Over and over
I say the same thing over and ov- SEE?!
I have 96 sixth graders split into four classes, so I teach the same lesson four times using the same words. Thanks to high school theater and seven years in Hollywood, I learn my lines quickly. In the early years, I scripted myself out sometimes, to introduce a new unit or discuss a tough current event. Eventually I fell back on my college improv skills, operating without a net but with less audience-generated chaos. “This next lesson will take place in a barbershop between an electric unicorn and a butt.”
Some of my spiel is verbatim every day. “Finish the the thought that you’re on… pencils down… and before we share with the larger class, let’s talk at tables: What did you write about today?” I recite the complete rules to games every time we play, in case kids need a reminder, or play it differently elsewhere, or are learning it for the first time. Repetition is part of routine, and kids can quickly feel successful in my repetitive structures. They know what to expect.
Repetition has its benefits, but also dangers. When you’re a pro at repeating yourself, you have to work to avoid autopilot. Especially in your time not teaching. (I always applaud when someone says the title in a movie, so CLAPPING.) Parties and gatherings often yield the same questions, and I challenge myself to change my answers with every interaction. Especially if stuck with the wife, I don’t want to give her the full Mr. Tobin. And I don’t want to live my life by rote. I can convince myself it’s beneficial to repeat myself in school, but life beyond the classroom has to be something more.
The Week in Dog Poo
You’re supposed to praise the action, not the dog, and a poo is a praise-worthy action. I’m not quite clear on what language they understand. Winnie knows her name, and probably “NO, OH PLEASE NO!!!” But I’m never sure what verbiage the dogs will respond to, so I praise them multiple ways. “Good job! Good poo! Good job pooing! Good pooing! Good job!” The order has changed over the years, and “Good pooing!” was a recent addition. I like ending with “Good job!” but I also like opening with it, which is why it features twice. And I recite it the same each time, just like it was English class. Dogs and sixth graders share some things in common, but I’m much more gleeful when it’s the dogs pooing on a fence.
The Urban Blah
Back in 2009-11 I collaborated with the brilliant Lovisa to make a webcomic that failed to become syndicated across the globe. I am pro-recycling.
There are places to cut corners, but the money you save on trash bags is easily be canceled out by the horror of picking up trash cascading out of the cheapness. I’ve long splurged in brand name trash bags, so this was just about the joke. And I have been known to drift into an “insignificance in the vastness of space-time” soliloquy, so I let the Wife get a joke at the Onion’s expense. Always a winning formula.
Don’t forget: Lovisa has a substack, go subscribe! So far I’m the only one of us sharing her art, but her words are also divine.
Jam of the Week
My mix the past week has been a bunch of albums I’ve liked recently, and I had to doublecheck whether I’d hit shuffle. So much droning guitar, drums, repetition of a couple notes (to follow this week’s theme). I have consistent tastes, and the Japanese band Minami Deutsch has figured prominently into my listening. Their new album is good but probably my least favorite of their ouevre. It’s a bit mellower, less frenetic, and I trend noisier. My repetitive pick will be Can’t Get There from their eponymous 2019 EP, it’s a good example of the sort of groove I dig.
My Back Pages
A movie and a network sitcom I worked on put my car into the background, so I imagined my car getting more parts and hitting it big. From 2004, “My Car the Star” begins with getting discovered.
After the first take, I heard the key grip say, “Wow, that car — I really believed it was parked there.”
My beloved ‘94 Corolla (named Mr. Hammond for reasons best left unexplained) was a going-away present from my parents when I moved to California. My mom’s old car had 76k miles on it, I put another 100k on, then sold it to a guy who said he was putting it “on a boat,” which is like sending the family dog “to a farm.” As you can see above, it was convincing being parked.
Pretty soon there was a great buzz on my car, egged on by another role where he realistically portrayed an S.U.V. — he even gained 1400 pounds for the part. Offers were rolling in — race movies, updates of the Herbie franchise, even a romantic comedy opposite Claire Danes. My favorite was the animated series where my car would voice his character by revving the engine and honking.
That Claire Danes reference hasn’t aged so badly, good for her. Unclear if the next reference holds up.
After a disastrous buddy-cop movie with Damon Wayans, my car turned to the bottle. He was guzzling super unleaded like it was antifreeze, and before long he moved onto harder stuff. Do you how depressing it is to inject heroin directly into your car’s air hose? The horn just sort of fades away. I mean, you can cover the track marks with axle grease, but there was no hiding the chipped paint or the vacant look in his headlights.
Lots of other jokes about the car’s descent into Hollywood excess, then a final meditation.
Was is that I went to a mechanic named Stanislavsky? Was it my own talents rubbing off? Or was it just what my car was born to do? I have no idea, but I also thought my car was born to, I don’t know, drive around.
My car was in an episode of Just Shoot Me with Laura San Giacomo who was in Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts who was in Flatliners with Kevin Bacon. Three degrees.
Thanks for reading! Want the new issue delivered fresh to your inbox every Monday?Subscribe for free.