Monthly Archives: September 2003

9/17/03 In a bizarre confluence


In a bizarre confluence of events, we’ve been able to see – playing live – half the bands featured on the Pink House soundtrack this weekend. None of this was planned, but with Erin last night, Opti-Grab and Hobex tonight and Block tomorrow, that’s half the songwriters we’ve spent two years massaging into the movie.

Opti-Grab, partially helmed by our beloved Rick Gradone, opened for the Tom Tom Club at Southpaw, and it was the usual high-energy, high-spirited, hijinks-filled evening of their ironic hipster-hop. The sound guy was sub-par, which meant the audience missed half of the great lyrics, but with those three exploding on stage, it hardly mattered.

Paul Marcarelli (better known to America as the Verizon Wireless “can you hear me now?” guy) stood with us and chatted about his unbelievable work schedule, and a desire to someday, anyway, get back on stage. We’d seen him and Chapel Hill’s own vivacious Jen Davis in a play called “Jitterbugging” a few years ago, and they were terrific.

Thank god we went to that performance; it allowed us to ensnare Rick for the Pink House shoot, and I can’t imagine my life without him fluttering around it.

Rick dolled up as a Nazi on Acid in the Pink House movie

Tessa went to bed, but I trekked into midtown Manhattan, after midnight on a Wednesday (the horror!) to catch my old roomie Greg Humphreys and his soul/dance band Hobex rip through a loud and deeply satisfying show at a place called “Tobacco Road.” Having spent all my formative years living on the actual Tobacco Road, I asked the bartender if there was some sort of Southern theme pervading the place. She was Israeli, and pointed up to the snacks. “We have potato chips,” she said. I dropped the subject.

Hobex (with Greg at bottom) on the movie set

Greg has learned the lap steel guitar since we last saw him, and when I say “learned,” I mean he tore through that thing like he’d played it in the crib. Ex-fratboys and Phish-lookin’ fellas left their dates to wander up to the stage and watch him fly. Playing this gig at that time of night in Hell’s Kitchen made me really proud of Greg, and the tenacity with which he has stuck to his music. He could have quit at any time, but that was never an option for him. Looking deeply at his face while playing, I began to see that Greg was actually turning into one of the old bluesmen that he had emulated since high school. And with good health care, the occasional massage and modern cough suppressants, hopefully he’ll live a lot longer than they did.

9/16/03 It’s not often that


It’s not often that you bear witness to the turning point of someone’s career, but something tells me that Erin McKeown is not going to be the same after tonight. After the New York Times put a big picture of her in the Sunday Arts section, the Bowery Ballroom was packed this evening with die-hards who had been fans of her amazing Distillation album, and new recruits who have heard WFUV play her new CD Grand endlessly.

I was an early trumpeter of Erin’s talent; on a whim I picked up her album in 2000 because someone had told me she studied ethnomusicology at Brown. Yes, I am that much of a snob. I didn’t give it a proper listen until 10 months later, when the World Trade Center attacks liquefied our psyches and we went on the road trip to Tessa’s dad’s funeral. I slipped the CD in, and Tessa was transfixed. We cranked it all over the Eastern seaboard, as sort of a “recovery soundtrack” to 9/11.

That winter, up in Great Barrington, we happened to notice that Erin was playing along with a group called Voices on the Verge at Helsinki’s, so watched them do their thing in front of about 25 people. It wasn’t necessarily my cuppa tea (occasionally slow and meaningful) but when Erin played, it electrified the audience. I decided to ask her if she had any interest in being part of the Pink House soundtrack. Actually, I asked Tessa to ask her. And we have been great friends with Erin and her manager Emily ever since.

“Queen of Quiet,” one of my favorite songs, ended up in a key place in the movie, and in 2002, she opened up for Norah Jones (just before Norah won the Grammy) in a kick-ass set at the Public that upstaged Jones’ soporific style. After that, Tessa directed some of the promotional film for Erin’s new album. Strangely, Erin and Emily were the first to find out we were engaged; on our visit to Northampton, I had just proposed.

at the reception

Thus it meant everything in the world to me that she played my favorite song of hers, “The Little Cowboy,” at our wedding. She is barely five feet tall, but her tiny fingers take command of the neck of a guitar with a fluid power that can reduce you to tears. She is jazzy, tin-pan-alley and cock rock all at once. Her lyrics range from delightful (“I am a clever lady, just like a satin doll / A little wanton maybe, but I keep my wanting small”) to strangely evocative (“could have bought a ticket but what would I have done / with no lines in my pocket and a nose for the setting sun”).

People with something to say and a stunning talent rarely get what they deserve in the world of rock, so tonight’s concert at the Bowery Ballroom went down as a redemptive stunner. The crowd was insane, packed, and cheered wildly, requesting two encores by stamping their feet long after closing time. When we went backstage to congratulate her on what could only be described as a “Here I Am, World” event, we found the band a little bummed out – they didn’t know the show had been a hit. I felt like the lead tenor at the premiere of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony who had to turn deaf Beethoven around so he could see the gleeful hysteria he’d created.

But we’ve all been there, right? Half of the people reading this blog have been on stage at some point, and probably thought they had done a bad job, only to hear later that they had rocked the free world. I hope we proved it to Erin and her band, telling them that they had the best night we could imagine. “The only way it could have been better,” I said, “was if Jesus himself appeared and offered his benediction on the crowd.” This seemed to satisfy them, and they walked out, faith renewed, to the throng of adorers.

Erin and me – I told you, she’s tiny!

9/15/03 This blog goes out


This blog goes out to my old friend Julianna Hofeld, wherever the hell you are! J was was one of my closest confidantes at Carolina, and getting to know her was not only one of the best things about school, but pretty much the hardest. She came equipped with an impenetrably hard exterior that scared off most redneck would-be suitors with a casual glance, and it took me about two months of pounding on her dorm room door before she agreed to go with me to my frat formal. There would have been a time when her shy, steely, green-eyed intensity would have flummoxed me from the start, but by my sophomore year, I appreciated the challenge.

There are pictures of us everywhere in my collection – at Valley Forge National Park, in her father’s palatial grounds in Chicago, and at countless black-tie-ish functions around Chapel Thrill (of course, the dopiest one is the pic I have scanned above). Once we bonded, we hung out all four years at school (y’know, cuz I stayed five) and then many years afterward.

Until, bien sr, I moved to Los Angeles, promptly went mad, lost contact with zillions of lovely people, and submerged myself in viscous despair. In the meantime, shy, shy J became a fabulous TV news reporter, which would have been my last guess – besides poop-based performance art – for her career. She was the local anchor at a station in Minnesota, and the last time we talked, she was thinking of taking a job somewhere in Virginia. Maybe Richmond. Maybe not. And yes, I know about the Alumni Directory.

Either way, I’ve been bemoaning my loss of her from my life when I suddenly realized that this blog is something of a bullhorn, a digital sonic beam that can be tossed into the heavens with the potential to glance the nerve endings of somebody who is one degree of separation from both of us. Or, if by some chance you Google yourself, and find your way here, I miss you, doofus!

9/14/03 Okay, so the blog


Okay, so the blog entry that used to be here was all about how I thought lesbians used to hate me, and then they didn’t anymore because I was with Tessa, and then I took a trip to Northampton, Mass that proved to me that no, they actually still did think I was a big heteroschlub.

Then I re-read it this morning and was like, “this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever written” and erased it. Even if it was kind of funny.

There are those folks who thing that erasing a blog, or going back and altering text is one of the big historical no-nos that somehow gets in the way of honesty, even inserting little notes in their own blogs about how they would have changed it but left it pure, like one set of tracks in virgin snow. I say screw it. If I’m going to be eminently searchable for the rest of man’s digital history, I’m going to make sure I only sound like a partial moron rather than a full-fledged one.

9/12/03 (Well, I might as


(Well, I might as well finish this piece in front of everybody. Here’s the rest of that 2001 Retrospective I was working on)

VI. The Only Way Out is Through

Everybody knows

You only live a day

But it’s brilliant anyway.

– Elliot Smith, “Independence Day”

The day-to-day anxiety/depression horror I was feeling was not responsive to an overnight cure, nor was it susceptible to advice, nor can I say 2 years on, that I don’t experience some of the same feelings every once in a while. It took most of 2002 to heat up my head, re-position it on my body, and let it cool in a corrective place. I will probably never write a little piece like this about the year 2002, not because it was rough year in some fairly boring senses (it was) but because I began keeping a blog in April that recounts those days in the sort of detail that beggars redundancy. There’s also the question of the antidepressant Celexa, which brings its own math to the equation.

But 2001 remains one of those years for me, like 1985 and 1990, where Everything Changed. In many ways, I think my adolescence ended in 2001. I proved to myself that I could have a regular 9-to-5 job. I also proved to myself – and the 120 or so others snared by the gravity – that I could write and direct a motion picture without exploding. It was also the first year in my life when the desire to be with any other women – other than my beloved Tessa – passed almost unnoticed, like hiccups stopping after a long spell.

The most important legacy of those brilliant, awful times, however, was an entirely new way of thinking about “happiness,” if you want to call it that. My misery forced me into a quasi-Buddhism, which offered a potent salve, even if I didn’t fully understand it. I had always feared losing things in my life: my family, my friends, the drugs that kept me alive, even memories. Buddhism, or at least my dime-store version of it, helped me come to terms with the impermanence of everything, and the freedoms that come with it. When you begin to let go of corporeal and tangible things, you not only drift away from the current mandate of America, you find yourself mired in a more pervasive sort of happiness. It’s not the thrill of a good tequila shot and fellatio, but more of an atmospheric buzz, as colorless and satisfying as oxygen. Yes, I’m still working on it.

In “The Little Prince,” St. Etoine de Exupery wrote: “You are responsible for what you have tamed.” I always added “…for the rest of your life” to that phrase, and it kept me from embracing many things, especially marriage. Not to sound crass, but 2001 gave me the brutal, chalky taste of ephemera, and suddenly “the rest of my life” didn’t sound so long anymore. I’m certainly content to spend the rest of it with Tessa. We could, as our marriage song said, die by each other’s sides thanks to a double-decker bus, and I’m getting more and more cool with that.

9/11/03 (continued from yesterday, this


(continued from yesterday, this little piece about the year 2001 I’ve been working on…)

V. Winter of Malcontent

It’s cold

And it’s going to get colder

You may not get much older;

You’re much too scared of living.

– Kirsty MacColl, “Free World”

Believe it or not, we had started editing the Pink House footage on September 10th. After the attacks, my immediate feeling was “how the fuck did we care so much about a movie?” and “who on earth is going to want to watch this?” But within a few days, it became devastatingly clear that a good time, a comedy, was needed by all, and it allowed us to return to the project with renewed vigor. It’s hard to remember now, but movies with any kind of explosion or fire were impossible to bear during that winter, having seen it for real so many times over.

We were about to start editing again, when Tessa got the call she had been dreading for a decade or so: her father had died. She received this news in the middle of Union Square, and ordinarily the sight of Tessa bawling on a bench would have raised eyebrows, but the whole park had turned into a makeshift monument with throngs of inconsolable souls, and she was just one more person mourning a loved one. It was comforting, being cloaked in such sadness. We lit a candle for Blakey, placed it on the pavement, then drove 26 hours straight to Houston.

On the way home we dawdled, stopping in New Orleans long enough to eat beignets and try to put the state of the world out of our minds. The day we left the warm comfort of the south to go back to the City, the bombing of Afghanistan had begun, and all we could tell each other was “we are going back knowing full well what we’re getting ourselves into.” I was having trouble eating, and by the time the anthrax mailings were all over New York City, it was getting colder, and none of this was exciting or interesting anymore.

Summoned to California for Thanksgiving, I eschewed planes and drove across the country, where I was treated to five straight days of redneck AM radio and began to see how different the rest of America was. In New York, there were signs that read “Our Tears of Grief Are Not Cries For War,” but the rest of the so-called “red states” wanted to beat the shit out of every raghead they could lay their hands on. I began to fear my own citizenry and loathe my own government, planting bulbs of resentment that I’d never known before; I mean, I was about as American as they come. I’d lived all over this country, in times of poverty and plenty – my forefathers walked across the dusty plains and settled this goddamn place. Now I was thinking of anywhere else, maybe Canada, maybe France.

We were longing for an escape. Having been left a bunch of furniture from Blakey’s estate, we could get a storage space for $500/month… or perhaps we could buy a small house upstate for a little bit more. Dana and Lindsay had already moved into their digs in Millerton, and Tessa was always renting the space in Stephentown. Maybe we could find something up there?

What began as a “small place to put some couches” turned into a full-scale search for an American homestead, a place where all our weary friends could take respite from a relentless city and a hostile government. It became the thing Tessa and I had always wanted while we were growing up: a permanent home that would always be ours. The first house we saw was Knob Hill Farm. It had a basketball court on the second floor of the barn. I was sold. Ever the completist, Tessa made us look at 40 more places, but I had already given my aorta.

Due to the overwhelming kindness of the previous owners, we were allowed to live in the house for the Christmas before we closed on the deal, an almost unheard-of no-no in the annals of real estate. We managed to pull off a pretty great holiday with only one family fight instead of the usual three, but my mental state was getting progressively worse. I would spend hours on the internet researching things that only fed my frenzy; I was desperate to get my family out of Manhattan.

I had been fired from my job; I had directed a movie with a nightmare shoot; I had seen my girlfriend through the death of her father and the near-fatal injuring of her grandmother; I had been immersed in a terrorist attack that was a block from where I’d worked; then, I was moored in a severe post-traumatic stress disorder that had me waiting for a nuclear apocalypse at any moment. I had been to the NYU Mental Health Clinic only to be stared down by a cruel social worker. At the end of January, I couldn’t eat for two weeks and broke down on the bed, finally, crying for the first time in front of Tessa.

She said to me, “You can feel this way, and it is okay. No matter how bad it will get for you, I am not leaving.”

I asked her what she thought of Park Slope, a neighborhood I knew to be at least 3 miles away from Ground Zero. She replied that she loved it. And I knew that moment that this would be the girl I would marry.

9/10/03 I’m not sure why


I’m not sure why the 9/11 attacks are looming larger than last year for me, but it might be partly the specials on PBS (Ric Burns’ excellent documentary, as well as the “Tale of Two Towers”) or partly that we have enough distance to make sense of the whole, the way we can grasp the whole of Manhattan when we see it by plane.

I’ve been working on a little memoir on the year 2001, a year that completely overturned my life and forced me to think differently. Yes, it’s self-involved (don’t bother telling me), but it’s just a snapshot of my life at the time, and I don’t want to forget what those days taught me. So I thought I’d put a couple of chapters on the blog just to give them some air; here is the chapter relevant to today (I’ll post the conclusion tomorrow):

IV. Arms

Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,

Without a hurt the heart is hollow.

Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,

The fire of September that made us mellow.

– “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks

Like two drunks after a horrific bender, Tessa and I had a hard time getting up, out of bed, and out of North Carolina after the Pink House shoot. When Michelle and some of the other “sorority sisters” saw us the next day, we were holding hands, and they remarked that if we had survived that production, we could survive anything.

After the kind of de-briefing and de-contamination process usually reserved for astronauts returning from the Moon, we packed up the car and lit for Cleveland. Neal Lerner, Tessa’s longtime assistant, was getting heart surgery at the best cardio hospital in the world, and we were going to see him through it. This was scary stuff; it definitely took away our Pink-House-is-everything mindset when we saw Neal’s fingers, bloated, yellow and barely moving, as he waved goodbye after the surgery. Although lost to the mists of time, Tessa and I had our worst fight to date while driving back to New York, a conflagration so bad that she nearly rolled the car over. Thank god we came to our senses by New Jersey.

The next weekend was Labor Day, our last trip to the Stephentown farm, accompanied by Rick Gradone and Tessa’s mom. We hiked to the top of Mount Greylock, where the cold winds blew the threat of impending winter in our faces. The next night, September 3rd, we were back in New York at Lindsay Bowen’s birthday party, on board the Yankee Clipper in lower Manhattan.

The boat was uniquely situated by the World Trade Center towers so that the North Tower entirely blocked the South Tower. I leaned to Tessa and said, “You know that modern-day Civil War movie idea we were talking about?”

She said, “Yeah, why?”

I pointed up at the World Trade Center. “Well, if there was a scene where one of the towers had fallen during the war, we could film it from this angle.” She smiled and said it was a good idea. Indie filmmakers; always looking for an angle.

On the night of September 10th, I rented episodes 2 and 3 of Ric Burns’ documentary on New York, mostly centering around lower Manhattan of the 18th and 19th century. Later on, I watched the Jennifer Jason Leigh movie “Existenz” with Tessa on my lap, asleep.

The next thing I remember, it was morning, and Tessa had very calmly said to me, “Planes have flown into the World Trade Center, and one of them has fallen.” I didn’t believe her – her tone of voice was weird and inappropriate for that kind of news – and I went back to sleep for about ten more seconds. It was the sound of CNN that made me bolt upright. Tessa never has the TV on during the day.

I watched the television with a sense of detached bewilderment until I saw the replay of the first tower actually coming down. Then I hugged Tessa in genuine fear and said, “Oh my baby!” She was uncharacteristically stoic in that moment. Instincts kicked in, I grabbed my clothes and shoes and said, “Well, let’s get outside,” and as we walked to the West Side Highway, the other tower came down. A weird thought I had: “now the Woolworth Building is the tallest downtown again.”

The details of those hours, from the vantage point of a long time on, seem increasingly hazy and familiar, like a Jungian dream shared by everyone in the country whether they were there or not. But there are a couple of indelible images that ghost the back of my thoughts.

First, the missing-person flyers. They went up by about 4pm that day, and all I could think about were the heartsick relatives, making color copies of their dead children. There they would be, in a trance, at some copy place, having found a photo from a vacation. The pictures seemed all the same, taken at some happy time thousands of miles away, cropped so that the dismembered arm of a friend or a sister draped over their shoulder. So many dismembered pieces of body parts floating all over these pictures, making 100, 200 copies as if the sheer number of images could coax them back to life.

Then there were the lines of cheering New Yorkers that formed on the West Side Highway as the fire trucks and policeman emerged from the brown depths. I passed one such group of cheering folks who were all disabled (as described in an email that day):

“I found a line of 10 or so handicapped people in wheelchairs by the curb, holding signs that said ‘Thank You!’ that they waved as rescue workers drove by. Some of them couldn’t even wave them correctly through paralysis or cerebral palsy, but they tried as best they could. A few blocks away, I sat down with Tessa at lunch, where ‘Going to Carolina in My Mind’ came on the stereo, and I went to the bathroom to try and stop sobbing.”

Michelle and I pass out salads to victims’ families at the Armory, 9/12/01

The pervasive feeling was one of binary horror: you were either very dead, or very much alive. You were either a fireman and therefore able to help, or you could stand in line and try to donate blood they didn’t need. I feel good about our actions of that morning – I carried an entire family’s ash-covered luggage over my head as they looked for their son, and Tessa invited all of 8th Avenue to use her phones – but mostly, we were like everyone else: unable to do anything except appreciate how much we loved our city.

The night of September 11, we took the car, went to my place in the East Village, and grabbed all of my important stuff. We also went shopping and took care of some business, which was one of the smartest decisions we ever made: they locked down everything south of 14th Street the next day. Unfortunately, we also went over to Dana and Lindsay’s place, where Peter Jennings came on the news and said something like, “It begs the question of whether or not a nuclear bomb can be delivered the same way.”

In a way, the bottom fell out of my heart that moment. I hadn’t even considered it. Dana gasped, and though I was still in a state of charitable delirium, the thought of a truly post-apocalyptic world began to take root in my psyche, and it would be almost a year before I could function normally again. That was the moment everything changed.

(to be continued tomorrow)

9/9/03 Okay, so there appear


Okay, so there appear to be a bunch of people who want to move to New York in the immediate future, and for those of you who want to live alone, I say: good fucking luck. There is NO WAY you’re going to afford it unless you have an offshore trust fund or you have an aunt that just died in a rent-controlled building.

I have lived in communes my entire life. They weren’t called “communes,” but that’s exactly what they were. I come from a family of seven, then went straight to a dormitory of one thousand. My next house was the Lodge, where 42 of us lived together. After that, it was Club 510 where six of us broke bread at once; then came the revolving, insane mass of humanity that congregated/lived/barfed in the Purple and Pink Houses. When I moved to LA, there were seven of us. Here, it’s just Tessa and me, and I swear to god, sometimes I walk into the kitchen in the middle of the night and I’m actually surprised that Jiffer isn’t in there stealing my Pop Tarts.

So, all you people about to get yourselves into group houses and roommates, I’m going to give you the Rules for Thriving in a Group House. You had better Clip’n’Save this blog, because you’re going to need it later.

1. The devil you know is always better than the angel you don’t.

Yes, you may think your prospective housemate is a slob, but if you think about it, you also know she’s not psychotic. Let me tell you about everyone in the world you don’t know: they all SUCK. They are all fucking CRAZY. They will sob on your shoulder about an abusive boyfriend, then steal all your money, do cocaine on the table your mom gave you, then come home drunk and take a shit in the kitchen trash can. Yes, this happened to me.

We all made fun of Jay Murray for staying in college for thirteen years and convincing everyone to buy him hamburgers, but he was harmless, funny, and had a point of view. I would live with Jay Murray again 100 times out of 100 if the other option was putting an ad in the paper. I repeat: live with who you know, because that means you know they are NOT psycho freak slut assholes.

2. Have your own room with a lock.

I didn’t always follow this advice, but since my roommate was Scott Bullock, we managed to share a room (at the age of 29) and have nothing but fun. But the rest of you: get a room, get a door, and get a lock. The fun of a commune is amazing and awesome, but there comes a time when you need to masturbate.

3. Have house meetings regularly, and figure out the dishes.

Our house meetings at the Pink House were frequently so funny that I made a movie about them. But there’s one thing that ain’t so funny: the goddamn dishes. This comes up in EVERY group house without fail. We tried everything, but still the plates stacked skyward, and calcified peanut butter remained on knives for weeks. Finally, we hid all the dishes in the basement, bought a shitload of paper plates and cups, and just threw away every mess. It was environmentally insane, but it got us through the winter of 1997.

The house meeting should always have a “bitch session,” where each housemate can yawp at the others about something arcane and weird. “Just being heard” can work wonders, even if your mind is utterly elsewhere.

4. Don’t be an asshole about rent.

There are all kinds of ways to screw up rent, but the worst is when somebody’s girlfriend or boyfriend moves in, and so they split that room’s rent. This sucks. Not only does it mean one more body to contend with in the bathroom and around the television, but it penalizes those people who are single by getting a much worse deal than their housemates who are busy fucking.

How do you fix it? Here’s what we did, so follow closely. We measured the square footage of each bedroom, then added all the rooms together to find out what percentage of “total bedroom space” each room takes up. For instance, at the Pink House, we had five bedrooms, and it looked like this: 20%, 17%, 15%, 32%, 16%. Got it? Yes, it was painstaking, but we did it.

Then all you do is charge everyone who lives in the house a $100 “common room” fee (yours could be much higher if you want). Then split the rest of the rent by percentage. For example: the rent at the Pink House was $1600 total. There were seven people living there, so that took care of $700 of “common room” fees. That left $900 to split by percentage. My room was the “20% room,” so that meant $180. So my rent was $280. This solved all arguments. I repeat: THIS SOLVED ALL ARGUMENTS! ALL RESENTMENTS AGAINST COUPLES DISSIPATED!

If you don’t do this, expect your communal house to treat your girlfriend the way the rest of the Beatles treated Yoko during the Abbey Road sessions.

5. Take on the irrational obsessions of your housemates as though they were your own.

This is the most important rule of all. It basically says that if your housemate hates something about the house, you should as well. Even if you don’t really care. Matt McMichaels HATED the construction detritus piled up in the lawn of the Purple House, so I did too. Jon Gray had ceiling tiles fall on his head while sleeping, so I got mad as well. Salem hated it when I dried myself outside the shower and made the mat wet, so I still, to this day, dry off inside the shower out of respect to 1989 Salem. If you can do this, you can live with anybody.

I realize now that this rule, as well as some of the others, prepared me for marriage. I try to take on the peccadilloes of Tessa as though they were my own, so that she doesn’t feel like she’s alone in any struggle. I really miss the expansive comraderie of the commune, but she can be enough people in one day to satisfy anyone.

some the amazing people I’ve lived with

9/8/03 I realize I just


I realize I just had a blog dedicated to my mom, but it’s my dad’s birthday, and he needs one as well. I don’t know anyone more supportive of this particular blog venture as he, even mentioning it by name during his vast, wonderful, magnanimous speech during my wedding. It was probably the only speech that was free of snarky comments about my supposed Lotharian tendencies, temper tantrums and persecution complex, so I have my dad to thank for that as well.

Sean has already written an excellent paean to my dad that pre-empts most of what I might say, but then I remembered a little piece I wrote about him eight or so years ago. It is the experience of watching him conduct the orchestra through “The Pines of Rome” by Respighi, filtered through the mind of a ten-year-old.

It’s called Pines of the Appian Way:

He stands there like a tuxedoed tree, waving his boughs in a storm, coaxing the entire Roman army to burst through the percussion. Heavy bow against low string, each foot of an ancient soldier drawing closer, a bass drum meaning a legion has put down a foot in gigantic tandem. He leans over the strings, egging them on, daring them to get dangerous; cellos too. Basses follow the heavy thud, their job is easy. They were the first to know.

Soon trombones crash as trumpets swell, a chord change, and I could see them! Shiny apparatus on their leggings and breastplates make me squint as the stage light hits them, and all he does is dare them further. Come on, god damnit. We want teeth and yolky eye whites and scabs peeled raw.

Almost deafening now, army upon us, couldn’t escape if you started now. So many glorious chords, I can hardly fit it all in. Peripheral vision escapes me, as the violas and flutes, random faces of soldiers as they march closer. He screams, sweat flying off the right brow, just when it seems that there is nothing left, he twirls, then points!

Towards me, up in my box seat, trumpets soar and scales jangle! And then he turns completely around and points again, behind and up, across the theater, now in the rafters, and more brass crow chords of gorgeous intensity. Points to me again, a sorcerer commanding! Spittle everywhere and almost exhausted!

Army stays, final victorious harmony rings out across the vast, charged hall, and applause. His white hair flops down for a second, a long bow, and I can’t stop myself from smiling, because I sleep feet from God.

9/7/03 Right, so in the


Right, so in the interest of clarity, when I said I wasn’t writing a Sunday blog anymore, I meant I wasn’t writing on Saturday night, because nobody should be on the internet on Sundays. They should be outside breathing God’s green air, making a turnaround jumper from twelve feet out, barbequing hot dogs, shopping at Best Buy, or whatever it is that Americans do now. Whenever my mom doesn’t see a blog from me each day, she assumes I’ve been in the hospital with a kidney stone. If my luck, allopurinol and water intake prevails, perhaps I’ll be spared from that forever. Three kidney stones is enough for anyone.

Fred Weller married the lovely and talented Ali Marsh last night, and it was a gorgeous gathering of old friends and fabulous dessert. Sean always gets pissed off when I engage in my usual starfucking at such events (you know, like here and here and etcetera) but he’ll be glad to know we didn’t end up rooming with Amy Poehler, who had to go back for Saturday Night Live or something. I did, however, get to meet one of my favorite guys currently in the biz: Thomas Lennon, who was once on “The State,” and now on “Reno 911” (both exquisitely funny). When Tessa and I went to see Le Divorce in Great Barrington last week, and his name came on the opening credits, I leaned over and told her he’d be the best thing in the movie. And he was.

So we told him so, and he was graciously delighted. Definitely a class act. Go see Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller in “Starsky and Hutch” ‘cuz he helped write it.

I have to say this about Westhampton Beach, however: the wedding estate was beautiful, but that town blows. I’ve been there off and on since the mid-80s with my buddy Jamie Block, and it has turned into The Worst of the Hamptons. Jamie and I were once in a 2-man cover band playing obscure Dylan tunes for the clientele at the local watering holes, and Westhampton seemed to have a soul back then. There was an ice cream parlor full of ne’er-do-wells, downscale coffee dives, an indie record store, and shops featuring clothes for less than $999.00. Now the main strip seems to have a town mandate stating that No Shops May Open Herein That Provide Anything Useful.

It is a wasteland of ceramic trinkets, insanely-overpriced real estate offices, candles for $94, and scores of stores featuring chartreuse-colored clothes for soon-to-be-morbidly-obese Jewish women. We walked around and tried to find a sandwich, but no food was served. Eventually I found a store that served inedible taffy and purchased a caramel apple for fruit consumption.

But no matter. It’s enough to see my old brethren from the University of North Carolina, all out in force to cheer Fred on. We have all aged in our specific ways, many entering into our mid-30s with more jubilation than we left our teens, even if there are some tell-tale lines of late night debauchery etched into our faces. As I sometimes fret about my own aging, I keep thinking that it happens to everybody.

I never entirely felt the bonds of brotherhood while I was at school, too addled by my own narcissism to fully grasp the concept. I never saw myself as part of the cool crowd, and remember vast, endless days spent ruminating in the basement of the Lodge, wondering why everyone else seemed to know what was going on. Age has now given me the understanding that nobody knew what was going on, and now I feel blessed to have these amazing, far-flung friendships dotting the globe like tiny pricks of light.

standing: Ali Farahnakian, Alex Yong, Ricky Bell, James Beeler, Charley Cassell, Steven Comfort, Scott Bailey, me

kneeling: Jeremy Kelly, Tom Silk, Alec McNab, Steve Ducey

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