Monthly Archives: June 2002

6/21/02 Okay, so I did


Okay, so I did the research, and it turns out I was right and wrong about “the longest day” thing. Today is the longest day of the year, but so was yesterday, and so will be the next two days after. The difference between them all is so slight as to be totally unnoticeable in New York, the sun sets at 8:29 pretty much all week. The cool thing is that the longest day of the year is even longer up here in Columbia County, where I write this: twelve whole minutes longer. Now, admittedly, I’ll never see six of those minutes because they happen at 5:18 in the morning, but sometimes 6 minutes can make all difference in a tightly-contested hoops game that is desperately eking out the last visible photons of light as night approaches. I’ve been involved in countless unlit basketball games that carried on until someone got hit in the nose with the ball really hard.

The day today in Columbia County lasted 15 hours and 7 minutes; on December 20, it will last 9 hours and 4 minutes (click here to find out your town’s stats). I find it almost excruciatingly hard to believe that from here on until Christmas the days will be getting shorter. Stuff like that would depress me if I weren’t so busy and downing so much Celexa.

But for now, it’s summer, and the gloaming lasts clear into the 9 o’clock hour, and days are sleepy, languid and forever. Our flowers have shot into the sky, and the grass in the pasture groans audibly into foot-long drifts. Chopin the dog, like an old Jewish retiree, sits on the hill by the barn and stares at the Catskills. My and Tessa’s projects sling through the afternoon; every once in a while, we pass each other and sometimes she even shows me her boobs. Life is rich up here in Columbia County, I tellya what. I wish we could both dilly and dally here all the time.

a storm passes us just northwest

6/20/02 I’m not sure, but


I’m not sure, but I think this is the shortest night of the year. Much is always made of “the darkest night” (like in the Robert Frost poem) or the pagan glory of the summer solstice, but nary a mention is ever made of how short this night is. Probably because it isn’t terribly interesting. Worse yet, it’s most likely tomorrow night anyway.

Speaking of long days, we’ve entered into a curious part of the Pink House moviemaking process: at first, we were just glad that 58 hours of footage can be strung together to tell a story, but now we’re trying to refine each tiny, singular moment until it’s actually funny. It’s as if we took a giant slab of marble, and managed to carve out the beginnings of form, much like the slaves of Michelangelo stuck forever in rock. Now we have to free the slave, make the right chisel marks for toes and fingers, and let the work have its ambulatory freedom. It’s pure slogging, and what’s worse, the cutting room is stiflingly free of oxygen.

It’s strange being this close to a fine cut of the film, I’m finally being forced to think of things that I hadn’t considered in well over a year. Stuff like “why is Charlotte winking at Michelle?” and “how did they get the money to hire Hobex?” and all the little plot points that make perfect sense when you’re writing the screenplay at the Bourgeois Pig in 1999, but now must be reconciled in full color. It’s amazing how much crap can be thrown away, as long as you have reached the point where fighting for unnecessary plot just makes you feel like a moron.

Paradoxically, the last few days have also reminded me of the tremendous, soul-dragging difficulty of the shoot itself. It shouldn’t be this way, since now the actors have become the characters on screen, but each time something flies by, each time an edit works, I’m reminded of how arduous and horrifying that scene was to shoot. There are many pictures typifying our unrelenting fatigue on the set of The Pink House, but somehow, this is my favorite:

Tessa and I finding a swingset in someone’s yard during the car scenes of the Pink House movie – click on the image to see more

6/18/02 Nothing’s more boring than


Nothing’s more boring than listening to someone else’s ailments, although that never stopped my Auntie Donna. Suffice to say I suffered today through the kind of sinus congestion that even the reliable Afrin couldn’t conquer. I’m told that I have to get surgery for my deviated septum, which wasn’t even deviated through anything fun like cocaine. I fucked up my sinuses by smashing my nose into the lip of a trashcan. At least I got something out of my three years in LA.

While Tessa went to watch the WNBA’s Lady Liberty play the Orlando Miracle (God, I hate focus-group-tested sports names) at Madison Square Garden, I met Sean, Jordana and Michelle in the East Village for fish and or chips. Michelle’s set to go on the AIDS ride tomorrow and wanted to give me my birthday presents before she left bike riding gloves, a leatherman, and a cool electronic odometer! Now I can see in glorious, vivid detail how many miles I can ride before I get exhausted and cranky.

Sean and Michelle describe Mom finding a used condom wrapper in Michelle’s coat when she was 13

Later on, we went to Urban Outfitters and gawked at the pre-fab hipster T-shirts that say things like “Goldfarb Family Reunion 1982” on it, retailing for $26.99 I mean, who the fuck are they kidding? You can get the real thing on 1st Ave. for half the price, and that includes washing out the musty smell. I used to think that our generation (and I’m including you 25-year-olds, too, ya bunch of big-pants-wearin’ rave muthafuckas) was impossible to target, that we could sniff someone selling our secrets back to ourselves and avoid the Man like the plague, but if Urban Outfitters is making money on these T-shirts, then maybe even those days are gone.

They did have O.P. shirts, though, and I almost bought one.

6/17/02 I like my friends


I like my friends Jon, Bud and Chip. The four of us started hanging out around Labor Day 1985 at the onset of college – desperate castaways from northern prep schools stuck in this sweltering southern bouillabaisse, knowing no one, clinging to each other the way expatriates in Paris no doubt clutch their Sunday New York Times. In those days, we dined on the Smiths, the Cure, took disastrous road trips in the cold rain where nobody got laid, and spent inordinate amounts of time making delirious fun of each other.

Bud was actually from North Carolina, so he had the vernacular down, and had a few friends from Statesville, so naturally, I relied on him to save me from the masturbatory self-involvement I’d perfected at Norfolk Academy. We used to take long walks around the woodsy expanse of campus, where I’d grill him about all things Carolinian. He also had a girlfriend that visited him from his hometown every few months, and I had yet to kiss a girl.

He introduced me to Jon, a frail yet culturally hyperliterate dude from Paoli, PA, and from then on, “Meat is Murder” never stopped wafting through the dorm. Jon had a knack for dating psychotic women, which had to be some sort of Freudian complement, because he’s the least psychotic guy I know. On Christmas Eve in 1985 while my parents were throwing antiques at each other during the worst marital meltdown in North American history – Jon arranged a ski trip and got me on the next train to Vermont. And neither of us could ski. He’s the only person who hated Duke as much as me (although 12 years of forced magnanimity in sports broadcasting may have made him soft).

Chip was the hardest to know, and in fact, spent the first three months of college fighting with Bud, who found him to be, well, a business major. The irony was that Bud was a business major too, at first, but thought Chip’s prep middle-class background made him especially asinine. After a few months, however, all of us were going through majors like disposable razors. By the time we graduated, there were probably eleven or twelve majors between us.

Most college friends disband into that “I wonder what they’re doing now” sort of distant friendship, but something in the water at Carolina has kept us all heavily immersed in each other’s lives. Jamie Block and I were talking about “The Big Chill” today and remarked that we’re now the same age as those fuckers, but we have none of the Lost Idealism and belief that our best days are behind us. I told him that when you change careers every two years, like most of us have, we are continually full of optimism (despite our griping to the contrary). Also, the people in that movie never saw each other after school, and we all managed to stick together.

Bud was my roommate, off and on, from the summer of 1987 clear until 1994. We once lived on cookie dough for a month. He never “graduated” from Carolina, but that never stopped him from writing me (as alter ego Dr. Thornton Long) countless notes on fake hospital stationery to get me out of doing stuff. Bud has a hibernating gene that makes him cocoon for years at a time, but is now entering a relatively extroverted phase. He hikes a lot of mountains with his girlfriend Baps, and they were just at the farm a couple of months ago.

Jon just moved to somewhere in New Jersey, and even though we suck for not getting together more, it’s nice to have him close. He got married last year in a great ceremony in Lexington, KY to an awesome woman named Lisa. Jon and I always manage to keep extensive radio contact, and usually meet at the ends of the earth (i.e., wherever Carolina is playing in the Final Four).

After a stint in Washington D.C., Chip came back to Chapel Hill where we slacked from 1991 to 1997 together. Or should I say that I slacked; Chip always had a job. We have a basketball rivalry that has been a war of attrition since 1988, although I have dominated the last few years, due to his unwavering interest in Burger King sausage biscuits. My family has an irrational love for Chip, and that includes Tessa and my mom, who says that he’s the funniest person she knows, as long as you listen carefully while he’s mumbling.

There’s so much more about the four of us, affectionately known to our various girlfriends as The Four Guys Not Named Biff, but decorum (and, dear reader, your attention span) prohibits going through them here. Suffice to say Jon’s nickname is “Will You Stop Touching Me,” Chip actually hit me on the head as hard as he could with the business end of a phone receiver, and Bud once ran across Chapel Hill barefoot to stop someone from jumping off a roof. Like I said, I like my friends Jon, Bud and Chip.

above: Chip, me and Jon outside our dorm in fall 1986

below: Chip, me and Jon at Jon’s wedding, spring 2001

not pictured: Bud, who couldn’t be bothered to get in the pictures

thanksgiving all-stars!


Wow, what can we say about this picture? A few things I’m sure of: I’m the photographer, and I’m using one of those unbelievably shitty 110 cameras with tiny film and a snap-on flash bulb, the kind I don’t think they even make anymore. It is Thanksgiving 1978.

In the middle, turning around, is my sister-in-law Melissa, with her hair in full waffle late-70s regalia. At far left is her soon-to-be husband, my brother Kent (they got married three years later). The two people at far right are my brothers Steve and Sean, and my Mom smiles from the rear of the picture. Naturally, I have no idea where my Dad is, but I’m sure everyone in this picture can, if called on the phone right now, offer their conjecture.

What is really cool about this picture are the walls; I remember them being in a state of spackle-bedecked disarray for months. My dad, usually Gestapo-like in these control freak years, let us put a bunch of silly drawings up there and doodle all over it. Drawing on walls has been a family idee fixe for a long time – we drew all over the back of the London house, and there are some amazing pictures of Kent and Steve drawing on the walls of their condemned house in Hollywood, not long after their father, my mom’s first husband, died in a car accident. There’s something so wonderfully anarchistic about defacing a home wall. We did it in the Pink House as well, with a giant map of North Carolina; all guests were invited to mark the spot where they lost their virginity.

The yellowness of this picture is one of my favorite things about the 70s, and now all of my memories, preserved in photographs, are canting yellow along with them. The only place this picture will not get any more yellow is right here on the internet, which fascinates me. We’ve managed to slow down time right here on the blog.

And one last thing. Michelle says she is a vegetarian, but look at her in the picture (bottom left) – she’s holding aloft the seared leg of a dead bird like she was the flesh-gorging victor of a feast in Valhalla. I mean, it’s smeared all over her face. The girl is 29 now, but she’s obviously in full-blown denial.

6/15/02 It’s funny, because I


It’s funny, because I used to call myself “inoffendable.” There was nothing before that I’ve ever seen, ever been told, ever experienced that actually offended me. If something was unbelievably rude or inappropriate, my instinct is to laugh first, or at least bask in the absurdity of the moment. Being inoffendable, I thought, kept a body young, allowed for infinite elasticity and permitted you to keep friends most everyone else had long abandoned for safer acquaintances.

But then we saw Bad Company tonight, and I have to say, pretty much anything that uses nuclear terrorism to sell entertainment tickets has begun to… well, offend me. Coupled with The Sum of All Fears (which spent an unbelievable two weeks at the top of the box office), it seems like Hollywood, as well as the American moviegoer, thinks it’s okay to add stakes to their stories by including the possible annihilation and radiation of an American city. Now, given that I live in and near New York, as does Tessa, and Sean, and Michelle, not to mention 40 or 50 people I adore, I’m finding the whole fucking thing hard to take. Much racist commentary has gone on about the nuclear gamesmanship between India and Pakistan, comments like “they aren’t sophisticated enough to understand what nuclear war entails” but it seems to me that we’re even worse.

I realize these movies were put into post-production long before Sept. 11 (and I guess we should be stunned that Hollywood even had the sensitivity to delay their release a few months), but it’s going to take a lot more than digitally editing out the World Trade Center towers from every skyline shot to make me feel like caring about action movies again. In the middle of “Bad Company,” Anthony Hopkins has to show Chris Rock the effects of a nuclear blast on Jersey City in order to convince him to buck up and be a good protagonist. And I can’t speak for the entire audience (most of whom were 10-year-olds answering their cell phones), but I detected an audible gasp when the dramatization detonated over the East River. The bomb itself ends up in Grand Central Station, which I have always thought to be an excellent place for a pedestrian pipe-bombing, which is why I tell Tessa to only buy her tickets in the booths to the side of the grand hall.

Yeah, yeah, I should do as my therapist says (god, the stuff I hear myself saying) and avoid all contact with this kind of thing. Dr. Gorman says that most obsessive-compulsives believe, erroneously, that if they only do enough research on their obsessional subject, they’ll cure themselves. The truth is, that’s a path that leads to more and more compulsion, because you’ll keep looking until you find something that horrifies you. In this case, however, I can’t be blamed: we were meaning to see The Bourne Identity (which, I’m told, has no stolen nuclear devices) but it was sold out, along with everything else. While I was parking, Tessa and her sister Michelle got tickets for the only movie left, and I didn’t know the plot points until I had already bought popcorn and Mountain Dew.

I pray that I don’t always feel like this. We live in terribly interesting and interestingly terrible times, and not only that, we live in a fucking bullseye. I realize that we are going to need some good luck to get through the rest of this decade unscathed. I think I can handle the pressure of being in the nuclear shadow as long as I am surrounded by the people I love, get good therapy, pop some pills and develop a state of healthy denial. But using my dread as a plot point against me is no longer acceptable. It makes me fucking angry. I am offended.

6/14/02 It’s official: every time


It’s official: every time I change the dose of the Celexa, I get thrown into a tailspin of fatigue that is truly barbiturate in intensity. The same damn thing happened when I went from 10mg to 20mg, and now that I’ve gone to 30mg, I walked into walls all day.

We showed the newer, improved, music-laden version of The Pink House tonight, this time in front of John Kelleran, Rick Gradone and Todor the Cartoonist. Watching it with them reminded me I’m a pretty good writer, god damn it!

6/13/02 Because of a strange


Because of a strange confluence of events – Tessa’s sister Michelle wanting to see the Baseball as America exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, and my psychopharmacologist treating me across the street from said museum – we spent the day on the Upper West and East Sides. Even though I’m much more of a basketball fan, the baseball exhibit was pretty cool, featuring the actual bats, scoring cards, pennants and baubles of baseball going back to the 1820s. There was even the Honus Wagner baseball card, commonly thought to be the most valuable card in existence. The card itself is only slightly bigger than a large postage stamp, but it’s still cool to see the highest pedigree of anything, even if you don’t particularly get off on it.

We left Michelle to wander more of the museum and found our way across the park to the Upper East Side, where Tessa had a bridal shower to attend. I wandered around 86th St., where I hadn’t been since I moved to New York exactly two years ago. On my nascent voyage, I stayed with my friend Meira right on that street, my body wracked with the paralysis of a debilitating back injury, trying to make sense of That Internet Job, which was only a week old. Now I was back on that street, getting money from the same ATM, buying the same stupid high-maintenance lactose intolerant tablets at the Rite-Aid.

The world seems like a different place, and my life is in such a different geological era, but nothing on the corner of 86th and Lexington had changed. There were still the crazy-hot Jewish chicks with $75 pedicures and confusingly large breasts, clonking down the sidewalk, trying to catch the Hampton Jitney to deepen their pre-cancerous tans; I could smell the deep pit of the 4 and 5 trains buried fathoms beneath the 6 train, so far down as to be heated by the earth’s mantle; I sensed again the culturally asphyxiating blandness of the Williams Sonoma and Baby Gap stores. The Upper East Side bores me like nothing else in New York can. It seems like all you can do is tidy up your too-small apartment and then anesthetize your ennui by buying belts at Banana Republic. I mean, how can anyone even tell their blocks apart? Without looking at the street signs, how many of them could find their homes?

Tessa chided me in the cab on our escape, saying that they’ve got the best museums in the world up there, as well as Central Park. Ostensibly, she’s right, and there’s as much culture there as anywhere in the world, but who truly believes your average Price Waterhouse systems analyst chick is going to be spending any time at the Rose Planetarium? And how many of these people have even seen the inside of Central Park, instead bypassing the hoi polloi for the Hamptons?

I suppose the bigger question is “why the fuck do you care, psycho boy?”

The Celextant, June 13, 2002

So my second meeting with Dr. Gorman went pretty well, despite not having paid her for the first one (something I probably shouldn’t do again). I told her that the Celexa was definitely making me feel a little better, but that I still had at least 1 1/2 days a week that sucked, and mornings are still hard. Most side effects, including the sexual stuff and my previous Prozac-induced inability to care about the protagonists of movies, has been surprisingly limited. Which, of course, means she’s upping the dosage to 30mg. 40mg is apparently the norm, and Dr. Gorman seems to view lingering depression as a beast to be stamped out. Fine by me, I think. I could do with having those 1 1/2 days back.

Tessa (far left) and me (at right) in the creepy overhead mirror at the Williams-Sonoma on Lexington and 86th

6/12/02 There was a day


There was a day when I geeked out more than any other, hitching my trailer to a passion far more dorky than marching band, Dungeons & Dragons and chess club put together. I involved myself with something that would virtually guarantee that I would not have sex with a woman for another ten years. Of course, I’m talking about Ham Radio.

I don’t know why amateur radio aficionados were as buffoon-like as they were; after all, they were only doing what every hipster kid on earth does every five seconds with the internet right now. There’s no discernable difference, in my mind, between randomly IM’ing somebody half a world away – and contacting them via a 40-metre dipole with a Yaesu transceiver. Sure, you had to have a license, an antenna that invaded the neighbors yard, and a moderate understanding of Morse Code, but that’s not a far stretch from a kid with an ISP, a cable modem strung through the neighbor’s yard and a moderate understanding of HTML. But somehow Ham Radio enthusiasts were fat, friendless, greasy, sartorially horrific and did everything they could to scare women away.

I did learn a lot of things during my Lost Years as a ham operator. My call sign was KA0JXA, and I got very good at CW (Morse Code) – about 45 words a minute, better than most typists. Unfortunately, the Morse bled into my subconscious obsessive-compulsive disorder so badly that I was looking at every billboard and counting the number of “dahs” and “dits” in the words. For instance:


.. .- -. .– .. .-.. .-.. .. .- — …

has 16 dits and 9 dahs. The scary thing is that I can still make this calculation in under two seconds, even with longer phrases. It’s my little autistic savant skill, guaranteeing me no end of things over which to obsess. I suppose everyone has an autistic savant skill, I just choose to publish mine in a blog.

Anyway, you take something from every phase of your life, and the concept I took from ham radio was called QRP. Hams have a 3-letter code for just about everything, and QRP stands for “I will reduce power.” And thus sprang forth a curious subdivision among ham radio guys who turned their zillion-dollar transmitters down almost to zero, so that they were broadcasting with barely enough power to light a single bulb on a Christmas tree, and seeing how far they can get. On a good day, a good QRP’er from Australia can carefully link up his radio, transmit at 4 watts and reach somebody in Italy. It’s a pretty cool feeling, doing so much with so little. By comparison, your favorite FM station transmits at 100,000 watts and can barely make it 40 miles. It’s all in the wrist, you see.

I like to try and foist the concept of QRP in my own life, which is really hard because I’m such a high-maintenance freak. I never allow myself to become complacent, however, and I always know what I can do without. I have a QRP in my home life, knowing exactly what I can do with very little, even despite having so much stuff. The attacks of 9/11, and my own aging process have given my QRP an added meaningfulness. The Purple and Pink Houses were biospheric studies in QRP; we got by pretty famously at dangerously sub-poverty income levels.

In the same vein, sort of, my latest project was the rescue of a 100-year-old wheelbarrow from a dirt grave behind our farm. It took two days of figuring out, but now we have a garden tool that functioned in both 1899 and 2002. That, too, is a pretty cool feeling.

Mom and Tessa gardening with the renovated wheelbarrow