Monthly Archives: March 2003

3/31/03 Chapel Hill, NC We

3/31/03 Chapel Hill, NC

We came down to Chapel Hill this week to teach Dr. Peter Kaufman’s scholarship class at UNC, seemingly titled “Truth, Proof and Madness.” I always loved Kaufman’s classes they were the equivalent of an

3/30/03 Chapel Hill, NC Sadly,

3/30/03 Chapel Hill, NC

Sadly, today’s blog will have to be slightly truncated, but then again, I dare any of you to write an impassioned diary after having driven nine solid hours through sleet. There’s something spiritually crushing about seeing snow again after a respite of warm weather, but there’s something altogether torturous about following a winter storm all the way down the east coast. It does something to the backs of your eyes, this kind of driving.

Several pieces of news today that piqued the imagination: first off, my sister is having trouble with her butt. I’ve had the same thing happen to me, or at least a cousin of it, and it’s just wretched. She feels bad about complaining, but she should be reminded that Napoleon changed the course of human history when he was afflicted just before the Battle of Waterloo (do your own research if you don’t believe me).

Secondly: the car’s satellite radio gave forth nine hours of our government well, Donald Rumsfeld and Tommy Franks

3/29/03 Brooklyn, NY One of

3/29/03 Brooklyn, NY

One of the common saws coming out of even the wisest of mouths right now is “well, I’m against the war, but I support our troops.” Mid-discussion, at least two people have asked “but you support the troops, right?” Um, well…

Our “commander-in-chief” was not voted in by me, nor did he win the popular election. He was sneaked into the Oval Office by the vote of an ideologically-stacked Supreme Court, and it is my opinion he has a tenuous mandate over the armed forces. Should I accept that he is my President, and get over it? Sure, but “supporting” him in blind faith is excruciatingly difficult.

People who join the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines do so using their free will. There is no conscription forcing anybody to grab a gun and kill people in foreign lands. They knew what they were getting into, and made a conscious decision.

Did I support the troops when they went into Bosnia and put an end to the genocide? Absolutely. Did I support the troops when they kicked the Taliban’s ass? You betchya.

But this war is the delusional fantasy of a few individuals sitting deep inside the White House, plotting to viciously re-arrange the Middle East. Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, Rice and Ashcroft are not people who speak for me. Even Powell, who used to be the voice of reason, was swallowed by the Dark Side one lonely night, and the war followed soon thereafter.

As of today, 37 American kids have been killed. Hundreds of Iraqi troops have been mowed down, and two count ’em, two – American missiles have found their way into Baghdad markets, turning hundreds of women and children into slabs of dismembered meat. This war is reading like an Al-Qaeda Training Video on the airwaves of Al-Jazeera. The viscous, bubbling syrup of white-hot hatred is gushing over from Arab nations, and we are creating terrorists by the bushel.

To all you pro-war people: your viewpoint is hard to stomach unless you live in New York City or Washington. When your sisters bike across the Manhattan Bridge every day for work, when you enter each tunnel praying you’ll see the other side, when you are forced to rush across Times Square to do an errand, maybe then you can have an opinion. Until you move here and experience what it is actually like to live in a place charred by horrifying memories and palpable threats of more, you should just shut up. You – and the other 71% of America who dig the war – make it very dangerous for my family to live in the town we love.

As for our troops: I don’t see how they’re making us any safer. I didn’t think Iraq was a threat before, and I don’t now. So far, U.S. troops have killed a lot of brown people and turned a billion or so Muslims against us. Our missiles are accurate, to be sure, but not accurate enough. We took over one of Iraq’s airports and called it Bush International. How cool was that? I hope everyone had a good chuckle. You know, while four thousand Saudi teens seethe with rage.

Every day this war drags on, most of the thinking, sensitive people I know toil in a vague sense of agony. Do I wish the entire Army could come home in one piece, get back to making jokes at the dinner table and playing hoops in the backyard? God, yes. But saying “I’m against the war, but support the troops” is the mealy-mouthed, pusillanimous wimpering of a nation living under the Orwellian eye of a fear-mongering government, and the lockstep induced by a highway full of redneck assholes driving Yukons with bumper stickers that say “YOUR NEXT, NORTH KOREA![sic]”

“Support the troops…” Can’t it be enough just to wish they survive and come home?

3/28/03 Brooklyn, NY Tessa hasn’t

3/28/03 Brooklyn, NY

Tessa hasn’t been doing too well lately, so I convinced her to go to a festival of short films produced, directed and starring several friends of ours. After that, I took her to A Salt & Battery in the West Village and started talking a lot of bullshit to get her in a better mood.

When that didn’t work, we came home and played two hours of Boggle. Now she sleeps soundly next to me, radiating comfort and serenity, and I think to myself, what a awful fate to sleep alone on a night like this.

3/27/03 Brooklyn, NY My brother

3/27/03 Brooklyn, NY

My brother Steve flew over Hollywood today in his orange airplane (on his way back up to Mountain View, CA, I assume) and took a few pictures from the cockpit. One of them was right over my old house, shown here with a red arrow:

click for bigger

I have always characterized myself in that house as a vessel of pure misery; by 1998, after living there for a year, I began to loathe Los Angeles and everyone in it. One of my first blogs ever was written about that Beachwood house, and though that entry was tainted with the bleakness that followed Sept. 11, my feelings towards Hollywood have remained relatively steadfast: it was an awful time, an awful place, full of criminally uninteresting people, and I wasted years 30 through 33 being there at all.

Strange, then, that I have these occasional longings for it. Ever since our trip to L.A. in January, I’ve had to re-assess my experience. The movie we are about to finish was written at that house, and I’ve come to understand that my social shortcomings were as much based in my own horseshit as they were in the collective clue of my peers.

I’ll stand by the statement that Los Angeles is the worst place to be single on Earth (well, that or a Turkish disco) and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone aching to meld with a loved one. But it did provide me with a forced monkhood that allowed a switch of priorities which, in turn, allowed me to be with Tessa a few years later.

Also, this was a time when anyone with a good idea could make a fantastic living. Having helped invent the editorial look and feel for CitySearch, I stayed on as their movie reviewer, and they still had the money to pay me. There was a sense, in about 1999 or so, that we had entered a brave new world in America, where new companies like Amazon and web-broadcasts like Radio GoGaGa were leading us into a future where there were, like Donald Fagen sang, “just machines to make big decisions, programmed by fellows with compassion and vision.”

Even though I was still dialing up with a 14400 baud modem on my PowerBook 1400, we were all 5 years into email, a year into online shopping, and three weeks into listening to my hometown radio station streaming from North Carolina over a pair of spliced speakers.

This was before September 11th crucified our spirit, before George Bush II stole the presidency, and before Dook won its third national championship. It was back when duct tape was used to seal ducts. There was no hint of Armageddon in the air in those warm, long Hollywood afternoons; as long as you made rent ($475), the month was yours to do with as you pleased. I was desperately unhappy, sure, but it was the kind of unhappiness you can look back upon with a certain nostalgia.

Do you know what I miss most of all? What an amazing thing we had for a few years there. Any time of day or night, someone could bring you Krispy Kreme donuts, a Red Bull, the DVD of “My Favorite Year,” and 100 feet of coaxial cable. Deep into a project, I would click on Kozmo and grab whatever I wanted. Moments later, the door would ring or in 2000, the secretary would page me

3/26/03 Brooklyn, NY Some days

3/26/03 Brooklyn, NY

Some days are better than others, that’s for damn sure. Some days your favorite team ends its season in a no-name tournament, sometimes your right sinus is so impacted that you actually look forward to surgery in April, sometimes you are so ashamed of your own government that you can barely walk down the sidewalk without feeling guilty you have a sidewalk to walk on, and sometimes when you get back home, you step in a humongous dollop of dog poop.

I could take everything else, but the dog shit really did me in. I had to take my shoes upstairs and scrub them with a wire brush and a quart of Windex. I would have used water, but the water isn’t working in our apartment building today.

I’m going to go eat worms,


3/25/03 Brooklyn, NY A lot

3/25/03 Brooklyn, NY

A lot of bloggers have a long column on the left side of the screen that lists the other blogs they like (or at least ideologically support). I’m especially thankful to Diane, who put both me and my sister on her list, and I know from the webstats that many of you got here through her consistently-entertaining page. What is strange about these blog lists is how many people actually click on a random one, even if you’re buried among 500 other worthy diarists. For instance, I get lots of hits coming from one of the U.K.’s finest rabblerousers, the intense, charismatic Mike Atherton – and I’m tucked among hundreds.

So, to keep things simple, I’ll list only a few of my favorite online diaries (besides those mentioned above) to keep this great circle of cyberlove spinning.

Driver 8From topics mundane to the magical, minutae to the morbid, Charly Z is always worth checking in on. Particularly interesting was his post on blogging ethics like, in two months, should I go back and fix that last sentence, ending so horribly with a preposition?

Randomly Ever AfterGus had the first blog I ever read, and it continues to be the sentimental favorite. We have weirdly parallel lives he’s from Charlottesville, I’m from Chapel Hill; we both lived in communal houses that became legendary (his here, mine here); both ended up with pretty, formerly-bisexual, strong women that we met in college but kindled romance 10 years later; we live a block from each other in Park Slope, and we both bought small houses upstate near the Hudson. In the ultimate internet irony, I have yet to meet or speak to the dude. Doesn’t matter

3/24/03 Brooklyn, NY Some people

3/24/03 Brooklyn, NY

Some people only “read” this blog for the pictures, which is fine with me. Words on the internet scarcely make their way into your cerebrum, something I realize even as I rewrite sentences days later to make them more interesting. I doubt you’ve made it this far. I was amazed when one loyal reader asked me if I was a homosexual (because of my “latently gay aging fratboy” comment yesterday) and I had to tell her that being latent is not the same as being actually gay, and that I misuse terms like that all the time.

Lacking a “comments” button at the bottom, it’s often hard to know what – or if – anyone is thinking about the stuff contained herein, and using the email link to the left might seem a little daunting. Sometimes you just want to comment, and not engage a whole dialogue. Since my brother Steve is the web administer for this blog, and he says he hasn’t found any good code for a “comments” section, I’m not sure what to do about that.

So instead, here’s some pictures!

Yeah, so it’s self-indulgent. FYIYCTAJ, as my elder Chi Psis would say. Anyway, these are three shots taken in the exact same place: in New Orleans, on the Mississippi dock just behind the Caf du Monde. The top is 1987, the middle is 1995, and the bottom is 2003. I’m 19, 28 and 35 years old.

First off, my hair is unthinkably moussed in 1987, and homelessly unkempt in 2003. Also, that 2003 shot makes me look bloated and drunk (it’ll have to be re-taken when I look employable). Also worth noting: that area of the river is getting seedier and seedier each time we go; in 1987, Bud and I spent the afternoon on the dock drinking Evan Williams and talking poetry – this last time, there was a whole posse of vagrant punks peeing off the side and discussing killing family members.

Top is Jon, me and Bud in 1986. Bottom is Jon, Bud and me last week. All I can say is that it is good to keep friends for a long, long time.

3/23/03 Columbia County, NY I usually

3/23/03 Columbia County, NY

I usually don’t pay much attention to the Oscars, despite my chosen career but at this point, anything was a respite from the war, and my rapidly-deteriorating NCAA Men’s Hoops picks. Re: hoops… at this point it should be noted that not only are two of my final four picks gone, but my champion as well. What a nightmare. I want all my pools back, just to spare the humiliation. Tessa is now kicking my ass two years running

3/22/03 Columbia County, NY While 187,500

3/22/03 Columbia County, NY

While 187,500 protestors took to the streets around Washington Square Park today, the other 5 million or so folks flocked outside just to breathe real oxygen and enjoy an amazing spring day. After last night, I felt that in a time of such worldwide anguish, it is entirely acceptable to bathe in moments of happiness when you can get them.

7th Ave and Lincoln in Park Slope, Brooklyn

I say 187,500 because that’s the median between 250,000 (the estimated number of demonstrators according to the protest organizers) and 125,000 (the number according to the police). I understand why anti-war demonstrators are prone to exaggerate their numbers a bit, but I don’t fully get why the police seem to under-report them, unless it’s a small taste of the disgust the cops had for hippies demonstrating outside the ’68 Democratic convention in Chicago. Either way, it was a fuckload of people, and it got ugly in the end; demonstrators were sprayed with pepper spray, and the police were sprayed with mace. I’m not sure which is worse. They’re probably both bad if you’re wearing contacts.

I wanted to be a part of this demonstration, but to be honest, both Tessa and I are feeling like it’s the wrong impulse. At this point, when our voices are obviously not going to be heard, it feels best to just hope that our campaign over Baghdad is very successful and very fast. And that we put the pieces of Iraq back together very carefully.

I don’t trust Bush or his advisors to do anything that doesn’t reek of contempt, xenophobia, and hamfisted, childlike hubris but hopefully we’ll get the NGOs and the UN involved and come up with something better than Hussein (which shouldn’t be hard, even with our dumb-as-a-brick-of-Gouda Commander in Chief).

Best-case scenario? Okay. We catch a few more upper-level Al-Qaeda terrorists and further dismantle their ability to use our Iraq strike as a recruiting tool. We get some great footage on Al-Jazeera of happy Iraqis cheering American soldiers as they are being “liberated.” The smart bombs do their jobs with very minimal civilian casualties (which seems to be happening). Hussein is either captured or killed before he uses any of the big stuff on Israel or our troops. A massive humanitarian effort gets underway that will be as Shock’n’Awe as the bombing. We negotiate a sweeping peace deal with the Palestinians and ensure them their own sovereign country. Then, when we’re sure everything is ship-shape, we dismantle our military bases in Saudi Arabia, and get the fuck out of their holy land.

Oh yeah: most importantly, we do a thorough sweep of Iraq and come up with absolutely no weapons of mass destruction; Bush and his team are humiliated on the world stage. Americans begin to think he’s a liar. To distract us from this, he tries to enact some draconian conservative agenda (reversing Roe vs. Wade, etc.) to shore up his religious base, but miscalculates dreadfully. Then, one of any roiling scandals (Cheney’s Halliburton, Perle’s defense contractors, etc.) blows open, and a yet-to-be-named Democrat smokes him in a debate so thoroughly that even hard-core Republicans jump ship. Bush gets shellacked in 2004 and we all wake up from a terrible dream.

Wow, was that the Celexa talking? That felt good!

Fact is, nobody will beat Bush unless they can figure out how to own the national security issue, have a solid plan to rescue the economy, and radiate a modicum of charisma. My buddy Salem says “Democrats can talk about the popular vote until they are blue in the face and it will not change the fact that they are all hanging out in the same overpacked, firecode-violating club where everyone shares the same opinion.” He’s pretty much right; nobody I know is pro-Bush, but he has an approval rating of 79%.

Capturing the electoral college “sea of red” on election night is a rough thing for a Democrat these days; fact is, people are two things: racist and scared, and I include myself in there too. I don’t pretend to have the answers.

Three things make me wonder why I bother caring:

– 45% of Americans think Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11

– Election Day 2002 made me break down and cry in the shower

– spousal abuse rates skyrocket in the hours after the Super Bowl

That, my friends, is America. I’m serious when I say I might do what my Uncle Chuck did when Nixon bombed Cambodia: he looked for property in British Columbia.

Thank god we have this little farm. It’s the only emotional respite we have, and I intend to share it with every friend we’ve got. The picture above is the roaring Roeliff-Jansen Kill, the stream running behind our land (“kill” is Dutch for “creek”). Usually quite shallow, it is now 4-5 feet deep and churning from the rains and the melting snow. While Tessa tried to calm down our crazy shut-in dairy farm neighbors (barely seen in the background), I leaned my head against a post, listened to the rush of the water, and let my worries evaporate.