May 21, 2013
We've got a guest blogger today: Nancy Ingram Largent, someone I appreciated from afar back in the Daisy Age of the very early '90s in NC, when her band Plutopia used to play Apple Chill and other venues about town.
In my quest to understand the food nightmare of modern America, I've adopted and open-heart policy of taking everyone's experience seriously, and as you'll see below, Nancy was hit with a diagnosis that demanded a life upheaval.
Even though the word "vegan" is mentioned often in these conversations, don't let the concept fill you with images of humorless self-satisfied lefties cramming their mouths full of tree bark and farting up a storm. Like all things, it's on a spectrum, and there's more than one way not to skin a cat.
Secondly, I've found that this issue is not a slow, dawning realization - it's more of a "come to Jesus" flash, usually in the form of a doctor showing you a death warrant that he or she dares you to erase. You may be healthy now, but time's winged chariot is actually made of buffalo wings.
Nancy's story is long by web standards, but she's a wonderful writer... and besides, that's one of the reasons I've decided to keep doing this blog: there has to be somewhere on the internet for the whole story.
And so here she is!
My Convoluted Path to Becoming a Vegan
I have been both saddened and troubled this year from the all-too-frequent posts by my forty-something friends who have been diagnosed with life-threatening health issues that were once unheard of in people of my age group: heart attacks, congestive heart failure, type two diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cancer.
Suddenly faced with their own mortality at such a young age, they reach out on Facebook, Twitter and on the blogosphere for support and help (see Ian's previous posts.) A few days ago, one friend who is just 45 years old, with two beautiful children, and currently suffering from congestive heart failure and kidney failure wrote, "My cardiologist looked me dead in the eye and asked me, very bluntly, if I wanted to live or die. Of course I told him I wanted to live. Among it seems a million things I had to do, he told me the first thing was to lose 50 lbs."
Yet like so many of us when facing a health crisis, he does not know where to begin to turn his health around. When doctors spout out a regimen of "diet and exercise" -- a catch phrase that has been heard so often it has lost all meaning -- they rarely offer any specific plan to help get you there. Furthermore, this prescription to good health sounds like a tortuous punishment rather than a second-chance opportunity to stay on this planet a little longer.
Wanting a quick fix - one that will not interfere with our established lifestyle of comfort foods and habitual lethargy, drugs with innumerable, potential serious side effects are often prescribed.
I understand. I've been there. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I had terrible eating habits. I would work out at the gym for an hour and then I would drive across the street for a double Whopper with cheese, large fries and Coke, feeling like I earned it after all that exercise. My favorite 2am meal was mac and cheese from a blue box with a whole stick of butter, whole milk, and two sliced and fried hot dogs mixed in. This was the full extent of my cooking skills, and yes, I would eat the entire pot of bright orange pasta in one sitting.
I have many vegetarian friends, but I never dreamed that I would ever limit my culinary delights to such an extreme. And those poor vegans living without cheese! That was completely unfathomable. I chose my meals strictly on taste and convenience - I was so proud of my gluttonous ways that it truly defined me.
Then in 2005, with just one little word, everything changed: cancer. At the age of 35, I was diagnosed with Gestational Trophoblastic Disease -- a very rare uterine cancer that developed due to a miscarriage I had had the year before. I was completely terrified, and subjected myself to the traditional treatment for GTD, which involved three months of chemotherapy. It didn't work. A second opinion at Sloan-Kettering, led to another three months of "therapy" with a much more powerful chemo cocktail made up of five different highly toxic fluids, including six overnight infusions.
During my treatment, I grew doggedly determined to never be ill like that again. Fear is a powerful motivator. It was a lofty goal, for sure. But just ask anyone who has lost his or her health, just how important good health is. I read every book and article I could find on preventative health practices: western, eastern, mainstream, and holistic. Respectable research studies showed time and time again that a vegan plant-based diet not only prevented, but also reversed, chronic health issues like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
This was certainly not the cure-all I was hoping for. After all, I was still very mac and cheese dependent. After much soul-searching, praying, and feeling unshakably resolved to live another day, I decided that after my last chemo treatment on June 15, 2006, I would take the vegan plunge.
Initially, I told myself this would be a temporary plan of detoxification from the chemotherapy, rather than a permanent lifestyle change. The thought of never eating cheese ever again was just too difficult for me to swallow.
With my recovery plan in place, I switched my reading material from preventative medicine to how-to vegan books. Since I was choosing this diet for health reasons, I wanted to be sure that I completely understood nutrition so that I would not be nutrient-deficient during this seemingly restrictive dietary experiment. If the word "vegan" is in the title, chances are I have read that book.
Before I knew it, I had been 100% vegan, and more importantly, cancer-free, for an entire year. I actually learned how to cook from scratch, without depending on Campbell's soup for sauces. I started buying everything organic, and limited my purchases of processed foods in cans and packages.
My energy had returned, I felt great, and with only one blood test left, I was about to be proclaimed as "cured" by the medical powers that be. More importantly, I was cleared to try and start a family, which is how this entire nightmarish ordeal originally occurred. Life was good again.
Then the unthinkable happened. When the results of my final blood test came back in June of 2007, my cancer had returned. I was completely smacked-down leveled. How was this possible? I was vegan! I spent a whole year on this single-minded mission to regain my health, and it didn't work. I was flooded with feelings of anger, sadness, hopelessness, and even more fear than before.
Everyone knows cancer relapses are often death-sentences. Even more troubling was that my doctor at Sloan-Kettering, the undeniable GTD expert of the world, had never seen GTD relapse before. We were back at square one, in uncharted territory, without any idea where the cancer was or how to treat it.
After three months of blood test tracking with very confusing results, my options were more chemo, which probably would not have worked because they had already treated me as strong as they could go and it did not work, a hysterectomy, or more chemo plus a hysterectomy. All of these options would make having a child impossible.
There was one more option -- to just remove part of my uterus, where the initial cancer was and hope for the best. This would still severely impede my ability to have children, and according to my surgeon, would most likely not cure my cancer. Nevertheless, considering all the other options, this one seemed like the lesser of several evils.
In September of 2007, the myomectomy was performed and three days later, I painfully struggled onto the subway from Brooklyn, and rode it all the way to Sloan-Kettering on the Upper East Side for a blood test. It miraculously came back cancer-free. What had happened was that some of the cancer cells got trapped within the scar tissue that was formed as the tumor was being killed, and therefore were blocked from the chemotherapy. It took a year for them to grow big enough to be detected on the blood test. So once that area was removed completely, so was the cancer.
I breathed deeply for the first time in months, and reassessed where I had been and how far I had come. I initially chose to be vegan out of fear - fear of illness, fear of childlessness, fear of suffering, fear of an untimely death. Those were very valid fears at the time. And I was understandably terrified of relapsing, as all cancer survivors are.
When I actually did relapse, I was so angry at this imaginary entity that is vegan-ness. It had betrayed me. This wasn't supposed to happen. Eating a plant-based diet was not the definitive cure-all it was guaranteed to be. I felt like impulsively diving down into a never-ending vat of mac and cheese, and never looking back. But I didn't.
Reflecting on the year that I spent as a vegan before my relapse, I realized that eating well made me feel good. I had more energy. My skin glowed. I was not as sick with colds as I usually was during the winter, and my spring allergies cleared up. My weight was ideal, my blood pressure below normal, and my blood work results from the monthly doctor's visits was outstanding.
I was still feeling upset that being a vegan did not prevent my cancer relapse. Nevertheless, it did not make any sense to me to punish my body by reverting to my unhealthy, fast-food diet ways, as some sort of misguided protest.
Additionally, after surviving through all of this, I was no longer scared of illness or death. I had stared cancer right in the face twice and had beaten it. Personally, I would love to live to be 100, but I don't want to be sick and suffering for my last years on Earth, like I see so many elderly people doing. If eating well can help prevent heart disease, diabetes and cancer, I am all for it.
What I later realized is something that was even more life-changing than I ever expected it to be. It is not a new concept, but one I never really considered until I experienced it first-hand. I have found that when decisions are made out of fear, it rarely works out. When choices come from love, miracles happen. I am still a vegan, six years later, not from a fear of becoming ill, but rather out of love for my life, for my body, for animals, and for the environment. And choosing all this love over fear has indeed worked miracles.
After my surgery, I spent a year in remission, getting monthly blood tests. In August of 2008, I was finally labeled "cancer-free" and was cleared to try to start a family, again. But considering my age of 38, the intense chemotherapy treatment I endured, my uterine surgery, and my history of a miscarriage, our chances of having a baby were slim to none.
I was also at a much higher risk of being diagnosed with GTD again, even if I were to have a healthy pregnancy. Choosing love over fear once again, we ignored all the experts and naysayers.
I am a big fan of happy endings, and this one is the happiest. We got pregnant on our first try, and 36 weeks later, our beautiful, healthy daughter was born on April 5, 2009. I stayed vegan throughout my pregnancy and my vegan husband and I are raising her vegan, and she is the poster-child of health.
I am fortunately still cancer-free, considered cured, and my blood work is that of a teenager. I have completely embraced our vegan lifestyle, and jumping into a vat of mac and cheese is the last thing on my mind. If I can do it, anyone can.
The most positive outcome of being a cancer survivor, and a dedicated self-taught nutritionist, is being able to help others through health crises. I am not a preachy vegan, as we all have our own life paths to follow. After all, it took a life-threatening illness to turn my own bad eating habits around.
I have since counseled many friends facing health challenges about eating better, and have helped them over the hurdles, with varying success rates. Changing how you eat is one of the toughest habits to break, as comfort food is awfully comforting. Eliminating your favorite foods from your diet is like losing your best friends that have stuck by your side through thick, and well, thicker.
There is also a learning curve and discipline involved, which can be intimidating. But if I can help just one person feel better, and add days, months and years to their lives, then everything I went through to get where I am now would be well worth it.
[tomorrow: Nancy's guide to a plant-based diet!]
May 19, 2013
Here's what I want: some kind of constantly-updating site or app that can tell you EXACTLY WHAT TO EAT IF YOU'RE SUFFERING FROM SOME PARTICULAR PROBLEM. Is that really too much to ask?
Take my issue, for example: I've got bad LDL cholesterol numbers (between 130-150) and my insulin number is way too high. Adult diabetes runs on my mother's side of the family, and they control it with diet and being Mormon. High cholesterol is all around them as well, but as far as I know, nobody's ever died of a heart attack, and some of them are... well, let's call them "roomy".
In essence, my problem is boring. High cholesterol and high sugar issues, just like half the planet, despite being relatively "in shape" and "still sporty" and "not having let myself go". So what's a motherfucker like me supposed to eat now?
I got a bunch of books, and I watched a bunch of documentaries about the subject, and now I'm letting everyone chime in with their advice. And you would not believe the level of controversy, paradox, misinformation, and contradiction involved in a simple perusal of your options.
Here's a sampling: I watched Forks Over Knives on the ol' Apple TV, which basically says that eliminating meat protein (in favor of plant protein) can do miraculous things with your health. There are lots of testimonials, and by the end, you look at America's basic diet with profound disgust.
If you think it should end peacefully there, I don't recommend any further journey into the online world of raw food, veganism, paleo-diets, or anything sounding like the opposite of humor. But I'll give you a taste: blogs popped up dedicated to defeat "the cholesterol skeptics, in particular Denise Minger", prompting others to rush to her defense.
That's totally fine. Everyone's got their fiefdom to protect. But I do wish there was some way to find out, via the latest studies, what the overall general recommendations are. Like...
• EGGS. Good in moderation? Bad anytime?
• OILS. Tropical oil bad except for coconut? Even canola oil terrible for you?
• SWEETENERS. Okay, no white sugar, but brown seems just as bad. Switching to honey? Not if you're pre-diabetic. Okay, then how about Agave nectar, with its lower glycemic index? Well, okay... if you believe in glycemic indices.
The only theory that has made sense to me so far - at least in concept - is Mark Bittman's VB6 book, which means being a vegan before 6pm, then eating what you want - in intelligent moderation - for dinner. Whether or not it will work seems oddly secondary; what I do know is that I can actually pull that one off.
I mean, you can say "eat way more plants, eat way less meat, don't eat processed food and get exercise", but some of us need more granular directions than that. And of course, there's the doctor over dinner last night, who said, "the recommendation for LDL cholesterol levels simply aren't achievable by diet and exercise. You can't do it."
That's pretty sobering - you can't do it - and it makes you think, fuck, I'll just go on Lipitor for the rest of my life, and it'll be just one more goddamn drug. But beware the ease with which you can slip into the forever pill, even as all methods ultimately nudge you closer.
Somehow it's always confusing enough, always too much data or not enough, to narrow your vision to the one pill that can make it go away. I've taken that road so many times; instead, I think I'll take the one Stephen Crane described, with each weed a singular knife. Doubtless there are other roads, but the directions are terrible.
May 14, 2013
On Thursday morning, Tessa woke up to a surprise: she was to pack her things and get on a plane with us to New York for her birthday. Waiting to meet her were 30 people at the farm, eight of which (your humble narrator included) all have birthdays within the same 2-week period.
Any of you who know my wife will realize this wasn't an easy task. She schedules events the way lizards lick their eyes; she needs it for moisturizing. She would plan an event for the weekend in LA, then I'd go behind the scenes and get everyone to reschedule. Within minutes ANOTHER EVENT would take its place on our shared calendar.
Finally, I got everyone to pretend a big dinner was happening, just to give me some cover - and even then, there were new plans popping up on our GCD7000 clear until Wednesday night. That all ended with this:
Lucy designed the card and I cut together the quotes, partly for the theater of it all, but partly so I could ameliorate any potential Tessa freakout by showing her the people she'd soon be seeing. But it was all good, and 24 hours later, we saw this:
entering driveway at farm
We hadn't been at our li'l farm during this particular early May time period in 8 years. The last time was this. And though I often deal in superlatives, I don't think our place has ever been so fecund, verdant, and spell-binding.
Just in case the bees weren't doing their job, Marlena and Lucy took little paintbrushes to pollinate the two apple trees with one another:
Here's the kicker... after seven years of putting up bluebird boxes, I wasn't very hopeful. The tree swallows usually move in first, and there's not much you can do to dissuade them. But ever hopeful, Lucy, cousin Barnaby and I marched up the hill to look inside:
...and for the first time, there sat a bluebird mom keeping her eggs warm. I admit, I was incredibly giddy, and I believe I can say It Was My Least Rock 'N' Roll Moment. But fuck it!
It's really the people who make any moment, and we were joined by so many. I know I sorta canceled a lot of things Tessa had planned in Los Angeles, events like assistant-directing a short film, writing part of our book, and skating her pair routine. But I hope this little out-of-time, out-of-mind, stolen weekend - far away with some of her favorite people - was the perfect distraction. Because she's awesome, and she deserves it.
I really hope the spring proves profound and fertile to us all. I mean it.
peach blossoms from my dwarf orchard
May 7, 2013
I got some sobering news today on the state of my health: extensive bloodwork showed several things that suggest I am involved in a dance that I can't do for much longer. Maybe one is not supposed to talk about such things publically, given that health insurance companies remain evil, but as a quick perusal of these pages prove, I'm not winning a Senate seat either.
Put bluntly, my cholesterol numbers are bad, and I'm pre-diabetic. And apparently those things together are a real disaster in the making if you're not careful; they call it ischemic heart disease, but you can call it a run-of-the-mill bullshit heart attack.
I mention this because, well, you should all get tested to see if there's anything lurking in your biodynamic, and also because I believe there's a certain sunlight-disinfection in saying things like this publically. You can deny anything you want, you can live as if you don't have a stake in the game, but the one thing you can never say is that you weren't warned.
It's also just another puncture in my bubble of entitlement and exceptionalism - after all, I may have been miserable and suffering from gout and getting strep throat every three months, but all of MY tests for anything WORRISOME always came back NEGATIVE. I was going to eat Sour Gummi Worms FOREVER, because I was this ageless man-child who got to do whatever the fuck he wanted.
Any time you can kneecap those self-defining myths about yourself, you have the opportunity for growth, because the alternative is unacceptable. Besides, I told Tessa that we will die like Admiral Nimitz and his wife: commit suicide together when we're good and ready. And I can't disappoint her, she gets really pissed off.
So now it's no more desserts; I have to throw away my gum; I run harder and faster; I go back on the Niacin, Vitamin D and Omega 3s; and I hope I don't have the kind of genetic horseshit that means going on a statin and carrying around packets of goddamn Splenda.
Plenty of people have it much worse than I ever will. Many of you have been dealing with things that makes this seem like a bad haircut. One of my fraternity brothers, Dan Wheeless, a great friend of many in our extended community, just passed away from an epileptic seizure this weekend. There's nothing interesting about these afflictions, but the day you find out about them hits you upside the head just the same.
May 5, 2013
This is going to be a quick one about screenplays, because I'm in the middle of a writing bender, a doozy, a 2-day sabbatical that turned into a 3-day frenzy because of a 4-alarm migraine. It has to do with two things that hate each other: cleverness and emotion.
The "clever" is that part of your story that made you want to write it in the first place. It's the central hook of your plot, and it is an IDEA, and it what our old housemate Caleb Southern dismissed as "premise".
I get "clever" in two ways: either it's the can't-miss idea for a story, like this true fact: "in 58 BC, a young, going-nowhere, debt-laden Julius Caesar stuck ruling a Roman garrison in rural Gaul befriends Diviciacus, a Celtic druid priest, and the two solve crime using each others' strengths - both magical and military." Will I ever write that script? Or pitch it? Even somewhere cheesy? Maybe not, but the fact that it could actually sorta have happened is pretty sexy.
The other "clever" is just a scene I want to see, it's just that simple. I had a friend who used to do cocaine by dipping his house key into the glass vial and snorting it - and I kept thinking: his house in the suburbs, complete with wife and kids... there's a shitload of cocaine inside the front door lock that they don't know about. Translate that to a plot point in a crime drama, and you can write the rest.
Plot and clever are all a big studio cares about, but your audience actually just wants to see two people fall in love, get revenge, or find redemption. This piece I'm working on now, it's a combination of Three Days of the Condor, The Dead Zone, and Malcolm Gladwell's non-fiction book The Tipping Point.
But it's really a love story between two people who don't know each other yet, and every time I come back to that simple fact, the compass find true north again.
May 2, 2013
And now it's time for another great entry in our...
Yes, you've come here for years to get the unique perspective of a guy hanging on to the feathering tendrils of bloated youth, and we never disappoint. But enough lolly and gagging. Time for...
Dear Aging Fratboy: Cardigans? What do you think? Don't they just accentuate how fat we've all become?
That depends. Your cardigan needs to have three characteristics to make the cut: made of NON-ITCHY COTTON, no elastic-like gathering at the waistline, and it has to actually fit.
If you get the ones that gather right at your belt, making a little "poof" above it that looks - both up close and at a distance - like massive love handles, you should give the fuck up. Now. Seriously.
Get one that conforms to your body, even if you've been hiding the fact that you're in your 40s. Anything XL and over, and you start looking like Hitchcock after eating Mr. Rogers.
Aging Fratboy... I like basketball shorts that go way down past the knee. But I'm white, and I'm told they look like "culottes". What are culottes, and what should I do?
Do you actually still play basketball? I mean, do you really actually play games of basketball with friends, where there's defense, and running, and you keep score? If so, you have earned the right to wear whatever the hell you want.
with Scotty, Lindsay/Jack, Rizzo and Seth - and those shorts are some of my SHORTER ones
Anyone saying you're wearing culottes needs to get dunked on.
Dear Aging Fratboy: What's the latest one can wear white jeans?
Aging Fratboy - What is your general rule about "favorite T-shirts"?
I don't have a general rule, but I have rules about T-shirts in general: you can wear any shirt as long as it doesn't have writing on it. Exceptions include:
• your alma mater. 35 of my shirts are Carolina-related.
• utter non-sequiturs. This does NOT include $45 "Gettin' Lucky In Kentucky" ironic shirts from Urban Outfitters. This DOES include Matt Gentling's "I Am All Excited About the Church of God" shirt with the Tasmanian Devil on it.
• shirts left in your possession by someone else. Somehow this absolves you of any responsibility, and allows you to enjoy the shirt all you want. Having lived in several group houses with intermingled laundry, I have many such shirts.
The above example was left in my drawer accidentally by Susannah Mills at some point around 2000. It depicts a random Kappa Sig party at the University of South Carolina in 1997. Words cannot express how comfy and perfect this shirt is now.
Aging Fratboy, I saw you wearing one of those Italo-Gallic "double collar" dress shirts at an event last weekend. Are you officially endorsing the double-collar aesthetic?
Yes, with caveats. You must pick the right double-collar look - too dark a contrast, and it verges into "guido" territory, too jarring, and you look like a clown. An actual clown.
I opted for the "light lavender - dark lavender" collar, which you can only pull off if you're married and have seemingly stopped caring what anyone thinks.
Well, that does it for this edition. Tune in next time for...
April 29, 2013
As I said a few weeks ago, I spent the better part of last month in Italy, the first week being at a writer's conference called Sirenland. I went knowing absolutely nothing about how it worked, knowing absolutely nobody, and in the end, it reshaped the way I think about conducting myself. Yeah, "youth is wasted on the young", and epiphanies are wasted on those too old to use them, but occasionally one sneaks in whilst still relevant.
Sirenland is about writers, by writers, for writers, and yet I don't think I took away a lot about writing - which in many ways, is the mark of true success. If you go to a comic convention and come away versed in love, if you take a class on glass-blowing and you come away knowing you must quit your miserable job... then you truly dipped your heel in sacred waters.
Dating back to 2005, in many ways, I did LA all wrong again. I never considered it a home, and never made the proper effort to forge a community. In doing so, I sank into isolation and a well-documented occasional depression that brought up frightening spectres of my ghastly days as a kid. All that shit I'd conquered at Carolina, the emergence as a popular bon vivant from the depths of despair - I felt like I was losing it again, reverting once more to an awkward pariah.
In Positano, I learned - despite years of semi-self-imposed alienation - that I could still make friends out of total strangers, speak in public, make other human beings laugh across the room. Does that seem pathetic? Maybe so, but some of us are born needing 4 ounces more affirmation than others, and I'm no longer going to pretend I'm not one of them.
Sirenland also provided a huge service: it was a place that was unapologetic about Art. The commerce side of writing could wait; while you were in those marble rooms, gazed upon by busts of Etruscan leaders, it was about YOUR FEELINGS and YOUR WIZARDRY and HOW BEST TO DIVINE YOUR TRUTH.
Back in Los Angeles, we live lives of such apology and disclaimers and endless changes being made to satisfy accountants. You can live a long time in that world and not think it affects you, but it does. Everything you experience is coated with an imperceptible sheen of cynicism: even last Saturday night, as Tessa screened our short film, she introduced it as a "trifle" and I told somebody it was "too short to find anything to hate."
The truth is, a lot of people worked really hard, especially my wife, and we love how it came out. But that would expose us, so we hem and occasionally haw.
Not so with Sirenland, where your artistry ruled supreme, detractors be damned. I started out the week suggesting everyone could benefit from a good old-fashioned outline and a clear journey for our protagonists, but soon enough, I just basked in everyone's visions.
A group of us became inseparable lunch and dinner partners, so much like school that old joys came seeping back. We were living in the most beautiful dorm in the world, and they made our beds.
Near the end, there was a shift in mood. Some friends had problems representing their experience to spouses back home, others bisolated into intense romances, one amazing woman expressed anger she couldn't define, and I was certainly exhausted emotionally.
Since then, we've tried to define what happened: the woman thinks it was getting too "friendship-intimate" too quickly, another suggested it was the guilt of being surrounded by such opulence. For me, though, versed over years of Jartaculars and road trips, it was the knock-knock on the door of my old friend Shame.
Shame came to tell us that we weren't allowed to be so close to your fellow tribe; that we weren't supposed to use the Lavender Body Milk in the jacuzzi; that intense, glorious discussions like these were only for college students and drunk travelers in their 20s.
The convention was drawing to a close, Shame explained, and we were soon going to be back in our worlds, back where the only Art that matters is that which can generate income, and where your dreams take a distant back seat to those of your kids, and your goddamn job. Shame said he was going to make it easier for us, the re-entry, that he was going to grease the wheels of our spinner luggage and hold open the doors at the train station.
Shame told us it's a cold world out there, and it's best to keep your head low and don't expose too much. He said nobody cares about your revelations and it was high time to get back to doing what everyone expects you to do.
Only this time I told Shame to fuck off.
April 24, 2013
Before I start boring you with my Feelings™, I'd like to put in a word about the deranged sorority girl email that went viral last week. I think she's totally fucking hot, and so does my wife.
I like to think I have a unique perspective on this issue: the girl in question is the chair of her sorority; I was social chairman of my fraternity. We both went to ACC schools, both use impeccable grammar, and most of all, both of us make everyone around us suffer under the Tyranny of Fun.
I have spent DECADES of my life trying get people to do stuff, control-freaking my way into big adventures and small get-togethers, road trips, you name it. My efforts have been met with occasionally wild success, but mostly the general feeling that I was trying too hard.
One thing I was pretty good at, though, was the "themed fraternity party". My particular frat was an odd mixture of the coolest guys at Carolina, the dorkiest spazzes in North America, campus leaders, and bizarre shut-ins. The one constant, as I saw it, was that everyone was basically funny, and participated in Greek culture with equal parts irony and genuine brotherhood.
But we were never going to be any sorority's first choice; we were lucky to be picked third, past the usual phalanx of old-money houses from Charlotte, Greensboro and down east. Thus, to paraphrase Jane's Addiction, we may have been skin and bones, we might've been pointy nose, but it motherfucking made us try. So when the usual cadre of snorting, guffawing, broke-dicks from our own fraternity lined the wall and made fun of the rest of us for jumping up and down to the Violent Femmes during the Boxer Rebellion Mixer, it made me want to fucking cunt punt them.
So yes, this sorority president from Maryland is a guttermouth rage-aholic who needs sensitivity training regarding "retarded" people and "faggots" (two words and ideas I extincted from my worldview in the late '80s), and yes, her views on Mexicans will probably keep her out of the California Senate, but let me tell you this: SHE'S TOTALLY RIGHT.
Disregard the profanity and ask yourself: what is she really saying? It's so easy to make fun of someone utterly wound up in their microcosms - but she would ask, as would I, exactly when are we supposed to stop caring about our immediate environment? How is "not giving a shit" working out for you?
Her language may be common and vulgar, but her theme is universal: Andrew Marvell said it to his coy mistress in 1650, Robert Herrick advised it to his virgins, even Horace, around 23 BC, told us: Nunc est bibendum, nunc pede libero pulsanda tellus ("Now is the time for drinking; now we dance barefoot upon the earth").
She is carping her motherfucking diem, and we should all be so lucky to have someone in our lives giving such a damn. Those who can't remember the past may be condemned to repeat it, but those who condemn the present will have nothing to remember.
the Lodge, April 1987 - I'm near the bottom right, leaning back on The Budster
April 22, 2013
I swore I would not write another blog until I finished this project I started in Rome: drawing the view from the apartment window of Nell & Jesse, who made the trip possible. You can't tell from this panorama, but it's almost 4 feet long, and it took 22 days of sketching, research, and buying pencils.
The image you see above is actually four pictures stitched together, taken from about five feet away... which makes it look much different than the original, but y'all should get the idea.
It was a welcome distraction, a secondary activity as I came back to a life I want to live a little bit differently. They say it takes the human body and mind 14 days to undergo a transformative change in a new place; I was gone almost 20, and I return to you a slightly altered person.
I'd rather be kicked in the face by a family of bison than hear about someone's 3-week spiritual journey, or That Crazy Summer, or how you met some faith healer who gave you turmeric that becalmed your colon. So I won't bore you with my own, except to share a few epiphanies:
I needed some kind of brotherly spiritual program. And so I have begun one, so far so good.
As a collective country, we are both sick and numb, and I don't want to take part in that dialogue anymore.
Which leads me to...
I don't like the way I have been thinking about this blog, and if I'm to keep doing it, I have to relinquish my attachment to what it once was, and go back to how it started.
More on all that as the week progresses. That is, assuming any of you are still reading, and because I'm abandoning my illusions, I shan't be chagrined if you're not.