Monthly Archives: November 2002

11/20/02 This was one of

11/20/02

This was one of those decompression days that immediately follows a large gathering of people here at the farm, typified by the kind of inertia that would slow the planets to a crawl. Tessa, after rallying four days straight for guests, food and a trip to Madison Square Garden, could scarcely get out of bed. We gathered enough adenine triphosphate to get over to Great Barrington to see Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes’ new film that beautifully apes the “women’s films” of Douglas Sirk (some of which are the life blood supply of Tessa’s moviegoing consciousness), and it was an understated treat. Not just for the 1950s-style ludicrousness of America’s civil liberties, but the art direction was fabulous; several rooms in Julianne Moore’s house are the exact replica of our unchanged rooms here at the farm. I’ve renovated the downstairs, but the upstairs has not been altered significantly since 1955:

one of our bedrooms: note “maple leaf” single bed (no sex please), gold-plated cherubs on wall, and sunburst clock with wood paneling and green-flowered wallpaper

There are about fifty incredible shots in this movie, but the last one stands out as significant: after a homosexual tryst dissolves her family, and our heroine is left with a bittersweet goodbye from a forbidden love across the racial divide, the camera pans up slowly from the cold snow and into a tree limb showing the first buds of spring. I took it to mean “don’t worry, Julianne: the 1960s are just around the corner and pretty soon it’ll be okay to be gay and cool to date a black man.”

Then about two hours after the movie, I thought: nope. White, straight America still hates queers, and they’re not too fond of black people either. It was enough to make me want to go back to bed.

11/29/02 Even though we were

11/29/02

Even though we were deep in Thanksgiving lethargy, miles upstate, blanketed in snow and wind chills in the teens, the mighty Tar Heels’ thrashing of paper tiger Kansas on Wednesday night lit a bunsen burner ‘neath all our asses, and we decided to trek into the city for the second game, this time against Stanford.

A more worthwhile two-hour drive was never had, as the electricity at Madison Square Garden was intimate, the food (all crap, of course) was comfortingly bad for us, and Tar Heels put on another show. Again, I must always disclaim the whole “being a fan” thing for those of you who couldn’t care less about sports (or who are fans of, say, the Blue Hens of the University of Delaware) but there’s something very comforting about entering an entire section of folks dressed in your colors, a feeling that is even more heartening when you’re out of your hometown and miss seeing games with 21,444 rabid fans in baby blue. Old friends crop up at these things: I saw Juliette Dickey (late of Mammoth Records), Beth Smith (from the Lab!) and even Alex and Wendi were there. Attending away games reminds you that your clan is always lurking beneath the gritty exterior of an otherwise harsh town.

sarcasm, delight, witticisms and absurdist humor in row E: Sam, Tessa, Jordana, Sean, Seth and Jon. not pictured: me and Chip

Tessa’s nephew Sam has been so captivated by our constant game-fed frenzies that he became a serious Tar Heel fan about two years ago (at age 10) and now refers to them as “we.” When we asked him what high school he wanted to attend, he mentioned Concord in Cambridge, Mass and when Tessa said she thought it was a Morehead school, he said, “well that seals it then.” Gotta start these kids early, what with Dick Vitale mentioning Dook every five seconds. I’ll take any chance I get to spread my hatred of that goddamn place around.

The game, you ask? We won it going away, with several moves on behalf of Raymond Felton that have to be rewound to be believed. I tell you, I have survived on the mother’s milk of Tar Heel basketball for seventeen years now, and I don’t think I’ve ever begun to love a team more (except for Dean’s ’96-’97 crew) nor ultimately cared less about the outcome of each game, since watching them is so much fun.

Yeah, I know it all sounds goofy to those of you who don’t care. I pity you – without sports teams we deprive ourselves of the delightfully irrational; and without a tribe, we deprive ourselves of belonging. All that shit George Will writes about baseball? The PBS series from Ken Burns? It all melts away in the white-hot glow of a 2-on-1 fast break with a streaking trailer for the no-look pass and dunk, I swear to God.

Jackie Manuel goes up against the double-team as Sean May waits for the rebound (click for bigger)

11/28/02 First off, you need

11/28/02

First off, you need a table. King Arthur, in the underrated musical “Camelot,” brainstorms until he comes up with the Round Table, at which no knight can be exalted above any other. For me, a good table needs to have two or three leaves as to extend itself deep into the livers of those around it. You can imagine my (and Tessa’s) jubilation at finding an antique table at the furniture place in Millerton that has ten leaves and extends to a length of fourteen feet. That pretty much settles the argument; you’re having Thanksgiving at our house.

Tessa and I try to look like a Norman Rockwell painting, but I just look learning-disabled

Tessa and I do a little tug of war over the issues of Privacy vs. Gragariousness a lot, and I have to say, she puts up with a lot of my desire to gather tons of people in one spot. I think after our first successful “Men and Mayonnaise” party as freshmen I was hooked; I may have been an oversexed moron in college, but I threw some of the best parties the late eighties and early nineties ever saw. Shit, we just made a whole movie about a particularly depraved one.

Sometimes there are grumbles, but everyone always ends up having a blowout weekend at the farm, which is exactly the way we’d like it: a mixture of the steadfastness of age combined with the dipshit silliness of adolescence. Present at this year’s Thanksgiving: Tessa’s sister Michelle and my sister Michelle; Tessa’s brother-in-law Dennis; their children Katharine and Sam; my Mom; my sister’s best friend Anastasia; John Kelleran and his family; and even Chip drove up from North Carolina. We had a white borscht soup courtesy of John’s wife Justyna and her Polish mom (who cutely speaks ten words of English), my mom’s orange rolls (who cutely threaten to send you to the cardiologist), and an 18-pound turkey that was so golden and delicious as to be an absolute clich. I added a flair for the dramatic by stacking the dining room full of fifteen or so pumpkins I grew this summer, as we were too late to carve them for Halloween, and many toasts were hoisted aloft in the general spirit of desire to keep our loved ones as close to us as possible in this wicked world.

Later we played “Celebrity,” and Holden Caufield’s sister Phoebe came up twice.

our family says Happy Thanksgiving to my family 24 years ago (below) and yours too

11/26/02 I’m basically the most

11/26/02

I’m basically the most liberal person I know, which is saying something, because most of my friends love opera. I grew up in a household where you could get grounded for a month even quoting someone saying “the n-word” about African-Americans, and what with both of my parents being artists and all, we dogpaddled our way through the Nixon years and the Reagan decade with epithets hurled at the TV by both father and mother. I’ve been sickened by Republicans since I was able to barf applesauce, and I’m now angry at Democrats for not being liberal enough. This makes me a pinko fag nut when compared to the other Home Depot shoppers I saw today, but somebody’s gotta do it, right?

There are a few exceptions, though. I have a knee-jerk reaction to people who live in this country without speaking the language; I feel like that’s just part of what you give to the country in return for living in it. I plan on speaking as little English as possible when we get to France, and I’d do the same for any other country (except China that shit is too hard!) Yes, I know this country is full of people too poor to learn the lingua franca, but there’s something that gets my gut when wandering into Monterey Park in Los Angeles and not seeing a single sign in English. I fully accept that it is irrational and probably mean-spirited of me, and I’m working to change it.

The other thing I’m having trouble with right now? I’m developing a strong disgust for young, angry Islamic fascists all around the world. I know they seem like an easy target, but my dime-store Buddhism has helped me dispel a lot of rage I’ve had since youth (not that you’d know, fellow basketball players) and part of that is giving up on long-held assumptions about groups of people I don’t know. But the goings-on in Nigeria this week are so sickening as to foment newfound revulsion to a community who think it’s cool to run wild in the streets of Lagos and stab innocent bystanders to death because of something a columnist wrote.

My loathing of Al-Qaedian terrorists is .000001% tempered by the fact that I agree with several of the things they want: the U.S. should get the fuck out of Saudi Arabia, we should have nothing to do with propping up bullshit foreign governments, we should cut our oil consumption IN HALF, and we should have LONG AGO forced Israel to grant Palestinian statehood no matter how complicated it might be. This shit, to me, is common sense although if I saw Bin Laden in the street, I’d still want to crush his face with the business end of a tire iron, even if just for the chaplain Mychal Judge.

But I probably wouldn’t, because I’m fucking civilized. I believe in a literate, kind, sensitive society where you don’t kill people, period. And for some reason, the situation in Nigeria is as disgusting as anything else I’ve heard this year: the minister of information for one of the northern states has issued a “fatwa” on the head of Isioma Daniel, the columnist who dared speak her mind in the local paper. The actual government is telling their frothing, mad mobs to find her and rip her apart.

215 people died this week in Lagos, and I promise you most of them were Christians. Yes, Christians can be awful too, they initiated the Crusades, they gave us Anita Bryant, they can be meaner than shit, blah blah blah. And you can’t hold a religion accountable for its worst adherents, just like Jesus probably didn’t ask that deranged pro-lifers kill abortion providers. But there’s only one major religion in the modern world that commands death for “insulting” its leader, and it ain’t Mormons.

I’m trying to get it, I’m trying to understand. I’m even going to buy that book that caused an uproar at UNC, just to scratch the surface of this faith’s appeal. But to issue a fatwa on a writer for half a sentence fragment? I’d like to take this moment to issue my own message, this one going out to the singer Cat Stevens (now “Yusef Islam”) for his unwavering support of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie: a big, hearty, long-overdue FUCK YOU. When “Peace Train” comes on the radio, I slam the OFF button, pull over to the side of the road and hock a loogie into the bushes. It helps get the taste of you and yours out of my mouth.

11/25/02 Things That Fellow 7th

11/25/02

Things That Fellow 7th Graders Don’t Find Appealing:

– the violin solo to Vivaldi’s “Spring” in the Franklin Junior High School Orchestra Concert

– ham radio booth at the Boy Scout Jamboree

– not knowing how to dive

– your mom dropping you off right in front of the main door

– Mork thermos filled with Strawberry Quik©

– getting an A-minus on the geology test everyone else failed

– striking out with two men on

– sheet music to Bartk’s “Mikrokosmos” stolen at lunch

– red hair

trust me on these

11/24/02 Well, if you’re going

11/24/02

Well, if you’re going to have an I Heart NY weekend, you might as well document it especially me, since I’ve had a dearth of those lately. Once in a while the city reminds you why you flocked here in the first place, a gathering of such incredible minds and quixotic ambition that, for a brief second, you forget about all the bus exhaust, the urine, the insanely rude people, and the mixed drinks that cost $14 before the tip.

Saturday night we saw Take Me Out, a play about the repercussions of a major baseball player revealing his sexual identity. Our friend Dan Kois wrote a similar play a few months back for the 24-hr Plays, except that Dan’s was ten minutes and “Take Me Out” had two intermissions. Still the dialogue was terrific, and though the play never knew what it wanted to be, it was never boring (which is my big beef with theater) and our friends Fred Weller and Dominic Fumusa were terrific. The real revelation to me, however, was Denis O’Hare, whose delightfully, slightly-repressed gay accountant to the “out” player is so good as to defy convincing. Just go see this thing; you’ll understand. He delivers a soliloquy that should be a prerequisite for all actors who want to work in the biz.

Afterwards, we went out with Fred Weller and his girlfriend Ally to Haveli’s on 2nd Avenue, and had a terrific hang with them both. I’ve known Fred since I was a spastic 18-year-old freshman, and watching his evolution from gorgeous, surreal fratboy to serious Broadway actor has been really satisfying. He always told great stories, which is fitting, because most of other people’s stories are about him. I’ll also be forever indebted to him for his impeccable work on the Pink House movie at a time when other actors were being rather difficult, he was a breath of fresh air, nailing his lines and looking damned dapper as our 1929 antagonist.

me, Fred, Ally and Tessa freezing our asses off

Tonight after a botched day of sleeping through hoops, then missing my own team beat ODU while I was looking for parking

11/23/02 In the interests of

11/23/02

In the interests of my own sanity, I’d like to keep this short (as opposed to last night’s Homerian epistle) and wonder aloud: if you believe in quantum mechanics that basically state that things only exist by being observed, then you can transitively state that you only exist by affecting other people. If, by your own experience, you agree that negative behavior is not a viable option (since causing bad things tends to loop back upon the perpetrator eventually), the following could be true: You don’t exist unless you are doing good things for other people.

11/22/02 While Fedexing my urine

11/22/02

While Fedexing my urine to Chicago today, I

No, let me start over. I ran into two people on 7th Ave. on the way to the Fedex place, both of whom are from the tiny towns outside Asheville, NC, although neither will ever meet. First was a girl whom I believe to be Rinn, one of the Zendik Farm folks who come up to Park Slope every season or so to spread the good word of communal living. Zendik Farm looks beautiful enough, and their mission statement gets more and more appealing every day, given how full of shit this country is right now. I’ve always been a fan of communes, and certainly participated in my share of communal living arrangements, but I’ve never considered an actual commune for myself, since it always seems like there would be a “charismatic leader” who couldn’t be trusted, and an insane amount of gardening. Honestly, when I think of a commune, somehow I always imagine humid, 8-hour days sowing goddamn cucumbers.

I’ve had many chats with the Zendik folks over the years, so this girl warmed up and told me about how their leader recently got ovarian cancer and needs to fly to Mexico to get “alternative measures” that “aren’t legal in the United States.” I said that ovarian cancer is nothing to mess with, and she assured me that they’d already done surgery. At least this commune is decked out with satellite dishes, the internet and modern medical practices; they aren’t just chewing on pine cones and hoping for the best. I’d actually support their artistic endeavors more, if everything they did didn’t look like a calendar from Heavy Metal magazine.

A few minutes away from Zendik Farm is the town of Swannanoa, home of Warren Wilson College. Strangely enough, Tessa’s sister Michelle was largely responsible for moving the school there in the 70s, but most folks in North Carolina know it as a fabulous place to get a writing and poetry degree or as a last-ditch, hopeless place for kids who have failed or drugged out of every other school they’ve attended. Check out their tagline: “We’re not for everyone… but then, maybe you’re not everyone.” I believe the senior retention rate for boarders is about 12%.

Anyway, my friend Sarah Adkins went there for a semester or two, and on one of my visits, a blizzard snowed us in. What was supposed to be a one-night party turned into a seven-day freak show of liquor, stinkweed and girls that were far too young for me (even then, in 1995). The thermostat in the dorm was broken, so we all wore all of our clothes at once, and half the hall gathered in Sarah’s room on the floor, radiating body heat and watching every movie the VCR could handle. With us was Sarah’s boyfriend Jay, whom I thought to be an awesome dude, full of fire and fun, but also sensitive and genuinely curious. Over that week, Jay and I bonded hard, played pool, drank fortified wine and then regretted the snow melting.

On my way out of town, Jay suggested I swing by his workplace one of those giant SuperDrug warehouses where you can buy 4,000 Zantacs for $3.95. When I arrived, he said, “take anything you want; I’m the cashier.” And being broke, and since toiletries in Chapel Hill are like cigarettes in prison, I damn well got as much saline solution and razors as I could carry. The second he got done ringing me up, however, I felt my arm grabbed – by a rent-a-cop in a blue polyester uniform.

Seems they had been watching him give shit away for weeks, and had to catch him in the act, and I was the guy. They couldn’t do anything to me legally (although the corpulent moron manager sure threatened to do so), but they tried to humiliate Jay for all he was worth, which at that moment, was about four bucks. The manager agreed to not press charges as long as Jay paid him back for approximately $225 of “given-away goods,” which seemed like a fair estimate. Jay looked so lost, so chagrined, so sad in that moment, I almost wanted to pick him up in my arms (he was about 5’6″) and whisk him out of that fucking shithole.

I was kicked out of the store and had to leave him there, and drove back to Chapel Hill. That was seven years ago, and I never saw him again.

Until today, when he shouted my name right after my encounter with the Zendik Farm girl. I didn’t recognize him at all, but the minute he started talking, it all flooded back, that whole era. After exchanging all the news of our current lives, I said, “god, I haven’t seen you since that thing, you know, at the Drug Warehouse…” and he looked at me with blank chagrin, as if he had suppressed that information long, long ago. He said, “I mean, those times, it was just forever ago.” Jay is now enrolled at the Culinary Institute, is married and has two kids. He has an amazing life built for himself, and plans on starting his own restaurant down south.

And here I was, almost psyched to see if he wanted to come steal some saline solution with me, just to see if we could still do it. But he is so past that shit, so far past sleeping in a dorm with fourteen people watching “Pee-Wee’s Big Top” under a giant comforter, not interested in scaring up some trouble for the sake of the community. He has turned from a great, scared boy into a great, confident guy. And as I turned home, I wondered why so much of me still longs for what’s left of the commune.

11/21/02 Michelle made some good

11/21/02

Michelle made some good news today she got an apartment that is literally three blocks away from us. It’s on the other side of Flatbush Ave. (which, I realized today, is something I’m kind of a snob about) but it’s on a beautiful tree-lined street with landmark protection, and hers is a studio apartment built in 1883 with 13-ft. ceilings and a definitely good vibe.

Tessa and Michelle in the new apt; view of street with Michelle’s windows upper left

(click on either for a bigger image)

Owners amaze me with the loving detail they pay to their apartments here in Brooklyn; while we were walking, we saw a guy risking his life to darken the black trim of his outside windows. Our landlord almost needs to be medicated when it comes to the crannies and nooks of our place. The only comparable fetishization of apartments I’ve ever experienced is in the swankier parts of San Francisco and perhaps the French Quarter. Even Manhattanites tend not to stress about it East Village apartments are full of stern, handwritten warnings and city-issued recycling instructions annoyingly pasted over the mailboxes with ancient duct tape.

Anyway, Michelle’s place is cool, and the loft (see pic) is actually well-constructed, with nicely-detailed pillars. It’s nothing like the usual dorm loft with squeaky 2x4s and a ladder about to collapse. I was always a fan of the loft (’twas where I slumbered in the East Village) but one must take into consideration how sexually prohibitive they can be. A girl teetering on the edge of having sex with you can really be daunted by a ladder. Plus, it’s not like you can segue from a backrub or a chat or anything; getting into the loft is something of a serious commitment.

Not knowing any better, I always took the loft bed at Carolina, largely because I suspected I wasn’t getting laid in a room with Jon and Chip in it anyway.

Tonight I played disastrously bad hoops on Mulberry Street, which was demoralizing, because I’ve been pretty good of late. Although I made three spectacular driving shots, I probably missed thirty. It was a fuckin’ nightmare. But my mood has been pretty good this week, and things around the city are looking especially beautiful to me, so once out of the gym, I took this shot of Prince Street and Broadway, and felt a lot better.

click above for bigger image, or here for a QT movie of the Q Train home