Monthly Archives: October 2003

desecration and weddings

10/20/03

Much is made of “Saturn’s return,” that seemingly ubiquitous downfall everyone takes around the age of 28 – I guess it is the first piece of astrology many take to heart, since it occurs at a time in your life when all your other theories have failed, making it conceivable (and even comforting) that a celestial event could be the reason. I was warned about the return of Saturn when I hit 27 or so, and promptly responded with some of the most carefree, fun years of my Chapel Hill existence. I spent that star-crossed era drinking, chatting, working, playing tennis, basketball, and smooching – all in the gravitational pull of the Pink House’s heyday.

Perhaps my Saturn came late. Nothing can describe the misery I plunged into when I moved to Los Angeles in 1997. I had just turned 30, and was supposed to have my shit together, alas. Things got worse, and by 1999, I was two shades away from suicidal. Moving to New York a year later, I destroyed my lower back, putting me on a cane for two months, driving my nights and mornings into paroxysms of agony.

Sitting with Tessa this morning, watching the last days of the Indian Summer pass by 7th Avenue (Brooklyn), I remarked that my utter emotional and physical breakdown allowed me to become a good husband. She thought this was true in my case, but some people take the wrong lessons away from misery. I’m pretty much convinced I had to be wiped away; I had to “find my bottom” (in AA parlance), in order to resurrect myself into the kind of person would could contemplate marriage and tackle our Ahab’s whale (a feature film). I think my utter desecration served simply to wipe away ego.

I wonder if life’s lessons always have to be so hard, or, in the words of the Buddhists, redemption can be found in a whisper. Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.

Speaking of which, we went to Matt Dawson and Jen Albano’s wedding tonight, and it was wonderful to be witness to their union. I don’t usually like ceremonies in Manhattan – they usually feel cramped – but this place was swingin’, with a fabulous old-time 1940s swing band to boot. Oy, and the food! Best we’ve had in a while. Jerry Seinfeld was there (sorry Sean, no pictures).

Both Matt and Jen are incredible performers – Matt is the heartbreaking emotional glue that holds the Pink House movie together, and every time Jen gets on stage, I start laughing before she even says anything. I’d work with either of them again in a heartbeat.

TessaDanceMattJWed(bl).jpg

Tessa dances with Matty D. at the wedding

10/19/03 I have a friend

10/19/03

I have a friend in Texas who spent years struggling with anti-depressants, sleep agents and alcohol to cure her chronic insomnia. She tried Xanax, Ambien, Valium, all the biggies, and nothing was working. Finally, out of what I assume to be frustration, her doctor just said, “Look, just take a Benadryl, fer chrissake.” She did, and now she sleeps like a baby every night.

I have decided to try something similar, as my constant fatigue seems to be a direct result of never quite slipping into that R.E.M. state that supposedly does you a lot of good [by the way, Chris Suellentrop had an excellent article about R.E.M. (the band) on Slate last week]. The weird thing is, I’m a fairly big-boned, moderately tall dude, and it always takes 30% more of a drug to have any effect on me.

But this Benadryl shit is crazy. One pill and it takes two minutes to write the sentence I just here wrote. And I feel like I’m breathing a gentle purple oxygen and little fairies are flying around my halo. I finished my Salon article a few minutes ago, and I’m not sure if the final paragraph is even on-topic.

Speaking of which, we had brunch with Tod’s very excellent and very cute kids this morning. I’d say more, but my thoughts are turning into a swimming pool full of butterscotch pudding.

Max (11) and Felix (6)

10/17/03 As you might have

10/17/03

As you might have guessed, I’m in more of a pictoral mood than a writing mood. And if you have been with me for a few months, you know my weird habit of recreating pictures from years past, so another delightful pair won’t surprise you.

Chip, Bud, Jon and me in Atlanta, March 1987 – I’m wearing fake glasses for fun

Chip, Bud, Jon and me upstate, October 2003 – coming to rock a town near you!

10/16/03 I’m not sure if

10/16/03

I’m not sure if it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder or what, but I’ve been in a terrible mood over the last few days, something apparently impenetrable to the fine folks at Forest Pharmaceuticals, since their Celexa isn’t doing the trick. Writing about being depressed is almost as bad as writing about being tired – both instill sadness and fatigue in your intended audience. Yeah yeah, but I can’t always be full of spitfire and vinegar, god damn you.

I’m working on a Salon piece that is a brilliant little ditty that should write itself, but I find myself staring off into space, hyperconcentrating on some tiny memory from seven years ago, or just outlining the maps of France on our walls. I don’t typically suffer from writer’s block (a year and a half on this blog should tell you that), but I do suffer from writer’s malaise, a systemic detachment from the English language in general. Perhaps I miss the kind of instant feedback that our college town offered, or maybe I need to be immersed in close quarters with like-minded friends.

Or maybe I just need to shut up, and remember that the inspiration for a piece of art will always pale in the cold slog of actually having to create it. It is in those exhausted days at the end of a novel, or an article, or a movie, that you desperately want to claw your face off, or flap your arms and fly to the moon – but you don’t. You stay and work out of pure professionalism and craft, because that’s what separates you from others who wanted to do something like this, but lost heart in the face of unbelievable odds. Shut up, you fucking whiner. This is what you DO.

10/15/03 I’ve long been a

10/15/03

I’ve long been a fan of stringing pictures together to create a panorama, but mostly it has just been a hodgepodge of photos taped up to resemble the whole. Images like this one of my room in the Pink House have adorned my walls since I was a wee one dorking out in Iowa.

But with Photoshop, you can actually meld pictures together with some amount of precision. It’s my first effort at a huge file (and I’ve had to size it down by about 90% to fit on the Web) but here is a panoramic view from our hill, taken last week as the leaves were about to go into their peak. Click on the image below unless you’re on a dialup account, in which case click on the image below and then get some laundry done while you’re waiting.

P.S. I threw down the mantle a few days ago, and now my buddy Tod has his own awesome blog!

10/14/03 I received some of

10/14/03

I received some of the nicest emails of my online career today, all from folks who appreciated their viewing of the Pink House movie, and weirdly, I’m feeling much better about the whole experience. That doesn’t erase the fact that I puked on Broome Street on the way home last night, and woke up with a hangover commensurate with my age, but it was good to get nice and drunk on a Monday night. Just like college! Flaming Dr. Peppers at Ham’s! Whooooo-hooooo!

Salem had a few hours to kill before flying back to Atlanta, so we acted like total gossipy girls and went to North 5th Ave. to screw around at Gucci, Prada, Hugo Boss and Dunhill. Now, I’ve never been inside the Manhattan Dunhill store before, but it is a beautiful and sad throwback to a time when men were so manly that they were almost feminine. Something about the footwear, the driving goggles, the natty suits – it’s all rather gay, in a British not-gay sort of way.

Upstairs is a walk-in humidor, where they keep scores of different kinds of cigars at exactly 70% humidity and try to come as close as possible to a Cuban cigar, which means tiptoeing around the Dominican Republic and Haiti. I wish I had a taste for cigars (or that they didn’t make me barf) but the whole Dunhill vibe makes you long for the life of a rich, white, British man with a motorcycle sidecar. The display tables are all covered in stitched leather, and there’s even a cigar-smoking room with every sort of liquor and newspaper, pristine like the Ambassador Suite at a 5-star hotel – now closed-off and unusable because of Bloomberg’s smoking ban.

There’s also something a little cold and distant about Dunhill, as if all of the accoutrements were devices designed to promote sex with pliant, rich American women – but there would be no follow-up call, no provocations of love after that road trip into the Surrey countryside – you would be away on business, and pretty soon, she would understand that you would always be away on business.

After that, Salem and I trucked over to Barney’s. Being an utter tyro at this whole shopping thing, I thought Barney’s was a discount clothes store. I dunno, something about the name. It just seemed like someone named Barney wouldn’t be selling $400 shirts. Oh, but they were.

The place was abuzz with the filming of “Sex and the City,” which took over the women’s section (so we couldn’t get a gift for Elizabeth). Even freakier, we bumped, literally, into Kate Hudson and Chris Robinson as they got off the elevator. Kate looked about 14 months pregnant, and Chris looked exactly the same as 1994, when Greg Humphreys and I spent the day smoking something wonderful with him backstage at a rock show in Charlotte. Those guys always had the best stuff, which is probably so obvious that I needn’t even say it.

Yay for shopping in New York! I’m too poor to buy any of it!

10/13/03 click for bigger We

10/13/03

click for bigger

We had a small friends ‘n’ family sneak preview of the Pink House movie tonight, and it was the first time any of our friends had seen more than a trailer. My un-Buddhist perfectionism didn’t allow me to watch the film with the crowd; I was tied up in minutiae from the moment it started (is it loud enough? is it too loud? wait, what happened to the phone sounds? am I going to have to re-write the beginning?) and mostly I just prayed we got through the thing without the DV deck exploding.

But as I sit here now, deep into the evening with Tessa long asleep and quite sick by my side, I think the whole thing was received in varying shades of great enthusiasm. Yes, I am fully aware of a few things wrong with the movie and will strive to fix them before we do the serious shopping. But even hardened moviegoers who have sat through hours on end of crappy indie films, folks who are predisposed to loathe, they came up to me and beamed.

Sometimes you have to be happy with the victories you get. Regardless of the film’s future, I spent an evening entertaining some of my favorite people in the world. Half of the original Pink House was there, so was Salem from Jasper, GA and Laurie Williams and Block and my family and so many others who have worked on the movie. And what it came down to was this: they laughed at the “Marmaduke” line. If that is all we get from this, well, it won’t be enough, but bringing 93 minutes of happiness into this world is surprisingly satisfying.

10/12/03 I don’t take my

10/12/03

I don’t take my seasons lightly; if it’s going to be autumn, then my environment is bloody well going to be autumnal, dammit! I knew I could count on Jiffer to carve pumpkins with me, and even though she did hers in Wisconsin Conventional, it’s always important to have a partner in dorkitude.

This was a great weekend at the farm, with near-perfect weather, and a fabulous clientele to boot. Sean, Jordana, Michelle, Jon, Chip, Bud, Baps, Lars, Jiffer, Ingo and Kelly joined Tessa and I for a vernal equinox celebration, and Columbia County rewarded us with the beginning of the color season. We took a bike ride on the Harlem Valley Rail Trail that could be described, I guess, but why bother? My recommendation is to bike it for yourself.

but if you clip in your pedals, remember that you have them clipped in, or else when you stop, you’ll fall flat on your ass with your bike landing on top of you, y’know, like I did

One of the nights we played Celebrity, and there’s always one person that gets frustrated. Usually it’s me, sometimes it’s Lars, it has occasionally been Colin Soloway, but tonight it was Sean’s turn. His team lacked the, um, chemistry of some of the other teams. Plus, there’s a rule about all games of the mind: Chip always wins. If you’re on his team, you will win. He’s the Shaq of trivia.

I don’t always get to thank my baby enough for what she does, but I can say it here and loud – Tessa was amazing this week. Not only did she produce the screening of the movie tomorrow, not only did she make dinner from actual ingredients all day, but she did it toiling under the drudging penumbra of a bad flu. She’s frosting and the cake.

10/10/03 You went through your

10/10/03

You went through your friendships so fast, perhaps I should consider myself lucky that ours lasted as long as it did. When we first got together, our affection for one another verged on the homoerotic, the childhood crush of two grown men so happy to have the other that all people, even women, were pointless distractions to our laser-like intensity. When I read “Brideshead Revisited,” I saw our relationship in Charles and Sebastian, and recalled those days with a pit of fondness in my stomach.

But the pendulum is a nasty beast, and swung as far backward. I couldn’t believe the vitriol that flew out of you, the way you took things said at 4am in a rapturous, delirious, slumber-party-like confidence and then offered them to the people we once ridiculed. Betrayal doesn’t begin to encompass my feelings, in fact, I thought I might be going crazy. I had never known a reality so distorted – I was there, I saw the same things, or had I? – but you quickly divested me of any quick trusts for the rest of my life. Perhaps I need to thank you for that.

Years later, when we saw each other again, you didn’t even register that this had happened, just continued on as if we were old friends, another Crazy Summer, another hoops game with patronizing advice. When I moved to your town, you did your best, but I no longer fit the suit, it was much too large for me in my older, more angular form. There was only so much forced conversation I could take.

Do you remember me? I was the one who understood before your sentence was finished. I was there when the dreams were being constructed from the basement up. The clich holds that women are the mercurial ones, mystical beasts that can be catty, possessive, mean-spirited, and emotionally uncontrollable, but guess what? They don’t have a thing on you.

10/9/03 I’d like to say

10/9/03

I’d like to say a few words about my friend Ann Humphreys. If you pardon the terrible mix of metaphors and puns, it’s easy to get Pollyanna about Annie, because she the kind of woman that inspires so much love in the people around her that one is reduced to inane blatherings about “how important she is to me” and blaggedy-blah-blah. I will say this, however: my life without her in it would be definitely the lesser.

I met her briefly in 1989, during the anorexic summer that followed her father’s quick passing due to brain cancer, and like everyone else, had a hopeless crush. By the time she came to Chapel Hill for good in 1993, she had finished her stint at Barnard College in NYC and was trolling the waters around her home state for something to do. Fortunately, she, her brother (the illustrious Greg Humphreys of Hobex and Dillon Fence fame) and I found a semi-abandoned farmhouse on the outskirts of Carrboro and lived there for a year.

Life on that farm was, like any hazing ritual, the best time we ever hated. Our rent was $117 each, no lie – Annie actually paid her rent one month by discovering a box full of pennies. I made about $400 that year, and lost 25 pounds by subsisting on cans of Slim-Fast and parsimonious bowls of pasta. Sean and I started a failed cover band, Greg’s relationship with Dillon Fence became terminal, Ann began a tortuous affair with one of my best friends – and the only salve we had was a floor-to-ceiling forced-air heater that purported to warm the entire house. Of course, it only warmed the three feet in front of it, so Ann would stretch out there for days at a time, like a cat following the patch of sunlight on the carpet.

Greg would go on tour for months in a stretch, so Ann and I spent entire epochs together in front of that heater. I was writing a semi-digestible novel, and she was honing her craft as a budding poet, thinking about grad school at Warren Wilson. I was truly at my depressive, gadfly, cynical worst, and Annie, while always bristling at her surroundings, never took me seriously enough to warrant an argument. In fact, I have been blessed by many roommates in close quarters without quarrelling (Bud, Salem, Scott, etc.) but I think I could be locked in a steamer trunk with Ann on a cross-Siberian voyage and we’d still get along.

For me, there are two lasting effects from that farm: one, my undying desire to have Ann as a permanent confidante; and two, a complete immunity to most diseases thanks to drinking well water infected with E. Coli.

We’ve been near enough each other for the last few years (she was in San Fran when I was in LA), but I’ve always wanted her in New York, even when I wasn’t living here. For some reason, I thought only New York, with its unrelenting dialogue and emphasis on excellence, could deserve her. But she loves her house in North Carolina, and if there’s one thing the last two years have taught me, it’s to leave people alone about where they live, because what the fuck do I know? Being in NYC during 9/11 drove me to anti-anxiety drugs. Nothing is ever that simple. Nothing worth doing comes without ambivalence.

I would say this, however: a change of scenery, however arbitrary, can be a godsend. My sister Michelle is in the rather insane position of having to choose between Napa Valley and Niger, but I think the choice alone will be worth more than the destination. Human beings tend towards repetition to calm fear, but a life without some stomach-churning trepidation would be the life unexamined.