Monthly Archives: November 2003



The second we drove into the Greater New York, I was swerved into by a truck, given the finger by a taxicab driver, and violently cut off by a bus. This led me to say “God I hate this fucking town” in a quick primal burst, and for those minutes I actually meant it.

I have a very complicated relationship with New York

trump is yellow


I have not being feeling particularly verbal lately, as the spate of pictures here can prove. There are a couple of things in my life right now that I must do, but I’m dreading them, so I’ve been taking the last few days off. There’s a way you can make your Powerbook think at half-speed so as to conserve the battery, and I suppose that is where my head is: sluggish, simply enjoying the wit and high-thought-processes of those around me, so I can gear up later.

In that light, I’ll just post another picture today – this one is my Mom, who has just finished wiping everyone’s ass with a game of Rook.




Well, how much have we changed in a year?


top, Thanksgiving 2002; bottom, Thanksgiving 2003


we give thanks to you and yours


and then a soul-divining fire on the hill, late night

mea kitty kulpa


I feel pretty horrible, both emotionally and physically. The physical part is some sort of stomach virus that has felled me for the last couple of days, a faint nausea and a general sense that my extremities are falling off. I am eating, but I can’t tell where it’s going.

Emotionally, it’s just been sort of a bad week. I did three things over the last seven days that have come back to haunt me. Each of those things has a common denominator: I did them all in a gruff haste, as if sheer insouciance would somehow shield me from bad decision-making.

First off, I barged into a well-known magazine, presented them with all my clips, and pitched an idea: let me be your new [fill in the blank] editor. Sounds plucky and full of chutzpah, right? In reality, everything was wrong about it (wrong time to show up, another dude was there, it was cramped and uncomfortable) and I may have done way more disservice to my relationship with this place than if I’d just played it cool.

Secondly, I casually erased a comment on this blog, and in doing so, upset a friend of mine. I didn’t really stop to think about it from all the angles, just sort of did it, and he was really upset.

Third, I bought mouse poison. I absolutely never do this sort of thing, but our contractor said it was the only way to get rid of mice for good, and I knew the droppings in the kitchen drawers makes Tessa insane. So I stormed into Home Depot, bought the poison, lurched down into the basement and chucked it into every corner, with a sort of hollow I-could-give-a-fuck fury.

Two days ago I talked about finding a dead kitty in our barn, and last night, I suddenly realized why: I poisoned the mice, and the cat ate the mice. There was a partially-eaten mouse by the cat, and the kitty had obviously suffered a massive digestive failure (I won’t tell you how I know, but believe me).

I feel terrible. Cats are my favorite animal, and I have strived to keep them alive for decades at a time. I rescued Cap’n (pictured below) from a dumpster even though he had a heart murmur. I created an old-folks-home for Zooey when Michelle had run out of options. Sean and I raised Elgar throughout our adolescence, in two different states.


Now I’m left with a gnawing sadness. All three of these decisions were made hastily, without nuance. An old filmmaker once told Tessa “the definition of tyranny is the denial of complexity,” and that is how I have been living the last week.

I think my stomach flu is somatic empathy, a shared piece of what I did to that kitty. If that’s the case, then I deserve it, and I’d like to say ‘I’m sorry’ to the little bugger.

three thumbs up


As many of you probably don’t know, I helped create’s early editorial look, and wrote their movie reviews for four years. I’ll refrain from telling most of the good stories here in this public spot, but one horrendous drawback of a company like that is that they tend to erase entire swaths of data for no clear reason. In other words, every single review I ever wrote was banished from this earth forever.

Except that my brother Steve is a forward-thinking genius, and saved them all in PDF format before they were erased. Then he converted them to HTML, and they will be available here until the Sun turns into a Red Dwarf star and swallows our planet whole.

The writing in those reviews varies from excellent to “annoyingly dashed-off and snarky,” and you can tell whether or not I cared, which is a huge no-no in the work of any critic. But it was 1999, and we thought we were changing the world via the internet, and a certain amount of devil-may-care crept into everything. I still stand by most of it.

I used to ask myself one question about a movie: does it accomplish what it sets out to do? I mention this because I have seen three really good movies in a row, and back when I was writing for CitySearch, that would have been cause for a keg party with little powdered donuts.

Master and Commander – It’s funny, a bit cheeky, and obviously made by someone smart (Peter Weir, who brought you “Witness” 20 years ago). The trip around the cape is better than anything in “The Perfect Storm,” even better than the monster wave that ultimately kills them all. I enjoyed Paul Bettany as usual, his pre-Darwinian character bringing an old-school sense of wonder to the Galapagos Islands, and the battle scenes are pretty fucking terrific. It’s a movie that wanted to be a smart action film, and succeeds. Dana told Lindsay I said it was an “astonishingly good film” and I corrected her by saying “no, it’s just astonishing that a film like this could be good.” Which might be even better.

Runaway Jury – Old-fashioned potboiler crap served up etoufee-style in the heart of New Orleans, and I loved every minute of it. It’s even got Gene Hackman in full evil dander, with Dustin Hoffman finally playing someone I can stand. There’s a great little bit with these two guys in a bathroom, unnecessary to the plot, but obviously written just to see them together

cemetry gates



Unseasonably warm weather allowed us to go outside and do everything that will be impossible in a few short weeks: I took down the Japanese Beetle traps, unhooked the Mousquito Magnet, and yanked the Anti-Deer Fox Urine Dispenser around the garden. All of these things are designed to keep the Natural World



I was just reading the Carolina Alumni magazine and came across two things: first, my suitemate in Hinton James, the one that famously saved ten 2-liter bottles of his own spittle, had a baby daughter. Way to go, Trip!

Secondly, I read an interesting story about the decline of fraternities and sororities on the UNC campus, and how two sororities have folded in the last year due to flagging membership. The guys aren’t faring much better – the Lambda Chi house has been turned into an apartment building, and the once-powerful Sigma Nu, where many of my friends had been, is long gone.

It’s going to be awfully hard to find anybody shedding a tear for these Greek establishments, and to be frank, I would be more than happy to see those asshole Kappa Alpha dudes lose their house and their portrait of Robert E. Lee. But there is something about an old tradition like the frats that is hard for me to let go.

It helps that I was in the one fraternity that openly accepted every creed and color (and practically women), the frat that usually ran most of campus, adhering to a sort of “accidental excellence.” But take away the Greek system, and my brotherhood of recovering dorks and free-thinking iconoclasts would not only lack each other, but have no Pi Phis to lust after (and god knows we needed the diversion).

Whatever. It’s not so much the loss of the frat system that worries me, it’s the fact that a cadre of 50-year-old Baby Boomer college administrators have legislated Fun out of existence. When I was a freshman in 1985-86, the big gripe was that you couldn’t have kegs in the dorms anymore. Now, I just read that sororities will refuse to come to a party if there is alcohol present. I mean, what’s the fucking point? Do kids really stay sober at these functions and dance robotically to a DJ? Does somebody smuggle in some Red Bull and ginseng?

My guess is that a sort of “speakeasy” vibe has taken the place of a keg, a clandestine knock that is answered with a bottle of unmarked Pabst. Or maybe students get smashed on Rumplemintz in their dorm rooms, and then drive over to the party. Somebody please fill me in on how everyone has fun these days, because it seems awfully hard to pull off.

I don’t know what I would have done without nights at Chi Psi, having kicked back five vodka tonics, discussing art, commerce and philosophy with Rick Maechling, Andy Taubman and Jon Baker. Alcohol was very good to Chip; he even danced to My Dad is Dead. We had hall-crawls that redrew the map of America (my room was California), and parties based on China’s Boxer Rebellion.

Perhaps I just don’t get it. I went to school in the last days of the age limit. When I turned 19 on May 26, 1986, I was a legal drinker until September 15 of that year. Then the age changed to 21, and I couldn’t have a beer for another two years. I don’t think any of us knew what a sea change that would mean for college spontaneity. It might have taken a decade or so, but Fun was on its way Out.

It’s impossible to complain about these things without sounding like a lascivious, alcoholic creep, but maybe some gadfly needs to put his/her foot down and say THESE KIDS ARE 19 YEARS OLD. THEY NEED TO DANCE. THEY NEED TO DRINK WOO-WOOS AND WHITE RUSSIANS AND HIT ON EACH OTHER IN FEVERISH DELIGHT.

I’ve long maintained there should be a drinking age limit, but reversed: you should be able to drink as young as you like, but you have to stop at 40. If I move back to Chapel Hill with Tessa, graying in my forties with kids, I will STILL make a Jack & Coke for you students on a Saturday night. I won’t have one, but I’ll play foosball with you until 4am anyway.




New Orleans, Sept. ’01

I quite like my wife. She is pretty awesome.

Ten years ago today she made a solemn pact with herself to change her entire existence for the better, and she has stuck to it, unwaveringly, every moment since. I don’t know if I could ever possess the strength of character she has shown every day of the last decade. I feel as though I have been swallowed whole by my problems, driven to sociopathic insanity by anxiety, obsessed and compulsed by tidbits of arcana, and behaved miserably in the face of greed and affirmation. She has taken something worse and drop-kicked it through the goal posts of life, my friends.

That’s my girl. I love her awfully.




In 1997, I was a fan of the North Carolina Tar Heels.


In 1987, I was a fan of big hair.


In 1977, I was a fan of the Los Angeles Rams.


In 1967, I was a fan of peace.