happens to be.  Enjoy these last three weeks of sunshine.

That reminds me, it’s almost time to replace my desk calendar.

The Last Thirty-Three Years, Or, What the Facebook Timeline is Too Lazy To Tell You

I was born Kevinsk Judsonavitch Cironkawitz, the son of a poor immigrant Polish cobbler and an equally poor wasp dentist (a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant dentist, not a dentist for wasps), in a small hamlet on the west side of North Dakota’s “Badlands”.  My brother, Jacoby-John Madden, and I grew up in abject poverty, the kind that made the kid in the homeless episode of Saved By The Bell seem “clean-cut”.  We lived in a two-room shoebox and slept on a bed comprised of newspapers and broken glass.  Every morning we’d brush the glass off ourselves and make it into a breakfast porridge that would fuel us for the rest of our day on the assembly line of the local baby carriage manufacturing plant.  For 25 cents an hour we would screw wheels on baby carriages.  When we fell behind on our numbers, we were struck about the face with a copy of The Brothers Karamazov crudely attached to a wiffle-ball bat; when we did well, we were each given a single red M&M (that was back in the days when they were made with cocaine).  I lived on in this fashion until my eighth birthday, when I escaped over the barbed-wire fence to freedom and a chance to make it in this world.  From those humble beginnings, I continually pulled myself up by my bootstraps – necessary, since they were loose and I kept tripping over them, cursing the design flaw that made bootstraps easy to snag on something that would pull them.  I went to a good college, and when they told me to f*ck off, I went to the University of Maine and got what some have called “an education”.

Today, I am a software engineer in the third largest software company in the world (until it becomes large enough to acquire numbers 1 and 2), a semi-professional actor, and 2020 U.S. Presidential hopeful.  It has been thirty-three years since the beginning of the fictitious life story of the previous paragraph, and now, as I begin year thirty-four, I offer you, my dear readers, this look back on my life, a look back at how far I’ve come, a look back on the heartache, pain, love and loss of the last three decades.  Or make some funny shit up to put in its place.  Either way, enjoy.

Apoca-lisp Now (Years One Through Five):  I was actually born in Portland, Maine and moved between various suburbs of the state before finally landing in the tiny town of Veazie when I was five.  In these formative years I overcame a slight lisp – it was a proud day when I stated with perfect elocution that the ballgame on TV was the Detroit Tigers versus the Boston Red Sox, as opposed to the Detroit Tigerssshh vershushh the Boshton Red Shockshhhh, even though this laid the groundwork for my award-winning Sean Connery impression.  I also learned to tie my shoes (“Put the bunny THROUGH the hole?  WHY AM I SO INCOMPETENT?!?!”), was scarred for life by being interrupted in the bathroom by another kid (learn to knock, Doug Porter!), and developed my innate distrust for anyone with tiny Bibles (I’m sorry about your bathroom, Cindy Bean, but that’s no reason to call down the wrath of God).  Luckily, at my advanced age I can’t even READ a tiny Bible, so if anyone comes at me with one, I just shrug and say “God just doesn’t want me to read this.”

School of “F*ck!” (Years Six Through Ten): At six I began my storied scholastic career, becoming an expert in mat-napping and drawing pictures of Michael Jackson for the ladies, back when he was black and anything involving both MJ and children was not looked upon with disdain.  It was a simpler time.  In retrospect I probably could have parlayed this interaction with the ladies into something, if I wasn’t a ridiculously awkward kid.  I recall becoming fast friends with a kid named Pat Esty the first week of kindergarten, only to have him move away almost immediately thereafter.  This early-onset sense of sudden loss is how I developed my thick skin against Facebook unfriending (“What’s that Facebook?  You’re trying to ‘Pat Esty’ my ass?  Well, the joke’s on you, Facebook, the joke’s on you <sob>”).

I also discovered, at this early age, a loophole in the school rule about swearing in front of teachers.  I never understood this rule; kids know how to swear, and adults KNOW we know how to swear (“You, alright??  I learned it by watching YOU.”  Anti-drinking ad?  Early nineties?  Anyone?).  Why would we keep up this facade?  Anyway, one recess I slipped on the ice floe covering the kickball field and hit my head against the ground.  It hurt, and I was crying, but moreover I sensed an opportunity to swing for the f-word fences and I seized it.  I screamed every curse my seven-year-old brain could come up with.  And I didn’t just scream, I weaved intricate plotlines with a character arc.  I was reciting the Richard the Third of profanity.  Ralphie from A Christmas Story can suck it.  It was a sight to behold.   My teacher Mrs. Reynolds, to her credit, neither reported this to the principal or my parents.  I miss that lady – she made me the classy motherf*cker I am today.

The King’s Speech (Years Eleven Through Fourteen): Junior high, when a boy becomes the man he’s going to be someday, until he decides that man sucks and becomes a different one.  I was one of those kids who probably squandered his potential – school, at that period in my life, was pretty easy for me, except maybe Social Studies, at which I blew, and I was not afraid to show it in lackluster test scores.  On weekends I would pore over the same six movies in my dad’s VHS collection (if you don’t what that is, fuck you).  I have, as a result, seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, I shit you not, fifty-two-and-a-half times.  I am not proud of this number.  I could say I was fascinated with the mix of animation and live action (which at the time was groundbreaking), the character voice acting of Charles Fleischer (who played multiple parts including the title role), or the fact that Christopher Lloyd got another job after Back to the Future; all of these things are true, but I think there was just something familiar and comforting about a mindless movie like that when you’re alone.  Also, Jessica Rabbit?  I mean, come on.

Enjoy fame while it lasts, early nineties actor Bob Hoskins.

As I said, school did not always hold my interest in my early teens, but a few things did foreshadow the future: I became enamored with the antiquated computers on which we learned to type, and I won the school speechwriting competition, where I wowed the audience with a poorly researched but evidently entertaining speech on “An American Invention” – the submachine gun.  I beat out Jen Freese’s thoroughly investigated speech on the invention of American advertising brands, which frankly was a lot more poignant and deep analysis of a more relevant topic, with a plastic M-16 and a Sylvester Stallone impression.  Life’s not fair, Jennifer.  Sometimes a little sizzle is what’s called for, even if there’s no steak.  At the regional competition I made a rookie mistake (don’t try this wordplay at home) – trying to “improve” on an already funny idea and foolishly resorting to semi-topical shtick, and did not advance to the state competition.  Alas, the world was not ready for the comedy stylings of Kevin Cirone.  They still aren’t, but thanks to the internet I can give it to you anyway.  You’re welcome.

The Empire Strikes Back (Years Fifteen through Eighteen):  I finally entered John Bapst Memorial High School, where the universe slams on the brakes and says “We regret to inform you that the regularly scheduled coasting through life has been cancelled, but please stay tuned for four years of a huge ass-kicking.”  Yup – failed Spanish, hormonal imbalances, unwise choices of fashion – I had it all, in that I had none of it.  Now is probably a good time to mention that I have struggled with weight problems pretty much my entire life, and high school was an excellent example of this.  At some point in my life I determined from watching the WWF that “heavier meant tougher”.  Of course, no one bothered to explain that most WWF wrestlers were heavy with muscle and not fat, and therefore I took great care in ballooning up to 270 lbs. with my training regimen of no exercise, pizza and donut sticks.  It was pretty telling that the local pizza joint, Papa Gambino’s, could tell my address and phone number just from my voice on the telephone.  At this point I was also a wrestler for the high school team, and I was, to put it charitably, not good.  Turns out fat people move more slowly than thin people.  I learned that lesson the pretty hard way.  After sophomore year, I wised up, started jogging, and dropped to around 220.  I was still a pretty bad wrestler, but I was a faster bad wrestler.

(Actually I had a small amount of success and placed second in the regional wrestling tournament my senior year, a pretty cool story that may one day occupy a blog on its own, so I won’t bore you with it here.)

It was also in high school that I also met the first Mrs. Cirone.  Like me, she, who shall not be named (not to be confused with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, though at times there were striking similarities), was an unpopular and somewhat socially awkward kid with prior weight issues, and senior year we bonded over the fact that both of us hated high school, liked the arts, and shared the same emotional imbalance.  It was a match made in “Eh”-ven.

Breakin’ (Years Eighteen through Twenty-Two):  In college I finally broke out of the high school shell of “everything sucks and everyone hates me”, and instead crawled into the shell of “only my life sucks and my fiance hates me.”  Yes, the aforementioned high school “sweetheart” became my girlfriend and later fiance in the summer before I entered college at the University of Maine in Orono.  Right away, fiance version 1.0 had a few bugs, and mostly they were up her butt and about me.  Nevertheless, we spent all of college together with the somewhat arbitrary and unspoken promise that we would get married after graduation.  To the best of my recollection, my decision on the subject was of the “yeah, sure, why not?” variety, and hers and her family’s was of the “here, we found the ring she’ll wear and we’ll pay for most of the ceremony just, you know, show up, okay?”

I’d like to pause here to address the obvious question: why get married, then?  Three factors entered into this decision: 1.) We were both from a small town, expected to be there forever, and basically settled for the closest thing, 2.) I had always felt, growing up, that the logical progression was: grow up, go to high school, go to college, get married, get a job, have kids, retire and then die, and 3.) I had a George McFly-esque fear of confrontation, and she was a half-Italian, half-Cuban powder keg who would probably have murdered me.

All things considered though, college was a fine time for me – I majored in Computer Science and would graduate with high honors; I also managed to shoehorn in several fairly advanced acting classes, re-discovering my love for the theater, a love that I was sure I’d never get a chance to pursue after college.

In the span of three months I graduated from college, got married, got a job offer and moved to Nashua, New Hampshire.  Wife 1.0 followed soon after, dropping her brief vision of getting a Master’s degree and moving out of state, an idea that terrified her greatly.  We eventually would move to Marlborough, MA when my job was moved and she got one in Metro West Massachusetts.

The Long Kiss Goodnight (Years Twenty-Three through Twenty-Seven):  I was working diligently as a software engineer, and she worked in a variety of research positions in biotechnology labs, and neither of us had really any clue what the other’s job was.  Hell, I’m still not sure what my job is, all I knew was that I was making what I thought was a crapload of money.  However, a lot of it was spent on that roundabout commute, as only I had a driver’s license and a car, and on various other key expenses, like a cabinet full of feminine body products that were never used.  Do you ever look back and wish you had all the money you blew on stuff that was ultimately thrown away?  I could have an entire other car right now.  But I digress.

In this span of time I was finally conquering the war on weight, dropping from about 240 to a svelt 193 lbs. via Weight Watchers and a healthy black-tar heroin habit.  My gaunt Ethan Hawke-esque features and newly rockin’ physique made me recall my love of theater and how one of my drama professors – I fellow by the name of Ric Sechrest (who may or may not read this, in between acts of whatever play he’s doing now) – and how he pulled me aside one day in front of the student union and told me “if anyone has a shot at this, you do.”  At the time it was a bittersweet thing to hear – I was graduating in a completely unrelated field to a life that was likely to be completely free of the arts.  However, now three years later, I had discovered some film acting classes in Boston and thought I would throw my hat into it.  In a short time I accumulated fifteen credits in student and independent films and even starred in a two-person original dramatic play called “Softly Unsaid” – which, as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, was not my finest work, but it was still an amazing experience.

Despite these somewhat dubious achievements, my act of branching out did not sit well with the missus.  As is the cliche among “theater widows”, I was spending a lot of time with young, attractive actresses, and at times had to kiss or pretend to be in love with them, and this added tension to an already elevator-cable-like relationship.  In the end, we parted ways while I was on the set of indie film Divine Intervention (which you can watch now on Netflix!  But please don’t.), and, though I did not know it then, I began what would become the real life of Kevin Cirone.

Back to the Future (Years Twenty-Eight Through Thirty-Three):  After the divorce, I moved from Marlborough to Waltham and loved every minute of my time there.  I was in a two room apartment, paying $900 a month including heat, hot water and electricity (sigh), paying off all my debt, accumulating theater credits, and trying all of the things that had eluded me during college and the ten years of a flailing relationship.  To a certain extent, my years twenty-eight through about thirty were kind of what most people consider their twenties.  To another extent, my years twenty-eight through thirty were where I spent a lot more time throwing up than I ever intended to.  Since then, I’ve learned that lifestyle eluded me for a reason, but still, I can at least safely say I had some fun in there somewhere.  After Waltham, I moved to Watertown, where the rent was higher and the fun was a slightly longer commute, but I was convinced the cost of living would prepare me for house ownership one day.  In other words, I am not smart.

Over the months and years, I immersed myself in every corner of the arts.  I became an associate producer of a documentary on domestic violence, wrote and shot a pretty melodramatic and terrible short film, wrote and performed sketch comedy, did improv, plays, films, musicals, and even some weird murder mystery events where I blended in better with IT professionals than most actors pretending to be soon-to-be-murdered adult film producers.

Through the friendship of a now-departed actress I met on the nearly-departed MySpace, I found myself dragooned surreptitiously into my first musical, Reefer Madness, in Arlington MA.  The show was put on by the now-defunct (damn, there are a lot of hyphens in this paragraph) theater company Loki Arts.  One of the lead actresses and board member was a spunky, sarcastic, and leggy broad by the name of Shonna McEachern.  In this musical, I did my first tango (passably), sang my first solo (also passably), and performed in my first stage orgy (expertly).  This latter scene was performed with the aforementioned McEachern, and resulted in some pretty saucy photos that will probably come back to haunt me when I run for president.

It was a lot like this. A lot.

Despite somewhat intimate beginnings of our friendship, we did not have any romantic connections then – for one, we were both professional, and for another, her then-boyfriend was directing the show.  Still, things have a way of working out, and not long after we worked together on Cabaret and started officially dating on June 8th, 2009, the day after my award-nominated five-week run of The Producers at Turtle Lane Playhouse.

Shonna and I would later go on to become frequent stage partners, beginning with The Last Five Years and including Into the Woods, City of Angels, Secret Garden, Man of La Mancha, Spelling Bee, and most recently (and hopefully not lastly) with I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.  We had the advantage of being similar in height and skin complexion, as well as willing to do pretty much anything for a laugh, and this combination has proved successful for both of us, together and individually.

Thanksgiving week of 2010, I closed on a small house in Woburn, MA, where I live today.  Shortly before Thanksgiving of the following year, we actually painted some of that house.  Eventually, I will get to mowing the lawn.

On December 27th, 2011, on a dusky evening next to a Christmas-lit birch tree on the coast of Kennebunkport, ME, I gave Shonna a ring and lamely sang the opening lines to the final song from Candide, in which Shonna had just appeared:  “You’ve been a fool and so have I / But come and be my wi-hi-hife / And let us try, before we die / To make some sense of li-hi-hife / We’re neither pure, nor wise nor good / we’ll do the best we know / We’ll build our house and cho-hop our wood / And make our garden grow, and make our garden grow.”  It was sappy and douchy, but she said yes anyway.  The joke was on her, because I already had a house and have chopped not ONE cord of wood since our engagement.

This year has been great for me, and it’s not even half over, but every now and then on the journey, you need to look back on the road you’ve traveled, remember when you enjoyed the ride, the speed bumps, and the squirrels you’ve decapitated along the way.  I’m sure this blog would fill a therapist’s war chest, and maybe rightly so, but I lavish in the fact that even though my first thirty three years haven’t been perfect, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  Hopefully the next thirty-three will be memorable too – but if not, there’s always a long-winded blog in it for you.

From the Archives: This Rant is Too Big For My Status (That’s What She Said)

This is a rant I wrote as a Facebook note around New Years’ 2011; I thought I’d include it here for posterity.  Enjoy.  – Kevin

For no obvious reason, a rant has been building up in the wake of the birth of 2011.  As part of my New Years’ Resolutions that I have just made up  to both write more and to be less angry, I present to you the top ten things that have annoyed me this year so far.

#10.  My laundry machines.  The idiot “installation experts” at Best Buy installed my washer with the hot and cold hoses backwards.  As a result, my hand towels are now a weird pattern and texture, like a sunburned baby seal.  This was after I chiseled away at my modified bulkhead, in a startling display of douche bravado, so that they could get the machines into the basement.  It’s what I’ve said all along: God does not want me to wear clean clothes.

#9.  The change of the astrological signs.  Ah, astrology: the graphs and charts of a science, the stubborn resistance to change in your beliefs of a religion.  “Hey, you got your science in my religion!”  “Hey, you got your religion in my science!”  “Can I feed you to a lion?”  Maybe I’m alone here, but despite my reference to God in my previous rant I am not a super-religious person.  I do believe in science.  I have a hard time believing the stars’ alignment at the time of my birth governs my actions or ability to have a relationship, but ok, stranger things have happened.  But like all science, findings change, ideas are fine-tuned.  I’m not saying astrology is bullshit – I’m saying SCIENCE is bullshit and they keep getting better at it.  Bottom line: You’re an Australopithicus now.  Deal with it.

#8.  My heating system.  In the beginning it was completely non functional – okay, fine, that problem was fixed.  Then it was nearly out of oil.  Okay, that problem is fixed – did I mention I owe the oil company a grand?  Yes.  Yes I do.  But the fun doesn’t stop there, children – apparently turning the heat on in the upper floor of my house causes it to sound like a cage fight is happening in my plumbing.  You think I’m joking, but you don’t hear the lead pipes killing Colonel Mustard in the bedroom.  And no, that’s not a sexual euphemism.

#7.  Reality television.  This one’s been building up for a long time.  There’s an argument that says watching people degrade themselves by revealing they eat cleaning solvent or keep a collection of rats on television makes us feel better about our own lives.  It doesn’t make me feel better – it makes me feel sad for our country that this is what passes for entertainment.  You can’t blame the networks for providing us what “we” apparently want to watch with a production cost of next to nothing – it’s both smart and good business.  It just makes me said that we find it entertaining while Law and Order gets kicked off the air.  Sure, there are 17361947 episodes playing on basic cable every day, but I don’t want my fictitious son Chewbacca to live in a world without new ways for Sam Waterston to look grizzled.

#6.  Internet theater awards.  Way to pit theater companies and actors against each other in a race to see who can annoy their Facebook friends into voting for their show the most in order to win valuable cash and prizes.  What’s that?  I’m wrong, there is no cash and no prizes.  So wait, this is an internet prize?  Is this another one of those things where the king of Zaire has left millions of dollars in a bank account and all I have to do is give you my credit card number and you’ll release the money to me?  Well, it sounds like a trick, but you ARE BroadwayWorld.com.  I’m not saying don’t be happy about your show or the job you did on it, but don’t pin your self-worth to a website that’s just trying to get click-through revenue.  Also, Tick Tick Boom wasn’t on there??? WTF?!?!

#5.  People who don’t know how to use emoticons.  For example: “I’m really happy today ;)”.  I could be wrong, but internet protocol indicates that the wink means that either you are flirting with me, or you were joking about everything you just wrote.  So by that rationale, you’re saying you’re not happy, you’re miserable and sarcastic.  I don’t think you really are, so here’s a resolution for 2011:  learn to type.  It’s like when Joey didn’t know how to use air-quotes on Friends.  If you don’t understand this reference, either I am very old or you didn’t get that joke either.  Which means we have a lot of work to do.

#4.  My inability to stop eating lately.  WHY IS MEXICAN FOOD SO CHEAP AND TASTY????

#3.  Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.  Look, I’m only human, but I cannot get into that last Lair of Romulus in the recessed doorway below the beams and high above a pool of water.  I’ve tried the super climbing gloves, acrobatics and I’ve even tried parachutes.  I am on my couch wearing a suit and tie and have house guests in twenty minutes, I don’t have time for this shit.  WHY ARE TWELVE-YEAR-OLDS ABLE TO DO THIS AND NOT ME?  COME ON!

#2.  Facebook game requests.  I WOULD help you with your Steal The Illegal Transactions Records job in Mafia Wars if you didn’t post, message AND IM me about it – and then complain I didn’t do it fast enough so you had to remove me from the job.  Sorry, person who I blocked from reading this, if I have a job and a modicum of social life.  If my inability to perform fictitious time-wasting tasks on the Grand High Moff of all fictitious time-wasting websites bothers you, maybe I shouldn’t be in your Mafia, your neighbor on Farmville, or your, whatever, fish tank partner on Fishville.  You’re violating the clear social contract we have built up over the years of not caring enough to contact each other except for the purpose of playing games.  But here, no hard feelings, take this Red Mystery Bag as a consolation prize.  It contains 50 XP of my foot in your ass.

#1.  People who write long-winded notes expressing their views about dumb things on their Facebook profiles.  You sanctimonious sons-of-bitches.

There, I feel better, and I hope you do too.  I hope you enjoy the rest of your year 😉  And yes, I am flirting with you.