Monthly Archives: August 2004

now that i’ve disappeared


While I was at Steve and Deb’s wedding the other night, the band played a version of Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why,” which was her breakout hit a few years back. Everyone on earth knew the song, but for some reason it had slipped through my cultural floorboards, and I heard the whole thing for the first time.

I was immediately struck by how beautiful it was, and how much it reminded me of this other band I loved called Once Blue, a little poppy-jazz ensemble who put out a CD that three people in American owned: me, Charlotte Walton and Carla Utrie. God knows I have a very soft spot for old-fashioned song structure and twee melodies, but Once Blue’s CD is so gorgeous in so many ways that I couldn’t believe it wasn’t a national bestseller.


Rebecca Martin

Rebecca Martin was the lead singer of Once Blue, and nothing I can write on this blog comes close to the sexy, breathy, confusingly otherworldy way she has with a song. Jesse Harris was her collaborator, and they created these little vignettes that can turn an ordinary road trip into a seascape of different happinesses.

So I was doing a little research on Norah’s hit “Don’t Know Why,” and turns out it was written by Jesse Harris. Which is absolutely great for Jesse, to labor that long (14 years in the business) and finally get a Grammy and the royalties so he can retire, and his grandkids probably never need to work if he invests wisely.

But what of Rebecca Martin? It is proof that the music business is totally arbitrary


Dear Republican Party,


*cough, cough*

Sorry. Let me start over.

I came to New York for the exact same reasons people did it in 1888 – it was the only place I could possibly have the freedom to be what I wanted to be. I took a room in the East Village, lived in a shoebox with the illustrious Lars Lucier and tried to start my life over. I’d had a disastrous time where I’d come from, and knew that New York was the sole point on Earth where my past didn’t matter.

It was hot, the subway at 8am was demoralizing, and I was doing the kind of work I swore I’d never do. I also sustained a back injury that put me on crutches and a cane for two months. Note to single men: having a cane does NOT make girls feel sorry for you in a sexy Florence Nightingale sort of way – they avoid you as though you were a leper.

Anyway. My first week in the city, I was asked to write a play that went up on Bleecker Street and gave me the courage to write again after three solid years of humiliation. I began to understand New York as a town where you were lauded for intellect, could use words like “hegemony” without being made fun of, could have love handles and not give a shit, and eat the best pizza on earth at three in the morning.

No other town could house a spirit like Gill Holland, no city would satisfy the cultural ache of Dana and Lindsay, no other place could give succor to the talents of Virginia Heffernan and Nell Casey, and there is no other borough big enough to yoke the explosive energy of my then-wife-to-be Tessa.

On my 29th birthday, I did drugs off the tummy of a friend in the East Village, and went to the Museum of Natural History the next day. It is a town that accepts anything, purges everything, and is the success of the Great American Experiment. It is without judgment and is the last place many of us can go to find love and not be afraid.

In short, it is everything you are not.

We are truly living in shame-free times, an era without compunction, when you dared to have your National Convention here. Your administrations armed the muhajadeen, then ignored years of intelligence that told you Islamic militants were determined to strike our financial centers with planes. When our towers fell, you came down – THREE DAYS LATER if I remember correctly – and got on the bullhorn.

You disregarded the signs we put up in Union Square: “Our tears of grief are not cries for war.” You attacked Afghanistan (fine, we guessed) but then attacked Iraq, thus insuring we’d never be safe again when we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. Then you cut anti-terror funding for our city – why? Because nobody in this place would ever vote for you? Why would you give fucking Wyoming $38.31 per person for terror funding, and leave the guy sweeping the floor at the NY Stock Exchange $5.47? HOW COULD YOU FUCKING DO THIS TO US?

Then, to dare put Ground Zero in your re-election campaign, when you fought tooth and nail AGAINST a commission to find out who was to blame… only to have a luke-cold response to their findings? Your henchmen have now dismissed the 9/11 widows as hysterical witches; if only you could understand HALF their misery, you cruel fucks.

Now you have chosen New York as your convention site, so you can play politics with the charred corpses of 3,000 office workers, 4 out 5 of which would never have voted for you. You hate gay people with a biblically-fueled intensity, yet you have placed your party nineteen blocks from Chelsea, home of the most thriving gay population in America. The Democrats didn’t have their convention in Mobile, Alabama – why are you here?

Your cynicism and low-rent Machiavellianism slither so close to the ground that it’s almost hard to see when you’ve hit a new low, but coming here to capitalize on the worst thing that ever happened to a city you actually hate is utterly shameful. I’m not following the rules; I’m not going to play nice with you. You are not welcome here. You can call me crazy or unhinged or batshit or whatever you want. But you don’t get New York City, even for four days.


we gather as not to feel alone


A few pics for those wanting to know the mood in Manhattan today:


a couple en route to the protest get encouragement from the street sweeper – 6th Ave, Brooklyn


Union Square: the never-ending drum circle for peace (bring your own cowbell)

BushCancerUnionSq(bl).jpg WantTruthUnionSq(bl).jpg


they were selling anti-Bush baby outfits; his shirt reads “My Dick Would Pull Out of Iraq”


just by standing in one place, we ran into eight different people from UNC – randomly – including my former Pink House roommates Jay Murray, Allen Sellars and N’Gai Wright. Also Celeste. And several other people who only recognized us from campus years ago. How bizarre is THAT?



this has been Tessa and Ian reporting from Manhattan, where George Washington still holds ballons of peace. Back to you in the booth




Let me tell you how bad I suck at basketball right now. I suck with the turgid methane-addled gloominess of a thousand Saturns. I am the biggest whiner spastic piece of shit to set foot on the courts of the St. Patrick Youth Center since its inception in 1922.

It’s an embarrassment to myself, it’s an embarrassment to the people I play with, it’s an embarrassment to Tessa, and it’s even an embarrassment to my future family. I will have to play flawlessly for the next month just to get back to “horrible.”

Oh sure, I have a few moves in my arsenal that are effective. But I don’t get back on defense, I get hurt on every other play, and in an effort to get out of my shooting slump, I have ball-hogged my way to infamy.

I’m a constant source of distraction for my own team – nay, I am a legion of barnacles attached to the bottom of their ship, keeping them from moving swiftly through the ocean. In the last three weeks, I have won 2 games and lost eighteen. You don’t need a biostatistics degree from M.I.T. to deduce the common denominator of those losses.

Tonight, I was fouled hard on a breakaway layup, and in my ensuing rage, I toppled the industrial fan that sat on the stage. The blades spun and threatened to chew up the floor – in a CHURCH for AFTERSCHOOL CHILDREN mind you – until some other player yanked out the plug.

Back at Carolina, I was reviled on the court as a guttermouthed shithead. Years later in Carrboro, I was reviled as a guttermouthed shithead. In Los Angeles, I went on Prozac, then went to the West Hollywood courts and acted like a guttermouthed shithead. Now I have been on Celexa for two years, got married, and I’m 37 and STILL a guttermouthed shithead.

When am I going to be free of ego? When am I going to shrug off a bad move as one of life’s little lessons? Perhaps I should just fucking call it a day. I’ve played for 18 years, made everyone miserable since Reagan’s last term, perhaps that’s enough. After next week, I’ll be in LA for two months – perhaps I’ll begin a workout regimen and Buddhist training to increase both my stamina and puncture my bloated sense of importance.

If not, I should just let the game go, leave it to younger players who aren’t so fettered to their own self-love and don’t have some wounded inner brat that lashes out at the first botched layup.

I’m disgusted with myself. I’m going into the yard, finds some worms and shove them into my mouth.

4th and 47 with 25 sec. left


People who are getting upset with John Kerry’s perceived lack of nads regarding the Swift Boat controversy have to understand the bigger picture here. You may not know it now, but the Bush campaign is entering into a very dangerous, desperate phase, and I think

rilkean heart


In August, you enter what Douglas Adams called the “long, dark teatime of the soul,” that languid patch of nothingness that fosters a curious mix of complacency and anxiety. In Chapel Hill, the days were endless and deliriously hot; we made sure not to spend too much time by ourselves, lest the inner demons contribute to the rot that had already desiccated our self-esteem.

I think I will die in August. I feel like I foresaw it as a young kid, wandering around the streets of Cedar Rapids on my bike, the sun making yellow patterns in the bushes as it threatened to set earlier each day. I saw some sort of existential maw open up, something quiet, still and hazy let me know there would be a day, perhaps 90 years from then, when I would be looking at an August day as my last.

You must keep moving. Make it to September each year, and you might be okay. Three years ago, in 2001, Tessa and I both remarked that the city was behaving strangely, as if something wasn’t quite right. We saw Alex and Wendi at a store in midtown and all of us remarked that the mood was weird, very still, as if the town was holding its breath. We thought it might have something to do with the internet bubble bursting so terribly, but a few days later some planes hitting the towers downtown answered questions we didn’t know we asked.

I have cleaned out the barn, both literally and metaphysically. It took all day, but now you can see the pool table, and the adornments from last year’s wedding look awesome again. I am throwing away all of my socks and half of my boxer shorts. I am finishing my next screenplay. I have to un-tether myself from what August wants to do to me.

gold medal in betrayal


Okay, so this is the blog where you tell me to go back to Mother Russia. You’ve been warned.

The United States is winning the most medals at this Olympic Games, and you know what? I’m embarrassed. Our country has behaved so reprehensibly in the last four years that I cringe almost every time I see them hoist the Stars and Stripes aloft.

Obviously there are a few exceptions. I liked our woman who won the bronze in the marathon, and the swimmers seem like very nice people (except for that Hall guy, who must be kind of a cock). And I was sad for the American rifleman who accidentally shot his opponent’s target.

But let’s face facts: our athletes have more equipment, more money and more product endorsement deals than any other country on the planet. Our basketball team – who, to the crowds utter delight, just lost to Lithuania – has $678 million in contracts and is sleeping on the Queen Mary.

With a tin ear for world politics, the Bush campaign released commercials featuring the Iraqi soccer team, to which the members of the Iraqi soccer team said, “fuck off, murderer.” I hope the rumors of Bush going to Athens to see a soccer game come true; he’ll be ridden out of town on a rail.

It really has come to this for me: my country’s government is so morally bankrupt that I can’t cheer for people representing us, even if they’re honest, hardworking platform divers. I’m with Meghan over at Slate – Carly Patterson may have won the gold, but her milky-pudding-white visage is wholly uninspiring. Give me the stork Svetlana ANY day of the week. Her petulant pride in being a Russkie was about the only honest emotion I saw.

SportsCenter complains about how bad our basketball team is, when they’re the ones that turned the sport into me-first cockfight. ESPN bemoaning a bronze medal is like Fox News being surprised when Bush does something awful. The only thing that keeps me from actively hoping our basketball team fails is the coaching staff, all of whom are from Chapel Hill.

And that’s when it hits me. I have no “home team” feeling for America anymore. It may come back, but for now, it’s lost. My tribalism, which kept me so delighted and psyched and deliriously happy to be an American for 33 years, has vanished. I have just as much joy when France, or Namibia, or Eritrea benefit from either a gold medal or a scientific breakthrough. I’m on the home team of the “world,” for lack of a better phrase, and the Americans just keep fucking it up.

I have but one team left for all of my heart: the North Carolina Tar Heels, a university and sports team I love that just happens to be in the United States. You will have to pry my cold dead fingers off my replica of the 2005 NCAA Championship Trophy.

Oh, and Misty May’s ass.


east german judge screwed me


There are no doubt other bloggers out there doing a bang-up job of blogging the Olympics, but I just have to say a few things.

Actually, wait a minute. There should be some sort of shorthand for that kind of sentence, because I find myself using it all the time in here. In other words, I guess it’s some sort of fear of being predictable, of saying what thirty other people at my subway stop haven’t already said, with more feeling, about fifteen hours before. When you write about politics, TV or anything else to do with culture, there’s always this voice that says “some blogger in North Platte, Nebraska had the final word on this already.” I guess all I can hope is that I bring something to the table. As Sting said, “Anyone can sing ‘Slip Sliding Away,’ but only Paul Simon has that voice’.”


Where was I? Ah yes, the friggin’ Olympics. I have been silently obsessed with the Olympics since 1976, when as a randy 8-year-old, I had a crush on Nadia Comaneci that could fuel a hundred thousand suns (she’s still gorgeous) and thus spent every waking moment at the tube, even thrilling at archery and the triple jump.

The 1980 Olympics sucked for obvious reasons (because of Afghanistan, if you remember) and the 1984 Olympics awakened some uncomfortable feelings I had about abject American jingoism. To me, the ’92 Barcelona and the ’96 Atlanta Games brought back the same breathless childlike anticipation. Even now, I can gauge the effects of the Celexa by seeing if I get choked up at any awards ceremony (I do