Monthly Archives: December 2004

500th of a second

IanNJApr87(bl).jpg

April, 1987 – just after parents’ divorce, suddenly having heart palpitations every night, three months away from being driven to the UNC Student Mental Health Center for paralyzing depression, sleeping very late, yet very excited to see how it all turns out

every good boy does fine

12/15/04

Hey, guess what we got for an outrageously inexpensive deal on Craigslist?

IanPianoPython(bl).jpg

That’s right, a Steinway baby grand piano!!!

I wanted to take the picture naked, like Terry Jones in Monty Python, but we had guests and Tessa wouldn’t let me.

Anyway, as you’re all bored to hear, I took piano lessons for nearly 20 years and violin for almost fifteen, and was – at one point – seriously considering being a professional musician when I grew up.

The time came for me to decide if I’d try to get into Julliard or Eastman or even Oberlin/Carnegie Mellon with a music scholarship, but I knew if I did that, I’d never sleep with a woman as long as I lived. And so I went to Carolina and played in the orchestra, but as Jon and Chip can attest, my attendance was, well, “spotty.”

And so began the long decline of my ability to do anything other than be a B-plus guitar player, a B-minus violinist, and a straight C pianist. However, very few people can play any of those things, so I can still impress ’em at parties. Especially the violin, which is an instrument that is so hard to play that very few violinists get through their teenage years without anxiety medication.

At my best, I was auditioning for the Virginia Philharmonic my senior year of high school. At my worst, i.e., now, it would take me six weeks just to get the Bach Double in tune.

But all that’s gonna change, now that we have a li’l peanut on the way. That damn kid is going to sit in front of that piano and sacrifice his/her youth like I did. No food until the L

lumbar support

12/14/04

My friends are all having a baby boom right now – eight of us in one year. Already Matt McM. and Carrie had a boy named Cogan, Lindsay and Dana had Jack, our producer Penny had Finn three days ago, and yesterday, Tessa’s best friend Jason and his partner Tim said hello to Noah David, born eight pounds and six ounces.

I would, however, like to extend my middle finger to the hospital in Santa Monica where Noah was born, because they only allow one male to visit the baby. Not “one male at a time,” one male only EVER. This is either the most homophobic law still on the hospital books, or else they are bizarrely behind the times. And this is California, not some bucktooth health clinic in Montgomery, Alabama. Totally Uncool.

So many lives have been entering our world of late that it was a jarring experience to be caught in the back of an ambulance this evening en route to Hell (aka Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn). During my shift at the Food Co-op (boy, I’m predictable, huh) an elderly Jamaican woman tried to get some yogurt off the top shelf, and the milk crate she was standing on gave way.

She fell, hard, to the floor, catching the freezer door on the back of her head and smashing her back. When the co-op asked for a volunteer to accompany her to the hospital, I thought of a thousand reasons NOT to do it, but then I remembered a rule Tessa and I once had: put yourself in the way of stuff happening. So I hopped on the ambulance, and we sped through some sketchy parts of Brooklyn.

I mean, this woman was almost sixty, had no family, no real friends, zero money, and was strapped to a board with a brace in her mouth. In the ambulance, I looked at the gurneys, the medications buckled to the wall, and wondered how many people had died in this little chamber. And what the hell was this woman going to do?

For three hours, I shadowed her through the two emergency rooms, advocating for her as best I could, getting her the drugs she needed. She wouldn’t talk to any of the doctors, and only opened up to me when I told her the story of how I went to Negril, Jamaica and got dysentery. That always gets ’em laughing.

Those New York City emergency rooms, in the dead of winter, with people coming in with gunshot wounds, or being struck in the legs by a speeding car… jesus, the walls close in, and you feel like you can’t breathe. It’s not that far away from a prison in some faraway land where, like Paul Simon sang, you don’t speak the language and hold no currency.

When it became clear that my compatriot was not paralyzed, nor even hurt that badly, I arranged for the Food Co-op to send her a bag full of staples, with special emphasis on the strawberry yogurt she was reaching for when she busted her ass. I mean, if you endured that amount of suffering for strawberry yogurt, you better fucking have some at the end of the day.

I gave her some money to get by, made sure she could get home, and then I went back to my warm apartment, where my preggers wife was waiting with a huge smile. The co-op said that they had to re-imburse me, but fuck it, it’s Christmas.

give that girl – the heisman!

12/13/04

This entry is going to bore the fucking snot out of you if you didn’t go to Chapel Hill in the glory years (1986-93) but Tessa and I were recreating several nights that happened to us in the balmy, wired-for-excitement springs of 1989 and 1990. She was dating Marvin Levi, the fabulous drummer for The Veldt, and I was busy being a Man About Campus, doing a lot of writing and cashing in my big-fish-small-pond notoriety to catch girls.

Both of us were quite enamored of the years 89-90 because we were having the most fun, she was falling in love, I was smashing furniture with Salem, and the scene was terrific. The Sex Police, Dillon Fence and the Veldt were making sure everyone in a five-mile radius was having a good time, and I was able to polish off a four melonballs without a hangover the next day.

Quick aside: when I was social chairman at my fraternity – yes, I said it – one of our deliveries got screwed up, and instead of sending us two bottles of Midori melon liqueur, they sent us something like twenty. Instead of returning the greenish liquid, we just starting making everything with Midori, and half the Lodge developed a low-level Midori addiction. Grasshoppers, melonballs, sours, we did it all. Secretly, I still crave it.

Anyway, one night at a Johnny Quest show at the Cat’s Cradle, the band was working our sweaty, undulating throng of a crowd into a drunken froth of ecstasy. Somehow, I ended up on stage (along with forty other people) and danced, the kind of dancing when you close your eyes and don’t care about anything except your own joy.

I opened my eyes, and this gorgeous girl was right in front of me, dancing right along, and suddenly she kissed me, long unbelievably sweaty beautiful kisses that lasted for a minute or more. When she leaned back, she said, “Your writing has made me happy for three years, and I’ve wanted to do that forever.”

As she was pulled away, I screamed for her name. “Nivee!” she yelled, or something like that, and in an instant, she was gone, and I never saw her again. That one moment was the greatest college experience I ever had, and I swear to god, it erased ENTIRE YEARS of misery from my childhood of loneliness and self-loathing. When I die, and my life passes before me, I hope I get a few seconds of that along with everything else.

Tessa and I discussed getting a time machine to spend one day back in Chapel Hill in that time frame, but we’d have to pick a really good day, one where we were having a party, where a good band was at the Cradle, and hopefully, the Heels would be playing too, so I could watch Dean Smith coach one more game. We couldn’t run into our past selves, so as not to freak us out, but observe and take it all in, the smells and delight of those springs. The “good old days” most likely sucked as a whole, making our romantic memories somewhat pathetic, but going back for just one day wouldn’t hurt anybody, would it?

TessaIanDate(bl).jpg

me and Tessa, November 1989 – not on a date, just two friends at the same party (photo work by Lars Lucier)

jwb

12/12/04

I’m here to celebrate two births: that of my mother 73 years ago (and still plugging away fine, thank you very much) and that of Jackson Williams Bowen at 4am Friday morning. Jackson was the eventual product of Lindsay and Dana meeting at a What Peggy Wants show in Chapel Hill in the fall of 1991, and all parties are doing exceptionally well. Except for What Peggy Wants, who broke up in 1992.

Lindsay, like we all knew he would be, has been the perfect dad so far – but Dana endured FIFTY-ONE HOURS OF LABOR and thus we salute her bravery. I was lucky enough to share the early hours of labor in their Brooklyn apartment, and was struck by the primality of the event. Suddenly our careers, the design of our living spaces, the minutiae of our fashion, all disintegrated in the presence of this incredible act.

What Dana had, was shelter and warmth. It may be the most un-intellectual feeling she will ever have, and the same will be true of Tessa. Just being there for a few minutes reminded me that we are all just mere animals trying to do our best in a scary world.

DanaLabor2(bl).jpg

I probably stayed too long, but I thank them for letting me in on a few precious seconds. I feel like I will be 3.7% better prepared when that day comes for us in the spring.

We crept into the hospital on Friday night to see the little guy, and he was a totally cute li’l giantette. Clocking in at over eight pounds, he already wears a size 15 Nike VC Shox hoops shoe. His tuft of brown hair is definitely from Dana’s Italian heritage, and his three last names are from Lindsay’s WASP background.

TessaDanaJackson(bl).jpg

So this blog goes out to five people: the two parents, who are awesome people who deserve this amazing child; to little Jackson himself, who hopefully will be good friends with our kid (and not be a bully), and to my mom, who went through all of that (and a C-section) to have me.

The fifth person is Lindsay’s mother, who passed away only months before she could have met Jackson. It’s the only bittersweet twinge to this, but it is somewhat heartening that just as one amazing character passed out of Lindsay’s life, another equally incredible one has come into it.

0 to 60 in 3h, 45m

12/9/04

PriusHummer2(bl).jpg

I mean, there are two ways of looking at the world, right?

Seriously, somebody please tell me the allure of the Hummer (not the “hummer,” whose allure is well known to me, thanks). I’m not trying to be a sensitive, kumbayah-crooning, macramé-sandaled zork, either – I just don’t get it. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

You’re really high.

But then again, so is your center of gravity, so you can’t take turns going more than 5mph. Thus, you are one bobbled french fry away from flipping the car over and killing a family of six from East Orange, NJ.

You like all the electronics stuffed in it.

But all the same electronics (DVD player, navigation system, curtain airbags, nine speakers) can be had on the car on the left, and you’ll be getting 52mpg while doing so.

You like the roomy interior.

Yes, but are you hauling lumber on your way to Park Slope? Is there a bushel of farm hogs you need to deliver to the corner of 7th Avenue and Berkeley Place? Do you need to play snooker in the back of that thing?

You like to guzzle gas because the rest of the world can fuck off.

Yep, your nine miles per gallon is teaching us all a lesson in life’s fleeting impermanence. Wait, your kids won’t be able to go outside when they grow up, because the ozone is gone? Oh well, fuck them too. Life is hard, and they’ve got to deal with disappointment.

You’re being IRONIC.

Now actually, I can get behind that.

You have sub-standard genitalia, or some other body dysmorphic disorder that requires compensation.

Oh, now THAT cliché couldn’t be true, could it? I mean, really. I’m sure you have a huge cock, the size of a baby’s arm.

You are going to buy that car because you want to, because you’re an American and free to behave any way you want without some pinko blogger taking a picture of his car and your car and making some big POINT about it.

Touché. Ya GOT me!

I foolishly take on Hummer owners so you don’t have to,

ian

the curse of semi-permanence

12/8/04

Videos I am sorry I ever watched, now that they are a part of my long-term memory:

1. The suicide of that Bosnian politician. I can’t remember his name, but the embattled wonk of some Bosnian province called a press conference, invited all the TV cameras into the room, gave a short speech in which he did NOT say he was going to kill himself, then took a gun out of a paper bag and shot himself in the mouth. For some reason a bunch of the code guys at my old job had found the video feed of this, and made me watch it. It’s fascinating from a scientific perspective, but does your body bad.

2. The Paris Hilton Sex Video. There’s a couple of these around the internet, but the second one is very intimate and obvious: Paris Hilton, in full, flattering light, delivers fellatio to her male counterpart. Somebody sent me this link, and I was more than happy to rubberneck at someone famous actually doing a porn film, but when the deed is done, Paris looks up at her man, and you suddenly understand that she might actually be in love with this person. Flashes of my own past raced through my head, and I immediately felt terribly sorry for her.

3. The Korean kickboxer. Another one from the code guys – basically, a kickboxer does a roundhouse kick that breaks his leg, and you see everything. I found it hard to walk for two months after watching this. DO NOT go looking for it.

4. “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.” I’m going out on a limb and call this the worst mainstream Hollywood movie of the last decade. I waxed horrific in 1997 about this flick, but it remains the one fictional experience that actually produced a week-long migraine in yours fucking truly. Oh God, how I hate this movie; it makes “Blair Witch 2” and “The Avengers” look like a Hitchcock revival.

Do any of you wish there was a way to erase certain memories? They have pills that erase physical pain, a drug that stops gout, but no way of selecting a particular image in your mind’s eye, and hitting “delete.” Of course, the minute you deleted it, you wouldn’t know what you had deleted. It would be an eternal game of seeing if the light really does go off when you close the refrigerator door.

I’d like to put one memory up for deletion: in third grade, we had to do “book reviews” in front of the class every Friday. I had read all the Hardy Boys, so I started on the Nancy Drews. Nobody told me that males were not allowed to read the Nancy Drew mysteries, so when I got in front of the class, every student roared with derisive laughter.

I screamed back at them, and then I got sent to the principal. The sight of all those kids laughing, I want that erased.

Or maybe that day is why I’ve done anything good in my life.

Ian1stgradetiny(bl).jpg

bubble, bubble, toil, trouble

12/7/04

latte.jpg

And now, a word about lattés. I never drank coffee regularly until last year, so I realize I’m late to this particular party, but MAN, what a drink. I used to sneak an espresso or two to keep awake between shifts at La Residence in Chapel Hill back in the zany early ’90s, but I never knew the joys of java – a nickname I hate, by the way – until I had to kick the Coke habit once and for all.

My favorite part of a latté? Forcing that hot water through that packed espresso beans and out the tiny hole. It reminds me of that fable where the kid tricks the giant by squeezing water out of a brick of cheese. There’s something about distillation, the tincture of purification, the elaborate expense of truly great liquids like rare olive oil and insane perfumes, that turns me on. Most other people like big boobs. I like precious liquids. And boobs.

torani.gif

Many visitors to my place have made fun of my multiple syrup collection, but I used two birthday checks to buy a good espresso machine, and I want a variety of syrups to go with it, goddamn you all to hell. My favorites?

Macadamia Nut: Earthy, tropical, inquisitive

Roasted Walnut: Slightly rancid in that sexy sort of way

French Vanilla: chewy, insouciant

Peanut Butter and Chocolate: actually, that’s just for Tessa

Hazelnut: the great standby, like a friend who fucks

Irish Cream: loopy, lascivious, East Village

Almond: structured, spontaneous, West Village

Caramel: burnt, and through with you

Like I always say, conservative pundits like to make fun of liberals and their lattés, but it’s a hard drink to make right, perhaps the largest degree of difficulty of the coffee genre. Between that and fighting for the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, us progressives have our hands full. I dare any of you Red Staters to carry the weight of the world and make a good Tiramisu-flavored latté. I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU.

i’m okay, you’re bizarre

12/6/04

I’m psyched that He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys has become a huge bestseller, not just because its success bodes well for another project I’m working on, but also because co-writer Liz Tuccillo is a friend of Tessa’s, and wrote an awesome off-Broadway play about basketball called Joe Fearless. Which happened to star our very own Matty Dawson. Lots of talent all around.

“He’s Just Not That Into You” also has a pretty great message for anyone in the dating world (replace “He’s” with “She’s” and you boys can use it too), which, reasonably distilled, means “if you think something’s wrong, it is.”

American bookbuyers, AM radio listeners and talk show audiences will always stand in line to be abused; people like nothing better than to be told to fucking shape up. You’d think a country that loves to blame blacks and gays for their problems would employ the same deflection in their entertainment, but Dr. Phil, Dave Ramsey and half the non-fiction section at Barnes & Noble employs an S&M guide to self-betterment that begins with a good dose of self-flagellation. Americans love to be told they suck. It must provide for them a “bottoming out,” from which they can arise (they think) like the phoenix from ash.

“Just Not That Into You” provides the same service with the obligatory spoonful of sugar necessary for your average East Village bachelorette already five years out of college and flummoxed by men (I’d say the first problem with dating men in New York is that you’re dating men in New York – this place seems to have Chapel Hill’s 3 to 1 female/male ratio). The book’s sentiment is thus: if a guy wants you, you will know in no uncertain terms. Any confusion forbodes disaster.

If you are reading this blog, or if you made it to New York at all, it means you are a special person that is far and away above the average intelligence level in this country. I’m sorry, but it’s true. And the price of that intelligence is that you are most likely a singular creature, not like anyone else out there, and thus, probably a weirdo.

You’ve known you were a weirdo for a long time, even fetishized it perhaps, made it an indelible part of your character. But by separating yourself out, you’ve made yourself attractive to relatively few people. Thus, for romances to work out, your crushes have to GET you, in that Heinlein “grok” sense, they have to see your idiosyncrasies and actually find them endearing. It’s no wonder so many fantastic women (and men) struggle so much to find a partner when, curiously, they have worked for years to take themselves out of the running.

The solution?

a) change and be normal, which is impossible

b) wait, wait, wait, and then FINALLY someone falls UNBELIEVABLY in love with you.

I have waited years for women to fall in love with my weird friends, and it finally happened. I have cried tears of laughter with some of the funniest people on the planet, and then watched as it took a decade for anyone else to get the joke. Here’s to the women and men who finally got what my fabulously bizarre social circle was all about – and to the rest of you, you’d better act fast and fall in love with a dork, because there’s only a few of us left.

autoscold

12/5/04

You have got to get serious. You can’t eat the same things you’ve always ate, and you can’t go around with the same attitude that got you through your single and destitute years.

First off, you’re 25 pounds over what you were the last time you decided to lose weight. You did it before, so I’m relatively sure you can do it again. The Slim-Fasts don’t work anymore, so find something else. You bought all that shit to exercise in, now fucking exercise in it.

You have to be strong enough to pick up your baby. Even when it’s on the floor, and you’re six feet tall. It doesn’t matter that you have a slipped disc, and your back hurts all the time, just shut the fuck up already, slap on some Ben-Gay or something, and get it done. If you think you’re tired all the time now, try feeding a mewling infant for the first eighteen months, you aging fratboy.

You’ve done a lot of the legwork on career things, but they have to go onto paper in finished form. Execute the proposal. Outline that TV show, even though right now it is a jumble of ideas that aren’t fused together.

The world has no interest for you when you behave like this. Quit crying over your missed shots and get back on defense. You fucked up a perfectly beautiful day today for all the other golfers. They say narcissism is the hardest disease to treat, so you had better get cracking, asshole.