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: