Monthly Archives: March 2004

that’s a 1976 German syrah

3/31/04

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The picture above gives you a good idea of the massive pile or mountains that separate the insane, toxic, seductive basin of Los Angeles with the vastness of the Rest of California. You follow that road clear into the center of those staggering hills, go over the Tejon Pass, and if your car is still working, you can speed up the backbone of the Sierras to Napa Valley, where my dad and stepmom live.

I took this trip because my entire cast

1985 revisited, again

3/30/04

For the first time, it had dawned upon me that we might actually have to live in Los Angeles. When we packed our bags and took a few simple things to spend the month of April here in California, it never even occurred to me that our lives could be shuffled out here in a much more permanent way. Now that I’m actually faced with the proposition, I suddenly miss the little farm in Columbia County with the longing of a hundred distant suns. When our manager talked about writing pilots until Halloween, all I could think about was my pumpkin patch.

Obviously it would be the thrill of a lifetime to actually get a job writing for television, the sort of rat-a-tat-tat all-consuming team collaboration that I’ve been missing since my days at the DTH. It would also be an amazing testament to Tessa, who managed to miss all American television from 1977-83 (just think about that) and can still deliver dialogue with the effortlessness of the natives.

But I’m reminded of the day I came home from a winter school trip in 12th grade, to find that my mother had left town and taken my brother and sister with her. I had no idea she was even looking for another job, I had no idea I’d suddenly be alone in my room, and I felt an abandonment as pure as a puppy.

In her defense, she was offered an incredible job writing, editing and recording every song you ever sang in grades K through 9 (and certainly didn’t need my permission) but that sense of “the rug being pulled out” is very palpable, and I’m feeling a bit of it now.

Is it possible to pull the rug out from under yourself? And are there usually nice hardwood floors hiding underneath?

suffer little children

3/29/04

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Driving back from a late-night errand last night, I heard a very slow version of the song “Mad World” on KCRW. The same tune has cropped up on several mix CDs over the last year, and haunted the latter sections of the movie “Donnie Darko.” The song came up on a discussion group, and one of the members was stunned to find out it was originally written by Tears For Fears.

Now, I have been a not-so-secret Tears For Fears dork for decades now, as I think Roland Orzabal, when he’s trying, can do amazing things with pop music. Their first album was “The Hurting,” which was a semi-permanent cassette in my first Walkman, featuring made-for-high-school lines like “I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad / The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.” Like my brother Sean said, they were “two guys who wanted to create music based on primal scream therapy that sounded nothing like John Lennon’s ‘Mother’.”

Can you imagine any band in this day and age getting together because they wanted to write songs about Primal Scream therapy? Fucking unthinkable, but par for the course in 1982. Primal Scream therapy was developed by Arthur Janov, who believed that most of life’s fear, anger and angst came from the horrifying moment we were ripped from our mother’s womb, and the only way to be “whole” again was to engage in a ritualistic re-enactment of the birthing process. This eventually led to patients screaming

zygotes and syzygy

3/28/04

So it’s time for that talk again, the one where we decide whether or not we’re going to have kids right now. The truth is this: people have kids all the time, we certainly wouldn’t be the first

my advice? take Fountain

3/26/04

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This blog goes out to our manager Kevin Kassover, who went to high school with Tessa and is the only buddha who can guide us through this elaborate maze of Hollywood without our heads spinning off our bodies. The only way to do LA after the age of 27 is to be invited, and the only way to survive once you’re here is to have someone watching your back. It was Kevin’s birthday tonight, so we went to the Jar restaurant and I had a pot roast with horseradish sauce, quite possibly the best meal this trip.

What? You don’t believe me about the 27-year-old part? Well, just try it. I came here in 1997 at the age of 29, and was bitch-slapped repeatedly because my boobs weren’t big enough. New York will accept you at any age, but Los Angeles eats its children.

One good thing about LA, however, is that hybrid cars are so common, you don’t have to show the valet how to drive it. When I left the Prius in midtown Manhattan, I had to give the attendant a 5-minute seminar on “going forward,” “reverse” and “park.” I mean, it’s easier than driving a golf cart, but people are used to a cockpit full of controls.

After a Jack & Coke, I was convinced we were sexier than balls, so I made Tessa drive us up to the Sunset Strip to ogle the Roxy, the Viper Room, the Hustler Book Store and the Whiskey a Go-Go. Believe it or not, I used to wander Sunset by myself in my smelly, shitty Ford Mustang back in the Bleak Years, and it always made me feel better. But big pimpin’ in the hybrid? What could be better? I ran out of the car and took a picture of me and the wife, and almost fell backwards into oncoming traffic.

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What a way to go. The things I do for you, loyal readers…

Pablo Cruisin’

3/25/04

To our dismay, we discovered that there was no way two functional, career-minded adults could exist in Los Angeles and share a car. I was bumming rides from friends, and even considered trying the bus, something I did in 1990 after my infamous “I’m fucked and my life is over” car accident. But this city absolutely blows in terms of public transit for just doing errands, so Tessa and I bit the bullet and rented a car for a month.

Since my beloved wife lost her driver’s license somewhere in New Orleans (have fun buying liquor at the Verti Marte with your stolen I.D., “Tessa”!)

eine kleine nacht-reading

3/24/04

One of the books laying around my household is the Alcoholics Anonymous trusty little Hazelden book Twenty-Four Hours a Day. In many senses, this (along with the AA “Big Book”) have to be considered the first self-help books ever widely used. “24HAD” is actually a swell piece of literature, especially for 1954: tiny enough to go in your shirt pocket (or thrown in a suitcase), with bite-size nuggets of information that cater nicely to the attention spans of latter-day readers.

While Tessa drifted off to sleep, I cracked open the book and was immediately flooded with memories of my own despondency, and had a very quick, fleeting cognitive resonance with some poor soul reading these chapters for real, some woman in some other part of the country at this very moment, whose life was actually falling apart, with these pages offering the only glue available at this time of night.

This is the first meditation in the book:

You are so made that you can only carry the weight of twenty-four hours, no more. If you weigh yourself down with the years behind, and the days ahead, your back breaks. [The higher power of your choosing] has promised to help you with the burdens of the day only. If you are foolish enough to gather again that burden of the past and carry it, then indeed you can’t expect [the higher power of your choosing] to help you bear it.

Now, you don’t have to be an alcoholic to live in constant shame. I can barely make it through my second Jaeger shot, nursing nothing but girl drinks for years, and I still feel incredible bursts of humiliation at the way I’ve acted over the decades. I think of the stupid things I said at That Internet Job. I think of the way I treated that girl on 86th Street. I remember how quickly I ridiculed homosexuals in high school, and how I picked on Betty Kurtz in 4th grade because she was the only person lower on the social totem pole than me.

The thing is: it’s a good thing I’m not an alcoholic, because I think I’d still be one. I find it pretty much impossible to let go of all the shame that bears down on me, not because I need to remember all of these things in order to be a better writer, but because I’m afraid of being blindsided by an event I had forgotten. If someone comes up to me and says “you left me to rot,” I need to be able to say, “you are correct, sir, and I continue my penance.” I may be an asshole, but don’t think I don’t remember.

Celexa only does so much

3/23/04

People That Scare Me, In Order of Intensity:

1. Evangelical Apocalyptic Christians

2. Muslim Terrorists

3. Clowns

4. Mormons

5. The Editorial Staff of the Wall Street Journal

6. Jewish Republicans

7. Rural Pennsylvania School Boards

8. Objectivists

9. Hummer Drivers on Interstate 405 through the Sepulveda Pass

10. The Chinese Army

11. Kraft, ADM and Beatrice

12. Hockey Coaches

13. Ralph Nader

14. Tarot Card Readers in the French Quarter

15. Right-Wing Cartoonists

16. Retail Employees Who Work on Commission

17. Dog Kickers

18. Independent Record Store Cashiers

19. My Brother Steve Babysitting in 1976

20. Quakers

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Make Room For Larry

3/22/04

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The Fox lot, circa 1950

I broke several land speed records across the desert flats of Death Valley today, trying to get back to Santa Monica for the first massive reading of the entire Fox/Naked Angels evening. Stunningly, I was on time, probably the first time that has happened since prep school.

Tessa and I walked into Fox’s packed reading room, actually a boardroom that had the faint whiff of Important Decisions imbued in the walls. Truly this was a chamber where careers were made and destroyed, where the Simpsons were greenlit, George Lucas was canonized, and champagne was uncorked after the first airing of “American Idol.”

After listening to all seven short plays, I found myself a little lost inside each one, picturing my teenage psyche craving next week’s episode. Sure, it is so easy and depressingly ironic to make fun of sitcoms now, but they occupy fully 68% of my cognitive memory regardless (right next to constellations and the French subjunctive). I saw more episodes of “Flo” than you can imagine. “Too Close for Comfort,” “Carter Country,” “Phyllis”

3 miles high and rising

3/21/04

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in the gondola, about 11,400 ft. above sea level, Aspen

Things I Did Today

– woke up at 5am with my face on fire, because I didn’t use sunscreen yesterday on Snowmass Mountain; pain is so bad that I can’t turn my head more than 15 degrees in either direction

– took full Benadryl, slept until 11am, then hopped on the gondola to meet Wendi and Alex Yong. Still unable to move face

– wiped out going down Pump House run, slid backwards on my head for about 200 feet (over moguls), coming to rest in Alex’s gentle arms

– at the last second, my skis crossed while getting onto F.I.S. Ski Lift; the lift dragged me by the ass for 10 seconds, then dropped me from 15 feet onto a pile of mud

– I became “that guy,” you know, the one that stops the lift for 5 minutes to make sure I’m not dead

– undeterred, I do my first black diamond mogul run, and DON’Y EAT SHIT EVEN ONCE!

– left Aspen at 4pm, drove 85 mph through the Virgin River Gorge, reached Las Vegas at 1am PST.

– check into the oldest, crappiest hotel on the strip (the Sahara) and begin a massive rewrite of my Fox TV script, which has a reading tomorrow (actually today) night

– body wrecked, face afire, eyes searing, I write this blog and fall aslee

)*&#*()I :M zzzzzzzzzz