Monthly Archives: May 2002

5/30/02 We’re back up in

5/30/02

We’re back up in Columbia County tonight, which meant a windy post-midnight drive and an exhausted arrival. I just realized that there’s no way in English to say “windy” – when meaning a “road that winds around a lot” – without confusing everybody. Whatever; I’m sure the wind was blowing too.

In my growing fascination with other people’s blogs, I’ve surfed around on various subway lines on nycbloggers and came up with something I’ve known for some time: there are a shitload of knitters out there, and they all keep a diary. I suppose it has something to do with the natural storytelling element of early American quilting bees and klatches and the like, but fuck – those girls sure like to write about knitting. It’s so alien to me that I find it fascinating, and what’s weirder, they’re all single and knitting baby clothes.

I found two blogs, one by Marney and the other by Theresa, and they came up with questions for people to answer on their knitting blogs, so I’m deciding to play along, even though I couldn’t knit so much as a tea cosy if my life depended on it.

1. Where did you attend school as a child, and what do you remember about the playground?

Grant Wood Elementary School in Cedar Rapids, IA. The main thing I remember is that the most popular girl in class led me to a hole in the staircase and told me to look in, and when I did, the boys on the other side blew sawdust into my eye. I went to the nurse and then I was told I was in trouble.

2. Do you remember your favorite activity?

Staring up at the timeline of Presidents of the U.S. during Social Science class, and memorizing them all, something I can still do today (except for Franklin Pierce – I always forget that bastard).

3. What sort of lunch box did you have, and what was in it?

A Peanuts lunchpail with a baloney sandwich in it, and a thermos full of strawberry Quik and glass shards from when it fell off my bike.

4. Describe yourself as an elementary school student.

Prey.

I dunno, maybe I’m not doing these questions like the knitting girls would have liked.

me trying to lift Sean, circa 1971

5/29/02 Spent a blissful day

5/29/02

Spent a blissful day not going into the city, which is always a treat for us. I’d spend every day screwing around Brooklyn if I could – part of my anxiety wants us only to visit Manhattan after working hours, which is basically when the only fun stuff happens anyway.

After seeing a blurb in Slate about a map of bloggers typing away in New York, I went to the site and promptly cast my lot as one of the fine bloggers at the Grand Army Plaza subway stop vicinity. The nycbloggers.com site is really cool; you can find fellow online diary exhibitionists just by perusing the subway map. It’s one of those “unconscious brotherhood” things that always gives me a cerebral hard-on. I was the first at my stop; by 5pm there were three of us. Looking at the map of Manhattan, you can see where the hipsters live: no blogs at the 96th St. stop on the Upper East Side, but 12 already at Astor Place (by the time any of you read this, I’m sure there will be tons more).

Even more incredible, the site was conceived and built yesterday. The digital age is truly amazing, and has made lighting work of urban legends and cultural memes, so much so that two underemployed coders/bloggers can meet on the street yesterday, have a good idea, write the code, be in Slate the next day (how it got there I have no idea) and then get hundreds of thousands of hits by today.

The site has an incredible feature on it: the entries of bloggers writing on 9/11, one of whom worked two floors above me at the Woolworth Building. I put our family’s diaries on there as well, because I think the writing in some of those is quite lyrical.

One’s own experience of the WTC towers is always subjective, but I thought the buildings were so unbelievably beautiful. My floor at the Woolworth Building had the stunning vantage point of being up in the air with them, giving us the true sense of their vastness. I’d eat lunch and just stare at them. I even put them in the first part of a novel I’d started there:

“I watched the sun set between the twin towers. I used to think the towers were like the headstones at Stonehenge, you know, vast, druidical markers from the mists of the past, but here I was too close: they were more bars, solid awful steel, offering only a glimpse of something so beautiful behind them.”

And with all of my relentless archivism, you’d think I had a hundred pictures of the World Trade Center, but in all my ferreting through stacks of pics, I only found one:

It’s my old roommate Josh Pate and me, on a fall break trip from Carolina in 1990, both of us probably drunk. We were on a boat going to the Statue of Liberty, about to go up into her torso – something you can’t do anymore.

5/28/02 Out of the frying

5/28/02

Out of the frying pan, into the fire, I suppose: we went straight from the bucolic, verdant greenery of Columbia County to the sinus-closing congestion of LaGuardia Airport to drop off Chip, then across the Queensboro Bridge (which I find quite dramatic) to the City. At Asset, we met with Peter Coleman and another illustrator from Morocco who was actually quite brilliant – and whose name I won’t reproduce here because I’ll get it wrong. Like Dumas in “The Three Musketeers,” I’ll just call him “Monsieur T_______.”

Later tonight, Stasia Droze came to Brooklyn with her boyfriend Jim, and she interviewed me for a documentary she’s been making since about 1996. It’s a study of several different people in the entertainment industry, and she checks in on them every year or so to see where they are, both career-wise and emotionally. I’ve been a subject of the film since the beginning, and I think it might run a little like this:

1997: trepidation, unsure of Los Angeles

1998: depression, deep mistrust of Los Angeles

1999: rage-filled, violent loathing of Los Angeles

2000: relief at having finally made it to New York

2002: trepidation, unsure of anything

What Stasia’s little doc has forced me to do is take stock of my situation, especially as the biorhythms yaw and flutter in opposing angles; the last time I was interviewed, I had a ton of money in the bank, but my back hurt so bad I could barely speak – this time, I’m on unemployment, but I’m engaged to the greatest chick on earth, and we have stunning places in which to live.

Oh, and I’d made a movie. Just thinking about the interview she made with Peeler and I at the Game Show Network in ’98 riddles me with Stupid Feeling. I know I’ve whined about this until friends and family daydream of restraining orders, but O! the unreturned phone calls, the wasted time going out to “network,” the failed and dopey screenplay ideas, the humiliation, the humiliation of being in that place.

Strange, then, that I want to visit LA again. Perhaps I just needed my pool table back in New York, and now I can approach Los Angeles without feeling like a primal piece of my liver was being held hostage there.

Anyway, I felt like tonight’s interviewed lacked the verve and fire of my previous endeavors, most likely because I’m tired. Or was it

The Celextant, May 28, 2002

Thank god I have the foresight to keep shoving the pills into my wallet, since I seem to be hellbent on leaving my dopt kit everywhere I’m not. On the emotional front, I feel like I’m still ingesting a lot of anxiety and obsession, even if it is toned down about two notches. The problem is, I’m not sure if I want to go on a higher dose. I’m just getting my sexual innuendo back, and I don’t feel like being a zombie. I mean, I went to “About a Boy” yesterday, and I wanted Hugh Grant to fall in love, something that would have never happened on Prozac. I also wonder about the “lack of intensity” thing. What am I if I’m not a fireball of zany idiocy? Happier?

5/27/02 I went to sleep

5/27/02

I went to sleep last night with a farmhouse filled with people; I woke up at 1pm today and we were just about the only ones left. Thankfully, to relieve the post-partum depression imparted on us by one of the greatest weekends in recent memory, Todd Walker and Chip Chapman stayed around. We all felt hungover, even though none of us had been drinking last night. After watching “About a Boy” in Great Barrington, we came back to the farm, Todd took some pictures, Chip walked around the grounds, Tessa gardened, and we all had a major decompression.

Tonight Tessa and I gossiped about the various goings-on and personality disorders among our friends, and how much we loved everybody. I also remarked than we learned a lot about the farm this weekend; namely, that it can handle the collective urine of 50 over-educated iconoclasts caroming into their early 30s – and that the carriage house is indeed soundproof, because we didn’t hear the screams when Joy and Julianne were attacked by bats. I think the farm also acts as advertisement for the area, which is fine by me, because I’d like to drag every last guest up here to grow incontinent with us.

Jamie and I survey the grounds like we know what we’re doing

5/26/02 Not to be overly

5/26/02

Not to be overly hyperbolic or anything, but today was one of my best birthdays ever, and I got to share it with some of my favorite folks in the world. Tessa got me a bike (which I haven’t had in 12 years) and everyone pitched in for a great party. I’m way too exhausted right now to go into details, but suffice to say the farm was really alive with some incredible people. We played sports all day (thwacked golf balls into the fields and then had some intense basketball games) while Rick cut hair all day long.

the collective hair of 15 of my best friends

Tonight we had a banquet in the newly-transformed-into-Valhalla 2nd floor of the barn, complete with candle chandelier, Salem’s tenderloin, and a talent show.

overhead view of the table, about 60 ft. long

People came and go, and I wished Jamie Block had crossed paths with Lindsay, but everyone did amazingly well, given all their other commitments. And my sweet Tessa gave me one of the best, choked-up, sweet engagement toasts in history. I was so blown away, that I forgot to give her one in return. I suppose that is something that needs rectifying, and will plan so accordingly.

Lawrence Lucier lines up 25 of the ~40 guests for proof we did it

5/25/02 Tonight things are just

5/25/02

Tonight things are just how I would like it: I am lying in bed, having just turned 35 years old, and my entire house is filled with people. Every room, including the carriage house and parts of the barn, has a human sleeping in it. Only Chopes and I are awake right now.

overhead view of one of the three dinner tables

I haven’t got any big insights for turning 35 just yet, but my senses have been dulled by fatigue, three small snifters of expensive scotch, and the desire just to exist with all of my friends in one place right now. Before we went to bed, the last thing Kendall asked me was “how did you begin all these relationships with people?” Which to me was a much more interesting question than “How do you maintain all these relationships with people?” The answer is the same for both, anyway: I simply put forth a modicum of effort.

Tessa sure looked beautiful while gardening today. And I really pegged her with a football, too (accidentally). She is such a good sport, I tell y’what. I’m quite fond of the girl.

seven toothbrushes lie in wait on the upstairs bathroom sink

5/24/02 This was, as Todd

5/24/02

This was, as Todd and I described it at the end, a “manly day.” He installed chicken wire all around the cupola of the barn to keep the birds from turning the place into a scatological aviary dump, and I spent hours scrubbing bird shit off the basketball floor. We mended windows, dragged mattresses across town, finished the floor in the dining room and traded up our dining room table. I was too tired to fully enjoy Salem when he finally showed up (eight hours on the New Jersey Turnpike with a newborn – god, the horror) but by the time we all started playing pool, I was really glad to think of all my old friends gathering together.

Now Sean, Jordana, Salem, Elizabeth, their nanny Bethany, the baby, Sandy and us are here and the hordes show up tomorrow. And we caught another nice sunset tonight – it’s like a great TV show that rarely disappoints.

we look west at 8:21pm; Michelle looks east

5/23/02 Spent this afternoon at

5/23/02

Spent this afternoon at Jonathan Bloch’s place undergoing my bi-weekly psychotherapy, which has so far produced some abatement of my “condition” but (if you’ve been reading this blog) obviously I’m still not very healthy. Perhaps if the news organizations currently surrounding me could go one week without mentioning fucking nuclear terrorism, I’d be able to digest food properly. I mean, come the fuck ON already. I even got angry at myself yesterday and vowed to just press on and approach my anxiety with fury and frustration (something Jonathan endorsed) and start my writing career again. And still the fantasies exist (“fantasy” always seems to be a word that denotes good things, but I’m not quite sure what else to call them—daymares?). Anyway, I can’t imagine not printing these stories, when it could potentially the worst thing to happen to civilization since the last plague—but then again, what good does it do? How are we supposed to act when it happens? Assuming we survive, where should we have put our money? Will we have to walk to Columbia County?

Fuck it. I really can’t stand it anymore. I wonder when my body and brain will say “enough.”

Speaking of walking to Columbia County, Todd Walker and I drove up today and it took us damn near four hours, unheard of in these parts. Note to self: do not take I-87 off the Triboro Bridge, even during the Apocalypse.

When we arrived, the fields had been cut, and it was seventy degrees. Lord, please let the weather hold and let us frolic at night under the delight of the full flower moon. Okay?

western part of the Columbia County farm, about to become a softball field

5/22/02 After wandering through the

5/22/02

After wandering through the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens all day, I wasn’t particularly psyched to go to the Brooklyn Museum of Art – it was about to close, and the Star Wars exhibit required an extra ticket. But when Tessa and her mother stopped at the fifth floor to search for the noted Sargent paintings, I was awestruck by something I saw on the wall.

A TV monitor was on a loop, playing a movie by Thomas Edison, filmed in 1899, with the title “New Brooklyn to New York via Brooklyn Bridge.” It is simply a camera mounted on the front of a train, starting in Brooklyn and ending in Manhattan. People in bowler hats and top hats with petticoats pass by on the left, and carriages amble by on the right. The towers of the bridge, which was only 16 years old at the time, pass over the top of frame in gothic wonder. When you pull into New York, you don’t recognize a thing; even the venerable Woolworth Building was 14 years away from construction. The camera jostles, then fades to white.

So simple, this trip from Brooklyn to Manhattan, delicate lines on a slow train track, people hoofing to work, just like we do, every day, across the same stretch of water. And I couldn’t take my eyes off the movie. I watched it four times until Tessa and Sandy took me away.

still from the 1899 Edison movie of the Brooklyn Bridge. Click here to watch.

5/21/02 I think the time

5/21/02

I think the time has come to take a “fearless inventory” of the problem plaguing me, and I suppose this place is as good as any. The fact is this: I’m not doing so well living in an age of heightened terrorism. Something about the situation in the world right now, and the threats to the town in which I live and work, is unearthing severely painful feelings in the base of my gut, and the combination of therapy and medicine is, so far, only quelling the beast.

In the days immediately following 9/11, I thought I’d never leave New York. There was something so beautiful in those moments, scary yet teeming with a spiritus mundi that was excellently rhapsodized in our first-hand accounts of living in lower Manhattan in those days. The whole city shut down and our brownstone on 8th Ave. could only be entered with proper identification, but I didn’t feel scared, only hopped up on the sense of history and the tangible feeling that we were really helping people in need. My sister Michelle really shone in those precious moments after the attack, unleashing an epiphany that still glows in her today (she just finished her training and is now officially an EMT).

But as the weather turned gray, cold and ugly – and the war on Afghanistan started – more supposed details about the terrorists bubbled to the surface, and I began to get genuinely freaked out. People were contracting anthrax, the efficacy of our smallpox vaccine was called into question, and the rhetoric started to flow from bin Laden and his cohorts: suddenly my shoebox apartment in the East Village, where I slept about six inches from the ceiling, stopped seeming “cute” and became almost sarcophagan.

By December, I was spending much of my day thinking about the threat of nuclear terrorism; by January, I stopped eating more than a few bites a day. I lost seven pounds, wrote desperate emails to my family, begging them to move out of the city, and in a coup, managed to move Tessa and I to Brooklyn. We picked Park Slope not just because Tessa had always loved it, but also because I looked on a map, and it was at least three miles from downtown Manhattan.

Since then, I have been getting better, but I’ve been stuck in a holding pattern. Part of the problem is that I thought researching the news of terrorism would make me feel better; instead, most news sources, anxious for ratings, lavish the public with only the worst warnings imaginable. Each time I feel a panic attack coming on, I seem to find a newspaper article or magazine blurb talking about suitcase nukes; even my friend Colin and his Newsweek pal Mike told stories about the destruction that could await New York; “I wouldn’t be on the five-year plan,” one of the government spooks had told them.

And it leaves me here in May, about to turn 35, with a new fiancee and the possibility of a life ahead of us – and I can’t even think about the wedding next year, because to be frank, next year sounds like an excruciatingly dangerous place. I’m having a birthday celebration up in Columbia County for Memorial Day, but I feel like the whole thing is some Control Freak Fantasy of mine to get everyone in one place where I know they won’t be hurt.

Obviously, this line of reasoning goes nowhere. The only path to happiness is letting go of the weariness of control (what the Buddhists call “somsara”) and trying to find solace in the realm of impermanence. But there something about the Empire State Building, which now makes my stomach hurt every time I see it peeking from behind a tree or over the river, that makes me long for something permanent. I don’t like having my family in New York City; I don’t like having Sean on 35th Street and Michelle on 11th. It seems clear that our country will be sorely tested at some point in the near future, and I don’t want my family fucked with.

I want to move Asset Pictures to a place in Brooklyn, accessible by all subways, but off the island. I want my family to look at Manhattan the same way I’d like to: a place to have fun, ingest art and soak in nightlife – but not a place to be during working hours. And I know that’s largely impossible, so I feel stuck. Unbelievably, irreparably stuck. It’s a terrible analogy to contemplate, but sometimes I feel like we’re Jews living in 1935 Berlin, and ghostly voices are calling from the future, “get the fuck out of there!”

Tonight there’s another vague yet sweeping warning to the residents of New York that “city landmarks” are targeted for attack. In a way, I’m almost heartened by the specificity of them, because the thing I’m truly worried about is a radiological bomb taking out lower Manhattan and radiating over the boroughs. I have two scenarios, actually: a bomb that is designed to take out the financial district, or one that will take out Midtown and the Empire State Building. I go through the scenarios in my head all the time: is Michelle close enough to be hurt by a downtown bomb? Would a midtown bomb get all of us at Asset and Sean? It’s so exhausting that the thoughts themselves have taken on character, so that I no longer even have to be reminded of the specifics, just the vague sense of doom.

In essence, the terrorists have accomplished a victory over me. They’ve forced me to abandon normal waking thoughts, driven me to the therapist, and shoved milligrams of Celexa down my throat. I’m still functioning, and I’m back to eating normally, but this heightened state of alert, where the sympathetic “fight or flight” hormones rage through me with the regularity of desert prey, sits awfully with my psyche.

Perhaps my greatest fear is that I’ve always considered myself a lucky product of the late twentieth century; there’s simply no other time when I would have survived. If a six-week premature birth didn’t get me, the appendicitis, croup or various other childhood afflictions would. There would be no laser surgery for my eyes, no allopurinol for gout, no neurontin for a slipped disc. I am an artist, a writer, and no matter what Hollywood – or Arts & Leisure writers for the New York Times – tries to tell you, artists are not going to be very useful in the apocalypse. I want to believe in a world where the dork has a chance to survive and thrive, where sensitivity and intellect are valued. A world full of terror brings all dorks, including me, back to the pavement-pounding trauma of third grade, and I’m having a very hard time going through that again.

I’ll try to end on a positive note: that the future is an ever-changing realm where truly anything can happen, and among the things that can happen is absolutely nothing. All I know is what I read from news sources that have been filtered by corporations and our own government to suit their needs, no matter how subtle. The future is also notoriously tricky for predictions; the truth usually ends up being more interesting. And despite my overweening belief that the next attacks will again be in New York, this is a big fucking country and there are plenty of other places they can go. Besides, destroying part of New York would not only kill thousands of Muslims, but why flatten the only beautiful things in America? I mean, why can’t they bomb shit like this:

one more strip mall cleared out of an ancient forest somewhere in Wherever, VA