September 30, 2002

9/30/02 Day 2 of our

9/30/02

Day 2 of our IFP experience left us exhausted, but happy to be in the company of a lot of other filmmakers. One thing that separates New York from Los Angeles (other than an average IQ differential of about 45) is that people here in the movie business are all about "collectives," other loose partnerships, and the general good will that a high tide raises all ships. In Los Angeles, every success becomes a referendum on the failures of everyone within the successful person's penumbra, as well as a good time to work up your resentments into a fine patina. I probably shouldn't use the word "resentment," which is too fine-tuned for the LA experience; best go with outright naked "jealousy."

Not so in New York, or at least not so obvious. We actually want everyone to do well, and talk up projects that we may not even like. One such narrative we saw today, and the conversations later all started with "I don't want to be mean..." and finished with "...but I really respect what he was trying to do." We also saw some pieces today that needed no qualifications, as they were quite good without any waffling from us. Paul Devlin's documentary "Power Trip" about the electricity outages in Tbilisi, Georgia (former USSR) was cool, as was Jessica Sharzer's short film The Wormhole (word on the street was that she got a 3-picture deal from Universal out of it fuckin' yikes).

My favorite dudes, of course, are the ones who got into the Market through spit and vinegar, and don't mind dorking out while they spin their various yarns. Like this guy, for instance:

I think his documentary is about the venerable urban legend that we didn't actually go to the moon in 1969, and the whole lunar landing was done on a soundstage in Burbank. Which makes you wonder if Apollo 11 was a hoax, why did they keep pretending to go back, even after the TV ratings dipped? They took six more journeys to the moon after the first one, including the botched Apollo 13. I dunno, it just seems like a lot of work to keep the ruse going.

Keeping the conversations purring at these things takes more out of you than you realize, like a lot of sun on a hot beach day. Tomorrow is our big day at the festival; we show our clips at 1:45 at the Angelica, put on a little dog and pony show, and hope for the best. I'm a little concerned about the approachability and conventionality of our project it seems like we're not just the only comedy, we're the only feature with a linear storyline. One of the documentary guys said "you made a comedy? You guys are brave!"


me and Tessa on the subway home, dressed in our pink best

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September 29, 2002

9/29/02 It was at the

9/29/02

It was at the IFP party tonight that it hit me: we really did accomplish something with this movie just by getting it done. If you're going to be emotionally healthy about it and believe that the journey is indeed the destination, then we can claim success right now. In the artistic world a sphere in which I tentatively cling to membership – career successes are few and far-between, and so the fact that a committee of peers invited us to their influential market proves all along that we might not have been working inside the yolk of an egg for the last two years after all.

Tonight's shindig was also the sneak-premiere party for The Man From Elysian Fields, which was quite a nice film saddled with some unthinkable groaners that pretty much give the movie a case of the cancer. Mick Jagger was fabulous in the flick, however, and even more fabulous at the after-party at Metronome (even though neither Tessa nor I got to see him). The music at the party was great (they played "I Can't Wait" by Nu Shooz how rad is that?) but catered to the attention-impaired, as each song lasted about fourteen seconds. They also had great chicken satay, some of which was smuggled to Señor Poopy Pants left alone in the car.

Gill Holland worked the crowd like a master I saw him handing out Pink House postcards fifty feet away, even while chatting up a sexy, gothy blonde. Good to have Gillbo on your side; like Tessa says, he is a natural celebrator.


Gill and me at the 24-hr plays in June

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September 28, 2002

9/28/02 Note to self, and

9/28/02

Note to self, and note to entire blog-reading public: going to the New Jersey Ikea on a Saturday afternoon in September is about as much fun as a trip to the DMV in the Bronx during a heat wave. There are so many humans in one place, all clamoring for the same semi-disposable Swedish furniture, most not speaking English, and nary an Ikea staffer among them. Have a special order? Good luck. It's like getting extra gruel rations in a Eastern Bloc prison.

I didn't know Ikea was famous for its Swedish Meatballs, but approximately 1 x 10 to the ninth other people did, and you had to wait in line with them to even get near the cafeteria. Later, Tessa waited half an hour for a shopping cart that never came I swear, if we're doing this much waiting, there better be a Ragin' Log Flume Ride on the other side.

The sad thing is that Ikea's stuff can be so cool, so perfect for your needs, and, once in the privacy of your own home, quite nice to assemble. It's just the physical store that is so reprehensible, with the airport noise and the crunch of people, and screaming, screaming Russian babies.

I figure there are a lot of good places to get the flu around here, but the sneeze guard at the Elizabeth Ikea cafeteria has to be the best place to start. I was so disgusted that I had to make a list of the other nine:

2. the M23 bus pole during morning rush hour along 23rd st
3. the pediatrician's office downstairs after 47 baby sneezes
4. the pen for signing Visa bills at the Yaffa Caf on St. Marks Place
5. the copy of New York Newsday on the seat of the 2 train heading out of Manhattan
6. the cab door handle out front of the Chelsea Clearview Cinemas
7. the divot where the cashier tosses you a subway token at the 125th St. A-train station
8. the game basketball at the W. 4th St. courts
9. the "START PRINTING" button on the Rite Aid copy machine on Hudson Avenue
10. tonguing drunk sailor at the Manhole during Fleet Week

The night got better, as we went to Jane Barnes' 60th birthday party put together by her daughter Nell Casey. We ate, danced, listened to toasts, got high (at least I did) and then rode home with Lorraine, Alex and Bliss Broyard. I forgot my camera, more's the pity, but Bliss took this cool picture of us:

Tessa, Alex Draper and me. I look like a drunk Southern lawyer

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9/27/02 Know what that is?

9/27/02

Know what that is? It's a teaspoon, natch, the hard-fought mascot of our new movie trailer division. "The Teaspoon Trailer Company" was officially born today with a press release sent out to various and sundry folks in the know. We'd thought of several names for the company: The Pudding Lane Trailer Company (mine), the Superette (Tessa's), Daisy Trailers (various girls in the office) but Teaspoon came from a bunch of cooking metaphors we'd been working on, and we liked the idea of movie trailers being the distilled essence of a product. The kind of distillation, like vanilla extract, that can only be measured by teaspoon. There's another reason for "teaspoon" but Tessa wants to keep it a secret.

We put together the website, and it already looks cooler than most dot-coms I've worked at, and with greater functionality (the links will work when you click on them, for starters). What's great about this idea, at least for me, is that it is fairly organic. I like making trailers the same way I like solving a puzzle: how can you take a movie and reduce it to its most intense dramatic, funny or surreal moments? I approach it like a brilliant math problem that is the ultimate combination of algebra and art, and when you're finished, there's a real sense of accomplishment. Sure, it's not a life passion, but we're really good at it, and we can follow Michael Mastro's dogma of "get a day job you like."

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September 26, 2002

9/26/02 1:37am late Thursday night,

9/26/02

1:37am late Thursday night, after thirteen hours of editing the movie, making our last push before the IFP and winter festival deadline, almost unable to form words, our brains the consistency of strawberry & cream oatmeal, mere minutes from our first real rough cut

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September 25, 2002

9/25/02 I could have gone

9/25/02

I could have gone to bed long ago, perhaps at midnight, or even 11:30. I've had about twenty hours of sleep this week in total, and I'm starting to hallucinate during the day, seeing bears in the corners of rooms and talking to electrical appliances. But something compelled me to try and fix the Pink House music problem anyway, and here I sit at 3am, having laid down four more tracks to put in the movie. Certainly no evidence can be laid out that says that these little snippets of songs and aural ideas will lead the movie to victory, but tomorrow is our last day of editing, and being utterly irrational, I imagined that the inclusion of these pieces would make a difference to the movie's future.

I mean, why not? All things have a tipping point, so why can't the movie? Perhaps that tiny violin glissando I just barreled through will appeal, even subconsciously, to a festival judge, and it will marry him to the material enough to give us the go-ahead. He won't know why he liked the movie, he just liked it. But you and I know, don't we?

The hilarious thing is that none of what I do music-wise will ever end up in the final product; we have a whole budget for my mom's orchestrations and the music supervisor's bands. My little semi-quaver band-aids serve only to give the movie drive, and spackle over any strange spells that an orchestra will skim-coat later. But if you put yourself forth, and believe in the Buddha and yourself, your desire, self-kindness, and plain old tenacity pays off somewhere down the river. That's my faith for this evening, and I'm sticking to it.


directing late at night during reshoots or at least LOOKING like I am

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September 24, 2002

9/24/02 Any of you reading

9/24/02

Any of you reading this are lucky I wasn't keeping a blog in late 2000 or early 2001 not only would you have to endure daily rants about the suck-assitude of That Internet Job, but I would have waxed philosophic about my back pain, which I raised to almost biblical metaphor. Before my injury, I used to think back pain was mostly bullshit, probably stemming from this one particular All in the Family episode where Archie fakes an old army injury in order to get out of a pool game. Suffice to say I learned my lesson on that one, having spent the better part of a year in unabating agony, trying everything from steroid pills to acupuncture in a futile quest for relief. Two things healed me: time, and a few Pilates exercises that Jessica Arinella showed me. But mostly time.

Occasionally, I'll have a few bad days, and this is one of them I went on a bike ride with Tessa through Prospect Park, and spent the rest of the night wishing I could jab a fork in my kidney just to give me something else to think about. But in the bathroom, just before sitting down to write this, I had an epiphany.

One of our running jokes is my alter-ego High Maintenance Boy, a superhero who can't get through the day without Afrin, lactose-intolerance pills, Celexa and a white-noise maker. He's comes chock-full of prerequisites, to be sure, but he's also a very good-mannered superhero that brings empathy to any crime situation. I think I'm closer to that joke than I had realized, and tonight I gave myself license to understand one thing: I have a lower tolerance for pain than most people. Now this is the kind of thing that brings easy judgement; nobody wants to be around a fucking whiner. But if you truly accept that you just feel shittier than most people most of the time, you can take an incredible amount of heat off yourself.

My heat? The fear that I will become complacent if I start acting old. I want to want to get drunk, but the fact is, it just makes me exhausted and gives me acid reflux. I'm only telling you, the blog, because we're not out drinking (if we were, I'd be dancing and singing and whipping out bon mots by the basketful) but secretly, I'd be fucking tired and craving two Zantacs.

But if you accept that you are indeed High Maintenance Boy, then you can say "well, it's obvious. I'm getting older and things hurt me now, and it's okay to avoid them without losing my pissed-off youthful integrity." It also means that you are free from deciding whether or not to exercise: you must, because growing old and fat and creaky is simply not an option. You HAVE to stay relatively skinny and limber, because life after 40 is one god-damned disease after another, and High Maintenance Boy will be on permanent duty.

So tonight, I accept my position in life and understand what is laid out before me. I will hurt all the time unless I take steps not to hurt. I am thankful for my many needs, as they release me from the burden of choice! God Bless You, High Maintenance Boy!

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September 23, 2002

9/23/02 You know, sometimes the

9/23/02

You know, sometimes the environment can really affect the way something proceeds. I'm not talking about the hemorrhoids that supposedly kept Napoleon from making smart decisions at Waterloo, I mean the more general rules about the situation in which something is displayed. They say a room has to be "cold for comedy," in other words, if the theater has the heat on too high, none of the audience will laugh.

I think we ran into a similar problem tonight, as we screened both the short trailer and the longer industry reel of The Pink House for a bunch of friends at Automatic Slim's in the West Village, and both seemed (to us, anyway) met with a flaccid response. It wasn't until everyone came up to us in private, saying how much they liked it, that I breathed a small sigh of relief.

But again, it's the environment thing. It was a bar-owned TV, high atop the racks adorned with the pricey scotch, with muffled sound and a small picture. Even the illustrious George Gilmore, who was tending bar, said "well, it's to be expected. People watch TV in bars as a way of zoning out." Which made me wonder why we had it there in the first place, but no harm done. We saw a lot of great people tonight (John Lasala, Alex Yong, Seth, James, Lizzie, Shielagh, Ed Ryan even Ben Feldman was there!) and handed out a shitload of tomatoes. Even if we only spread good will, then our job is well done.

And I might have to get used to this fact: the Pink House movie is an intellectual, intense pursuit full of great details that don't make for laugh-out-loud moments. It's a lot of small, wonderful little things that are part of the whole, not a joke unto itself. I wanted to make the kind of movie that people would take home with them, enjoy bits in private, commiserate in silent recognition. If we get people to come up to us afterwards and say they get it, then I won't care if they laugh or not. Even if it is a comedy, god dammit!

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September 22, 2002

9/22/02 What's better than throwing

9/22/02

What's better than throwing your dog into a swirling bathtub of lukewarm water, watching him sit still with the dread of impending hygiene, slathering him with Prell shampoo, and turning him into a black, droopy, soapy scourge of discontent?

Nothing!

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September 21, 2002

9/21/02 You know that day

9/21/02

You know that day when the wind changes, and there's that unmistakable little chill in the air you look off into the horizon and you swear you can smell fall, and then the winter coming? Well, today wasn't that day. At all. Here we are in late September, up in the Berkshires, and it's still so hot and humid that we have to crank the air conditioners all damned day.

It is sad, however, to come to the end of the growing season. The local uber-nursery Wards - a store that seems to attract every white old-school preppie dad and mom from Massachusetts and Connecticut - shut down most of their incredible greenhouse of exotic plants, leaving naught but a bunch of pumpkins and a selection of bulbs for next year. It's a little unsettling. Up here, you can catch the faint whiff of desperation that might have kicked in for the ancient farmers, looking to the sky, then to their fields, and wondering if they had enough to get through the lean season not too far off.

All I know is this: if you could live on tomatoes, I've got the garden for you. And I know it's the crustiest clich on earth, how homegrown vegetables taste better, but good lord above, I wish all of you could taste these:


this week's haul Lindsay, Tessa and Dana in the background wondering why I'm taking pictures of vegetables

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September 20, 2002

I like the girls with the boom

9/20/02

I've always agreed with David Byrne's quote about lyrics: they're a trick to get you to listen to a song longer than you normally would. Most song lyrics are reprehensible to me, some are vaguely unnoticeable, and only a tiny fraction of them are brilliant. I realize I'm in the minority on this one, as most people find a great deal of meaning in their favorite songs, but to me, lyrics fall under the following categories:
- badly-forced rhyme (most boy bands, No Doubt, Britney, Pink, etc.)
- incomprehensible and pretentious (Alanis Morrissette, some Fiona Apple, etc.)
- nihilistic bullshit (Bush, Creed, Matchbox 20, and all college moaning rock)
- lame aphorisms ending up as high school yearbook quotes (Dave Matthews, Jimmy Buffett, the Dead, Phish, Widespread, etc.)

I mean, give me the indiscernible vocals of the Cocteau Twins, the Sea & Cake, Stereolab and early R.E.M. any day of the week - at least those guys understood that vocals were meant to be another instrument, not a bullhorn for whatever dime-store epiphany the lead singer happened to have during fellatio the night before. I loathe country music, but at least they understand the ludicrousness of their lyrics; someone in Murfreesboro, Tennessee thinks "Drop-Kick Me Jesus, Through the Goalposts of Life" and then writes a song around it. There's only three or four rap bands I can stand (Outkast, Wu-Tang, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul – you know, the ones for white dudes), but I appreciate the genre because the lyrics aren't a trick, they're the thing. When that Matchbox 20 poster boy gets a song from his guitarist, he begins the process with nothing to say and it goes from there.

Of course, I'm a total hypocrite. My favorite lyricists in the world are probably Morrissey and John Lennon, both famous for nihilism and pretention. When I told our music supervisor that I didn't like lyrics, she basically thought I was a moron who didn't try hard enough - so I tried to think about the lyrics that have always affected me, and listed them in my head. And now that I have, they're all so strange, and probably meaningless to anyone else. You can't help what you like, you know.

My Fave Lyrics

We got through the 30s though our belts were tight
Conceived of a future with no hope in sight
We've got decades ahead of us to get it right, I swear
Fifty years after the fair.

- Aimee Mann, "Fifty Years After the Fair"

Boy afraid
Prudence never pays
And everything she wants costs money
"But she doesn't even LIKE me!
And I know because she said so.
In the room downstairs
She sat and stared.
I'll never make that mistake again!"

- the Smiths, "Girl Afraid"


The third time I saw lightning strike
It struck me in bed
It threw me around
And left me for dead.

- The Cure, "Hot Hot Hot!"

Everybody says join our religion, and get to Heaven
I say no thanks why bless my soul
I'm already there!

- XTC, "Season Cycle"

Any major dude with half a heart surely would tell you, my friend
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again
If the demon is at your door,
In the morning it won't be there no more.

- Steely Dan, "Any Major Dude"

It's a sad but natural fact
That something deep inside stays lonely forever.

- General Public, "Cry on Your Own Shoulder"

She's not a girl who misses much.
She's well acquainted with the touch of a velvet hand
Like a lizard on a windowpane
The man in the crowd with the multicolored mirrors
On his hobnail boots.
Lying with his eyes while his hands are busy working overtime
A soap impression of his wife which he ate
And donated to the National Trust.

- The Beatles, "Happiness is a Warm Gun"

Everybody knows you only live a day
But it's brilliant anyway.

- Elliot Smith, "Independence Day"

I know I'm unlovable
You don't have to tell me.
Message received, loud and clear.

- The Smiths, "Unlovable"

Hey fat girl, c'mere - are you ticklish?
Yeah, I called ya fat.
Look at me, I'm skinny.

- Digital Underground, "The Humpty Dance"

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September 19, 2002

9/19/02 Today's blog is cancelled

9/19/02

Today's blog is cancelled due to a blinding migraine.


But before I go, I just need to ask this: why do companies treat their workers so fucking badly? I know it's a big clich to whine about the plight of the American employee (not that I am one anymore), but in what part of business school do they teach that being an asshole makes you more money? Is there some graph with a parabolic curve that shows how mean-spirited you can be per dollar?

I ask this because one of my friends (who shall remain Google search-less, but I'll call him Jeremy) recently survived a merger, wherein his company was bought by a larger company, and he was one of the few that kept his job. Now, anyone who has been through mergers like this can tell you that being the "bought company" almost always spells doom, even if not right away. Jeremy clung on and accepted a new position at the newly-minted supercompany, but only if he agreed to lose all his seniority and thus his vacation days.

Now, I have to ask how big a fucking deal is it for him to have a few days off? In what sense is the company financially impacted when Jeremy takes a couple of god damn days to drive to Palm Springs and get a mud massage? I'd say it was beyond negligible, perhaps even an infinitesimal, cosmologically small fraction of money lost to the company – perhaps something around 45 cents when all is said and done.

Yet because of their broke-dick attitude on this issue, Jeremy is miserable and will no doubt quit 6 months earlier than he would have. The company will be robbed of at least a half year of his brilliance, his professionalism and his ability to bring in clients. And that, my friends, is not negligible.

I'll write more about the crazy dot-com world of 1995-2000 someday (you know, as soon as everyone else stops), but the changeover from "young, fresh-faced entrepreneurs" to "paranoid, fuck-face pricks" was really something to behold in dot-com management. I've always said that the volume of unbridled exuberance was directly inversely correlated to the chasm of mean-spirited evil as soon as the money began to run out. I should have known the day they stopped supplying half-and-half in the fridge; let that be fair warning to all of you.

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September 18, 2002

9/18/02 I don't know how

9/18/02

I don't know how many of you out there have tried to add music to a movie, but it ain't as simple as throwing in a couple of rock tunes and seeing what happens. In essence, it's turning out to be one of the most challenging things we've done, and that includes almost getting struck by lightning in the real Pink House yard (as well as putting my fist through a Mexican restaurant soap dispenser and lacerating my wrist I forgot about that one).

Anyway, a fine line separates a great scene with a great score from a great scene made utterly unwatchable by a cheesy music cue. You can see bad music cues all the time just by turning on Cinemax after 1am or so all those straight-to-video erotic thrillers starring Shannon Tweed have god-awful synth moments covering up lame expository shots.

You need to keep the cues short and snappy, but do too much of this, and you get the bass-zapping goofiness of "Seinfeld." Or even worse, those stupid clarinet riffs from "Cheers." And by all means, avoid songs with words unless you plan to make some larger point, something I've never seen a movie do successfully save for the In Your Eyes scene from Say Anything. Frustratingly, it's easy to grow weary of a song or orchestral riff that goes on too long in the background, but if you change it up too often, your movie feels emotionally messy. You could try to do without music entirely, but then your 85-minute comedy will seem like a 4-hour documentary on Bulgarian shepherds.

I was told many years ago that audiences will forgive almost anything visual, but the true mark of a student film disaster is bad sound. We were very careful with sound during the Pink House shoot, but now that clean livin' has caught up with us: the party sequences seem to happen inside a vacuum. It's fascinating how even the slightest tweaks of ambient noise can supercharge a scene it definitely makes one more aware of noise in real life. Every time you rustle your shirt as you turn in your seat, every time you lay your hand to rest on the table: these things make noise, and they're generally not caught by the microphone during a movie. You have to add all that shit in later, and believe me, it's tedious.

Thankfully, today was about actual songs. I decided long ago to be pretty good at a shitload of musical instruments rather than be great at any one, and it's a decision that has paid off in the studio and at parties (my piano version of "Someone to Watch Over Me" is definitely B-minus, but then again, you get it for free). Today I laid down guitar, drum, piano, bass and violin tracks that can act as scene segues, or even as a character's identity (for instance, we're thinking an evil solo violin will accompany Heather Matarazzo whenever her antagonist Charlotte is onscreen). It can be a stop-gap measure before my mom writes a real score, something that can't happen before our Sundance submission deadline on Oct. 2. This 11th-hour push also forced me to get an optical cable that runs from the digital 8-track recorder through the Edirol UA-30 and straight into the iMac through USB, which is pretty sexy for closet dorked-out music spastics like me. I know I'm late to the optical cable party, but how cool is that thing? There's actual red light coming out the end of it!


my cramped studio

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September 17, 2002

9/17/02 When my brother Sean

9/17/02

When my brother Sean called me today, I was at the Whole Foods market on the corner of 24th and 7th Ave, juggling two giant cartons of organic lactose-free milk and a good-for-you coffee muffin. I had to sit down in the frozen foods section because he had an anxiety attack at the airport, and I realized that my myriad freak-outs regarding flying have rendered me useless to help in such situations. Sean's experience today is similar to my airplane troubles; both of us just started getting zorked out after a bunch of really bad flights. He had a cross-country jaunt two weeks ago that was apparently 2 1/2 hours of being put in a paint shaker even the flight attendants strapped themselves down for the better part of a thousand miles.

Sean asked me a question I've been asking myself all year: why are we capable of developing such chronic anxieties at a time in our lives when we should be mellowing out? You'd think that a lifetime of three decades, stretched thin by the friction of experience, would give us the ammunition to care less about the things we can't control. God knows or should I say the Buddha knows – I've been trying to be good at relinquishing control, having read all the books by the Dalai Lama, along with Pema Chodron's extraordinary When Things Fall Apart, among others. And still I'm finding myself inheriting more childlike fears as I get older.

Suffice to say I told Sean to have a tequila shot and a very large bourbon & ginger - I mean, that's what I would do. I have a stash of Xanax and Ambien for flying, but I really think heavy drinking is the ticket. Hell, if there's turbulence, you'll think it's funny and if there isn't, you'll sleep the stale, dehydrated slumber of the hungover traveler.

One last word about this. I'm not scared of the plane crashing, I'm not frightened of on-board terrorism or a bomb in the cargo. I know the plane is utterly solid and no commercial jet has ever crashed due to wind disturbance while cruising. I even like the act of flying. I just fucking hate turbulence. Seriously, I'd rather walk to California than sit through fifteen minutes of turbulence. And like Sean and I have found out, some things in life just build up in your body like mercury, things that we're unable to expunge in a normal fashion. I was never afraid to fly as a child, and somewhere in the late 80s, I had one too many shitty flights, and now I have to drug myself up. Tessa says that one of the keys to sobriety is to "accept life on life's terms," but sometimes that's a tall fucking order.

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September 16, 2002

9/16/02 Finally back in my

9/16/02

Finally back in my own digs here in beautiful Brooklyn, with my own computer and all the amenities of my cave. It's just me and the Chopes tonight, as Tessa is up in rural Massachusetts filming a documentary on Erin McKeown, leaving me to procure every last bit of music for the temporary Pink House soundtrack, order sushi and walk around without a shirt. I wish I found wife-beater shirts comfortable, but there's just something about them that's totally stinky to me. I'm not a big fan of men's underarm hair (or their toes either, but that's another story) - or it might be the Mormon "garment" thing as well. If you don't know what that means, have a Mormon tell you (except it'll mean being on their mailing list until the year 3057).

This trip to Chapel Hill was a good one, the sort of perfect distillation of the NC experience that happens every third trip or so. Several images come to mind, but I'll just post a smattering so you get the idea.

click on the images below for a bigger version


left: Natane Boudreau practices lines while we frame her in the monitor she nailed the hardest joke in the movie a few seconds later
right: a shadowy Tessa waits for the horse and buggy to arrive for our 1920s shot, while the sun (and our hopes) plunge into the horizon


left: the beautiful Liz Mann done up in 1929 best
right: Scotty and me post-football game, wandering past UNC's Bell Tower shrouded in a midnight mist

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September 15, 2002

9/15/02 Ever fascinated with this

9/15/02

Ever fascinated with this country's malls, I decided to drag Scotty along to the Triangle area's most recent monstrosity, the Southpoint Mall. Or it might be "Southpointe" - it's impossible to tell with the New South's penchance for ludicrous anglophile apartment names. One more shithole called "Thrushcross Grange" or "King Henry's Creek" and I'd just about blow a gasket. The New South is sterile and ugly, what with its boxy, glassy downtowns and its mind-numbing urban sprawl, all coaxed together with cubic tons of red cedar mulch and sad, symmetric saplings held down with guy wire. North Raleigh is the most soulless place you could ever go; it takes about three gallons of fossil fuel to wander anywhere interesting (public transportation is non-existent, and they clear-cut the old forests for car dealerships and "Chi-Chi's").

Thankfully, Southpoint(e) Mall was a bit of a surprise. It's still the same mall ingredients found all over this great country of ours (Spencer Gifts, Bath and Body Works, Foot Locker, and a bad Food Court) but they actually did their homework architecturally. Not only is the structure largely brick, but also reminiscent of old downtown Durham with the tapered smokestacks of the ancient tobacco warehouses. And they really got me with once nice touch: all over the building are pref-fab "ghost ads" touting products and businesses that no longer exist. I'm a huge fan of the genre even though these are fake. I'd post pictures, but of course, I'm stuck on another computer with nary a bit of access to my stuff!

After watching the compelling indie The Good Girl, we met Ann Humphreys at the Wine Bar to exchange tales of the last year or so. We reckoned that our lives would have been much better if only she and I had decided to live in the same town circa 1997-2000, instead of her being miserable in San Fran, and me being suicidal in LA. But here we are anyway, both in pretty good places. I'd love to have her up in New York, but she has carved out a nice life for herself here in North Carolina, with a support group of friends, great yoga and a cool job. I had her on one issue, however: the only people smart enough to deserve her live in the city that never sleeps.

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September 14, 2002

9/14/02 Here I am in

9/14/02

Here I am in Scott Bullock's house in Durham, NC, and find myself in a technological quandary. Scott jettisoned his landline phone service in favor of a wireless lifestyle; however, since my iBook is apparently a squeamish little bunny rabbit, it won't hook up to his high-speed ethernet. Which puts me on his ancient Celebris 6200 typing in the blog without access to any of the cool pictures we took today of the various goings-on. I sometimes wonder about those of you reading this thing with a dial-up account; I hope my relentlessly self-involved picture-posting doesn't bum y'all out unduly.

The rest of the Pink House crew left today, leaving only me (a Chapel Hill orphan) and Liz Mann (a longtime Heel born and bred) to navigate our way through some of the heaviest downpours I've seen since the last time we tried to make a movie. Thank god we had wrapped shooting by yesterday or else we'd be back in the same boat, Noah-style and shit. The rain provoked a 3.5 hour nap on my part (which is probably why I'm up and on crack here in the middle of the night), before making the adventurous trek to Kenan Stadium to watch my beloved Heels get their asses handed to them by the University of Texas, coached by our own turncoat leader, Mack Brown. It was good to get back inside the stadium to see the sea of baby blue, and I'm so used to watching our football team lose that it wasn't even all that bittersweet.

I do have to say this again, though: today's sophomores are way fatter and wear way less clothes than they did back in 1990. It makes for a Ruebenesque sluttiness that is half tragic and half sexy. I'd be interested to know if eating disorders are on the way down, since everyone seems so happy showing their bulging love handles, but knowing this country, they're all probably fat, slutty and STILL barfing.

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September 13, 2002

9/13/02 I have to say,

9/13/02

I have to say, today was damn near a perfect day, marred only by the absence of my beloved Tessa. In many respects, it was the perfect representation of the Chapel Hill lifestyle: we slept late, ate Mama Dips for lunch, went to Schoolkids to buy records, slacked at home watching a DVD, went to Pepper's for dinner, then Henderson Street for drinks, then to a party in Chatham County to top off the evening. One forgets the simple pleasures here, and it was very nice, even if it's the kind of life I have no interest in living again.

It felt incumbent on me to provide a good day for the crew Kim and Emily had never been to Chapel Hill before, and Rick's only experience was last year's nightmarish month of hellish Pink House production, so we even went to Surplus Sid's to buy outlandish nightwear. I fancied a blue Swiss Army coat, but Rick actually bought a red-and-white barbershop quartet sport coat that was a hit with the crowds downtown.

Pepper's Pizza was its usual zoo, complete with vaguely hardened-yet-sensitive rock chick waitresses, and the mercurial Moses, who looked happy to see me and then bitched at me in front of the restaurant. One thing was different: the art on the walls - usually moronic black-and-white photographs trying unsuccessfully to give the joint a classy ambiance was the work of David Rose, someone Rick and I immediately loved. His world seemed to be based on a robot called Señor Pantalones and his friend Sausage (who is a sausage). We figured that anyone whose major motifs were robots and sausages had to be supported at all costs, so Rick bought two of the paintings. Of course, this being Chapel Hill, the artist had forgotten to sign them, so I said "well, he's got to be around here somewhere" and we set off to find him.


Rick in front of David's work at Pepper's Pizza

He lives in a backwoods house on Old Pittsboro Road, a shy 28-year-old (I'd guess) guy with his pretty, gregarious wife, watching old movies on a 1967 TV set. He seemed psyched to see us, and signed the paintings with aplomb. Afterwards, we felt damned good; this was money going to a great kid with a genuine talent, and he was going to use the $50 to pay the water bill. "It's not like you're giving money to Julian Schnabel so you can be part of the finger that gets stuck up his ass for a prostate check," Rick said, and you had to agree.

Henderson Street Bar was fun for a few minutes, but if you're not drinking, Chapel Hill bars can seem about as much fun as trivet factory. The guys we met mostly friends of Liz – are awesome folks, and genuinely good writers on our email group. They were, however, identically dressed in blue Oxfords and dark pants, lending a certain surreal quality to the proceedings. The whole event harkened back to the "Robert Frost Tragedy" sequence of the movie, which has newfound meaning for Kim, who drank with them firsthand. Speaking of which, I bought a shot of Rumplemintz for Emily, put it down in front of her, and left the bar without a word. I hope my good intentions were understood.

This being a game weekend, a huge game weekend at that, the sorority forces were out in full peacock feather tonight; painted blondes in the hundreds lined the streets in gaggles and droves, all meeting their flock at various bars to down Sex On the Beach shots with willing fratboys. Even a contingency from the University of Texas was around, hoping to score with some effusive Carolina chicks. The pheremone levels were so high as to be almost visible; estrogen and progesterone ran in rivers down Franklin Street. It was so intense that I made Chip stop the car so that Rick and I could get our picture with a particularly ebullient threesome. Again, I hope my good intentions were understood.


Rick and me between three Carolina girls who wished us "an awesome weekend"

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September 12, 2002

9/12/02 I have much to

9/12/02

I have much to say at this point, especially since this spate of re-shoots came to an end tonight, but I'm so tired I literally can't run my fingers over the keyboard. I can report this, however: we nailed every shot we attempted. The most complicated set-up was a horse and buggy shot through downtown Hillsborough just after rush hour, and we nailed it on the first take. More tomorrow when my coma is over; in the meantime, here's a bit of proof that we came, we dressed, we filmed, we conquered:


the only scene I'm in: us posing with Amazon, The Horse That Wouldn't (But Eventually Did)

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September 11, 2002

9/11/02 Being in a small

9/11/02

Being in a small Southern town on the anniversary of 9/11 highlights just how important geography really is; in New York, we think about aspects of terrorism every day, and here, on the media-saturated remembrance of the day itself, we had to keep reminding ourselves. In New York, we find ourselves in massive anxiety-producing crowds pretty much every day; in Chapel Hill, the only time 20,000 people get together is to eat barbecue and get drunk at Kenan Stadium on football Saturday.

In short, it was perfect. Not only was I not around the relentless sorrow and ubiquitous concerns for our safety, we actually managed to have a good time and stayed busy. I'm noticing my anxiety takes a precipitous fall whenever we're involved in an intense project and when we're surrounded by a commune of friends. Shooting pick-ups with the likes of John Kelleran, Rick Gradone, Liz Mann, Kim Ludlow and our small staff of production assistants all of us holed up in our connecting apartments – is exactly what I needed.


John Kelleran, Tessa, me and Rick Gradone on set

Not only that, but the shots we're getting are fabulous. There's a line in the movie that is so weirdly bad that it is funny, but only if delivered correctly. A restaurant hostess (played by Tessa) asks Windy (Natane Boudreau) if she has reservations. Windy replies, "So many... I'm just not sure about anything anymore." Yep. And it didn't work for a year in the editing booth, but today at the restaurant, donning the purple dress after a year in storage, Natane nailed it. It made Rick and I think about one's ability to change art once it was made; Windy and Murray have a line in the movie about painters who might be frustrated with an early work hanging in a museum and want to break in and change it. With re-shoots, we're basically doing the same thing.

Tonight we shot water, horses and moons at a farm outside town, and it was amazing as always. By 9pm, a panoply of bugs descended on us, all gravitating towards the light, spinning in maddening disarray to their gorgeous deaths against the filament. It was too good not to capture:


bugs race and dance around the movie light at Pleasure Horse Farms in Durham, NC

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September 10, 2002

9/10/02 Everyone reading this on

9/10/02

Everyone reading this on September 11th will no doubt be having a weird day; we're pretty resourceful, Tessa and I, and damned if we knew exactly what to do with the day. Fortunately, that decision has been largely made for us: we're on re-shoots, and therefore recreating Chapel Hill in 1929. However, if we had the choice, I think our positions would be very different. Tessa wanted to observe the day in some way, commemorate it somehow and I feel like I live it so often, and I'm taking so much Celexa to drive away the worst things it brought, that it reminds me of that old, tired fucking joke reprinted every year in Reader's Digest. The kid says to his mom, "There's a father's day and a mother's day, but no children's day!" and the mother replies wearily, "Every day is children's day!"

Which is to say, the gloom of that time has never left me. Anymore, I'm not interested in analyzing how our country is different, I just want to find solutions. To me, it comes down to this: in the long run, we can't stop terrorists, so let's take away the reasons terrorists hate us. It's as fucking simple as that. Unfortunately, we're saddled with an administration that seems to have no long-range thinking ability at all, as well as a toxic dose of pride, so I just have to remain hopeful that we'll eventually elect somebody with some Vision. You know, with a capital V.

Chances are I'd be stuck in "anniversary reflection" mode anyway, since today we revisited many of the locations we shot the movie almost exactly a year ago. The worst of them was Starpoint, which is now populated with what I can only describe as a non-racist skinhead metal groove band, an affable crew that let us fill their house with smoke that probably lingers there now, nine hours after the shot. The residents weren't the problem, it was just the peculiar smell and environment of the house, never a place to sit, the site of so many setbacks and awful Movie Moments that damn near had me convinced we were rudderless and adrift in the icy Atlantic.

We had barely recovered from the emotional toll of making the Pink House movie when we got back to New York and spent the 11th of September carrying soot-encrusted suitcases for refugees streaming up the West Side Highway. The words written those few days seem as visceral to me as they do now, and time has not melted those moments into anything more coherent. My thoughts don't feel any more finished now than they did then.

Maybe we were too close to it. Perhaps 40 blocks isn't far enough. The folks in Midtown seemed stunned but managed to eat; by the time you got to the Upper West Side, couples were flirting at Starbucks. Frankly, I don't see how the rest of the country mustered as much care as they did, and I wouldn't be surprised if they spent this September 11th feeling a little guilty that they don't care as much as they should. I wish I could care a little less, I really do. I wish I could stop reading news reports and macabre re-enactments of disaster and I wish various unsavory contingencies would stop pure-ing through my brain. I wish I'd stop looking at maps of how far we would be from potential targets, and how I'd get my family out of Brooklyn, and where we could move to grow our own corn. These thoughts don't paralyze me the way they did in January, but they follow me along like a crazy man stalking; always a block away, always just out of view, impossible to give professionals a description.

So I'll try to leave myself this day with a few positive things, since good can be found in the darkest of chasms. I think the tragedy cured me of my relationship fears, something that had plagued me for at least 15 years. After September 11, asking Tessa to marry me seemed so natural and wonderful and obvious. Something about the event acted as a polarizer: either you broke up with your significant other, or else you married them. For us, hardship bred intimacy, and that's a rarity to be celebrated.

And to a lesser extent, I've learned to celebrate innocence, if not in me, then in others. I've jettisoned a lot of my critical eye in favor of appreciating those people who give anything a fair shake no matter how misinformed. Even bad style is style tried, and that's such a brave thing to do in this increasingly boxed-in world. Being sarcastic and talking shit is as easy as eating candy, and believe me, I'll continue to do a lot of both. But when a handful of extras show up to the movie set like they did tonight, having driven hours through the North Carolina countryside for a non-speaking part in an independent movie with no money for three hours and still coming up afterwards, beaming, thanking me for putting them in my movie you understand such spirit is left in the world. These people all want to move to New York, for god's sake! If that kind of innocence in the face of terror doesn't give you some kind of hope, then you're not paying enough attention.


extras for the exterior "party shots" for the Pink House movie

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September 9, 2002

9/9/02 Here I sit at

9/9/02

Here I sit at two in the morning (did you know that I postdate or fake – the time at the bottom of these blogs so that the header above doesn't get confusing? it's almost always the middle of the night into the next day when I write these) and I'm back in Chapel Hill, NC for the next round of re-shoots for the movie. Our one and only shot went really well tonight, Matt Dawson re-creating a tiny moment that wasn't lit well enough over a year ago. It's all fakery, this moviemaking, but when else do you get to go shopping at Harris Teeter at 1am for a Montrachet Cheese joke? Rarely, I tellsya.

We start filming again in seven hours, so I'm truncating the hell out of my thoughts tonight, but I do need to add that we met the Offically Rudest McDonald's Employee in North America tonight. She manned the register in Dover, Delaware and was so bad that the manager gave us coupons for more deep fried shit somewhere else! Yay!

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September 8, 2002

9/8/02 This will be a

9/8/02

This will be a short respite, a day off from shooting the film and travelling, and I spent it playing absolutely hideous basketball in Astoria, and then walking around Park Slope with Scott and Diane. It felt really nice to do absolutely nothing, and even though I know talking about sleep is about the most boring writing available, I'll let it slip that I took a 3-hour nap in the afternoon something I haven't done since about 1972 with a pint of chocolate milk and a Curious George Goes to the Hospital book.

This was also Dad's 63rd birthday, so I tracked him down on his cell phone. He was on the way to Carmel, CA to screw around for a while and most likely get away from the meltdown some of Carole's kids are having. One of them is getting the kind of divorce that ends up being put into novels, so ugly and mean-spirited and downright criminal that it makes me happy to lie next to Tessa, who possesses none of those genes.

I think Tessa and I got along better in 1987 - on the day we met better than my parents did in 23 years of marriage. It's strange to me how people make decisions, but you can never put yourself in their skins, and you can never judge. I'm sure both Dad and Mom had their reasons to go on a second date in 1962, I'm just not exactly sure what it was.

Thank god they did, though, for at least 3 of us in the family. Steve and Kent had already made the galactic cut by 1958, but a lot of stuff had to happen for me, Sean and Michelle to snuggle on our mortal coils. My affection for my mom is well-documented (and if that isn't enough, I'm sure I'll have more about her later), but I have also come to understand how important my Dad is to me as well. He had been easy to vilify, and I'm sure at least 5mg of my Celexa is dedicated to him, but the fact is, I think he made an incredible adjustment in the middle of his life, and is an inexorably better person for it. He has been nothing if not stunningly supportive of my career, in all its phases, since I was 22. Given the kind of fathering he had, it's amazing he's not in prison, and the fact is this: most men don't change, and he did.

Even if he changed only a little. Almost all men, especially those born in his generation and before, see no point in even the tiniest modification of behavior. They know they can basically get away with whatever they want forever, and set forth to do it. He was well on his way to this kind of life (and he still has his peccadilloes that sometimes drive me bonkers). But he is different than he was growing up, he engenders dialogue, he is much freer with his emotions, and he doesnt scare me at all anymore.

In the past, some of my family thought I was full of shit on this one, and that's their prerogative; everyone has a different relationship with their dad. But even if I am full of shit, who cares? I decided on November 23, 1986 when he said he was leaving the family – that I was going to have a good relationship with both of my parents and would do pretty much anything to make it work. Like they say in AA, "you fake it 'til you make it" and now I feel like both of my parental relationships are good and second-nature, even though they are very, very different.

Either way, this goes out to my dad, born in 1939 this day in Compton, California to a real asshole. I take the same oath that my dad did, that I will not be locked in father/son loathing, imagining an old man inside a casket with his middle finger still extended. I actually love my dad, and he actually loves me, and even if that's all it is, it's a revolutionary step forward from the last generation.


dad conducting circa 1982

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September 7, 2002

9/7/02 Too exhausted for words

9/7/02

Too exhausted for words again, so pictures'll have to do. We finished the day, it was all fantastic, and as Rick said, each shoot has had at least one totally drop-dead hilarious moment. Yesterday it was Karmen and Jess doing their lame-ass cartwheels; today it was Amy Heidt as Berniece, doing a spit take with a teddy bear attached to her temple. The things we do for comedy, I swear to god...

(click on any picture for a larger version)


me and Zack Ward atop the roof at the sound studio, 8th Ave and 14th St.


recreating the school office scene a year later in a Williamsburg carpentry shop


Amy Heidt as Berniece getting dolled up by Rick

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September 6, 2002

9/6/02 After a four-hour night

9/6/02

After a four-hour night of sleep and a 14-hour day of re-shoots on the Pink House, my brain is too skittishly exhausted to make for cogent reading, but I will say this: it was sunny and 70, we finished the day's shooting on schedule, and all of the shots are really funny. At least they made us laugh, and that's really all we can expect sometimes, right? Meantime, here's some pictures:


Karmen Helms and Jessica Arinella back in sorority makeup; they were terrific today


creating the "pink flour rushes through house ventilation system" shot, a plot point I encourage for all you beginning screenwriters


the crew hard at work on the last shot of the evening: Rick Gradone and John Kelleran as adorable retards, and me and Tessa as earnest filmmaker auteurs

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September 5, 2002

9/5/02 Lord knows I'm a

9/5/02

Lord knows I'm a little obsessed with my pet project of taking the same picture years and years apart (check out examples here or here or here or here) but making movies with flashbacks is even more fun, because you can have your character at age 19 and age 89 with you at the same time! Such a thing will happen tomorrow with our first re-shoots of the Pink House movie, when Ed Van Nuys and my brother Sean will recur their roles as Old and Young Oxford respectively. Personally, I think the casting was brilliant, even on a superficial level:


left: Sean Wylde (Williams) as Oxford in 1929
right: Ed Van Nuys as Oxford in the present

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September 4, 2002

9/4/02 There have to be

9/4/02

There have to be literally thousands of blogs out there tonight, about to weigh in on the two major news items of the day Iraq and the Johannesburg environmental summit - and god knows with the amount of yammering going on about the predictability of most blogs, it would seem like peeing into a roiling ocean to add anything. But the Bush administration seems to be so wildly full of shit, that I have to just blurt it out, if only to make myself feel like I have a voice at all.

First off, I don't know one living person, you know, in the flesh, who wants this war with Iraq. At first I thought Bush & Co. were just doing the hard-core bluff in order to pre-empt any horseshit Saddam might have coming down the pike, or at least to leverage inspectors back in. But now I truly believe these morons are pushing us further towards bombing the hell out of their country. Yeah, I know, "Saddam must be dealt with," blah blah, etc. etc. but there must be bullet-proof smoking-gun evidence that he is close to possessing nukes and is likely to use them (the first I believe to be true, the latter I certainly do not). Even so, he should be given time to dismantle them, and we should be able to send in inspectors to clean the place up. Sure, this all might be wishful thinking on my part, but unless he is psyched to die a martyr (something he is WAY too much of a petty control freak to do) I think it should be the American way to believe that all people are capable of second acts and redemption.

Given the hostility that the U.S. has been receiving recently (and that includes the European allies whose collective asses we saved 50 years ago), a strike against a country that has never done anything to us seems full-blown insane. Even if it's more complicated than that to Republican think tanks, it sure won't be complicated to a young Islamic teen watching it unfold on Al-fucking-Jazeera. Saddam also has got to have contingency plans in the event of his removal, very likely the clandestine handoff of god-only-knows-what to interested parties who would like to make everyone in Manhattan sick. Suffice to say if this war happens, I'm dragging my family up to the farm for a few months until cooler heads prevail.

The worst of it is this: it's all about oil. Every single bit of it. Bush has some sort of wildcatting gene that throws him into estrus every time fossil fuels get churned into the sky. And Americans are just as bad collectively; 51% of new cars last year were SUVs, with an average fuel economy of, like, 2 miles to the gallon.

Which brings us to the Johannesburg summit, where the USA has basically told the entire planet to fuck off. Never mind that the average temperature of the Northern Hemisphere has risen over a degree Fahrenheit in the last ten years alone, never mind that the worst droughts in the world are in the Islamic tinderbox of central Asia, forming a populace more than happy to strike back at the thugs that have 4% of the world's population, yet create 23% of its greenhouse gases (that would be us, for those of you playing at home). Bush's fucking Republican oil-grubbing white racist team of motherfuckers are not only mortgaging away my kids' future, they're basically inviting every country on Earth to hate us even more. Is there a master plan that I don't get, or are they the stupidest bunch of rednecks ever to cheat their way into running the free world?

And still, Americans don't care. They'll continue to vote for Bush and his limp-dicked cronies because they fear regime change while we're "at war." More than likely, the rest of America has been anesthetized by the glacial breeze of their Navigator's air conditioning unit, by the untold liters of Starbucks frappucinos, and by the constant re-runs of "Friends" on digital cable. Meanwhile, a young man in the parched basin of what used to be Iran's great Lake Hamoun will look across the cracked ground and begin to seethe with rage, and I don't blame him one god-damned bit. I look across my cracked psyche at the White House and feel the same way.

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September 3, 2002

9/3/02 By all accounts, my

9/3/02

By all accounts, my sister was a bit of a surprise in 1972, showing up in my mom's 41st year as a little present to all of us boys thinking we were going to rule the roost in a quadratic algorithm of testosterone-charged superpower. If she was a boy, her name was to be Joshua, but instead we got Michelle, and in many ways, she keeps all of us honest. I don't know anybody who so perfectly mixes my generation's affinity for sarcasm and idealism better; she's a poster child for all things good. As a kid, she was intractable to the point of mild mania (a famous story she hates involves a rainy day and a pair of Wellingtons), but then again, she got shit done. Playing with Michelle for the afternoon meant no fucking around there was going to be a castle built with playpeople and a working moat, and if you weren't helping, you were bloody well in the way.


Michelle shows one of her creations, a bizarre trans-species mix of G.I. Joes and PlayMobile people, circa 1977

Well into adulthood, she always had her ducks in a row, even when she was a goth chick, and even if it meant a shitty job in a place like West Covina, CA so she could pay her way through junior college. She ended up graduating from Millikin University in 1995 with a major in musical theater, and spent a few years in Chicago and Kansas City being the best thing in some otherwise middling shows. Heeding the bad advice of her brothers (je suis culpable), she moved to Los Angeles and probably would have gotten a great gig there if all of us hadn't moved to New York within months of her arrival.

NYC, however, has been both a blessing and a curse for her being a natural organizer and leader, she is unfortunately one of the world's greatest waitresses, which makes the food industry all too easy a trap. She disappears into every restaurant like quicksand, emerging every month or so with plenty of money but an empty heart. She was fabulous as a wily sorority girl in the Pink House movie, as well as Mac's play The Second String, but the next day always found her back in Union Square Café stripes.


Michelle, Easter 2002

September 11th changed a lot for Michelle, however, as she was one of the first volunteers down at Ground Zero, and wrote so well about it afterward that her words found their way into Slate Magazine. They eventually gave her a week-long diary that recounted her new passion: becoming an EMT and getting certified in emergency medicine. So when an opportunity arose for her to cross the United States as an EMT as part of the American Frontiers Public Lands Trek, we basically told her she couldn't not go. Two months walking across America and nursing hikers back to shape? No brainer!

The trek itself is actually pretty cool in a country criss-crossed with privately-owned ranches and huge swaths of corporate holdings, not to mention the freeways and various other trouble you can get into whilst in the countryside, it's actually a novel idea to cross the U.S. entirely on lands owned by you. Ostensibly, you can take the path these trekkers take, and not get fucked with by anybody, not get permission, not have to do anything but breathe and put one foot in front of the other. It seems a perfect fit for my sister. Michelle is that rare kind of non-self-righteous vegetarian, the perfect tree-hugging liberal who also likes dumb boys and gets her toenails done. She makes idealism palatable, because she understands ennui as well as anyone.

And her writing, which is descriptive yet simple, hooks you unwitting. Read her daily journals on the American Frontier bio for her, and you can feel the hunger for a pesto pizza after a week of eating outside, you can hear the lap of cold river threatening to spill into her dugout boat. Even now, as one of the Trek's sponsors is dropping the ball (she won't say which one) and failing to give the journey any press, Michelle is determined to make them pay for their disdain. She called us tonight to get one of our journalist friends to write an article on the Trek, so that a tree falling in the forest truly can make some noise.

Last night she slept in Island Falls, Idaho after three days of pounding rain. I looked at the map and discovered that she is mere miles from Last Chance, Idaho a town I doubt she will ever visit, either literally or figuratively.


detail from family portrait, 1988 Michelle and I had hair that was truly the envy of all we surveyed

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September 2, 2002

9/2/02 Bed felt good tonight,

9/2/02

Bed felt good tonight, so good that I hung the camera up on top of the curtain rod and put it on a timer, 'cuz some moments you have to catch, especially when you're a self-involved archivist like me. We spent the day scouting for the Pink House reshoots, then I rejiggered the crappy bookshelf I made last week, filled it with books, then created a home-made frame for our 1880 train map of America. By the time I did the dishes, I pulled a Scotty Bullock and had "too much pie," a Fruit of the Forest concoction that made both Tessa and I roil from bloatedness. So here we lie, a day full of Labor, which is what Labor Day is all about, right?

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September 1, 2002

9/1/02 My brother Kent took

9/1/02

My brother Kent took issue with my blog from a few days ago while I was bemoaning the state of art and brilliance in my generation, and also stating that Manhattan makes being an artist downright unbearable. He responded:

Art isn't made best by the comfortable, unfortunately for those who try. The reason that New York has always been a site of creative ferment is that it isn't 100% comfortable, and the inspiration of desperation makes people productive.

Which is basically true, and Orson Welles (as Harry Lime) had that great line in The Third Man about how 30 years of noisy, violent churning under the Borgias in Italy produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance - while 500 years of peace, quiet and harmony in Switzerland produced the cuckoo clock.

I understand all that, but there is still such little emphasis being placed on art as a career in this country if anyone told you that they were a painter, more often than not, your response would be, "yeah, but what do you really do?" Making movies is respected only because there is the shot at a pretty big monetary payoff (even Tessa's dad asked us at the diner if Five Wives had made any money yet - never mind that it was on the short list for the documentary Oscar). And to an extent, being a visual artist is generally tolerated because so many websites need an artistic rendering, and websites help companies sell products.

All other "artists" can fuck off, as far as most people are concerned, and the rents in so-called "artistic neighborhoods" (SoHo, Chelsea, etc.) only further the reality that it's okay to be an artist as long as you have a $10 million trust fund. The government cuts funding for the arts yearly, even though it adds up to pennies per American per year. I suppose, in a nutshell, all I'm saying is that New York, which is supposed to be an artistic haven, has priced itself out of genuine talent. That pre-supposes that rich people aren't generally talented, something I happen to believe, but don't have the energy to defend it tonight.

No doubt Kent's right, and some poor, struggling writer, poet or painter will claw his way out of his/her hovel in the Bronx, and his/her work will be better for the struggle. But that idea has become so quaint that most people have opted for some other day job they can stand, just to pay rent around here. Soon enough, someone who could have been a brilliant playwright finds herself working at Chase Manhattan for five years, and before you know it, she's a banker. If you want to find some of today's unwitting Mozarts, Eschers and e.e. cummings, they're the ones vaguely dreaming of an alternate life, while they make doodles on a pad, at a desk on the 34th floor of the Citibank building, a stack of papers waiting to be input into Microsoft Excel.


basically, that's me doing the same in 2000 at the Woolworth Building

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8/31/02 I think I'll dispense

8/31/02

I think I'll dispense with today's events (I sat in traffic most of the day, Jiffer and I went to the farm, and then played CatchPhrase! with Lindsay in Millerton) and go straight to...

The Celextant, August 30, 2002

For those of you just getting here, The Celextant is my little way of making myself write about the Celexa I take daily which is obviously a self-involved navel-gazing subject if there ever was one, but since this is my blog, I get to do whatever I want. Like Woody Allen said, "what's wrong with masturbation? it's sex with someone I love!"

Anyway, I'm still on 30mg a day, and lately I've found myself slipping back into the "lost afternoons" of anxiety where a particular topic (usually the same old shit) can catch me in a chokehold and refuse to relent. I'm back to functioning semi-normally at Asset, but a jaunt into the heart of Times Square last night left me looking around, wondering how long it will all last.

I could go a dose higher, up to 40mg of the Celexa a day (which is normal) but I just got over the fatigue and sexual silliness that the smaller dose brought on. Besides, I think I may have a problem that drugs just simply aren't going to fix. I need to find inner serenity in a way that is self-propelling, a genuine warmth of heart and mind that comes from the release of control. But 35 years of private obsessive-compulsion has left me pretty wrecked: I was even obsessive about hiding my obsessiveness. Sometimes I look at pictures of us at Carolina, and wish I could find that mindset again. I wasn't particularly happy towards the end, but I thought my biggest problems were trying to have sex with some chick on Pritchard Street.

In the end, you find comfort in the strangest of places. I was looking at pictures of the human brain tonight, and something about the stark, wet, physical reality of our thoughts, fears and desires gave my troubles a nice perspective. I mean, look at the bulges, blood vessels and folded lobes of matter. It seems pretty easy to insert happiness into that glob, just as easy as anxiety, right?

Posted by at 12:47 AM (Permalink) | Comments (2)