Monthly Archives: June 2003

6/20/03 Columbia County, NY God,

6/20/03 Columbia County, NY

God, you are so fucking stupid. How opaque and dim-witted could you possibly be? I have to admit, I’m confused – are you just so racist that you figure all good brown people are dead brown people, and just leave it at that? How can 43% of you still think Iraq was behind the World Trade Center attacks? Or let me put it differently: how can 60% of you have said that the major reason for war in Iraq was their alleged WMD, but now that we haven’t found any, YOU DON’T CARE?

Has the partially-hydrogenated French fry oil at McDonald’s coated your brain with a gelatinous sheen of fat so impenetrable that no new information can get through? Were you so obsessed with sticking your dick into things during high school that you never even learned where the Middle East was? What kind of moral outrage needs to happen before you wipe the ocean of Count Chocula-flavored milk from your wife-beater T-shirt long enough to question the pabulum oozing out of your 24-hour news station?

George Bush has LIED to you motherfuckers. He told you LIES to get you to fight his war, and now that he – and his band of blood-lusting compatriots – have been found out, YOU DON’T GIVE A SHIT. You make up 4% of the world’s population. Let me tell you something: the other 96% cares about this. A LOT.

Ted Rall writes that Bush should be impeached even if they find a huge cache of WMD, but I disagree. My small group of friends, my family, and I don’t deserve this president, but you absolutely do. You and he are a match made in fucking heaven. Have fun with each other; I’m learning French.

Sucez ma pipe,


6/19/03 Brooklyn, NY We had

6/19/03 Brooklyn, NY

We had our first public screening of The Pink House today, and to sum it up quickly, it was a pretty amazing evening. Now, understand that I was more than prepared for a disaster; it would not surprise me if people had thrown vegetables, if the roof caved in, or if I contracted SARS during tonight’s screening – I usually go into these situations expecting the absolute worst.

But tonight, I felt like we really had ’em. Once we got over the rockiness of the beginning 1934 sequences (which will require some figuring out), they laughed at pretty much everything, even the “Atlas Shrugged” line and Windy’s “reservations” punchline, two bits of arcana that I feared might be too clever by half.

About 20 minutes into it, I actually enjoyed watching the movie again. I thought of how seamless my mom’s music was, how genuine the actors seem to be, and how easy it is to forget the horror that went into shooting the script. At the end of the screening, the audience – about 20 people around our demographic – stayed for a very helpful discussion, where a few of the movie’s flaws were trotted out. The interesting thing was this: every time somebody thought “x was a problem,” somebody else said that “x was my favorite part,” so there was no consensus on any one thing. There are about 6 or 7 trouble spots, but now we know where they are.

Everyone filled out comment sheets, and one of the questions was “Would you recommend this movie to a friend?” We got one “maybe,” then 15 said “yes,” 2 said “yes!” and one said “absolutely!” And yes, Chip, your line got a good laugh.

Tessa and I have endured many screenings that, in her words, “made me want to strip off my skin and go running, screaming through a tidal wave of alcohol.” My own reading of this script at the Screening Room in February 2000 was so interminably miserable that the producers felt like I might want to give up. I drank a vat of infused Stoli and soldiered on. Tessa came up with an edit of Five Wives that she adored, only to be told by a screening audience that they’d love to see it “when it was done.”

Tonight, we had one agenda: tell us we’re not full of shit. Tell us we might be on to something. Apparently we’re not totally full of shit, and in a business where bursts of clarity are so rare, it’s nice to know that at least we have that going for us, which is nice.

me, Tessa, Karen and Jessie outside the Ars Nova screening room this evening

6/18/03 Brooklyn, NY Did I

6/18/03 Brooklyn, NY

Did I ever tell you I do calligraphy? If there is one art form that is the opposite of a digital world, it is the fine art of handwriting, which I took up during a desperate spell of spazmosity right around the beginning of puberty. There are three things I can do in this world that very few can: I am about six months away from being back as a concert violinist, I can build a dipole and send Morse code at about 35 wpm on a ham radio, and I can do four or five distinct alphabets in calligraphy.

I owe all three of these weird skills to the soul-drubbing loneliness of middle school, when I was so unbelievably friendless, dorked-out and weird that I took on projects like these as a way to stay afloat in a world I didn’t understand. Violin was obviously something that had been cooking since I was seven or so, but it was around 13 that I got pretty good. Ham radio itself is basically Female Repellant (which was fine by me, since I probably couldn’t find a nipple in 1980, even with directions) and calligraphy is just one of those things that seeps into your hindbrain if you dig art supplies like I did, while the Iowa winters provided long days indoors, calligraphing frightening verse to a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg.

Suddenly this nascent “talent” was needed this week when it came to our wedding invitations, so I trekked over The Art Store in the East Village, and ventured down into the bowels of nibs and inks, a place I hadn’t been in about a decade. Calligraphy looks like it was a quick fad about seven years ago – perhaps Martha Stewart got temporarily involved – leaving lots of fun, yellowed crap behind on sale.

If I were to actually do all of our wedding invitation addresses in calligraphy, I would need about six months for lettering, and ten months for recovery while my doctors searched for a new arm. As it is, if you know some basics, just using a nice flat-nibbed pen and india ink with your own handwriting will give you something that looks good enough for jazz.

I encourage everyone to learn at least one simple alphabet in calligraphy. It’s a study in patience, a Buddhist-like “forced slowness” that will take you to a place far beyond what is available on the internet, or even in conversations with friends. There are atoms of the ancient scribes in all of us, and you can hear them calling you, with ancient howls of tendonitis in the castles of France, as well as the sated delight of an entire tome hand-lettered for kings.

I do not, however, recommend either violin or ham radio, unless you already have a girlfriend.

6/17/03 Brooklyn, NY A little

6/17/03 Brooklyn, NY

A little belated Father’s Day props to my dad:

my father, the symphony conductor, holding Michelle, the 5th sibling, with Beethoven’s 5th Symphony embroidered on her diaper – an awesome publicity shot for the local paper (1972)

6/16/03 Brooklyn, NY My solitude

6/16/03 Brooklyn, NY

My solitude has really been getting the better of me; I think I’d make a really shitty monk, a very bad movie projectionist, and if I went to a “writers colony,” I wouldn’t get anything done. Even the satellite radio failed me on the way home from upstate today – I finally turned it to the 24-Hour Humor With Dirty Words Station, and while it, too, was boring, I think that channel makes stand-up comedy seem downright approachable. If some of these comics have careers, then perhaps I should go into it. Fuck, I can talk about airplanes and my wife.

Part of my isolation has brought on a completely irrational wistfulness for the days in Chapel Hill when there was something going on every night. It may have been a lame going-on, but it went on nonetheless. I miss those parties at 505 N. Greensboro St., which is something I thought I’d never say. I miss our parties, too, but there was always too much Den Mother in me to drop my sense of possession long enough to have another kamikaze shot. I should have been more like Salem, who had more fun at our parties than anyone else; he didnt mind his own bed being barfed on in the sake of the greater good.

Matt McMichaels could always be counted on around 4am or so – long after the girls we were after had gone, Matt was still up, game, drinking and talking shit with Caleb Southern. Same with Greg Humphreys, who was always quick with the 12-string once the beer ran out and we were left with nothing but Midori and vermouth. Jesus, listen to me.

I realize that sort of unplanned bacchanalia, casual nightly get-togethers and constant “in medias res” of a tight-knit town is largely the domain of ones mid-twenties, but I truly feel as though I haven’t seen any of my friends in six months. Lindsay and Dana went to Venice, and the only reason I know is because I drove them to the train station. Perhaps social intensity is only fueled by chicks and alcohol, two things I’ve given up (except for Scotch) and everyone else is looking at carpet swatches and finding a babysitter. Is there going to be anyone left to go play darts and steal cookie dough with me when I’m 46?

6/15/03 Columbia County, NY You

6/15/03 Columbia County, NY

You know how “other families” seemed weird when you were growing up? To me, Other Families were the ones that opened all their presents on Christmas Eve, used Colgate (we were a Crest

6/14/03 Columbia County, NY Hey,

6/14/03 Columbia County, NY

Hey, it’s Flag Day, right???

I guess I should have known better than to drive into Hudson on Flag Day, because they take that shit real serious. They closed down the major thoroughfares and had Shriner parades, jugglers and magic – not that I would know, ‘cuz I took the detour to Wal-Mart and Staples.

A part of me really did want to join in the “fun” and see what was going on, but it’s the whole “flag” part of Flag Day that gives me the creeps. Even when I was a kid, it seemed utterly lame to carry around the American flag while we were still in America (I thought it was redundant) and now that the flag makes me think of John Ashcroft, I’d rather be fishing.

Unless, of course, I got to march into the Hudson with the Gay Pride flag pictured above. I’m not even gay, which makes me the perfect person for it, actually. I’d like to declare today my personal Gay Pride Flag Day, where I thank all the gay people in my life. That would include:

– pretty much everyone I grew up with whilst my dad was conducting opera

– all of my friends at Norfolk Academy (except for Marcie, but she liked Adam Ant, so she gets a tangential qualification)

– a couple of members of my fraternity

– the About Face theater in Chicago

– Morrissey

– the fabulous Pink House production designer

– Tessa’s best friend

– a certain member of the downtown planning commission and a certain comic who shall both go unnamed

– Tchaikovsky, Gershwin, Poulenc, Bernstein, Saint-Saens, and Chopin (the composer) and Chopin (the dog)

June 14th is also the birthday of one of my bestest friends in the entire world: the beloved Kendall. Our history is oft-told; she was the first girl I ever met at Carolina, she was the first girl I ever kissed, she got married on my birthday, and then went into labor while we were at lunch in Paris. Tessa actually balked at getting married today (June, a full moon, etc.) because it would have been a little too obvious.

Anyway, Kendall is one of the bravest, most wonderful people I know, having raised four(!) amazing kids, forced to live in exile for her 20s in a land far, far, away – and is now going through a very difficult phase, but manages to do it with an equanimity and grace that few could carry. In 1985, I was well on my way to becoming a Forever Nebbish, wearing black corduroys and idiotic glasses, locked in my own self-loathing and addicted to my solipsistic isolation. But she, a beautiful Southern girl, walked right up to me, started talking and demanded friendship, one that has lasted eighteen years so far – and for that, I consider myself blessed.

Kendall, me and my hair in 1989

6/13/03 Columbia County, NY Due

6/13/03 Columbia County, NY

Due to our chosen “radio silence” on all American news networks (yes, you too, fuckin’ turncoat CNN), pretty much the only thing we can listen to is the BBC World Service on the satellite radio. Which, as you might guess, is totally excellent, albeit quirky: sometimes you can turn it on in the middle of a busy news day, and they’ll be playing an hour of Westway, their honest-to-god radio soap opera.

Another kooky thing they do is suddenly stop all programming to read a book. Usually it is some sweeping coming-of-age saga set in Hertfordshire, but this week, for no apparent reason, they have Ben Kingsley reading Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” Upon hearing the first words, I was going to shut it off, but then I remembered how much I was transfixed by the book in 8th grade. I was pulling for Snowball, the only pig with a heart, as he battled the Draconian swine Napoleon, over control of the farm once owned by the dreaded Farmer Jones.

And then it hit me: BBC is airing this novel by no accident. As Kingsley intoned the scene where Napoleon takes over the farm by co-opting the three ravenous dogs and banishing Snowball, I realized what was going on – the BBC thinks that the United States is the Animal Farm.

And they’re totally right. Snowball would be the voice of moderate leftists trying to build a windmill so that the world would be a fair, equal place. Napoleon is America, George Bush, and his cabinet of chickenhawks who, like the pig, only have one response to plans that they don’t agree with: they urinate on them.

When Bush/Napoleon doesn’t get his way, he wails for the three dogs to come in: Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and Wolfowitz. They threaten to destroy any of the animals that don’t see things their way. While they’re off-duty, the pig Squealer goes around to the other animals and tells them why Napoleon is always right (Ari Fleischer, obviously). And any time any the animals want to have a meeting and discuss things, the Napoleon/Squealer response is “do you want to go back to the way things were with Farmer Jones?” Orwell actually writes that “the animals thought that if another discussion might bring back Farmer Jones, they better not have one.”

Jones is obviously September 11, which has been the excuse for every horror perpetrated by the Bush administration since September 12th. The book is so apt, so prescient, and so, well, obvious that the BBC should be commended for such an amazing act of subversion. I wouldn’t be surprised that they thought Squealer was actually Tony Blair.

Yes, yes, I know it was written in 1946 about the Russian Revolution, but I swear to god, there has to be some teacher in middle school right now, some high-minded idealist who is assigning this book to her kids right now and praying that at least one kid realizes that this story is not just allegory, not just prophecy, but a blow-by-blow description of these awful times we’re in right fucking now.

6/12/03 Brooklyn, NY I know

6/12/03 Brooklyn, NY

I know it has been way worse in other parts of the country (and for much longer), but here in New York City, is that special bouillabaisse of 80 degrees, pissing down rain, and 95% humidity. If you don’t have an air conditioner, which we don’t, it takes about four seconds to break a sweat. Everyone flung their windows open in a desperate attempt to eke out something resembling oxygen, but there’s nothing but the smell of Park Slope’s finest lesbian armpits and hairy Hassidic men.

I tried getting things done today in the apartment, but just moving my eyeballs was making me drenched with sweat, so Chopin and I retired to the floor, where we did some work on the film, watched “Spirited Away,” and then drifted off into a feverish dream…

6/11/03 Brooklyn, NY It’s just

6/11/03 Brooklyn, NY

It’s just me in the house for the next week – Tessa went to Texas to hang out with her grandmother and wrestle some demons, and I hate flying so much that I’ll only do it if I absolutely have to. Besides, I think it will prove to be a good rest for her, with me out of her hair; this wedding and the movie have taken their toll on our good humor.

I haven’t been alone in the city for what seems like years. It’s reminding me of the vast, oceanic stretches of jail-like solitude I endured while living on Beachwood Avenue in Los Angeles – hot days taking forever to creep into night, scads of projects withering on the vine, and the persistent feeling of trance-like isolation.

One of the worst parts about depression is that the rut you create also becomes one of your few comforts. After a while, you don’t want to make a move, because it would rob of your routine, which seems to be the only thing you can control. I also suspect that any deviation from your depression might temporarily awake you from the fuzzy stupor you’ve clung to, and that exposes you to all sorts of pain. This happens in conjunction with the thought that “there isn’t anything better” on the other side of your move, making depression one of the most perfect, self-pollinating, perpetual motion machines possible. No wonder it’s so popular.

It’s easy to speak of such things right now, when I haven’t been depressed. Wordsworth always said that poetry was calamitous events recalled in a time of tranquility, and the same holds for old emotions. Transitively, I am (and you are) living through a micro-era at this moment that we won’t truly understand until 2009 or so. What might this one be called? “Post-Traumatic Stress Disord-a-Rama”? “The Latter Dark Ages”? “The Weimar Republic”? “A Return to Crapalcy”? “Hubert”?