People who hate Halloween - and I've known a few of them - suck. This is truly one of the greatest holidays Americans have, free of relentless commercialization (only Hershey's and Spencer Gifts at the mall make any money), plum full of pagan symbolism, and virtual carte blanche for every man, woman and child to splatter themselves with green makeup, sprout boobs and sashay around town. I'll go ahead and say it: Christmas is fine, but Halloween is my favorite holiday.
Around 4:30pm in Manhattan, the freaks truly started to come out - guys on unicycles, various goth chicks, and my favorite, the "first to the party" Uncomfortable Girls who have dressed up but haven't gotten drunk yet and feel disgustingly self-conscious. Manhattan doesn't have the same village feel of Chapel Hill (still your best Halloween night out, for my dollar), but the mass lunacy bubbling up from under the subways is downright palpable.
After getting my wig from Ricky's on 23rd St., I got back to Brooklyn in time for the first wave of kids brave enough to punch every buzzer on a 5-floor walk-up. Dutifully, we all traipsed down to see their costumes, which I know is very "gee I hate Mondays" of me, but ever since my brother Steve started making me robot costumes for Halloween, seeing kids dressed up fills me with contentment.
thank god we're irresponsible and had a bunch of Mr. Goodbars lying around, cuz these kids meant business
I needed a prescription at the local pharmacy, so I walked down to 7th Ave., where the whole street had been blocked off so kids could amble wherever they wanted. Which was a good idea, because most of the toddlers dressed as Spiderman couldn't see through the face mesh and kept running into fire hydrants.
By then, the second, meaner wave of trick-or-treaters came by, most of them from other neighborhoods, and a few of them, shall we say, a little too old to be going door-to-door for Bit-o-Honeys. They're the kids who will probably pull an actual "Trick" part of the "Trick or Treat" if you're not careful. Michelle called from Astoria and said she'd actually been egged. I know it sucks to be egged and all, but there's something about the darker parts of Halloween that fills me with contentment as well (rent Meet Me in St. Louis for a good example).
my favorite costume on 7th Ave was a girl dressed as a black Converse High-Top. How cool is she?
Around 10pm, we met everyone at Jessica Arinella's place on the Upper West Side for a perfect, small Halloween gathering where conversations could actually be had. I dressed up as Tessa or at least I meant to, but I got the wrong color hair. And my boobs didn't move. And she's actually pretty. In the end, I pretty much freaked everyone out and made all the guests 3% uncomfortable (apparently I looked like a successful transsexual) so I consider it a job well done.
me with Karmen Helms
My voice is shot from this flu, making me sound a lot like someone choking Harvey Fierstein, so I couldn't even carry on decent conversations. Just sat around looking pretty. I'd show more pictures of all of us, but my digital camera fell off the top of the refrigerator, making the above shot the last picture my digital camera will ever take. It's just as well, really, don't you think?
Yeah, I know this week in the blog looks like the 2nd-year class notes of someone at Columbia Med School, but y'see, I'm trying to get better. We pay so much for health insurance that to not do these things seems downright criminal. Today's big quandary was "why the hell am I getting recurring kidney stones?" which can only be answered by the fine folks at Diagnostic Radiation on 17th St., underneath machines that look like they cost the gross national product of Finland.
My procedure was an "IVP," which goes a little like this: the night before, you have to drink either 2 oz. of castor oil, or 4 oz. of magnesium citrate. The castor oil tastes like whale barf, and the magnesium citrate tastes like Mountain Dew. You be the judge on that one.
Anyway, that pretty much flushes out your system in ways that would be a great gag in any of the early Adam Sandler oeuvre from the mid-90s. Then you can't eat until the next morning, when you lie flat on a table, get injected with dye, and spend an hour getting pictures of your insides taken. I saw the X-rays later, and I couldn't even tell which way was up it all looked like a roiling cumulonimbus cloud churning across Iowa farmland. Which is to say, it was "normal."
Of course, nothing feels normal right now with the 1-2-3 punch of a deviated septum, a possible kidney problem and a big fat flu but we still managed to rally for Mac's play The Sky Over Ninevah, which was a marked improvement over the original reading and featured some genuine talent that wasn't even in our regular Carolina gene pool, especially Gwen Bronson and Ben Scaccia. Not knowing Equity rules, I tried to take a clandestine picture for my records (no flash, no shutter sound) but the director happened to be behind us and gave me what-fer about it. I tellsya, being a relentless archivist can rub some cats the wrong way.
In the year 2000, about three months before I moved to New York, I was pushing one of those wheeled garbage bins up my driveway, a steep hill on the Hollywood mountain. The wheels gave way, and the sharp lip of the trash can caught me across the bridge of the nose so hard that I was almost knocked unconscious. Blood spurted out of my face about four feet in every direction, and my stoned roommates could barely get it together to drive me to the hospital. Once in the LA emergency room (God bless you if you've ever been in that circle of hell) they did X-rays and determined that my nose wasn't broken, but my social life was pretty much over for the summer. Still bleeding, miserable, weak and in excruciating pain, I went back to my room that night and fucking cried.
That, fortunately, was my last humiliation in Los Angeles in that era, and I came to New York still self-conscious of the scar, which has now largely faded. It serves as a reminder of everything arbitrarily bad in a bad place with bad luck and bad times. But it wasn't over.
Early this year, I started getting blinding headaches behind my eyes, and by March, I had to squirt Afrin into my brain just to breathe. An MRI showed that I was suffering from a deviated septum, something you usually get the fun way by playing football or snorting cocaine. I got it from Hollywood trash.
By the summer, I could only sleep on one side, and finally, today, I went in to see who New York Magazine called one of the Best Otolaryngologists in the City. Dr. Blitzer took more pictures of the inside of my sinus passages, and came up with this:
The black arrow shows a tiny ridge of cartilage that has been the source of all my misery. When I took the blow from the trashcan, the cartilage buckled and the air has been trying to get around it ever since. I'm scheduling surgery in November so that I can breathe again and finally be physically free of all reminders of those terrible times. I'll be able to smell the snow of December.
Honestly, I don't know how Early Man survived a blow to the face, I mean, it must have happened all the time.
Oh yeah, they only lived to be 27.
My friend Oliver and a few other people who check into this blog wondered where the hell I actually live, since my definition of "here" seems to change every couple of days. And sometimes it's good to write down exactly where you are whilst writing these things; too often you reread an old diary from high school and it drones on about your solipsistic, hormone-addled crushes and half-baked musings on the meaning of existence when all you want to know is "where were you writing that, and what shirt were you wearing?"
So my geography lesson is this: I moved to the East Village in the summer of 2000 and worked at the Woolworth Building (see arrow) downtown. By the time September 11 happened (click here for the same picture on that day), I was basically living with my erstwhile-girlfriend-now-fiance Tessa in the West Village. A week after the attack, her father passed away and we set off on a giant cross-country trek to attend his funeral and try to put our frayed nerves into a beta state.
Of course, Tessa's dad Blakey, ever confounding, secretly left her a wheelbarrow full of Mexican Libertad silver coins behind some suits in a closet. It seemed like a fortune (and if you've ever lifted pure silver, it felt like a fortune, but let's just say that silver is not gold.
At the same time, we began talking about getting a house somewhere cheap up in the country our friends Dana and Lindsay had just bought a great place in Millerton, NY for next to nothing - and for the cost of a 10-foot storage unit in Manhattan, we could be paying a mortgage on an actual house. The minute we got back to New York, we started looking for houses away from the city (and America started bombing Afghanistan; the two seemed quite related). The very first place we saw was an 1820s farmhouse in Columbia County, NY with a basketball court on the second floor of the barn. This place had me at "hello," but Tessa, being a completist, made sure we saw another 25 possibilities. Obviously in love with the Columbia County place, we would find ourselves driving past it even when it wasn't on the way.
Metaphorically, we dumped the wheelbarrow full of Blakey's silver bullion into a downpayment on the farm, and closed in February this year. Keep in mind that Tessa was still living in her West Village digs, and I was still paying rent for the shoebox in the East Village. The same week we closed on the farm, I mentioned that one of my favorite bloggers Gus lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and asked Tessa if she liked that neighborhood. Three weeks later we were living there. Tessa rented out her entire place, I bid a sad adieu to Lars, and we moved half our stuff to Brooklyn, the other half to the farm upstate. Impulsivity is where it's at, man.
Both moves were done at one of the worst times in my life; I was driven by an apocalyptic frenzy that ensured that we lived at least three miles from any major target zone in New York. Although Celexa and therapy have quelled those beasts somewhat, I still think it's the Survivalist Mormon in me that keeps me from thinking too permanently about any one place. I grew up with family members hoarding cans of green beans in secret apocaly-closets where a family could live for a year. It's not necessarily such a bad instinct, but I could do without the day-to-day worst-case scenarios rushing through my head.
One thing is for sure: my paranoia drove us to live in some pretty fucking awesome places. Park Slope, especially where we live (near Grand Army Plaza), is a constant delight. The people are really cool, it feels like an actual neighborhood, and Prospect Park is the best-kept secret in New England.
And Columbia County, 2 hours north, where we spend the weekends and the occasional week, is too cool to imagine. I long for the place like people long for ancient homelands. The sunsets are unfathomably gorgeous, and the fields are English-moor magical. The farmhouse itself keeps surprising me with secret beauty hidden under bad paint and inexcusable wallpaper. And there's a pool table and a basketball court and darts! I feel like going back to my 10-year-old self, alone on a playground, and telling him not to worry.
our street in Brooklyn
Oh yeah, I'm in my room at 2:15am and I'm wearing a Carolina T-shirt. Just so my later self knows.
A much-needed night out with members of my phylum tonight; my friend Ami Vitale happened to be in New York from New Delhi, and a small group of compatriots gathered at Von on Bleecker Street to celebrate her making it here in one piece. More amazingly, she isn't even living in New Delhi anymore, having traded plush digs in India for the wilds of Kashmir, where she lives among the embattled people stuck between India and Pakistan, two countries threatening nuclear war over the little province. She moves from hotel to hotel, never sleeping in the same room more than three days in a row, just to keep the Islamist militants off her scent.
And why? To take pictures and document the unbelievable suffering of this people, and it looks like she's one of the few photographers still trying. I've never known anyone from our generation with such talent and such a revulsion to self-advertising, making her the opposite of most so-called "artists" I've been unfortunate enough to meet of late. She truly takes pictures from some other place inside her, something very pure and scrubbed free of any kind of marketing sensibility. I'd imagine it allows her much more intimacy with her subjects, something that comes across in many of her photos (click here and peruse them for yourself, especially the Kashmir set).
Ami seemed very relieved by our conversation, in which I convinced her that many if not most Americans really are capable of media criticism, and we don't believe everything we hear about Middle East from Fox News. She was also heartened to hear of our disgust with George Bush; there's so much anti-Americanism in her neck of the woods, I think she has had trouble remembering how complicated we all are, even back here in our Biggie Fry-sized bloatedness. I was going to ask her more about the Kashmir situation, but after three red wines and fifteen time zones, I figure I'd let her unravel that ball of yarn later in the week.
I haven't been doing so well lately; I've half a mind to call up my psychopharmacologist and ask her two things: one, if I should increase the dose of Celexa to 40mg just like everyone else and two, if Lexapro is a better match for me. I know it's a bit weird to start twiddling the dials on your cerebrum by throwing a bunch of different drugs at it, but as long as you equate anxiety/depression with an infection, it doesn't seem so unnatural. Either way, I've had some unfortunate feelings of dread and miserableness that have lately bubbled to the surface like a fart in the bathtub. I'm so bored with it, really, it is one of my least interesting traits.
One way of combating one's generally awful feelings about the world is to make sure one's side of the street is clean, so Tessa and I had serious plans to go down to Washington for the anti-war protests, but of course, we didn't go. It was mostly my fault, being caught in this particularly bad physical state (deviated septum keeping me from breathing, kidney stone threatening to throw me back in the hospital), but I think Tessa appreciated the day to write.
Me, I slept until a billion o'clock. Groggily dragging my ass downstairs, I walked Chopin to Prospect Park, where he fought with a Siberian Husky, chased fifteen squirrels, and almost peed on Steve Buscemi.
Fuck Celexa and Lexapro. I want whatever Chopin is taking.
Chopes on Wednesday night in the country, the one pic where he finally looked at the camera
Something I'd recommend to everyone open-minded enough to put up with the crap in this blog is Michael Moore's film Bowling for Columbine, which is just about the most eviscerating attack on American society I've ever seen, and manages to be incredibly funny in the process. It comes at an unbelievably apt time, with the goose-stepping idiocy of the Bush Administration making every New Yorker nervous, and the ultra-sensationalized media accounts of the Washington Sniper(s). But don't see it because it's good for you, see it because you will be affected by it in some way. You may not agree with Moore's heavy-handedness like I do, but the Left needs somebody out there willing to make an oaf of himself in the name of kindness and fairness. And believe me, he easily makes an oaf.
Back in 1990, much fun was made of CNN because they had developed a little "theme song" for Gulf War updates; now, every network has "Showdown: IRAQ" or "Sniper On the Loose" theme music, complete with rotating graphics and a special icon. It's fucking sickening it's as though the "movie trailer" aesthetic has completely permeated the news culture. "Bowling for Columbine" essentially blames America's stunning homicide rate on the culture of fear peddled by news agencies glomming for ratings, the U.S. Government's thirst for war, and large corporations, who can only sell their useless shit through scaring people. This is why our XM Satellite Radio is so great: the BBC doesn't have any of that crap. The BBC actually has Story Hour in the middle of the day. We love those guys.
One positive thing to come out of the Washington Sniper(s) brouhaha is the well-documented comeuppance of the so-called "profilers" hired to fill time on the major news networks, almost all of them turning out to be useless hacks. I even made my own D.C. Sniper profile a few days ago just to see how I matched up. Let's see how I did, shall we?
"He's an American citizen, not foreign-born, in his late-30s."
John Mohammad is an American citizen born here, and he is 41, which ain't too far off. Grade: B+ (points off for not mentioning his accomplice, who is foreign-born and much younger)
he's "not Muslim."
He is in fact Muslim, but probably not associated with terrorists (even though he seems to agree with them). Grade: F, for being totally false
"I think he's white."
He's not white. Grade: F
"He lives in a place that is rural, but he has commuted to work along the I-95 corridor"
He grew up in rural Louisiana, then moved to Tacoma and seems to have no extended knowledge of the D.C. corridor. Grade: D+
"[he was able to practice shooting without] intruders or eyebrows being raised say, one of the smaller towns along the Chesapeake Bay watershed where duck hunting requires patience and accuracy on long-range moving targets"
He practiced shooting in his back yard in Tacoma, Washington and plenty of eyebrows were raised. I didn't realize he'd be such an idiot. Grade: F
"He's been trained as a shooter, perhaps in the national guard or in some other militia, but it has been a while since he has been in any unit, and he wasn't ever in the actual Army."
He was trained as a shooter, earned a marksmanship medal, and it had been a while since he was in any unit. He was, however, in the armed forces several times. I thought an army record would have left too easy a trail, but again, he turns out to not be very smart. Grade: B-minus
"His agenda is not political, he is neither Democrat or Republican to him, it's more spiritual (for lack of a better term). He views his relationship with the killings as a game between himself and the rest of the world."
Hard to say, but I think I'll be borne out on this one. I think his Muslim-ness is nominal here. Grade: A, at least temporarily
"He's sane enough to keep down a semi-regular job, probably one that he has recently quit..."
Nope. He had been in and out of homeless shelters and seemed to be drifting around the country in a shitty Caprice. Grade: F
"general craziness skyrocketed after the September 11 attacks... the Sniper is one of those people, living in a world that is so impossibly fucked up... over the last year, his cheese has slipped perilously off his cracker."
He was said to have sympathy for the hijackers, and his personal life was definitely going down the toilet in the last year. His relationship with Lee Malvo probably made things worse. Grade: B (for lack of specificity)
"he gravitated towards a skill he has always had: marksmanship."
Well, he certainly made the most of his horrifying talent that marksmanship medal is probably the only praise he got in 20 years. Grade: A
"I don't think he cares who his victims are, he decides when he finds the location."
Except for the 13-year-old boy he shot, this seems true. Grade: A-minus
"I think he works alone."
Yeah, right. Grade: F
"This man is a hunter, his white van is his duck blind, and although he is meticulous, he will make a grievous error in the next three shootings that will bring him down."
The holes carved in the trunk of the car hint at meticulousness, and he made a grievous error in the next shooting (at the time I wrote it) that brought him down: communicating with the police and making demands. And I believe I should get credit for my two mentions of ducks in my profile, given his affinity with the "duck in the noose" fable from the Cherokee canon. Grade: A
So I think overall, I did pretty uselessly bad. About as good as all the other profilers from CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and all the major networks. Perhaps I should tender my resum?
Ain't fall grand?
damn, my eyes are open!
This, my friends, is what passes for the side of a milk carton here in America. No longer the domain of missing children, or ads for ice cream, or behoovements on behalf of calcium - this is the propaganda shoved in front of America's kids each morning. This is what happens when you let Baby Boomers have children.
"Don't jump from playground equipment"? First of all, you fascists, it's called a "swing," and what the hell use is it if you can't jump from it? And "don't climb on trees"? Don't climb on fucking TREES?!? Where the hell has childhood gone? I climbed a tree on my 12th birthday, fell out, and broke my arm and having a cast was the coolest thing that happened to me in the 1970s. It taught me pain, healing, risk and adventure.
These meddlesome moms decry a new epidemic of fat kids slobbing around the house playing Grand Theft Auto on the PlayStation 2, but also won't let them climb a goddamn tree. What are kids supposed to do when they get outside, walk around in a circle and moan?
I used to think my generation was the domain of the most painfully unmotivated bunch of kids this side of Newton's 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Now I know we're about to be succeeded by a bunch of fat, neurotic, litigious oafs who wouldn't be able to find their way home from the Fast-N-Easy Burger if you painted giant red arrows on the sidewalk. Thanks, baby boomers!
There is a depressing genre of rock ballad I call "The One That Got Away" song, which has a narrator speaking wistfully about an old lover that he sees again, long after the affair, and how fucked up everything has been since they once held each other oh-so tight. The prime example of this is Same Old Lang Syne by Dan Fogelberg, where he meets his old lover at the grocery store (the "frozen foods" section, we are told) and then they drink a six-pack in the car as they wax morose about their dreary lives ("she said she'd married her an architect who kept her warm and safe and dry she would have liked to say she loved the man, but she didn't like to lie").
A more depressing example is Harry Chapin's Taxi, which tells the fairly identical tale of a taxi driver who recognizes his passenger as his teenage love, then drives her to a fancy house, where she leaves, and he gets stoned. It's better written than "Lang Syne" and came out a decade earlier, but the mind-searing depression both of these songs deliver can turn an innocent car trip into a death march.
I made a pact with myself long ago that I would stay in touch with all my old friends, even ones that could barely stand me, just so I never have to go through those depressing moments. I still talk to every girl I ever dated (except for one, because she too damn mean). Kendall, Jane, Tracy, Susan you are all amazing, and I'm so happy we'll never "run into each other" at the "frozen foods" section, because we'd be all be going to same party anyway. And with the heavenly fortune of being with Tessa now (and for as long as Providence deems it cool) I can truly say that despite my whining, lunacy and sleeping habits, No One Ever Got Away.
It's an event Tessa and I do every year since we started dating (this is our third) and to be honest, I was dreading it a little. The Project ALS Benefit always seems to be an event where I lose sight of Tessa for three hours, and I get stuck talking to another dum-dum in P.R. who got a free ticket from In Style magazine. So you can imagine our surprise and delight when we got to our little table, and we were sitting next to none other than Christopher Reeve. Needless to say, Tessa and I were glued to the table for two hours, talking about politics (he had just come back from Iowa to campaign for Harkin), the oar-dragging of the Christian Right, cooking (his wife Dana now wants my Thai Chicken Satay recipe), and I even got to be ber-dork and wax romantic about Somewhere in Time.
Christopher Reeve chats with Tessa don't let the screwy colors of the digital camera fool you, he actually looks good
I mentioned that I felt we were at the end of a very dark age in the world, and though the growing pains were going to hurt, it won't be long until dawn breaks: paralysis will be thought of as quaint as polio, multiple sclerosis will be a distant memory for old geezers. The same with cars; we'll tell old saws about how we used to drive with gas, and our grandchildren should we be lucky enough to have them will think we must have also cured disease with leeches. I said something about living in the final days before the Salk vaccine or the Gutenberg printing press, and Dana Reeve said, "yep, but we just don't know it yet."
Right now, two cells hold the key to the future: stem cells and hydrogen fuel cells. But more on that later.
The benefit was star-studded as always, so I'll continue to name-drop (since this is my blog) Kristen Johnson and Ben Stiller were the hosts, along with appearances from Caroline Rhea, Jerry Stiller, and Edie Falco. Jesse Martin gave the coolest performance of the night, as he read the speech Lou Gehrig made on his last night with the New York Giants. There was a rumor that James Gandolfini was a few tables away, but we never saw him. And of course, the night was capped by an appearance by the mightiest of stars, a megawatt beacon of brilliance. You guessed it: Michael Bolton.
Monsieur Bolton belts out the theme from "Hercules" on stage, and on a giant monitor
Afterwards, we found Liz Mann and hobnobbed with the various folks we knew, who were all going to an after-party that sounded a bit ridiculous (although I would have been there with bells on if I were still 32 and stupid). More importantly, we were allowed back into the special tent where Jenifer Estess herself was sitting, and I was honored to meet her. Tessa made an award-winning film about Jenifer (and, of course, there's the TV movie) but I had never seen her before, and it felt good to connect with someone who had been such a big part of Tessa's life for a while.
Christopher and Dana Reeve are models of smart diplomacy, which is why they appear before Congress and make intelligent deals with people who can change the course of medicine. They even spoke of their political adversaries with respect.
If I'd had their misfortune, however, I would just get maniacally furious at the vacant, chowder-headed maroons currently running the country. That they are allowed to make any decisions about the fate of my own spinal column fills me with horror, and I've had way too good a time tonight to get in that mood again.
nice, um, DRESS, Tessa!
In an interesting discussion tonight, Tessa asked me how I would "profile" the Washington Sniper Tarot Card Killer. It's of particular interest to us because the sniper is picking off people up and down the route we take to North Carolina - since 1985, we've most likely eaten, gassed up, or gone shopping at most of the places where people have been killed. I even wondered in the blog in May, during a particularly large burst of anxiety, if they could attack a backwater strip mall in Virginia (see picture if you click the link).
Now somebody has, and weirdly enough, it's a horrifyingly brilliant way to take America out of its game. Nothing gives off the sheen of safety more than the identical omnitopia of America's fast-food joints, Home Depots and acres of asphalt around strip malls, and now those havens even in the whitest of breads known as Northern Virginia have been turned into hotbeds of fear.
That said, I don't think this guy is a terrorist. Here's my profile, and I'm perfectly content to be utterly mistaken:
He's an American citizen, not foreign-born, not Muslim, in his late-30s. He may have dark skin, but I think he's white. He lives in a place that is rural, but he has commuted to work along the I-95 corridor, and knows the back roads well. The rural nature of his home allows him space to practice marksmanship without too many intruders or eyebrows being raised say, one of the smaller towns along the Chesapeake Bay watershed where duck hunting requires patience and accuracy on long-range moving targets. He's been trained as a shooter, perhaps in the national guard or in some other militia, but it has been a while since he has been in any unit, and he wasn't ever in the actual Army.
His agenda is not political, he is neither Democrat or Republican to him, it's more spiritual (for lack of a better term). He views his relationship with the killings as a game between himself and the rest of the world not a game between him and the police (or his victims). His dementia has compartmentalized his world to the point where the entirety of the D.C. area has adopted a personality to him. I think that's what he's fighting. He's sane enough to keep down a semi-regular job, probably one that he has recently quit he has money saved up for this occasion.
Homelessness and general craziness skyrocketed after the September 11 attacks in New York; you can see it in the newly-dispossessed crazies in the East Village. People who were teetering on the edge of mental health fell completely apart. I think the Sniper is one of those people, living in a world that is so impossibly fucked up, near the target of another possible terrorist attack (Washington) and over the last year, his cheese has slipped perilously off his cracker. He's way too much of a control freak to become homeless, so he gravitated towards a skill he has always had: marksmanship. I don't think he cares who his victims are, he decides when he finds the location. I think there is some meaning in his shooting a Ponderosa customer in the stomach and the gas pumpers in the head; I'm not sure what it is. I think he works alone. The presence of a Michael's craft store near every shooting is a coincidence; this man is a hunter, his white van is his duck blind, and although he is meticulous, he will make a grievous error in the next three shootings that will bring him down.
So that's what I think. And again, I'm more than willing to be wrong.
[click here to see how I did!]
Perhaps a lot of negativity has been building up in me, but did it have to build up in my kidney? Halfway up the Taconic Parkway, in the middle of nowhere, I was belted with a horrific kidney stone (which turned out to be two stones) my second episode this year, which is just plain awful. To make matters worse, the emergency room doctor said my X-ray showed another large, calcified stone in the other kidney to go along with the two stones. Nothing like being alone, wracked with pain, travelling, and being filled with fear. Fuck, I thought kidney stones were for fat white guys in their fifties. I'm too young for this shit - I still want to rock, god dammit!
One thing I never want to do again: administer a suppository while driving.
Hey, I don't make you read this blog, do I?
Some days you can be in the city and truly have one of those "I Heart NY" days and figure you could never live anywhere else. This was not one of those days. In fact, I could have been very comfortable in a "Get Me The Fuck Out Of Here" T-shirt and goth eyeliner.
It started pleasantly enough - Scott, Diane and I had a nice afternoon thwacking golf balls into the Hudson (or at least into the net) at the Chelsea Piers Golf Center, where I discovered why my stroke has sucked for so long. From there, I went to the "town meeting" for the 24-hour Plays, which was pleasantly casual but a little long - Lindsay did a good job trying to keep the group "on message," but some of the vocal members of the audience sorta diluted the focus.
My problems began at the art opening for "Graphic," which was put together by Rick Gradone, his boyfriend Jamie, the twins, and his old roommate Nicki. Don't get me wrong, it was fantastic seeing Rick, and I found most of the pieces there fabulously arresting - like most cutting-edge multimedia affairs, it's not art that you'd necessarily put in the living room of your guest house, but it's work to be stared at and ingested.
one of the twins' fabulous quilt work, actually an aerial view of a small town in Germany
But the crowd - O! the crowd. The worst sorts of early-20s morons, gaggles of hipster boys in pleather, super-hot East Village chicks with stylishly crooked teeth, and my least favorite clique: the inevitable Upper East Side bitches working in P.R., wearing their oh-so-1997 asymmetrical dresses, having autism-inspiring conversations with their lunkhead college friends, desperately pleased with themselves because they're At An Art Opening in Manhattan.
One such ferocious, anorexic nightmare approached me while I was watching Nicki's movie "Faux Paws" and said, "I just want to thank you for spilling my drink on me." It was so awful that I thought she was kidding. "Are you serious?" I said. She must have been saving that little ditty up for about ten minutes, which made it seem even more incredible. "Yes, I'm serious. You backed into me and made me spill my drink, and I just wanted to thank you," she said, pointing to a silver-dollar sized wet spot on the front of her shirt. Her friends gathered around her. What incisive sarcasm.
Keep in mind that the crowd there was huge, that there was nowhere for anyone to walk, not to mention SHE'S IN NEW YORK FUCKING CITY, FOR CHRISSAKES! LEARN TO ROLL WITH IT, YOU COW! IT'S A BIG CITY AND THERE ARE A LOT OF US HERE!!! I tried not to let it bother me, but I wanted to slug her. Better yet, I wanted to force her to wear her most expensive Marc Jacobs outfit, hogtie her to a telephone pole, get a water cannon full of triple sec and vodka, and fire 700 million cubic liters of liquor at her body.
I mean, I already feel uncomfortable and ungainly at these things, like I'm ten pounds too girthy to be cool. And I'm there by myself, which ratchets up the "creepy" factor by a few notches. I tried my best to stay out of everyone's way. But this fucking twat has to come across a crowded room, bring her friends with her, and talk to me like that, mainly because I'm probably not attractive enough to warrant a pass. I'm the guy with the weird hair, wandering through the party alone. I left the party so fucking mad I could put my fist through the wall, although I promised Tessa long ago I wouldn't do that anymore.
What the hell are we doing in New York? We've agreed to stay here in the middle of the terrorist bulls-eye, breathing bus fumes and dealing with 6-month winters because we wanted to be in and around a thriving "art scene" with our peers. But if this is the kind of people we have to stomach, if this is our "community," then I'd rather live on a pumpkin farm. I can deal with the vicissitudes of my chosen business (film) because I know the depth of cynicism needed. I can deal with the arbitrariness of literary success. I can deal with Bad Art, because at least they're trying. I can even deal with rednecks, anti-intellectuals and drama queens. What I cannot deal with is rudeness, especially the low-rent rudeness of today's belligerently asinine 24-year-old.
What the fuck happened to people born around 1980? I mean, people in my age group (around 1970) may have rejected the canon in favor of more individual and surreal pursuits, but at least we knew the canon. The kids coming out of college over the last few years were spoiled rotten by the dot-com boom, rendered artistically illiterate by the spate of awful pop songs and treacherously bad movies coming down the pike, and live a life of almost criminal, onanistic self-involvement. I can't stand them; they're not funny. They will not have one original idea among them until they begin to pass away in the late 2060s. I don't care if I sound like an old fart from the Victrola era waxing philosophic about "kids today" - all I know is I would never have dreamed in a million years to go up to a stranger and sarcastically thank them for spilling a small portion of my drink in a crowded room. FUCK YOU, YOU GAMINE HAG BITCH!!!
Then I spent 2 solid hours on the BQE trying to get home.
Well, you can chalk up another in a long list of Things I Never Thought I'd Do: we went to couples therapy this morning. Now it's all well and good to adopt a gruff, anti-intellectual "natural man" position on these things and declare couples therapy to be a lot of touchy-feely yammering for people whose relationship is probably doomed anyway, and indeed, the whole thing seemed very 1975 to me until I actually did it. The whole point was to do a little prophylactic inventory on stuff that makes us frustrated with each other before we get married and have to pull over the car and scream at each other on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
Keep in mind that Tessa and I get along fantastically. We get along so well that going to therapy seemed like plowing a flower pot with a John Deere tractor, but like my therapist said, being in an adult relationship right now is excruciatingly hard. Anything we can do, especially now while we're still young and silly, to further our chances of making it work - well, fuck, sign me up. It's like buying a warranty.
All four of us - me, Tessa, Tessa's therapist and mine sat together in a room, and immediately it was obvious that Tessa had more experience at this sort of dynamic than me. My reasons for having a shrink stem largely from my battles with anxiety, not a generalized depression, and I still find it hard to be an organic communicator in that setting. We brought up a few of Our Greatest Fights and tried to analyze why they happened, and I thought back and realized that I probably could have averted half of those arguments just by not saying a few key sentences.
In general, it wasn't half as bad as my 1997 self would have thought (I mean, what the fuck did he know anyway) and I totally recommend it even if everything seems to be going fine between you and your better half. Really, all relationships boil down to this: once you find the right person, everything else is letting go of your vicious, wounded, irrational ego. Think of all the stupid things you've done in your relationships because of your goddamn ego. Give it up, for chrissake - how long do you think you get on this planet, anyway?
Speaking of ego-licious dairy dessert treats, I got to sneak into Michael & Zoe's tonight for the last Yogurt Mixin' before they closed. I know it's not called "Michael & Zoe's" anymore, now it's something like "Chassie, Peter, Chan, Mollie and Zoobiedoobies" but I can't bear to use the new name. Crappy nomenclature or not, they still have the best frozen dairy treats in NYC - try 'em out! They're on the corner of 2nd Ave. and 5th St. in the East Village tell 'em Ian sent ya!
"Who?" they'll say.
I have a terrorism rant I'm working on, but since my beloved babycakes is getting on a plane tomorrow for California, I'd rather just keep my thoughts and karma as positive as possible. This may sound stupid, but I've been trying to make sure she (and my family) take nothing but Jet Blue these days, and not just because they have a cool site that allows you to track your flight:
...but also because I think the Bad Guys will be hard pressed to fuck with an airline called "Jet Blue" for political purposes. For my money, they want the headlines to contain the company that has "United" or "American" in the title.
Of course, that may be what they want me to think. Or maybe I just like the cool mini-TV sets on the backs of each seat, allowing you to watch Emergency Vets on Animal Planet for five hours. Either way, I like Jet Blue, they seem like decent fellas.
Rallied the troops to meet Tessa and the Naked Angels crew at Tuesdays @ 9, which is a cold reading series done in basements across New York City - it has acted as the progenitor of many great plays, and more recently, You Can Count On Me by Kenny Lonergan. It is, however, subject to the vicissitudes of unbaked writing, and despite occasional flashes of brilliance (the Pink House's own Matt Dawson and his girlfriend Jen Albano did terrific monologues), some of the pieces can make the mind wander.
During one such piece tonight, I was suddenly transported back to a gym class in June of 1977: it was my first week of school in London, and I hadn't made any friends yet, and still felt terribly alone and scared. They set up the wickets and playing field for cricket, a game I'd only heard about in stories. I had no idea how to play, how to score, anything. Back in America, I was pretty much mediocre at school gym-based sports, always picked last for teams, and figured this would be more of the same.
After waiting nervously, it was my time to bat. The teacher explained, in front of sixty cackling Brit kids, that I had to hit the ball and keep the wickets from falling. I put the cricket bat over my shoulder, like any American would, and he scolded me, saying, "no, no, ya daft Yank. Keep the bat down, like a golf swing."
Baseball was all I knew. I also knew that I had to hit the ball as hard as I could. So I kept the bat low until the pitch then I stepped forward, brought the bat up like baseball, and swatted that fucking cricket ball into the next neighborhood. The gallery went nuts, and at each successive time at bat, I thrashed that thing into the ionosphere. The teacher tried to figure out how I was doing it, but it didn't matter. The kids surrounded me after that class, and I made friendships that lasted for years.
A month or two later, the Brits were playing some sort of Stickball during gym, and like I always do, I positioned myself just behind and to the right of the pitcher. I caught six balls that day because nobody in England had every dreamed of a position called "shortstop."
For those 2 years in England, I was picked first for every sport and I proved to myself that there was a place for me somewhere, and that sometimes in the land of the blind, it's divine to be the one-eyed king.
in London, late 1977
You know, my ex-family member can fuck off.
There are these guys in rural England that carry around two sticks known as "divining rods" and are able to pinpoint the place where homeowners should dig their water wells. I wish I had use of such divining rods, only these would sound alarms, Harry Potter-like, whenever Venomous Bullshit was present. These rods could have directed me away from Los Angeles, certainly, and they could have saved my brother from years of spiritual turmoil.
It is true that we always learn something from years we consider wasted, but I have to ask: couldn't we learn our lessons in smaller, more encapsulated form? There is a point at which suffering becomes redundant, at least in terms of life lessons learned. Pretty soon you get nothing but diminishing returns on your sadness, the meager fruits of which can drive you insane.
Is it possible to be that full of shit? Is it possible to live a life of such effortless betrayal? How can anyone lie for so long before some kind of natural selection kicks in? The answer, I think, lies around the dinner table at Thanksgiving and Christmas, when you see how many faces still want you in their lives.
Weddings are now more of a thinktank operation for Tessa and me (now that we're actually having one) and we went to a doozy today: Ilana Levine and Dominic Fumusa had a great ceremony in midtown attended by hundreds of people all seeming to have a great time. Thus we took notes. While not star-studded, it was at least star-speckled; Ilana has been in tons of things you might have seen (she was Lucy in the Broadway production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," she was in the infamous Seinfeld "Competition" episode, and more recently in "Kissing Jessica Stein") and a lot of her showbiz friends made the wedding. Tessa's friend Kristen Johnston was there, as well as a delightfully pregnant Cynthia Nixon. Personally, I dug on Jennifer Westfeldt (you know her as "Jessica Stein"), who had seen Tessa's documentary Five Wives at the Los Angeles screening last year, and not only loved the movie, but remembered us afterward. I like her; she reminds me of all the cool Jewish girls at my high school who let me into their study groups.
Tessa chats with David Hirson, playwright of "La Bte" and "Wrong Mountain"
Dominic had converted to Judaism before the wedding, which, I am told, is not half as easy as being converted into a Mormon. Jews actually make you study the pertinent texts and quiz you on various elements, and there are plenty of people who don't make it. Being Mormon is easy; if there's a bathtub around, and you know who Gordon Hinckley is, you're pretty much a part of the club.
I have always had serious problems with religion switches that happen before weddings, as it almost always signifies a problem on the part of one set of parents or another. My feeling on spirituality is that it needs to be fairly organic to take root, and these sorts of conversions seem a little suspicious. But then again, who cares what I think? If opening your heart to a different faith gives you more perspective, keeps the families happy, and signifies a core-deep commitment to your spouse, it seems very noble, actually more noble than the dime-store spirituality proffered by most people unwilling to do the heavy theological lifting (i.e., me and most of my friends).
In the end, it was a great night out, Tessa looked gorgeous, I got a little drunk, we did the rumba, and they had salmon sushi.
Oh yeah, and we took this picture for Sean and Jordana:
Whilst inside Columbia County's best-kept secret the Book Barn, located deep in the forest near our farm I stumbled upon Columbia County's other best-kept secret: the crossbeam about 6 feet up between the Mystery and American History section. I walked into this crossbeam with such force that my skull resonated throughout the bookstore and made ordinary shoppers gasp with horror. At the time, I was holding two full glasses of water meant for the coolant system of the misbehaving Land Rover, and even though I was almost knocked clean out, I managed to stumble to the car with water intact.
Thus began nine hours of a Top 15 Lifetime Headache, a drowsiness and pain rolling over in waves, the sort of throbbing nightmare that three Advil could scarcely penetrate. Staring a 2-hour drive in the face, I resorted to the old tried-and-true Three Excedrin Plan, which wired me up like a fake Christmas tree all the way down the Taconic State Parkway. Now I sit in bed still in a sort of cerebellic hangover, still buzzing from all the caffeine in the Excedrin, praying it will stop raining in time for hoops tomorrow so I can work this shit out of my system.
The courts we use on the weekends are terrible: right off the Triboro Bridge, it's a sloped, cracked asphalt hoops playground with 9.5 foot rims guaranteed to fuck up your shot (and if that doesn't do it, the rims cruelly bent down about 15 degrees - takes away even the most casual layups). But it is hoops, it is outdoors, and it keeps you from being complacent. God knows I don't get complacent I've hurled some of my best larnyx-shredding profanities at these courts, much to the embarrassment of my fellow players. Maybe another 10mg of Celexa on the weekends might curb the Poisoned Squirrel Dances slated for each botched basketball shot careening off the most unfriendly rims in the tri-state area.
I had a real good blog worked up for tonight, about the nature of complacency and staying interesting as we grow into our 30s, but Tessa suddenly woke up at 4am and corralled me into shopping for beds online. I suppose that could be considered ironic, or at least poetic.
So I'll save that for tomorrow, but for now, I have one last picture of the living room to bore you with, leave you glassy-eyed and drooling, gasping for interest.
I mean, when I do these home improvement projects, you all know I still rock in the free world, right? I'm not some aging boomer in a suburban shithole obsessing about his microcosm du jour! I had four Finlandia and orange juices last week and danced, danced, danced! And yet, I still had the energy and yea, verily, the nads - to fix the living room. Raging against the dying of the light, I am, sir!
the living room before humans (left), and after them (right)
Hey kids, and welcome to Ian's Boring Household Project Korner !!! Today we're discussing floors, and how much I hate working on them!!!
Wait, dont leave just yet!
So you walk into our farmhouse, right, and it's this amazing structure from 1815 except that every room was furnished and decorated in 1951 and left that way. Wall to wall early shag rugs in every room, replete with clocks, cherubs, wooden owls and everything else your Gramma had upstairs. I have a profound respect for Virginia Nelson, the previous owner of our farmhouse she lived to be almost 90, and until her last days, she kept a garden that was the pride of the Berkshires. There's touches of her all over the place, including a small recipe book in one of the drawers (the contents of the house's drawers has not changed in forty years we bought the place "as is") that says "this book is fifty-two years old!" as if she knew Tessa and I would be reveling in her things years later.
But her major undoing, her Waterloo, was floors. Apparently she along with the rest of America in the 1950s considered wood floors to be somewhat declassι, and probably drafty to boot. So she hired men to nail-gun pieces of plywood on top of it (thousands of nails; a nail every two inches) and then glue-gunned carpet on top of that. For decades the real floors lay hidden, until Tessa and I came along to free them to their natural state.
I don't know how much of my small, disturbed readership has ever pulled 784 nails out of a floor with a cat's claw hammer, but let me warn you now: you'll be paralyzed for weeks. Today's nightmare concerned the living room, and once the floorboards were up, ancient paint from the years preceding Virginia (before 1948) was on the wood, lazily painted around a long-gone carpet (see pics). Now you have three choices lay down toxic Zip Strip on the floor and risk having kids with fourteen testicles; rent a drum sander and sand sideways with the coarsest grit they sell; or say "fuck this" and watch cable. I chose option two.
Then came the cherry stain (smelly, very smelly) and usually, two or three coats of tung oil. I had done this with three other rooms, but the living room was pissing me off. If you look at the picture, you can kinda tell where there used to be a closet and a load-bearing wall, and how they lay down a bunch of non-matching wood to make up for it. There's also the problem of painted wood, stained wood and bare wood all on the same floor. Bored yet? So was I. I'd pretty much lost patience with the whole forkin' thing.
Then I rallied and drum-sanded only the painted part, spread cherry stain over the whole damn thing (including the stained wood from 1929), and then, with a glorious "fuck it" heard all the way to Connecticut, wiped on HIGH GLOSS POLYURETHANE. I'm no fan of polyurethane I think it's cheating, it's bad for the environment, and made of shit that comes out the back of nuclear submarines. But this stuff is water-based, and dries in HALF an HOUR. I allowed myself to get complacent this time.
From there, the horrifying wallpaper tore off in easy sheets. We painted the room "linen" colored, and tonight, I'll be damned if the place doesn't look half bad!
above and below: the floor unfinished, then finished (from two angles)
Ask yourself this: are you really going to see Sweet Home Alabama? If not, then you won't mind the spoilers ahead, which probably won't matter since any sentient ape creature could probably surmise what happens at the end of the movie. As we walked into the theater, I said to Tessa, "You know how it ends, right?" and she said, "Of course!" and still we went, sat in our chairs, consumed popcorn, the whole bit. With today's film fare, the act of going to movies is truly a grudging celebration of the process, and not the goal.
Let's take this movie, for instance. The trailer tells you that Reese Witherspoon's character a successful fashion designer - is due to be married in New York to a swanky charmer with a politico mom, but Reese needs to go down to Alabama first to divorce what we call a "UEM" (Unfortunately Early Marriage a term usually reserved for gay men, but we'll be generous with it here), who happens to be very good-looking, and the two fight with that Romantic Comedy Repartιe.
Obviously, two things need to happen: fish-out-of-water wackiness, and a reunion with the old husband. The question is, how do you get there? Back in the pre-equivocation days of the early 90s, you'd make sure that the NYC groom is privately an asshole, bent on marrying a high-society baby machine. Or at the very least, you'd make New York itself an antagonist, full of soulless backstabbing and high fashion jealousy.
But this movie is trying to be "smart" by not giving us a proper bad guy; the NYC fianc is actually very sweet, and her life in the big city is rich with personal and financial success. The only drag is his mother (Candace Bergen) who is so rude and impolitic you wonder how the hell she ever became "mayor of New York City." The hometown, by the rules of old movies, should be sweet and full of barbecue, and god knows it is. But there's also something desolate about the place, something eerie and depressingly familiar, a bit like a Smiths song (or perhaps that's just my own take on my grade school homeland of Cedar Rapids, IA).
The curious thing about having no proper antagonist is that what it makes up for in subtlety, it loses in tension. You don't really care where she ends up, because they both seem basically okay. Not to be a chick movie aficionado, but at the end of "When Harry Met Sally," you really want them to be together, and here, you can take it or leave it.
But there's something more disturbing afoot here. The mayfly-like attention span of American audiences have pretty much eradicated a slow-burning plot, which means that we are forever stuck with romantic comedies that give us zero indication of why our two lovers should be together. In "Sweet Home Alabama" and My Big Fat Greek Wedding (both of which we've seen this week), I had no fucking idea why any of these people should be with each other. In "Greek Wedding," a tiny montage of them in the car is supposed to make up for months of genuine affection; in "Alabama," you know that Reese and her redneck boyfriend should be together because they can't get along. Ask yourself this second question: when was the last time you really wanted two movie lovers to be together?
And yet, both movies are huge hits. I told Tessa that it was probably America's desire to be utterly unchallenged by their entertainment, but it's more: they are both very inward-thinking, don't-stray-too-far-from-home stories about women whose entire lives are consumed by their ability to marry. In the movie world, that's fine, as it's all very filmic - but a generation of young girls watching these films kinda makes me sick. You can't help but think these flicks suggest that having a career is fine, but only if their waking moments are spent dreaming of another blind step down the easy path of numbing domestication.
Dear Old Boss:
It has been years since we last spoke to each other, but today I thought of you again, and again, I was reduced to mutterings of rage. We were friends once, you and I, had the same education and lay in similar beds about town. You were a close confidante, and we shared many stories and had an unconscious understanding of sentences left incomplete. When we lived across the country from one another, you offered hope, and promises of making a mark in our profession, even though to do so would be very difficult. I was more famous then, had a following, and I know I must have looked and felt a lot cooler than I actually was.
Someone in 1989 or so once said to me, "I've heard that you are an amazing person, but it wears off quickly." In that instant, I was horrified that anyone would say that to anybody, but I have since grown to appreciate the comment, as it has rescued me from complacency. I fight to live now, and stay interesting, and hope that my love and service makes a positive difference among those who meet me. I could probably say that his comment led me down a road that let me fall in love with an amazing woman.
But still I have terrible foibles: fits of despondency, anxieties over the uncontrollable, stupid bursts of profanity during basketball. And I have never made peace with you.
You brought me on as part of the team when I was at my lowest point; offered money and a chance to work so deep in the business that my head spun with delight on the first day. But almost immediately, you sided with your own bosses against me, offered nothing but admonition for my work, and used me as an easy target to further your own ambition. You told me my Big Project was worthless.
Outside of work, the humiliations added up at each party, each interaction with our higher-ups. I couldn't do anything right. Finally, I stopped coming over, understanding that I was a waste of time to you. Then I was fired in the most unceremonious way possible, scarcely allowed to get my things into a box.
Did it surprise you that I struck out on my own? Did it offend you that I had to make something work, anything? Our last interaction told me everything I needed to know, that you thought I was a ham-handed fool, that I was not to be trusted, that all that time had been wasted.
You probably read this and think the same thoughts you did back then. You probably think this is another over-emotional, uncontrolled lashing-out. You never enjoyed the best parts of me. Your mean-spiritedness and betrayal allowed me to rise to greater heights than I could have possibly imagined. You dont get any of it, you never got me, you never gave an inch, and that's why you'll never get close enough to read this letter.
One of the best things to happen to our car in the last year was the addition of an XM Satellite Radio, and not just because it further negates the chances either of us will fall asleep at the wheel. It provides is a real time machine back to the 1980s by playing the actual playlists from that era, and not some cooked-up horseshit "80s night" heard regularly on normal FM radio. The "80s revival" wasn't for those of us who were in high school and actually bought copies of Freeze Frame, it was for kids who were born the year it came out (1981, for those playing at home). Which is why the 80s revival was really only a revival of about 35 songs, including "99 Luftballons," "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Borderline," most of which I hated the first time.
Nope, the 80s station on the satellite plays all those in-between songs that didn't quite make it across the decade, stuff like Planet P's "Why Me?", the Payola$ "Eyes of a Stranger" and "You Ain't Worth the Salt in My Tears" by Martin Briley. Those other obvious 80s songs ("Take on Me," "Down Under," etc.) have been ruined by repeated bludgeoning, but the lesser ones are the true emotional time machines that can still afford you the djΰ vu of 10th grade biology homework. "Turn Me Loose" by Loverboy came on today, and I swear I felt like I had a algebra quiz tomorrow.
That song in particular was part of a genre of 80s songs that made me feel as though "growing up" meant "fucking everyone I possible could" and it all seemed very scary. Mike Reno of Loverboy sings "I'm even on my knees, making love to whoever I please, I gotta do it my way or no way at all." Then Foreigner would play "Urgent" and Lou Gramm would sing "I'm not looking for a love that will last I know what I need, and I need it fast" and I pretty much surmised that I'd better get used to a life full of hard, fast wanton sex, because that's what growing up was all about. When Jackson Browne sang "out on the boul-e-vard, they take it hard" and then Bruce Springsteen talked about having hungry hearts and heading out on the back of a motorcycle, I further imagined that growing up meant having hard, fast, wanton sex under neon lights in the parking lot with a host of emotionally inaccessible characters, but that was okay, because I would be hard, fast and loose and ready to do it my way or no way at all.
Meanwhile, I didn't even touch a girl in four years at my prep school, and it took me almost four more years after that to lose my virginity. More on that some other time.
You start to wonder if it was like this in the mid-70s, the relentless barrage of terrible news every fucking day back then, it was the daily count of American boys being slaughtered in the Vietnam War, Nixon's latest idiocies, the OPEC embargoes, the gas lines, and economic stagflation. These days it's terrorism, a stock market gone to shit, a non-sensical war in Iraq, droughts, and a job market that has today's college graduates either prolonging their adolescence through grad school, or working the french fry timer at the mall McDonald's.
Every morning last week we had to set the alarm in order to make it to the IFP Market on time, and every morning the news station blared forth more horrors. This is what we heard each day:
Monday: "...officials said two children were killed in the uprising..."
Tuesday: "...was unbelievably bad, much worse than expected..."
Wednesday: "...suffered a long, protracted illness..."
Thursday: "...screams were heard from the lower floors of the apartment..."
Friday: "...and the long-term damage is believed to be irreversible..."
Fortunately, I have a very quick "snooze button" response, and managed to turn that shit off before we could hear what the hell they were talking about. I always forget to turn the radio alarm to the easy listening or country station, two genres guaranteed to bolt my ass out of bed every morning. Bad news just makes you more tired.
I remembering feeling pretty shat-upon back in 1990-91 or so, when we were at war with Iraq the first time, and the job market was terrible. Most of my friends and I totally opted out of the whole goddamn thing we stayed in Chapel Hill and got jobs driving pies, bussing tables, or doing scab temp work at IBM. We spent what little money we had on Jim Beam, started a lot of bands, and continued to marginalize ourselves until 1997 or so, when the diaspora to Real Life (New York, LA, San Fran) occcured.
I wonder how long this generation of kids (although technically, they're the last remnants of our generation) will do the same: decide the world is so fucked up that they might as well stay in the cocoon of the microcosmic college towns and hometowns, make digital movies, play techno at the local joints, and drink long, slow, bourbon & cokes while flirting with the restaurant hotties on a dilapidated porch. I wouldn't blame them a bit.
When you start reading other people's blogs, the natural inclination is to start believing you're doing yours incorrectly, or at least with a lot less fanfare. Folks like the Reverse Cowgirl and Driver 8 all have calendars you can click on, and update their musings whenever they see fit during the course of a day. I only write my blogs in the middle of the night, don't have a calendar, and have very little porn on the site, which makes me look tender and virgin by comparison. I feel like I lack an online community, made immeasurably easier by the "comment" buttons at the bottom of each entry something that connects these bloggers together.
I wish I had one of those buttons here, but my brother Steve (who administrates this thing) says he hates the accompanying code for one reason or another. It is a bit sad, though, me typing this thing at 3am with little or no input from my fellow human phylum.
It's a stark contrast to the heady days on Usenet back in the early 90s, when my entire life was subsumed by the vicissitudes of a particular newsgroup dealing with my Generation I was not only part of an online community, I actually lost my mind somewhere on a modem wire. For a few months in there, I was bereft of social grace, unable to care about the actual world, spending most waking hours chatting, manifesto-ing or cybersexing with as many virtual human beings as possible. There were a few wonderful people on that newsgroup, but the internet's natural magnetism to slightly-deranged kooks along with my own carelessness led to an online immolation of my reputation, but them's the breaks, right? Someone online once told me that I was behaving like a 21-year-old instead of a 27-year-old, a comment that gets even more funny as the years drag on.
Those days taught me some important lessons about online relationships, especially the ones you foment whilst still single:
1. Keep all of your discourse with the opposite gender as far away from sex as possible. Even the smallest reference can be construed as flirting, and then you're fucked.
2. Never meet a virtual person of the opposite gender in the real world unless you have both agreed and signed Platonic oaths in blood. Trust me on this one. It's fine to do the nerve.com or match.com thing if you're going into it with that expectation, but believe me: none of you reading this know yourself well enough to look for love online.
3. If you can't see people, don't take their admonitions seriously. You'll get more than you need from your immediate environment.
Speaking of along time ago, we went even further into the past tonight by attending Alec Guettel's party for Ned, a fabulous bash populated by tons of friends made during the heady years of the Reagan administration. Among the women we saw were Julia-Carr Bayler and Mallory May, two of my favorite ladies from the University of North Carolina and strangely enough, I had forgotten that they were both Pink House residents circa 1989. One thinks that at any distribution company would be guaranteed of selling at least 3000 tickets of the movie just by courting the demographic of Past Pink House Residents alone.
the lovely Julia-Carr and Mallory with me, aging fratdork het-boy
Boy, yesterday's blog was lame, right? Falling asleep in the middle of a diary entry is something I've never done before, but when your body screams, one must listen, I suppose. Strange, though. I always outlast everybody, and that includes my own writing stubbornness. Perhaps it's being in my 30s I have to accept the fact that some people are coming along that can actually stay up later than me (I haven't met any of them, but I'm reasonably sure they exist somewhere).
So: about what I was gonna say yesterday. The IFP Market wrapped things up last night with an awards ceremony and a performance by the band Luna, whom I've always dug, quite. I felt as though we made a pretty big impression on the festival, and not just because we had a bunch of chicks wearing Pink House t-shirts. I may have accidentally changed the event by approaching the director of the Market and telling her that announcing finalists for the narrative section prize especially before the festival began - was really marginalizing to the films that wouldn't be on the list. I told her I'd already been in 3rd grade once and didn't need to feel like it again (I described it better in the blog on Aug. 17). Weirdly enough, they dropped the whole "finalist" thing and gave the award to one film without mentioning any others. Which, I gotta say, was totally cool, whether or not I had anything to do with it.
To critique the Market, let me be deferential first: we got in, and that's no mean feat. They accepted our movie on the basis of an old trailer that looks like shit; they must have had very good imaginations and a lot of faith. We had a great time being immersed in the lives of other filmmakers, and the IFP did their level best to get big names to all the screenings. The parties rocked, and our movie snippet was dug muchly by the likes of United Artists and Lion's Gate, and there's no other place we could have had that kind of exposure.
If I were to reshape the Market, however, I'd take Tessa's advice and put the administration/panels/booths in the Angelica Theater like they used to be, instead of splitting everything up. If it had rained or God forbid, snowed getting people from the Puck Building over to the theater would have been like herding elk. Also, I'd get a sound engineer into the digital projection booths to figure out why everyone's movie sounded like it was being broadcast through a torn guitar amp. I saw filmmakers die thousands of deaths while their baby was being crucified onscreen by a torrent of feedback and blown speakers. Thank god we'd learned our lesson and erred on the quiet side.
Perhaps also we should have been a little more eager to press flesh and meet every last executive, but like I have always believed, doing that party circuit never leads anywhere. Seriously, I'd rather cuddle up in bed with a Mac G4 and massage the Pink House edit into a fine sexy froth rather than go out and get $4 ginger ales (actual price at Coda!)
at the last IFP 2002 party: hours later, Kim had laryngitis, Liz blew off work, Tessa woke up with a sore throat, and I fell asleep writing this blog
Pure, flawless, impermeable exhaustion.
Made it in time to see Andy Brown's film Pop Life at the IFP Market they said the Market would be dying down by today, but there seemed to be more people milling about than ever. I wish more of them had come to see Andy's film, which is not only quite funny (a mockumentary about the reunion of a "Real World"-like cast 15 years later) but produced by Kendall Morgan, one of the girls at Carolina who lived in the estrogen-charged 505 N. Greensboro Street house.
From there, we attended four different industry panels where acquisition folks from Miramax, Samuel Goldwyn, IFC and United Artists all gave their advice on getting their films seen by them. I would have titled the panels "You Think You We're Going To Take YOU Seriously? Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!" but thankfully, there were some scraps of hope thrown around. The one mantra we've heard at least 23 times from different sources is this: wait. Wait for the right festival to show yer movie, and for god's sake, don't fucking show it to anybody until every last nanosecond of it is exactly perfect. Not like we were all Johnny and Josephine Show Your Movie, but we're heeding this advice very strictly, and if yesterday's screening interested some of the big fish like we think (and heard) it did, then we're going to be Johnny and Josephine Demure and Coy.
Speaking of our screening, we may not have won that IFP award for Best-Seeming Picture or something, but we were told that more big shots from big places (Miramax, Fine Line, Lion's Gate, United Artists, HBO, Sundance) came to our screening than anyone else in the festival. I credit Liz and Kim for this, as they were relentless in getting buzz worked up through fabulous T-shirts worn by random people, a great postcard, a kick-ass poster, and dogged emails & faxes. Add Tessa's preternatural charm, Gill's one-degree-of-separation from everyone on the planet, my brother Steve's excellent website, and my pink Chuck Taylor All-Stars and you have a recipe for the van to start a-rockin'.
Liz, ever working an angle
Instead of attending another IFP party, we decided to play hooky and went to 24 Hr. Party People instead. I don't recommend it if you're in the mood for a movie that takes the conventional rules of storytelling seriously, but if you're feeling saucy and have a love for New Order, the Happy Mondays and other such early 80s Manchester New Romantic lore like me it's a blast. I was in London during the inception of their predecessors: the Sex Pistols, the Buzzcocks, Joy Division. But I was ten years old and listening to ABBA! Why didn't someone tell me what I was missing, huh?!?
I should have been to bed hours ago, as I've already been drunk once tonight (the fratboy in me can't pass up an open bar it's just too much like a candy store) and then I had to recreate our new website while in that insta-hangover stage. Ah, but I raconteur too fast.
First, the news: The Pink House made its big debut into the world today at the IFP Market, the first time that the "industry" and fellow filmmakers we don't know could see the fruits of our lumbar. Consider that we had the following things against us: it was a comedy narrative at a mostly serious market (lots of death, disease, dismemberment and cleft palette documentaries), the sound was criminally bad (as it was for all films there), the crowd was not warmed up in the least, and we didn't have enough money to transfer one of the scenes to film, making it look like, well, video.
Consider also that I didn't speak loudly enough, which was really stupid, since I'm usually very good at that sort of thing. Also consider that I botched my introduction by saying a bunch of off-topic crap that I barely remember, and didn't spell out the plot nor plug the Heather Matarazzo connection, leaving most folks in a state of mild befuddlement.
If you take all that and consider that there were plenty of places where the laugh lines didn't take and I began to wonder if I should take up TV/VCR and gun repair we ended up late in the day feeling pretty good about it. Truth is, there were lots of good laughs during the screening, even if no boisterous guffaws. It's further proof that this movie is destined to become the kind of flick that grows on you I mean, we're pretty subtle. Today I heard people laughing at lines many seconds after they were delivered, meaning they had to think about it. My kind of humor, I suppose (although I'm also a big fan of farting).
Anyway, the reps from United Artists, Miramax, Fine Line and Samuel Goldwyn were all there, and Gill said the buzz was good as the day went on. Having those big fish around most likely means little, but even a small meeting with them could net us something special. As long as we learn from these little episodes, i.e., speak clearly, be obvious, don't show scenes that aren't done, etc., we should be getting smarter by the frame.
As I said, four free Finlandia screwdrivers tonight quelled my mood, so I spent a few hours chatting up some film folks from Minneapolis and being so goddamn thankful I don't have to hit on girls anymore. I ended up talking to a few women that I would have spent six or seven moronic weeks "getting' to know ya" time I can now use to finish my other screenplay. Sometimes just the mechanics of being engaged makes life so much easier. That, and you can get away with saying anything you want Engaged Guy has a Get Out of Creepy Jail Free card!
me and the Pink Ladies: Tessa, Kim, Jessie, Liz. note my cool Chucks, made pink by three hours with a highlighting pen