I wasn't going to write a blog, because I think there's only about fourteen people on the Web today, but I just saw all this press about the new surge in flip-flop popularity, and never one to miss having my finger on the carotid artery of pop culture, I have to weigh in.
To wit: I cannot fucking stand men in flip-flops. Sandals are bad enough, but flip-flops make my fucking skin crawl. It's fine at the beach, or somewhere utterly casual, but when men start wearing them to red carpet affairs and to the various meetings we have, I have to draw the line. Step up, gentlemen! I wore shoes to your meeting, and so should you. Your hairy toes and disgusting Man Toenails are so distracting that I can't think.
Call me an old fart, but there's something disrespectful about the flip-flop away from casual environments. Women can wear them all they want, because their feet are generally pampered (and sexy) but men's toes should be heard and not seen. By the way, it's not always appropriate for women either - when the Northwestern women's lacrosse team wore flip-flops to the White House, I was disgusted. I hate Bush as much as your average thinking, sensitive American, but you can bet I would have worn shoes to his home.
Now, doctors are saying flip-flops destroy your heels and ruin your career. What else do you need to know?
Solution? If you absolutely fucking HAVE to go without socks, try those Keen Newport Sandals that Kent, gay men, and I like:
Your feet will have all the oxygen they need, and you can keep them the hell away from me. Frickin' YUCK!
Before we all go away for the weekend, I wanted to catalogue all of Lucy's words at 14.5 months, so she knows what she learned first. It's an odd assemblage, for sure, but she's quite serious about pronunciation. She says "boy" like Flavor-Flav, and really loves to nail the "k" at the end of "clock."
She loves trying them out on us, and giggles like crazy when she nails one. It's so much fun. Our secret? She eats four or five tubes of Tessa's ChapStick® every day. Hey, why tinker with success?
In no particular order:
cracker (pronounced "quacka" and too cute for words)
agua (Spanish - water)
mano (Spanish - hand)
fresa (Spanish - strawberry)
maintenant (French - now)
towel (pronounced "dowl")
"thank you" (pronounced "aing you!")
"vroom, vroom" (car noise)
Lucy misses her boyfriend Hank back in Brooklyn and ain't afraid to say so
Remember how psychoanalysis works? It was first developed by Freud as a "talking cure," where (in the simplest terms) patients talked about all of their deepest fears and taboos, and by airing them, their neuroses disappeared. In other words, nature wants to fix those things that are out in the open. Left to fester, unaired, untreated, most problems get worse.
And so, to borrow a page from all the great analysts, it's time to Air Your Major Body Pain Complaints! That's right, by merely mentioning the one thing that hurts on your body right here on the Web for all to see, it will gradually stop hurting.
My left knee is killing me. It's a "torn meniscus" or maybe "nothing all that drastic" but every time I chase the basketball down, I tweak it and I want to frickin' KILL myself from the pain. I use a brace and all, but it only partially helps.
Also, my lower back on the left side, one particular muscle has been in chronic pain for six years. I'm really sick of it, and though Stopain Spray® works unbelievably well, I'm tired of smelling vaguely of menthol.
So those are two for me. I've aired my complaints. Let the healing begin!
A few short bits to add to the blog today, as it is my turn for Lucy tomorrow morning and let's just say that she likes to get up four or five hours earlier than I do.
- It's my sister Michelle's birthday! She turned thirtysomething years old today, and I'm fairly sure she's drunk on very expensive red wine up in Napa Valley right now.
love this pic Lars took at the Jartacular, rehearsing: me, Michelle and Sean, with Chip in the background
- If you are planning to be in New York City this summer, try to make it the last week of August, where Sean/Jordi/Mac and Gideon Productions - fresh off winning "Best Musical" at the Fringe Festival last year for "Fleet Week" - are mounting this year's juggernaut "Air Guitar." There's a fighting chance you might see one of my plays as well, as the 24 Hour Plays is putting on a Best of the Last Ten Years show, and they might include mine (scroll down and vote here - you will see some familiar names like Lindsay B., Mac R., and Dan K.!). One way or another, we wouldn't mind meeting you wonderful readers in NYC if any of you wanted to make the jaunt.
- Speaking of which, Lindsay just put on a 24 Hour Play up in Toronto. Check out his blog on the journey.
- I started drum lessons on Sunday. My teacher is awesome and knows Stewart Copeland. I'm learning to hold the sticks correctly and he said I could pick three songs to learn this month. They will be "Generals and Majors" by XTC, "Day Tripper" by the Beatles, and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Queen. Starting a new instrument is fun, man!
- Any other tidbits you'd care to share with the class?
I don't ask anything of you, I really don't. I've been writing in this space for 4 1/2 years now, through my nervous breakdown, my marriage proposal, nuptials, birth of my first born, various book and magazine ideas - and hopefully, given a place for all of you to leave comments, reconnect, disagree and socialize.
In the beginning when I had no money, my brother Steve and I talked about putting ads on the site, a method used by Dooce, Atrios, the Instapundit and a lot of others. Some people, like Salon, have a subscription-based service. You may think this blog isn't worth ads, nor a subscriber fee, and I agree: I almost never show my tits.
But now I'm asking something of you - all of you, whether you're my good friends, blog acquaintances, or merely lurkers who visit my humble site. All I request is that you DO ONE THING. Make fun of me all you want, but you must pick one thing mentioned in this blog to help negate your share of global warming.
Yes, I know what I sound like. Yes, I realize it's not 1966 and there's no spiritual movement afoot. But the crisis we're in is not funny anymore, it's not cute, it's not clever. Global warming due to human interference is REAL, it's HERE, and all of us bear partial responsibility. I am not going to link to articles proving it's true, I will not provide PDFs of what is happening to Greenland this summer. You don't have to do any of the research. I'm just saying that if you want to keep reading this site, please, please just DO ONE THING.
Pick any one thing from the following list:
1. Replace at least four bulbs in your house with the new compact fluorescent bulbs. You can get them almost anywhere, but here is an excellent place. The new ones are warm and yellow, not the old bright white ones of the past. Replacing just four bulbs can cost as low as twelve bucks and stops 1,200 pounds of carbon from going into the atmosphere.
2. Zero-carbon your car. For $29.92, you can go to CarbonFund.org and negate your car's impact on the Earth. You can choose to do much more, but negating an average American car stops 12,000 pounds of CO2.
3. Offset your travel. Just go to the Native Energy site and calculate your total travel/vacation time, and it'll tell you how much to offset. For around $25 (average) you can keep your 1.7 tons of recreational CO2 out of the atmosphere and have tons of fun playing craps in Vegas.
4. Switch your local power provider to a green solution. This is so easy it's amazing. Just call your local power company and ask for what "green" solutions they offer. Most will tell you right off the bat, and it's barely more expensive. If you're having trouble finding what's available in your area, just go here.
5. Plant one tree. Absorbs one ton of CO2. Self-explanatory.
That's it, lurkers and readers. You have two weeks to do any of the above; that's the only thing I ask of you in these almost five years of uninterrupted joy. If there is something else you're about to do that is on par with the above, please share in the comments section.
I will not tolerate discussion about whether or not global warming is happening, or if humans are causing it. I've already given plenty of space on other entries for those opinions, and I'm done. And in advance, I apologize for sounding like an asshole, or someone who knows better than you, or that I have some kind of purchase on the future that others do not.
In my heart, this is the greatest threat we have ever faced, it's happening in our lifetime, right now, and if I had this public forum and did nothing, then I will truly have been a worthless sack of shit. If you choose to keep reading this site, there will be an unspoken pact between you, personally, and me, that you did something listed above. From all I have gleaned over the years, you are all an amazing group of people, and I thank you for the indulgence.
Got some requests to "quit screwing around" and post some Lucy pictures, so here goes...
I know every kid has a picture like this, but she takes my shoes VERY seriously
fascination #2: airplanes
third turn-on: the realization that she can walk ANYWHERE, including beyond the gate
new words this week: "off," "shoe," "quack," "good girl" and "gracias"(!)
I heard on the news today that Texas was in the last stages of outlawing every high diving board in the state. Now this may not seem like a big deal given what else is going on, but there are two very disturbing trends here. First, Texas used to be the most libertarian, devil-may-care state in the country, a group of people that would rather eat their own arm off than be held captive to a bunch of laws they didn't like. It was this Texas of the 1970s and 80s that could be counted on to make semi-rational decisions, but it looks like they, too, have fallen lockstep with the zeitgeist.
The other disturbing thing is this: as NPR reported today, kids are going back to summer camp with almost all of the activities we loved - archery, diving, hiking, etc. - truncated to the point of Absolutely No Fun. Swimming pool owners are refusing to pay the liability costs associated with high diving boards, and thus the "can opener," "jacknife," "cannonball," and "Fat Larry's Ass-Out Revenge" will become great dives of the past.
Maybe this is the one area I will cross over with Republicans, but the litigation surrounding accidents, especially those that were done in the name of Fun™, has neutered the fuck out of being a kid. Before I had comments on the blog, I bemoaned the same phenomenon on the side of a milk carton, but now that I've had a kid, I'm even more adamant. Lucy must have adventure.
She must stand on the top of a high diving board, and contemplate her jump. She should hoist herself off a moving swing and scrape up her knees. She should climb to the top of a tree and have a brief existential moment, before she can pronounce "existential."
The human animal, especially the young human animal, sees Denial as a virus and works to thwart it. If there's anything thirty-nine years of anecdotal evidence and years of psychology study has taught me, it's that we all need to get our ya-yas out at some point. Denying this will always lead to trouble: in small towns in Iowa, it means playing chicken on the freeway and killing your friends; in your thirties it means cheating on your wife and alienating your kids.
Since ya-ya's must be gotten out, why not get them out at a young age when you are still relatively pliable and thirsting for adventure anyway? I swear, Americans (including myself) are always afraid of the wrong things. We grossly underestimate obvious threats (smoking, obesity, motorcycles) and overestimate things that are relatively safe (high diving boards).
Kids died in the 1970s, not from high diving boards, but from parental ennui. There was no adult by the pool telling their sons and daughters to wait 15 seconds before the next dive. Texas thinks it can get rid of this problem by making high diving boards illegal, but all they're doing is displacing their kids' thrills to somewhere much less safe.
I keep several sets of Jarts© around, both here in LA and in New York, not because I think Jarts is the greatest game of all time, but because it serves as a reminder that in childhood there necessarily must be some perceived danger. Nobody ever died from a Jart, but the urban legend makes it powerful. I keep it around as a trick, so that maybe my kid can feel exhilarated by the unknown so that later, she doesn't feel compelled by the truly dangerous.
Will it work? Can we combine the fun of the 1970s with the mindful surveillance of this millennium? The uncharted wilderness of your children's imagination is far past the jurisdiction of stupid laws, so maybe I'll construct my own high diving board and see if Lucy ever wants to climb.
I don't know if any of you have ever tried - or heard of - the "super slow workout" method of getting in shape, but I started today and it totally kicked my ass. It's only 30 minutes, once a week, but your muscles are constricted for all thirty of those minutes doing excruciatingly slow reps of uniquely-targeted weights, and I feel like I was dragged behind a Chevy Suburban through the desert.
Thus today's CODE WORD, which is a picture you can choose to create for yourself. I've mentioned this before on here, but I thought I'd go back to the Face Transformer page and try a few more. I thought this one, which rendered me as an older man, was quite cool:
If you took away some of the hair, you would have something not too far away from my own dad. Anyone else want to upload themselves as older, or perhaps as an El Greco painting?
Twenty years ago tonight, I was working as summer job as a caterer, living in my great-aunt's garage in Arcadia, CA. Chip (or somebody) called me on the phone and said, "how about Len Bias?" It was then I heard the news that truly affected my micro-generation (those who were between 13 and 23 on that date): Len Bias had tried cocaine once and his heart had exploded.
Why did this strike a chord? Well, for starters:
That player with the ball is Len Bias, three months before that phone call, utterly shellacking the North Carolina Tar Heels in their home arena. You see one of those little white pixels in the middle right part of the picture? That is yours truly, at the age of eighteen, watching in horror as this lone player systematically destroyed one of our perfect seasons. It was the first loss I ever saw in person, and I watched it with Susan and Ellen Frye and their parents.
Bias was one of those players from opposing ACC teams you couldn't hate, because he was just too good, and unlike the Dookies of his era (Ferry, Laettner, Davis) he wasn't an asshole. When he was drafted by the Celtics a few weeks after that game, he was largely expected to keep Boston in Larry Bird-like championship status.
Instead, he died two days after getting picked, and it really did scare the ever-loving shit out of most people my age for ever trying cocaine. I did eventually give it a go ten years later, but I thought about Len Bias the whole time. It's kind of a buzz crusher to do so, like thinking about Janis Joplin while drinking Southern Comfort, but deep inside, I felt I might be that .1% of people who could die each time they did a line of blow. To this day, I've never had more than a microscopic amount, just enough to feel a second cousin to the alleged euphoria, and that's enough.
There were times at my fraternity, years after his death, when Len Bias' name was a cautionary tale to some brother who appeared to be going off the deep end. If Bias, this perfect, handsome, virile, 22-year-old, 4%-body-fat freak of nature could die doing coke once, imagine what could happen to your dime-store schlubby fratboy.
I post this picture of Len (holding Celtics cap) and Brad Daugherty (Cavaliers) not just because Brad is one of my favorite Tar Heels ever, and not because Chris Washburn (far right) got a 475 on the SAT before going to N.C. State and stealing stereo equipment... although those are pretty good reasons... but because it truly shows what "twenty years ago" looks like.
This photograph could have been taken in 1963, with the fade haircuts and white-lavender tuxes. Bias and Chuck Person both look like Eddie Murphy in "48 Hrs." In many ways, I can't believe I was an "adult" when this image was snapped, and I'm not sure how much Len Bias' death reverberates amongst the would-be recreational coke-using teens of the 22nd century.
After all, Maryland still doesn't graduate any of its players, every industry party I've been to has drugs far north of cocaine, and Len's name means nothing to the crowds watching the Mavs-Heat final tonight. So I guess this is just a private thank-you to a player I saw perform the impossible in front of my eyes, and then died an impossible death. He might have saved my life, he might have saved thousands of us, but there is immense joy in not having to know one way or the other.
A Happy Father's Day to all of you readers out there who happen to have kids - I'm not discriminating against those who are not breeders, but I have to tell you... even though Father's Day is probably a mid-20th century invention by the multi-billion dollar gift industry, it does feel really good to have a day celebrating being a dad.
For her part, Tessa gave me some new latté cups, a croissant in bed, and drum lessons! Through a freak crossover of mutual friends, I ended up in a basketball game in the afternoon, populated by some fah-moose people. David Arquette was on my team, and he has a nice drive to the hoop, as well as a confident finish. On the sidelines, Lucy played with Brooke Shields, who was unbelievably nice. We spent the rest of the day at home with Tessa's best friend Jason, soaking in a perfect day at the beach.
(Oh, and Michelle - we went to an art opening with the King of Men last night. Just wanted to rub it in.)
Perhaps Father's Day feels nice because the essence of "fatherhood" is a constant fight for relevance. Our genetics expect us to run away from the family after the baby is born, which is why infants are engineered to resemble the father for the first few months. Our nipples don't work, our frustration level tends to be a foot lower than our female counterparts, and unless you really try hard, you can occasionally find yourself a spectator in your own family.
Popular culture fucks with fatherhood all the time, especially in the Schlub Dad school of advertising. Countless ads feature a dumb-as-a-fucking-bag-of-rocks dad trying to cook dinner for his kids, or do the laundry, or some other devastatingly unfunny joke that should have been shuffled off in the late '50s. These character actors are either fat and bald, or disheveled and messy, and they allow American men to revel in their easy uselessness. Shit, both Donald Trump and Adam Sandler just told the press they were never going to touch a diaper.
I swore I'd never be that kind of person. I am involved in Lucy's upbringing almost as much as those creepy child psychologists writing doctoral dissertations. My lack of a physical office away from provides constant contact. Tessa and I split the mornings down the middle, meaning I get those slightly-agonizing-but-very-sweet hours at 6am when she can be the most charmingly antagonizing. I have salved her teething, I have rocked her to sleep upon my breast, I was her "dream feed," and we have invented games together. She now calls me "Dad-doh!" and marches around the house shouting it with her palm extended skyward.
And yet... there is something between her and Tessa that I will never replicate. I don't know if the dads out there reading this feel the same way - and I try not to use this as an excuse - but those two ladies have a Vulcan mind meld that can only truly be appreciated across the room. There will come a day when I will be her savior, but in these early years, those two are connected by superstring theory, gravitational fields, and strange quarks.
It is the struggle to emulate this, the desire to share in your child's subconscious, that separate "guys who have kids" from "fathers," and it is the latter to whom Sunday was dedicated. Paul McCartney turned 64 on Father's Day, and when he asked "will you still need me, will you still feed me?" in his song "When I'm 64," he was really asking about being relevant.
So here's to us, dads, in our constant fight for relevance, our battle with obsoletion, and our ability to do the right thing despite our occasional desire to go on a three-week single-malt road trip with our best friends to Vegas. It's a Celebration of the Expected. Father's Day is for all of us who opted in, so that when our kids look behind them and to the left, they will see that we are here, smiling, and wouldn't miss it for anything.
i'm sorry, honey, but I HAVE TO CLIP YOUR FINGERNAILS!!!
A quick note before we leave for California - I'm sure most of you heard that George Bush made fun of a reporter wearing sunglasses at one of his press conferences, then learned the reporter suffered from macular degeneration, and called him to apologize.
Two things about this story: one, the reporter in question is Peter Wallsten, who was the last in a long line of great editors I had at the Daily Tar Heel in the Dream Team years of the late '80s and early '90s. He's the one that okayed the article Mondy Lamb let me write about the early '80s mix tapes, some of which I know a select few of you still have. He's also a very tough, excellent journalist who has been fighting the good fight for a long time. GO HEELS!
Secondly, my mom suffers from macular degeneration as well, to the point where I don't know how much longer she'll be able to see how her granddaughter is growing up. There's talk of a radical new procedure - and of course a stem cell solution - but I hope it comes soon enough to help my mom, Peter, and the millions out there suffering with this thing. That's all.
Oh, and GO HEELS!
check out what a difference a day makes for pre-orders of his book on Amazon!
Seth Stevenson's article in Slate about the joys of boxer-briefs became their top-forwarded story for the week, and it's no wonder: the boxer-brief is such a great idea (and so recently adopted) that I'm surprised there isn't a book about it already.
My boxer-brief trajectory was eerily similar: I wore the standard issue tighty-whiteys all through my childhood until college, when some guys in my fraternity began donning the billowy boxers. After a pledge stunt where we all pulled our pants down at the formal dinner, I was hooked: it was boxers for me, the bigger the better.
Frankly, I don't know how I made it through those hot North Carolina summers wearing nothing but boxers underneath (guys will know what I mean) but perhaps it was like everything else when you're 24: you're too drunk or too unaware of your own body irritations to care. But around 1995 or so, some girlfriend got me a pair of those Guess boxer-briefs, which as far as I know, was the only company making them.
It took a few years to kick in, but I made the massive underwear switchover, and I noticed practically all of my friends did the same. But I'm here to endorse a specific product, one I believe in so whole-heartedly that today's blog salutes it: Gents, let me introduce the The Ex Officio Boxer Brief.
Quite simply, the most comfortable thing you can have next to your skin that isn't another person you're in love with. Superior wicking for those wet hot American summers, and vaguely anti-microbial so's to remain odor-free, this is why mankind made it to the 21st century. When the Ex Officio Boxer Brief isn't lining your ass, it's saving the astronauts on spacewalks, protecting helicopter blades in Iraqi rescue missions, and singing your daughter to sleep.
They wash clean in seconds - you just wring them out and they dry overnight in hotel rooms while you're out kicking ass for the CIA. They will have untimely ripp'd the words "chafing," "flopping," and "riding up my arse" out of your vocabulary.
Yes, they are prohibitively expensive. I have four pairs in heavy rotation for the year, and it shot my clothes budget. But I ask you, gentle blog readers of the male persuasion, aren't your nads worth it?
To continue on where we left off yesterday, if you don't see how a framed picture of Zarqawi's dead face being held up in an American press conference isn't completely gruesome and indicative of the level to which we've sunk, then nothing I write on these hallowed pages is going to make any difference.
I find it unbelievably sad that an administration hellbent on keeping gays from getting married on grounds of "decency" have no problem dropping a 500-pound bomb on a human being, uncovering him from the rubble, taking a picture of his moribund visage, then framing it in a press conference for young kids across America to see. We come off like a dumb cat killing a pigeon and bringing home to the living room to eat in front of the family.
How would I have done it differently? If you HAD to show the world you'd murdered this guy (three years after you could have had him anyway, by the way) you could simply release a press photo in digital form, the same way you release every other bit of news over the last eight years. The picture would be disseminated the usual way, through websites and AP wire stories, and every insurgent in the world would see it one way or another.
And don't go talking about how we didn't drag him through the streets and set his body on fire. What are you, animals? How low are your standards? Our country was founded on the noblest of pursuits in the Age of Reason by some of the greatest thinkers of the first millenium; you'd think we'd compare ourselves a little better.
And while I'm at it, I'm getting really sick of you conservatives implying - or outright saying - that liberals have no concept of "how the world really works," that we bury our head in the sand when real danger looms, or that we don't get the threat of Islamofascism. You make dizzying metaphors about how we wouldn't respond if our next-door neighbor kept shooting our children.
I watched the North Tower of the World Trade Center fall down with my own eyes. Standing mere blocks away. I helped soot-covered parents find their kids, I fed family members whose brothers had died in those buildings. My sister and wife handed bottles of water to firemen at Ground Zero while slabs of human meat were being carted to the tents. I don't fucking need YOU to tell me about the threats we're facing.
We keep emergency supplies of medicine, food and water wherever we're staying; I have crank radios, evacuation plans, and clothing that can withstand long walks in the winter. We make purchases based on our environmental impact, but we also got the Prius in case of a monumental gas shortage, and we installed solar panels on our house in case of a monumental gas stoppage.
The only difference between us and you is that we each learned vastly different lessons on September 11. You can think what you like, and enjoy your full-color framed photographs of dead terrorists, but some of us believe that you can work hard to change the world and still keep your humility in check, your profile low, and your blood lust at bay.
THE WEEK IN SHAME, PART LXVII!!!
1. Time Magazine - You know, it was bad enough in April 2003 when Time reprinted its famous picture of Hitler with an "X" through his face, only this time with Saddam Hussein. I found the comparison utterly insane, given the relative atrocities of each, but this week, Time Magazine has thrown away any shred of journalistic sensibility by DOING THE SAME THING WITH AL-ZARQAWI.
What a bunch of insufferable, histrionic, jingoistic morons. Every surviving WWII vet (and surviving Jew, for that matter) should urinate on their Time subscription bill and send it back to the home office, currently located up this administration's ass.
You know what, Time? I'll make it easy for you. Since you've shown the logical progression of your thought processes, I'm going to go ahead and make the end-of-year cover for you:
2. Ann Coulter - Her re-arranging of historical facts is legendary, and her inability to write her way out of a wet cube of Jell-o is manifest, but why does Ann Coulter reserve her worst Cruelty© - so venomous that it had to be copyrighted - for those who have suffered the most? Her claim that 9/11 widows are "harpies" and "witches" that joyously revel in their husbands' deaths is so inhuman that it makes me depressed just to repeat it.
When taken to task (kinda) by Matt Lauer, she did the only thing she knows how: "brazened it out" by being even more mean-spirited and cruel. Fucking Time Magazine even gave her more paragraphs to heap invective on these widows whose husbands were burned alive, allowing her to savage them further just because she doesn't like their politics.
One of these things is true: either Ann actually hates the 9/11 widows and has no empathy for anybody who has ever had a member of their family murdered, OR she is using the controversy (and the innocent deaths of thousands of New Yorkers) to increase awareness and book sales. Both are such repellent ideas that it can only mean one thing: her heart is a cold, crusty place that is three times too small.
Why am I writing about it? Because her pulpit is so huge, every single word that can be said to the contrary MUST be said to the contrary. The key to living history is to CALL BULLSHIT WHEN IT HAPPENS, not wait until later when it's easy to look back with a sanguine shrug. When Lucy reads this later, I want her to know we actually had an opinion.
3. The Guy Who Framed the Picture of Dead Zarqawi - You know, when I was in high school in Norfolk, Virginia, the only way to get the "Faces of Death" movie was to venture back into the porn section of Tracks Record Store on Granby Street. Now, thanks to the U.S. Government, we had our very own snuff picture on every website and newspaper page in the country.
When did our standards sink so low that we had to provide such disgusting proof that we had targeted another human being, killed him, took his picture, and invited the journalists of the world to ogle? The last time I remember that being cool was on the business end of a spike on London Bridge around 1668.
But it wasn't just a picture. Someone had to actually go out and buy a frame for the photo. Something big, not too flamboyant, just the right amount of dash for our disembodied Iraqi insurgent head. Whoever this guy was, he went with a nice pine "casket wood" beveled look with a tasteful light stain, set against a classic Antique White matte. It takes a real smooth operator to frame a giant dead, bearded face and get the details just right.
There's an old phrase in hoops, in the big college programs, which states "act like you've been here before." It means winning with grace, no storming the court, no inappropriate gestures, just being cool. There's other ways to show we got a bad guy besides emulating a 3rd Grade Show 'n' Tell class with audio-visual aids. You'd think we might want to act like we've been here before.
Now, I'll tell you up front, other people's travelogues can be a big ol' drag. Back in the '70s, we were always forced to watch my Grandma and Auntie Donna's slide shows from their trips to Italy and "The Holy Land" and I remember gasping for air once they were over. Except for this one trip where they brought an old-fashioned 8mm movie camera with a zoom lens, and by the end of that one, they were passing out motion-sickness bags.
So I promise to keep this short and have lots of pictures. After all, I'm fairly sure 75% of my readership only ever reads the pictures anyway, so I'll continue shouting down this well.
ten years apart - above, June 2006; below, August 1996
First off, a thanks to Jiffer, because if she hadn't gotten married in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, we might not have escaped the terminal inertia that can plague the child-bound. In fact, it was the perfect thing to bring Lucy, as counter-intuitive as it might seem. I've already seen France, already been drunk in Paris, already had sex in a shower with a hitherto platonic friend (hi N.L.!), so seeing the place through the eyes of a one-year-old was innocently, bizarrely delightful.
I approached France the same way any sensitive lefty would: apologetic about our government, and vowing not to speak a word of English while I was there. Even Tessa, who is fluent in Spanish, was getting around town in French by the time we left. Verbs and nouns I hadn't thought about in eighteen years suddenly bubbled to the surface, making it infinitely easier for the French to take us under their collective wing.
Which they did. When Lucy took a double café crème and threw it twenty-five feet all over the front end of a bistro, some quick French (and her giggle) had the waiter laughing and saying "ooh la la la la la LA..." Not to repeat myself, but every interaction with every Frenchie left us happier and more willing to spend Euros in their economy.
One woman in a restaurant - obviously from Long Island or somewhere with an accent like a table saw cutting copper pipe - was so loud, rude, embarrassing and sickeningly entitled that I apologized to the establishment once she left. They were stunned and delighted. I figure, one French person at a time. I'll rebuild our world reputation if it takes all vacation.
And then, unbelievably, we were accosted by a French Television crew doing a story on tourists who were forsaking Starbucks and chain restaurants for the old cafés. Now I had the chance to show untold millions that not all American visitors were boorish chunderheads!
Sadly, my French got bogged down on a complicated question halfway through (and I resorted to English), which bummed me out unduly. Hopefully, a few shots of Lucy sharing water with Seth warmed les coeurs all over the mainland, and I did get off a few choice zingers.
About Lucy. Curiously, she had an explosion of English while we were in France. In the shot above, she is at our hotel in Grasse, where she picked up the phone and said, "Allo? Eh? Okay. Okay. Okay. Bye." And then hung up. You had to pick Tessa and I up off the floor.
Later on, she introduced "banana," "apple" and "cracker" into her vernacular, which gives her about 25-ish words she uses with some authority. The day before we left for our trip she said her first sentence: "That's Da-da!" I was in bed, of course, but I nearly cried.
By the end of France, she learned an odd French word: "maintenant" - pronounced "meant-non" - which means "now." She didn't exactly know what it meant, but she used it so often that I got the impression she was trying to hurry us along.
Personally, I can't believe how good a traveler she was. Slept six hours on the red-eye, always up for adventure, and even in the museums, she really seemed to be taking it in. At the Louvre, she would point to dogs in famous Italian Renaissance paintings and say "dog!" When she got to a Botticelli that had a man playing a lute, she said "Da-da!" (I usually play guitar for her). I know she will remember nothing of this trip, but even if there's the faintest trace of appreciation for masterpieces in her deepest inklings, it's worth it.
This is the first real vacation Tessa and I have ever taken. We had a few days after our wedding when we drove up to Canada, and another stolen weekend when she was eight months pregnant, but this was the first time we weren't really on a schedule. Due to a freak of European time zones, the sun sets at 10pm in Paris, allowing ambient light to filter clear until eleven, making the evenings endless, dripping, delightful.
I have never been one for constant solace; to me a journey alone is a journey not taken. It's not just amazing to see Paris through the eyes of a thirteen-month-old girl, but also with the eyes of my thirtysomething-year-old wife. I've done France as a drunk fratboy, imbibed wine out of baby bottles and sloshed fondue, paid good money to have my fortune told by real witches - but being here with her was far more spellbinding, and far more intoxicating.
Lucy finds the dog in The Wedding of Cana at the Louvre
No time to write an actual blog over the last few days, but I'll put up a picture tonight...
Lucy runs(!) to Tessa and Seth behind Notre Dame
overcome with the love of Paris, Lucy needs to express herself in front of the Louvre
There are three types of weddings: yours, other people's, and a third kind that is sort of a spiritus mundi, a gathering of souls like-minded and cool enough to spin its own gossamer nets of sweetness. The marriage of Jiffer Bourguignon and Ingo Zamperoni was just such an event, and though traveling with a one-year-old is challenging (even with a kid as rampantly cool as Lucy), we are SO GLAD we did it.
First, a sidebar. I said it a few days ago, I'll say it again: the rudest people in France are Americans. The French themselves, straight down to the guy working at the Esso gas station at the airport, have been absolutely delightful to a man. This crap about impoliteness and "not being funny" and all that is the biggest bunch of post-Iraq-war-freedom-fries hoo-hah I've ever heard in my life. The French are not only nicer, but they dress better and their espresso is to die for. But I digress.
The wedding itself was held at an ancient church in Cabris, a little mountain town just north of Nice and Cannes. The planned details were perfect, but the weather was even better. Jiffer, as usual, was both radiant and Wisconsin proletariat, only this time in a smashing dress. And let's just say that Ingo is one of the few people, like Abraham Lincoln, that can pull off a top hat, even if he didn't. As a couple, they are cover-of-Land's-End-Catalog beautiful.
I talk shit to Tessa, Lucy, Allison, Zia, Jiffer, Anna, Laura-Julie, Dee, Eva and Seth
You'll be glad to know the UNC contingency was well accounted-for, even if it was left to me to make the reception speech. I've got many Jiffer stories, most of them either surreal or R-rated, but mainly she was famous for stealing all of my food, especially my cherry Pop Tarts. I finally resorted to padlocking my kitchen cabinet. In my toast, I gave her the combination to the lock - ten years later - and told her she could steal my Pop Tarts anytime, which is true. I mean, I can afford them now.
Can't say enough about the people at the wedding without boring you all, but seeing all the Carolina people from my third generation (1994-1997) was amazing. Especially old housemate Zia, who was my roommate at the Pink House. She has blossomed into an amazing person, and hanging out with her and her husband Warren was more fun than I deserved; the second night I went to bed at 6am. God bless Tessa the next morning for taking care of the Li'l Pumpkin Pie.
The reception was at a medieval castle (la Napoule) right on the Riviera, and it was resplendent, drunken fun. I made a key decision a month ago when renting our car - even though I'm a pill-popping leftist stooge, I chose a minivan SUV because I knew I'd be driving, want to come back to the hotel a little early, and that two or three people would want to come.
Turns out fifty or so wanted to. One of the buses hired for the event messed up, leaving a fourth of the wedding guests stranded at the castle until 6:30am the next morning. Not the case for me and the nine intrepid, infinitely contortionist souls who stuffed themselves in my car four hours earlier. We rock the mike, yo, and did it at 130 kilometers per hour.
If you put a thumbtack in a map of Cabris, France - and then drew lines to the point of origin of every guest, you would have a vast, unthinkable web extending to every forgotten country, every cranny, every proto-indo-european language in the world. Jiffer and Ingo's friends work in Sierra Leone, the South Sudan, Hamburg, India, New York, Green Bay and everywhere except Antarctica, doing humanitarian aid, tsunami rebuilding, TV reporting, parenting, artistry - it's a humbling crowd. That we all came from every nook in the globe to pay witness to their ceremony is one of the most telling, wonderful statistics they'll ever get. To paraphrase that awful bumper sticker from the '80s: those who die with the most friends wins!
Arrived in Nice, France safe and sound. First impressions: the legendary rudeness of the French is at best an exaggeration, at worst a total falsehood. Our rental car had stick shift! And you pump a button to recline.
Xanax worked okay, but left me exhausted on the first day. Red-eyes suck anyway, but we're willing ourselves to stay up. Had the best warm goat cheese salad of our lives. Still haven't seen anybody from the wedding party. Too tired to put articles in front of sentences.
Can't figure out how to flush the toilet. Really.