Monthly Archives: August 2003

8/31/03 I’d like to take

8/31/03

I’d like to take issue with yesterday’s New York Times, which had an article in the Sunday Arts section entitled I Don’t Want to Grow Up – a pop-culture piece on the “new breed of quasi adult” that is “co-opting the culture of children as never before.” The article uses words like “kidult,” “peterpandemonium” and “rejuveniles” to describe this disturbing (according to social scientists) new trend of adults rejecting adulthood.

Among the things they mention are motor scooters, “Harry Potter” and “Spongebob Squarepants,” all of whom have a worrisomely adult audience. The reason for this, apparently, is rooted in the avoidance of dreary grown-up issues like lawn care and mortgages. The average age for video game players is 29 (up from 18 in 1990) and more adults 18-49 watch the Cartoon Network than CNN. There are apparently grown-ups baby-doll fashions and mentions of Twister.

Now, maybe this is partially true. With the kind of culture that gives moronic kids more airtime than they can possibly swallow – as well as the current emphasis on “tweeners” (a phrase that has been used every ten years or so, might I add), there may be a few more adults who know more about the Ashley Twins that they should. But really, what kind of story is this?

Motor scooters (or a Vespa, which was actually in the NYTimes picture) have been a passion for adults for fifty years. My buddies Lindsay and Dana both had Vespas at the age of 20, they have them now at 30, and they’ll probably have them at 40. This isn’t a pop-culture trend, this is the longterm appreciation of a good product. The same goes for video games – the average age has risen 13 years in the last 13 years because the same people have grown up with great video games. If you loved your Game Boy in 1990, you’re going to love the PS2 today. This is not a trend, this is hobby loyalty!

Adults like “Harry Potter” and “Spongebob” because they are immensely enjoyable on their own merits, not because they want to escape paying bills and re-seeding the brown patches on the lawn. And baby-doll dresses and Twister? PLEASE! Could anything be more 1994?

Maybe I get tweaked about this stuff because it’s my generation they’re talking about, again disparaged because we’re not only chained to our own now-dusty pop culture, but because we seem to be co-opting the pop culture of those 15 years younger. I’d like to re-write that New York Times article, and put it this way: we liked our old pop culture (“Brady Bunch,” “Sesame Street,” etc.) because it refined our sense of irony and humor. We like the new pop culture when it is good. This is not out of a fear of aging, this is the fruits of a longterm commitment to good entertainment. Just because your 10-year-old knows what a Patronus Charm is doesn’t mean we can’t.

And even if we are avoiding (or, in my hopes, redefining) adulthood, it has nothing to do with lawn care or mortgages. The Times fails to make the bigger point: that we are a generation born into cynicism (Nixon), raised during paranoia (The Day After), lost our virginity during the age of death (AIDS), and now see an entire world hating us (9/11) just as we intend to bring kids into it. Pardon us if we just want to play a few video games to take the edge off.

8/30/03 Okay, so you know

8/30/03

Okay, so you know how 30% of America is obese? Or something like that? I’m going to do my part to Get America Outside by not publishing a blog on Sundays anymore. Rain, shine, sleet or humidity, I’m going to keep make sure you, my beloved readership, gets outside and draws some cardiovascular air 10-12 minutes quicker than you normally would.

No, I’m not implying that you’re obese. I’m not even saying you’re fat. I’m just saying that the internet and the PlayStation 2 can’t be adding years to our life, unless you start taking statin drugs.

Tell you what – you start taking statin drugs, and don’t get any heart disease or Alzheimer’s or anything, and I’ll start writing Sunday blogs again. But remember what they said about Olestra. Actual “fat” was to become a thing of the past, and then those two pesky words – “anal leakage” – took the “Wow” out of Doritos.

If you can stay healthy forever, not get heart-attack’d, not get Alzheimer’s or anything AND NOT HAVE ANY ANAL LEAKAGE, I promise to write Sunday blogs again.

Okay, get outside!

8/29/03 my mom circa 1933

8/29/03

my mom circa 1933

Several things happen when you start reliving the important moments in your life a few days or weeks after they happen – first and foremost is l’esprit d’escalier, which literally-translated means “wit on the staircase,” or “something you wished you said at the time, but only thought of it on your way downstairs.” For me, my formal wedding toast presented two such moments: I wanted to have said something about my great-grandfather John Evans, and I wanted to say something to my mom.

It might have been a little self-indulgent, but paying a little bit of respect to my ancestry has always been important to me, not just because I’m a closeted Mormon, but because I am the arbitrary conclusion of their long-dusty existences. John Evans was a quiet man with intense blue eyes who came to America from Wales with “some books and an old violin” (in the words of one of my mom’s songs), walked to Colorado and married the crazy-as-a-demented-bat Pearl (here’s a picture of them), and then set the stage for everything I know.

John apparently used to sing soft songs in Welsh from his boyhood in the coal mines, and that’s about all my mom can remember. I intended to hoist a drink aloft to John Evans, but when you get in front of the kind of crowd our wedding attracted, you had better be funny and quick.

My mom, however, was sitting right there, and my toast to her was addled by millions of neurons firing in different directions. I managed to give a shout-out to my grandma (who died a few years ago) and even my aunts and uncles at one table, but somehow my mom’s toast got lost, and as I drove away in the limousine, I told Tessa that I had missed my chance to pay my respects in a public place.

That is, until tonight, when I remembered that this blog certainly counts as a public space. So, consider me with a nice aged single-malt scotch in my hand (or Veuve Cliquot, mom’s narcotic of choice in the 1970s) saying the following:

I would like to toast my mother, who, like a favorite color, quietly adorns everything I have. In grade school, while I was being terrorized by fourth graders who already had facial hair, the sight of her yellow Subaru shone forth like a lighthouse of salvation. Usually, when I got home, there was a comic book placed on my pillow, a Peanuts volume or a non-fiction tome about how things worked. She helped me escape the brutality of school by letting me learn in safer moments.

The ability to be a successful artist – which I hope to be someday – comes from the unlikely combination of psychological acumen and dogged craftsmanship. While my dad taught me charisma and how to believe in my own worth, my mom showed me how to stay in a room for four months and emerge with a symphonic piece for orchestra. Of course, these roles could be reversed (my dad could obsess over Mahler for weeks at a time, and my mom always knew how to get a paying gig) but somehow, they brought vastly different things to the dining room table. The conductor gets the applause; the composer gets only the ambient radiation.

It is easy to forget to tell our mom how much we love her. She has been like a sibling to us for so long that our familiarity has bred complacency. She is always there, to be woken up on the cell phone, to divulge some weird ingredient to a recipe (usually: butter, 1 stick) and to be a surprise guest on a long road trip. Her ability to blend in and make everyone feel comfortable has made her so easy to be around that we have occasionally taken advantage of her good graces. She takes our teasing with such good humor that she will smile through the story of her leaving the car keys in the freezer even after the 147th time.

She grew up in a Mormon family, and managed to stay spiritually untethered. She sought a job in a man’s career – in the 1950s, no less – and has been doing it for half a century. She is 72, yet talks with the pop culture chatter of her grandchildren. She bought me Rubber Soul in 1978, and she got me a PlayStation 2 for my wedding. I mean, what else do you want?

So this toast is for you, mom, in all your squalor, in all your delight, in your messiness and charm and fucked-up rental cars and fabulous stories, your orange rolls and your wit, your heartbreaking talent and your sensualist thirst for the world. We love you and I love you.

8/28/03 The thing about leaving

8/28/03

The thing about leaving this country for a week is that you start to forget about certain things that were driving you mad while you were here. For instance, I have no idea what is going on with the Republicans right now, having sheltered ourselves with marriage preparation, the nuptials, and the honeymoon. Ashcroft could have erupted into a giant pile of fly-buzzing shit last week, and I would never have known.

So what’s the deal? Does Howard Dean have a chance? Is it cool to nominate someone who can’t win, if only to stop the parade of Democratic weenies from taking a pathetic turn at the wheel? It would almost be worth it to lose to Bush, as long as the truth was screamed loud enough in Americans’ faces. Almost, that is. What’s going on in Iraq? Are Americans finally seeing how myopic and insane our mission was, or have they stopped giving a shit already?

My mom always says to “plan for the worst, and anything else will be a pleasant surprise.” In that vein, we were half-looking for property during our trip to Canada, should the current administration seize power again. One girl at a newspaper stand in Nova Scotia saw my North Carolina shirt and asked me if anybody will beat Bush. I told her it was depressingly unlikely. “I can’t stand him,” she said, in that cute Maritime drawl.

“You’re lucky you don’t have to live under him,” I said.

She replied, “Well, he’s always on the papers and TV here. Whenever the local cartoonists draw him, he looks like a monkey.”

“He’s dumber than a monkey,” I said, “Monkeys can be trained.”

We shared a laugh. God, I am so painfully witty in Canada.

What’s going on with stem cells?

8/27/03 I am back on

8/27/03

I am back on the blog, and the first order of business is to thank my incredible family for doing this while I was away. Everyone should be so blessed to have these people in their lives – one of our greatest qualities (besides impenetrable sarcasm) is that we rally our wagons quicker and with more fusillade than any family I know. I did not set out for this to be a referendum on my youth, my troubled pubescence, or anything concerning my inner dorkitude, but it was affirming to hear them all chime in, especially my mom, who is radder than rhubarb pie. As for Chopin, well, I can only ask him to contribute, and whatever he’s willing to put forth will have to do.

Our honeymoon ended, poetically, with the wedding of our good friends Nell Casey and Jesse Drucker, an event held on top of a mountain outside Milford, PA. There was not only no internet, there wasn’t even a phone. My cell phone worked, but only if I held one foot in the air and pointed towards Ursa Major.

The Judeo-WASP union of these two people was as natural as chemistry allows, and sharing this matrimonial fortnight with Jesse and Nell gave us an Era of Good Feelings. The wedding reception was especially cool – Tessa and I got placed at the “movie business” table, where we talked to Eric Bogosian long into the evening. He told stories about Talk Radio and even Under Siege 2 – having heard his monologues, I thought he’d be intense and vampiric, but he was actually totally chill and funny.

Tessa and Eric enrapt

The next day, he took some of us on a walk to the estate’s waterfalls. With us was Tamara Jenkins, an old pal of Tessa’s who wrote and directed Slums of Beverly Hills, which I loved. She got married this year as well, to Jim Taylor, who was as funny and almost as vivacious as she was. I found out later he wrote both “Election” and “About Schmidt,” but I gotta tellsya, I’ve been around the block a few times, and these folks are as non-Hollywood as it gets. I don’t know how they manage it. Proof that sticking around New York keeps a body honest.

dancing with Tamara Jenkins

Now we are back, and I am exhausted. We hiked up to Bash Bish Falls today with Tessa’s extended family, and I lay on a rock meditating about the intense few months we have had, and the strange possibilities ahead. At least we have Seor Poopy-pants curled up at the foot of our bed to give us perspective.

8/26/03 Hello. You have heard

8/26/03

Hello. You have heard from the rest of Ian’s family. Now you will hear from me. I am Chopin. I am, respectfully, the dog.

I will be brief. Frankly, I don’t understand why I have been asked to do this. I have read with interest the entries proffered by Ian’s family. While I do not share their penchance for endless self-rumination, I suppose it is fitting that I am given the last word.

I am half Border Collie and half Labrador. My mother was most likely a serial killer that did away with several of my brothers and sisters before three of us were rescued. Yet you do not find me dwelling on issues of the past. I have read many of these stories about Ian’s dramatic and woeful childhood, and I am moved to ask: do you not think it is time to “move on,” n’est-ce pas? In your time, it happened 26 years ago; in mine, that would be 182 years ago. I think Monsieur Williams may need a hobby.

And now, to clear up some misconceptions about me. Many have asked if it was true that I defecated on the “sacred bridal path” en route to Ian and Tessa’s ceremony. They ask if I knew two hundred people were watching. They called it passive-aggressive, O! They called me many things! But, as Ring-Bearer, I believed a mixture of the mundane and magical was necessary. Yes, I did it. And I will stand by my decision. Did they ask Pollack if he was serious? I rest my point.

There has been some speculation about my sexual identity. I have been plagued by such questions since 1990. Let me put it to you this way: even before my “surgery,” I would be hard-pressed to lean one way or the other. I have never found my spiritual equal. O! There have been candidates. I have occasionally erred on my path of celibacy, but there was no future in’t. Once, I would have been open to queries from both genders, but now I have put away such things. As T.S. Eliot once wrote, “I grow old, I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

And so I leave you with this: why are you here? I don’t grasp the attraction of a place like this. There is a reason there are no “dogblogs,” as you might call them. My sort are largely beyond reproach. We are not scolded for our pasts, as we do not have them. We do not need the affirmation of strangers we don’t see. A seared tuna steak, however, is another matter.

Respectfully submitted,

Your humble svt.,

Chopin

OK, it’s Mom’s turn… and

OK, it’s Mom’s turn… and now you get to know the truth about Ian.

He was born anemic, got over that. He took a bottle to bed until he was five, got over that. He taught himself to read and write when he was three, and never got over that.

Sadly, the thing about Ian that was not true of any of his siblings… he was a loner. Small for his age, and stuck into first grade after a week in kindergarten (because he could read and write at a middle school level) he had few friends. Red haired, serious, wearing glasses, playing the violin, a bit nerdy and strange, he was routinely picked on and left out. It was painful to watch.

It wasn’t until we moved to London, where the English system put kids into classes strictly by age, that he formed a few friendships with kids his age, and achieved a kind of temporary comfort zone. But then, alas, we were back to Iowa, where it started all over again. No friends to speak of, everyone–even the girls–taller than he was, the isolation kicked in again.

When we moved to Virginia, a wise headmaster at Norfolk Academy convinced Ian he would be happier repeating ninth grade… since all the other tenth graders were shaving and driving… and Ian was still playing with hot wheels and talking in Morse Code to other ham radio nerds from Los Angeles to Long Island… Probaby people as lonely and at a loss as he was… a late seventies verson of the Internet.

But at Norfolk Academy, finally among his peers, everything changed. Ian exploded into a social creature, the life of the party, everybody’s best friend. He wrote original music for a Shakespeare production, he triumphed as Palindor in possibly the worst ever high school production of Camelot, he was the first ever Norfok Academian to take a (gasp) black girl to the senior prom, he was a class prankster, everybody’s favorite funny guy.

And he was accepted at UNC.

At North Carolina, he exploded (not all at once, but gradually) into fame and notoriety. He got into a venerable but very cool frat, he wrote a widely read and lauded column for the Daily Tarheel, he did a star turn as the title character (type casting will do wonders for any actor) in “You’re a Good Man, Charley Brown,” he lost his virginity (too much information… la la la la la LA LA LA), he made a lot of friends… But he had a lot of trouble with women. Someof that is best not contemplated here, but the most important thing was that he felt doomed. He felt he lacked the ability to really commit, to stay interested, or stay “in love” with anyone. He despaired of ever really finding that one person, that perfect match, that love-of-my-life we all dream of capturing, but seldom do.

So, two things I came to accept about my #3 son: 1) Ian was never going to get married. 2) Through all the sturm and drang of his early life, the tauntings, the isolation, the sadness… whenever Ian DID make a friend, they were his friend for life, at least as far as he was concerned. Over the years, especially but not exclusively those golden, clouded, intense years in North Carolina, he accumulated a long list of people to whom he was devoted. I came to realize that when Ian formed a bond–with men, women, children, ferrets–he was uttterly and unerringly their champion, protector, and willing confidante. Even for his mom. During one dark period, when I had to howl at the moon, Ian was the first to listen and the last to tire of my whining and abandon me to my misery. He helped get me past it and back into the sunlight. And he was just as generous with his friends. (Well, maybe “generous” is not the word that leaps to your lips when you are with Ian in the restaurant and the check comes… but I digress.) He is, actually, capable of great and lasting love and concern for his friends.

I’ve seen Ian drive or fly or walk miles out of his way to see someone he cares about, especially if they are sad or in trouble. And maybe all of this is the reason why we could all gather on the hill and in the barn and celebrate the fact that Ian found that soulmate after all.

And why we, and he, could look out over a sea of joyous faces and know that they had gathered there to celebrate him and his bride. In the midst of the celebrations, I found myself hoping that the skinny redhead kid with the zits and freckles and the violin case, and the Morse Code handbook, and the Charley Brown zig-zag good grief angst sweater, could look around that gathering and understand that he was fully, widely, joyously, finally loved.

Ian is still taking a

Ian is still taking a break from his online journal. I’m his oldest and largest brother, Kent. I know that he was in Pennsylvania with Tessa doing something over the weekend, and he’ll be back soon. Just so you know, I was the one who gave him a copy of XTC’s “English Settlement” which is where the XTC in XTCIAN comes from.

I was at The Wedding, and I must say, it was grand. I got to hang with some of Ian’s friends in person that I’d only read about on http://www.xtcian.com, and they’re a fine bunch of warm human beings. As for Ian being a womanizer, I was in Iowa doing my own thing when his years in the Gen-X wilderness were occuring, so I can’t comment directly on that.

I will say this: He always seemed to me to be too ambivalent about contact with his fellow beings, physical or otherwise, to be a womanizer, and he is still friends with a lot of interesting and attractive women from back in the day. Neither of those personal details describe any womanizer I’ve met. The men of that ilk that I know seem to be blandly attractive, lantern-jawed specimens uncontaminated by a genuine inner life. They give off an animal musk that makes women give up the booty without a second thought.

As anyone who reads xtcian.com should know by now, Ian is so full of inner life that it keeps sloshing out over the rim of his, err, inner-life pitcher, leaving hard-to-eradicate stains on the psychic furniture. As it were.

So this doesn’t become some sort of icky Friendster testimonial I’ll talk about my weekend instead. I took my son Lucas and his friends to see Radiohead at Alpine Valley, Wisconsin. Radiohead is Lucas’ first and most virulent musical obsession, and this was his (and my) first time seeing them play live. Perhaps I’ll review the concert in my own journal but suffice it to say, they rocked me like a hurricane.

I took my digital camera, and you can see some photographs here. I do have to share a couple though:

This woman was amazing. The picture doesn’t do justice to her hat, which says “FRITO LAY” on the front, and is topped with a golf-ball-sized pom-pom. This is the sort of hat that would be like the Jumbotron shouting IRONY if worn by an East Village metrosexual. On her it looked as though either she put it on during a Senior Moment, or she’s completely beyond caring what she looks like, into some sort of Zen No-Fashion.

These very nice folks wanted their picture taken at the boyhood home of Ronald Reagan. I took a couple with their camera and one with mine. Then they took one of me:

While this was going on, Lucas was already back in the car, listening to Kid A. His friends didn’t even get out of the van. Apparently Ronald Reagan, who left office during their first year of life, meant very little to them.

This statue has always struck me as kind of scary. He’s in a rumpled suit and has two fingers pressed in the palm of the other hand, as though he’s made two points, and can’t remember what the third one is. The statue has weathered since the last time I was in Dixon IL, and the gipper is starting to look a bit scabrous:

So anyways, hugs and kisses, watch this space for the return of OG XTCIAN soon.

AHHHH HAH HA AHAHA AHAHAHHAAAA!!!!!!

AHHHH HAH HA AHAHA AHAHAHHAAAA!!!!!!

Finally, it has fallen to me, Ian’s brother SEAN. Many times, the torch has passed me by, many times it should have been *I* who has written this damn blog, and always I have been thwarted. I even shut down the power everywhere on the eastern seaboard, but dammit, Ian escaped me, that sonofabitch. And now, finally, I, like Jacob, *I* have taken the birthright that is mine! I have presented an hairy arm to my father, and now the blog is mine! I shall talk about whatever I damn well please, and you’re gonna keep reading.

A couple of things. First, Ian, a womanizer? Seriously? What kind of 19 year old idiot are you? This is the most hilarious myth about Ian ever. Sure, he has dated more than, say, five girls in his life. And there was a stretch in his twenties when he tried to meet girls and date them, which I know is just *shocking*. But a womanizer? You must have been there in ’84 when every tee-shirt was a mass of blood stains and acne medicine bleach spots.

Just like mine. I wear my scars like badges of honor. Plus, I read today that fat is the new Black, but that’s a whole nother can of worms.

Secondly, perhaps you haven’t heard, but even bad publicity is good publicity. The fact that you are still talking about Ian after all these years is hilarious.

Speaking of publicity, go see The Lucretia Jones Mysteries at the Gershwin Hotel, starting September 20th.

Seriously.

Anywhooo, I’ve always felt that blogs were less about talking about what you have done that day and more about how you feel about stuff. There also should be links, and pictures. Pictures of attractive women. Ian always screws this part up. Sure, there are attractive women, but it’s usually his damn wife, and seriously, what am I supposed to do with that?

I also think that you should drink at least a bottle and half of wine before you write a blog, especially if its Ian’s. The wine, it should be said, is part of a case that I stole from his wedding party. So, if you figure in how much the bachelor party cost and the wedding gift, and then you figure I got a bunch of awesome meals and a case of expensive wine out of the deal, I’m actually ahead.

Which is what is important.

So, here’s what I feel about stuff. I think stuff is important, but not as important as feeling good about having stuff. Y’know? You gotta like stuff, or there’s no point in having it… etcetera. I also like the way the young ladies in the videos shake their cans. I feel strongly about the can-shaking.

Man, Ian called from a wedding, and he’s probably sitting with the cast of The West Wing, and if he isn’t, he’ll tell me he was and then he’ll be all, “Yeah, I was gonna get a picture with Martin Sheen, but then we got all fucked up and were playing pool and he was all, ‘Ian, you so cool,’ and I was all, ‘Yeah, man, you cool too.’ and then he left and I couldn’t really get his picture, ’cause we’re, like, friends now.”

So, there you go. Ian’s always been jealous of my writing, so don’t go writing him and being all, ‘Sean’s better than you.’ Some things are just self evident.

Michelle, Ian’s little sister here.

Michelle, Ian’s little sister here. Ian just called me from the top of a mountain outside of Milford, Pennsylvania, and before his cell phone cut off, he said that “Nell’s rehearsal dinner was great”. After that I was left with buzzing silence, so we’re on our own here.

Ian and my brother Steve have shown great restraint and decorum regarding the recent complaints regarding Ian’s blog. Well, I got Ian’s approval to use the “F” word, so all you people who have a problem with my brother can Fuck Off. And I mean that in capitals. Seriously? You are taking the time and effort to say a blog is self-involved? I pity you, with the free time on your hands, and particularly feel you all must be simply pathetic to not realize the grace, generosity, talent, goodness and fun in my brother’s writing (and in his life) that you get to witness for free. There are few living writers who can turn a phrase like Ian, and you should count yourselves lucky that you don’t have to pay a dollar a word. Cuz he’s worth far more that that. So get the freak over yourselves, and spend five minutes looking at what your president is doing. Complain about that, voice your opinion about that, but don’t waste precious minutes and brain cells on being concerned with my brother’s wedding tux. His tux, and his wedding, are things I will remember forever for how simply amazing they were. Go stick your head down a hole. You might get more accomplished.

Okay. My rant is over. I’m typing from Ian and Tessa’s apartment in Park Slope, where I am taking refuge from a Saturday night party in my own buidling. I’m also half looped from a wine and cheese party. I’ve already raided the Pop Tarts and am about to go abuse the cable TV. Someone else from my family will be writing tomorrow night, and hopefully, someday soon, my brother will return to where he rightfully belongs.