Monthly Archives: December 2002

12/20/02 So we’re packing all

12/20/02

So we’re packing all of our stuff up tonight for our grand cross-country Electric Larry and the San Frantastic Road Trip Experience tomorrow, and I found the following notepad stuffed in my old blazer:

(click for larger)

It’s the memo pad left out for guests at the Embassy Suites in West Covina, CA a place where we’ve had, like, three Christmases due to my mom’s job in the recording studio. The top idea says “bank hostage crisis” which is an idea for a screenplay that has been knocking around in my head since 1995 or so. It was the second idea that seemed to work:

five roommates, Cinqo de Mayo

“I live in a generation that pees first and asks where the toilet is later”

From those words scribbled on a hotel pad, my life was whisked in a different direction. In 1998, I actually wrote the screenplay based on that random thought, about five housemates trying to stop a Cinqo de Mayo party at their house – and after three years it became the Pink House movie, the main reason (besides Christmas with the family) that we are taking this month-long road trip.

The cool thing is this: the script went through eleven drafts before it was shot, and then during production all kinds of changes were made. In the editing process, 25% more of the script was cut, and 95% of the rest was altered in some way. Hardly one line from the first written draft is in the movie edit I handed to our sound mixer today. Except one: “We live in a generation that pees first and asks where the toilet is later.”

That silly, seemingly-nonsensical sentence made it from the breast pocket of my brown sport coat in the mid-1990s – all the way to today, unscathed. It’s the Little Piece of Dialogue that Could.

12/19/02 Seen and Overheard These

12/19/02

Seen and Overheard These Past Few Days in New York:

– The cashier at Modell’s Sporting Goods in Brooklyn is having trouble getting my receipt out of the cash register. Finally, she calls over her manager, who takes one look inside the machine and says, furiously, “Of course you ain’t getting no damn receipt! There’s no TAPE in there!” The cashier looks at me with a disturbing combination of humiliation and boredom, and I say “that’s okay, I don’t need a receipt anyway. They’re just insoles.” Then the manager looks at me like I’m trying to get away with something.

– Today at the B D F V stop at Rockefeller Center, a violinist (white, early 40s, looks like a guy who should be listening to NPR rather than busking) is playing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Trouble is, he’s very, very, good… better than I ever was, with a lilting tone and perfect placement. He’s not only playing my favorite Xmas song, he’s playing it in 2-tone chords (very difficult, believe me). He starts another song, but just then a SuperRedneck(tm) comes off the train and begins to walk by with the kind of mullet that would snarl traffic at Myrtle Beach. The violinist suddenly launches into “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – and the redneck stops, looks at the violinist and screams “HELL FUCKIN’ YEAH!” as he drops a $5 bill into his violin case. He starts a jig, 150 feet below 47th Street.

– It’s late at night, and I’m in the car with Tessa, Kelly Wachowicz, Billy Strong and Paula at the corner of Broadway and 72nd Street. While everyone is chatting, I notice that a handsome young black man in his early 20s is being repeatedly scorned by available cabbies. Six or seven slow down, then speed up when they see his color. Some of them even stop, then screech off while his hand is still on the car door handle. I mention this to the crowd, and instantly Kelly and Tessa throw open their doors and start screaming at the cabbies. “You should get their cab numbers!” Kelly tells the guy, and he just smiles sheepishly. Before Tessa can get out and hail a cab for him, one cabbie actually stops and lets him get in. Out of the darkness, his friend (same age, only with dreads) also gets into the cab. He had been hiding, because there was no WAY they would stop for two black men. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen this shit for myself, and I’m left seething with rage.

– At the gigantic Pathmark Grocery Store on Flatbush, I’m standing in line buying Tofutti Cuties for Tessa. Needless to say, there is one white guy in the entire store of 400 shoppers, and it is me. That awful song “That’s the Way it Is” by Celine Dion comes on over the loudspeakers, and as I begin to groan, I look around: every woman in line is mouthing the words without knowing it, and every man is moving to the groove. Soon enough, three people in different lines are singing in almost full voice, and the entire “12 Items Only” line is swaying to the beat. None of these people know each other, none of them acknowledge what they’re doing, but the whole spectacle is so beautiful that I feel like I’m in the middle of an accidental Busby Berkeley musical and for a few minutes, I totally love that song.

the view from the Q train as it briefly goes above land and over the Manhattan Bridge before sinking into the earth again

12/18/02 In the mornings and

12/18/02

In the mornings and afternoons of the years 2000 and 2001, I became an automaton. I turned into the very thing I fought against for many years, and was handsomely rewarded for it. My job was at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in the Woolworth Building – and I trekked there every morning from my apartment on the corner of 1st and 13th in the East Village. My roommate Lars and I wanted to invent a cool name for our rather nondescript part of town, so we came up with ToTEVa, which was our Manhattan abbreviation for “Top Of The East Village.”

When I first slipped the disc in my back, I became intimately familiar with the 12-minute walk over to Union Square; I knew every windowsill, fire hydrant, magazine stand and siamese water plug where I could rest for a round of futile stretching. I took the same staircase to the same part of the same platform every day: the very front of the downtown-bound 4-5 train at 14th Street. Once in the car, my misery at the day-job existence would be abated by one thing: placing my forehead against the front glass of the lead car and pretending I was flying down the tunnel without gravity.

In My Dinner With Andr, Andr

12/17/02 Tessa has slowly developed

12/17/02

Tessa has slowly developed a nasty pneumonia over the last week, reaching its zenith today in the form of a hacking, phlegm disturbance that has the dog running for cover. Needless to say, it’s been a slow day at the ranch here in Brooklyn, too cold to do anything outside except walk the Poopypants and hopes he does his business quickly.

Days like this make me romanticize about the years in Los Angeles when it could easily be 75 and sunny on December 17, but then I sober up and realize it was mostly dreary in the winter there too. The cold rains would come and stick in the craw of the Hollywood mountain where I lived, and fungus would grow on every outside surface. The Beachwood house garage would fester in a bacteria-growing pit of despair, frequented by rats and the decaying poop of neighborhood felines.

The rain would dump an inch of water into my convertible Mustang, which was held together with speaker wire and packing tape anyway, meaning that I spent all winter sitting on a trash bag. Ah, the metaphor.

In direct contrast to those rage-filled days of darkness and humiliation, I’ve set a goal for myself in the next few months: I’m determined to get a book deal by the end of February. Two of them are percolating right now; one is Jon Vaden’s idea that I’d like to see shepherded through, the other is a collaboration with my 407 Grimes dorm brain trust on a sports book that will be a blast to write. I wish I could go ahead and just say what these ideas are, but wise men always have a healthy mistrust of the internet, and you should too.

Oh, what the hell! It’s a big coffee table book called “Berber Weight Fleece Blankets: A Pictoral History 1918-2002” and it’s gonna rock!!!

12/16/02 In honor of Beethoven’s

12/16/02

In honor of Beethoven’s birthday:

our cover band “The Highlanders” circa ’87 at Carolina that’s me down front and Jamie Block to the right. We played two originals, five songs by U2 and got lucky at Granville Towers one night at a Vodka Poppers mixer

12/15/02 Look, I don’t mean

12/15/02

Look, I don’t mean to sound like some ol’ hickory fart with a corncob pipe and an aphorism for every occasion, but maybe it would do New York a bit of good to walk to work for a couple of days. Not the poorer folks up in the Bronx having to walk from 256th St. to their salon job on W. 8th, mind you (they should have limos), but your average Joe McFuck living in DUMBO who is now complaining about having to actually walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to get downtown. Take a look at Thomas Edison’s film from 1899; that’s what you were supposed to do anyway.

From my vantage point here at 2:24am, there is still no definite word that the strike will happen or not (although signs point to “not yet, anyway”) but some Americans need to actually get out in the freezing rain and face some hardship, and those who don’t already know who you are. At a few of these Xmas parties I’ve been to this weekend, I’ve heard a fair amount of bitchin’ and bellyachin’ about the transit workers and how they owe it to us to keep the city moving. Then Bloomberg goes and gets some Supreme Court or another to declare a strike illegal AS WELL AS demanding four passengers to a car getting into and out of

12/14/02 We’re all a little

12/14/02

We’re all a little freaked out by the possibility of a transit strike on Monday, and by “we’re all” I mean approximately 12.7 gajillion people in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx. The only person I know who would be remotely prepared for such a thing is my sister Michelle, who not only biked to Boston from here and then walked across America, but routinely rode her bike from Astoria to Union Square every morning for work (if that doesn’t sound impressive/insane, look at a map).

We tried to get some of the MTA scoop out of the Wall Street Journal reporters at Nell Casey and Jesse Drucker’s Christmas party tonight, but Tessa said they were all talking “hyper-shop” and no salient details were forthcoming. ‘Tis always lovely to see the brain trust of Nell, Virginia Heffernan, Lorraine Tobias and Tessa get together; those are four ladies who can discuss governmental policy with the same alacrity and enthusiasm as new haircuts. It’s so easy to fetishize these women that I make a point of not doing so.

Tessa, Lorraine and Virginia hold forth in three different directions

Post-party, we packed into the car with all of the above, plus Natasha, DK, Alex Draper and Virginia’s boyfriend David Samuels for a cram-packed ride back to Brooklyn that reminded everyone else of college, and reminded me of a typical car ride with my family. Back home, I kept Tessa in her duds long enough for us to take a particularly pretentious picture in our apartment hallway:

12/13/02 Herman Melville always said

12/13/02

Herman Melville always said that any particularly erudite allusion in novels was always a good thing: if your reader didn’t get it, he/she wouldn’t worry about it and skip right over without having noticed. But if the reader gets your allusion, he/she and the novelist will share the special, quick secret bond of two thinkers on the same wavelength. Melville had billions of allusions in “Moby Dick” some were biblical, some from other writers of his time, some mythological – and I rarely knew what the hell he was talking about. But he was right: when I did, I felt like Herman was winking across centuries, right at me.

The same can be said of humor, and I had a similar experience tonight while watching a tour de force workshop of a new play called “Crush the Infamous Thing,” playing its penultimate night (in this incarnation) on W. 30th Street. The whole play is the rat-a-tat-tat dialogue that would occur if “Brideshead Revisited,” “Sunset Boulevard” and the Thin Man movies all collided in a door-slamming farce. At one point, the lead man is visited by his ex-girlfriend, obviously pregnant. She threatens to expose his seedy life, but he talks her down, saying, “Don’t worry, baby! I’ll take you to the races!” She pats her tummy and says “Well, you better place, ‘cuz I’m showing!”

A very silly joke, and nobody laughed, but I thought it was brilliant. Besides, they were on to the next line before you could blink, and the audience would no doubt get the next one. Ben Feldman (our Pink House lawyer) also represents this play, and apparently there are offers on the table for a real production, but I worry how many great lines like this will be shaved off so that Joe McMainstream don’t git too confused. It’s the little things like this that make life worth living and art worth consuming, in my opinion.

And if you’re in New York tonight and want to catch the last performance of “Infamous Thing” before god-knows-what happens to it, head over to 259 W. 30th St. (b/w 7th and 8th) before curtain at 7pm Saturday and take it in. With four actors playing 14 different parts and the best girl-Friday dialogue west of 1947, it is one or two tweaks away from being a hit.

12/12/02 While talking to my

12/12/02

While talking to my shrink today, I realized how destructive the years 1979-81 were to my already-addled psyche, and not just because they were the worst fashion years since the 1890s. That was the time our family calls “2nd Iowa,” when we came back to Iowa after a fully glorious couple of years in Northern London. I had spent “1st Iowa” getting the crap kicked out of me at Grant Wood Elementary School, so the thought of coming back to that shithole filled me with dread, and I was not disappointed.

I started 9th grade at Franklin Junior High School still a year ahead, having skipped kindergarten – and the first week, one of the violinists in the orchestra challenged me to a “fight by the bike rack” and a girl I’d known since kindergarten pulled my hair back so hard in the hallway that I dropped my books and screamed that I was a “fucking faggot.” Hello again, America!

I retreated into myself with such hermetic perfection that I was able to go through two years without saying one word at school; most folks probably thought I was retarded. I became adept at avoiding being called on in class, which is a learned art form. Especially in classes like French, when you’re graded on pronunciation. I learned how to be so tightly coiled up and unapproachable that the teachers started looking right through me, knowing that asking me to speak may end up being more trouble than they wanted.

the “2nd Iowa” house

At home, things sucked too. I was growing hair in weird places, got my first taste of acne, and was experiencing the dawning of a new existentiality; all 12-year-olds stare into the gaping maw of unhappiness for the first time, but I fell straight in and was consumed. I didn’t talk for an entire month at one point, and saw no joy in practicing either violin or piano, both instruments being nothing but sources of criticism from teachers and my parents. The only escape I had was ham radio (which I’ve explained in better detail), which meant the only people I talked to were 45-year-old spazzes in New Mexico.

One summer afternoon during one of those years – probably 1979 or something – I was riding bikes in the neighborhood, peripherally around Sean and his gang of scruffy ne’er-do-wells. This girl named Tina Buresh (who lived down the street) happened upon us all, and ended up riding down the hill with me towards our house. Sean et. al. immediately launched into the refrain that I had a new girlfriend, etc. and I bolted inside. I curled up in the bathroom, threw up, then stayed in the house for a couple of weeks.

I was so alarmingly horrified that this would even be a possibility. I’d had a nascent experience with the enchanting Heidi Downing a few years earlier, but London was a long way away, and now I was sailing into the outer troposphere of puberty. It seemed very dangerous and nauseating, upsetting the carefully-constructed control-issued persona I’d built for myself. The only good by-product of friendlessness was the freedom from catering to any other human. I was sickened by the responsibility of being liked.

Later on in life, after my first kiss at 18 and virginity loss at 21 (oh the stories), I pulled the worst trick imaginable: I tried to make up for a lifetime of being a romance-less dork by seducing as many women as I could, but I kept my horror at the responsibility of being loved. This set in motion the years 1989 to 2000, for which I’d like to lay me down on a desert basin and apologize. There were probably no two greater personality flaws working in perfectly disastrous incongruence with one another, and thank god I lived long enough to see it end.

12/11/02 New York is a

12/11/02

New York is a pretty miserable place physically even without bad weather; yeah, I know the water can be nice if you’re looking at the right angle, and Prospect Park is a land of enchantment, but let’s face it: nobody moves here because of the scenery. Make it 33 degrees F and throw horizontal sheets of black rain in your face, and you’ve got a day like today, when even suicide would take too much effort.

We had comfort food tonight in the form of lamb chops, “winter pesto” and asparagus, courtesy of Alex Draper and Lorraine Tobias in their sweet little Brooklyn Heights pad. The food was fabulous, but of course their baby Nora provided all of the highlights; she is moving into that phase when words fascinate her, and social interactions have the possibility of fearless delight.

She was especially fascinated with my digital camera, which after further reflection, makes sense: touch any button on the back of that thing, and the picture changes. Also, the lens moves in and out in a pleasing robotic fashion.

It’s always fun to be a part of a baby’s first anything, whether it be a word, a walk or a tooth. I had the pleasure of being there for the first picture Nora will ever take. She didn’t know she was doing it, but her finger hit the shutter at just the right time, and caught her own father mid-sentence.

Nora’s First Pic:

Alex Draper caught by the unfliching eye of Art School class of 2023 Graduate Nora Draper

Nora’s Second Pick:

clothed in her first Tar Heel bib, Nora lets her feelings known about my early attempts at brainwashing