Monthly Archives: May 2005

Jartacular Revels Complete, Ian Laid Low

Steve, here, Ian’s next-bigger brother. Ian picked up the phone at the farmhouse just long enough to ask me to fill in, and then he fell back into bed.

I missed it again, but Ian’s traditional Jartacular Memorial Day bacchanalia was, according to the Mom, a great success. This year, the event roughly coincided with Ian’s birthday, and there were three babies among the 40-or-so friends in attendance. I’m sure Ian has lots of photos and a full report coming here soon.

Alas, not long after the partyers parted, Ian perhaps unwisely extracted from the refrigerator and consumed some lobster bisque that may or may not have been a couple of days old. By Monday evening, he was laid low by several rather unpleasant symptoms we won’t go into in detail.

He seems to be on the mend and will be back here tomorrow, we hope.

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5/26/05

I’m taking today off, as well as Monday, and you should be getting out of the office to frolic and gambol in the daisy fields! See you next Tuesday!

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me and my brother Steve on his 11th birthday, the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon

solipsism, thy name is alcohol

5/25/05

It just turned my birthday, May 26, a few minutes ago, so I waited until the two most important women in my life went to sleep, found my bottle of 16-year-old Lagavulin scotch, poured a glass, and am now taking 10 minutes to myself. 38 is a peculiar age in that it isn’t peculiar at all – it doesn’t sound much older than 37, and hasn’t the sharp precipice of 39. All I know is that I lived longer than Jesus or Mozart, so I count my blessings.

When I was about 31 or so, stuck in Los Angeles and freebasing Rumplemintz, the clouds would occasionally part and I’d map out what I’d like to be doing in my late thirties. For some reason, it was important to me that my parents – especially my mom – see that I had children. “Hmm,” I thought in 1998, “I’ll need to be in a relationship for at least three years before I contemplate marriage, and then at least another two years before I can contemplate a kid. Since I know I’ve got at least another 18 months of misery here before even meeting someone close to bearable, I think I’m not looking at a kid until the year 2005, if ever.”

Very analytic, utterly stupid, and yet, in the final analysis, pretty much accurate. Another odd thing happened around the same time: one night I flopped my mattress a bit out the window, stuck my head out, and slept under the three stars you can see at night in Los Angeles. I wondered if I was going to get married, and if so, where was she right now?

The voice in my head answered very clearly: you already know her. “How is that possible?” I countered, “How could such a detail be eluding me?” I calculated that I was “acquainted” with about a thousand people first-hand, but the number of people I “knew” would be right around 500. Why this number? No idea. I’m sure someone out there has done the research, but 500 sounded right.

So I began to go through everyone I knew, starting chronologically, going through Iowa (unlikely), Virginia (again, unlikely), London (possibly), Chapel Hill (possibly) and California (astronomically unlikely, as I hated every person I saw). There were a few friends who fit the bill – and you know who you are – but I just couldn’t see it happening.

If you want to get to sleep fast, don’t count sheep; count your friends. I think I got to about 80 before the sun rose and I’d been out for nine hours.

I should note that Tessa had been in England the same years I was (1977-79), in Chapel Hill when I was (1987-1991), in Los Angeles that very year (1998) and in New York when I moved there in 2000. I had run into her at a show in 1995 and she seemed a little skittish and depressed. Ten years later we had this great little kid together. I pray I get to be with her until we’re 99. Actually, she’ll be 97, but hopefully we’ll have forgotten the details.

Many things had to happen for me to be born. My mom’s first husband had to die at the wheel, and she had to have three miscarriages. My dad had to survive his abusive father long enough to get married to a woman who already had two children. Diseases had to be overcome, planes had to land, and Chip and I had to talk each other out of drowning at Jordan Lake in 1993.

I’m so happy to be here. I lift this glass of scotch to all of you, and I bow in humble, magnanimous humility at all the things that went to make me, Tessa and Lucy possible.

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circadia, NY

5/24/05

Oh, the things I would have said. The crystal-clear prose, the trenchant epiphanies, the kind of blog entry you would have forwarded to old girlfriends saying you wanted to see them again.

But alas, tonight I have been caught by a dual tripwire: first off, Lucy needed to be walked around and around and around this morning from 7am to 10am, after I was up all night trying to finish another project. Thus I went back to bed for a few minutes and woke up and it was GODDAMN 3PM. I haven’t done that since trying to stave off depression in 1998, and it has left me useless all day, freaking out over all the Prime Life Moments I’d slept through.

The second problem is that it was pissing rain and 45 degrees upstate today. That, my friends, is 13 degrees above freezing, and 30 degrees below normal. Trust me when I say this: it is usually so beautiful here you could cry every day. The spring honestly does the work of 400mg of Zoloft, Lexapro, Paxil, Zokoglut, Xukluxamor, and Zyxxyzyzkyzz – and you feel like you could never be unhappy again.

But throw in a day like today and you WANT TO FUCKING KILL YOURSELF BECAUSE IT’S MAY 24 FOR FRIGGIN’ FORK’S SAKE AND IT SHOULDN’T GODDAMN BE LIKE THIS!

So I have nothing to say today except the weather better get better for my birthday on Thursday and stay good through the weekend, or ELSE. It rains on my birthday every year and now that the Red Sox have won, Bush got re-elected, and the falcon cannot hear the falconer, perhaps Nature can see fit to make something else utter bizarre happen and give me some SUN for my birthday.

I don’t ask for much. Just:

– UNC in the hunt for the National Championship every year

– no autism or cancer in my family

– cars with side airbags

– air conditioning, Coke, Excedrin and occasionally Afrin

– my 3-point shot to go in at least 37% of the time

– a good song on the radio every fifth tune

– wifi and espresso everywhere

– a window

– this:

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Oh well, nevermind, I have an embarrassment of riches. Go ahead and let it rain on my birthday again.

I’ll remember you this way

5/23/05

It’s Memorial Day this weekend, and like 2002, we decided to have our 4th Annual Jartacular – which means opening up the lawn darts, several expensive bottles of single-malt scotch, holding a quiz show and, of course, attempting the Barn Talent Show.

The talent show is always the weakest link (which is embarrassing to my Mormon forebears, I’m sure) but not this time. I decided to actually learn a few more tunes before this one, instead of falling back on “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl),” as has happened the last three years.

Scott Bullock had the idea of doing “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO last year, and we finally have the cajones to pull it off. For those of you without big brothers in the mid-70s, “Mr. Blue Sky” came back to the pop unconscious through this unbelievably brilliant Volkswagen ad, and it is devilishly difficult.

It’s all basically in F major with a D-minor chorus, but the vocals are stunning, including a “vocoder break” and a Baroque ending. If we don’t embarrass ourselves, I’ll consider the Jartacular a success.

Not content to stop there, I thought I’d try and restructure another enchanting pop classic we used to hear while trying to roller skate. I’ve ranted about Afternoon Delight in the past, but before you snickering nabobs tell me I’m a twee gaybot, I dare you to download the song from iTunes and try to sing along. Every single verse has a different vocal line, occasionally flourishing to 4-part harmonies. Sure, it’s about fucking (“the thought of rubbing you is getting me so excited”) but this was back in a day when they actually wanted to pull off something semi-interesting.

I’d like to resurrect two amazing pop songs from the past each year we do this. As always, I am your humble servant and always taking suggestions.

Cute Li’l McCuddle Bumpkin!

5/22/05

We had a great weekend, and now that Lucy is beginning to really enjoy being “on the outside,” as it were, it feels like a Family Event when we do something. She met her grandmother Linda for the first time, and was absolutely delighted:

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Of course, that cur dog Chopin is always underfoot when we’re doing something important.

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Tessa took some pictures of us sleeping in on Saturday. Something about the bed brings Lucy’s smallness into sharp relief.

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I’d taken the dog for a walk the night before, but I was pretty distracted. Don’t worry, we found him eventually.

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We dressed up our little pumpkin to go upstate, where we ran into a Revolutionary War re-enactment complete with fife and drums. Lucy wore her Betsy Ross hat!

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We took off without the dog

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Our precious tiny bundle of joy got her first full bottle this weekend! Fully one ounce in her belly, one ounce on her shirt. It was going pretty smoothly, but there was this strange scratching noise at the door that was really distracting.

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I threw the dog in the car tonight and went to the all-night store to grab orange juice and eggs for Tessa. When we got back, Grandma Linda took some swell pictures of our family unit!

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Oh well, off to bed. See you on tomorrow’s blog!

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dark side of the horse

5/19/05

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I was so disappointed in the Episode I of the Star Wars prequels that I ended up watching Episode II on my belly, remarking about how sad it was that my joy for such things had come to an end. Well, if you live long enough, everything gets reversed, leading to a rousing view of Return of the Sith tonight at a packed moviehouse in Brooklyn.

The theaters at the Pavilion at Prospect Park have definitely cleaned up their act since I saw that shitty Chris Rock-Anthony Hopkins nuke disaster movie there three years ago; for one, your shoes don’t stick to the floor anymore. I do miss the local clientele screaming at the screen, however, the loss of which is one of gentrification’s perils.

There is nobody better with whom to see a “Star Wars” movie than Lindsay Bowen. I happen to know he read a few of the Star Wars novels back in the day (even though he tried to deny it) and he most likely obsessed over the miniature Millennium Falcon as much as my brother Sean did. He might have even dressed up as Boba Fett at some point in his childhood, you never know.

There are plenty of sites that discuss the movie’s strong points, failings and total lapses in continuity, but I found myself not really caring. I dig on generational brotherhoods, I suppose, enough to just enjoy being in the theater experiencing this work of pop culture along with everyone else who had tried to move their fake light sabers with their minds when young. I don’t really care that it might have been sub-par, or even that Obi-Wan Kenobi sure ages badly between Episode III and the original Star Wars. I’m there for the collective pop unconscious, dude.

I love it when the whole country gets together to watch something with each other. Television occasionally offers this kind of brotherhood, but it’s still an onanistic act – the theater is the last place where Jung’s spiritus mundi is still intact. It reminds me of the day when states were neither red nor blue.

Or maybe it’s the migraine medication I was taking. Fuck, man, I was high as a kite in there.

prog rock

5/18/05

Anyone wishing to avoid another day of political discussion would be well-served to skip over this blog (and go read Virginia’s awesome this-week-only blog of the “TV Upfronts”!). However, I’m going to try and do this a little differently. Conservatives have taken over the Presidency, both Houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and run the most-watched media outlets, and today… they’re going to get my blog.

Having seen every political discussion in these pages (the war, the election, the Coastopia brouhaha, etc.) degenerate into name-calling, “you just don’t get it”-style sniffling disdain, and emails to yours truly telling me what a commie asshole I am, I’d like to completely open up to the opposition and let them have at it.

In short, I’d like to know why you are a conservative, because I’m having trouble understanding it. When I get letters that excoriate me and my family, I’d like to know where that rage comes from. Even if you’re a very calm conservative that I like (chris m, badbob, etc.), I’m genuinely interested to know how you came by your belief system.

Here are the rules:

1. Your statements have to be positive and pro-active – i.e., you can’t say that you’re a conservative because liberals are idiots.

2. You can’t give a reason that the other side holds as well. In other words, you can’t say “I’m a conservative because I care about spreading democracy in the Middle East” when clearly, 99% of progressives share that opinion.

3. No incendiary bullshit. You can’t throw out something like “blue-staters kill babies” when “I care about unborn children” would do nicely.

4. If you’re going to make a bold point, please have it backed up with decent research. “Everyone knows the media has a liberal bias” is a dog that won’t hunt.

5. You get points for honesty. “I’m a Republican because my family has always been Republican” is totally cool, although it begs more questions.

6. No commenters are allowed to mock your answers. They can, however, question basic principles.

I thank you in advance for taking the time to write these. Or nobody’s going to bother, and then I’ll just sit here and be humiliated because nobody came to my 7th birthday party.

united crepes of amygdala

5/17/05

Okay, this is going to be short and terribly unsweet, but I’ve been getting a lot of emails and the occasional comment over last Thursday’s blog (the title of which, “Holy Shi’ite” was aped by the New York Post today!) concerning the whole “dumping the Koran in the toilet” thing.

First off, the story has not been proved false, just not proven. And though my rant on the subject is definitely incommensurate with a rumor, the salient point remains true: Americans have grave difficulty understanding anyone else’s culture AT BEST, and at worst, we are the biggest bunch of assholes on the planet at a time when we need the most friends.

I don’t “blame America first,” I just look at the research, the sources, the continuing path of behavior, and then assess that it’s pretty easy to blame America within about .04 seconds. If it makes you feel better, just insert “Abu Ghraib” or “indiscriminately bombing Afghan wedding parties and killing 35 members of a single family” in place of “Koran in the toilet.”

To paraphrase Bluto in “Animal House,” what the fuck happened to the country I used to know? I still have love for America, buried deep in piles of heartache, but I think it might be two things: a vestigal remnant of childhood innocence growing up during the Bicentennial, and perhaps the sobering, existential notion that no other country is much better.

When I was a kid, I thought we were the good guys, the benevolent giant that swooped in to help those in need, a self-questioning, beautiful oaf that gained its power by always remaining in ideological balance. The future of this place was decreed by a certain kind of tacit righteousness: how could we be destroyed if our hearts kept being the right place? I was so sure of our overall path, that I didn’t even see the need to join the political discussion until I was almost 25.

Now, I’m sickened. Any country that could go through four years of George W. Bush and re-elect him is just crazy. It shouldn’t have been close. We consume 26% of the world’s resources, and we have 4% of the population. Does that not give ANY of you pause? We are one of the only civilized countries in the world that legally kills its own people. Oh God, I’m Boring My Audience.

I’ve had to look inside myself and ask: is my problem with my country just a logical extension of my problems with myself? I have been known to go on terrific rants about my own flaws; does this just fit neatly in the same category, as if I get off on the self-loathing? Well, yeah, probably.

But do you think about America and still feel the same about it? Not in an “I’m older and wiser now and have less expectations” kind of way, but I really would like to know if any of you have looked at your country like a girlfriend that you have suddenly fallen out of love with, and don’t know how to break it to yourself.

As for me, it’s made me a unique blend: a casual survivalist. We drive a hybrid car, our farm is entirely solar-powered, we have stocks of non-perishable food – but in daily life, I don’t really care. I’m anxious as to how it all turns out for my daughter’s sake, but I still watch “Alias” and eat dark chocolate.

gol-durn dadgum frickin’

5/16/05

When we were working on 13th-GEN, one of the biggest arguments I got into with Neil and Bill was my use of swear words in the book. Both of them absolutely loathed my use of them, but I was convinced that any book that purported to explain the habits of my generation without using profanity was like writing the history of the Inuit and leaving out snow.

I was so adamant that I took my case to the head of our division at Random House and demanded to see him in person. I can’t imagine having those balls now, but I was 24 and since the whole thing had come so easily, I thought book deals were like low-hanging fruit. I don’t know how I did it, but I convinced him to let me have 1 F-word, 2 s-words, and I think 3 “god damns.” Neil and Bill were very gracious about it, although if it had been me, I would have ridden my 24-year-old ass out of town on a rail for being such a twerp.

Profanity is something that is untranslatable to most people over 50. It physically pains them to hear most swear words, especially the “f” one, even as we (the relatively young in America) bandy it about with the ease of a moist preposition. My friends and I went to great schools, some of us have written for this nation’s finest papers, and still, when we get together, we say “fuck” or “fuckin'” about 15 times a minute without even knowing it.

I bring this up because my stepmom and my dad have said that they’d love to show this blog to several of their friends – some of them, let’s just say, having attained various high levels in certain fields that I find interesting – and they can’t bring themselves to do it because of all the swearing.

I responded a variety of ways, all of them mostly true:

1) anyone who is offended by my blog is probably a bad relationship waiting to happen

2) a blog by definition is a stream-of-consciousness art form that allows for offhanded profanity

3) if somebody likes my writing in here, they can probably deduce that it is possible to write without swearing

4) I write these in first drafts only, and if I have to go through the effort of bowdlerizing, it will be too much effort and I’ll just stop doing it altogether

Of all of these, the last is probably the most relevant, as I have continued to come to this space, even back when my only readers were Tessa and my mom, because I can vent. If I didn’t have this little breakfast nook in cyberspace after the 2002 elections, the 2004 elections, the Iraq war, various indie film horrorshows and kidney stones, then I’d be forced into temporary autism, writing on the wall backwards with crayons. I know profanity is often the easy way out, but it’s SO SATISFYING.

Unfortunately, written profanity – like FUCK – have much more power to the human brain than an offhanded comment. I’d say the severity of profanity written versus utttered is about tenfold, which means you have to use it a tenth as less. I haven’t read I Am Charlotte Simmons, but apparently Tom Wolfe tries to use “fuck” as much as college kids do, and it’s quite off-putting.

I never meant this blog to be a career helper, but it did spawn a couple of Salon articles, an editorial in the New York Times, and a few book proposals. Is my casual use of profanity keeping me down? I put it to you, brave comrades and commenters: when I swear, does it bum you out? I mean, unduly?