Monthly Archives: April 2003

4/19/03 Columbia County, NY It’s those

4/19/03 Columbia County, NY

It’s those first few days when you can sense the Earth is actually shifting back towards the Sun; Australia and Argentina have had it long enough, and now it’s our turn. There are still these pathetic little strips of snow left on Catamount, but only because there had been sixty inches there a month ago. And since our wedding is going to take place right here, on our farm, in less than four months we did what anyone else would do. We trucked over to the nursery and bought a shitload of petunias.

Michelle, Mom and Tessa gingerly loading

Of course, this time of year can be emotional fool’s gold many have been the unwise early Indian who planted his maize too soon and gat forth naught but brown stubs to show for it. Nay, I shall be patient and wait for the great god Sol to drive his chariot a little nearer.

This being Easter eve you know, the day after the Jews picked Barabus instead of Jesus to be freed

4/18/03 Columbia County, NY It’s hard

4/18/03 Columbia County, NY

It’s hard to believe it has come to this, but, well, it has come to this. On the way upstate, Michelle, my mom, Tessa and I decided to designate a meeting place in case of a New York Disaster. 9/11 proved that cell phones are utterly useless during national emergencies, and the police state to follow any attack will be impossible to overcome, so you’ll have to act fast. On the night of September 11, Tessa and I quickly got our car, grabbed my clothes from the East Village, and did all our errands before martial law was declared south of 14th Street a few hours later. Thinking ahead that night saved us from weeks of unmitigated hassle.

Since Sean & Jordana live in Astoria, Michelle works at Union Square in Manhattan, and T & I are generally in Park Slope, Brooklyn, we had to find a spot that met the following characteristics:

1. It had to be off the island of Manhattan. I don’t know much, but this seems logical: if any major shit happens, don’t be surrounded on all sides by water. Your first order of business is to get your ass outta there. George Washington got creamed on Manhattan, and you could too; as Colin’s friend from Serbia remarked, “militarily, it’s an indefensible position.”

2. It had to be somewhere we could walk, without getting confused. I’m assuming the traffic jam resulting from a major something-or-other attack would be biblical in scale, and the trains are always the first to shut down.

3. It had to be north of everything, making it en route to our farm upstate.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the weird, giant motels that lined the Saw Mill Parkway up near Ardsley-on-Hudson, but Tessa thought it was too far. So we took the Triboro Bridge and veered west towards I-87 to find the place most accessible to both the West Side Highway and All Things Brooklyn/Queens. What we found was a little place that might be perfect if the world starts getting really fucked up.

notice Upper Manhattan in lower left; the black arrow marks our spot

the actual place: corner of W. 242nd St. and Broadway

It’s on the edge of a park I never knew existed, with rolling hills, huge rocks lugged down from Canada during the last ice age and fittingly enough, a marble alcove restroom that bears the name Comfort Station. The idea is simple: meet here. Leave a note somewhere on the premises as to your whereabouts. If you took off upstate, just tell someone you did so.

You can get to the spot easily wherever you are, just find Broadway and walk north. There’s a special bridge just for Broadway (actually called Route 9), and if you’re already off the island, any number of thoroughfares – including the Henry Hudson Pkway/Saw Mill, I-87/Major Deegan, whatever

4/16/03 Brooklyn, NY Not to

4/16/03 Brooklyn, NY

Not to sound like a three-year-old or anything, but the post-war events in Iraq have made me really sad. We are so good at killing people, but when it comes time for showing a little sensitivity and restraint, we keep telling brown guys to screw themselves. The ravaging of Iraq’s museums have basically done to Persia what the Great Fire at the Library of Alexandria did to early human philosophy: untimely ripp’d it out of existence. Civilians begged the Americans to park tanks in front of the museums, and again, we told them to fuck off. For a relentless archivist like me, it’s personally horrifying but to archaeologists and paleoanthropologists, it’s a lifetime-crushing disaster.

When I was at dinner with Christopher Reeve last year (stroke of luck, read it about it here) we talked about how we shouldn’t consider the Dark Ages so remote, because we’re living in them now. There are hints of the New Mercilessness everywhere you turn; the Bush Administration takes a cue from the hip-hop and rap world (or is it the other way around?) by basically calling all who question them a bunch of “player haters.” We win, says Bush, I win, says P. Diddy any problems you gots with me are sour grapes. Don’t like the way I wear my rocks? Don’t like the way I treat Iraq? FUCK you.

I try to emulate The Budster and just keep my side of the street clean; recycle, try to drive a hybrid, give money and time to the right places, you know, but in the end, I’m still so terribly sad.

We had a seder tonight, and even though I’m not Jewish, I respect the constant questioning involved, even on holy days such as Passover. The leader of the dinner asks four questions of the children present, and the mere act of asking separates Judaism from the fettered, hostile dogma of Christianity. A Christian seder would have wouldn’t have Four Questions for the kids, it would have Four Demands, and the kids would be stuck at a card table in another room eating the dark meat.

As for me, I have four seder questions for the Christians currently running our government:

Why makes you so different from any other?

Why do you dip your enemies in bitter bloodshed?

Why are your ideas so unleavened?

Why, when the rest of the world cries out, do you recline?

Yeah, sounds like bad lesbian Jewish poetry. Maybe I should rethink that one.

4/16/03 Brooklyn, NY The image

4/16/03 Brooklyn, NY

The image on the left is this week’s Time Magazine cover, and the image on the right is the cover from May 7, 1945. Now, I don’t want to split too many hairs here, but… isn’t the comparison a little insane? Yes, Saddam brought about the deaths of lots of his countrymen, and he was a nasty thug who possessed very little moral compunction in terms of rape, torture and gas. There is certainly a little barcalounger covered in rusty straight-razors and lemon juice waiting for him in Hell.

But Hitler was a tyrant who brought about the secret extermination of six million people, conquered half of Europe in a bloodbath… and the world spent SIX YEARS sending their sons and daughters – 407,316 Americans among them – to be slaughtered in the name of freedom. 50 million people died in World War II.

This month, we spent THREE WEEKS ousting a dictator IN HIS OWN COUNTRY who had shown NO SIGNS OF AGGRESSION in TWELVE YEARS and about 100 of our “coalition” troops were killed. Frankly, making the implied comparison to Hitler is not only irresponsible, but utter jingoistic boosterism at its most naked and reprehensible. Where the hell does Time get off? If I want blind rah-rah corporate patriotism like that, I’ll listen to Clear Channel talk shows on AM Radio, thank you very much.

Speaking of survivors, the warm weather and the impending responsibility of Passover unleashed a torrent of ancient Jews from the old-folks-homes onto the paths of Prospect Park today; you couldn’t ride your bicycle anywhere without toppling hundreds of ancient matrons wearing scarlet lam. I thought I was used to crowd noise – until I heard four thousand 90-year-olds screaming at each other in Hebrew. Oy, what a scene!

4/14/03 Brooklyn, NY The radio

4/14/03 Brooklyn, NY

The radio in our barn only gets one channel, and it’s of the “Top 40 Dance Smash” variety, which allows me access to the soundtrack of your garden-variety middle-America teenage bedroom. A couple of things made an impression on me: first off, I heard three cover songs re-done in an I-wanna-lick-you-all-over soul vibe: “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (originally by the brilliant Crowded House), “Rapture” (orig. by Blondie), and then DJ Shadow singing Don Henley (“deadhead sticker on a Cadillac” – does that mean anything to these kids?)

The thing is, these aren’t borrowings, or samplings, or homages; these are straight-out covers, like the ones we used to hear when we we kids. We had no idea where those covers had been, we just knew they were some ancient thing by someone who was probably dead, and the new version had to be better. The girl singing “Boys of Summer” today was scarcely alive in 1987 when that song came out. Today’s teens could give a fuck about where any of these songs came from, just like we didn’t give a fuck about songs from 1972. Except “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl),” of course.

Somehow it made me feel both old and satisfied. I’ve been at this pop culture game for a long time. I started becoming aware of cultural trends when I was about nine, in 1976, and I’ve never really stopped. Which means there is a LOT of CRAP in my head now. Try filing “Afternoon Delight” with “Jenny From the Block” and see if you have any room left over for “where’s the car keys?” ‘cuz I sure don’t.

Speaking of “Jenny From the Block,” I find the whole hip-hop obsession with “keepin’ it real” to be more than a little disingenuous. To quote from that song:

Don’t be confused by the rocks that I got

I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block

Used to have a little, now I have a lot

No matter where I go, I know where I came from…

I mean, I totally think “takin’ your homies witchya” on the way to the top is a noble pursuit and god knows our posse from North Carolina certainly tries it

4/13/03 Columbia County, NY I can

4/13/03 Columbia County, NY

I can do basically anything I set my mind to- except calculus. I really hated that class, and spent most of my 15th year trying really hard to do well, and still I wallowed in the slow-student miasma of barely grasping the basics. I’m amazed I passed that class, because my prep school was definitely not fucking around.

Where was I? Ah yes, I can do basically anything I set my mind to. I was a quick learner of everything from concertinas to cunnilingus, because I paid attention and asked smart questions. The problem now is that I tend to rush things in order to get to the next project, and they end up sloppy. Case in point: this bookshelf I made for Tessa last year. I thought I’d measured everything, but when I put it together, it was an embarrassment to right angles all over the world. It still stands in our library, but you have to lodge a piece of wood behind it oh, and only wear one shoe

4/12/03 Columbia County, NY If you

4/12/03 Columbia County, NY

If you want the perfect snapshot of your fellow Americans’ tastes, look no further than Yahoo’s Most Emailed Photos page. Lars Lucier turned me on to this aspect of Yahoo! some months ago, and I don’t think there’s a better barometer of American temperament. The photos fall into three basic categories: grisly pictures of something horrible happening in a godforsaken part of the world, paparazzi pics of models wearing something that threatens to show nipples (but never does), and just the cutest little kittens you’ve ever seen.

These days, there are a lot of pictures of anti-American rallies around the world, in varying degrees of rage. It makes you wonder who is actually emailing these pictures anti-war moms who need validation, or evil uncles writing to their family’s listserv with the side note: “look at what these commie motherfuckers are up to now.”

We drove through Great Barrington, MA today en route to Pittsfield, and came across a pretty large, vocal anti-war gathering that had hijacked a major intersection. We honked our horn and waved, and they all screamed jubilantly back at us. Then, in the rear view mirror, I saw a sign that said “NO WAR FOR SUV’S!!!” and realized that I was driving Ol’ Bessie the Land Rover (mpg=12, if you’re going downhill).

But my chagrin won’t last long; we went straight to the Toyota dealership outside Pittsfield and spent half an hour test-driving a Prius (mpg=52, even in the city). I thought it was a great ride, very solid, and of course, featuring the trademark silence when stopped on level ground. The dashboard controls are all in the center of the car which was weird

4/11/03 Columbia County, NY Since I

4/11/03 Columbia County, NY

Since I made my blogoversary yesterday, I’m going to let another night’s work do the talking. Turns out that my piece on Colin Soloway had the bad luck of being finished the day after Baghdad fell, and in the news world, that makes you about as relevant as last week’s batch of donuts.

Still, it’s a cool piece that would have wowed ’em last week when things were still desperate, unsure, and the ghost of fallen journalists as well as Peter Arnett’s career