Monthly Archives: October 2002

10/31/02 People who hate Halloween

10/31/02

People who hate Halloween – and I’ve known a few of them – suck. This is truly one of the greatest holidays Americans have, free of relentless commercialization (only Hershey’s and Spencer Gifts at the mall make any money), plum full of pagan symbolism, and virtual carte blanche for every man, woman and child to splatter themselves with green makeup, sprout boobs and sashay around town. I’ll go ahead and say it: Christmas is fine, but Halloween is my favorite holiday.

Around 4:30pm in Manhattan, the freaks truly started to come out – guys on unicycles, various goth chicks, and my favorite, the “first to the party” Uncomfortable Girls who have dressed up but haven’t gotten drunk yet and feel disgustingly self-conscious. Manhattan doesn’t have the same village feel of Chapel Hill (still your best Halloween night out, for my dollar), but the mass lunacy bubbling up from under the subways is downright palpable.

After getting my wig from Ricky’s on 23rd St., I got back to Brooklyn in time for the first wave of kids brave enough to punch every buzzer on a 5-floor walk-up. Dutifully, we all traipsed down to see their costumes, which I know is very “gee I hate Mondays” of me, but ever since my brother Steve started making me robot costumes for Halloween, seeing kids dressed up fills me with contentment.

thank god we’re irresponsible and had a bunch of Mr. Goodbars lying around, cuz these kids meant business

I needed a prescription at the local pharmacy, so I walked down to 7th Ave., where the whole street had been blocked off so kids could amble wherever they wanted. Which was a good idea, because most of the toddlers dressed as Spiderman couldn’t see through the face mesh and kept running into fire hydrants.

By then, the second, meaner wave of trick-or-treaters came by, most of them from other neighborhoods, and a few of them, shall we say, a little too old to be going door-to-door for Bit-o-Honeys. They’re the kids who will probably pull an actual “Trick” part of the “Trick or Treat” if you’re not careful. Michelle called from Astoria and said she’d actually been egged. I know it sucks to be egged and all, but there’s something about the darker parts of Halloween that fills me with contentment as well (rent Meet Me in St. Louis for a good example).

my favorite costume on 7th Ave was a girl dressed as a black Converse High-Top. How cool is she?

Around 10pm, we met everyone at Jessica Arinella’s place on the Upper West Side for a perfect, small Halloween gathering where conversations could actually be had. I dressed up as Tessa or at least I meant to, but I got the wrong color hair. And my boobs didn’t move. And she’s actually pretty. In the end, I pretty much freaked everyone out and made all the guests 3% uncomfortable (apparently I looked like a successful transsexual) so I consider it a job well done.

me with Karmen Helms

My voice is shot from this flu, making me sound a lot like someone choking Harvey Fierstein, so I couldn’t even carry on decent conversations. Just sat around looking pretty. I’d show more pictures of all of us, but my digital camera fell off the top of the refrigerator, making the above shot the last picture my digital camera will ever take. It’s just as well, really, don’t you think?

10/30/02 Yeah, I know this

10/30/02

Yeah, I know this week in the blog looks like the 2nd-year class notes of someone at Columbia Med School, but y’see, I’m trying to get better. We pay so much for health insurance that to not do these things seems downright criminal. Today’s big quandary was “why the hell am I getting recurring kidney stones?” which can only be answered by the fine folks at Diagnostic Radiation on 17th St., underneath machines that look like they cost the gross national product of Finland.

My procedure was an “IVP,” which goes a little like this: the night before, you have to drink either 2 oz. of castor oil, or 4 oz. of magnesium citrate. The castor oil tastes like whale barf, and the magnesium citrate tastes like Mountain Dew. You be the judge on that one.

Anyway, that pretty much flushes out your system in ways that would be a great gag in any of the early Adam Sandler oeuvre from the mid-90s. Then you can’t eat until the next morning, when you lie flat on a table, get injected with dye, and spend an hour getting pictures of your insides taken. I saw the X-rays later, and I couldn’t even tell which way was up it all looked like a roiling cumulonimbus cloud churning across Iowa farmland. Which is to say, it was “normal.”

Of course, nothing feels normal right now with the 1-2-3 punch of a deviated septum, a possible kidney problem and a big fat flu but we still managed to rally for Mac’s play The Sky Over Ninevah, which was a marked improvement over the original reading and featured some genuine talent that wasn’t even in our regular Carolina gene pool, especially Gwen Bronson and Ben Scaccia. Not knowing Equity rules, I tried to take a clandestine picture for my records (no flash, no shutter sound) but the director happened to be behind us and gave me what-fer about it. I tellsya, being a relentless archivist can rub some cats the wrong way.

10/29/02 In the year 2000,

10/29/02

In the year 2000, about three months before I moved to New York, I was pushing one of those wheeled garbage bins up my driveway, a steep hill on the Hollywood mountain. The wheels gave way, and the sharp lip of the trash can caught me across the bridge of the nose so hard that I was almost knocked unconscious. Blood spurted out of my face about four feet in every direction, and my stoned roommates could barely get it together to drive me to the hospital. Once in the LA emergency room (God bless you if you’ve ever been in that circle of hell) they did X-rays and determined that my nose wasn’t broken, but my social life was pretty much over for the summer. Still bleeding, miserable, weak and in excruciating pain, I went back to my room that night and fucking cried.

That, fortunately, was my last humiliation in Los Angeles in that era, and I came to New York still self-conscious of the scar, which has now largely faded. It serves as a reminder of everything arbitrarily bad in a bad place with bad luck and bad times. But it wasn’t over.

Early this year, I started getting blinding headaches behind my eyes, and by March, I had to squirt Afrin into my brain just to breathe. An MRI showed that I was suffering from a deviated septum, something you usually get the fun way by playing football or snorting cocaine. I got it from Hollywood trash.

By the summer, I could only sleep on one side, and finally, today, I went in to see who New York Magazine called one of the Best Otolaryngologists in the City. Dr. Blitzer took more pictures of the inside of my sinus passages, and came up with this:

The black arrow shows a tiny ridge of cartilage that has been the source of all my misery. When I took the blow from the trashcan, the cartilage buckled and the air has been trying to get around it ever since. I’m scheduling surgery in November so that I can breathe again and finally be physically free of all reminders of those terrible times. I’ll be able to smell the snow of December.

Honestly, I don’t know how Early Man survived a blow to the face, I mean, it must have happened all the time.

Oh yeah, they only lived to be 27.

10/28/02 My friend Oliver and

10/28/02

My friend Oliver and a few other people who check into this blog wondered where the hell I actually live, since my definition of “here” seems to change every couple of days. And sometimes it’s good to write down exactly where you are whilst writing these things; too often you reread an old diary from high school and it drones on about your solipsistic, hormone-addled crushes and half-baked musings on the meaning of existence when all you want to know is “where were you writing that, and what shirt were you wearing?”

So my geography lesson is this: I moved to the East Village in the summer of 2000 and worked at the Woolworth Building (see arrow) downtown. By the time September 11 happened (click here for the same picture on that day), I was basically living with my erstwhile-girlfriend-now-fiance Tessa in the West Village. A week after the attack, her father passed away and we set off on a giant cross-country trek to attend his funeral and try to put our frayed nerves into a beta state.

Of course, Tessa’s dad Blakey, ever confounding, secretly left her a wheelbarrow full of Mexican Libertad silver coins behind some suits in a closet. It seemed like a fortune (and if you’ve ever lifted pure silver, it felt like a fortune, but let’s just say that silver is not gold.

At the same time, we began talking about getting a house somewhere cheap up in the country our friends Dana and Lindsay had just bought a great place in Millerton, NY for next to nothing – and for the cost of a 10-foot storage unit in Manhattan, we could be paying a mortgage on an actual house. The minute we got back to New York, we started looking for houses away from the city (and America started bombing Afghanistan; the two seemed quite related). The very first place we saw was an 1820s farmhouse in Columbia County, NY with a basketball court on the second floor of the barn. This place had me at “hello,” but Tessa, being a completist, made sure we saw another 25 possibilities. Obviously in love with the Columbia County place, we would find ourselves driving past it even when it wasn’t on the way.

Metaphorically, we dumped the wheelbarrow full of Blakey’s silver bullion into a downpayment on the farm, and closed in February this year. Keep in mind that Tessa was still living in her West Village digs, and I was still paying rent for the shoebox in the East Village. The same week we closed on the farm, I mentioned that one of my favorite bloggers Gus lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and asked Tessa if she liked that neighborhood. Three weeks later we were living there. Tessa rented out her entire place, I bid a sad adieu to Lars, and we moved half our stuff to Brooklyn, the other half to the farm upstate. Impulsivity is where it’s at, man.

Both moves were done at one of the worst times in my life; I was driven by an apocalyptic frenzy that ensured that we lived at least three miles from any major target zone in New York. Although Celexa and therapy have quelled those beasts somewhat, I still think it’s the Survivalist Mormon in me that keeps me from thinking too permanently about any one place. I grew up with family members hoarding cans of green beans in secret apocaly-closets where a family could live for a year. It’s not necessarily such a bad instinct, but I could do without the day-to-day worst-case scenarios rushing through my head.

One thing is for sure: my paranoia drove us to live in some pretty fucking awesome places. Park Slope, especially where we live (near Grand Army Plaza), is a constant delight. The people are really cool, it feels like an actual neighborhood, and Prospect Park is the best-kept secret in New England.

And Columbia County, 2 hours north, where we spend the weekends and the occasional week, is too cool to imagine. I long for the place like people long for ancient homelands. The sunsets are unfathomably gorgeous, and the fields are English-moor magical. The farmhouse itself keeps surprising me with secret beauty hidden under bad paint and inexcusable wallpaper. And there’s a pool table and a basketball court and darts! I feel like going back to my 10-year-old self, alone on a playground, and telling him not to worry.

our street in Brooklyn

Oh yeah, I’m in my room at 2:15am and I’m wearing a Carolina T-shirt. Just so my later self knows.

10/27/02 A much-needed night out

10/27/02

A much-needed night out with members of my phylum tonight; my friend Ami Vitale happened to be in New York from New Delhi, and a small group of compatriots gathered at Von on Bleecker Street to celebrate her making it here in one piece. More amazingly, she isn’t even living in New Delhi anymore, having traded plush digs in India for the wilds of Kashmir, where she lives among the embattled people stuck between India and Pakistan, two countries threatening nuclear war over the little province. She moves from hotel to hotel, never sleeping in the same room more than three days in a row, just to keep the Islamist militants off her scent.

And why? To take pictures and document the unbelievable suffering of this people, and it looks like she’s one of the few photographers still trying. I’ve never known anyone from our generation with such talent and such a revulsion to self-advertising, making her the opposite of most so-called “artists” I’ve been unfortunate enough to meet of late. She truly takes pictures from some other place inside her, something very pure and scrubbed free of any kind of marketing sensibility. I’d imagine it allows her much more intimacy with her subjects, something that comes across in many of her photos (click here and peruse them for yourself, especially the Kashmir set).

me, Lindsay, Ami, Dave Surowiecki, Darren Ching and, of course, Lars Lucier

Ami seemed very relieved by our conversation, in which I convinced her that many if not most

10/26/02 I haven’t been doing

10/26/02

I haven’t been doing so well lately; I’ve half a mind to call up my psychopharmacologist and ask her two things: one, if I should increase the dose of Celexa to 40mg just like everyone else and two, if Lexapro is a better match for me. I know it’s a bit weird to start twiddling the dials on your cerebrum by throwing a bunch of different drugs at it, but as long as you equate anxiety/depression with an infection, it doesn’t seem so unnatural. Either way, I’ve had some unfortunate feelings of dread and miserableness that have lately bubbled to the surface like a fart in the bathtub. I’m so bored with it, really, it is one of my least interesting traits.

One way of combating one’s generally awful feelings about the world is to make sure one’s side of the street is clean, so Tessa and I had serious plans to go down to Washington for the anti-war protests, but of course, we didn’t go. It was mostly my fault, being caught in this particularly bad physical state (deviated septum keeping me from breathing, kidney stone threatening to throw me back in the hospital), but I think Tessa appreciated the day to write.

Me, I slept until a billion o’clock. Groggily dragging my ass downstairs, I walked Chopin to Prospect Park, where he fought with a Siberian Husky, chased fifteen squirrels, and almost peed on Steve Buscemi.

Fuck Celexa and Lexapro. I want whatever Chopin is taking.

Chopes on Wednesday night in the country, the one pic where he finally looked at the camera

10/25/02 Something I’d recommend to

10/25/02

Something I’d recommend to everyone open-minded enough to put up with the crap in this blog is Michael Moore’s film Bowling for Columbine, which is just about the most eviscerating attack on American society I’ve ever seen, and manages to be incredibly funny in the process. It comes at an unbelievably apt time, with the goose-stepping idiocy of the Bush Administration making every New Yorker nervous, and the ultra-sensationalized media accounts of the Washington Sniper(s). But don’t see it because it’s good for you, see it because you will be affected by it in some way. You may not agree with Moore’s heavy-handedness like I do, but the Left needs somebody out there willing to make an oaf of himself in the name of kindness and fairness. And believe me, he easily makes an oaf.

Back in 1990, much fun was made of CNN because they had developed a little “theme song” for Gulf War updates; now, every network has “Showdown: IRAQ” or “Sniper On the Loose” theme music, complete with rotating graphics and a special icon. It’s fucking sickening it’s as though the “movie trailer” aesthetic has completely permeated the news culture. “Bowling for Columbine” essentially blames America’s stunning homicide rate on the culture of fear peddled by news agencies glomming for ratings, the U.S. Government’s thirst for war, and large corporations, who can only sell their useless shit through scaring people. This is why our XM Satellite Radio is so great: the BBC doesn’t have any of that crap. The BBC actually has Story Hour in the middle of the day. We love those guys.

One positive thing to come out of the Washington Sniper(s) brouhaha is the well-documented comeuppance of the so-called “profilers” hired to fill time on the major news networks, almost all of them turning out to be useless hacks. I even made my own D.C. Sniper profile a few days ago just to see how I matched up. Let’s see how I did, shall we?

I said:

“He’s an American citizen, not foreign-born, in his late-30s.”

The truth:

John Mohammad is an American citizen born here, and he is 41, which ain’t too far off. Grade: B+ (points off for not mentioning his accomplice, who is foreign-born and much younger)

I said:

he’s “not Muslim.”

The truth:

He is in fact Muslim, but probably not associated with terrorists (even though he seems to agree with them). Grade: F, for being totally false

I said:

“I think he’s white.”

The truth:

He’s not white. Grade: F

I said:

“He lives in a place that is rural, but he has commuted to work along the I-95 corridor”

The truth:

He grew up in rural Louisiana, then moved to Tacoma and seems to have no extended knowledge of the D.C. corridor. Grade: D+

I said:

“[he was able to practice shooting without] intruders or eyebrows being raised say, one of the smaller towns along the Chesapeake Bay watershed where duck hunting requires patience and accuracy on long-range moving targets”

The truth:

He practiced shooting in his back yard in Tacoma, Washington and plenty of eyebrows were raised. I didn’t realize he’d be such an idiot. Grade: F

I said:

“He’s been trained as a shooter, perhaps in the national guard or in some other militia, but it has been a while since he has been in any unit, and he wasn’t ever in the actual Army.”

The truth:

He was trained as a shooter, earned a marksmanship medal, and it had been a while since he was in any unit. He was, however, in the armed forces several times. I thought an army record would have left too easy a trail, but again, he turns out to not be very smart. Grade: B-minus

I said:

“His agenda is not political, he is neither Democrat or Republican to him, it’s more spiritual (for lack of a better term). He views his relationship with the killings as a game between himself and the rest of the world.”

The truth:

Hard to say, but I think I’ll be borne out on this one. I think his Muslim-ness is nominal here. Grade: A, at least temporarily

I said:

“He’s sane enough to keep down a semi-regular job, probably one that he has recently quit…”

The truth:

Nope. He had been in and out of homeless shelters and seemed to be drifting around the country in a shitty Caprice. Grade: F

I said:

“general craziness skyrocketed after the September 11 attacks… the Sniper is one of those people, living in a world that is so impossibly fucked up… over the last year, his cheese has slipped perilously off his cracker.”

The truth:

He was said to have sympathy for the hijackers, and his personal life was definitely going down the toilet in the last year. His relationship with Lee Malvo probably made things worse. Grade: B (for lack of specificity)

I said:

“he gravitated towards a skill he has always had: marksmanship.”

The truth:

Well, he certainly made the most of his horrifying talent that marksmanship medal is probably the only praise he got in 20 years. Grade: A

I said:

“I don’t think he cares who his victims are, he decides when he finds the location.”

The truth:

Except for the 13-year-old boy he shot, this seems true. Grade: A-minus

I said:

“I think he works alone.”

The truth:

Yeah, right. Grade: F

I said:

“This man is a hunter, his white van is his duck blind, and although he is meticulous, he will make a grievous error in the next three shootings that will bring him down.”

The truth:

The holes carved in the trunk of the car hint at meticulousness, and he made a grievous error in the next shooting (at the time I wrote it) that brought him down: communicating with the police and making demands. And I believe I should get credit for my two mentions of ducks in my profile, given his affinity with the “duck in the noose” fable from the Cherokee canon. Grade: A

So I think overall, I did pretty uselessly bad. About as good as all the other profilers from CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and all the major networks. Perhaps I should tender my resum?

10/23/02 This, my friends, is

10/23/02

This, my friends, is what passes for the side of a milk carton here in America. No longer the domain of missing children, or ads for ice cream, or behoovements on behalf of calcium – this is the propaganda shoved in front of America’s kids each morning. This is what happens when you let Baby Boomers have children.

“Don’t jump from playground equipment”? First of all, you fascists, it’s called a “swing,” and what the hell use is it if you can’t jump from it? And “don’t climb on trees”? Don’t climb on fucking TREES?!? Where the hell has childhood gone? I climbed a tree on my 12th birthday, fell out, and broke my arm and having a cast was the coolest thing that happened to me in the 1970s. It taught me pain, healing, risk and adventure.

These meddlesome moms decry a new epidemic of fat kids slobbing around the house playing Grand Theft Auto on the PlayStation 2, but also won’t let them climb a goddamn tree. What are kids supposed to do when they get outside, walk around in a circle and moan?

I used to think my generation was the domain of the most painfully unmotivated bunch of kids this side of Newton’s 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Now I know we’re about to be succeeded by a bunch of fat, neurotic, litigious oafs who wouldn’t be able to find their way home from the Fast-N-Easy Burger if you painted giant red arrows on the sidewalk. Thanks, baby boomers!

10/22/02 There is a depressing

10/22/02

There is a depressing genre of rock ballad I call “The One That Got Away” song, which has a narrator speaking wistfully about an old lover that he sees again, long after the affair, and how fucked up everything has been since they once held each other oh-so tight. The prime example of this is Same Old Lang Syne by Dan Fogelberg, where he meets his old lover at the grocery store (the “frozen foods” section, we are told) and then they drink a six-pack in the car as they wax morose about their dreary lives (“she said she’d married her an architect who kept her warm and safe and dry she would have liked to say she loved the man, but she didn’t like to lie”).

A more depressing example is Harry Chapin’s Taxi, which tells the fairly identical tale of a taxi driver who recognizes his passenger as his teenage love, then drives her to a fancy house, where she leaves, and he gets stoned. It’s better written than “Lang Syne” and came out a decade earlier, but the mind-searing depression both of these songs deliver can turn an innocent car trip into a death march.

I made a pact with myself long ago that I would stay in touch with all my old friends, even ones that could barely stand me, just so I never have to go through those depressing moments. I still talk to every girl I ever dated (except for one, because she too damn mean). Kendall, Jane, Tracy, Susan you are all amazing, and I’m so happy we’ll never “run into each other” at the “frozen foods” section, because we’d be all be going to same party anyway. And with the heavenly fortune of being with Tessa now (and for as long as Providence deems it cool) I can truly say that despite my whining, lunacy and sleeping habits, No One Ever Got Away.