Monthly Archives: May 2004

laurel, like the canyon

5/16/04

Readers of this blog who have not shot their long-term memory will remember the day Tessa’s best friend Jason absconded to San Francisco to marry his partner Tim, which in turn led to our friends Suzanne and Lee Anne jetting to San Fran the next day to become media darlings. Those issues have been off the front burner for a while, which provided a nice backdrop for Saturday night’s wedding reception in honor of Silver Lake’s most dashing married couple. Pictures say a thousand words, so here’s about 5000 from my end:

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Tessa met Jason in 1987 – he had a life-size cardboard cut-out of Tina Turner in his dorm room

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above: Tessa in her natural state: speaking in front of a crowd

below: the grooms address the congregation (the shrimp was excellent)

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apparently there’s nothing I can do about it: I’m going to look like a drunk aging fratboy forever

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speaking of which, I ran over to Walt Boyle’s party and happened upon some of my bros from Carolina: me with Davey B., Mary Kate, Ned Martel and Steven Comfort. ‘Twas excellent!

whiz on the electric fence

5/14/04

I highly recommend my brother Sean’s blog on pooping, and also my brother Kent’s blog on pooping as well. I know my other brother Steve will probably leave well enough alone, but my sister Michelle already talked about her rectum last year, so I figure it’s my turn to wax coprophilic.

To whit: I don’t like pooping. Never had, never will. I find this interesting because God himself attached an incredible amount of pleasure to the act of removing any substance from one’s body: sneezing is a hoot, burping/farting is sweet relief, barfing is a godsend when you need it, hocking a good loogie is something to be celebrated, and I don’t need to tell any of you, fair male readers, how nice it is to get rid of some sperm.

I’m short on good pooping stories, but I will tell you this: for Halloween 1991, my housemates Matt M., Clay B., (future Archer of Loaf) Matt Gentling and I dressed up as babies, complete with Depends™ adult diapers and T-shirts that said “Li’l Stinker.” We filled our baby bottles full of Southern Comfort and hit the night running.

Around 1am or so, I was stuck at a party talking to this dreadfully boring chick, and DESPERATELY had to pee. The line for the bathroom was interminable, this girl was never going to let me go… then I realized: hey, I’m wearing diapers.

Here’s the curious thing about peeing in your pants: you really have to convince your bladder you’re serious. Decades of shame-induced bladder-control muscles don’t just suddenly LET you pee while talking to someone who has no idea what you’re up to.

So I did it. It was long, delirious and satisfying. And you know what? At the end of the night, I took the diapers off and inspected them, and THERE WAS NO TRACE OF PEE ANYWHERE! The diaper had absorbed it, then transferred it to outer space. In many ways, I found this comforting, as if incontinence in my later years won’t be so bad. As long as they can fit under hoop shorts, growing old is going to be a blast!

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put some english on it

5/13/04

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T, Cyia, Carole, Dad in La Quinta

We spent the last two days in the desert at my dad’s house in La Quinta, which is a very, very, very hot place. So hot that it bleaches away your perceived troubles, leading Tessa and I to contemplate Plan B. Actually Plan B through Plan X, since there is one immutable rule of being a freelance artist: do not be content with having four balls in the air; you must have fourteen.

Dad and Carole have a modest place right next to some tennis courts and a nice pool, and I was told there were even some grass tennis courts. I have never set foot on a grass court, and in fact, when people said “grass,” I thought they were kidding. Having cut my teeth on the hardscrabble fucked-up asphalt of Eastern Iowa, the idea of bouncing a ball on grass struck me as totally impossible.

Here’s the thing about the desert: it feels untenable, like it was built totally on the backs of Hubris. This has to be the most unforgiving land in America, where they get three days of rain a year and September usually sees temps in the high 120s. And yet, the strip of grass down the middle of the highway is verdant green with nightly waterings. It seems like they built a bowling alley on the Moon, because they could.

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the unforgiving ragged cliffs behind their house

Yet, it was a great trip – we ate well, dad bought me a bunch of soy lattĂ©s (the way straight to my heart) and Tessa’s mom gave me an early present for my birthday: a silk Hawaiian shirt that I will actually wear. I’m of the belief that most Hawaiian shirts make their owners look fat, uncomely, bloated and somewhat racist, but not this shirt. This is an equal-opportunity Hawaiian shirt with leftist tendencies.

The ride home was a unmitigated parking lot of sweltering cars that was a miserable, miserable slog, even in the Prius. By the time we got near Santa Monica, I was bashing my head against the window: it took 4 hours to go 93 miles. That’s patently unacceptable.

Three Excedrins later, I accompanied Jen, Jen, Jenny (yep), Sian and Tessa to Michael Angelo Stuno’s directorial triumph “A Safe Distance” (click here for the rave review) and had a blast. Who knew we could come to Los Angeles and see so much live theater?

Not me. I was expecting jugglers, mimes, and fake boobies. There may be some subtlety to this place after all.

the heirophant

5/12/04

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In the Tarot, the Death card actually doesn’t symbolize death, it symbolizes “change.” I suppose this is what you have to realize when you have the kind of day Tessa and I had, when it seemed like a little piece of our career suffered a little death. In French, “little death” – or “le petit mort” – means orgasm, so there’s all kinds of ways to look at this positively.

So it looks like we’ll be taking quite a detour en route to our artistic and financial fruition. In many ways, this is the best thing that could have happened, but still, there is that slice of your abdomen that feels intense rejection. My buddy Dan just got fired from a job he loathed, and heavens know I got canned from That Internet Job That Was Making Me Claw My Face Off, but it doesn’t stop you from feeling like you failed.

When God closes a door, he may open a window, but my nuts are getting hurt every time I climb through the window.

find me somebody to love

5/11/04

Time to take a little break from the solipsism of the past few days and mark a moment in history, if you will. Arguably the two people I’m closest to – both through shared history and shared bedrooms – are my brother Sean and my best friend Chip. Sean turned 34 today, and Chip got engaged last week. These are both very important things, because it means Sean outlived Jesus, and Chip… well, I thought we’d all see Jesus again before he got engaged.

Having his birthday ten days after his wedding is a little like painting your buggy after painting the Sistine Chapel, and from all accounts, Sean had a pretty average day. 34 is rough the way most ages in your thirties are rough: 30 is a bizarre landmark, 31 means you’re “actually in your thirties now,” 34 means you’re in your “mid-thirties” and my next birthday – 37 (in two weeks) – means I’m “pushing forty.”

But birthdays are birthdays, and Tessa and I got him a cool little piece of technology that will enable us to stay connected better even if we’re digging trenches on the Fox lot in Los Angeles. I’d say what we got him, but nobody was there to answer the Fedex guy in Astoria today.

As for Chip, I mean, what could be said that hasn’t already been said? Shakespeare-trained, Chip has been in more plays and movies than people who want to be actors. Why do you think this could be? Here is a guy that lost all his hair when we were sophomores, ate enough Burger King sausage biscuits to send his cardiologist into a frenzy, and works a mild-mannered job for the EPA in the Research Triangle. Yet during the screening of “The Pink House” last October in Tribeca, he came on the screen, and the entire place erupted.

Why is Chip everyone’s favorite person? Why do my female friends get so excited to see him? Why does my mom have about thirteen Chip stories? The answer is ineffable, and I thought it might not ever translate into marital love. But finally – FINALLY – someone came along who GETS him. Cathie is sweet, good-natured, funny, and just happened to be listening when Chip said something funny under his breath as he was pacing out of the room. When the rumor got out that he had asked her to marry – while rowing in Central Park, no less – I think a nation of us leapt in tacit jubilation. It even made Tessa cry.

So two of my favorite people met two other people willing to put up with them in all their brilliant messiness. That’s a pretty fucking good week.

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Jane Cox, me, the Budster, Chip, Jon and Jill Gilbert in New Orleans, 1987

a few choice morsels

5/10/04

I’m suffering from a bit of post-partum depression from the end of our show, you know, the usual when-shall-we-all-meet-again despondency that accompanies every theater closing since junior high school. And 99% of you didn’t even see the production, so you’re bored already, but just for my own edification, I’m going to post my favorite quotes from each of the seven shows of the evening. The writers were all fabulous folks, and I learned something important from each piece. I feel proud to have shared the bill with these guys.

“TwoFold” by Tessa my darling wife

LAUREL: I know you are older, but do you have to do *everything* first?

ELIZA: Me? You made out with a boy first, you made out with a girl first, and you even made out with Mr. Marshall first.

LAUREL: You kissed Mr. Marshall? But you said he was a “pernicious misogynist prick.”

ELIZA: That’s what made him so sexy. Besides, you only like Howard because you aren’t sure if he likes you!

LAUREL: Well, you only slept with him because you need affirmation but you’re terrified of commitment!

ELIZA: Like the REST of the human race!

“Employed” by Andy Bobrow

(describing how he got a girl)

CHRIS: You know, I pulled the old “my child’s been kidnapped and I’ll do anything to get him back” routine.

MICHAEL: Okay, that is NOT a known routine.

CHRIS: Hello? “Ransom”? Mel Gibson? You know, Michael, you would do a lot better with the ladies if you were only willing to betray their trust.

“The Lamb” by Sharr White

GARRETH: -your heart isn’t in it anymore.

FRANK: What do you care about my heart?

GARRETH: How would you like to be killed by somebody who could go either way about it?

“A Boy Named Sue” by Ben Kull

SUE: I think I finally understand Mom’s plan.

ROBIN: Mom had a plan?

SUE: You know, how she named me Sue to toughen me up, like the Johnny Cash song.

ROBIN: Sue, I hate to burst your bubble, but the woman who put a flower in the barrel of my water pistol – in protest – did not want to toughen you up. I was there. She was going to name you “Steve,” but when you came out, you just looked like a “Sue.”

SUE: I could have been named STEVE?

“Dirtbags” by Matt Boren

KATE: Didn’t you sleep with her at prom?

SCOTT: No, that’s the girl I TOOK to prom. Why? Because YOU BROKE UP WITH ME!

KATE: That was only for a week.

SCOTT: How was I supposed to know it was only gonna be for a week?

KATE: Because it was high school, Scott, EVERYBODY broke up for a week!

SCOTT: Okay, how about that Harvard loser YOU took to prom?

KATE: He was smart.

MISSY: He was *wicked* smart.

SCOTT: He was SMART? That’s your defense?

KATE: There is a big difference between Preston Pacardi, I guy I went out with *once*, and Meg Tivnen, who we grew up with!

SCOTT: Wait, you remember his name?

KATE: You remember HER name.

SCOTT: We ALL remember Meg, Kate! WE GREW UP WITH HER!

“Welcome to Normal” by Josh Ben Friedman

GOOGIE: I’m well aware of the protocol. I’m the sheriff. I don’t need anyone telling me the protocol. And nobody – protocol or no protocol – is going to be questioning my son! He has an alibi… me, the sheriff! Sitting at home, watching reality TV shows starring midgets!

“The Last American Liberal” by your most humble host

JANIE: Okay, how did the “liberals” screw things up?

RICHARD: Okay, take same-sex marriages. Personally, I think they’re pointless, but if they do it in Massachusetts, they might as well do it here. So we get the bill all the way to the State Senate, and then those people had to have their GAY PRIDE parade downtown!

JANIE: So?

RICHARD: So? So everyone in Maine, from Caribou on down, sees these guys – they’re dressed as Dorothy from Oz, with… with…

CARLA: Roach clips.

RICHARD: Roach clips through their nipples! And they’re dancing on top of fire engines! Next thing you know, every farmer in Penobscot County thought that Gays were going to make BUTT SEX part of the Presidential Physical Fitness Test!

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cast of “The Last American Liberal”

triumverate

5/9/04

Three important things happened today, so lets get right to them, shall we?

1. It’s Tessa’s birthday. My favorite lady in the whole wide world turned thirtysomething today, and it couldn’t have been nicer. I got her the entire Patricia Moyes oeuvre of mystery novels, and her very first pearl necklace. I found it almost impossible to believe that Blakey never gave her daughter any pearls (I mean, it seems like the most obvious Texas preppie thing to do) but it looks like the mantle fell on my shoulders. I’ve learned a lot about pearls over the last month or so, and trust me when I say they’re fascinating. For fun reading, check out her birthday two years ago.

2. It’s Mother’s Day. My second favorite lady in the whole wide world was in Queens, hanging out with my brother Sean, so I had my other mother – Tessa’s mom Sandy – to bring a bit of maternal love to Santa Monica. We had a party for her, Tessa and the entire Naked TV cast at our new digs here by the beach. It was one of those L.A. days, the kind that last forever, threatens to get hot but stays nice, jasmine and honeysuckle wafting as the sun fades.

3. It was the last day of our show. I thought our show two Saturdays ago was basically the best ever… until this evening. I don’t know what blue crack this audience was smoking, but this was the most boisterous, incredible theater crowd of I’d ever seen. You know that moment in “Dead Poets Society” when Robert Sean Leonard finishes the role of Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the curtain closes, and he grips the pure ecstasy of the perfect performance? THAT is what tonight was like.

There was a laugh on every line. When Mary Kay left the stage, there was applause. And it wasn’t just my show – Tessa’s rocked harder than usual, and the rest were on top form. It is incredibly sad to finish a run like this (the boy in my play cried when he left the cast party, with the unadulterated emotion of the not-yet-jaded) but jesus, it’s nice to go out on top. This evening was a three-pointer to win the game at the buzzer.

Rick Gradone and I were at the bar, later, talking about the inevitable death of one’s “dreams” when one wanders into the mid-30s. Those dreams never died for me, y’see, they just transmogrified into little moments of lucid delight. There were microseconds during the filming of “The Pink House,” there were the bursts of laughter at screenings, and there are nights like tonight. At my age – and at Tessa’s new age- these moments ARE the dream, and if nothing else comes of it, we still feel blessed, bloated and satisfied.

THAT is the thing that comes with time, and it’s such a relief.

do, re, me me me

5/7/04

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We made it back to Los Angeles for the last weekend of our shows, and I realized two things:

a) the entire cast of this event is unbelievably terrific and has really melded into a tight social circle that is accepting, funny, and basically the clique in high school we all wish existed

b) I would have loved it if my faraway friends – most of whom live in New York, North Carolina, points south and even Canada – could have seen this evening.

One thing about plays that seems obvious, but is actually hard to accept: when they’re over, they’re truly over. There’s no videotape, printed review or long-winded memory that can ever do it justice. It is the electricity of that moment, the synapse that fires between stage and audience – that keeps people in the business. But it is also a study in Buddhist impermanence. Just as the Buddhists destroy their gorgeous sand paintings, the curtain comes down on our best work, and frankly, nobody three weeks from now will give a shit.

And this is how it should be.

But I do still wish I could rent this evening, you know, at Blockbuster or Netflix, pop it in every once in a while. There are some great lines by some fine writers, some of which I’ll post here Monday, when the hurly-burly’s done. The whole experience has been a wonderful opiate at a time when my country seems to be going down the toilet. I listen to NPR for a few moments, get a dose of horror… then I can turn it off and sigh, because me and my baby’s got a show up tonight.

add french horn in there too

5/6/04

The Accidentally Fabulous Artist List, in Descending Order

– acting

– abstract painting

– singing

– poetry

– modern dance

– short fiction

– sculpture

– guitar

– piano

– interior design

– saxophone

– screenplay writing

– novelist

– ballet

– violin

Per our conversation tonight, this is a weighted list of art forms at which most people can be “accidentally fabulous.” In other words, people can be accidentally fantastic actors, but there is no such thing as being serendipitously good at the violin. The art forms in the middle, like piano, can occasionally be mastered by some savant, but it’s pretty rare.

Here’s the interesting thing about this list: as you get near the top, the art forms get harder and harder to teach. It’s nearly impossible to teach somebody to sing with vibrato or how to write good poetry. However, you can teach anyone how to play the violin – technically speaking – so that you can say “they play the violin well.”

Is there anything I’m missing here? Or does everyone think this list is full of shit?

god, grant me the Saran Wrap

5/5/04

I was riding the 2 train when it stopped at Park Place – like it has a million times before – and a rush of acid filled my stomach. I was having a sudden flashback to my days at That Internet Company, the one located downtown by City Hall, and Park Place was where I’d disembark to slog upstairs to one of the last dot-coms left standing.

I wondered what the rush of acid might be, and it was then I realized: it was shame. Remembering everything may help you with writing, but it’s hell on your stomach, especially as you’re forced to re-live every moronic thing you’ve ever done. That job was the last element of my life I completed before my nervous breakdown, and now the memory of those days are filled with all the petty, stupid, tiny-power-grubbing moments of ego in which I engaged. I comported myself badly, and now, even years later, I still feel in trouble when the 2 train stops at that station.

AA deals with this stuff all the time; I mean, they must. If there’s one thing that marks alcoholics, it’s the overweening sense of shame they feel about the way they’ve behaved when they drank. Untreated, it leads to more drinking – just because you’re tired of giving a fuck about what the world thinks of you – or you lash out, telling the cosmos you’re going to take your toys and go home. The latter leads to one of my favorite (overheard) statements in AA: “I’m the piece of shit the world revolves around.”

Since I can’t really stomach very much liquor and have too many control issues to try heroin, I wonder if there’s another AA for me, something like BDA – “Bad Decisions Anonymous.”

“Hi, I’m Ian, and I’ve made some really bad decisions.”

“Hello, Ian.”

soulful nodding ensues

Apparently the fourth and fifth step of AA is to make a “fearless moral inventory” of everything you’ve done wrong, and then admit these foibles to your higher power. By cataloguing your shame, it becomes knowable. Frankly, I wonder how people start. With a pad and pen, over a cup of coffee, staring out into the rain… perhaps that’s how these things are done.

The later steps involve making amends to those you’ve wronged, but what if you’re sure they don’t care anymore, barely remember you, have no interest in contact, find the whole thing creepy – and you STILL feel ashamed of the way you behaved? Doesn’t that make it about you again and then you’re back to being a dime-store Narcissus?

note to self: call pharmacologist to see if Celexa still working