Monthly Archives: June 2005

ocean to ocean

I’m going to make this violently quick: I just pulled into Santa Monica at 3am after six days of driving and stealing internet from some poor soul by the beach. Everyone have a fabulous Independence Day regardless of our current government!


Sean, Mom and Michelle around our nation’s bicentennial, 1976

breaker one-nine, this is adult diaper rash



I’m on one of those drives that I recommend everyone take at least once in their lives: the desolate, beautiful skirt across the bottom of the country. Interstate 10 is not for the road-weary, nor is it for those without air conditioning, but it gives you a good sense of our country’s physical perspective that airplanes can’t equal.

Of course, it’s also a 2,000,000-square-mile golfing range if you look at it the right way. Back in the winter, when I knew I’d eventually be taking this trip, I daydreamed about thwacking the hell out of the ball at the most barren part of the journey, and I think I found the place: somewhere near the “Big Bend” of the Rio Grande, where you can go days without seeing Jonathan Q. Law.


Environmentalists, don’t worry: I only hit four balls, and I’m sure they’ll biodegrade in about 370 years. It was way, way too hot to hit any more, and the wind was blowing 50mph in the wrong direction. “Into the teeth,” as semi-pro golfer Block might say.

As for the Desert Southwest, say what you want about Starbucks and/or the Flying J Truck Stop (god knows I have) but if it weren’t for them, there would be NO INTERNET WITHIN 800 MILES. I bemoaned the lack of broadband down here two and a half years ago and nothing seems to have changed; Moore’s law must have melted in the heat.

Speaking of which, I have endured much heat in my life – summer in Kenya comes to mind – but I can honestly say I’ve never experienced this (check red arrow):


That’s right, 100 degrees Fahrenheit at midnight. I recommend to all of you on this road trip to stock up on saline nasal spray, because you’ll bloody well need it.

One more day on the road!

rid and nix



Yep, I’m just a lonely driver. Looking for meaning. The vast countryside stretches out like an unwritten haiku. O, what does it all mean?

Is it twee?


Is it Jude?


Is it fast female fashions™?


Or should I even care?


Southern kudzu o’erruns all, leaving giant green monsters mid-strike, a leafy diorama. Do they have the answers?


Yet breaststroking through the department store of life, I finally found the aisle I was looking for.


crescent wrenching


They can roll my 95-year-old carcass into New Orleans on a self-levitating dolly – preferably with my brain suspended in protein jelly within a glass bowl – and I could still have a good time. Breathing the air at night is like ingesting hot water, with pellet-sized mosquitoes flying into your eyeballs; after four paces, you break into a slimy sweat. Rock!

I just had an oyster and shrimp poboy from the Verti Marte, and Chopin just peed on Decatur Street under a hazy moon, so life is good. Even Lucy got on the phone and cooed, thus making the last five hundred miles of today’s drive an easy drift into the bayou.

Annie and I spent last night in Jasper, GA with Salem, Elizabeth, and their two kids McCall and Victoria. The effervescent Victoria brought her two friends over, so I did my best to teach them the ways of the world by introducing them to poker.

I have to say I’ve played a lot of poker in my life, but I’ve never seen anyone fold with four of a kind (yeesh!) nor have I ever experienced a poker player who brought an egg to the table, and then broke it all over the money, thus leading to a quick exodus.


that’s one way to end the game

Played night hoops with one of the girls – who is one of the stars of the high school team – and she had a smokin’ jump shot. By 2am, I agreed to take all the kids in the SUV to the late-night window at Wendy’s, but got sidetracked because they wanted to steal some real estate signs and put them in a friend’s lawn. It was my duty to oblige.

I went to high school in a demoralizing, depressing navy town and it took about three seconds of their screams of glee before I remembered what it was like, hot nights of zero going on, finding someone to drive us to an abandoned swimming pool, talking shit on Hampy’s diving board.

Speaking of which, some dude jumped the curb in Carrboro while I was there, and literally “drove thru” Wendy’s. Some people just don’t know how to handle late June nights with nothing to do.


awesome bill from dawsonville


It’s 3am and I have to leave for New Orleans in a few hours, but I just wanted to check in and say hello from Jasper, GA where Annie and I have had a wonderful time (details tomorrow).

More importantly, it’s the birthday of my li’l sister Michelle, who turns 33 today. Before I drift off to sleep, I just wanted to make sure she knows we’re thinking of her and love her lotz.


Michelle and I discuss “The Feminine Mystique,” 1974

74 mph


This morning I’m starting the drive to Los Angeles, and while I like nothing better than to be on the road, it is absolutely heartbreaking to leave my sweet little Lucy and my love Tessa back in New York. They’ll meet me there in ten days or so by plane, but I have to drive so that we have the car (and our geriatric dog).

It’s my first long trip away from my wife in a while, and it’s the first trip ever away from my daughter. Plenty of friends and chipping in to help, and we’ve got some nanny coverage, but still, taking care of the li’l one is a HUGE job and Tessa, like Morrissey sang, has only got two hands.

She and I have never packed lightly, but throw all the shit a baby requires into the mix, and the Prius will be laden with clothes for a future 4-month old, a battery-operated swing, myriad methods of carting her around, and of course, all the various ways to collect and temporarily store poop.

Before I leave, I’d like to tell everyone in New York to have a wonderful summer – especially the Fleet Weekers who are working hard to headline the 2005 Fringe Festival in two months. Lindsay, Mac, Sean and Jordana have finally got their due, and we’ll be back to cheer them on in August for a kee-razy NYC weekend of wanton sex, cocaine use and musicals about gay sailors with identity crises.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to amuse you all with my usual turgid, self-involved, slightly-snooty persiflage from the deepest mauve of the red states. And if you’re anywhere on this line:


…tell me so I can wave as I drive past!

book of job


Okay, CODE WORD. Too tired for a regular blog, so let’s do a meme. Other people always have five questions, today will be two.

1. What is the worst job you’ve ever had?

2. What is the worst job you’ve ever seen someone else have?

I’ll go first:

1. Worst job I ever had was delivering pizzas for Gumby’s in Chapel Hill, NC during the summer of 1990. Driving pies is the single most lonely goddamn experience of your entire life, especially in the pre-iPod era when you were sick of all your mix tapes.

Your car ages in dog years, basically exploding by the third month – stops and starts all day long, worse than a Manhattan taxi because you keep on having to turn the engine over. Add in a parking ticket every other day, and buying a new car after 12 months, and it’s a job where you actually lose money.

Oh, and that fantasy about some girls in the dorm fucking the pizza guy? Let me tell you this: not that I desired female contact, but the “pizza guy” is barely humanoid to these people. You are in an untouchable caste so far down the ladder of desirability that you stink of don’t-touch-me. This job made my stint as a dishwasher in Norfolk, VA seem like a birthday party.

2. a) Worst job I’ve seen around here? That would have to be roof-tarrer. Or whatever they call themselves. In the mid-summer, when it’s already pushing 100 degrees, these guys have to pour 200-degree tar on the tops of Manhattan roofs without any shade. In order to spread it out evenly, they use these long-hair yarn mops, a tool last seen cleaning up barf in the basement of the YMCA.

This lasts all day – unless of course it rains, in which case they have to do it all over again. The tar, by the way, has to be fume-rampant carcinogen, and the workers can bathe themselves in iodine and still not get the smell out of their skin. They stick with this job through the worst weather North America has to offer, and they can’t wear shorts or T-shirts for fear of getting scalded. And since it needs to be above 50 degrees for the tar to set, they’re out of a job for half the year.

2. b) Coke whore. But I thought that was obvious.

pagan solstice gods salute you and you and you!


This being the shortest night of the year and all, let’s celebrate with a few pictures. First off, an inside joke:


I was wondering about these next two, that show me and Lucy front and back – do they make see-through picture frames, you know, like a Kandinsky? I look like a moron, but she’s awful cute.



Speaking of cute, here’s a blurred but beautiful blow-up of my better-half and baby:


And this for Laurie from Manly Dorm:


We’ve been packing our upstate farm for renters, and in the midst of the mess (and the bare changing table), Lucy started giggling so much that I grabbed the camera. Right-click and save (or however you view Quicktime files – on a Mac, just click and be patient) on this link (14MB) for a little camera movie of the piker and all her beguiling ways. Be sure to turn the sound off, or else you’ll hear her father cooing things he’d never thought he’d coo. Suffice to say he didn’t think he’d be saying these things to a couple hundred thousand people on the internet.

Or else he would have been a little more, you know, manly.


boots just go back on the socks that had stayed on


I’ve had to go through a bit of mourning today, as I found out one of my favorite artists has died. When the Budster mentioned a few days ago that Kirsty MacColl had passed away too young, I assumed he was kidding. I had all her albums, followed her career for 20 years, was probably one of her more devoted Stateside fans – surely I would have known.

Turns out that she died five years ago, and through some bizarre set of obstructing circumstances, the information took that long to leak in my direction. Last night I spent hours online combing the facts: in December 2000, she took her two kids to Cozumel, Mexico to get over a friend’s death. While swimming in a protected zone, a speedboat barreled toward her family – she threw her son out of harm’s way, was hit and died instantly. It’s terribly sad, but it seems completely in character that such an amazing woman died saving her son.

You may only know her music from Tracey Ullman’s “They Don’t Know,” a song Kirsty wrote that became her only U.S. hit. She also sang “Golden Lights” on the Smiths’ “Louder than Bombs” album and did a duet with Bill Bragg on “Sexuality.” Her voice was so beautiful, and like pancakes and syrup, it only got better as they stacked tracks on top of each other. I’d call her stuff “twisted orchestral pop” with classic, gorgeous, surefooted pop craft thrown in, but it didn’t stop her from becoming more and more influenced by Latin grooves (which melded perfectly with her British accent – she was from Croydon).

Lyrically, however, she was untouchable. Nobody came close to her witty, anguished turns of phrase – perhaps only Morrissey, when he wasn’t trying to be clever. She just about breaks your heart in every song.

This was a woman who didn’t give a shit what was popular at any given moment, didn’t mind as her weight fluctuated 40 pounds in either direction, and deigned to marry Steve Lillywhite (who produced, among other masterpieces, U2’s “War,” the La’s album, XTC’s “Black Sea,” Talking Heads’ “Naked” and even The Pogues “If I Should Fall From Grace With God”), and then wrote a brilliant album about their divorce (Titanic Days).

If you really want to hear Kirsty at her finest, please find a copy of her album Kite somewhere. It gives forth more on the fifteenth listen than the first, and contains chords, thoughts and bits of poetry that have stuck with me for a decade.

One song in particular is so angry, so pretty, so jangly-fast like a runaway caboose (NME called it “a litter of carefree Labrador puppies who can’t get to where they wanna go fast enough”), that I need to include a few lines here. It is the perfect description of someone I know who will remain nameless. It’s called “Free World,” and should be on your iPod.

I thought of you when they closed down the school

And the hospital too

Did they think that you were better? They were wrong.

You had so many friends

They all left you in the end

Because they couldn’t take the patter.

If I wore your shades could I share your point of view?

Could I make you feel better?

Paint a picture, write a letter?

Well, I know what you’re saying, but I see the things you do

And it’s much too dangerous to get closer to you.

It’s cold-

And it’s going to get colder

You might not get much older

You’re much too scared of living

And to die is a reliable exit

So you push it and you test it

With Thunderbird and Rivin

I’ll see you baby when the clans rise again

Women and men, united in the struggle

Going down

With a pocketful of plastic

Like a dollar on elastic

In this free world-

I wouldn’t tell you if I didn’t care.


tithing ring


The time has come for me to do some prophylactic damage control on this blog: namely, I think it’s only a matter of time before my extended Mormon family finds out about it and starts to read, to their unthinkable horror. For all I know, many of them have already been reading for some time (or dropped out after the fifteenth “f-word,” swearing never to return).

I haven’t read the details, but apparently dooce’s Mormon family happened to find her blog and caused all kinds of problems. It’s worse for her because she actually still lives in Utah and thus deals with her family on a daily basis, but the thought of some of my blog entries getting to my 86-year-old Auntie Donna fills me with a peculiar sort of dread.

This summer, my entire nuclear family will be attending our first family reunion in almost 20 years, involving my 41 first cousins, myriads of aunts and uncles, and exactly 100 offspring of my grandma Klea (Lucy is #100). Instead of a wily family member doing some Googling and discovering my thoughts on Christianity and thus spreading the rumor that I am carrying the torch for Lucifer, I just want to get this out of the way right now.

I absolutely adore my extended family. Yes, I find their politics reprehensible and potentially scary. Yes, I don’t like how they perceive homosexuals, and yes, I have deep, deep reservations about their religion. But when I was friendless, alone and borderline-suicidal as a pre-adolescent, the only thing keeping me going was the eventual trip to California to see my cousins Mark, Doug, Jana, Vince, Julie, Michelle and all the rest.


me, my cousin Mark, Sean, 1974

Mark introduced me to O.P. shorts and taught me that scoop move in basketball. Michelle was my partner in crime throughout the crazy mid-80s. My Uncle Steve taught me how to kill flies in one stroke, and how to give a firm handshake. My Aunt Cheryl taught me the ways of absurd humor, while Doug instructed me in fart jokes. His father, my Uncle Chris, is the Buddha of the entire family, the emotional core around which the whole business revolves. And my Auntie Donna is such a wonderful matriarch that she should be a face card in poker.

As I’ve said before, if journalism if the “first draft of history,” blogs are the first draft of your own emotions. The character I play in here is much more angry and profane than anything my extended family has ever seen, and the truth lies somewhere in-between. I have profound respect for the Mormons in my family – but I will probably always use the Lord’s name in vain, traffic in several high-octane swear words, and have some knee-jerk issues with Christianity.

This has always been true, but a blog publishes those thoughts – even the ones I don’t think are accurate fourteen hours later – and makes them infinitely searchable and set in digital stone. This is something I decided to accept when I started this thing, but it will occasionally get me in trouble. I feel as though that trouble might be just around the corner with my extended family. So I hope, no matter what they’ve read, they find their way to this entry.

As such, I am going to do the following: I’m going to try to not make as many blanket statements about people of faith. That blog where I said I flushed pages of the Bible down the toilet? I’m not going to do that sort of thing ever again, and if I do, I won’t tell you about it.

Secondly, my interactions with my greater family will not be used as cute, disdainful blog fodder. I’ve done it a couple of times before (including treatises on Mormon Jello Dessert) but I want them to rest assured that I don’t consider them fools to be ridiculed. They have meant – and still mean – so much more to me than that. They saved my life when I was at my lowest, saved my Mom’s sanity when she had nearly given up, and deserve better.

Thirdly, I will only blog the high points of the family reunion with their permission. The one thing that has always set my family apart from some of the more depressing elements of your average Utah conclave is that they’ve always had an unbelievably good sense of humor. They’re actually funny. I hope when – or if – they come across a particularly alkaline blog entry in these pages, they retain some of that humor and remember that deep inside, there is still a twisted little kid destroying his tennis racquet.