Monthly Archives: July 2002

7/31/02 You never get to

7/31/02

You never get to spike the football in the end zone when you make a movie; your success is made up of little victories. If you’re not a fan of little victories, you shouldn’t be making movies, because those are the pellets that you will feed on, small bits of good news that invigorate your heart and refill your spirit.

We had a pretty big victory today, as the IFP, the most-respected independent film organization in the country, picked The Pink House as one of thousands of movies submitted from around the globe to participate in the IFP Market Festival on September 26. What makes this all the more incredible is that they chose this year to discontinue their “narrative feature” portion of the event, and reduce the acceptance rate by 40% for new projects, which means only twenty movies got in from all the submissions. All this based on our 8-minute industry reel and the script.

Needless to say, it buoyed the mood of our production team immeasurably, and it means getting all kinds of connections en route to finishing funds and god willing, distribution. But moreover, it is the first time that a separate body – one that has nothing to do with people who worked on the movie, or friends or family looked at what we did last summer and said “hell fucking yes.” Coming after a very long, solipsistic soliloquy delivered to Tessa in which I bemoaned my state of wretched uselessness, it was a fresh slap in the face.

I finished the first draft of the script almost exactly three years ago this week. Since then, my patron saint has been a narcoleptic priest: I’m surely blessed, but there’s a long time between visits. The first victory came in the first reading of the script, when the crowd in California thought the jokes and personalities were fantastic. The second came months later in New York, where an enrapt crowd at the Atlantic Theater School cheered us out of the building and Patrick came on to produce. The third came over a year later, when Tessa took to the project. When Heather Matarazzo decided to take the role of Charlotte, and Zack Ward came on as the lead three days later, I knew we had a shot. And when I saw the film transfers of our DV, I knew that shooting on digital video wasn’t going to hinder us like it might have a few years ago.

Everything else has been a terrific struggle, including the shoot itself, and I’ve spent vast stretches of time feeling caked in shit – but between these little victories, and working with people like Rick Gradone, Todd Walker, and Liz Mann, slowly becoming a real part of the film community here in New York, I feel like we may be one of those little baby turtles that beats all the odds and makes it across the parched sands and into the ocean.

me and Tessa having no idea what we were getting into; leaving for the Pink House shoot. taken in Greenwich Village July 9, 2001

7/30/02 One thing about being

7/30/02

One thing about being an “informed customer” is that you price yourself out of any kind of normal interaction with customer service people, or schlubs working retail. For example, I’ve been around computers my whole life, and been attached to one Macintosh or another since my first Mac 512K in 1986. So when I get on the phone with Earthlink technical support, I basically have to give them my curriculum vitae so that they don’t tell me some shit like “check to see if your modem is plugged in, sir.” It bloody well is plugged in, ya bastard!

Today at the decidedly dumbarse-filled Radio Shack in Park Slope was no exception these are dim bulbs who typically must solve the electrical problems of even dimmer bulbs. I’m sure someone comes in daily with a computer mouse, wanting to know “why this footpedal doesn’t work” (true story from my buddies at the IBM Help Desk)

7/29/02 Thirteen months ago, Tessa

7/29/02

Thirteen months ago, Tessa and I took the exact same trip that we took today: from the bowels of Cleveland, across Pennsylvania, to home in Manhattan. Of course, back then we were returning from Neal Lerner’s heart surgery, about to meet up with a crowd in Stephentown for Labor Day, and the horrors of the week after that (9/11) were yet to happen. On our trip in 2001, we were barely decompressed from the problem-plagued Pink House shoot, and we had one of our worst fights, lasting about 200 miles on the road and leading Tessa to swerve over to the side of the highway, nearly flipping the car over.

I’m pleased to say that no fight happened on our way home this time, only more rain, rancorously-pleasing gossip, and soul-divining headrubs. I’m also pleased to say we don’t live in Manhattan anymore, and that Stephentown is unnecessary when we have the farm in Columbia County. We’re also engaged now, which, truth be told, was something I began to mull on that trip last year (fights notwithstanding). We’re in such a different “place,” to use therapist’s parlance, and yet so much seems the same to me.

I’m still unemployed, Tessa’s still freaked out about the money, our company hangs on a fulcrum, and the movie is still in need of finishing funds. My deviated septum is still keeping me up at night, the book proposal is unrealized, and the Chopes is still awfully cute. In effect, I pushed a major “pause” button on certain aspects of my life, even as other major events continued to unfold.

Life is strange about “stuff” things can be left in a box that once seemed very important, and after six weeks or so, they become irrelevant. There are hospital bills you need to pay, and they go to a collection agency, and soon enough, you never hear about them again. There are drugs you are sure would cure you, and then you stop taking them and get better anyway. The transience and impermanence of so many things leads me to ask: how do the Buddhists get anything done? Or, more importantly, why do the Buddhists get anything done?

It seems the only thing I have kept up in this past year – besides the happiness of my betrothed and the unemployment claims is this blog itself. I’ve posted here every night since April 10, since I first went on Celexa and decided that the 1/2 hour or so before I sleep would be spent documenting my existence, proving to myself that I was and am. Like looking at your own name in the phone book, sometimes you need proof that you are regarded, you know? And there is one thing I can take away from today’s trip: it is truly time for action.

The Celexa’s already workin’, ma! Tessa and me at the Napa croquet fields on my first day on the drug

7/28/02 It’s about midnight, and

7/28/02

It’s about midnight, and I don’t think I’ve fully woken up from this morning I had one of those fitful alcoholic sleeps that seem to have no restorative properties. I think I can safely say that age decreases two things: my ability to recover from any liquor, and my confidence that I’m correct about any given situation. Thank god I don’t drink that much anymore, or else those two qualities would work together in glorious dis-harmony.

After a very lethargic, slow-witted lunch with the last group of Chi Psis left in town (I sat next to Dave Burris’ girlfriend Clare Scanlon, who assistant-edited Amy Eldon’s “Dying to Tell the Story” a very bizarre coincidence), we got on the road and drove through another god-awful storm that flashed lightning down on either side of the car for two solid hours. We couldn’t stand it anymore, and decided to pull off the road into Cleveland, into the waiting arms of the Clarion Inn, where I lie right now.

It was a great weekend, made even better by Tessa knowing so many of the brothers independent of my meddling other wives had to be eased into the proceedings, but Tessa’s already been 1988-drunk with half of them already. I wonder what many of them think about us being together; either it’s the most obvious thing on the planet, or it’s a bizarre mixture of two past worlds. Or perhaps it’s just “how did that whiny, basketball-hurling profanity-laced dork end up with someone as cool as Tessa?”

left: Tessa in July at Sears Tower; right: in April at the Chrysler Bldg

7/27/02 Don’t know why this

7/27/02

Don’t know why this is true, but it seems I can’t really get drunk anymore. I figure the Celexa is having some inhibiting effect, but it might just be age: I’ve long had a theory that there should be an age limit for drinking, but on the upper end. Teens getting drunk is basically fine with me, but nobody should be allowed to get wasted over the age of 35. As for me, I did two giant tequila shots and went through three “cape cods” on the boat tonight, and I skipped the “pleasant buzz” part and went straight to “already hungover.”

The boat ride, like all of the planned events for this get-together, was a blast. We parked out in Lake Michigan just in time for the Venetian Night fireworks, then danced all night to Duran Duran whilst wearing our 80s best. Tessa and I went for the “pledge formal” thing, but a lot of folks went as preppies, punks, and Madonna-wannabes. I try not to get too twee about the ’80s – I detested being forced to digest a massive diet of the ’60s thanks to the generation right above us but I really do think our music is better, and the fashion faux pas are much more subtle and interesting.

What was stranger about this 80s party is that the same crowd attended the same party in the actual 1980s, giving it a meta-event sheen that our planners didn’t intend. I mean, I wore the exact same tux tonight that I did to a Chi Psi function in 1988, meaning that irony is just a matter of timing.

Tessa and me on the boat, against the backdrop of Chicago

Highlights from the evening: Tessa’s hair was done up like a hood ornament, earning us the Big Hair Couple award; Wendi’s dress was downright Nagel horrible; Walt Boyle had three costume changes, one of them being a giant rabbit; we got 2nd-place in the scavenger hunt, even though we took the most pictures; and best of all, the lake was choppy, meaning that the most seasick of the brothers were forced to stay upstairs and dance to the Smiths.

Chip didn’t show up, which earned him a rousing chorus of “you suck”s and “PBD!”s on his voice mail (PBD = “pussy broke-dick” for those not on the 2nd floor of the Lodge circa 1987). He went to the White Sox game instead, which kind of blows the White Sox play like 95 games every year, and a boat ride like this is a genuine rarity. I’m sure he’ll field his fair share of rancor by the time tomorrow rolls around.

The evening would have ended nicely back at the Hotsie Totsie bar if I hadn’t engaged in a conversation with Alec McNab about the relative chance of someone setting off a radiological bomb in Manhattan. His brother, as well as mine, lives near Times Square, and he has some of the same fears I do. Leave it to me to talk about the same fucking bullshit at such a happy occasion. My knack for self-sabotage is incredible, like a moth to the flame. This was after not really worrying about it for weeks it’s quite disheartening to think I can still ruin a night. I mean, if the Celexa won’t let me get drunk, can it at least help me quash these thoughts as well?

7/26/02 You know how you

7/26/02

You know how you go to some cities for a wedding, or a special occasion, and see precious little besides your hotel room and the reception hall? That sure as hell is not going to be the case with our trip to Chicago, as a full-day scavenger hunt designed by none other than Rick Maechling – took us all over the city to just about every famous spot imaginable. We had our pictures taken in front of the Picasso sculpture, the Water Tower, the “chee-boger chee-boger” restaurant, both the Sears and Hancock towers, as well as the seals at the zoo. Nobody is as full of civic pride as Rick, which was great, because he was on our team. Even as the heat index swelled toward 100, everybody was having a kickass time.

This evening, we went to the Tavern Club for a steamy dinner (the air conditioning wasn’t working) where we sat and gossiped with Eric Gribbin, Chip, the McNab brothers, and Alex & Wendi. It’s hard to justify being in a fraternity, and most people are surprised to hear I was in one (I usually leave out the part where I was social chairman). Frankly, the Lodge makes me feel totally unapologetic, given the clientle. Any place that would take in Chip, Rick Maechling, Drew McNally, Ricky Bell, Jamie Block and me

7/25/02 I did something kind

7/25/02

I did something kind of shitty this morning I totally forgot that I was supposed to be in Brooklyn attending my therapy session with Dr. Bloch. Instead, I was in a bed in Eastern Iowa, tending to a sinus infection, trying to block out the rays of a harsh farming sun. I’d meant, all week, to call Jonathan, but for some reason that was the one thing that slipped through the floorboards of my subconscious.

Due to an overweening guilt, I found myself unable to go back to sleep, so I packed up the trunk, cleaned out the car, and spent a few minutes with Chopin, telling him no, I wasn’t going to leave him in Iowa where he would sold into white slavery.

The trip to Chicago seemed less daunting, not because it’s so short, but because I have continued the tradition of my forefathers and glommed onto the latest technology… that’s right, ladies and gents, Satellite XM Radio!!! Okay, so exclamation points are the domain of those with nothing to say (and eighth grade girls signing yearbooks), but this thing is pretty cool. I got the Sony model for a discount Iowa proves itself good for something – and it’s portable enough to take in the house, which is perfect for Columbia County, a town that considers itself lucky when the Christian Rock station comes in clear.

It’s the size and shape of 2800 baud modem circa 1993, and the antenna looks like something you put inside nice shoes to keep their shape. Reception is a bit of a problem if you ham-n-egg it like I have – there’s no way I’m mounting that thing on the outside of the car whilst living in New York. You might as well put up a giant sign that says “steal our cool stuff” and leave the doors unlocked. For now, the antenna sits on the dash and tends to slip out of reception whenever you pass a truck closely on the right, which can be rectified by giving truckers a wide berth. I have some other experiments pending.

As for channels, there are about 140 of them, ten of which I like, which is a damn good batting average for me. I heard Midnight Oil on the “80s Alternative” station, a cool version of “Stoned Soul Picnic” on the 60s station, a discussion about Ogg (“mp3s better watch out”) on CNET, and the news in London on BBC. They even played “You’re the Biggest Part of Me” by Ambrosia somewhere on there, which won my heart right away. Although my tireless searches through late night AM radio stations has become a lost art, this thing will keep me awake on long road trips, something especially meaningful to my family.

Rocking to “Wig” by the B-52s, I pulled into downtown Chicago, had a joyful reunion with my beloved Tessa, and went out to dinner with a number of my Carolina friends. The reunion of my fratbagger extended family begins in earnest tomorrow, and even Chip will be there!

7/24/02 I was treated to

7/24/02

I was treated to the opposite ends of the American Cultural Experience today; I spent the day at the Coralville Mall, and the night at an experimental electronic music performance. There was no cross-pollination between these two crowds, but both paid extreme imagination dividends.

First the mall: it’s the same old sad story that every small town will tell you. “The mall moved in and ruined Uncle Pete’s Bait Shop Downtown!” I understand the sadness that accompanies the development of a mega-mall, having seen downtown Chapel Hill gentrified to the point of utter meaninglessness, but you have to understand, I grew up in a mall. I came of age scooping ice cream for disgruntled shoppers at High’s Ice Cream, I first saw “Poltergeist” and “E.T.” at the Military Circle Mall, and my favorite place in all of London whilst growing up besides the London Dungeon

7/23/02 When Melissa got home

7/23/02

When Melissa got home from restructuring The Second Act (her clothes consignment business) for the autumn season, we sat in their living room discussing the various pharmaceuticals we’re on, or had been on, or wanted to go on. Kent and Melissa’s bathroom closet looks like something out of Kelly Lynch’s suitcase in Drugstore Cowboy; the sheer diversity of pills has a candy store appeal. Kent had gone on Celexa for a while, but it gave him a pot-like hangover every morning; Melissa’s on Effexor, and seems to like it, although I’ve heard a few disappointing things about the drug recently.

The interesting revelation, however, is that Lucas has been on Zoloft since he was in 2nd grade, experimenting with its efficacy off and on until now (he starts 8th grade in the fall). Melissa has had her share of dirty looks from meddlesome Iowa mothers much like those chicks on the radio who breastfeed their daughters until the age of four

7/22/02 I’ve done a lot

7/22/02

I’ve done a lot of driving in my life I bet it’s one of those statistics that would show I’ve driven halfway to the moon. Yet in all my cross-country trips and myriad journeys, I’ve never driven through two thunderstorms like the ones I slogged through today. It’s official: they rank as #1 and #2 in the All-Time Scary Fucking Storm Countdown. Lightning was striking either side of the highway, and the hail was so thick you couldn’t see past your own hood. Half of Indiana had pulled over to the side of the road, but not me