I almost never do memes, but I liked what my brother Kent did today: post the top songs of the year he turned 18. He (and the guys who did it first) bolded songs they liked,
crossed out songs they disliked, and left the other italicized. I'm not tertiary enough to get away with that, so I'll post the top 60 songs from the year I turned 18. That glorious annus, 1985. And offer a little comment on each.
By the way, my favorite year for all music, both pop and alternative, was 1986. Too bad we can't do that one, but you have to follow the meme, I guess. Here goes:
1. We Built This City - Jefferson Starship - unmitigated fucking crap
2. Smooth Operator - Sade - loved this song, bought the album, thought I was kool
3. The Boys of Summer - Don Henley - great sound, nicely encapsulates an era I hardly knew
4. Sea Of Love - Honeydrippers - changed the station when it came on
5. Summer of '69 - Bryan Adams - Bryan Adams was NINE in 1969, what a crock of shit
6. Walking On Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves - in some incantations, this song still feels good
7. Into The Groove - Madonna - scooped ice cream to this song in Norfolk, VA - had crush on Josie
8. You Are My Lady - Freddie Jackson - huh?
9. Crazy For You - Madonna - spoken word section = crap
10. The Bird - The Time - don't remember this one at all
11. Relax - Frankie Goes To Hollywood - man, I wanted to come
12. Everytime You Go Away - Paul Young - overproduced, but had something
13. Glory Days - Bruce Springsteen - the Boss at his most cloying
14. I Want To Know What Love Is - Foreigner - histrionic, blowhard shite... what happened to "Urgent"?
15. Careless Whisper - Wham! - first time I heard this, I told Mom it would be #1 and I was right
16. Axel F - Harold Faltermeyer - have there been any instrumentals on the charts lately?
17. Material Girl - Madonna - loved Madonna's boobs in the video
18. Roxanne, Roxanne - UTFO - barf
19. All She Wants To Do Is Dance - Don Henley - total disaster of a song
20. Say You, Say Me - Lionel Richie - instant depressant
21. You're The Inspiration - Chicago - symphonic cheese, but I loved it
22. Through The Fire - Chaka Khan - no recollection
23. Heaven - Bryan Adams - oh Bryan, shut up
24. Freeway Of Love - Aretha Franklin - nice to see Aretha feed her 401K
25. Jungle Love - The Time - Jesse! Now Jerome!
26. All I Need - Jack Wagner - some of the worst lyrics ever written - see here
27. Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen - I dunno, I just didn't get it
28. Small Town - John Cougar Mellencamp - he tries too hard, but he's the real deal
29. Meeting In The Ladies Room - Klymaxx - embarrassing
30. Take On Me - A-Ha - brilliant start to finish - overplayed (by the UNC band) but the album is DOPE
31. Dancing In The Street - Mick Jagger & David Bowie - corporate rock from two cats who had once meant something
32. The Old Man Down the Road - John Fogerty - whittlin', spittin', awesome video
33. Just A Gigolo - David Lee Roth - silly, but I bought the EP
34. New Attitude - Patti LaBelle - soporific
35. Private Dancer - Tina Turner - "What's Love" was so much better
36. Centerfield - John Fogerty - "put me in, coach" = perfect lyric
37. Lovin' Every Minute Of It - Loverboy - easily the worst of their hits
38. People Get Ready - Jeff Beck & Rod Stewart - nice, nice guitar work by Jeff
39. Smalltown Boy - Bronski Beat - revolutionary, stunning, scary, epiphanous, and I'm not gay
40. Rockin' At Midnight - The Honeydrippers - oh for chrissake
41. You Give Good Love - Whitney Houston - sad then, even sadder now
42. Dress You Up - Madonna - thin, reedy, plastic
43. Cool It Now - New Edition - DESPISED this fucking song
44. In My House - Mary Jane Girls - quirky, sexy, great sound
45. California Girls - David Lee Roth - overplayed by the third day
46. Treat Her Like A Lady - Temptations - nice latter-day cash
47. And We Danced - Hooters - Oh, Live Aid - why weren't you better?
48. Basketball - Kurtis Blow - needs no comment. brilliant
49. Solid - Ashford and Simpson - almost ruined every ride to high school
50. Invincible - Pat Benatar - Pat beginning her inexorable slide
51. Wake Up (Next To You) - Graham Parker and the Shot - too busy studying for Physics AP to remember this
52. Your Love Is King - Sade - I was constantly mistaking cool for boring
53. I Would Die 4 U - Prince - even the dreg hits from "Purple Rain" were good
54. And She Was - Talking Heads - perfect drive to Virginia Beach
55. Running Up That Hill - Kate Bush - I fell in love and never quite fell out. What a woman
56. Everyday - James Taylor - James Taylor gets a permanent pass on all criticism from me
57. Money For Nothing - Dire Straits - on my mom's answering machine right after divorce
58. Jesse - Julian Lennon - I bought this album and still don't remember this one
59. You Spin Me - Dead Or Alive - I loved it, I hated it, I loved it
60. All You Zombies - Hooters - best line of the 1980s: "yeah, THEY WERE THE ISRAELITES!"
Do you know what tonight is in Chapel Hill, North Carolina? I'll tell you. It's the magical warm night when everything comes together. As a freshman, you finally know where everything is; you're not daunted by the crowds, and if you're from northern climes, you're noticing that the winter starts so much later.
That girl you liked and almost kissed? Except she had a boyfriend? She just went home and broke up with him over Thanksgiving. He ended up at a different college and is full of resentment, or maybe he is beginning to realize how he ruled the roost in high school. Either way, he said something stupid, and she drove off furious. She will need time, but you are now square in front of her, and Christmas cocktails - just as friends for now - loom in the coming weeks.
The shortness of days means the drinking can begin earlier. Dinners are planned, liquor stores empty of Jim Beam, you may even buy a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream. The impending exams fill you with anxiety, but those are still a week away, and besides, you're amped anyway, right? Your paper is almost done, and you're not noticeably behind.
You got your tickets for tonight's game and saw everybody on the way there. It was almost seventy degrees, and you took off your coat, tied it around your waist. When you entered the Dean Dome, you were jolted by the sight of a real game, the light-blue heaven, and a team ranked #1 coming in to embarrass you. For twenty minutes, they did.
And then the comeback, as predictable and powerful as the tides. Before long you are tied, then up two, then up TEN! The rafters are shaking, and when Roy Williams called that trap defense leading to Ellington's steal, you blew a gasket of joy. It was his 19th birthday and he wanted 19 points; he got them exactly.
It's this sort of magic that follows you home, a scant three yards away from that girl. Maybe later you'll be drinking - somebody's roommate is a senior and had some Amstel Light - and the timetable for a kiss just got unexpectedly bumped up.
There is so much work and so much excitement, so much hope and talk of road trips, and it seems like it could never end. That's what tonight is like in Chapel Hill.
This is not going to be a terribly deep or trenchant blog today, but we took a trip to the Fairway Market in Red Hook this afternoon to see what the fuss was about. Indeed, the fuss was earned; this place puts most markets in the country to shame. Built into an ancient coffee warehouse right on the water overlooking the Statue of Liberty, it has every kind of food you've ever known. Hell, this is a partial sampling of their salmon section:
They had this banana walnut oatmeal I like, "Bounty" coconut bars from England, and even the Bristot coffee pods I usually have to get on eBay. It being mid-day on a Tuesday, there was hardly anybody else there, and checkout took three minutes. If you're in Brooklyn and have a car, you owe it to yourself.
Here's the not-so-deep part: driving there, you go through some neighborhoods - if one could use that word - that look like they were hit by a daisy-cutter bomb. These streets aren't even dangerous; they're dead. If you live in the more gentrified parts of Brooklyn, you no doubt harbor hope that the Gowanus canal could become another Riverwalk in San Antonio. But if you see where the Gowanus actually goes, you lose all inspiration.
Coming back from JFK airport, you may have also traversed the long part of Atlantic Avenue. I have been to the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, and I have to tell you that Atlantic Avenue offers less hope. We live in our cute little brownstones in Park Slope, Cobble Hill, and Prospect Heights, but we are surrounded on all sides by despair. Venture five minutes out of your comfort zone, and you are presented with the American Dream gone devastatingly sour. You begin to ask big, stupid questions, like "is this the best humans can do?"
How unbelievably blessed most of us are. I know it's a boring sentiment that inspires defensive posturing, even in me, but to drive through the ass-end of Red Hook's decay and blight en route to a 12-dollar brick of cheddar cheese just put it in sharp relief.
It's been kind of hilarious - in a "completely tragic" sort of way - watching American news outlets dance around the term "civil war" when referring to Iraq. Finally, this week, both NBC and the LA Times pulled out the Civil War card and laid it on the table, which cued the usual temple-bursting and hand-wringing from our right-wing friends. To them, I guess, the mainstream usage of "civil war" meant it was truly over.
Never mind that anyone who had visited Iraq (and didn't have an ax to grind) has been calling it a civil war for a long time, but I'm much more interested in how seriously we take our definitions. Somehow giving a name to something changes the very nature of it, Shakespeare to the contrary; that which we call a rose body lotion smells sweeter regardless of the ingredients.
You'll see the same thing in scotch tastings - if you read the nose and flavor descriptions from the professionals beforehand, you can make almost anybody taste banana, coconut, oak chips, leather chairs and even motor oil in a 25-year-old Springbank single malt.
My own moment of definition came in 1989, and I've written about it on here before. This guy came up to me at Molly's during the height of my Wednesday's Child notoriety and said "People say you're awesome for a few days, but then your charm fades really quickly, and then you're not much fun." Why on earth this guy said this to me I have no idea. It was his idea of an ice-breaker, I suppose - I had a lot of people coming up to me and saying a lot of crazy shit in those days - but goddamn if it hasn't stuck with me.
In an effort to prove him wrong, this guy from 1989, I undertake bizarre endeavors. Stuff like throwing the Jartacular, trying never to lose friends, fighting for the best quip of the evening even though there are no more sophomores to impress, and even threatening to keep this blog interesting for five years. I'm not saying all of these are successful, but at least I'm in the game.
And so, what has been a particular definition that has hounded you? Something you've always been proud of, or struggled to outdistance?
Thanksgiving Greetings from 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006!
How was yours?
My brother Sean and his wife Jordana are entering that strange liminal stage called "full term" - they are far enough along in the pregnancy that if they gave birth tonight, it wouldn't be premature. The official due date is December 17, but as most of you know, only 4% of babies actually bother to show up when expected. All of which imparts a constant buzz, an excited, worried, expectant shortness of breath that comes with the imminence of your first child.
Tonight we hosted their baby shower, and, as with ours twenty months ago, each guest was asked to provide a random snippet of advice. Since S&J's crowd is slightly younger than us, we happened to be the only parents who had recently weathered a newborn, so their friends each offered something that had made a difference in their own childhoods. In many ways, this sort of advice can be even better.
Lucy has been so excited about the arrival of her cousin that she wants to spend a few minutes talking about it every day. After being a little freaked out by my hairy brother in the early going, she has developed a crush on Sean, and the thought of Auntie Dana having a baby in her belly fills her with delight. We were walking down Union Street the other day talking about cars (and which ones were red) when she suddenly said "dey's a baby, dey's a baby, in Auntie Dana's belly."
I told her she was very good for using her possessive "s" combined with a name, and she looked at me like I squashed her buzz. The thought of an actual human being living inside another human being is a pretty trippy concept, and remains just as magical to me as it does to Lucy.
I gave several pieces of advice at the baby shower, of varying degrees of usefulness:
- don't get a baby wipe warmer, just hold each wipe in your fist for five seconds to take the edge off before putting it on your baby's arse
- never underestimate the power of the grundle when putting your baby to sleep
- always have an automatic "escape valve" or "get out of jail free card" that allows you to completely restructure your life if someone becomes inexorably miserable.
I can expound upon these in a later blog.
However, the one thing I told Sean while we were golfing last weekend is to make a conscious decision not to allow your life to drain of external meaning when the baby comes. In other words, fight to stay an artist, whatever that means.
In the hormone and adrenaline-charged weeks after Lucy's birth, Tessa was feeling like we shouldn't go back to Los Angeles, and our dream of writing TV and film scripts for actual money was hanging by a thread. Inspired and slightly scared, I wrote the first draft of a TV pilot in six days. Between breastfeedings, Tessa took that draft and overhauled it entirely. In a month, we had the final product, and that script led to our pilot deal with ABC last year. It remains our calling card and gets us into almost any meeting we want, and may well be turned into a show someday.
It was borne of fear, in the minutes following the most important event of my adult life, and I chose to put that energy into something restorative of old dreams. Any of you who have read Sean and Jordana's writing know they are infinitely capable of the same. I challenged Sean to write a one-man show, or his two-woman show, or hell, even a screenplay or pilot in the harrowing weeks ahead. Not to be a control freak or too pushy, but I'd love to see him do it.
We are not supposed to be a generation that dies very young, and in fact, for some of us, we scarcely believe we're going to die at all. So caught up in a torrent of ageless consumerism and the fetish of our own ironic past, the mere concept of mortality eludes even the most nihilistic of us.
However, it's no joke that my graduating class has yet to hit forty years old, and already my fraternity - Chi Psi at North Carolina - has lost four brothers from my tenure. I know two things about mentioning the word "fraternity": it creates one instant groan, and then a second when you say yours was different. Well, mine was. It was the only place where intellectuals, iconoclasts, weirdos and out-of-staters could gather and still have a fighting chance at smooching the gorgeous Chi Omega from Kannapolis. It was the only fraternity Tessa would come near, if that tells you anything.
Jon Baker and me, Trader Vic's 1990
The first of our group to go was Jon Baker, my "big brother" and one of the quickest minds to set foot in North Carolina. His command of trivia would have given that Mormon guy fits on "Jeopardy," but he could also command crowds: he was our president, and lorded over some of the greatest parties of the late 1980s. One night he grabbed my guitar (which was missing two strings) and proceeded to play every Steely Dan song in the catalogue, including a few other crazy AM hits along the way. When he was done, it was 3am and there were about twenty of us around him. The kicker? He had never played guitar before. He died at thirty years old.
The next to go was Chuck Pierce, the apotheosis of a scholar/athlete from Tennessee. Insane amounts of pressure from his past, along with his high-octane scholarship, made him freak out while at the Lodge, and before long he stopped going to class. It didn't make him any less funny, any less charming, and any less wonderful. After graduation, he lived with the Gribster and me in the Purple House and his unique humor kept us afloat. The day I moved to California, I got the news: he was gone at twenty-eight.
I didn't know Chris Myers as well; he was one of the quietest folks in our brotherhood. The rumor was he was a genius, and if you happened to be lucky enough to overhear a snippet of his dialogue, all was confirmed. He was the kind of guy I look back upon and wish I'd had the foresight to take him out with us, take him drinking, dancing, anything. Not that he would have gone, but at least he would have been asked. Plagued by depression, he took his own life early last year.
This morning, we got the news that Joe Quinn, one of my favorite people ever and a frequent commenter on this blog, died of an aggressive lung cancer that felled him in two months. He leaves behind his wife and two kids. As Jody K says, he was the consummate southern gentleman, and as everyone knew, after three drinks he'd be saying things you'd remember fifteen years later.
He wasn't just on my list of greats, he was everybody's All-American. If you were at a party and Joe was there, everything would be cool. If it was 2am and he was up watching TV, you'd watch it with him until the sun rose. His peculiar accent, fermented in the wild mountain air of McDowell County, became much-imitated among us out-of-staters, and we can all repeat our favorite phrases.
He was a bourbon drinker, but I doubt he'll mind that I will raise a glass of single-malt scotch in his honor, for him and my other brethren who are now guardian spirits hovering o'er.
Tessa and I went to Rasputin last night, a place that can only be described as Brooklyn's most over-the-top Russian 4-course meal burlesque. Some of the most stunning food west of Kiev, combined with a dance show that is usually one mocha-colored bodysuit away from total nudity. We've been there before (see pics) , but the environs never fail to deliver the proper spectacle. This year, Jesse Drucker's birthday table was far from the circular dance floor, but the mezzanine provided several romantic microclimates in easy view.
First off, Heather Graham was directly below us ("of course she's below you, she's an actor" as Jon Vaden might say) and seated at a table of Not Famous people, to her credit. The table next to me, however, was an amalgam of three very pretty, classy women in their late thirties - all with the most disgusting guys imaginable. The men were fat, wore shiny purple and black shirts, and told the worst jokes I'd heard since middle school.
I guess you could call them "jokes". It was more like booming, unnecessary commentary; repetitions of the Obvious masquerading as cutting-edge hilarity. Once the table was rid of these doofuses, the women stared at each other apologetically, all with the same sad "boys will be boys" look of eternal exhaustion.
At one point, Tessa went downstairs to dance with the rest of our crowd, and since I pulled my groin at hoops this week, I stayed at our giant table - alone - and checked email on the Treo. I glanced up, and one of the women at the next table was alone as well. Our eyes met, and in that second, there was no subtlety. She could just as easily drawn a sign with lipstick on the back of her plate, saying "RESCUE ME."
There was no humor in it, just a silent, desperate millisecond that was extinguished before it even had consciousness. She went back to her purse, and I went back to my gadgetry. It wasn't long, though, that I began to contemplate why women put up with any of us, our slackening bodies, our unfortunate hairiness, our constant interruptions, our allergy to intimacy even as we crave constant reaffirmation. The battle we have as men, as some of us head into our fourth decade, is to keep ourselves from sliding into love-handled complacency, to not rest on the easy joke, to not fetishize our precious incompetence.
Tessa came back upstairs and I grabbed her. We ran outside to Carvel and I bought her an ice cream sandwich.
So often it ends long before you stop playing. You'll get to a final point, stop, breathe, and look back; you can place it, the day and time. Yet you soldiered on, because you weren't going to let fate get the best of you, nobody was going to tell you when it was time to quit.
You were licked. And yet hope springs eternal, I mean, it has to, or else you wouldn't have been there in the first place. So you redoubled your efforts in an attempt to obfuscate the obvious, as if some sort of superhuman effort - even in the wrong direction - was going to be the fix. You wanted to hit that 3-pointer at the buzzer, but when the buzzer sounded, you never even had the ball.
You remember the day it happened. It was a tiny moment, or maybe a huge one, but it wouldn't have mattered. Both are one and the same in your world, an Escher painting of stairs going the wrong way and water flowing upwards, and besides, you stopped telling the difference between whispers and screams a long time ago.
You have one thing to remember. Every time the earth goes around the sun, you get to start over, and there is no bleeding. The draftsman yanks the paper away, crumples it in the basket, and starts a fresh page. You may be an amalgamation of your failures, but you're also powered by the light valence of your victories, and the only battle you have left is knowing which part of yourself to set on fire.
I have a physical complaint that is completely doing me in. I can't mention what it is without being rude, but it's so distracting that it's driving me batshit and thus unable to blog in any capacity other than Whine™. So I just have to ask you: what is your current physical discomfort, and what the hell are you doing about it?
It has been a long week, and it's only Tuesday, so I am abdicating the CODE WORD to the fastest, best commenter. However, we're all in a great mood around here, so I thought I'd post a picture I found on the internet. Of the CUTEST DOG EVER.*
*except for Chopes and Kije
That had to be one of the most miserable days of travel we've had in a long, long time, and god knows we've traveled a lot. The LA-NYC jaunt is always a drag, but there's something so constantly dehumanizing about the entire flying process: pretty much everyone is an asshole who thinks they're doing you a favor by letting you fly at all.
Security is a nightmare, a two-hour kabuki dumbshow that only serves to inspire ideas about how easy it would be to outwit them. The gate agents are so surly that you feel ashamed to ask them anything; they are so practiced at deflecting requests and dispensing quick, useless information that you don't even realize you've been had until you're already walking away.
They overbook every flight by 20%, and in this country, they could care less if you have a baby - in fact, this only makes you more annoying. The actual flight attendants remain chipper and therapeutic, but even they know they're serving a fickle master.
And the seats - O! The seats! So fucking uncomfortable and contorted, they spawn hemorrhoids by the basketful, allowing only a fitful, migraine-inducing "half sleep," leaving you less capable of your duties - which, as parents of toddlers can tell you, are many and legion.
The cab ride home... another cramped, hot hour of expensive misery. Tessa and I had a fight just because it felt like the right thing to do. And now we lie flat on our beds, back in Brooklyn, our day having started two days ago, wondering if it's all worth it.
And of course it is. The one day of abject wretchedness fades from view as soon as we see our family, it melts in the warm familiarity of our old haunts. But the airlines have us captive. Technology will cure paralysis, Alzheimer and baldness, and we may soon magnetically levitate to the moon, but flying will always be mired in horseshit. Does it always have to be this way?
I was trying to take a picture of us both, and of course, Li'l Punkinboots had to walk two paces in front of me before the second flash:
Anyway, we're coming back to New York today for the entire holidays, and thus the blog is open to your myriad topics. How about this: where are you spending Thanksgiving, and what will be the most challenging aspect of it?
Does anyone mind if we talk about homosexuals for a second? God knows I love to anyway, but a few things happened on Tuesday night that directly affect tons of our friends, and tons of yours too (even if you don't know they're gay yet).
I've read several reports that the election's referendums on gay marriage actually contain good news: homophobes failed in Arizona, which is the first time that sort of legislature has ever been rejected. It only passed by 52% in heretofore-deep-red South Dakota, and in many other states, the opposition managed to break forty percent. Some would call that a country moving in the right direction.
I call it head-hangingly shameful. Frankly, I can't believe we live in a country where even 10% of its population are willing to pull the lever for this kind of bigotry. David and I were talking about this in the car yesterday: why are so many Americans willing to cast votes to restrict freedom? It goes against the essence of American character.
But there's always the anal sex thing, I guess. Or the french kissing in public. Or the mustachioed men wearing black mesh tanktops whipping each other on top of floats in the Gay Pride Parade. Or... well, whatever. I have no idea what "mainstream America" thinks when they conjure up a gay couple. I'm just at a loss for why so many people get off on punishing those who were born a little differently.
I have chosen this battle precisely because I have no dog in this fight: by all measures (except for my love of the Smiths and expensive hair care products) I am the most heterosexual man on earth, in the most heterosexual marriage on earth. I have self-abused to the pages of the Sears bra catalogue, proudly, since 1981. I love the ladies and really don't crave cock. Our "perfect" family ensemble, complete with WASP-y wife and blonde daughter, makes us the perfect spokespeople for the brutal way in which gays are treated.
I've been told that America just isn't ready to accept homosexuals as real people yet; we need another generation of patience. I say we just need one major respected leader to come out and say that it's time for this bullshit to end. We needed Clinton to say it, and he didn't. Now we need Obama to say it, but he probably won't. At this point, even ONE CURRENTLY ACTIVE PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL OR FOOTBALL PLAYER coming out could make a huge difference. When will that human being finally stand up?
It doesn't help that Republicans have delayed the acceptance of gays by at least 20 years with their despicable tactics - these state referendums were, by open admission, the way they intended to energize their base. In what way is it cool to demonize - and dehumanize - 10% of the populace in order to solidify your power? The Italians lent us a word for it: fascism.
Civil rights issues have no place in a voting booth; if it had worked that way in the past, blacks would still be using separate bathrooms and Liddy Dole wouldn't even be able to vote for herself. The masses, even supposedly-enlightened ones like Americans, need to be led on this issue, not allowed to follow their reptilian hindbrains.
In what way does gay marriage harm regular marriage? We live only a few miles from Massachusetts, where it is legal, and I have to say, Tessa and I are doing great. No amount of Gay Marriage Gayness seems to have rubbed off on us. We still engage in heavy petting, regardless of the Faggy Gay Fumes wafting over the state line.
Someone tell me when this crap is going to end. Someone tell me why it's still okay to deny homosexuals the same rights as anyone else. And if you voted for this amendment in your home state, please out yourself here and tell me why.
Lord knows there are a million other places to turn if you're looking for punditry concerning yesterday's stunning election, and a blog entry like this will no doubt age poorly, but there are several people around the world who (I'm told) use this site as a touchstone for what Americans are thinking - God help them - and it has been a day of awesome reflection.
Let me say first I didn't think America possible of such flexibility. I figured we would win the House with 16 or 17 seats and get 4 Senate races. Winning around 30 House and grabbing six in the Senate is a lot to digest. Our candidate, Kirsten Gillibrand in New York's 20th district, was down eighteen points six weeks ago, and part of me still sees her that way. Of course, now she is going to Washington to be our proud representative, and it still has the ephemera of a dream.
Progressives and liberals rarely find a parade too small to rain on, or enough feet to shoot. Our way of thinking felt so endangered, especially during years like 2002, that we emerged from last night's election like a hermit peering out of the basement, squinting from the sun. I'd like to go ahead and wallow in our victory, because this sort of vindication comes but every decade or so.
There are those who don't see the election as the triumph of progressivism, but an example of Democrats winning by being conservative. If you're gay, you're no doubt disgusted with last night's referendums. But in every other way, this election was a celebration of unabashed progressivism. Hell, the only real "conservative" Democrat we ran ending up losing, the creepily homophobic Harold Ford in Tennessee. Sure, some of our red-state victories were won by guys I don't particularly like, but the national mood is changing.
The abortion ban in South Dakota lost. Santorum was run out of PA on a rail. The gay-bashing amendment in Arizona failed. Stem cell research won. Tester? Webb? These guys are pro-choice populists. Columnists who claim that Democrats appropriated conservatism for the win are deluding themselves, but after a night like last night, maybe I'd be grasping for answers too. Poor dudes. Hopefully they'll enjoy the next six years like I enjoyed the last six.
The Republicans also lost for two other reasons: one, Iraq (duh) - and two, they behaved like such fucking assholes for so long. They were meaner than shit. That sort of behavior pays huge dividends in the short term, but they were surviving on J.K. Rowling's unicorn blood, living a cursed half-life, only surviving as long as their next kill.
The Democrats, at least at first blush, have learned this lesson and spent all day using the word "bipartisan." In no way did anyone say "mandate" (even though they could) and certainly nothing as vein-bulgingly infuriating as Bush's "I've earned political capital and intend to use it" from 2004. Sure, there will be the usual poorly-written screed on how the Democrats only won because the Republicans were so bad, but today the Dems immediately put forth their intentions for the minimum wage, prescriptions, alternative energy, the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, pay-as-you-go fiscal discipline and planned an immediate summit on Iraq. ROCK and ROLL!!!
While talking to Sean today, I had to agree - in the back of our minds, there is still something unsettlingly flaky about the American mindset. There is no information this country had last night that they didn't have in 2004. In the interim, thousands of Americans have died, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, New Orleans was all but lost.
Progressives don't dwell on the past, as they see the natural course of the world to be from darkness to light. I can only ask that we never catch the faintest whiff of complacency, and keep a mental note of how truly awful Congress has acted for the last decade. This election has cowed even Bush into temporary deference, but we can never forget what this man - and his friends - are capable of when they think we aren't looking.
I posted the above picture on a blog I wrote back in March 2003, when we first started bombing the shit out of Iraq. In those days, when we spent winters along the icy Roeliff-Jansen Kill running behind our land, I'd hike over our hill, close my eyes, and listen to the water. It was a cooling salve when I'd get too angry contemplating my role as an American, powerless to do anything about a government that was elected for me.
Lately, I've avoided politics on this blog, not because I've run out of things to say, but because there are too many. Besides, the intractability of everyone's viewpoints - mine included, I guess - began to smell like unrefrigerated fish. Even now, what could I possibly say about stunning evangelical hypocrisy, or Republican dirty telephone tricks or Bush now saying oil is why we should stay in Iraq after kicking in the teeth of anyone who suggested oil was why we invaded Iraq in the first place? It has been a sickening six years, and atop a mountain of regrets, I place my penchant for political hand-wringing; I should have stopped years ago.
But I post the picture of the roaring Roeliff-Jansen Kill ("kill" is Dutch for "creek," hence "catskill," "Fishkill," etc.) because that particular stream runs unabated through several counties in New York's 20th Congressional District. Usually surrounded on all shores by old-school Rockefeller Republicans, Roe-Jan now runs through uncharted territory - possible Democratic lands.
For the first time, polls showed our candidate Kirsten Gillibrand up three points on that miserable (alleged) wife-beating crook John Sweeney, and the stream has taken on a fresher, bluer hue. As I have oft said when discussing this race, I have mild expectations, but even the whiff of change in those parts signals a country that just might not want to self-destruct.
One term they use in AA (I'm told) is "when the pain of staying becomes greater than the fear of change, you will take action." The question for today's election is this: how much do you fear change? If it petrifies you, then perhaps you should vote Republican. That's the only advice I have left to give.
And in the community spirit, I'd like to leave the comments open to everyone who would like to add One Thing to Consider when voting in today's election. It can be anything. Simply write down the one element you would like every fellow voter to know before they pull the lever. It's your last little whisper in the ear before the curtain closes.
This is an exhortation to Start Your Kids Early on anything you want them to do, because I just got back from Palm Springs and played my dad to a draw in tennis. I mention this because my dad is actually quite good and takes lessons all the time, and I play every two years, usually with him. Yet we still tie every year. I credit this to three years of lessons from the age of 8 to 11, imbuing a skill set that has never really left me. If I had, say, played basketball in those years, my current mercurial frustrations would be held in check.
Now, anyone who has played tennis with me in the distant past knows that any bit of talent I showed was grossly overshadowed by my temper; I'm still amazed anyone bothered to take me on. The lands behind Hinton James dorm are now VIP parking lots for the Dean E. Smith Center, but they used to be tennis courts. I can assure you that they found at least five of my tennis racquets while digging up that soil, twisted shards of metal, fiberglass and strings.
My tantrums were violent, profane, embarrassing, self-immolating, and always resulted in the sacrifice of a racquet. People within earshot complained. When we played on the courts next to Joyner Dorm, I would frequently launch a couple of balls into the cemetery. While I'm on the subject, I'd like to apologize to Chip, Bud, Scotty, Sean, and most of my cousins for my behavior.
The nice thing about Celexa is that it takes away the desire to pummel your $145 racquet into the clay. As I was playing my dad yesterday, I thought back upon those days of constantly inclement tempers, and was astonished at my cataclysmal past. I destroyed walls, heater fans, chairs (hence the "thank you, chair" story) and pretty much anything else I owned. I never broke something that didn't belong to me, and I certainly never contemplated raising my hand to another human being, but I was, for lack of a better phrase, a total fucking baby whackjob.
Once during high school I got pissed off about something and broke a wooden bat against a maple tree. My mom was disgusted, and when I came back in the house, she said, with dripping sarcasm, "Now do you feel better?" I took a few seconds to contemplate it, smiled, looked her in the eye and said, "Actually, yes. That felt awesome."
It wasn't just Celexa that disavowed me of that silliness, it was two other things: the mellowing of age, and the fact that Tessa and I made an agreement that if I put my hand through another wall, she could sleep with Chip. Now that Chip is married himself, that would just be bad for everybody.
For some reason, I'm still a raging butthole whilst playing basketball, but I'm working on it. Every year, my tantrums get a little shorter. I'm hoping to have them cut down to a scant couple of minutes when I'm 45.
Wait, what was I saying? Oh yeah, start your kids early on tennis, violin and Mandarin. They'll be better-adjusted than I was, and irresistible at parties.
Lucy, my dad, and the full moon in the desert last night
A late evening and a busy weekend are forcing me into a CODE WORD question.
How about this: If you're currently in a relationship, think back to before you were in your current situation, back when you were just dating around. You're on a "first date" again with someone interesting.
What is the one thing you'd never want your date to know, at least right away? Feel free to use a pseudonym in the comments section if you're bashful...
My darling sweetie-pants li'l Lucybug-
This is another letter for you, because guess what? You turned 18 months old while we were in Scotland, a whole year and a half! I've written to you every three months since you were born, and will keep doing it until it bugs the crap out of you, because it's important to give the sense of an era while it's happening.
What is truly hard to fathom is that you will remember absolutely none of what has come before. You may have a feeling, or the faintest flavor of this year, but it will remain a dream, something you can't put your finger on. I have the same reaction to the late '60s - the apartment we had in San Jose, and some of the music that was on the radio.
My very first actual memory was at eighteen months old: my dad and mom standing over me, with my dad's hairy chest and the crossbeams in the ceiling. It's a memory that could only have happened at a specific time, so it's easy to date. Sometimes I look at you, as you have a faraway look, and wonder: is this that singular moment for you? It will be something tiny, like a dropped apple, or your mother emerging from her bedroom with a smile. For no reason, that will be your first permanent inkling, and it will haunt you like a lovely song.
As for your accomplishments, they are storied, sure. You counted to ten last month (after a week getting stuck on "eight") and now threaten twelve. You spelled out the entire alphabet last week - you know, casually, like it had always been there. You also identified the alphabet song as the same tune as "Twinkle Twinkle," something I didn't realize until college.
Of course, I've tried to get you to say the alphabet on camera all week, which has led to thousands of gigabytes dedicated to making me look like a total jackass. I'm now convinced that I'll get you to do it, but by then you'll be sixteen years old and it won't seem quite as impressive.
You do spell your own name, however, half of which I did manage to get on camera:
Your circle of friends has widened immeasurably - not only do you have a pretty constant understanding of Uncles Sean and Steve, but also David, Mark and Rick. You remember your English mates Annie, Molly and Charlie, and can name your grandparents by picture. What I really like about your social nature is your self-curation: you speak Spanish to the babysitters from Mexico and your mom, but you don't speak Spanish to me, because you know I'll have no frickin' clue what you're saying.
Your have a special affection for pictures of Hank, and old pics of Jack and Polly, but you think your California friends Finley and Noah are too goddamn funny for words:
When we travel out into the world, I'm getting used to you not being the youngest anymore. These days there is almost always a little piker smaller than you, which fascinates you endlessly - especially the burning question of whether or not their diaper has been changed (you also like putting diapers on your Homer Simpson doll, and occasionally the Los Angeles Dodger Monkey). You used to be the mewling infant, like here with Georgia last year:
And now you're the wizened toddler, showing babies like Esme the ropes last month:
Around the house, you've become something of a benevolent tyrant, quite picky about the way things ought to be, but not apoplectic when we tell you you're being crazy. You still have an obsession with shoes, you like your objects to be in nice rows, and you occasionally obsess about bizarre minutiae. Tonight, as you drifted off to sleep, you suddenly bolted upright on my shoulder and demanded that your stuffed alligator wear socks.
It's truly odd to hear your opinions. I mean, where did you get them? I certainly don't remember giving you any, and neither does your mother.
But mostly you're such a beacon of light, my little Luz, carrying bucketfuls of affirmation to anyone who lets you climb up them. You wave to strangers. You let - nay, demand - anyone in the house hold you and read you books. You never met someone that didn't interest you in one way or another. You expect a lot out of the world, and it rarely disappoints.
Your mom and I look forward to seeing you each morning, and talking to you all day; you are slowly developing into a fabulous companion. Your sentences are choppy, but always contain the right number of syllables, like a well-known lyric just out of reach. I can't wait until you put it all together so we can chat, and you can truly understand what it means when I say I love you.