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Category Archives: actresses

So You Want to Be an Actor? Huh. That’s…a bold choice.

When I was sixteen, I was pretty sure I was going to be a world-famous poet and also a Broadway actress. Because I was sixteen. A lot of things seem possible when you are sixteen. I also thought I would marry Sean Astin (I had a crush on him in The Goonies, ok? Sheesh, stop being so judgey) and have a bunch of kids and probably also live in a mansion. And I really, really wanted a convertible.

Look how cute he was. Look! SO CUTE!

Look how cute he was. Look! SO CUTE!

As you can see, all of that has come to fruition. Every. Last. Bit. I am a poet who has been read…um…in the world. I have SEEN a show on Broadway, and at one of the shows I acted like I was more pleased with our seats than I actually was. (In my defense, they were REALLY far away. The people onstage looked like ants. Little singing, dancing ants. But I acted like I was pleased, because I didn’t want to hurt the person’s feelings I was with. See? ACTING! On BROADWAY!) I’ve…um…followed Sean Astin on Twitter? And who’s to say we might not still get married someday? (OK, that one I don’t really want, because he seems like a very nice man, but our fire is out. He totally never got tall enough for me. I like tall guys. Sorry, Sean Astin. I’m sorry our love has died. These things happen.) I have two cats who have multiple personalities depending on the day so that’s LIKE having a bunch of kids, kind of, in a very sad, shut-in kind of way. I live in…a place that is near a road that is near another road that is kind of near a mansion. And if I roll down my windows and drive really fast, it’s JUST LIKE A CONVERTIBLE. See? I’m really kind of winning life.

JUST like this. Only less shiny and much less cool.

JUST like this. Only less shiny and much less cool.

I did very well, acting-wise, in high school. I was not self-aware enough to realize that was because I lived in a very, very small town, and there were very few actors there. When I went to college, in a much bigger town, with people who actually COULD act, and went to high schools with actual acting CLASSES, I realized, huh. I am…not actually very good at this, comparatively. I still act, once in a blue moon. And work backstage, which I learned I was much better at and was also much less stressful. Well, mostly less stressful. Sometimes things catch on fire. No, I’m not kidding. And sometimes the power goes out in the middle of a show. And sometimes actors have a mini-meltdown and you have to talk them down. Or sometimes all of those things happen at ONCE. But not often. Usually you get to read and relax a little, as long as the show’s going well.

Shh, actors, don't bother the stage manager.

Shh, actors, don’t bother the stage manager.

I do run into quite a few people – young people, usually – who are very starry-eyed and are planning on moving to New York City to conquer Broadway, or to L.A. to conquer the silver screen. And I don’t want to break their little hearts. I really don’t. But sometimes they leave, then they come back with sad eyes and that is just the worst. Because SO MANY people move to those places to make it big. And there are only so many roles, you know?

So last week, one of my friends posted this, which is a list of very good tips for actors or people who want to be actors or people who THINK they want to be actors. (And also fancy because he spells theater “theatre” like a FANCY FANCY PERSON.) If you have any interest in acting, it is totally worth a read. This guy is intelligent. Without being heartbreaky to all these little actory people. Let’s take a look at some of these tips, shall we? Sure we shall.

“Stealing the show” is not a compliment. The ensemble is more important than your “moments”.

True. Hard to understand when you’re young, though. Because you are VERY “look at ME! Look at ME!” when you’re young. Here’s a tip, though: if you’re a good actor, you can steal the show without stealing the show. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a show that hasn’t been very good, but there was one actor in it that was – so I concentrated on that actor. That actor wasn’t attempting to upstage everyone, or doing things that were distracting from the action, but just by being a very good actor, he or she did steal the show. This sometimes even happens in very good shows. In comparison, if someone is ATTEMPTING to steal the show, it just gets annoying, and I stop paying attention to those people. So pay attention to your own paper and stop trying to upstage your fellow actors and you just might steal the show anyway.

This is a perfect example of the WRONG type of upstaging. Bad job, Kanye. WAY bad.

This is a perfect example of the WRONG type of upstaging. Bad job, Kanye. WAY bad.

You’d be surprised how few people are willing to pay for theatre tickets when they aren’t your friends and family and have no personal connection to you whatsoever.

Sadly, as someone who works in theater, I can tell you that this is the case. Yes, a lot of our audience members are friends and family members of the cast or crew. But the hard part is getting just your everyday human to come to the theater. Because people do not like to attend theater. People go to movies; people go to concerts and sports and such. But theater? LIVE HUMANS PUTTING ON A SHOW? That is CRAZYTALK! I’ve also told everyone I know about shows I’m working on and guess how many come? Probably 4. People just don’t go to theater. If you can think of a way we can change that, you let me know. And NO, nudity is not an answer. We tried that. Still got the same number of audience members. Although one of them did, strangely, bring a magnifying glass and used it in the nude scene. I don’t know, either.

The stage manager always works much harder than you. And technically, you work for him/her, not the other way around.

TRUE AND YES. As someone who has probably stage managed more than anything else she’s done in theater, this is very seriously true. The stage manager works their butt off, and the actors DO work for us. A good stage manager doesn’t make it SEEM like they work for us, but we do tell the actors where to go and when to be there, when and where to put their props, how best to change their clothing…the list goes on and on. And if the actors misbehave, we’re in charge of yelling at them for it. Also, be nice to your stage manager. It can only help you in the long run. Promise.

This...isn't too far off, actually.

This…isn’t too far off, actually.

Directors, casting agents, and producers care as much about how easy you will be to work with as they do about how good you are for the role. If not more so.

I am often in on the casting decisions at my theater. I can tell you that yes, of course we talk about who gave the strongest audition. But we also knock people completely out of the running if a., we’ve worked with them before and they were an utter nightmare, refused to take direction, were rude to the other actors, were a creepy stalker, or one of a million other reasons we might not want to work with them again, or b., we’ve heard they were hard to work with from someone at another theater. Listen, I’m going to give you probably the single most important piece of advice you’ll ever get in theater. Ready? Theater people talk. It’s what we’re known for. We talk, we gossip, we snark. And your reputation is something we talk about. If you’re wonderful to work with – we talk about that. If you’re a terror to work with – we talk about that, too. And you’re going to start getting offered fewer and fewer roles, because your reputation follows you wherever you go. Sometimes for years. You need to safeguard it with your life. Be nice, be polite, take direction, follow rules, make people want to work with you again. It is something you are never going to regret, if you want to act.

There are plenty more on his list, which I highly recommend, if you are at all interested in acting (either professionally or not) you read.

It kind of all boils down to this, which I am stealing, without any embarrassment, from Wil Wheaton: don’t be a dick. If you are a joy to work with, people will want to work with you. So many actors don’t understand this. They show up, they kill it at the audition, they aren’t cast, and they rant to everyone who will listen, “I don’t UNDERSTAND. I was SO MUCH BETTER THAN EVERYONE WHO WAS THERE. What is WRONG with those people? They just don’t know talent when they see it. That show will fail. I’ll never see a show there again. I’ll tell my FRIENDS to stop seeing shows there. I’m going to email the Artistic Director and demand they tell me why I wasn’t cast. I’m going to email the director. I’m going to post things on their Facebook wall.”

Would you want to work with this person? Because I sure as hell wouldn’t want to. And if another theater asked me about them? I’d tell them the truth. They’re hard to work with. We talk, you see. We want what’s best for our theaters and what’s best for the other theaters in the area. It’s not out of vindictiveness. It’s out of protectiveness. We’ve worked with this person before; this person made our lives a living hell for months. Therefore, we don’t want someone else to be subjected to that.

There. Now you have all the tools you need to be an actor or actress, right? Right. And I’d never DISCOURAGE anyone from moving to the big, bad city to give it a try. I mean, people make it every day. Just…go into it with eyes open. And maybe have a backup plan. A backup plan that does not involve prostituting yourself so you have rent and food money. OK? Cool, cool.

And, sincerely. Don’t be a dick. That’s not only good advice for theater, that’s good advice for life, as well.

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…and I’ll no longer be a Capulet. Or a Juliet, actually.

OK, I have two hours and then it’s bedtime. I’m so tired I’m pretty sure I’m on the way to seeing things that aren’t there. Like little green men or possibly large pink bunnies, I don’t know. If I can get a full night’s sleep tonight that would be so sweet. Sleep has become like a long-lost lover to me lately that I think of fondly and with much longing. I miss you, sleep. Come back to me, please, sleep. I promise to show you a good time.

I had to tell you some things yesterday. OK, what were the things. Sex-change cat; sword-cane; The Shape of Things; strip club. And whatever else crosses my sleep-deprived brain-area.

Sex-change cat!

So we answer all kinds of calls at work. Doctor’s offices, lawyers, heating and cooling places, apartment complexes – if a place ever closes, and needs someone on call after hours, we’re your place. We answer for a bunch of vet offices. I like the vet offices, because I feel like I am being HELPFUL to the ANIMALS. (Although sometimes the callers ask something silly, like “My dog ate some raw chicken, will he die?” and I SO want to say “No, because IT IS A DOG and DOGS EAT RAW THINGS ALL THE TIME AND ALSO GARBAGE” and I have to exert all my self-control not to.) Anyway, someone called a vet line the other day and – I am SO not kidding – asked to have the vet call them back so they could get a sex change operation for their cat.

A SEX CHANGE OPERATION. FOR THEIR CAT.

His name was “Romeo” so I assume he wanted to become a “Juliet.”

We even listened to the call because we assumed it was probably a prank call and we wanted to talk to the operator about what to do when a prank call comes in but it wasn’t even a prank call. Just a fella wantin’ a sex change operation for his kitteh.

I don’t even…what leads someone to make this phone call? What leads you to want a sex change operation for your cat? Did your cat meow in a feminine fashion so you assumed they’re really a lady? Did you catch your cat wearing little cat-dresses? (I totally knew a cat that had a little cat-dress once and it made me laugh so hard I almost died. It was PINK. And yes, it was a real live cat and not even a stuffed animal.) Did your cat hump another man-cat so you’re like “THAT IS EEEVIL” so you think it’s probably trapped in a man-cat body?

This is more of a housedress. This cat is not fancy.

Listen, Dumbcat meows like a lady. I’ll totally admit it. He also sometimes sounds like an opera singer. He has a very high cat-voice. But I don’t think he needs a sex-change operation. How would I even KNOW such a thing? DUMBCAT IS A BOY. He’ll have to stay a boy, because HE CANNOT TELL ME HE WANTS ANYTHING ELSE. Because HE IS A CAT.

This is insane and makes me sad for the cat. I hope the vet clinic didn’t even bother calling that guy back the next day, seriously.

This segues nicely into SWORD-CANE GUY.

So we also answer for some places that we have to take orders for. These make me sad because they are for old people who can’t figure out this new thing called “the intertubes” and so they want to talk to a human because they think if they type their credit card number into the typewriter attached to a television it will be stolen by alien robots.

…and they eat our medicine for fuel.

One of them sells canes. All the canes. Many types of fancy canes. (So…not a lot of young people call that line, then.)

So a man called me the other day, and I got his name and shit, as one does, and then was all, “How can I help you today, sir?” and he said, “Well, I wonder if you have any sword-canes.” And I said, “Um. Sword-canes?” and he said, “Yes. Canes, that are also a dangerous sword.” So I said, “Like…in a James Bond film?” and he said, “JUST LIKE THAT.” So I said, “Have you…checked our catalog online?” because that’s what we’re supposed to do, and he said, all conspiratorially, “YES. But you wouldn’t have them in the catalog. They’re MUCH too dangerous. They’d be something you’d NEVER talk about. Unless someone were to call you and ask about them SPECIFICALLY.” So I was all “Um. Mmm-hmm” and got the rest of his info without even laughing at him. Are you so proud of me? I know. I know you are.

SWORD-CANES!

This one’s even scarier, ’cause, DRAGON. It will BITE you and also STAB you. DOUBLY DANGEROUS!!!

So then my coworker was all, “WHAT THE HELL IS A SWORD CANE” so I drew her this helpful diagram which I brought home with me so I could show you. Because I love you.

My job might kind of have killed me this week but I still got the giggles more than not.

SWORD CANE!!!

Ooh, this one you can PUSH TO OPEN and also it’s a COBRA. Hiss!

Oh, yeah, as you can see, I’m totally quite the artiste. And also that’s my handwriting. Like it? I have trouble sticking with either cursive or print so I fluctuate between the two, it’s an issue I have.

STRIP CLUB! Ding Dong Joe’s been waiting for this part of the post. He’s taking off the minute when this is done.

So right around the corner from my house (well, not THAT close. Let’s say like, I don’t know, 5 minutes away or something, I don’t know, it’s not far) is a strip club/juice bar. I think that’s what it is. Because in New York you can take your clothes off and sell juice, and you can leave your clothes on and sell beer, but never the twain shall meet. Well, not legally, anyway, and not on stage for money.

It is called Night Moves. (Oh! Shit! Sorry. NITE Moves. They don’t spell it right. My fault.) It is not my FAVORITE strip club. My favorite strip club was run by a crazy and they shut him down for some reason and one year at Christmas he put a blow-up Santa being serviced by a blow-up doll on his roof as a protest and it was both inappropriate and hilarious? Because I have a strange sense of humor? They made him take it down. But for a short period of time it was THE FUNNIEST YET WORST THING EVER.

Anyway, so my area was TOTALLY FAMOUS because we were on The Colbert Report the other night with a report about Night/Nite Moves because the owner tried to get strippers claimed as dancers so he didn’t have to pay his back taxes. No, seriously. I would embed the clip but I can’t because Comedy Central and WordPress don’t play nice so here’s the link. The local arts guy is the guy that does the restaurant reviews for the paper and I kind of love him. (I think he does other things, too. He’s pretty great. But he’s most well known for his foodie stuff.)

FINALLY, then I’m TOTALLY going to bed, I went to see a play last night, even though I was EXHAUSTED, and listen. LISTEN. Sometimes you’re all “ugh, I really shouldn’t do this, I should go home and go to bed” or whatever but people are RELYING on you so you GO and then something magical happens.

Best show I’ve seen all year. I see…well, less shows now, since I’m poorer than poor, but let’s say anywhere from 2-5 shows a month? All year long? Times twelve? So that’s a lot. More than your average human being.

The acting was brilliant. The lighting was…well, I haven’t seen anything like it in a long time. It was cinematic. It was a revelation. The set was understated but such an integral part of the show it made my heart hurt. The music was perfectly chosen. (“Coin-Operated Boy” at one point, and did I bop along in my seat? Yep.)

And it was at MY THEATER, so you might be all “AMY YOU ARE BIASED” but I didn’t even work on this one, so I’m completely unbiased. (Also, I don’t believe in being biased. I’ve said “best thing I’ve seen all year” about things I’ve seen at my theater, at theaters I don’t care much for, at theaters with millions of dollars in revenue, theaters in basements. Doesn’t matter much. Best thing I’ve seen all year doesn’t get biased. The only thing not considered for it? The things I haven’t seen, because in order to be considered, I have to have seen it, you know?)

Anyway. If you are local, you need to get over to my theater (it’s Albany Civic Theater, we’re at the end of 787, check out the website for directions) and go see The Shape of Things. Four more shows: today at 3 and then three next weekend. If you’re not in the area, read the play or watch the movie, because it’s wonderful and I think you will love it. (OK, disclaimer: if you don’t like shows about how terrible we can be to one another as humans, and about art and deep thinking and manipulation and sex and rough language and such, probably you shouldn’t read/watch it? But if you’re ok with these things if they’re done well, and not just for effect, then it’s for you. Promise. Neil LaBute is a master at what he does.)

But if you’re here, it’s $15 at my theater, it’s live theater, and it’s one of the most brilliant things you’ll ever see on stage. I promise. If there’s an adorable blonde at the box office, tell her Amy from Lucy’s Football sent you. You’re not going to get a DISCOUNT or anything, but she’ll get a kick out of that, I think. She finds this whole blog-thing amusing and also mind-boggling. (Adorable blonde is friend K. who I love more than chocolate.)

Oh, and also, in the audience last night? People were TERRIBLE and POORLY BEHAVED. They were talking through the whole show. One woman was narrating: “Oh! She said that because he LOST WEIGHT!” or “SHE DOESN’T LIKE HER.” Thank you, lady; without you, how would I have known these things? At one point, someone made a poor choice (or, what someone in the audience thought was a poor choice); another audience member said, “FUCK!” loudly, and everyone laughed at her comment, so she was all “durrr hee hee!” at herself. At another point, someone decided she’d had enough of this “sitting” thing people talk about, so she stood in the aisle and talked to her friend. The man next to me sat so splay-legged he was pretty much riding my leg like a Kmart automated quarter-pony. I feel like he should have given me a wet-wipe and $50 when he was done with me.

THESE THINGS ALL HAPPENED WHILE ACTING WAS HAPPENING ON THE STAGE.

K. and A. and I just kept looking at each other in horror. When did shit like this start being ok? Why do people think the theater is a bowling alley or their living room or something? The actors can HEAR you. They can hear you talking while they are trying to act, you assholes. SHUT UP. I know. I know we need their money. I KNOW THIS. But also, common courtesy? No? Please? THOSE ARE HUMANS ON THE STAGE. SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.

Anyway. It was amazing; the final moment of the show shocked me into tears (and I know the show. I KNEW IT WAS COMING.) It was a brilliant, amazing, surprising, risk-taking night of theater. K. and A. and I immediately leapt to our feet to give them a standing ovation at curtain call (the rest of that asshole audience, for the most part, sat right there on their asses and clapped in a bored fashion. I HATE YOU I HATE YOU.) I wish you all could be there.

Ooh, look what I found, the director made a trailer for it. He’s a smartie, that one. Here here here, it’s as close as you all can get without being there:

(I also got some potentially very exciting news, which you don’t get to share for bit. The chickens are a little closer to being counted. That’s all I can say for now.)

Supposed to have been in bed ten minutes ago. Have to go, cupcakes. Long day of work tomorrow, then seeing friend C. for the first time in months tomorrow night, then I get a NIGHT to MYSELF and a DAY OFF. Have to finish this, write one email, then off I go to sleep. I hope. Oh, sleep. How I miss you.

Happy Sunday. Watch out for sword-canes! They are always where you least expect them and then you’ll get stabbed in the face-area.


More Adventures of Our Fancy World-Traveling Bon Vivant (yes, with jaunty hat in tow)

You of course all remember the continuing adventures of our favorite bon vivant, right? What’s that? Some of you are new around these parts? Well, you’re going to want to catch up before you read this, otherwise you’re going to be coming in in the middle of our stories, and you won’t know who the characters are, or have the rich backstory we’ve worked so hard on around here. First, our bon vivant went to London, saved all the tea and his BFF-ship with Kate Winslet, and foiled that dastardly L. Ron Hubbard; then our bon vivant went BACK IN TIME to hang out with J.S. Bach and Kate Winslet, and save music as we know it, and ran afoul of his NEMESIS, Jeff Goldblum DUN DUN DUNNNN; and most recently, our bon vivant went to Japan, where he rescued all tea from becoming obsolete with the help of Rachel Weisz and his most amazing dogs, Ella and Louis.

Are you all caught up? Good. As you can see, Ken (the bon vivant in question) has many adventures. MANY adventures. These adventures, were they not documented by The Person Who Writes These, might fall by the wayside. Which would be a crying shame, really. These things are GOOD. They are WORLD-RENOWNED. However, The Person Who Writes These has been busy. She has been SO BUSY. So she doesn’t always get to document them in a timely fashion as nature intends.

But the other day, our bon vivant made an offhand comment on a blog that The Person Who Writes These likes very much – THIS VERY BLOG RIGHT HERE – and it made her head-wheels turn so she decided, yep. It’s time. Time for another tale of high bon-vivantery. Wait. That makes it sound like someone’s smoking weed in this story. NO ONE IS SMOKING WEED IN THIS STORY. Oh, wait, yeah, later someone might be smoking weed in this story. I take that back.

So…without further ado (with me, there’s always ado. You know that. I bring ado wherever I do. I am awash with ado) I bring you…

The latest tale of bon vivantery…complete with jaunty hats…

THE INVASION OF THE BON VIVANT SNATCHERS (aka DOPPELGANGER AHOY!)

One day, our bon vivant went on the internet. Listen, bon vivants go on the internet, much as anyone might. It is a good way to keep up with far-flung friends. Bon vivants have MANY far-flung friends. They make them as they bon vivant, you see.

“Huh,” said Ken. “This is strange.”

Where he had had many, many bon vivanty friends on Facebook only a week or so ago, he noticed the number had dropped. Substantially dropped. There were many notifications; he clicked on the little red number curiously.

“What the hell is wrong with you? UNFRIENDED,” said one.

“I can’t believe you would say that to me. We’ve known each other for YEARS,” said another.

“Last night was great! CALL ME!” said a third. (This one was worrisome, let’s be honest. FLATTERING, but worrisome. Because he didn’t THINK he’d had any sort of “last night” with this person.)

One of the messages was from his good friend Helen. Helen lived in Taos, New Mexico. The bon vivant likes Taos very much. He also likes Helen very much, and they had many cups of tea together back when he was a much younger bon vivant.

“This is a very destructive path you’re on, Ken. I don’t think we can be friends anymore if you’re going to act like this,” her message said.

He sent her a message. “Helen! What are you talking about? What happened?” Since Helen was online, she responded.

“You know what you did, Ken,” she said.

Oh, no! People don’t say “you know what you did” to Ken! That’s what KEN says to HIS NEMESIS JEFF GOLDBLUM! Well, THIS couldn’t be more worrisome if it tried!

“I’m sorry, Helen, but I don’t know. Did something happen?”

“I don’t think I can talk about this,” she said. “It’s too fresh in my mind. Too raw. Maybe someday we can rebuild our friendship, but you really need to work on you first.”

Then she logged off, and would not respond to Ken, no matter what he wrote.

He looked at his faithful dogs, Ella and Louis, with a worried look.

“This is not good news, Ella and Louis,” Ken said. “Something’s going on in Taos. I think I’ll have to go there to see what’s happening. What do you think? Want to go to the States with me? I think I will need your help. You’ve been such help in the past.”

Louis was very excited and ran in circles. Ella blinked once, sagely, to show her approval.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Can a person just BRING dogs from GERMANY into the UNITED STATES? Because SOME people (who are writing this) thought until VERY RECENTLY that was NOT ALLOWED and there was some sort of insane quarantine period and the dogs had to sit in doggy-jail for like ever until the quarantine period was up. But NO! It is a TRUE FACT that isn’t the case at all and if you tell a bon vivant you think that they will chuckle at you (but most politely, of course, I mean, the bon vivant is nothing if not the most kind person ever) and say, “Um. That’s an urban legend, you know that, right?”

No, I’m pretty sure they don’t get to ride like this. But this photo makes me laugh like a moron.

So Ella and Louis are TOTALLY allowed to come along for the U.S. bon vivantery. Don’t even think they’re not. Which is good, because listen, this story was going to be a lot less interesting without happy red dogs. I mean…um…not that this is a STORY, this is TRUE TALES OF BON VIVANTERY AS TOLD TO THE PERSON WHO WRITES THESE BY THE BON VIVANT HIMSELF.

So off to the States the bon vivant went! With Ella and Louis! And with many worries, because WHAT WAS GOING ON? Oh, also, well of course he brought many hats. Why would you expect otherwise? I mean, he is the bon vivant, of course. You don’t just TRAVEL across the WORLD without HATS.

SO.
MANY.
HATS.

When Ken landed in Taos, he realized something was going on. Everyone was looking at him. But not in the way they usually looked at him. Listen, Ken is used to being recognized. He’s the bon vivant. He goes places and people say, “Oh, it’s you! Ken! The Bon Vivant! I recognize you! And your hat!” and although that’s always a little humbling, he’d gotten used to it by now. I mean, you have to. As a bon vivant. If you ever become a bon vivant, you’ll understand. But people weren’t looking at him in a bon vivanty way. They were looking at him in an ANGRY way. Ella looked at him, worried. Louis tried to eat an empty Mountain Dew bottle.

“I think I need some tea,” Ken mused. “This is all very worrisome.” He pulled his jaunty hat down a little further over one eye very rakishly and walked toward a tea shop he remembered from his youth. “I will try to find Helen after I have my tea. Maybe she can shed some light on this situation.”

“KEN!” he heard from behind him. He turned and a women grabbed him and kissed him. KISSED HIM ON THE MOUTH! Oh, well this was unexpected. He managed to extricate himself from her clutches. She smelled boozy. And was wearing way too much lipstick. Ella did not approve.

“I’m sorry, do I know you?” Ken said kindly.

“Oh, YOU,” she said, and slapped his chest as brazen hussies do. “You’re such a KIDDER. Like you could FORGET. WINK WINK.”

“I don’t…” Ken started, but then a very large and VERY shady man came up and put his arm around the lady with too much makeup, who pretended immediately she didn’t know who Ken was.

“You hittin’ on my lady, buddy?” the large man said. He was very scowly. Louis hid behind his sister.

“Oh. No. No, sir, I assure you I am not,” Ken said. “I was just going to get some tea. I have no designs on your lady. Please excuse me.”

“NO DESIGNS?” the lady said, who had no idea what that meant. “He TOTALLY has designs, babe. He designed ALL OVER ME last weekend!”

The large man lunged at Ken. Ken does not like to fight. Bon vivants aren’t FIGHTY. They are ADVENTUREY and they are FILLED WITH A LUST FOR LIFE and they like to THINK THEIR WAY OUT OF SITUATIONS. Luckily, at that very moment, Louis flopped down on the sidewalk to scratch a VERY stubborn itch and the man tripped over him, giving our bon vivant an out so he could make a timely escape. (Listen, I don’t want you to think that our bon vivant couldn’t have won that fight. I’m quite sure he could have. I have no doubt that our bon vivant, faced with any obstacle, would find a way to overcome it. He’s kind of magical like that.)

“What is going ON, Ella and Louis? I don’t know that woman! Why is everyone looking at me like I am their nemesis? This is very much like the time I was not welcome in London because of L. Ron Hubbard. What could be going on?” Ken said as he darted down a back alley. Ella looked pensive. “Good boy, Louis. You know just when to stop and scratch an itch.”

Just then! A door opened in the alley and a very beautiful woman came out! Ken stopped short.

“Well, Ken! Is that you? Ken, the World Traveling Bon Vivant? I’d recognize you and your hat and your dogs anywhere. What are you doing in Taos?” she said, and laughed.

It was Grammy award-winning jazz singer Diana Krall!

“Hello, Diana Krall!” said Ken. “I’m a big fan! What a pleasure to see you!”

“Where the hell is that hat-wearing son of a…” they heard from behind them. Diana looked at Ken curiously.

“Sounds like you need to make a quick exit,” she said. “Come on, my dressing room’s in here.”

The alley was the back entrance to the Taos Center for the Arts! Diana whisked Ken and Ella and Louis neat as you please in the back door and closed it quietly behind them. They heard the man run by, then nothing.

“Well, Diana, it seems I owe you,” Ken said. Louis licked her hand exuberantly. Louis does everything exuberantly, you see.

“I can’t imagine why anyone’s chasing you,” she said, “but come on, I was just making some tea. We can chat.”

Ken was very pleased with this turn of events, as you might imagine.

As Ken and Diana Krall enjoyed a very nice cup of oolong (Ken was pleased to see that Diana made her tea the CORRECT way, WITHOUT teabags) he explained the situation, from the beginning to the end. She handed him a Kleenex. “You’re absolutely covered in lipstick. It’s very unseemly for a bon vivant,” she said, and laughed winningly. Ella seemed to agree in a very wise dog-like way.

Diana was in town for a concert, which was happening in a couple of days. She was just checking out the dressing room in a very lucky turn of events, because otherwise, there might have been fisticuffs for our bon vivant.

“So what do you think is going on, Ken?” she said. “This is all very mysterious.”

“I’m not sure,” Ken replied. “I want to go talk to Helen, but on my way, I was accosted by that unsavory woman and her consort. She seems to think I had relations with her. I am quite sure I did not.”

Diana nodded. “I wouldn’t think so. That was a very ill-advised lipstick color. I would assume a bon vivant would choose his companions more wisely. So, let’s go see your friend Helen, and find out what she knows. Ooh, this is VERY EXCITING. I’ve always wanted to have a bon vivanty adventure. My husband Elvis Costello ran into Kate Winslet just the other day at a royal event, and she told him about some of the capers you two have pulled! This is a dream come true for me. I’m so glad I was in the right place at the right time!”

Ken smiled. He was very pleased to have such an intrepid companion for this adventure. Ella and Louis were already quite keen on her, and she had a very melodious speaking voice. Plus, such excellent taste in tea!

Diana had a limousine waiting outside for her, so she and Ken and the dogs darted into it and directed it over to Helen’s house. Ella and Louis were big fans of the limousine and sniffed every single surface twice. Ken was less impressed. I mean, you’re a bon vivant, you’ve seen one limo, you’ve seen ’em all, I guess.

Helen answered her door, saw it was Ken, and tried to close the door in his face. “Please, Helen, I’ve come all this way, can’t we talk?” Ken said. Helen glowered at him from around the door, then nodded curtly and waved him in. He and Diana and the dogs went into her house. She was quite impressed to see Diana Krall, but even MORE impressed to see Ella and Louis.

“I wondered where these two were when I saw you last week!” she said, getting many pets and many licks from the happy red dogs.

“Wait, what? Saw me last week?” Ken said. “Helen, I haven’t seen you in years! I haven’t been back in New Mexico for over a decade!”

“Very funny, Ken,” she said. “Just last week, I was walking out of the library and you were hanging around outside with some very shady people. I saw you and went over to say hi, and you GROPED ME IN PUBLIC. It was very unlike you and not at all bon vivanty. When I asked you to stop you said I wasn’t cool, man and then you and your friends laughed.”

“Oh, Helen,” said Ken, giving Diana a very worried look, “I hope you know I would never do that. This person looked like me?”

Helen nodded. “Yes. He even had a very jaunty hat! And mutton-chops!”

Ken managed to convince Helen that it had not been him last week by showing her many photos of him doing bon vivanty things in Germany like having tea with Angela Merkel while discussing his thoughts on the debt crisis…

and playing much fancy music in the park with his partner-in-idling, Jarrod.

“I’m so glad it wasn’t you, Ken,” Helen said. “It made me very sad, to think you’d become some sort of weird street-groper.”

“I solemnly promise I will never become some sort of street-groper, Helen,” Ken said.

“Wait, what about Twitter?” Helen said. “You’ve been saying all these things on Twitter!”

“What? I have? No I haven’t. Well, yes, I HAVE, but…wait, what kinds of things?” Ken said.

Helen showed him her Twitter timeline. “See?”

There was his profile picture! And his Twitter account! But the things that were being said WERE NOT THINGS HE’D SAID! Like “Just saw a girl with a monster rack, yo” and “Where can I get some action up here in this joint?” and “Hang in there, kitten.” Ken would NEVER say “hang in there, kitten.” KEN HATES PLATITUDES.

“Wait!” Diana Krall said. “This is not your Twitter account! Your Twitter account is @lahikmajoe. This Twitter account is @lahikmijoe. IT IS A TRICK!”

Well, now this was just getting WEIRD.

Helen explained that a lot of people in Taos were very mad at Ken because he’d been groping people in public, cussing loudly on the streets, yelling out loud things like “baby got back!” at passers-by, and hanging with an unsavory crowd. “People don’t even like to go into the public library anymore,” she said. “You…well, the not-real you…and your friends…I guess HIS friends…are always out there.”

Diana and Ken exchanged a look. They knew that they’d have to go to the public library to track down this doppelgänger. This not-Ken. This bon-vivant wanna-be. WHO WAS DOING IT WRONG.

Diana and Ken and Ella and Louis said goodbye to Helen and went back to the limousine. “How can we go to the library where these seedy types hang out?” Ken said. “They’ll recognize me, especially if I look just like this dastardly foe!”

Diana laughed. “Oh, Ken. I have the forces of the entire staff of the Taos Center for the Arts on my side! There are MANY costumes there. We’ll just go in disguise, and no one will recognize us!”

“Will I have to shave my beard?” Ken asked skeptically.

“No. No, you will not,” Diana said.

“Well, then this is an excellent plan,” Ken replied.

Ken was impressed with this high level of bon vivantery.

BUT WAIT!

“What about Ella and Louis? If this person is pretending to be me, he’ll have done his homework. He’ll know about my dogs,” Ken said. Ella and Louis looked worried. Well, Louis did. Ella looked like a LADY. She always looks like a lady.

“Don’t worry. I have a plan for Ella and Louis, too,” Diana said.

They got back to the Center for the Arts and Diana threw herself into the preparations for their adventure. She dressed herself and Ken up as the kind of shady people who might be hanging out outside of a library. Ken got those terrible low-riding pants that the kids are all wearing nowadays and one of those douchey Ed Hardy t-shirts. Diana wore a tube top and very tight pants. They both got makeup so they were in TOTAL DISGUISE. Much mockery was made of one another. If this was a movie, a music montage would happen here, I’ll have you know. Ken thought the disguises needed some shady hats, so he found some in his bag. Ken has hats that cover all eventualities, don’t even think he doesn’t.

Ella and Louis got dog-safe water-soluble fur-dye. Ella became a pointer with very dashing brown spots over her eyes…

and Louis became a Weimaraner. Louis liked his new getup very much and pranced around looking at himself in mirrors. Ella gave Ken a long-suffering look and sat calmly. She was aware, you see, that the disguise was NECESSARY, but didn’t think it was very DIGNIFIED.

“To the library we go!” Diana said. She looked like a totally different person. “No one will recognize us for who we are now!”

They went off to the library to confront the false-Ken. No one looked twice at our bon vivant! The disguise was just that good! (Well, the classier people in Taos looked at him with disgust. An Ed Hardy shirt will do that to you every time.)

When they arrived at the library, there were unsavory types sitting on the stairs and laughing troll-like laughs. Some of them were smoking MARIJUANA CIGARETTES! (The Person Who Writes These TOLD you someone would be smoking weed in this story.) They looked at Ken and Diana and the dogs, but not for long. They blended right in!

“There he is, Ken!” Diana hissed.

Ken looked to his left. And there he saw…

HIS DOPPELGANGER!

He looked just like him! The same hair! The same beard! The same type of clothing! The same rucksack! And…what’s this? A VERY JAUNTY HAT! “Wait,” thought Ken. “I recognize that hat.”

“WELL HELLO!” said the False Bon Vivant, who had seen the new arrivals. “Welcome to the Library of Decadence and Bon Vivantery! My name is Ken!”

Ken wanted to out him then and there but Diana stopped him. “Yo, Ken. I’m Gina and this is my main squeeze Hank.”

“I don’t think people say ‘main squeeze’ anymore,” Ken whispered. “Also, ‘Hank’? Really? Huh.”

“I PANICKED!” she said.

“Nice to meet you! Would you like some illegal drug substances or perhaps gambling? Also, probably later we will have hookers or maybe gin. As Ken, the very famous bon vivant, I support all of these things!” the False Bon Vivant said.

Well, that’s inappropriate. Ken couldn’t stand for this a moment longer. “TRUE BON VIVANTS DO NOT CARE FOR THOSE THINGS AT ALL!” he roared, and pulled off his shady hat to reveal his true countenance. “TRUE BON VIVANTS ARE ALL ABOUT BON VIVANTING FOR THE SAKE OF BON VIVANTERY AND ALSO DRINKING TEA AND GALLIVANTING! SOMETIMES ALSO IDLING! WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, SIR, SULLYING MY GOOD BON VIVANTY NAME!”

The people on the steps got very quiet. The False Bon Vivant looked at Ken with anger in his eyes. “NO,” he said. “I’M Ken. You can’t be here. YOU CAN’T BE HERE. This guy’s pretending to be ME, everyone! GET HIM!”

There was much hubbub. The shady people lunged at Ken and Diana and the dogs. The False Bon Vivant disappeared into the crowd. “Don’t let him get away, Ken!” Diana said. Ken was trying to get away and could see the False Bon Vivant and ALMOST HAD HIM when he heard Diana cussing. “Let me go, you bastard!” she said. Well! If there’s one thing a bon vivant hates – a TRUE bon vivant – it’s when someone shady grabs their lady-friend. Ken immediately turned around and went back for Diana. He heard the False Bon Vivant scream, once, and Louis bark. He got Diana away from the ne’er-do-wells using various bon-vivanty techniques learned in many bon-vivanty locations that I can’t really go into here because they’re for bon vivant use only, and called to Ella and Louis, and off they ran in the general direction of the False Bon Vivant – but he was gone.

“What do we do now?” Diana said. She was none the worse for wear for her manhandling, but her tube top was all askew. Tube tops are very impractical when faced with a group of unsavory characters.

HIGHLY ill-advised.

“Let’s go back to the Center for the Arts and regroup,” Ken said. “There’s tea there. I think we could both use some tea.”

Diana most wholeheartedly agreed.

They went back to the Center for the Arts and put on NORMAL clothes (and threw the Ed Hardy shirt and the tube top in the garbage, where they belonged) and washed the dye from the dogs together and had much fun with water and soapsuds and two wiggly red dogs who made many wet footprints all over the dressing room. To keep their spirits up, they sang a rousing duet of “Mustard and a Piece of Bread,” which of COURSE Diana Krall knew. Everyone knows this song. Don’t be absurd. It was very nice for Ken to sing with Diana Krall and Ella and Louis liked it very much as well. After much tea and much singing and many shenanigans they went to sleep, because tomorrow they had to figure out what to do about this False Bon Vivant. This kind of chicanery cannot stand.

The next morning, Ken was awoken by the sound of Louis gnawing on something and Ella sighing heavily. “Louis, what do you have there, old boy?” he said. Louis looked up at him and gave him a doggy grin. He had a piece of cloth hanging out of his mouth. “Bring that here, Louis. Good boy.” Louis brought it over. It was a piece of pants-fabric. Very bon-vivanty pants-fabric. But it wasn’t KEN’S pants-fabric.

“Louis, did you try to stop that false bon vivant? Did you tear off a piece of his pants?” Louis wagged his tail so hard he almost fell over.

“What’s going on, Ken?” Diana said. She had very sleepy eyes. Not a lot of sleep happened the night before for the two bon vivants. She handed him a cup of tea. “What do you have, Louis?”

“I think I have an idea,” Ken said. “That’s a piece of that False Bon Vivant’s pants. We can use the dogs to track him. Ready for our next adventure?”

Diana was ready. Diana was proving a very capable bon vivanting companion!

Louis and Ella passed the piece of Bon Vivant pants back and forth as they tramped through the streets of Taos. Louis got distracted by many good smells along the way. Ella did not. Ella is very single-minded when she is concentrating on a task.

“Where are you bringing us, Ella and Louis?” Ken said. They stopped in front of one of the old pueblos in Taos and looked at Ken expectantly. “In here? Is he in here?”

“Well, let’s go in and see!” Diana said, and they snuck into the old pueblo.

The dogs assiduously led the way while Ken and Diana followed. There was a light burning behind one of the walls. When Ken and Diana went around the corner, they were dumbstruck.

“These are all…photos of me!” Ken said. “And printouts of my blog posts! And pictures of my Tweets! And pictures of the dogs! And pictures of my friends! And many drawings of jaunty hats! What is going ON here?”

“How could one man DO all this?” Diana wondered, as she looked around with wide eyes. “This is INSANE!”

Louis sneezed and knocked over a stack of papers. Ken picked them up because bon vivants hate messes. “Wait. These are…these are printouts of my crazy-eyed blogging friend’s blog! There’s one phrase highlighted and circled and highlighted and circled over and over and over and OVER. It’s…”

“IT IS DING DONG JOE!” they heard from behind them, and when they turned, the False Bon Vivant was there! With a crazy look in his eyes! “SHE HAS MADE THE WHOLE WORLD LAUGH AT ME! But you. YOU! The whole world LOVES you, Ken, with your HATS and your BON VIVANTERY and your HAPPY RED DOGS! So I knew what I had to do. Ding Dong Joe had to become Lahikmajoe! It really wasn’t so hard. WE ARE BOTH JOES! AND NOW I AM THE BON VIVANT!”

“You’re not the bon vivant,” Diana said. “You can’t just DRESS like a bon vivant and BE a bon vivant. It’s more than clothes or facial hair, Ding Dong Joe.”

“DON’T YOU CALL ME THAT!” Ding Dong Joe screamed. “My name is KEN now!”

“Um…’Ken,'” OUR bon vivant said, “just be calm. I’m sure if you let people get to know the real you, they would love you, too. We can call Lucy’s Football and ask her to stop calling you a pervert on her website. She will, if you want. I’m sure she will. She only pretends to be crazy online. She’s really very nice.”

“NO! It’s too LATE!” Ding Dong Joe began to pace around the room frantically.

“Ken, I think he’s lost it. Also, Ding Dong Joe is real? Huh. That’s a twist I didn’t anticipate,” said Diana.

“He couldn’t have done this alone,” Ken said. “He had to have had help. But, who?”

Ding Dong Joe kept pulling his jaunty hat on and off his head as he paced. On and off; on and off. “I know that hat,” Ken said. “Why do I feel like I know that hat? It’s the most real part of his costume. For some reason, it reminds me of…penguins? Wait. WAIT.”

“Well, hello, old friend.” The oily, unctuous voice coming from the dark hallway chilled Ken to the bone. “So, you’ve stumbled upon my little protegé, have you? How astute of you. How utterly SCRUMPTIOUS.”

“Dammit. DAMMIT. Goldblum. WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE GOLDBLUM?!?!” Ken said. It was the hat Jeff Golblum had stolen from him in Japan, of course. What other hat could it have been?

Jeff Goldblum came out from behind the wall, as high-strung as ever. He put his arm around Ding Dong Joe’s shoulder. “Oh, Joe. What happened, my good friend?”

“HE FOUND ME, JEFF!” shrieked Ding Dong Joe. “You PROMISED I could be the Bon Vivant! YOU PROMISED!”

“I know. I know. We’ll figure this out, buddy. We will. I promise.”

“What was your plan, Goldblum? To have Ding Dong Joe pretend to be me? To what end?” Ken said. He waved Diana toward the exit. She shook her head resolutely. She is stubborn, that Diana Krall. But she doesn’t know how nefarious Jeff Goldblum is, now does she?

“Once everyone hated you, KEN, it would be only one quick step to make them love and respect me. Nature abhors a void! I would take your place as the most beloved international icon. You don’t deserve it, Ken. You’re just a MAN. I’m a CINEMATIC IDOL. I was in JURASSIC PARK and EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY. Your fame should be MINE. WHY CAN’T IT BE MINE?”

“What about me?” Ding Dong Joe asked, a shocked look in his eyes. “You said I could be the bon vivant!”

“Yes, what about poor Ding Dong Joe? Why don’t you tell him he was just a pawn in your ongoing war with me?” Ken said.

“That’s not true, is it, Jeff? You said we could be BFFs! You said we were a TEAM!” Ding Dong Joe whined.

Jeff laughed. It was a terrible, soulless thing to hear. “Oh, Joe. Sad, foolish Ding Dong Joe. I’m sorry. I have one BFF; that BFF’s name is…JEFF GOLDBLUM.”

And with that, Jeff Goldblum screamed an utterly maniacal scream and ran from the pueblo.

Ding Dong Joe collapsed in a puddle of weepery on the floor. Louis looked askance at Ken. Ken nodded. Louis went over and nuzzled Ding Dong Joe. Listen, this wasn’t all Ding Dong Joe’s fault. He’s just a pervy little dude who wants to be liked, is all. Isn’t that what we all want? Well, other than the pervy part. We don’t all want that. At least, I hope we don’t.

“What should we do with him, Ken?” Diana asked.

“Nothing,” Ken said. “He’s learned his lesson. He knows what he did was wrong. He was led astray by Jeff Goldblum. He isn’t the first to have been; he unfortunately won’t be the last. That Goldblum. He’s insidious. Let’s go, Diana Krall. You have a concert to get ready for!”

“It’s amazing, Ken, how far he went to try to be you. You’re in high demand,” Diana said, as they walked back to the Center for the Arts. “And how badly he failed, too. It’s sad, really.”

Ken chuckled. “Well, what people don’t understand is that being a bon vivant carries with it a heavy responsibility. You can’t just bon vivant all the time. You also have to live up to the bon vivants who have come before, and you are a model for those who cannot bon vivant themselves. It’s not all traveling and eating exotic cheeses.”

Diana nodded. “And that is why you are the one and only World-Traveling Bon Vivant, Ken. Because you understand that. I believe maybe a person isn’t just a bon vivant; they are CALLED to be a bon vivant.”

“Diana, you can bon vivant with me anytime. That was very wise,” Ken said.

Diana blushed. It’s not every day the bon vivant calls you wise.

Diana got Ken a front-row seat for her concert. It was an amazing show, and Ken was so glad he got to see her perform. She even got the Center to allow Ella and Louis to watch with him! If you are the headlining act, you can do such things, I would assume. Elvis Costello joined her on stage for the encore, and she hushed the cheering crowd.

“I had the honor of spending time with someone very special for the last couple of days. He’s gotten a bad rap here in your lovely town for the last few weeks, and it was unwarranted. He is still the bon vivant you all know and love. I’d like to invite him up on stage with us to sing one very special song. Ken, the World-Traveling Bon Vivant, would you join me and Elvis?”

Well, of course Ken would. How could he turn that down? And did he have his ukulele with him? Of course he did, don’t be foolish.

So that is how Ken, our most favorite world-traveling bon vivant, got to sing “Mustard and a Piece of Bread” with Diana Krall and Elvis Costello in Taos, New Mexico while everyone forgave him for the events of the past few weeks and Ella and Louis watched. Well, Ella watched. Louis was sound asleep, dreaming, no doubt, of something utterly joyful and guileless.

In the parking lot, in a very long stretch limo, gritting his teeth as he heard the cheers and the music drifting out of the side doors, Jeff Goldblum talked to the only person he trusted in all the world. Jeff Goldblum.

“He always wins, Jeff Goldblum.”

“I know. Jeff Goldblum. I know. It hardly seems fair.”

“It is MOST unfair. We never can seem to beat him. He has these amazing FRIENDS! And he’s so SMART! And those DOGS! THOSE HAPPY RED DOGS!!!”

“I know, Jeff Goldblum. Listen, don’t frown too much. Your face is your living, you know. You can’t afford frown lines.”

“I know. Thank you, Jeff Goldblum.”

“We just have to try harder, Jeff Goldblum. There has to be a chink in his armor. There has to be a hole. A way in. A way to win.”

“Heh. You said ‘hole,’ Jeff Goldblum.”

“This is hardly a time for sophomoric humor, Jeff Goldblum. Really. I expected more of you.”

“I’m sorry, Jeff Goldblum. It’s been a tough day.”

“I know. I’m sorry I jumped down your throat.”

“We just have to BELIEVE, Jeff Goldblum. One day. ONE DAY, we will beat him. We will. We will be victorious.”

And with a “Driver! Onward!” Jeff Goldblum drove off cackling into the New Mexico night.

THE END!

(Only, of course, not really the end. These things never really end. Not as long as there’s breath in the bon vivant and there’s power in the laptop of The Person Who is Writing These. Stay tuned, my little blueberry muffins. Stay tuned.)

(Psst: thank you thank you, my real-life bon vivant, who totally lets me mine your life for bon vivantery and turn it into blog fodder and never ever gets huffy when I bug you for details or photos or random crap. How empty would all of our lives be without you? I don’t even want to think about that. THANK YOU.)


I’ve come this far, but even so, it could be yes, it could be no…

Whew! Auditions are done, show is cast, most of my crazy week is almost done! Auditions are always kind of exciting, you know?

Not my theater. Just A theater. But this is kind of what our auditions look like so I’m STEALING it.

Everyone shows up, all excited and bright-eyed, and you get to watch them (hopefully! usually!) putting their best foot forward, and then you get to cast some of them in a show! And that’s the best thing, you get to tell people they’re cast. (SIDE NOTE! The only time I ever got to call someone and offer them a part, I was SO EXCITED. See, it’s the director’s job to do that. Because it’s a kickass job. It’s fun, the person’s all excited, etcetera, etcetera. So my friend K. asked me to call someone and offer her a part. I WAS SO STOKED! I got to call someone and offer her a part! And I was all YES I WOULD LOVE TO! So I did, and guess what happened, no seriously, guess what? SHE DID NOT WANT THE PART. No! I am SERIOUS! It was an AMAZING part, and the funniest part in the show – not the biggest, but totally the comic relief – and she was all NOPE. You could HEAR the sneer in her voice.

SNEEEEEEER.

She wanted one of the bigger parts. Which she was too old for and wouldn’t have worked for her at all. Also the part was a lesbian and she was like, “my husband’s a big deal in the community so people wouldn’t like it if I played a GAY PERSON.” So I had to call K. all, “she said no?” and when I told her why, K. was all, “UGH DEAD TO US” and I agreed – K. and I are very simpatico, yo – and we offered the part to someone else. And listen! Sometimes the stars align. Because the person we gave the part to? WAS that role. She was PERFECTION. She was hysterical, she was sympathetic, she was gorgeous, she was a joy to work with, she totally lit up the stage every time she walked on, and she’s still one of my favorite theater people and when I see her she gives me these huge fierce hugs. Oh, also? SHE PLAYED A LESBIAN WITHOUT BEING ONE! I know ZOMG, right? Heh. She had to eat a BILLION TONS of food onstage every night. Like, a BILLION TONS. I’m totally exaggerating. But lots. Her character was supposed to be nervous, so she had to eat all the finger foods at this wedding. So every night, I had to make this huge plate of like olives and berries and brownie bits and cheese and things that wouldn’t crunch and she could eat quickly and say her lines.

EAT ALL THE THINGS, A.! (Her name was A.) EAT THEM ALL! While ACTING! (She truly and well rocked my face off every single night.)

[SIDE NOTE WITHIN A SIDE NOTE: due to some terrible experiences, K. and I, every year, look at the list of shows we’re going to do and are all, “UGH THIS ONE HAS FOOD.” We hate shows with food in them. Seriously. All you have to say to K. is “remember the eggs?” We had TWO shows with eggs. We have MULTIPLE BAD MEMORIES OF SHOW-EGGS. Eggs, left even a day, SMELL, you guys. Never do a show with eggs. Also, if you are watching a show and eggs are involved, please give kudos to the stage crew; they deserve them.] She didn’t even complain! Not at all! Except she asked for more fruit and less brownies, because she was worried she would get fat. Hee! She’s about as big as a minute. I love her. ANYWAY! This isn’t even a side note. It’s like a whole blog post of its own. I tried to offer someone a part once, they declined in a weird way, and we ended up winning in the best possible way, so it ended ok after all. END OF THE STORY.)

Let’s start a new paragraph. Palate-cleansing-like. Anyway, the WORST part of auditions is sending out the regret email. Because then you’re crushing people’s hopes and dreams and I hate that part.

I hate making people sad-clown. Also, I hate sad-clown. SORRY YOU GUYS.

I mean, yeah, sure, not everyone in the world can get a part, I know, I KNOW IT, but it still is my least favorite. (I hate it especially much when I have to send regret emails to people I’ve worked with before and I love to death. That kills me. Because I LOVE them. And they are WONDERFUL. And I want to HUG THEM UNTIL THEIR HEADS POP OFF and they are JOYS to work with and they are SO SO TALENTED. But it’s not my call, it’s the director’s call…and who am I to say who he picked isn’t right for the show? The cast he picked is absolutely wonderful. There aren’t enough parts to go around. It’s the nature of the beast. I hate hurting my friends, is what it boils down to.) There are three types of people who audition (well, other than the ones we cast, of course): a., people who are very good and almost make it, but not quite; b., people who are kind of middle-of-the-road, but not delusional, and they know they’re not going to get the part when they see the talent they’re up against (this was me most of the time I acted, I can admit it); and c., people who are DELUSIONAL AND THINK THEY ARE THE BEST ZOMG.

Luckily, this time around, we didn’t get any Delusional Diedres. Or Delusional Dereks, I guess. Everyone was calm. We’ve had some weirdos in the past. I don’t want to…um…what if they’re reading…I can’t call ’em out. Rude rude rude. Um, well, what can I say. We’ve had crying in the lobby. We’ve had people who DEMAND to read for another role after we tell them we’ve seen everything we need to see from them and they can go home. We’ve had people send me mean, mean emails in reply to my VERY NICE regret email. (Yes, yes, I know it’s still a rejection, even though it’s a regret email…but be GRACIOUS. There aren’t as many parts as auditioners. There never are. And even if there are, some people aren’t right for roles.) We’ve had people show up for auditions who are forty years too old for the part and be SO UPSET when they weren’t cast. We’ve had people show up blitzed-off-their-face drunk and almost fall off the stage. Once someone (who I think was…um…home-challenged? FINE I THINK HE WAS HOMELESS HE HAD A SHOPPING CART FULL OF CANS AND ALSO FOR SOME REASON CARPET REMNANTS, NO, I am NOT making fun, I am AWARE I am almost homeless myself, thank you very much, I AM REPORTING JUST THE FACTS) showed up with a bunch of weeds and was all, “here are some flowers, cast me!” and they were CRAWLING with bugs and I was all immediately bug-covered and I was trying SO HARD not to scream and was like “thank…you?” and when he went into the theater (after asking me to watch his cart) I threw the weeds into our backyard and washed my hands a billion times.

Here are some purty flowers for you purty lady I am a cast member now?

Oh, and once a lady body-checked me into a wall because she was walking into auditions but not auditioning, and I didn’t know if that was ok with the director, so I asked her to wait a second while I ran in and asked, and she was crazy with lipstick that went outside of the lines, and she said “I WAS TOLD IT WAS OK BY THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR!” (I’m the artistic director) and body-checked me into the wall and ran in. Then came back out a few minutes later with a handful of gum-papers and rolled-up programs and tissues and said, “I found this on the floor in there; it is trash. Hold out your hands, I’ll give it to you,” and I was like, “Um. No. Garbage can. There,” and she was all “HUFF HUFF TRYNA DO A NICE THING HERE.”

This woman needed to go into the penalty box. What, you think I don’t know it’s called the penalty box? I totally surprised you. You’re WELCOME.

So…yeah. I know you’re all thinking I’m super-glamorous and I’m wearing all black and a beret and oh, I don’t know, snapping to show approval like a beatnik and shit, but really we sometimes have to deal with a lot of lunacy. And the BEST part is we have to be nice because we can’t piss off a potential patron because theater is not rolling in dough, you know. So you deal with the craziness and you paste on a smile. A BIG OLD SMILE. And then sometimes you run into the kitchen and you hide behind the fridge.

NOT ME. Except for kind of the glasses.

But also let’s say 98% of the time it is totally awesome. And I do own a beret. I don’t wear it, but I own it. I got it at this awesome thrift store and it was totally brand-new and it’s wool and it has a little dragonfly on it and it was three DOLLARS. I mean, even to never wear it I had to buy it. I WANT MY THREE DOLLARS.

I WANT MY THREE DOLLARS!!!!

Anyway, I sent out the regret emails and we’re all cast with a great cast and the show’s going to be wonderful. And I so so SO hope that some of the people come back and audition for our next show which I’m stage managing because this show only had 4 people, and our next show has LOTS of people, and also I’m stage managing it and there was a LOT of talent at auditions and I’d like some of that on my stage in February!

OK, this is getting long and I have things to do like watch Project Runway and eat a popsicle and pet Dumbcat who got a billion times needy for no apparent reason today and also hid in the pots and pans cupboard and meowed from INSIDE there today and made me think my kitchen was haunted. Happy day, cactus flowers! Do something fun!

(Title from “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line…which has one of my favorite auditioning songs, “Dance 10, Looks 3.” Hee!)


Further Adventures of the Fanciest World-Traveling Bon Vivant (of course he still has his hat)

I know. It’s been a very long time since we checked in with our favorite world-traveling bon vivant, he of the jaunty headgear. I assure you it is not because he hasn’t been having adventures. No, no. Of course he has still been having adventures! More adventures than you can shake a stick at. I mean, if you’re shaking a stick at adventures. Why would you be doing that? That seems like a strange thing to be doing. Adventures are kind of ephemeral and I would think would be difficult to be stick-shakey at, but what do I know? I can’t be overseeing all the things you’ve waving wood at. Heh. Wood.

WOOD. Totally a euphemism.

No, it is not for a lack of adventures that we haven’t heard from our favorite bon vivant lately. See, The Person Who Writes These adventures needs a whole chunk of time to write and research…um…I mean TRANSCRIBE them from the ACTUAL TRUE STORIES AS THEY HAPPEN, and The Person Who Writes These has not had that chunk of necessary time in quite some time to do so. She’s quite busy, overall. Not with bon-vivantery or anything. She doesn’t bon vivant. But she does other things. Time-sucking things. Also sometimes she needs to sleep and her brain’s not working at maximum capacity currently . So please forgive her. She does her best.

But The Person Who Writes These started feeling VERY GUILTY recently because there are SO MANY bon vivanty stories to be shared, and they’re not going to write themselves, you know? And people need to know these things. They make the world a better place, these stories of bon vivantery. I’m quite sure of that, as is The Person Who Writes These.

So…without further ado…I bring you…The Further Adventures of the Fanciest World-Traveling Bon Vivant (yes, of course he still has his hat.) And, yes. I realize how long this is. I’d apologize, but bon vivantery cannot be tamed. It utterly cannot. So grab a cool beverage. And maybe also some cookies. It’s worth it. I promise.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble

If you all remember (I know, I KNOW, it’s been like MONTHS, go back and read the last posts, this’ll wait for you to get up to speed), when we last spent time with Ken, our favorite bon vivant, he traveled through time with his BFF, Kate Winslet, to help Bach save the Brandenburg concertos from the evil clutches of his nemesis, Jeff Goldblum. It was an epic tale, full of all kinds of skullduggery and chicanery. You know. As you’d expect from Ken. You’d expect nothing less. And you shouldn’t. Never settle! That’s rule number one when dealing with a bon vivant.

Many adventures happened in the meantime, of course. Listen, Ken’s always having adventures. It’s not like he just STOPS because The Person Who is Writing This is BUSY. No, no. Many adventures were had. It was actually a struggle: what adventures would you like most to hear about? The treasure map and the hidden kingdom? The time Lindsay Lohan almost started World War III? The fourteen lost keys and the doorway to doom? All exciting stories, to be sure, filled with all MANNER of excitement and bouncy red dogs and of course, tea-drinking. So much tea-drinking, you can’t even imagine. Like, think of the tea-drinking you can imagine? Then MULTIPLY IT TIMES A BILLION. Then add on MORE. That much tea-drinking, you guys.

SO much more than you can even imagine. SO much more.

But then I thought, yes, yes, those are all GOOD stories, but not as good as the story I’m going to tell you now. This one is the BEST of all those stories. It’s got foreign CLIMES and FANCY MOVIE STARS and a YOUNG SIDEKICK and of course HAPPY RED DOGS. And a skateboard! I mean, come on. How could I not choose this one?

One day, not long after the Brandenburg Imbroglio, Ken was bon vivanting in Japan. He always liked when he got to go to Japan. Most bon vivants do. It’s a country ripe for bon vivantery, with many delicious foods (Ken would like you all to know that the Japanese word for squid is “taco” so if you are bon vivanting in Japan and you order “taco” you’re not getting a crunchy Mexican treat, you’re getting squid. See? These are the things a person knows, when he is a bon vivant. And now YOU know them TOO) and adventures to be had. Also? Bidets. It is a country of bidets. And listen, there is very little a bon vivant like Ken likes more than a good bidet. Even one with the instructions written in Japanese, so you never know if you’re flushing or bidet-ing. Ken decided to go to Tokyo. They had many beautiful attractions there, and he loved to see the gardens. (You’re probably wondering, were Ella, Louis, and Mrs. Ken with him on this trip? Well! I am happy to tell you. Ella and Louis were most definitely with him on this trip. Mrs. Ken was not, as she had been called away on a very important journey of her own; this time, she was working with tribal elders to establish a fair and balanced system of government in a small village in Zimbabwe. As one does, when one is ALSO a very fancy bon vivanteur. Ken had wanted to go with her, but she said once she was done, she would meet him – and the dogs – in Japan, and they would do some joint bon vivantery there. Bon vivantery is fun, but bon vivantery with the one you love is even BETTER.)

The happiest of happy red dogs!

While walking through the Koishikawa Korakuen gardens and admiring the waterfall and the lines of Japanese children walking by, all wearing bright yellow helmets for safety (and, he was quite sure, WHIMSY) purposes, Ken heard crying.

Well! This doesn’t sit well with bon vivants. Bon vivants are very helpful. All the time. They don’t like people to be sad or in pain or distressed. So of course Ken had to go investigate this weeping situation. It’s all you can expect from a bon vivant. And his hat. And his happy red dogs.

Ken rounded the corner of the waterfall. Louis bounded ahead, as Louis is wont to do. Ella stayed back. She likes to assess a situation more before jumping in with all paws. Ella still remembers the time Louis was kidnapped by the Arabian sheik and had to be rescued with a hovercraft because he ran ahead without looking what was going on first because he was just SO DAMN EXCITED and she wants no part of that, no no, not Ella.

Shady. SHADY.

Louis was licking the face of a very pretty dark-haired woman who was sitting by the rocks on the far side of the waterfall. Ella looked at Ken with a long-suffering look. Ken knew that look well. It was her “don’t blame ME for my brother’s foolishness” look.

“I’m sorry,” Ken said, “Louis has a mind of his own, sometimes. Are you alright? I don’t mean to pry, but I couldn’t help but hear you crying. Is there anything I can do to help?”

The woman looked up. Well! Imagine that! It was Academy-Award winning actress Rachel Weisz!

“Oh!” Rachel said. “Ken? Ken, the World-Traveling Bon Vivant? Is that you?”

Ken was a bit amazed, but not THAT amazed. People recognized him all the time. Just not always Academy-Award winning actresses who once had a guest-spot on The Simpsons.

“Yes,” he said, slightly abashed. “It is me, Rachel Weisz. How nice that you recognized me! I’m sorry, I don’t know that we’ve met before, although I’m a big fan of your work.”

“My good friend Kate Winslet talks about you all the time,” Rachel said. Ken nodded sagely. He WAS BFFs with Kate Winslet, of course he was. “She’s always talking about your joint adventures! I’ve always wanted to meet you! I recognized you immediately by your jaunty hat. And also your dapper beard. How embarrassing to meet under these circumstances. I can assure you I am not often crying next to picturesque Japanese waterfalls.”

Ken sat next to Rachel. Ella settled next to him, daintily. Louis bounded around the three of them, as happy as a red dog can be. New friends! thought Louis. There is nothing better than new friends! Or, that’s what it seemed he thought. He’s a dog, and there’s only so much about this story The Person Who is Writing This can know. You know?

“Any friend of my BFF Kate Winslet is a friend of mine,” Ken said. “What’s wrong, Rachel?”

“Oh, Ken,” Rachel sighed. “I’m not sure even you can help, but I’m willing to give anything a shot. My husband has disappeared!”

Ken knew Rachel was married to Daniel Craig, who was the current James Bond.

Rachel told Ken the story. A week ago, Daniel had called Rachel on his way home from work. He’d never arrived. Rachel had left more and more panicked messages on his cell phone, because she knew he had a commercial shoot early the next morning so should be home by then, and just as she was about to call the police, she got a call.

“He or she was using that voice software? Where the voice is disguised? So I didn’t recognize the voice, of course. But the caller said if I ever wanted to see my husband alive again, I needed to bring £500,000 here to this waterfall, and await further instructions.” Rachel showed him a satchel filled with hundred-pound notes. “But the caller was supposed to contact me hours ago. I don’t know what happened. Daniel could be anywhere. He could be…dead! He’s not really James Bond, you know. He’s just a man. The man that I love. Ken, is there anything you can do to help?”

Ken thought. And thought. And thought some more. His head felt fuzzy. Ella nosed his hand and when he looked at her, pointed with her head back toward where they’d come. He knew exactly what she meant.

“Rachel, let’s go get something that will help us think,” Ken said as he stood, and held out his hand, like the very chivalrous gentleman that he was, to help her to her feet.

“Oh, Ken, I don’t do drugs,” she said, very seriously.

Ken laughed. “No, no! Not drugs. Something much better for thinking than drugs, and much less likely to make you chew a friend’s face off, like those evil bath salts do. Tea!”

Rachel, Ken, Ella and Louis (Louis had found a very choice stick near the waterfall, which he kept smacking Ella in the face with as he pranced along with it; Ella took it with good grace, as she does, but not without some very deep doggy sighs) walked to a very beautiful teahouse he had noted on his way into the garden. He’d heard good things about this teahouse from his tea-contacts throughout the world and was very much looking forward to trying some of their special green tea.

“Hello!” the waitress said as they sat. “What type of bubble tea can I interest you in today?”

Ken smiled. “Oh, no thank you. I’d actually heard such good things about your Gyokuro that I was hoping to try that. Rachel, how about you, any preferences?”

The waitress gave him a strange look. “Oh, sir, my most abject apologies, but all we have here is bubble tea. We stopped serving anything else very recently.”

“What?” Ken said. “But you are one of the most well-renowned teahouses in Tokyo! How could this happen?”

“No one wants anything but bubble tea anymore,” the waitress said with a shrug. “We had to change with the times.”

“Well, there much be somewhere else we can go,” Ken said. “Can you recommend anywhere?”

The waitress gave him the look again. “No, sir, I’m sorry, but there are no more places in Tokyo that serve anything but bubble tea. That’s all you can get here now. We were the last holdout, actually. When we realized we weren’t making any money on our tea, we stopped selling it.”

Ken was flabbergasted. There was nowhere in Tokyo to get a good, traditionally-brewed pot of tea? All he could get was a plastic cup of the overly-sweetened bubble tea, which bore about as much likeness to a cup of tea as…well…a flip-flip bears to a fine Ferragamo loafer? (Bon vivants know things about fine Ferragamo loafers. No, seriously. Trust me. They do. Of course they do.)

Why had no one told him about this? Before he could say many things that he might regret to the very nice, very confused-at-his-anger waitress, Rachel led him out of the establishment with a very kind smile so no one was angry. Well, except Ken. Ken was quite angry. And Ken very SELDOM gets angry. However! THIS WAS AN AFFRONT TO TEA. This was NOT to be taken lightly. No no. Not this.

Luckily, he still had some tea in his flask, so he and Rachel and the happy red dogs had an impromptu tea party (no, not that kind, the real kind, WITH TEA, not the political kind, come on now) on a park bench. Once the tea settled his stomach and he had some time to think, he turned to Rachel.

“After some thought, I think our best course of action would be to…” he said, and a boy on a skateboard smashed into their bench.

“Oh! I am so sorry!” the boy said. “I was reading the paper and I wasn’t paying attention! This is all my fault! Please forgive me!” No one was hurt, and Ken and Rachel of course forgave him. Ella was a little miffed. Louis licked the boy’s knees, just because he could.

“What was in the paper that was so interesting, young man?” Rachel said. The boy smiled at her. Listen, Rachel was very captivating.

“Penguin 337 was kidnapped from the Tokyo Sea Life Park!” the boy said. “Do you remember Penguin 337? He escaped from the Tokyo Sea Life Park, and then they found out he or she was living happily in the Tokyo Bay, then the zookeepers caught him or her again not long after? Well, just last night, a man dressed all in black was seen kidnapping him from the park, then stuffing him in a backpack on the banks of the bay, hopping on a motorcycle, and running away! No one has seen him since! We all love Penguin 337 so much here, and this is such sad news!” The boy looked very bereft.

Freeeee!

Ken looked at the paper. There were a lot of photos of Penguin 337, and one grainy photo of a tall, somewhat stooped man with a backpack on the banks of the Tokyo Bay. Not much to go on.

“Hey, aren’t you Ken? The World-Traveling Bon Vivant?” the boy said. “We read about you in History class! You saved all the tea in London! Look at your hat! It IS you, isn’t it?”

It was a very fine hat. They always are.

Ken blushed. “Yes, that’s me.”

“If anyone can save Penguin 337, it’s you! Can you help, sir? You can, can’t you?”

Ken thought. This was a lot to process. Missing husbands! Missing penguins! Plus – he had to do it all with only the tea he could brew himself in his hotel room, because THERE WAS NO REAL TEA TO BE HAD IN ALL OF TOKYO!

“It’ll be ok, Ken,” Rachel said. “The tea thing, I mean.”

“I said that out loud, didn’t I?” Ken said. “I’m sorry. It’s got me very upset.”

Ken thought of Mrs. Ken, who did so love penguins. Also, a certain unruly-haired blogger in New York, who would be bereft, UTTERLY BEREFT, if anything happened to Penguin 337, who she loved so much because he was reported to have escaped due to “a sense of adventure,” according to the zookeepers, and that unruly-haired blogger did so love creatures with a sense of adventure because she felt akin to them.

“Yes,” Ken said, “of course I will help. Both you, Rachel, and you, young man. We will solve both of these heinous crimes.”

The young boy cheered and Rachel choked back a sob. Ken worried that he had maybe bitten off more than he could chew, but he was a bon vivant. He’d been in difficult situations before. He’s always come out on top. Yes, that’s a euphemism. A bon-vivanty euphemism.

Rachel’s cell phone rang. “Hello?” she answered. Her face went white. “Yes,” she whispered. “Yes. I’m so sorry. Yes. Of course. Whatever you say. Please. Please don’t hurt him. Please.”

“Was that them? What did they say?” Ken asked. Rachel’s hands were shaking.

“The caller said they showed up at the garden, but they saw me there with you and had told me not to bring anyone. They’re so angry at me!  Oh, no, Ken, what if they hurt Daniel?”

“What did they say to do next, Rachel?” Ken said. Louis put his muzzle on her knee and Ella leaned against her other leg. Happy red dogs are very comforting, you see.

“To meet them tonight behind the Cocoon Tower; to come alone, and bring the money. They said if I do that, they’ll return Daniel to me. Do you think they’re telling the truth, Ken?” Rachel looked very worried.

Ken thought hard. It was easier, since he’d recently had some tea. SOME REAL TEA THAT IS. “No way to tell. Well, since we have until tonight, I’m going to go over and check out the Tokyo Bay, to see if there are any clues. Do you want to come?”

“Oh, yes. It will help keep my mind off things,” Rachel said.

“Me, too!” the boy said. Ken was surprised. He’d forgotten the young boy with the skateboard was still there!

“Oh, it might be dangerous,” Ken said. “I’m worried you might be putting yourself in harm’s way.”

The boy puffed out his chest. Ken smiled inwardly. He was a very small boy, and it was a very brave little gesture. “I am tough,” the boy said. “I can be a lot of help! I can show you around the city!”

Ken nodded. “Ok, but if it gets dangerous, you have to promise to go home,” he said. The boy nodded. “What’s your name?”

“Taiki,” the boy said. They all shook hands and there were happy introductions all around, and both dogs approved heartily of the new addition to their team and gave him many licks and sniffs.

The group walked to the bay. There were no police tape or barricades set up as there wasn’t really a crime scene. Ken walked around looking at the bay, and the ground. The dogs sniffed everything and were very excited about being near the water. Louis found a duck and barked merrily for a long time. Ella kept her mind on the task at hand.

Rachel and Taiki didn’t find anything and eventually stood together, watching Louis and smiling. You really can’t watch Louis without smiling, even when you’re worried. It’s nigh-on impossible.

Ken noticed something pale in the weeds, by some footprints in the mud on the bank. He walked over and crouched to see what it was. A business card. Strange, to be over here in the weeds. There was a short, oily feather stuck to it. A penguin feather! A clue!

“What’s that, Ken?” Rachel asked. She and Taiki came over.

“It’s a business card for Gyoko BT LLC. I think it’s a clue. Do you know what this company is, Taiki?”

Taiki laughed and sang a little song. “Gyoko! Gyoko! Bubble tea for you and me! Gyoko! Gyoko! Bubbles in your tea will give you glee!”

“What’s that?” Ken asked. He immediately had started frowning when he heard the dreaded “bubble tea” words leave his new friend’s lips.

“Gyoko is the main company that makes all the bubble tea in Tokyo. They have commercials with all kinds of celebrities in them, and they always sing that song. Also, they have a little dancing penguin mascot. Everyone here loves Gyoko!” Taiki said.

Ken suddenly had a moment. You probably have never had one of these moments. That’s because you’re not a bon vivant. They’re kind of hard to explain. They’re like a moment of clarity, when all the puzzle pieces move into place and it all comes clear. Sometimes people in the movies have them (usually with a music montage in the background) but they’re just playacting. These moments of clarity really are the property of a select few people; and Ken, being a bon vivant, was one of those people.

The missing penguin. The kidnapping of Daniel Craig. The lack of real tea in Tokyo. The £500,000. The business card.

“Rachel,” Ken said slowly. “You said that Daniel had a commercial shoot the day after he was kidnapped. What was the commercial for?”

Rachel thought for a moment. “Oh, it was a foreign commercial. I remember! It was actually for – isn’t this funny that I would have forgotten? – tea! It was a Japanese commercial for tea! Real tea, not bubble tea. I remember, because they sent us a bunch of their loose-leaf tea to try. Some very excellent green tea.”

The sun was starting to set over the bay, which was a very pretty sight on the water. Louis was snapping at early-evening bugs that were flying around the water. Ella was assiduously cleaning the mud from between her toes. She’s a neat one, that dog.

“We need to get to the Cocoon Tower,” Ken said. “It’s starting to get late.”

“You seem to have a hunch, Ken,” Rachel said. “Do you know who’s done this? Do you know what’s happened?”

“I have an idea,” Ken said. “But there’s a piece missing. The key player. I’m not sure who’s the mastermind. But, with a little luck, I think we might be able to flush him out at the Tower.”

The band of crimesolvers made their way to the Cocoon Tower. Once they were there, they split up. Rachel sat on a bench at the back of the building, as she’d been ordered. Ken hid behind some trees with the dogs, who he cajoled to be quiet with some treats. Taiki was around the corner, ready for action.

A man walked up to Rachel after about an hour. He was tall and thin, wearing a voluminous jacket. Ken knew better than to trust a man in a voluminous jacket. He’d learned that lesson with L. Ron Hubbard. Ken had set up a monitoring system using their cell phones so he could hear Rachel and the man talking.

“Is my husband safe?” Rachel said. “Please, can I see him?”

“Where’s the money?” the man said. “I need that money!”

Rachel handed him the satchel. He looked inside and nodded.

“I’m going to need your husband for a few more days. Then he’ll be given back to you, good as new. Or as always. Or whatever. He’s James Bond! Ha ha! He’ll be fine!”

Ken furrowed his brow. He knew that voice. Louis was busy with his treat, but Ella was sniffing the air, and her upper lip was beginning to snarl a little. She recognized it, too! Why did he know that voice? It was quiet, but…it sounded like…

The man started to walk away. “Wait!” Rachel said, her voice starting to sound panicky. “Please! I gave you the money! Where’s my husband? How do I know he’s ok?”

“He’ll be FINE, sheesh,” the man said. He shook her off and started to walk away quickly. Suddenly, Taiki darted from around the corner on his skateboard. He tried to cut the man off. Ken and the dogs ran out from the trees, but the man, realizing he was outnumbered, broke away and ran.

Rachel, Ken, Taiki, Louis and Ella chased the man in the dark. He was wearing all black so it was hard to keep an eye on him. “He just went in the Cocoon Tower!” Taiki said, and they saw a door just about to close. Louis ran and blocked the door with his body, and stood there until they could catch up to him.

“Good boy, Louis!” Ken said. Ella gave her brother a grudging lick. Louis barked joyously and wagged his tail so hard he almost fell over.

The Cocoon Tower was tall and maze-like. They ran around, looking for signs where the tall man might have gone. Ken knew that voice. That voice gave him a chill. It upset Ella. Who…whose voice was that?

Suddenly, from the end of a hallway, they heard a type of barking yelp. Louis answered it with some barking of his own. Louis always barked like that when he heard animals at the zoo. Animals at the zoo!

“It’s the penguin!” Taiki said. “Penguin 337!”

They all ran to the end of the hall. There was a big set of double doors marked “STUDIO.”

“What kind of building is this, Taiki?” Rachel whispered.

“It’s an educational building,” Taiki responded. “This must be some sort of recording studio?”

The doors were closed, but not latched all the way. Ken opened one of the doors as quietly as he could and shushed everyone as they walked in.

“Now, say the lines,” they heard,”and say them RIGHT this time. The sooner you get this done, the better. You can go home as soon as you’re done. What don’t you understand about this? You’re supposed to be SMART, Mr. BOND.”

It was the man who’d taken the money from Rachel!

They peeked around the corner of some sound baffling. Daniel Craig was sitting there in a bright circle of stage lighting, surrounded by cameras. He was wearing one of his James Bond suits. His arms were free, but his legs were tied. By his side was Penguin 337. They were sitting at a cafe-style table. Both of them had a large bubble tea in front of them. Daniel glared at someone that none of them could see.

Daniel began saying some lines in a very clipped, bitter tone.

“When I want a refreshing drink, I reach for a Gyoko Bubble Tea. Traditional tea is for losers! James Bond drinks nothing but Gyoko Bubble Tea. It makes me strong and brave. Just ask my best friend…”

And then Ken realized why he recognized the voice, as someone he knew all-too-well walked onto the stage. Someone EVIL. Someone FILLED WITH CHICANERY.

“…JEFF GOLDBLUM.”

Jeff Goldblum sat at the third chair at the table. They could see he had something in one of the pockets. It seemed to be a gun, and he was pointing it at Daniel Craig. He was carrying a bubble tea. “Yes! Thank you, Bond! I am your best friend, and you’re right! There’s nothing better than a Gyoko Bubble Tea!”

Then he looked at Daniel. Daniel glared back at him. He pointed the suitcoat-covered-gun at Daniel. Daniel grudgingly reached out and took one of Penguin 337’s stubby wings in his hand. Jeff Goldblum took another. Together, they sang the Gyoko theme song; Jeff Goldblum with much verve and panache; Daniel Craig with a tight jaw and very angry eyes.

“Gyoko! Gyoko! Bubble tea for you and me! Gyoko! Gyoko! Bubbles in your tea will give you glee!”

Penguin 337 squawked and shook his little body. Jeff yelled “CUT!” and laughed maniacally. “Not that there’s anyone TO cut, as I’m doing this on my own, but YOU know that, right, Craig ol’ buddy ol’ pal!” Jeff Goldblum got up and turned off the cameras, talking to himself and laughing. “It was expensive to get this studio time and these lights – £500,000, hey, thanks for paying for that for me, old buddy old pal old BFF – but Gyoko said if I could get this all pulled together, they’d buy it, so it’ll all be worth it! Just wait until they SEE this! Now, I’m going to watch these back, see how they look, and if they’re no good, we’ll do it again, and again, and AGAIN, until it’s JUST RIGHT! And once everyone sees this, my career will TAKE OFF! I mean, you’re a HOT TICKET, Craig! And if everyone thinks I’m your BFF, well, they’ll want me in EVERYTHING! And EVERYONE loves ol’ Penguin 337 – I mean, everyone loves Gyoko’s cartoon penguin mascot, but think how much they’ll like THE REAL THING! This is GREAT!” Jeff began to skip around the table like a child excitedly.

Rachel was shaking. Taiki looked up at Ken, confused. Ken watched Jeff Goldblum, furious. Damn Jeff Goldblum, that evil nemesis. Damn him!

“You’re crazy, Goldblum,” Daniel said. “Just let me go. This commercial won’t help your career. It’s just a Japanese commercial. No one sees these but Japanese people. That’s why so many celebrities do them.”

Jeff Goldblum laughed, a hollow, soulless sound. “Well, it won’t be MY fault if someone leaks it on YouTube, will it? And by SOMEONE, I mean ME! HA HA HA!” Jeff began to watch the playback on the first camera. While he was distracted, Ken saw his opening. He gestured to Ella. Ella quietly padded over to Daniel and began daintily gnawing at the ropes around his ankles. Daniel wasn’t even fazed. He’d learned how to act cool under pressure in all of his movies.

“Louis would be faster,” Ken whispered to Rachel, “but he’s a little louder. Also, if he saw the penguin, he’d start barking. He has very little control over himself when zoo animals are concerned. He really just wanted to be their friend, but they don’t know that.”

All of a sudden, Penguin 337 saw Ella and squawked. Jeff looked up and saw Ella. “What’s THIS?” he said, and ran out from behind the camera, pulling his gun out of his pocket. Ken couldn’t allow his dog to be in danger. He ran out from his hiding place.

“STOP RIGHT THERE, GOLDBLUM!” he boomed. Jeff Goldblum stopped, frozen. He saw Ken and began to laugh.

“Well! Ken! I was HOPING I’d see you, but didn’t know it would be so SOON! How ARE you, my old friend?” He pointed his gun at Ken. Daniel, Penguin 337, and Ella froze at the table in the lights. Rachel, Taiki and Louis stayed hidden in the dark corner. Ken wasn’t pleased with this development. He didn’t care much for gunplay.

“What kind of dastardly plan have you hatched this time, you schemer?” Ken said, hoping to draw Jeff Goldblum’s attention away from the others in the room. That’s what bon vivants do. They are very self-sacrificing.

“Oh ho ho! Well! First, I will make a very high-profile commercial with James Bond and a penguin! What does everyone love? James Bond and penguins! Everyone will love me for being in this commercial! I will get many job offers! People will stop mocking me on the interwebs!”

“I don’t know that people mock you that much on the internet,” Ken said. “Well, other than me.”  Jeff Goldblum shushed him.

“THEN, once they love me, they’ll start to hate YOU, you see! It’s the perfect plan!” Jeff Goldblum began to wheel around in circles and cackle.

“Why would they hate me?” Ken asked.

“Well! We all know what keeps you calm, Ken. It’s tea. And what’s getting harder and harder to find, due to my plan? TEA! See, I’ve been talking up bubble tea for the past YEAR. Every time people would drink tea, there I’d be, pushing bubble tea on them. Buying them free bubble tea. Making it IRRESISTIBLE to them. Until NO one wanted regular tea. NO ONE. And now, due to my stopping of Daniel Craig’s commercial, which was sure to help tea get popular here in Japan again, and my very fancy commercial for bubble tea with James Bond and a penguin? REAL TEA IS OVER AND DONE, KEN! DONEZO! And everyone knows that Japan is where trends get started! Tea’s impossible to find here – it’s only a matter of time before it’s impossible to find ANYWHERE! And once you can’t find tea anywhere, you’ll get CRANKY! And people will look at you suspiciously, because you won’t be drinking their beloved whimsical bubble tea, but some sort of mysterious beverage out of a FLASK! And they will start to look at you with DISDAIN and MISTRUST! And they will need a HERO, Ken! A HERO! And who will be there, ready to step in as needed? ME ME ME! JEFF GOLDBLUM!!!”

Jeff Goldblum’s spinning in circles had led him closer and closer to the cafe table where Daniel Craig was. In one quick move, Daniel Craig stood, shaking off the shredded ropes, and lifted the cafe table. Bubble tea cups flew left and right. He swept Jeff Goldblum off his feet with the heavy table, which was possible because Daniel Craig is really quite a buff gentleman, and Louis bounded in and *whoof!* jumped on Jeff Goldblum’s stomach. When Jeff Goldblum was out of breath, Ella daintily took the gun from his hand and carried it to Ken and deposited it gently in his hand. Louis sat on Jeff Goldblum’s stomach, panting merrily. Jeff Goldblum coughed in a weak sigh.

Ken knelt by Jeff Goldblum. “Jeff Goldblum! When will you learn! Evil never conquers! Also, NOTHING will stop tea. NOTHING!”

Rachel ran out from where she’d been hiding and threw her arms around her husband, who was so happy to see her there that he almost had a couple of very manly tears, but not quite. Because Daniel Craig doesn’t CRY, come on. Taiki petted Ella and watched Penguin 337 in joy. Jeff Goldblum attempted to get up, but Louis growled at him. He flopped back down, sighing.

“Damn you, Ken. Damn you,” Jeff Goldblum hissed.

“Thank you, sir,” Daniel Craig said, coming forward to shake Ken’s hand. Ken stood. “You’re truly a wonder. You kept Rachel safe and saved me and Penguin 337. I’ll never forget this.”

“And the world,” Rachel whispered. “The world would be drinking nothing but bubble tea if it weren’t for Ken. He saved the WORLD.”

Ken laughed. “You’re both too kind,” he said.

Suddenly, there was a loud clatter! Dogs barking! Penguins squawking! Wheels rolling!

Louis had gotten distracted by Penguin 337, as is Louis’s downfall. When his attention was turned toward the jolly little penguin who loved adventure, Jeff Goldblum had heaved himself up. Louis, flung from Jeff Goldblum’s chest, had been launched at Penguin 337! Penguin 337 had waddled off in fright! Louis had been very excited! Ella had been EXTREMELY DISGUSTED but would have said “Yeah, could have seen THIS coming!” if she’d been asked!

Jeff Goldblum, seeing Taiki’s unattended skateboard, had boarded it (ha! no pun intended, good one, Person Who is Writing This!) and quickly wheeled himself toward the door. As he wheeled past Ken, he WHISKED his jaunty hat from his head and PLOPPED it onto his own head, cackling. Ken (now, sadly hatless), Taiki, Daniel, Louis, Ella, and Penguin 337, all in a disarray, started toward him, but he was moving quickly!

“I’ll get you, Ken,” Jeff Goldblum said. “It’s only a matter of time. If someone was writing epic stories about MY bon vivantery, I’D be beloved. I KNOW WHAT TO DO NOW. It’s not FAIR. It’s not RIGHT. I’m JUST as bon vivanty as you are. I WEAR HATS JUST AS WELL. LOOK! Look how good I look in your hat! I WILL GET YOU, KEN. If I have to go to the ends of the earth to do it.” He shook his fist and skated from the room. Ken and Daniel ran after him, but it was too late. He knew the building well and had a skateboard, and (strangely) was quite good at it. Probably picked it up on a movie set here or there. People like Goldblum often pick up skills they can use for nefarious purposes.

Ken looked seriously at Daniel, Taiki and Rachel. “You all ok?” They nodded.

“Well, he might have gotten away, but we’re all safe. That’s what matters.”

Taiki walked up to Ken. “What will we do with Penguin 337?” he asked. “I know we should give him back to the zoo, but he’s so happy on his own. I don’t want to.”

Ken nodded seriously. “I think Penguin 337 has made his choice. He wants to be free. The zoo shouldn’t have captured him. And he doesn’t seem any worse for wear. I think we’ll put him back in the bay. My unruly-haired blogger friend in New York would never forgive me otherwise.”

So the intrepid gang brought Penguin 337, safely ensconced in the now-empty money satchel, back to the bay, where he waddled to the water. Before he left, he solemnly touched his beak to Louis’s nose, then Ella’s. That’s how animals make BFFs. Louis didn’t even bark at the penguin. Penguin 337 was really magical like that. He swam away into the moonlight and Ella and Louis watched him go, a bit sadly, until Louis started licking an itchy spot and fell over into the mud and Ella walked away disgustedly.

Taiki shook all of their hands very seriously, which made them all smile. “Thank you all. You are true heroes. You have saved a Japanese icon. I will never forget you.” He threw his arms around Ken, then grinned, shoved something in Ken’s hand, and ran away towards home. Ken couldn’t help but smile. Taiki was pretty infectiously joyous. And what had he given him? It was a traditional Japanese hat! So Ken was hatless no longer! It was a little bigger than he was used to, but one of the hallmarks of a bon vivant is adapting to new circumstances with STYLE and VERVE. Also panache.

Daniel shook Ken’s hand and Rachel gave him a hug. “Thank you,” Rachel said. “If I ever am crying next to a Japanese waterfall, I hope you always happen by with your two amazing dogs.”

“You’re quite a fellow, Ken,” Daniel said. “If I ever need saving, I’ll know who to call.”

“Quite a statement, coming from you, Mr. Craig. Thank you so much,” Ken said. “And it was my pleasure, Rachel. You are welcome to come and bon vivant with me anytime.”

Rachel smiled and blew Ken a kiss. She had very much enjoyed bon vivanting with Ken and was pleased to be invited to do so again.

Ken’s phone rang. It was Mrs. Ken! “I have to get this,” he said. “Keep in touch, Rachel and Daniel. Be safe.”

They waved and walked off, their arms around each other.

“Hello,” Ken said to Mrs. Ken. “Are you on your way to Japan? Oh, good. Yes, everything’s great here. Just fine. No news. Same old, same old. You know. Just…when you come, can you bring something with you? Tea. Bring lots and lots of tea. If we’re going to be here any length of time, we’re going to need it. At least until things get back to normal around here. Don’t worry. I’ll explain when you get here.”

Louis barked merrily as Penguin 337 splashed in the bay. Ella put her paws on her muzzle. Oh, her silly, silly brother.

THE END. (For NOW.)

(As always, thank you, Ken, for letting me make you a SUPERHERO OF TEA and BON-VIVANTERY! And for being the best sport and giving me Japan stories. You’re the best.)


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