Monthly Archives: March 2004

declared value: sentimental

3/19/04

FuckFedex.jpg

Let me take time out from my vacation to tell Fedex that they SUCK. Unable to fit everything into the car, we shipped some stuff from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, and one such box had our souped-up TiVo (that I spent a week upgrading), a $300 microphone, an expensive USB audio input, and two pillows. But it doesn’t stop there: wrapped around the whole thing was THE ONLY GOOD SUIT I’VE EVER OWNED, an Armani that we put on our credit card in the immediate aftermath of Tessa’s dad’s death, so that I’d have something to wear to the funeral.

Most importantly – to me, anyway – was that I accidentally left a mix tape of all the songs I’d written since 1986 inside a Walkman that was also in the box. Unless my family can come up with a copy, it’s the only one in existence. I feel like my heart has been ripped out of my throat.

This package was tracked to Pomona, California, where it was STOLEN by Fedex employees, or by someone else due to their unbelievably lax security. I’m so beside myself with rage I can hardly see straight.

Yes, I screwed up. I under-insured it so that we’re out thousands of dollars. The box was also the original TiVo box, making it look enticing for whatever motherfuckers were unloading the truck. But Fedex doesn’t care. That is the last time I entrust anything valuable to them, and I encourage all of you to do the same.

there are no clocks in there

3/18/04

I’m driving to Aspen to meet some college friends for a trip we planned months ago, long before we knew we’d even be in California. As fate would have it, Tessa is stuck back in LA doing the re-writes and casting for her play, so I pulled into Las Vegas last night as a very unlikely solo aging fratboy.

The only rooms left were at the Tropicana, probably the last of the Old Guard hotels left on the strip, and let’s just say the place is showing its age. Downstairs, arthritic old grannies in green visors were gambling away their kids’ inheritance one quarter at a time, and up in my room

hark the silence

3/17/04

Roy Williams – coach of the University of North Carolina men’s hoops team – had the entire squad over for some of Wanda’s dessert while they watched the seedings of the March Madness tournament on Sunday. Apparently when Carolina’s name was announced, Roy started jumping up and down and yelling for joy – then stopped, as he noticed the team was stone-faced, drowsy, and his words, “asleep.”

The unsubstantiated rumor I’ve heard from my unnamed sources is that the team is ready for the season to be over, that they still have a hangover from the 3-year Coach Doherty debacle, and that new blood is needed in the program desperately.

To which I say ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING? If my own basketball team doesn’t care that they’re in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons, why the hell should I? These guys have got to understand that they aren’t Carolina, they are custodians of a bigger concept. When they put on the blue and white, they aren’t just playing for themselves, they are playing for the 17-year-old acne-ridden, psychotic brat named ME in 1985. They are playing for the living legend of Dean Smith, and the changes he brought to basketball and the state of North Carolina. They are merely functionaries in a much bigger religion than themselves, one that has brought me – and so many others – so much joy over the last century.

AndyIanUmstead91.jpg

Bagwell and me, Umstead Park 1991

Yeah, so I’m not on the team. I’m not the one sweating in practice four hours a day. Big fucking deal. We all contributed to the brotherhood of UNC in some way. I wrote a column for four years. Chip help start a credit union. Tessa was Billy Crudup’s first director. Andy Bagwell wrote television shows and my brother Sean wrote his wife’s papers for her. We’ve done the work.

I know this sounds moronic and insane to those of you who went to William & Mary or Colgate or something, but in lieu of a functioning, moral universe, I have turned to basketball to give me life’s deeper mysteries and meaning, and when my own team turns to me and says they don’t really care, then they can all join the Zagreb Mitten Hounds Yugoslavian team for all I care. Give me fifteen Poli Sci majors who can’t make a layup, and I’ll cheer for them instead.

Thus, I have decided to censure my own team. I am en route to Colorado right now, and I was prepared to drive seven round-trip hours out of my way to scalp tickets for Carolina’s first tourney game in Denver, but now I’m staying put in Aspen. Will the lack of my screaming voice make a difference? I guess we’ll never know. I’ll go back to caring after this game, and be just as much of a wreck as always. But they can do without me tomorrow night.

Radio Free Nouakchott

3/16/04

Last year, my sister Michelle had to make one of the most bizarre choices I’d ever heard: move to Napa, or move to Niger. She got into the Peace Corps, which promptly wanted to send her white ass to Niger (the 2nd worst Peace Corps outpost)

pants a’fire

3/15/04

I’d like to share with you a tidbit of my “best-case scenario” prediction made almost a year ago today on this blog, right when the Iraq war had started, and Bush’s approval rating was at 79%. It goes like this:

…we do a thorough sweep of Iraq and come up with absolutely no weapons of mass destruction; Bush and his team are humiliated on the world stage. Americans begin to think he’s a liar. To distract us from this, he tries to enact some draconian conservative agenda (reversing Roe vs. Wade, etc.) to shore up his religious base, but miscalculates dreadfully. Then, one of any roiling scandals (Cheney’s Halliburton, Perle’s defense contractors, etc.) blows open, and a yet-to-be-named Democrat smokes him in a debate so thoroughly that even hard-core Republicans jump ship. Bush gets shellacked in 2004 and we all wake up from a terrible dream.

Now, I’ve made occasionally off-base predictions, but this one stands out as a pretty good one, especially considering how despondent we were (and by “we,” I mean “sensitive, progressive Americans who abhor killing.”) Indeed, we found no WMDs, and Bush was humiliated on the world stage, even if he doesn’t know it yet. I’d like to think that the recent Spanish elections – basically a giant, country-wide FUCK YOU to Bush – might give him a hint, but I doubt he’ll take it.

As for the “draconian conservative agenda,” it wasn’t abortion (yet), it was an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning gay marriage, and I think this will indeed bear out to be a dreadful miscalculation, regardless of polls. Americans may not be won over en masse to the idea of gay marriage, but they don’t see this as a viable campaign issue, and it makes Bush look like a fucking wacko.

And the “roiling scandals”? As the Jane’s Addiction album title says, “nothing’s shocking,” and the Repubs may well be scandal-proof. But there is enough bullshit going on with Halliburton and an as-yet-to-be-broken story to give conservatives nightmares come late summer.

The debates? John Kerry has asked Bush for monthly tete-a-tetes, and if W knows what’s good for him, he’ll fake a slipped disk like Duke University’s Koach K did. Kerry will eat him alive, because it won’t be enough for Bush to “survive deeply low expectations” (which is how he got past Al Gore in their debates).

I have not let myself get excited about the upcoming presidential election because I still feel like Americans are a profoundly stupid bunch of people when they get together, and I have zero faith in them doing the right thing. But one piece of information has given me a glimmer of hope, as weird as it sounds: the Martha Stewart verdict.

That jury wasn’t convicting Martha, they were lashing out at institutions that LIE. The Era of Lying began with Clinton, but people were willing to put up with it because they were making money. It’s hard to remember how much antipathy there was toward Clinton by 2000, even from liberals (mostly because we’re so desperate for someone like him now), but the lying extended to the smearing of Al Gore, who was painted as an “exaggerator” by Bush and the right-leaning media (which, in itself, was a lie).

The lying continued with Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Adelphia and everyone else. The lying reached a fever pitch with Bush’s mention of Niger and uranium. By the end of 2003, pundits were calling it The Year of the Lie.

Now, lying is not something that can be sustained long-term. Pretty soon, people need something to hang their hat on, they need to know something is true. This Martha Stewart verdict was a way to say that people have fucking had enough of lying.

This bodes well for the Democrats, as long as they can continue to work Bush’s “credibility gap,” which is the nicest way of saying “he’s a goddamn liar” I’ve ever heard. Kerry, unfortunately, has the reputation of being a flip-flopper, but a lack of conviction is way better than being a liar.

Do Americans think Bush is a liar? Sadly, not yet. They think he is perhaps “poorly handled,” or “gets bad information from his team” or even that he’s too simple a man to contemplate lying. When the American people really find out what this man is capable of, the mask will drop and shatter, and they will see him for what he is. If the Democrats start working on this, we will all wake up from the nightmare, like I promised a year ago.

fox hunting

3/14/04

So Lyle seems to think that I have gone from Breezy Traveler to High Stakes Hollywood Player, and it has reminded me how a blog can sometimes be very poor at communicating the bigger eras in your life. Sure, you get to hear my lugubriation on Hall & Oates, but I forget to tell you the forest from the trees.

First off, in my defense, a lot of freelance work is like having crushes

Real Time with chopin blake

3/12/04

The casting process for my show began today, so we made it onto the 20th Century Fox lot and saw a laundry list of actors, each of whom brought something different and fascinating to the table. I know this sounds confusing if you don’t know why we’re here in Hollywood (I’ll explain it all next week), but being on the other side of auditioning

the heisenberg exhaustion principle

3/11/04

Venice, CA

There is a feeling you get when you go to a strange country; you plop your suitcases down in your “bedroom,” wander the cold hallways, smell unfamiliar plants in the night air, and suddenly realize that you have planned for everything except actually being where you were going.

The skies are cloudy, gray and cold

bottom of the country

3/10/04

The Desert Southwest is a deeply creepy place. I’m writing to you from a Flying J outside Phoeniz, AZ and it’s warm and bizarre. Tessa and I are frazzled beyond belief and hope to have a warm reception in the Los Angeles basin. Right now, even a double soy latt

poker? hardly know ‘er

3/9/04

Man, is there anything Republicans get right? According to a study released today, kids who take that “virginity pledge” not to have sex until marriage will break that vow almost NINETY PERCENT OF THE TIME. Not only that, but these so-called “pledgers,” wearers of those cheap-ass mall shitty “purity rings” bought for them by their fathers, are also more likely not to use any kind of protection, or seek help if they get a disease.

Why have Republicans been on the wrong side of history every time since the Civil War? Seriously, what makes them such control freaks? Do they actually believe they are going to stop gay people from getting married, and stop teens from fucking? Their sense of historical perspective is so WHACK that it beggars the imagination. As I said before, history views the restriction of basic human desire as a virus and works around it.

Teens fuck. That’s what they do. The only person in America who was a virgin at 21 was ME. You can’t look at teenage sex as an example of a nation gone soft, you have to see it as a foregone conclusion and then do everything you can to make sure they know what’s what.

Oh, but your friendly neighborhood asshole Republican doesn’t think so. He’s not satisfied with ordaining your teen into sexual monkhood, he wants them to have no knowledge of STD’s, pregnancy options, condom usage, or even the whereabouts of the clitoris. Blissfully, today’s study has shown that the only result of this sort of thinking is a bunch of guilty kids at the Abercrombie store who have genital warts but don’t know what the hell to do.

If I’m lucky enough to have children, I’m going to have diagrams of the vas deferens and the labia majora in their playrooms. They are going to know exactly what they’re getting into, and I will never ask them to make promises I know they can’t keep. If we do our job right, we won’t need to. My daughters are going to fuck, bless their hearts, and by God, they’re going to know what they’re doing.