Some years ago, my Mormon cousins - the Worsleys - sent us a Christmas card featuring all the daughters in the family. It was 1991 on the East Coast, meaning it was still 1986 in Utah - so the sheer volume of hair care products was something to behold. The next Christmas, Sean, Michelle and I sent a card back to them.
I include both here because some things are too good not to share.
Merry Christmas, Everybody!
Did I ever tell you I wrote a novel? Well, I did. I can say that, and it would be true.
I highly recommend writing a novel, or completing any huge, unfathomable work of art, because it will cure you of the notion that "you don't have it in you." During the two years when I was writing, I kept on telling myself "just think about how good it will feel to write the last sentence," and I was right – it was fabulous, and we all went to Hell (the bar) in Chapel Hill and drank lots of tequila.
My novel was called "Quickening," and it was the story of two college-aged kids who have to drive across country in five days to stop a childhood sweetheart from marrying the wrong guy. Then again, it's more of a latent homo-erotic love story between the two guys, or perhaps it's just about getting even with your childhood. The thing is this: ultimately, you may not know what your novel is about. They take so long to write that you run the very real risk of not believing any of the things you believed when you started.
The same thing happens in the 2nd violin section when you are playing a symphony. In a pop song, you know how long the verse will be, and you can anticipate the chorus: but in a symphony, you start drifting away from the coast, and you'll no longer have the breadth of perspective to keep it all in view. It lasts long enough that you will forget precisely how far you've come, and how far you have to go.
The same thing will happen to you as you write your first novel. You will reach a point where you are so unsure of yourself, so unsure of your character, so unsure of your plot, that you will contemplate doing anything other than finishing. You will not see the shore where you set sail, nor will you see the land of your destination. Whether or not you finish will determine whether you are a Writer or merely a writer.
My novel kinda sucks. At least it might; I haven't read it since I finished writing the damn thing in 1997. I couldn't sell it to any of my agents, because it was in a weird format that I thought was interesting (but everyone else found bizarre). My dear sweet Annie said she cried when she got to the end, and I've always assumed it was because she liked it, not because it was painful. Ultimately, my buddy Chris P. and I turned it into a screenplay, and it made a fair amount of noise among some players in Hollywood circa 1998. As fate would have it, our meeting with Dreamworks occurred the same day they bought the movie "Road Trip," and apparently that was enough college road movies for one decade.
And so it sits, on a bookshelf upstate. If someone had told me back in the mid-90s that it would come to this fate, I would have been furious and suicidal. Now it serves as a fabulous reminder that I could have panicked and jumped ship, but instead I was able to keep rowing long enough to see land.
Oh my god, could I like, totally love the internet any more than I actually do? I hate to break it to those Luddites in their 50s who are proud of the fact they can't turn their computer on, but when the history of This Era is written, the birth of the Internet will have the same significance as the birth of Christ. You think I'm kidding, or being offensive, but let's meet again in 450 years and see. If my predictions turn out to be churlish and stupid, then drinks are on me.
Anyway, through the magic of the Internet, I have found out the following things:
1. My TiVo is expandable. Not having read any newsgroups or anything, I assumed that 11 hours of quality video was all you were going to get. Then I visit Salem in Jasper, GA and he's got a TiVo with more memory than the Supercomputer Cluster at Virginia Tech.
So I did some more research, and found this page, and now I've got a 120 Gig drive coming in the morning. May sound like a luxury, but it wasn't that expensive, and I've got to record a zillion TV shows for career reasons. Thank you, The Internet!
(Oh yeah, if you really want to be dazzled, check out this page full of TiVo Cheats, Backdoors and Shortcuts. They will probably have their TiVos reaching Mars before NASA does.)
2. Grundle pain begone! As I am a dabbler in all things bicycle, I assumed that a big, thick plushy seat on my bike was going to make me comfortable. After all, it worked on my orange Huffy in 1977. But after a series of rides, I began to have a distinctly unappealing sensation in my, well, grundleoid area. I hate the name "taint," preferring "perineum," but you get what I mean.
After talking to Kevin at The Spin Cycle, I decided to go for the Specialized Body Geometry Milano saddle, which is cheap, stunningly comfy and "medically proven in clinical studies to prevent and reduce saddle-related numbness and impotence." Won't hurt yer grundle because there isn't a seat where your grundle at! Thanks, The Internet!
3. I narrowly avoided fucking up my Wireless Airport. After reading the excellent discussion boards at Apple, I found out that the new firmware update and Airport software were screwing up everyone's previously-working wifi. This was seconds before downloading the damn thing myself, and giving me one more wireless ulcer. Now I am pleasantly basking in the land of He Who Did Not Go First, waiting for someone at Apple to fix the problem. Thank you, The Internet!
4. Oh yeah, I re-established a connection with my now-wife, I made a great living for years, my family started talking every day again, and I get to break virtual bread with all of YOU. Yes, that's right. The first three aren't really as important as Jesus, but the last one is. Thank you, the Internet.
I just finished another rewrite of the play that we plan to put on next month in Los Angeles. I mention this because:
a) maybe momma didn't pay enough attention to me
b) I worked on it, subconsciously and consciously, pretty hard for the last two weeks
c) my therapist told me that I might have Attention Deficit Disorder.
I always thought A.D.D. was for other people – more specifically my brother - and I have always prized myself in being a "project completer," i.e., someone who never leaves anything 86% done. There is one glaring exception to that: in 1991, Salem and I were busily painting the floor in our Chapel Hill house. Someone called us on the phone, we went out and got drunk, and I moved out four years later with the floor still exactly 86% finished. But I have striven to overcome those years. I mean, I finished a rewrite tonight. I can always come through on a writing gig.
But maybe one's A.D.D. can't be fully measured by how resolved your "completion issues" might be. The fact is, I have always been terrified of being early to things, because I am allergic to sitting around before something starts. I can drift off for HOURS during a simple task. Take yesterday's post, for example: when Bud reminded me that Martin Van Buren was an abolitionist, I put in James Buchanan instead – but not before spending three hours reading every single presidential biography on the government site.
I guess it comes down to this – do I want to have another chemical floating around in my body? I'm already taking Celexa to keep me from going nutty, allopurinol to stop the kidney stones, and a double soy latté with hazelnut syrup to keep me awake. Something about another drug just seems high-maintenace in a way that doesn't fit well with my lapsed-Mormon survivalism. I need to be able to survive on the prairie through a hard winter without any of these drugs, and each one I take makes me feel a little softer.
So, you Adderall and Ritalin users, I've heard wonderful things. Any advice or experience you have on the subject will be welcome, and I promise I will try to get through a couple sentences before wandering off to think about orchids.
Dear 69% of the Country Who Believes Marriage Should Be Only Between a Man and a Woman:
What the hell is wrong with you? No, really, I want to know. What is it exactly about gays getting married that actually hurts you? Are you so filled with hate, or xenophobia, or disgust at anal sex, or the mindless blatherings of moron kids at summer camp in 1980 that you can't fucking see straight? Sure, women can vote, you can deal with having a black boss, and you respect the Japanese for making pretty great motorcycles - but you just hate fags, don't you, 69%?
Oh sure, you'll speak of "civil unions" and "giving them some benefits of 'normal' couples" and all, but when it comes down to it, denying same-sex partners the right to call themselves Married is just plain old homophobia. Someone has to define it for what it is, and since I'm not running for a Senate seat, I'll help move this debate along. It's just a simple, boring belief that gays are beneath you and don't deserve it. 69%, I wonder how you sleep at night.
Back in March 2002, we were in Washington D.C. for the evening, and Colin Soloway gave us the gossip running around Newsweek: Bush wanted to invade Iraq. The idea seemed preposterous to us, and we refused to believe it. Surely he was posturing, surely he was just shoring up some conservative base. But no, ten months later, Bush bombed the jehosephat out of Baghdad, and the unthinkable became commonplace.
The same happened this morning. I never believed he'd actually go through with it. I couldn't fathom that he'd actually rewrite the Constitution of the United States to include a clause that specifically discriminates against a certain kind of people. Maybe he knows he can't win, and this is a desperate, cloying move to get the Feverish Right back in his camp. But this comes at the expense of MILLIONS of schoolchildren who look up to the President, a man who is willing to go in front of the country and tell them that homosexuals aren't equal to the rest of us. This kind of damage takes DECADES to undo. All these children will have to be reprogrammed into tolerant creatures.
69%, I would like to show you some pictures. These images were snapped at the exact same moment last weekend when our dear friends Lee and Suzanne got married in San Francisco. The top is Lee and Suzanne, the middle is Chip and me listening at Southpoint Mall in North Carolina, and the bottom is Jason Lyon listening in Los Angeles (note the cell phones in each shot).
This was a moment of joy I wish you could understand. Here's another picture, an outpouring of love for the gals when they got back to Durham:
And these are not freaks, these aren't deviant Sapphic orgiastic child molesters; these are teachers and bike shop owners and students and folks who run ice cream parlors. They are a mix of straights and queers. They are smiling at you - and you, 69%, are telling them to fuck off.
I have no agenda here. I am a straight white male who grew up in a middle-class house in Iowa. I am married to a fairly straight blonde chick from Texas. Granting gay marriages provides nothing for us personally.
I was once like you, maybe. My household was fairly tolerant, but there were the odd comments about fags being bandied about. My high school experience was so sexually shut-down that I could barely fathom heterosexuality. In college, I called Christian Laettner a "fucking homo" just like everyone else. It wasn't until all of my friends in high school came out, and I immersed myself in the artistic scene in New York in the mid-90s, that I understood these things for what they were.
So there may be hope for you, 69%. You might be able to claw your way out of the wet paper sack that holds you hostage. I have no such hope for our President, who has shown himself to be a total asshole. But you might have a second act in you after all. Don't be on the losing side of this. Every 40 years, America changes for the better: 1884 brought the child labor laws; 1924 gave us the first presidential election where women could vote; 1964 had the Civil Rights Act, and now 2004 brings this.
History will brand Bush as a loser, a James Buchanan trying to keep slavery the status quo, a latter-day Dred Scott decision. History views a human rights violation as a virus, and works around it. Keep the big picture in mind, and you'll be surprised at what seems second-nature even a few months later.
today's Herald Sun piece—click on image for story (thanks, Steve)
Hi kids, and welcome to Whining About Pop Kulture Korner®! Today we're going to look at a few bits of cultural plankton skirting around the seas of the American conscious!
1. The New Enya Song. I forgot to put the XM Satellite Radio in the car, forcing me to listen to 102.5 THE MIX on proletariat FM radio, and this song – seemingly untitled as all Enya is wont – was in frequent rotation. You gotta give it to someone like Enya, who keeps churning out backrub music year after year, all of it ending up on your local masseuse's CD mix. Personally, I'd rather listen to Enya than those "world music" tapes they put on while they're oiling up. If I hear one more CD of aboriginal instruments set to smooth jazz I'm going to massage myself.
Anyway, I'd like to put out an edict to all those who were thinking about buying Enya's new CD: please, for the love of God, put your money towards the back catalogue of the Cocteau Twins instead. It's what you're really looking for. Nothing is as remotely gorgeous as "Wolf in the Breast" off Heaven or Las Vegas or pretty much anything from Blue Bell Knoll. Start a trend! Be the coolest chick in 7th grade! Nothing says HIP more than a 13-year-old chick wearing an Abercrombie shirt with an iPod playing Milk and Kisses!
2. The New Santana Song. Does Santana know that the beginning of his likely new hit is actually an old, sad Jewish riff lifted straight from "Woman in Love" by Barbra Streisand?
3. Celebrity Playlists at the iTunes Store. They SUCK. More than half of Beyoncé's mix is stuff from Destiny's Child members or her own sister. Hey Avril Lavigne, thanks for putting "Hey Ya!" on your mix. What is this, 2003? Listen to her quote about Alanis Morrissette's "Ironic": "I love how this song was written with all of the different examples Alanis uses of things being ironic... this song is just really good lyrically."
Never mind Alanis has had to apologize, publically, for her butchering of "irony" – but I suppose the real irony is that the last laugh's on us, huh?
4. The Finale of "Sex and the City." I'm going to get in trouble here, because I really do like the writers for this show; they are great gals and fun at parties. But now they have vilified both Brooklyn and North Carolina. When Kristin Davis meets the parents of their surrogate child (a couple from Charlotte, we are told, in horror), they arrive in Manhattan seemingly without any teeth, unsure of what to put on sandwiches, and hair that hasn't been cleansed in weeks.
Now, if they had been from Rutherfordton, or Advance, or from the Tweetsie Railroad snack bar, I could understand it, but Charlotte? Charlotte is just as big, urbane, boring and full of high corporate mall fashion as Atlanta, Orlando or Houston. The blinding, infuriating myopia of these Manhattan-obsessed chicks will be good riddance in my book. As Bernadette Peters said tonight in Gypsy: "The center of New York is New York."
And if there's one thing I can't stand about a fucking TV show, it's cut-aways of characters laughing at other characters. Oh, you zany girls! Then to see Chris Noth and Sarah Jessica Parker laughing, laughing, O! The Laughing! through two entire scenes, was Self Congratulatory to the Highest Extreme. Give me "Curb Your Enthusiasm" any day of the week; at least Larry David writhes in his putrescence like the rest of us.
Tune in next week when we discuss the R&B lick-you-all-over remake of Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work"! When is Jay-Z going to cover "How Soon is Now?"
In Which the Cheese Almost Totally Slips Off My Cracker
I take Celexa so you don't have to. At least that was the purpose of this blog, going back to the first real entry so many years ago. Since that date, I have never actually run out of pills, an event that finally happened somewhere in rural Virginia two days ago. Unable to reach my psychotherapist for a refill, I decided not to worry about it and wait until I got back to Brooklyn.
That's almost three days, cold turkey, off the anti-depressant, and I am here to tell you IT AIN'T A GOOD IDEA. Apparently Celexa is water-soluble, meaning it starts its inevitable journey out of your body the second you swallow. Fully 25% of the medication is gone by the next day, meaning that you can have it flushed out of your system pretty quickly. Your brain, however, is not so quick to forget.
The second night off the drug, I woke up in a cold sweat because I had dreamed that Tessa and I had turned into al dente pasta. I could not move my arms or legs because they had the floppy consistency of wet durham wheat. I tried to keep the conversation afloat at breakfast with Maud Casey, but I kept getting distracted by the Wang Chung songs on the ambient speakers, and lost entire five-minute stretches of time while Maud and Tessa wondered why I was fidgeting like a 3-year-old on Almond Joys.
By the time we got back to our apartment in Brooklyn yesterday, I felt like my brain case had been stuffed with wool socks. I laughed, I cried, I explained things to the dog. When I would turn my head to answer a question, my brain's perception was stuck where my head had just been, making the whole world off-sync like one of those shitty educational movies we had to watch in science class.
I just took my regular dose again, and normality has still not called my body home.
I just drifted off while writing that sentence and wiggled my foot for ten minutes.
I am off to sleep, perchance to dream, of fountains that spurt mustard, hats made of meat, and Wink Martindale.
And I thought my internet dial-up was bad yesterday... today we find ourselves at a Days Inn in Glen Burnie, Maryland, where they were proud not to have any decent internet access, as though they were "keeping it real." Apparently they do have a Business Center where you can mimeograph your stolen Russian documents, but only if the water generator is working.
Leaving Chapel Hill today was very difficult, and not just because I kept forgetting shit under the bed. It was nearly 70 degrees, one of those glorious hints of spring that burst out in the winter months like a dandelion through cracks in the concrete. It snowed two days ago, and it will freeze again on Tuesday, but those 2-day stretches of bliss go a long way to vaccinate your tolerance against the vicissitudes of a horrible winter.
I have a very long, deep, complicated relationship with Chapel Hill, which was basically my girlfriend for 13 years. Each visit takes on another flavor of nostalgia, waves of anger, moments of ecstasy, and various hues of melancholia. This particular trip was totally awesome, as I was able to do the things I love most: commiserate with some incredible human beings, play hoops with Chip, eat BBQ pork at Mama Dips, shrimp and grits at Crook's, watch three Carolina basketball games in person, and do a night's worth of writing in Davis Library.
Thomas Wolfe was right, but he didn't live long enough to be wrong – you can't go home again, but you can if you wait a while.
the Old Well a few nights back, 2am
I'm gonna say it loud, and say it clear: DIAL-UP INTERNET ACCESS BLOWS GREEN DONKEY CHUNKS. We are staying in the one place in Chapel Hill that has neither wireless, or an Ethernet plug, and it has untimely ripp'd my ass back to 1996, when downloading porn was an all-night affair. I have about fifty unread emails stacked up in my inbox, filled with delightful links, and pictures, and I have to SAVE them all, because it would take the better part of a weekend to view them now.
Seriously, how is dial-up still tolerated in this country? I feel like I'm using a cat-whisker quartz radio attached to a dipole, powered by hamsters. I know it can't be intellectually true, but this feels slower than the 14400 baud modem on my mom's Powerbook 165c. I think my brother Steve had one of those modems Matthew Broderick used in "War Games," you know, the one where you put your phone receiver down into two upright cups, and the two devices scream at each other – and somehow even that feels faster.
I wonder why we keep hitting ceilings in technology. Dial-up modems kept doubling speed until 56K and then stopped forever. Cable modems are fast, but nobody has offered anything over about 400K/second for years. CD-ROMS will stop recording at 60X speed. Miles per gallon, even the hybrids or the smart cars from Europe, top out in the 50s. Sometimes I think we're so blown away by the fastest technology that we can't fathom something thirty times better.
I believe we are on the cusp of some great new technology, something so simple, pure and unthinkably fast that it will render all of our current gear blitheringly useless. I don't know if it will be based in nanotechnology, or machines on the bio-cellular level, or even a new kind of fuel power. I do know this, however: the latter days of the twentieth century, and the beginning of the 21st, will be regarded as a Dark Age. It will be reviled in history the way the Plague Years of the 1300s and 1660s are now. The future will have no use for our dangerous cities, our belching cars, our brain-cancer inducing cell phones, our loose nukes, nor will it have use for homophobia, racism, and constant fearmongering in the name of power.
How we choose to step off the boat, and onto this brave new land, will define how cool we'll be viewed by history (in the big picture) and our grandchildren (in the personal). I, for one, can't wait. I hope to be just like my grandma was when she saw her first car, driving over the Colorado landscape in 1914: a cloud of dust followed by breathless excitement.
my grandma Klea Worsley, circa 1928
While dining in Efland, NC tonight, we sat around in a circle and discussed where on earth we could live if we didn't live, you know, where we live. I know I'm repeating myself, but I have some pretty arbitrary thoughts on the subject. To sum up:
- there has to be a healthy gay population (even though I'm neither)
- an up-and-coming band scene, regardless of the fact that I'll hate all of them
- lots and lots and lots of free wireless internet all over town
- an orchestra that can get through Mahler 8
- three or more respected colleges or universities
- loud, omnipresent liberals
- places that can make a soy latté for us severely lactose-intolerant types (hazelnut syrup is a bonus)
- indie bookstores, record shops, and guitar stores
- a local respected newspaper and/or journal
- proximity to either a mountain or a beach
- winter must last less than six months a year
Now, the problem is that those criterion are met by exactly ONE city in America (I'm sticking to North America, but will branch out if GWB is elected again). San Francisco is pretty much the total package, but Tessa thinks the place is "intellectually lazy" and the people are too "self-satisfied." She isn't the only one: I've since met a bunch of San Fran-haters. What the hell is their problem? No clue.
New York certainly has most of the list, but the winters are brutal. There is also the smell of urine, and the fact that it costs too much. But it is where all the smart people are, and it is the center of literature, journalism, and pretty much everything else in the world. The problem? We already live there.
Chicago – Again, horrible winters. Much is made of the wind off the lake (the "hawk," they call it) but people who live in Chicago fucking LOVE it. I have never seen a populace so dedicated to the town they call home, and they're pretty effective recruiters, too. Every time I see Rick Maechling, I'm halfway convinced to move to "a city that works."
Boston – Smartypantses, all of them, but a little conservative. Not "conservative" in that freaky Tallahassee abortion-doctor-shooting sort of way, but the place is a little dowdy. Cambridge is cool, and I'd love to live near Newbury Comics, but there's something kind of neurasthenic that flows through the Charles.
New Orleans? God, I wish.
San Diego, Charlottesville, Iowa City, Seattle? I don't know, don't you wish you could have a pied à terre in all those places? Speaking of French, why not Montreal? Toronto?
Back in high school, they used to give us tests to see what kind of job we would be most suited for. Despite ending that last sentence with a preposition, I was told I should be a "journalist." I wish there were tests like that for American cities. For some reason, I feel like I'd be sent to Barrow, Alaska for being such a whiny pain in the ass.
me holding Sean, 1971
There's a tightrope you walk when you get into your 30s, and it goes something like this:
a) You need to be old enough to know thyself and thus have a realistic chance of being in a relationship that will last more than 6 months. You have to have met enough possible mates to know who you will love until the year 2067. And you have to be wise enough to know the difference between heart-palpitating desire - and calm, long-term affection. Lastly, you must have sowed enough wild oats to have them purged from your system.
b) You have to be young enough to have children.
Now, not everyone wants kids, but if you do, the unfortunate truth is that modern technology and medicine have done very little to widen the window of opportunity for women. Chances of conception dwindle pretty fast after you hit 35, and there's precious little you can do about it (besides fuck, of course).
The problem is this: Tessa and I just got married a few months ago, and we're having fun. We love our freedom, our peripatetic freelance life, and we're not terribly psyched about tethering ourselves to a child right now. That may sound selfish, but the honest truth is that it took me FOREVER to get to this place, when I could finally be married, and Tessa had to ford unbelievable mountains to get to me. Do we need to be a baby factory right away?
But then the question is, "how long are we allowed to wait?" I'm 36, Tessa is 34. There are now ways to predict how long you might have, but these are also problematic, and while Tessa says she'd love to know what her "sell-by" date is, a lot of women would be horrified by that knowledge.
This stuff also gets you into very prickly territory with right-wingers, whom I believe have been putting the hard-sell on dwindling fertility rates in order to shame working, independent women into lactating domesticity. If I see one more story about forty-something women who wax maudlin about the children they gave up for their career, I'm going to puke.
As for us, I wish there was some pithy advice, or an old wives' tale that could provide the answers, but in reality, it's a fish-or-cut-bait scenario. My desire for a large family has been tamed by the reality of how old we are. And not to be crass or anything, but I'd like to have at least two children in case we lose one. That's the advice I have gleaned from the ancient Mormon DNA that swims through my chromosomes; my forefathers buried so many children that they were forced to have several. I don't think my heart – or Tessa's – could take the loss of an only child.
So fuck it, maybe we'll have twelve. But that means I have to stop writing this blog and get to work.
"I've come to exercise my right as your husband to-"
"Fucking go away."
* Dramatic re-enactment; not a real conversation. Verbal retorts were matched as evenly as possible with most-likely rejoinders. May cause chafing.
You know, sometimes both the mundane and the magical can be enjoyed in equal doses: tonight, at 2am, I was able to go to Walmart and purchase a decent VCR for about $38. The reason? I mean, besides the fact that our long-term apartment has no VCR or turlet paper? Because Lee Coggins and Suzanne Robinson got married yesterday and now Lee is going to be on this morning's Today show on NBC. So if you're up and reading this between 7 and 10am (on either coast), switch on NBC and find out why we all dig her so much.
Now this is all cool for several reasons. I should mention that VCRs were considered magical by me and my sister and brothers, as there was no such thing when we were kids. When "Wizard of Oz" came on, you sat and bloody well watched it, because there was no "renting" to be done. Our first VCR was a top-loader my dad bought for $400, and it had a WIRED REMOTE. That's right, a black cable snaked its way across the room and into your hand, and it would only "play" and "stop." Now I can waltz – or even sashay – into a Walmart in the middle of the goddamn night and buy one as a practically disposable item.
Gay marriage is also something we didn't have when we were kids. I found it incredibly spontaneous, brave and the Ultimate Act of Devil-May-Care for these chicks to fly to California (and drive five hours once they got there) for a marriage license they weren't assured of getting. And Lee has now gone from someone who was iffy about going (she's not feeling well) to someone who might come back and file a discrimination suit in North Carolina.
I don't know why I'm so excited by all this; maybe it's a little bit of tolerance in such a mean world, maybe I just like anything that keeps the minds of the Christian Right bulging with broken blood vessels. I'm so psyched about it that I might join the fun and kiss boys. I just wish they weren't so smelly!
We live in a turbulent time, when Stuff Matters, and most of the Stuff coming down the pike is BAD. In midst of all the killing, the lying and the cynicism, one weekend of luminescence is shining through this formerly great land of ours, and its source lies on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco.
Tessa's best friend Jason – and his partner Tim – were one of the 450 same-sex couples married on Saturday, and he shared the ceremony with us via cell phone. In a fit of unbelievable congruence, we happened to be having coffee with Dr. Peter Kaufman, the UNC professor who was the minister at our wedding, which made the whole thing surreal and so real.
Jason (in black) and Tim hold the cell phones to the deputized minister (l), San Francisco on Saturday afternoon
at the same moment, I take a picture of Tessa listening on cell speakerphone, with Dr. Kaufman in background, Chatham County, North Carolina
Apparently there were no protestors at the courthouse, no conservatives with "God Hates Fags" signs to be seen – just a perfect 72-degree day, lines of overjoyed people, strangers handing out wedding gifts, and the collective *sigh* of a country that is actually doing something right for the weekend.
Sure enough, there will be Family Values and Rabid Right groups swooping down to take a giant dump on these incredible proceedings, but Tessa is right: they can't ever take this moment away. As of this writing, Tim and Jason are married, and that feeling will be permanent, regardless of a judge's decision. The genie is out of the bottle.
But it doesn't end there – we were having brunch this morning with Tessa's oldest college friend Lee and her partner Suzanne, and they were so struck by Jason and Tim's story that they dropped their forks, ran back to our apartment, and got online for a plane ticket. In a matter of minutes, all three of them (including Tessa) hopped on a plane for Los Angeles.
They just called me a few minutes ago from LAX airport, where they are going to rent a car and drive all night to San Francisco. I told them to be careful on the trip, but I imagine the adrenaline of participating in our generation's first truly radical moment will be more than enough to keep them awake through the desert sands.
On the newsgroups the other day, I read a story about a guy who drove his new Toyota Prius to a restaurant, and when he got back outside, someone had taken a key and scratched the words "FUCKING TREE HUGGER" on the side of the car. I thought that seemed a little insane and possibly apocryphal, but today I had an experience that made me think again.
Tessa and I were at a stoplight on Airport Rd. in Chapel Hill, when two college kids in a white mini-SUV pulled up beside us. When the light turned green, they stuck their heads out the window and screamed "HIPPIES!" at us, then burned rubber as they pealed away.
Now, anyone who knows Tessa knows that she hasn't looked like a hippie since her Grateful Dead summer on Nantucket in 1986, and even then, she was just more of a sloppy preppie. And I just had my hair cut, leaving me the spitting image of a goddamn Phi Gam from Fayetteville. The "hippies" slur was a catcall, a verbal assault on a car that happens to get 60 miles per gallon in the city.
Now, I know that sounds like not such a big deal. And I laugh at farts and knock-knock jokes about lesbians as much as the next guy. But you have to understand that these two college fucks are an innocent reminder of everything that is wrong with America. Our car, our unassuming little Toyota, threatens the power structure they thrive on. It is a direct counter to a culture that worships greed, guzzles foreign oil and grows flabby under the weight of ghoulishly unabating consumption.
I wonder if either of them had lost a brother or a father in Iraq while we fought to keep the oil pipeline going - I wonder if they still would have yelled "HIPPIE". I wonder, perhaps, if they had been too poor to get into Carolina, so they joined the Reserves, then got their ass shipped to Tikrit, where their arms and legs were blown off by a car bomb – I wonder if the stump of their body would have still yelled "HIPPIE".
God knows these morons, young, dumb and full of cum, will no doubt breed more yard monsters. My car is helping ensure that their kids don't die of skin cancer by the time they're twelve. And yet, we're hippies.
Well, me and my petrol-sipping car are standing at the corner of history, where roads cross and this obese country gets to decide what kind of future it wants. To those motherfuckers in the white SUV and to everyone else who feels threatened by those of us on the other side of the argument, I would like to say:
One thing that really pisses me off about the Movie Industry is the ADVICE usually doled out by wizened veterans to neophytes hoping to make their way through the labyrinthine mess en route to a career. Right off the bat, I'm going to tell you something that will save you the trouble of $24.95 for That How-To Book You Were Going To Buy at the Entertainment Section of Barnes & Noble. Ready?
Everyone finds success in the entertainment industry through a completely random, bizarre and unexpected way.
I mean, that should make you feel better, right? Not only does it relieve you of everything except working really hard, but it does put you on an even playing field. Just find that bizarre back door. Yes, that pursuit can be frustrating in itself, but not half as frustrating as believing that your talent is going to waste because the people in the Industry are idiots. They want to find you as much as you want to find them, but the door that separates you is unlocked with an exquisitely odd key.
The second thing you always hear from entertainment-pundits-in-the-know is "always have your second project started before the first one is finished." This is advice that is given especially to women directors, who historically have a terrible time getting their second movie made (even if the first was hit). When you get into Sundance with a film, you're always advised to hype up your next project, which must already be well on its way.
This shit makes me furious. Telling someone to have their next movie started before their first is finished is like having sex with your wife the day after she delivers the baby. The mere supposition that you would be able to even THINK about a second movie while still raising money for your first is LUDICROUS to the point of being CRIMINAL.
Independent filmmakers sell their souls, their cars, their future credit rating and every favor they've earned since grade school to get to post-production on their film, and even then, 97% of them still run out of money. How are you supposed to pay your casting director for your second film when you can't get your first film out of the developing lab? Furthermore, what stars are going to be in your second film, when nobody has even seen your first yet?
That isn't advice, that's rubbing your face in how famous you aren't. Yet.
Now, I bring this up because I think I have a better piece of advice that will bring you more luck and more opportunity. Forget about your second film; it will come. What you need to do now is DIVERSIFY. This is something Tessa's dad did exceptionally well in the 1980s, and something Jamie Block does well now: shield yourself from failure by having several different kinds of balls in the air.
I rarely mention career things here in the blog, but suffice to say that every day you read this, my darling wife and I have at least 10 different writing/producing projects bubbling on the burner. I never say anything about them before they come to fruition, because they are like crushes, ruined once divulged. But one of our balls (if you pardon the expression) landed very well this week.
On a last-minute push, we decided to enter some of our writing into an event being spearheaded by a major entertainment network. Out of almost a hundred plays, ten were chosen – and Tessa's play AND my play were both "optioned." The set of plays will be produced in LA for six weeks, and we'll be closely watched for TV pilots and other writing. Needless to say, we know nothing may come of this, but we're still over the moon, and moving to California for March and April.
And being in LA will also allow us access to people who could prove beneficial to our film, which would be another insanely delightful thing. All of which comes from diversification. By trying to be every kind of writer there is, you can make different parts of your career help themselves. It's a positive feedback loop. I would think this translates to any business, but Salem and the boys at silverorange will have to back me up on that one.
Tessa, Peter Kaufman, and RELI 47
In the meantime, we are in Chapel Hill, where Tessa showed her movie to an adoring crowd of undergrads. We both spoke afterwards, and I got to unleash some silly theories onto Tomorrow's Leaders. Like this space, I hope nobody takes me seriously.
Realize this: you have been kissing a girl long enough that a phone call is expected every day. Skipping a night brings a tiny vacuum to the stomach. You might have made some pact like "you can have sex someone else, but only if you tell me the story later." It relieves a little of the pressure, but imagining your genitalia inside someone else? Seems like your heart – or some piece of you that still has moral certitude from grade school – won't allow it.
You might kiss someone else, though, long after it would have been kosher. It will be the last kiss you ever have from the other world, and it will occur late at night, when both of you have been drinking, probably a quick grasp at a body part, because after this, you will never know that feeling again.
The weird part: that's okay. The things you thought you could never abandon become half-thoughts shrugged off in seconds. You will keep your place, with your roommate; after all, there still needs to be separation. You might even sleep there from time to time, forcing yourself "home." It seems unnatural, but that's where your stuff is, after all.
Occasionally, you will revert to sudden bouts of bachelorism, a night in the rain with a barbaric yawp that ends with a pounding headache and a full glass of cold water. You have two toothbrushes, two pairs of clean underwear, two sets of running shoes: one for each place. Slowly, all the good stuff migrates to her house.
You have to break the news to your roommate, but in your myopia, you forget that he has seen it coming, and has made arrangements. Your last night in this apartment has already passed, weeks ago.
You have one more hurdle, and one huge argument. It will be the hardest thing for you to give up. You will have second thoughts, because nothing in life worth doing comes without an unsettling dose of ambivalence. What happens that night, or in those two weeks, will determine whether or not you gain entrance into a dizzying and scary new world.
Some people turn around. You know who they are, you've seen them everywhere. You swore, somewhere, you wouldn't be one of them. I wish you luck.
One thing about having a blog with actual readers is that you find yourself becoming uncomfortably aware of your audience. Back in the beginning of my online diary life, I didn't post any pictures, I waxed rhapsodic about the sexual problems Celexa was giving me, and I was occasionally content to fall asleep half-way through writing it. I'm humbled and stunned by the fabulous people that show up here, but you realize that it has made it a lot harder to talk about shoving suppositories up my ass while driving, don't you?
I ask these questions because occasionally you're going to hear me squawk on about the University of North Carolina Men's Basketball Team, and to many of you, it's a subject that you
a) don't understand
b) understand, but don't care
c) understand, and root for another team
d) don't understand and don't care
...which I totally grok, dudes. Sure, my boys Andy, Andrew, Jon, Tanya, Chip, Steph and Greg will probably not skip paragraphs – but if you are going to keep coming back into this literary rumpus room, you're going to have to accept that you will be randomly hit on the head with a sky-blue-colored basketball. Yes, that means YOU, Garrity!
"Well, okay, Ian, but could you bother to make it interesting?"
Yes, yes, fucking all right. But to get it, you'll have to read my Dean Smith Manifesto, which will take me a few more weeks.
In the meantime, I went to downtown Atlanta tonight to see my beloved Tar Heels get waxed by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. It was another miserable loss in a season that has plenty of them, and I did something I never do: I left early. Sure, it was about 120 seconds early, but there was no way I was going to sit in my seat, watch them storm the court at my emotional expense, and then endure taunts from the Wramblin' Wreck Sig Eps on the way back to the car.
I have been to about 150 games in person, but never in hostile territory. Being ensconced in another man's tribe is a fascinating bit of social anthropology that I highly recommend. The language is a little different, the songs are warped, and the colors are foreign. It reminded me of the last scene in that Ray Bradbury short story "A Sound of Thunder" when the guy in the time machine steps on a butterfly, and when he gets back to the present day, everything is slightly askew.
Apparently they're making that into a movie. Must all of my favorite things from childhood be co-opted by the Man?
Anyway, if I'm going to talk about my Celexa and years of anxiety disorders and rage, rage against the chowderheaded simians currently running my country, I suppose I should also get to the bottom of why these basketball losses still put a dagger in my heart. Dean Smith said "If you live or die by winning and losing, you're going to do an awful lot of dying." I'm all ears as to how I can keep from dying every time.
One thing I learned during the last and only time I saw Tessa's dad Blakey, it was this: a man may have $63 million dollars in the bank, but when push comes to shove, all he really wants is a buffet line. On that frail February in 2001 when I met the old man, he could have had a vat of Beluga caviar flown in on the Concorde, but instead, he chose a Luby's in suburban Houston. Thus I have surmised that Man's natural rest state is the all-you-can-eat rack with a sneeze guard and every kind of meat and fixin possible, all drowned in delicious butter sauce.
We used to go to a place called Bishop's in Cedar Rapids when we were kids, but now I will gladly drive two days to the mountains of Georgia to partake in Salem's Jasper Family Steakhouse, which I consider the pinnacle of the buffet art form. It is, in all seriousness, better than most catered weddings I've attended in Manhattan.
I think the all-you-can-eat buffet line brings up primal qualities in the homo erectus. There is the whiff of Infinite Choice and the reality of Infinite Consumption. Since we are all omnivorous hunters and gatherers by ancestry, a key part of us, deep down, is afraid that we'll never get to eat again. The Jasper Family Steakhouse takes that fear and says, "no, my child. You shall have anything you want, for as long as you want." It is the perfect salve for an ancient longing.
Salem, because he's Salem, was not content just to run the best steakhouse in the South; he was also going to broaden the horizons of the patrons whether they liked it or not. Even though nobody really knows it, the place has an 802.11b/g wifi connection running through its gentle air at all times. And the fireplace and mantle is full of original works by the Reverend Howard Finster and the like, and will soon have a adjective-defying mural created by one of the local artist savants named Billy. Just to rub it in, I've called Tessa twice while sitting by the fire, enjoying Brunswick Stew and banana pudding.
Back home, Salem's stepson McColl had a school project tonight. They drew names out of a hat and create a "puppet" of that historical character. I know it sounds like a cliché, but he wound up with Jefferson Davis.
So we sliced open a tennis ball, shoved it on top of a water bottle, and made hair out of strings of Play-Doh. McColl smeared some big 1863 sideburns on him, I fashioned a gray Confederate coat out of some old sweatpants, and presto! I mean, you have to admit it looks exactly like Jefferson Davis. You just have to.
I, however, look like I've had maxillofacial surgery
I'm posting this picture of me and my friend Liz Hepner in 1987 to show the world that I have indeed been the wearer of a mullet, and thus don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to making fun of people with bad hair. In 1987, it was entirely possible to have any kind of hair you wanted, and the only reason I cut my bangs was to keep them out of my eyes. There were no "hair police" around to make me - or anyone else for that matter - feel like I'd just shoved myself into a particular socioeconomic strata, no "Sex in the City" or MTV Fashion Award shows to keep us au courant of today's styles.
That said, my sojourn here in North Georgia has introduced me to some of the most unfortunate haircuts I have seen in my thirty-six years. Last night, Salem and I went to a local honky tonk called Club 53, where I promptly ordered a Southern Comfort and Coke, something I haven't done since a night a Spanky's about ten years ago.
The entire clientele was white, of course, but they were all grinding away on the dance floor while an overhead screen projected hip-hop videos. On cue, the screen lifted up to reveal the house band, and the haircuts therein had to be seen to be believed. I couldn't get my camera in there, or else you would have been treated to mullets I can only describe as aggressive. The bass player had a crewcut - except for the hair in back went past his ass.
The patrons of Club 53 were an interesting bunch; the women looked great, not overtly cheesy, and seemed to take the fashion of metropolitan cities (or at least Atlanta) seriously. The men, however, like battery technology or cancer research, seemed to be glacial in their forward momentum. Pretty much every guy there would have been perfectly cast in a movie making fun of 1988. I didn't just see mullets; there were wingbacks, razor-straight cuts over the ears, feathered parts down the middle, and Members Only Jacket-style ponytails. And for some weird reason, I thought I was surely going to get my ass kicked.
The band was playing the Greatest Hits of 1981 ("I Love Rock and Roll," the Eagles, etc.) and had the dance floor throbbing. Salem told me to look around the room and said, "for every one of you - you know, a sensitive, educated liberal living in the City - there are ten of these people." And he's right. Everybody in that dance hall was going to vote Republican, even if Bush himself was discovered to be a child molester. I began to feel the serious pangs of living in a country I didn't understand. These people don't look like anyone I know. They're talking about things I can't fathom; they are drinking Budweiser and then slapping the ass of their dates on the dance floor.
Suddenly the music stopped, and the band launched into a song that I vaguely knew. It was the last Pink Floyd song to limp onto the charts, the afterthought to their careers. Immediately the dance floor cleared, as the band launched into the serious Math Rock of later Floyd. I mean, they might as well have played Rush. Those patrons who were still sober went back to their booths and stared at the band as if they were playing music from Neptune.
And then it hit me: I knew this band. They were into Dungeons and Dragons and had 20-sided dice in their pockets! They got together as teens and played "2112" and Aldo Nova and listened to the King Biscuit Flower Hour and everyone in junior high school thought they were TOTAL DORKS. Salem bought me another Southern Comfort and Coke, and we stayed another half-hour in this absurd place, because I had traveled so far away from my home to be confronted with the worst haircuts on earth behind a bagful of dry ice, but I was still able to find kinship in utter strangers.
Chapel Hill, NC to Jasper, GA
When you enter Georgia from South Carolina, you are presented with a Gomorrah-like display of "gentlemen's clubs," porno warehouses, peep show barracks and adult establishments promising every sort of toy you could possible shove up your duodenum. One such place called "Bedroom Eyes" (I think) had a plume of steam rising from its chimney thousands of feet into the air, as if the furious masturbating of three hundred truckers was creating enough kinetic energy to convert friction to hydro-electric power.
My tastes run a little more pedestrian. I have always loved the gigantic chain-owned Truck Stops, and no, not because of the ironic hipster value. I actually like them intrinsically. The "Flying J" or the "TA Truck Authority" establishments are a frequent haunt for my road trip dollar, much to the horror and disdain of my darling Tessa. She just doesn't get how cool it is; the miles of polyester track suits, the wall full of rear view mirrors, the constantly-revolving cylinders of 4-day-old beef wieners stacked up like they were timber logs in an Oregon river.
People don't realize the crazy deals you can get at a these places; cell phone accessories that usually cost $49.99 at a Radio Shack will cost $4.25 at a Flying J. At several of them you can check your email at a sit-down kiosk within smellshot of the men's room – most of the "computers" have trackpads that have been stabbed by countless befuddled truckers, which I think is kind of cute.
I could do without all the NASCAR shit (the Dale Earnhardt Memorial Jumpsuits are fuckin' reprehensible) but if you want the Commodores' Greatest Hits, the cassette is yours for 99 cents. I have walked those aisles, lo, so many hours. I grow old, I grow old, I wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled, but I also bought a TV set that plugs into your cigarette lighter for 29 bucks.
Like any Wal-Mart, your average Flying J didn't destroy the "downtown community," it just moved it next to the highway. These places are their own ecosystem, biosphere and microclimate. Everyone knows each other, even the truckers that come from half a continent away. Sure, I'm just an observer, an interloper eyeing the CB radio microphones a little too long, but for a few minutes, I bathe in the warmth of the pizza heat-lamps and I feel my natural snobbery dissipate into a Styrofoam cup of scalding hot coffee.
I'd never seen the Dean Dome look like it did tonight – the word got out that everyone had to wear Carolina blue, and by god they all did, even the fat cats down in the front row. If you follow sports, you know what happened tonight, and if you don't, you couldn't care less, so suffice to say I ended the game with my head in my hands, try to stave off a quick weep.
But then I saw something that made things utterly clear. As the Duke team ran off the floor, J.J. Reddick – who had a sub-par game and got his shit packed by our own Jackie Manuel at least twice – taunted the crowd. A few of their bench warmers did too, waving, sneering and pointing to various fans.
I'm a grown man now, I'm 36 years old, and I have been to every home Duke game for the last 19 years. When I was 18 years old, I camped in the mud (that was soon to be Carmichael Dorm) to get tickets for the first game at the Dean E. Smith Center in January 1986. I have flown here to Chapel Hill from Los Angeles, New York, anywhere.
And tonight, I was reminded again of why. They reprint my Why I Hate Dook article every few years, and it had been a while since I actually read it. But tonight, as I watched that punk-ass bitch Reddick with bleeding back acne wave at our crowd in derision, I was thrown right back to my first taste of that campus in 1985.
Duke University is more than just a bunch of blithering jerks from up North who subvert everything that the Southern Part of Heaven is all about. They are also the embodiment of The New Mercilessness. It is no wonder that Dean Smith campaigns for civil rights and eradicating the death penalty, while Koach K sponsors "Blue Devils For Dole." Smith brought the first black player to the ACC and helped integrate Chapel Hill, while K raises money for people who want to ban gay marriages and make abortions illegal. And he has put in place a system that allows his players to taunt the crowd after a game they've already won.
I keep coming back to my homeland, to this church painted light blue, because we define ourselves by our enemies, and each year I look at that school, those sneering, braggart bastards, and I get to know myself a little bit better.
I cut my hair; Chip has lost a few strands of his
I have to keep this short tonight, as I am getting up at the crack of dawn to drive to North Carolina for the Dook game. I must tell you, however, that I met one of my few living idols today: Dean Smith came to Manhattan for an intimate (40 people) taping of CenterStage on the Yes Network, and we were all there. I can't begin to tell you how much this man has meant to me over the years - and not in the way that college basketball coaches typically hold sway over a fan base - but I'll leave it until tomorrow to make my case.
Either way, I'm so happy to have finally met the man. He said Tessa's smile was great. YAY!
Coach Smith, Lindsay and me today on 57th Street (Tessa told me to tell you she took the picture)
This blog's traffic quadrupled today, thanks to the many fine diarists out there who liked the entry about the anthropomorphic shapes of the United States. A few of you wrote asking me who the hell I am, and where to start with this site. Thus I am being hopelessly self-referential and proffering My Top 25 Blog Entries That Inspired the Most Mail. Most of them don't have comments yet because I was still on Blogger then. But I guarantee this: the next hour of your time will go by in a heady rush of carbonated entertainment! Please enjoy. Or figure out what's wrong with me; either will do.
I get married. Inspired much well-wishing, as well as a deluge of snarky comments about my tux.
I dispense careful advice for would-be actors. You better listen to me. I'm a fucking director, god dammit.
Rules for living in a group house. "Indispensable" – Chip Chapman
The best university experience in the Western Hemisphere. Better than Dook, at any rate.
We are living in a Lawn Dart Nation. And you are invited.
The following entries were added by popular request!
A REGULAR JOB
- constant salary, usually direct-deposited to your bank account
- health insurance
- job security, because they can't fire you without a marginally good reason
- a different physical space for "work," allowing you to emotionally compartmentalize
- interaction with other humans
- vague sense of "being on the team"
- 83% of the time it is a soul-crushing, humiliating, festival of boredom
- mandatory supplication at the hands of an angry boss
- arbitrary invective from various other people above you on the pecking order
- dreadful commute
- no freedom with your life until the weekends, when everyone else has their freedom too, meaning long lines and traffic
- vengeful, humorless co-workers
- vague sense that life is passing you by
- freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want
- pick your own projects
- sleep in when tired
- usually involves an art form (writing, photography) you actually enjoy
- occasional windfalls of money from random sources
- vague sense that you are "getting away with it"
- constant dejection from failure to secure gigs
- pennilessness for vast stretches of time
- health insurance that only kicks in if you lose a leg
- not really taken seriously by the rest of the world
- exhausting follow-up calls and emails to potential clients
- vague sense that you want a "real job" after all
Go back to top and repeat.
I know every other blogger on earth is talking about this, but I found Janet Jackson's Super Bowl boob to be among the more refreshingly cynical things to happen in mass American culture in a long time. The weird backpedaling of the Powers That Be notwithstanding, you have to see this as a the ultimate – and I would say successful – use of Spectacle.
Think about it: nobody is hurt by this. CBS gets boffo ratings and makes it the water-cooler talk of the week. MTV gets itself involved with scandal, which is their life's blood. Justin Timberlake gets to officially graduate from "ex-boy band member" to "someone who has the nads to fondle rock royalty." And Janet Jackson, who is about to release an album in the long, dark afternoon of her career, gets more free press than the President of the United States.
I mean, come ON, people: the last line of Justin's lyric was "I'm gonna get you nekkid before I finish this song." Janet's acting in the split second after the reveal was so good that it's a shame she sucked so bad in "Poetic Justice." I think the whole thing is wonderful, as it is the ultimate subversion of our draconian nudity laws and a giant middle finger to conservative thinking – all in the name of big business! It's the endgame of strange bedfellows, which is this country at its best.
Thank god for TiVo, so we could rewind it forty times. And if that wasn't cool, how about our beloved Shelagh Ratner in the Toyota ad? Getting a commercial during the Super Bowl is the Holy Chalice of actors doing these gigs, and it couldn't have happened to a cooler chick. Go Shelagh!
"What planet are you from? Are there more of you?"