Monthly Archives: October 2004

bring your own boos



For years now, I’ve been the top Google search for the words I hate Halloween – which is really ironic, since it is my favorite holiday ever. The Google page leads to an entry from two years ago that has become a makeshift dumping ground for wronged Christians and people who hate giving candy to kids.

To which I say: what is wrong with you people? Outside of various weekends on Bourbon Street, this is the only day of the year when the city blocks off traffic so adults can make buffoons of themselves and kids can be so fucking cute that it makes you want to have them. In college, it was the one time of year that your girlfriend’s uptight roommate would become a “sexy witch” and throw your libido into utter confusion.

I made a pact with myself at the age of eight that I would never go to a dress-up party without dressing up, nor would I miss donning a costume for Halloween. I have dressed as Tessa, as a clown, even Uncle Jessie in the Dukes of Hazzard.

This weekend we went to Meredith Tucker’s “Dress As Your Own Parents” Halloween party, and I attended as my own dad, in my black tails, silver hair and a sewing needle standing in for baton. As chance would have it, the son of conductor Rainer Miedel of the Seattle Symphony was there dressed as his father as well, only he was in rehearsal clothes. Bizarre but true:


On Sunday, we had a casual get-together to carve the pumpkins I grew upstate this year, and getting the orange fuckers upstairs took the collective strength of both Sean and I, with the pumpkin held in a flannel sheet. One of them, I swear to God, was four hundred pounds at least. We gave that beast to Rick Gradone, who turned it into the face of the Picasso print hanging on our wall:



Mine was, in the old words of Chip, “beseeching a God in which I do not believe”:


And then on to 7th Avenue parade:





It was a brilliant night off from politics, which will spin back into action tomorrow as many of my friends head off to swing states for voter protection. Bliss Broyard is going to New Orleans; my mom, Sean and Jordana are going to Youngstown, OH – and Tessa, Kelly and I are off to Reading, PA.

In the meantime, YAY FOR HALLOWEEN!




My brother Sean just wrote an excellent blog about the Ashlee Simpson lip-synching incident, using the metaphor of an unknown artist who, despite her talents, will never be famous. I think the metaphor is even bigger: as elements of culture become more and more automated, the odds of major fuck-ups like this are going to be increasingly more common.

Ashlee Simpson and George Bush have a distinct similarity: both were shown, on live television, to be utterly unable to perform their jobs without external aid. Simpson did it on SNL and Bush did it in the debates, but they are both examples of people who have been handled so much that they no longer have any sense of their craft.

Bush, in particular, has fallen mightily as a thinker and a debater on his feet; his 1994 gubernatorial debates showed him to be meaner than hell, but viciously articulate with his version of the truth. Ashlee Simpson probably never had any true musical experiences (other than seething with resentment as her sister got all the play), but there’s no doubt she can carry a tune. But excessive isolation from the analog world has made them both unfit for live performance. She and Bush have to understand the day would come when they’d be forced to pick up a guitar, pluck out the chords, and sing.

Electricity, as the blackouts of 2003 showed, is not a constant, even in America. Computers, as Florida is proving right now, fuck up all the time. Humans, as evidenced by my hamfisted attempts at MIDI, put the wrong patch cords into the wrong slots all night long. If you are relying on any of the above, there will come a night when you will have to rely on your wiles and your talent by candlelight.

This is the reason why I hate being on Celexa, why we are getting solar power for our farm, and why the piano is so wonderful. I hate being beholden to a drug for my happiness, and the day may come when the drug will be impossible to get. I understand my addiction to electricity, so I will not be beholden to the North American power grid. And the piano? In the ’70s, when an Iowan tornado would wipe out the power in our town, my dad always lit candles and played Beethoven.

My life depends so much on digital, but life itself is analog. Every few days I try to pick up the guitar and work out a current pop song so I can always have it at the ready in case all other sounds are silenced. Being a violin major was a major drag, but in case we’re cut off from flow of electrons, our house will still rock.

sweet spot



Today’s teens will have trouble appreciating the kind of history that was made in baseball last night; the year “1918” is a lot like the number “trillions” – it’s nearly impossible to wrap your head around it. Maybe three or four Red Sox fans still alive remember anything about their last World Series. Tessa’s dad, who was eight when the Sox won the series in 1918, might have remembered, but he died, alas, the week after 9/11.

Everyone thinks they love the underdog, but Americans rarely stick with them. Most U.S. sports fans love the Yankees and the Lakers, which, to me, is like cheering for the sun to rise. I always prefer teams with character and pluck, like the Denver Nuggets, the Baltimore Orioles and the New Orleans Saints. I’m guaranteeing myself a future with no world championships, but I can live with that. Thank God for the Tar Heels, or else I’d never know what it’d be like to win. Our 1993 Championship seems like an odd dream.

The Curse of the Bambino is weirdly apt for my family, being a combination of sports failure and musical theater. The owner of the Red Sox traded away Babe Ruth to get some money to put “No, No Nanette” (containing the song “Tea for Two”) on Broadway. Mixed with the execrable “Damn Yankees,” it is a cautionary tale about mixing baseball with prissy musicals.

The Curse holds a lot of sway throughout the history of literature, but The Lifting of the Curse is an even more satisfying narrative. Found in the Bible, hundreds of children’s stories and even in the quiet redemption of every fat person meeting their target weight, a curse lifted is, like rain and babies, one of the lasting gifts from the Gods.

And so we lived long enough to see it for the Red Sox. Honestly, my heart has always been with the Orioles and the Mets, but I appreciate how excruciating it has been for the Bosox. It’s been said that George Will is such a nasty conservative because of the Chicago Cubs losing streak; perhaps they’ll be next.

In this age of The Unthinkable Happens, it’s nice to know that some unthinkable things are actually positive. In the midst of the Unthinkable Presidency, still charred from the Unthinkable Terrorist Attack, in an era when records fall, old friendships die, cruelty has no abatement, and we all live under the threat of a kind of digital mercilessness, it was humbling to experience this game. Under a lunar eclipse, it was truly once in a red moon.

note: the “Nanette” story is wrong; click here for a fascinating story about the Curse – thanks, Isaac!

navel, meet my gaze


Hey kids, it’s time for Webstats Fun with the blog! Here is a list of this month’s Most Popular Search Terms. Obviously, Misty May’s ass is the gift that keeps on giving!


I’m sorry, would you like that in Pie Graph form?


How about site traffic usage by hour? These are done in Pacific Time, so add three hours for the East Coast. Looks like some of you sure like your whiny commentary first thing in the morning!


and a little bit at teatime too

How about my favorite comment from the last month? This was left on an ancient entry from Halloween 2002:


And now that I have your attention, I’d like to make a request: those of you who have never posted a comment, those just lurking, can you tell me who you are, and where you’re from, and your favorite breakfast cereal and why?

I get all these hits from strange and wonderful places, but you don’t say hello. It’s making me sad.

Or are they all just robots selling penis pills?


punkins, the bean that’s a fruit


Yes, it’s true, I’ve been sorta “uncontrollably furious” of late, so let’s kick back with a few more pictures from this past week, shall we?

First off, I was waxing theoretical last month when they talked about New Orleans taking a direct hit from a Category 5 hurricane. 15-20 foot floods of petrol and fire ants could be expected, so when I was in the French Quarter last week, I went to the balcony of the hotel to see what that would mean.

Here is an incredibly third-rate Photoshop quickie that shows how high a 17-foot flood in New Orleans would get (click image for bigger, but it’s just as stupid-looking when larger):


At the Jasper Family Steakhouse in northern Georgia, Salem had recently unveiled a massive piece of folk art mural by local savant Billy Roper – love it or hate it (I think it’s awesome), Salem is dragging art to the Appalachian masses one patron at a time (click for bigger):


Apparently this guy really hearts coal, and really hearts Bush/Cheney as well. Rotten politics but beautiful scenery in West Virginia:


The day after I got back, Scotty, Sean and I quickly absconded to the Egremont Country Club golf course, where I proceeded to suck green donkey dicks. Rotten golf but beautiful scenery in Western Massachussets:


In 2002, my pumpkin patch gave us a ton of little pumpkins. Last year, the patch gave forth nothing. This year, there are only about ten, but they are AWESOME. I heart pumpkins, I really really do.


PIPA longstocking


Perhaps all of you viciously-well-read leftist mavens out there have already read the PIPA report, but if you haven’t, take a quick horrifying look at how skull-crushingly misinformed Republicans are, versus their Democrat counterparts. A very quick glance:

– 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe Iraq had WMD and/or a program to make them, even after the Duelfer Report (commissioned by Bush himself) has said the opposite.

– 60% of Bush supporters believe that MOST EXPERTS AGREE that Iraq was directly supporting Al Qaeda.

– 51% believe Bush supports the Kyoto Treaty.

– 58% of Bush supporters say that the U.S. should not have gone to war if Iraq didn’t have WMD, and 61% of them assume, in this case, that Bush wouldn’t have.

Now, if you’re like me, you might be thinking, “how on earth do these knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers summon the mental energy to remember which end of the phone is for speaking?” but here at xtcian, we’d like to probe a little farther. Obviously, many Republicans come by their opinions honestly, using actual facts – I may disagree, but I appreciate their convictions. But for the rest of them… how can these Republicans be, as the pollsters kindly suggest, so “resistant to information”?

1. They’re fucking morons. Could it be true that they are so swooningly chuckleheaded that no amount of data can leak through? The old saw says you never want to see how sausages and laws are made, but should we be just as afraid of the dinner conversation at a Republican home in Wichita, Kansas? The answers to the PIPA report are so disturbing that mere stupidity can’t be the answer; the responses are too uniformally misinformed.

Even the stupidest people get 300 points just for putting their name on the SAT test, but people who call themselves Republicans all seem to have decided to fuck that up too. While certainly a lot of Republicans have to be Idiots (not to mention their cousins Racist, Homophobic and Misogynist), I don’t think we’re dealing with outright dumbness.

2. Ye Olde Cognitive Dissonance. This theory has been trotted out a lot lately, and it seems to make a sick sort of sense. Basically, Republicans trusted George W. Bush so much that they won’t allow themselves to feel like he has utterly failed them. While this makes GOP-followers seem frail and somewhat pathetic, it’s actually rooted in narcissism; they CANNOT show any weakness, and to keep their hard-won exterior from crumbling, they choose to live in Bizarro-world.

Problem is, they’re making us live there too. And the way they cling to their paper moons hanging over a cardboard sky makes me believe something much darker:

3. Republicans are the Equivalent of Battered Wives. They are the ailing wives living in the time before they are saved; they are still putting gobs of makeup over their latest shiner, they are wearing long sleeves to mask vicious bruises. They haven’t got to the point where they will wake up to their own nightmare – they are still living in a dreamscape, inventing a world for themselves where their sadistic husband has every right to behave like a violent, rage-fueled sociopath.

Right now, Bush is that husband, and the majority of the Republican Party is the wife. They don’t even know he has broken their arm; they actually believe that they slipped down the stairs. Oh sure, the neighbors whisper, their pew at church is sparsely-populated… but they don’t understand, they don’t fully understand the kind of relationship they have with their husband. He would never do anything to hurt me. He loves me. HE LOVES ME.


I can’t raise a family around people like that. Here’s to filling out your absentee ballots and getting these battered Republicans to a shelter where they belong.

negatively charged


I’m writing from the wilds of central Kentucky, in Jon Vaden’s farmhouse built in 1798, twenty whole years before our farm was built upstate, and it feels good to be back among ancient surroundings. Along with Tessa (who flew back to New York from New Orleans) I’ve been on the road since September 7th, and there’s only one more day between me and home.

My wanderlust is unquenchable, and I don’t know if I could travel far enough or long enough to be happy sitting in one town for more than a season. One time back in 2000, Sean and I realized we hadn’t been off the island of Manhattan in two months, and so I had to hop in my shitty car and drive to Rockland County just so my brain cleared.


taken with Tessa’s Treo

Chopes has been a good companion on this trip, even though his Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome

wachet auf!


I’d like to make this desperate plea to all of us guys in our late 20s and into our 30s: can we please all stay friends?

I know this seems like a silly thing to ask, but now that I am gliding past my mid-30s, I fully understand the lure of inertia; it’s just so easy to choose to NOT do something. In your mind, everything becomes a hassle, and when “fun times with your friends” starts getting lumped in there, I think you have to start asking yourself what you’re put on this earth to do.

Much of it has to do with relationships: if the lure of possible sex with somebody new is taken out of the picture, then your loins approach every event with a subconscious “why bother?” You must fend off your blasé loins! Just because you’ve ended your search for a partner doesn’t mean you can’t still go to that ice hotel in Reykjavik!

Remember when we were in college, and the years after, when we used to take nonsensical trips to bizarre places after getting the day off work? Do you remember how we fantasized about creating a utopia of like-minded friends, buying land somewhere and having bi-annual get-togethers, continuing to have shared experiences so that we don’t get fat, bloated and spend what little time we had left wistfully talking about the “good old days”?

I’m here to say FUCK the good old days. Yes, they were awesome. They were also treacherous, poverty-stricken and suicidal. We should make sure our lives remain interesting enough NOW so that we don’t get puckered and slushy from stewing in the juices of our past.

Yes, I know some of us have kids. Too fucking bad. Yes, I realize your job takes up most of your time. You’re boring me. Yes, I realize I have the kind of job that allows me to drive across the country every four months. Eat me. I’m not saying we should all be attending 3-keg blowouts on weeknights. I’m saying that we should all agree to have some sort of blast TWICE A YEAR at the very least.

These twice-a-year get-togethers should be well-planned, silly, exotic, full of liquor (or AA meetings), sports-related, architecture-related, I don’t goddamn care. Just SOMETHING. ANYTHING to shove us out of the rut that we find comfortable, even if it is slowly killing us.

Before Salem came up to our Labor Day Jartacular, he said to me, “you know, I’m like you: we’d both drive 20 hours for five hours of fun.” I had to remind him I’ve driven further for much less fun. Even during my 50-hour-a-week dot-com days.

I’m not holding myself up as some paragon of spontaneity; I’ve flaked on my fair share of great times because of some pretty lame reasons. But at least I fucking try. I hold a fantastic summer party upstate every year, and still, as we all age, sometimes it’s like pulling teeth trying to get people excited. About ANYTHING.

You miss a weekend. Then you miss a party. Then you miss a barbeque. Next thing you know, you’re watching “Matlock” at a nursing home and wondered what the fuck happened to all your friends.

Take back the night, you twenty-and-thirtysomethingers! Go to parties! When someone invites you up for a weekend in a bizarre place, do it even though it might suck! TAKE UP ALL OFFERS!

roadsigns to recovery


As I’ve oft mentioned before, I always visit Yahoo’s Most-Viewed Photos page, as it gives you a perfect snapshot of America: pics of scantily-clad models, cute kittens in a basket, and Iraqis with their limbs blown off. Sex, pandas and gore, as Lars and I like to say.

But this picture has been in the top ten for a few days, and it’s making me sick:


Wow, such deep irony. How fiendishly clever of the photographer to snap that picture at exactly the right moment. This kind of hackery would have been REJECTED by every photographer teacher north of 4th grade as utterly hopeless shit, but here, it gets emailed around the country by snickering Republican dads trying to infuriate their daughters over email.

And what do us progressive types get for Bush? Why, this, of course:


Y’see, I don’t think that’s entirely fair. If the compositionally and subtext-challenged photographers from the conservative camp get to provide dim-witted commentary about a nominee they don’t like by using a conveniently-placed “DEAD END” sign, then we should be granted the same luxury.

And as such, I’m providing this:


Man, I’m always seeing those “TOTAL FUCKWIT” signs on the road these days. What an odd warning! TEE HEE!

secret life of Interstate 10


Okay, enough ranting for a few days. How about some pictures? Here’s a few slices o’ life from our journey from Los Angeles across the Deep South en route back home.

First off, every time you have a meeting in Hollywood, they offer you a bottle of water. Tessa takes one because she’s Tessa, and I always take one for kidney stone reasons. Thus, we have termed our month in Sunny California as the “L.A. Water Tour”:


When we pulled into Texas, driving a Prius with a Kerry/Edwards sticker, everyone thought we were helming a pod sent from Neptune. There was even some outright hostility, and several things I couldn’t snap with the camera because I would have gotten my ass kicked. But these should give you an idea. First of all, we had THE ONLY SEDAN in THE STATE OF TEXAS. Check this out from various parking lots:





While in a home in East Texas, somebody’s son was printing these off the Web:


These asinine “Support Our Troops” stickers are plastered over every goddamn SUV in the South, which is stunningly ironic:


I suppose it’s better than this, though:


Thank God we made it to New Orleans on Sunday night, just in time to scalp tickets to my NFL team, the New Orleans Saints, playing in the Superdome. For not much money, we got seats on the 50-yard-line, even though my beloved Saints lost a heartbreaker. As I reminded Tessa, this field is also where Dean Smith won his ’82 and ’93 NCAA Championships:


On the way back to the hotel, I tried a time-lapse exposure in Jackson Square with the digital camera, and it finally worked. The shutter was open for five full seconds, which is why I look like I have a pole vault shoved up my ass (click pic for bigger):


Next stop: rural Georgia!