Monthly Archives: February 2004



me holding Sean, 1971

There’s a tightrope you walk when you get into your 30s, and it goes something like this:

a) You need to be old enough to know thyself and thus have a realistic chance of being in a relationship that will last more than 6 months. You have to have met enough possible mates to know who you will love until the year 2067. And you have to be wise enough to know the difference between heart-palpitating desire – and calm, long-term affection. Lastly, you must have sowed enough wild oats to have them purged from your system.


b) You have to be young enough to have children.

Now, not everyone wants kids, but if you do, the unfortunate truth is that modern technology and medicine have done very little to widen the window of opportunity for women. Chances of conception dwindle pretty fast after you hit 35, and there’s precious little you can do about it (besides fuck, of course).

The problem is this: Tessa and I just got married a few months ago, and we’re having fun. We love our freedom, our peripatetic freelance life, and we’re not terribly psyched about tethering ourselves to a child right now. That may sound selfish, but the honest truth is that it took me FOREVER to get to this place, when I could finally be married, and Tessa had to ford unbelievable mountains to get to me. Do we need to be a baby factory right away?

But then the question is, “how long are we allowed to wait?” I’m 36, Tessa is 34. There are now ways to predict how long you might have, but these are also problematic, and while Tessa says she’d love to know what her “sell-by” date is, a lot of women would be horrified by that knowledge.

This stuff also gets you into very prickly territory with right-wingers, whom I believe have been putting the hard-sell on dwindling fertility rates in order to shame working, independent women into lactating domesticity. If I see one more story about forty-something women who wax maudlin about the children they gave up for their career, I’m going to puke.

As for us, I wish there was some pithy advice, or an old wives’ tale that could provide the answers, but in reality, it’s a fish-or-cut-bait scenario. My desire for a large family has been tamed by the reality of how old we are. And not to be crass or anything, but I’d like to have at least two children in case we lose one. That’s the advice I have gleaned from the ancient Mormon DNA that swims through my chromosomes; my forefathers buried so many children that they were forced to have several. I don’t think my heart

the magic of analog!


You know, sometimes both the mundane and the magical can be enjoyed in equal doses: tonight, at 2am, I was able to go to Walmart and purchase a decent VCR for about $38. The reason? I mean, besides the fact that our long-term apartment has no VCR or turlet paper? Because Lee Coggins and Suzanne Robinson got married yesterday and now Lee is going to be on this morning’s Today show on NBC. So if you’re up and reading this between 7 and 10am (on either coast), switch on NBC and find out why we all dig her so much.

Now this is all cool for several reasons. I should mention that VCRs were considered magical by me and my sister and brothers, as there was no such thing when we were kids. When “Wizard of Oz” came on, you sat and bloody well watched it, because there was no “renting” to be done. Our first VCR was a top-loader my dad bought for $400, and it had a WIRED REMOTE. That’s right, a black cable snaked its way across the room and into your hand, and it would only “play” and “stop.” Now I can waltz

get me to the church on time



We live in a turbulent time, when Stuff Matters, and most of the Stuff coming down the pike is BAD. In midst of all the killing, the lying and the cynicism, one weekend of luminescence is shining through this formerly great land of ours, and its source lies on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco.

Tessa’s best friend Jason

11.9 gallons of wisdom


On the newsgroups the other day, I read a story about a guy who drove his new Toyota Prius to a restaurant, and when he got back outside, someone had taken a key and scratched the words “FUCKING TREE HUGGER” on the side of the car. I thought that seemed a little insane and possibly apocryphal, but today I had an experience that made me think again.

Tessa and I were at a stoplight on Airport Rd. in Chapel Hill, when two college kids in a white mini-SUV pulled up beside us. When the light turned green, they stuck their heads out the window and screamed “HIPPIES!” at us, then burned rubber as they pealed away.

Now, anyone who knows Tessa knows that she hasn’t looked like a hippie since her Grateful Dead summer on Nantucket in 1986, and even then, she was just more of a sloppy preppie. And I just had my hair cut, leaving me the spitting image of a goddamn Phi Gam from Fayetteville. The “hippies” slur was a catcall, a verbal assault on a car that happens to get 60 miles per gallon in the city.

Now, I know that sounds like not such a big deal. And I laugh at farts and knock-knock jokes about lesbians as much as the next guy. But you have to understand that these two college fucks are an innocent reminder of everything that is wrong with America. Our car, our unassuming little Toyota, threatens the power structure they thrive on. It is a direct counter to a culture that worships greed, guzzles foreign oil and grows flabby under the weight of ghoulishly unabating consumption.

I wonder if either of them had lost a brother or a father in Iraq while we fought to keep the oil pipeline going – I wonder if they still would have yelled “HIPPIE”. I wonder, perhaps, if they had been too poor to get into Carolina, so they joined the Reserves, then got their ass shipped to Tikrit, where their arms and legs were blown off by a car bomb

good long-term holdings


One thing that really pisses me off about the Movie Industry is the ADVICE usually doled out by wizened veterans to neophytes hoping to make their way through the labyrinthine mess en route to a career. Right off the bat, I’m going to tell you something that will save you the trouble of $24.95 for That How-To Book You Were Going To Buy at the Entertainment Section of Barnes & Noble. Ready?

Everyone finds success in the entertainment industry through a completely random, bizarre and unexpected way.

I mean, that should make you feel better, right? Not only does it relieve you of everything except working really hard, but it does put you on an even playing field. Just find that bizarre back door. Yes, that pursuit can be frustrating in itself, but not half as frustrating as believing that your talent is going to waste because the people in the Industry are idiots. They want to find you as much as you want to find them, but the door that separates you is unlocked with an exquisitely odd key.

The second thing you always hear from entertainment-pundits-in-the-know is “always have your second project started before the first one is finished.” This is advice that is given especially to women directors, who historically have a terrible time getting their second movie made (even if the first was hit). When you get into Sundance with a film, you’re always advised to hype up your next project, which must already be well on its way.

This shit makes me furious. Telling someone to have their next movie started before their first is finished is like having sex with your wife the day after she delivers the baby. The mere supposition that you would be able to even THINK about a second movie while still raising money for your first is LUDICROUS to the point of being CRIMINAL.

Independent filmmakers sell their souls, their cars, their future credit rating and every favor they’ve earned since grade school to get to post-production on their film, and even then, 97% of them still run out of money. How are you supposed to pay your casting director for your second film when you can’t get your first film out of the developing lab? Furthermore, what stars are going to be in your second film, when nobody has even seen your first yet?

That isn’t advice, that’s rubbing your face in how famous you aren’t. Yet.

Now, I bring this up because I think I have a better piece of advice that will bring you more luck and more opportunity. Forget about your second film; it will come. What you need to do now is DIVERSIFY. This is something Tessa’s dad did exceptionally well in the 1980s, and something Jamie Block does well now: shield yourself from failure by having several different kinds of balls in the air.

I rarely mention career things here in the blog, but suffice to say that every day you read this, my darling wife and I have at least 10 different writing/producing projects bubbling on the burner. I never say anything about them before they come to fruition, because they are like crushes, ruined once divulged. But one of our balls (if you pardon the expression) landed very well this week.

On a last-minute push, we decided to enter some of our writing into an event being spearheaded by a major entertainment network. Out of almost a hundred plays, ten were chosen

passage rite


Realize this: you have been kissing a girl long enough that a phone call is expected every day. Skipping a night brings a tiny vacuum to the stomach. You might have made some pact like “you can have sex someone else, but only if you tell me the story later.” It relieves a little of the pressure, but imagining your genitalia inside someone else? Seems like your heart

another road trip, another loss


One thing about having a blog with actual readers is that you find yourself becoming uncomfortably aware of your audience. Back in the beginning of my online diary life, I didn’t post any pictures, I waxed rhapsodic about the sexual problems Celexa was giving me, and I was occasionally content to fall asleep half-way through writing it. I’m humbled and stunned by the fabulous people that show up here, but you realize that it has made it a lot harder to talk about shoving suppositories up my ass while driving, don’t you?

I ask these questions because occasionally you’re going to hear me squawk on about the University of North Carolina Men’s Basketball Team, and to many of you, it’s a subject that you

a) don’t understand

b) understand, but don’t care

c) understand, and root for another team

d) don’t understand and don’t care

…which I totally grok, dudes. Sure, my boys Andy, Andrew, Jon, Tanya, Chip, Steph and Greg will probably not skip paragraphs

save yer Confederate $$$


Jasper, GA

One thing I learned during the last and only time I saw Tessa’s dad Blakey, it was this: a man may have $63 million dollars in the bank, but when push comes to shove, all he really wants is a buffet line. On that frail February in 2001 when I met the old man, he could have had a vat of Beluga caviar flown in on the Concorde, but instead, he chose a Luby’s in suburban Houston. Thus I have surmised that Man’s natural rest state is the all-you-can-eat rack with a sneeze guard and every kind of meat and fixin possible, all drowned in delicious butter sauce.

We used to go to a place called Bishop’s in Cedar Rapids when we were kids, but now I will gladly drive two days to the mountains of Georgia to partake in Salem’s Jasper Family Steakhouse, which I consider the pinnacle of the buffet art form. It is, in all seriousness, better than most catered weddings I’ve attended in Manhattan.

I think the all-you-can-eat buffet line brings up primal qualities in the homo erectus. There is the whiff of Infinite Choice and the reality of Infinite Consumption. Since we are all omnivorous hunters and gatherers by ancestry, a key part of us, deep down, is afraid that we’ll never get to eat again. The Jasper Family Steakhouse takes that fear and says, “no, my child. You shall have anything you want, for as long as you want.” It is the perfect salve for an ancient longing.


Salem, because he’s Salem, was not content just to run the best steakhouse in the South; he was also going to broaden the horizons of the patrons whether they liked it or not. Even though nobody really knows it, the place has an 802.11b/g wifi connection running through its gentle air at all times. And the fireplace and mantle is full of original works by the Reverend Howard Finster and the like, and will soon have a adjective-defying mural created by one of the local artist savants named Billy. Just to rub it in, I’ve called Tessa twice while sitting by the fire, enjoying Brunswick Stew and banana pudding.


Back home, Salem’s stepson McColl had a school project tonight. They drew names out of a hat and create a “puppet” of that historical character. I know it sounds like a clich



Jasper, GA


I’m posting this picture of me and my friend Liz Hepner in 1987 to show the world that I have indeed been the wearer of a mullet, and thus don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to making fun of people with bad hair. In 1987, it was entirely possible to have any kind of hair you wanted, and the only reason I cut my bangs was to keep them out of my eyes. There were no “hair police” around to make me – or anyone else for that matter – feel like I’d just shoved myself into a particular socioeconomic strata, no “Sex in the City” or MTV Fashion Award shows to keep us au courant of today’s styles.

That said, my sojourn here in North Georgia has introduced me to some of the most unfortunate haircuts I have seen in my thirty-six years. Last night, Salem and I went to a local honky tonk called Club 53, where I promptly ordered a Southern Comfort and Coke, something I haven’t done since a night a Spanky’s about ten years ago.

The entire clientele was white, of course, but they were all grinding away on the dance floor while an overhead screen projected hip-hop videos. On cue, the screen lifted up to reveal the house band, and the haircuts therein had to be seen to be believed. I couldn’t get my camera in there, or else you would have been treated to mullets I can only describe as aggressive. The bass player had a crewcut – except for the hair in back went past his ass.

The patrons of Club 53 were an interesting bunch; the women looked great, not overtly cheesy, and seemed to take the fashion of metropolitan cities (or at least Atlanta) seriously. The men, however, like battery technology or cancer research, seemed to be glacial in their forward momentum. Pretty much every guy there would have been perfectly cast in a movie making fun of 1988. I didn’t just see mullets; there were wingbacks, razor-straight cuts over the ears, feathered parts down the middle, and Members Only Jacket-style ponytails. And for some weird reason, I thought I was surely going to get my ass kicked.

The band was playing the Greatest Hits of 1981 (“I Love Rock and Roll,” the Eagles, etc.) and had the dance floor throbbing. Salem told me to look around the room and said, “for every one of you – you know, a sensitive, educated liberal living in the City – there are ten of these people.” And he’s right. Everybody in that dance hall was going to vote Republican, even if Bush himself was discovered to be a child molester. I began to feel the serious pangs of living in a country I didn’t understand. These people don’t look like anyone I know. They’re talking about things I can’t fathom; they are drinking Budweiser and then slapping the ass of their dates on the dance floor.

Suddenly the music stopped, and the band launched into a song that I vaguely knew. It was the last Pink Floyd song to limp onto the charts, the afterthought to their careers. Immediately the dance floor cleared, as the band launched into the serious Math Rock of later Floyd. I mean, they might as well have played Rush. Those patrons who were still sober went back to their booths and stared at the band as if they were playing music from Neptune.

And then it hit me: I knew this band. They were into Dungeons and Dragons and had 20-sided dice in their pockets! They got together as teens and played “2112” and Aldo Nova and listened to the King Biscuit Flower Hour and everyone in junior high school thought they were TOTAL DORKS. Salem bought me another Southern Comfort and Coke, and we stayed another half-hour in this absurd place, because I had traveled so far away from my home to be confronted with the worst haircuts on earth behind a bagful of dry ice, but I was still able to find kinship in utter strangers.

next services 56 miles


Chapel Hill, NC to Jasper, GA


When you enter Georgia from South Carolina, you are presented with a Gomorrah-like display of “gentlemen’s clubs,” porno warehouses, peep show barracks and adult establishments promising every sort of toy you could possible shove up your duodenum. One such place called “Bedroom Eyes” (I think) had a plume of steam rising from its chimney thousands of feet into the air, as if the furious masturbating of three hundred truckers was creating enough kinetic energy to convert friction to hydro-electric power.

My tastes run a little more pedestrian. I have always loved the gigantic chain-owned Truck Stops, and no, not because of the ironic hipster value. I actually like them intrinsically. The “Flying J” or the “TA Truck Authority” establishments are a frequent haunt for my road trip dollar, much to the horror and disdain of my darling Tessa. She just doesn’t get how cool it is; the miles of polyester track suits, the wall full of rear view mirrors, the constantly-revolving cylinders of 4-day-old beef wieners stacked up like they were timber logs in an Oregon river.

People don’t realize the crazy deals you can get at a these places; cell phone accessories that usually cost $49.99 at a Radio Shack will cost $4.25 at a Flying J. At several of them you can check your email at a sit-down kiosk within smellshot of the men’s room