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by Tom Kolovos


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Published on December 26th, 2014 | by tomkolovos


Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf or Virginia Plain?

“I saw “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” scrawled in soap, I suppose, on this mirror. When I started to write the play it cropped up in my mind again. And of course, who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf means who’s afraid of the big bad wolf . . . who’s afraid of living life without false illusions. And it did strike me as being a rather typical, university intellectual joke.–Edward Albee

“Take me on a roller coaster/Take me for an airplane ride/Take me for a six days wonder but don’t you/Don’t you throw my pride aside besides/What’s real and make believe”–Bryan Ferry

“Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?” –Lily Tomlin


Yes, this is the Holiday card I sent out this year. And I didn’t mean it as some cruel joke. The disconnect between the mage and the sentiment is on purpose. The last line is where the wish to the sender can be found.

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Some of the people I sent it to just didn’t get it.

Just in case they didn’t get it because a picture is worth a thousand words, here they are. And then some.


I decided decades ago that since I would not call myself a religious person, I should not send out Christmas cards. I think that was in 1981, and the year I also gave my favorite high school teacher one not realizing that he was Jewish.

So starting in 1982, when I was a freshman in college, I found it best to send cards, if I did so at all, only with happy wishes for the new year.

Yet another of the advantages that came with this lifestyle choice was that I could send them and they could arrive well into the first or second week of January and yet they would still be right on time.

Yes, as the ubiquitous inspirational quotes which find themselves onto LinkedIn might put it, “it was Christmas when I discovered that sometimes you can be left without a choice but if you really believe, everything will turn out right.”

Oh how I hate those quotes on LinkedIn.

How do you know you’ve found your way to onto the content on LinkedIn? Are you seeing a lot of people passing off  HR memos repackaged with cute graphics as  philosophy?  Well, then you’ve found LinkedIn.

I try to restrain myself from leaving an appropriately belittling comment because, after all, these people are serious professionals.

It’s that insufferable conceit  that prompted me this year to post  “The Wonderful Horrible Life of @TomKolovosTKO on @LinkedIn?”

And to create my own version of  that type of content by posting this:

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Yes. I know that this type of content doest belong on LinkedIn. Because it’s true.

And so I reposted it yesterday along with this comment: “Christmas is really about one thing: Virgin Birth. And raising a child as a single mother who pretends her boyfriend is also the child’s father. SO maybe, just maybe, the demise of the institution of marriage started 2014 years ago today.”

Again, because it’s true.

And because I have a special distaste for both the business posts on LinkedIn and for the obscenity that is the holiday shopping season I posted this on Twitter



You’re probably aware that Holiday cards have changed quite a bit in the last decade. It’s hardly the norm anymore to receive a card with a  nativity scene or Santa Claus or some Rockwell inspired touch.

Photographic technology has now made it possible to create and customize cards. And since we have this curious notion (see above) that Christmas is about family, Holiday cards have morphed  into either family portraits or postcards from the very nice vacation you took this past year. Or both at once.

So while the language included in the Holiday card  of today may still contain some religious reference, the imagery no longer does. The images now reference the lifestyle of the sender and some of the more ambitious versions are so art directed that they are intended to reflect the aesthetic sensibility or even the personality of the sender.

More Town and Country than Bethlehem. More Matisse cutouts than no room at the inn. More state of mind than Wise Men.

It’s as if the world has found a way to follow me back to the future in 1982. Though not back to January.



This has honestly been the most difficult year of my life and that’s saying something since I have spent he last 10 years taking care of two parents who died of cancer and a brother with Down Syndrome who has progressively fallen deeper and deeper into psychosis wondering when I too may also leave him permanently.

I feel like I buried him too in March when the harsh reality of his condition and the neighbors in the condo building we lived in for 20 years who repeatedly called Catholic Charities to insist that I must be abusing him and Catholic Charities committed a felony by impersonating a government agency to forcefully enter my home. Then they came back 2 more times, each time  pretending to be someone else affiliated with Catholic Charities.

I live in Illinois which so happens ranks at the very bottom in the country for the quality of residential facilities and placement for people with mental disabilities. Most likely because the entire system is run by people who have yet to be diagnosed as mentally incapacitated, brain dead and heartless.

Then the condo board and management company got involved and started calling the police. The State agency that’s responsible for serving families with placement  of family members like my brother in living facilities demanded I have my brother arrested and not bail him out of jail. That’s standard practice in  getting the ball rolling in these cases they kept telling me.

You should have seen my face.

Between the State of Illinois, Catholic Charities and the Chicago Police Department I have been to Ferguson and back this year, and before anyone else even heard of the place.

Yesterday was the first Christmas I did not spend with any ember of my family in my home. I went to visit my brother  at the facility where he now lives and brought him his Christmas presents: more clothes to replace almost all of the clothes I sent with him in March which were all stolen by the staff, and the replacement clothing I’ve been buying him since then to replace that.

When I complained repeatedly that his clothes be returned, the State of Illinois refused and added “why did you buy him such nice clothes?’

I wish you could have seen my face.

The photo in the card I made is from a Tweet earlier this year from Lady Gaga, my brother’s favorite singer, and yes all of of his CD’s were stolen too.

I have no idea what she meant to capture in this photo or why she Tweeted it out. Or why it spoke to me immediately, if that’s what it did at all.

“Put your best face forward and don’t look back” is the  kind of inane LinkedIn speak I hate but when you combine it with the Gaga photo it speaks to the faces I’ve seen and the places I’ve been this year.


Earlier this year I went to see to a discussion which featured Bryan Ferry as part of the “David Bowie Is” exhibit at the Museum Of Contemporary Art in Chicago.  The interviewer began by showing the video of Roxy Music’s first single “Virginia Plain,” and commented that it’s “a song that starts and ends in the middle.”

I wonder if a Holiday card can do that?

Go to Wikipedia and you’ll find that the song “begins with a deceptively quiet introduction, followed by an instant increase of volume as soon as the vocals come in on the first verse, this apparently being a deliberate ploy by Bryan Ferry to trap unwary radio and club DJs. The song was also notable at the time for its lack of chorus and also that the title is only heard in the last two words of the lyric.”

Happy 2015 to anyone who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf or Virginia Plain.

 Tom Kolovos is EIC of aControlledSubstance.com 


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