Friday, August 13, 2004

A man with three buttocks

Greetings fans and welcome to today's event.

Hello again everyone and welcome to beautiful Madison, Wisconsin. I'm Jim Pennypacker and joining me is Scott Van Nostrine. Today we are all going to give all of you a chance to witness one of the most fascinating of specticals in our world today.

Boy are you right about that, Jim.

Thanks for jumping in uninvited, Scott.

Never a problem Jim.

Today we've decided to sit in on, what should be a riveting event in the life of a young couple, the sale of their home.

Let me tell you something Jim. People will be talking about this day for months to come.

That's probably because they've got nothing better to talk about in their dull and boring lives Scott, but let's take it to the conference room and get the pre-signing introductions. Giving us the story from there is, our very own, Andrew Vandelay.

Thanks Jim. There is a definite feeling of excitement down here at Formica level and by the looks that we see on both the buyers and sellers faces, it is "Go time."

Way to bring out a terrible cliché early into the event Andrew.

Could you expect anything less Jim?

I wouldn't have thought you were capable of anything else. Now, let's get to the presigning introductions.


Let me tell you something Scott, the Haag clan really looks like they're ready to get this party started.

Right you are Jim. They were sweeping late into the evening last night, just to make sure that everything would be G2G for the sale, come 9 o'clock this morning.

Scott, remember this event is being transcribed. If you mean Good to Go, just say it.

Go to hell, Jim.

That's the kind of fire I like to hear from you Scott. Well, it looks like we've missed the introductions for the buyer's team, but there is one thing that we've noticed that's a bit odd about their squad. It seems as though she has brought her parents with her. Let's go back to Andrew for his perspective.

Thanks, Jim. You're right, it is a bit unorthodox for the parents to accompany their child on a home purchase, so we'll have to just sit back and see how much they decide to meddle, I mean help in the process. Back to you.

Great work Andrew. It looks as though all of the agent's have joined their respective parties, the pens have been exchanged, and we're ready to go. Uh-oh. What's this? The buyer's have already found an issue with the paperwork. What can you see there, Scott?

Jim, it appears that they are claiming that they are being overcharged for a reimbursement for this month's condo fees.

Wow, Scott. That could be something serious. Andrew, can you tell us what kind of money we're talking about here?

Jim, it appears that the discussion is about two dollars and seventy-five cents. Jim? Jim?

Sorry Andrew, did you actually say that they were holding up the proceedings over two dollars?

And seventy-five cents. Back to you Jim.

Scott, have you ever seen anything like this?

Well Jim, there was a moment during the closing of the sale of my home after my fourth divorce....

Never mind, Scott. It looks as though their agent has showed them a calendar and has convinced them to let that issue slide and get things moving again. The buyer has completed her first signings and now the Haags have their pens in hand and are ready to put their John Hancock's to the documents. Is there anything that you can see down there Andrew?

Jim, this is the reason that I'm here. All of those years in a Canadian penmanship academy have given me a great deal of expertise on what each person really is saying about himself or herself when they put pen to paper. It's as if a small part of their soul is leaking out of their hands onto each piece of parchment that they inscribe.

So, are they signing Andrew?

Yes, Jim. They are. There is another issue down here though. What are you seeing from topside Scott?

Andrew, it looks as though someone interrupted Glen in the process of his signature. He's signed his first name on the page, but can't seem to figure out how to write his last name from a standstill. This is a tragic setback for the Haag’s. Have you ever heard of anything like this from your days in that Turkish prison Andrew?

It was a Vancouver writing institute, you illiterate clod, and yes I have seen this before. For some people, once they start on their signature and stops, they cannot just "start things up" again. Glen looks like he is really is struggling with this, but... yes.... whew.... he was eventually able to scratch out a semi-legible version of his last name for the state tax form. That was close call, but it looks as though they're going to be able to finish up their signings and finish everything up without further incident. Back to you two in the booth.

Well, the Haag's have finished up their signatures, and it looks as though the exchange of the keys is taking place without any incident. So, despite the minor setbacks that we've had, it looks as though this closing process is going to finish up with out any further interruptions. I want to thank you all for joining us today. So, for Scott Van Nostrine and Andrew Vandelay, I'm Jim Pennypacker wishing you a fond farewell. Here's hoping that all of your loan closings are an open and shut affair.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Cue the Monkey

There are only a few things, that I know, that are absolute certainties when I evaluate myself. Here’s one of them.

I can’t act my way out of a wet paper bag. Not that acting is a skill that would allow you to actually work your way out of a wet paper bag. Simply moving would probably suffice if you were to be “captured” in some sort of saturated, human-sized, grocery bag, but you get the point.

In 1993, I was given a small part in a production of Inherit the Wind when I was visiting my sister in Connecticut. As a favor to my sibling, the director cast me in the role of a man in an ape costume. The role was basically a gift, as the director had been playing the part for all of the previous shows, but I was in town for the week and it gave him a chance to focus on the actual production of the play, rather having to waddle around in a huge costume.

Ok, maybe a gorilla would be a more accurate description of the role I was playing, as the costume was roughly the same one that Clarence Beaks was wearing in Trading Places; but for the purposes of Inherit the Wind, I was an ape. I really thought that this role was going to be my path to greatness. A small town kid from Wisconsin would walk onto the stage and steal the show.

People would talk for years about how they saw Glen in his first acting performance and would rummage through their homes looking for the torn ticket stub that would indicate that they were at Sir Glen Haag’s first performance. (Hell, if I was going to have a great career, I might as well be knighted for it eventually.)

It’s a great thought and although it was possible that it could have happened, the odds would have been greatly in my favor if I weren’t the person in that suit.

Basically, all I had to do was to walk out on the stage and pretend to collect money from the local citizens. For each person that “gave” me money, they got themselves a valuable gift. A lollypop.

If you asked me why I was collecting money while walking around in a giant monkey costume, I wouldn’t be able to give you an answer for the simple reason that there isn’t one.

Thinking back on it now, there is a pretty good reason that a person dressed up as a monkey hadn’t appeared in any of the film or stage versions of Inherit the Wind to that point. Quite simply, it just doesn’t make any sense. If you were a person that is against the teaching of evolution and does not believe that man evolved from apes, why in the hell would you have a human being walking around pretending to be an ape and trying to raise money for your cause?

Well, the whole thing was lost on me at the time as I was caught up in the glamour of being a 19 year old in an incredibly heavy ape outfit.

My part was simple, walk out, shake my money can, and if someone put some change in the can, give him or her a sucker. Really, it was a quite simple role.

The production began and the first act went off without a hitch, and during the first intermission I went and put on my costume.

Let me tell you one thing, you never want to wear all black when you’re on stage. Especially if you’re doing a production, that from what I can tell, was being lit up by 4 aircraft searchlights. Personally, I think the director had a friend at a local car dealership that had sold enough Hyundai’s for the day, and decided to stop distracting incoming planes for a few hours and let him borrow those lighting monstrosities for his small theater group.

So, beyond the fact that I was sweating like Roger Ebert, another benefit to wearing an ape costume is that you have absolutely no peripheral vision. You’re looking out your eye slots, and that’s it. You’re as blind as a monkey with, um, well. Well, you’re as blind as a monkey with ½ inch eye slots.

So there you have it. All I have to do is to walk out on stage, walk towards the actors that are going to give me some money, and then walk out of their way, and then go off stage. “The whole thing should take you about 10 to 15 seconds,” they said.

Well, one of the things that I excel at in life is the fact that I can take an ordinary or simple task and make it an incredibly more complex one.

The curtain went up, and all of the actors that were playing the roles of the local residents milled about on stage and pretended to be protesting out in front of the courthouse. The first line wouldn’t be spoken until I was done with my little part on the stage, so it was important that I complete it quickly. Remember, they said that it “should” take me about 10 to 15 seconds to complete my little part in the production.

I ambled out onto the stage, and went into full Glen mode.

One reason that I should never have been put out on the stage is for the simple reason that I love to be the center of attention. It doesn’t matter if the type of attention that I get is either good or bad, as long as people are looking at me. If you put me in a room where no one is talking, I’m usually the first to do something to try and get everyone to laugh. Sometimes it works, and sometimes I get a very cold stare from Sarah. The latter happens quite a bit more often than the former.

When I walked out onto the stage, a heard a few people chuckle from the audience. It was the sort of polite laughter that happens when people are trying to throw the director a bone, and give them the little laugh that they were expecting. A person in an ape costume walks out on stage, cue Happy Days laugh track #72.

So, I decided to ham it up a bit and pretended to be an ape. I did all of the ape clichés. (I think I found a new name for my column. Ape Cliché.) I made big swinging arm movements. I pretended to scratch myself. Basically, I created another 15 to 20 seconds of “acting” silence before I even started what I was supposed to do out there.

There is a pretty good reason for a script in most plays. It keeps the action moving. It’s not as easy to get bored when people are actually “performing.” No one came to this show to watch me hop about for a minute. They wanted to hear an actor pretend to be Clarence Darrow, and watch him articulate why evolution should be taught in our public schools, not watch Glen Haag pretend to be a monkey. But for the next 30 seconds that’s what they got. So, after I tried to get a few cheap laughs in my faux primate routine, I went out and did what I was supposed to while on stage. I should say at this point, that I tried to do what I was supposed to while out on stage.

Getting the change from the actual actors on stage wasn’t much of a problem, but the issue was removing the lollypops from the container that they were in. They were inserted into tiny holes cut into the top of a plastic coffee can lid and were a bit difficult to remove from their homes. A bit difficult might be a bit of an understatement.

The last actress that I was to get change from seemed to already be agitated when I walked over to her. Apparently my monkey-boy act was lost on her, and her grandiose thespian moment of putting a quarter into a tin can was stolen from her by some Glen-come-lately.

There are some images that are just burned into your brain, and the mental picture I have of her face as I was struggling to remove the hard candy from it’s container is one that will be stuck in my mind forever. I don’t ever think I’ve seen a person so angry with me. Her face seemed to be trying to convey one thought to me, “Give me my lollypop and get off the fucking stage!”

Eventually the candy came loose, I handed it to her, and walked off of the stage. At that time I thought I had done a terrific job, and thought that acting would be a great career choice for me. I was floundering in college, had no real career path to speak of, and had just recently discovered the drunken bliss of the cast party. So, getting a few elderly people in a small town in New England to laugh at my actions seemed to indicate that acting was the career that I should be focusing on.

Of course, now I’m a bit wiser. I know that I don’t need a costume to get people to stare at me, all the while sitting in complete silence. I just write to get that same sort of reaction now.