Monthly Archives: August 2005

recycle – TO THE EXTREME!

8/17/05

I caught wind of some of yesterday’s discussion while sneaking a few downloads before takeoff, and it struck me as one of those conversations that will be going on until the end of time. Funny, because we were on an airplane from LA to NYC, which is always going to be fodder for beginning comedians until the end of time as well.

I have never once complained about a lawyer or a doctor – as a profession – because I never knew doing so was an option. We have all agreed to live in the early 21st century together, and with it comes two things that nobody can change: there are going to be lawyers and doctors, and they will always view each other like Itchy and Scratchy.

I used to think that law school was what you did when you ran out of ideas; it was the universal default setting for the person who had foundered a bit in those bizarre years just out of college and needed some structure. That hasn’t particularly jibed with reality, as I quite love all my lawyer friends.

As for doctors, it seems so impossibly hard to become one that my squibbling is totally unnecessary – if you don’t like a particular doctor, there are 50 more who will fit the bill. A lot of the time it’s just about their bedside manner, and how much they can fake for you at any given time.

The one thing I have noticed is not interchangeable is dentists. There is some really inferior dentistry going on out there, and you truly get what you pay for. You are not saving any money in the long run by going to a local guy who doesn’t cost much: it just means a root canal in 3.5 years, and THOSE SUCK.

By the way, it’s excellent to be back here in New York, actually sleeping in Manhattan for the first time since we moved to Brooklyn more than three years ago. We craigslisted a little flat on Bank Street very near the Fleet Week theater, but even closer to the cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery. Those in the know understand how important that is.

By the way, Lucy was an absolute princess the whole way over America. Occasional commenter Jody K. once told me something about babies like her, and man, he was right. It’s great to have the back half of the plane on your side. The halo is ever bright, and the penumbra is euphoria.

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the binary Bastille

8/16/05

We’re packing up to go to NYC for a few days, so by the time you read this, we will be 39,000 feet in the air, hopefully enjoying a smooth ride (DEAR GOD, I HATE TURBULENCE, LOVE IAN) and praying for our baby to be a good girl for the trip (DEAR LUCY, NO SCREAMING ON THE PLANE, LOVE, YOUR PARENTS). I guess you just have to be a Buddhist about plane trips with infants and the insane amount of shit you have to bring along. I will admit, however, I’m psyched to get back to New York for a few days for Fleet Week, hoops, and doing blue cocaine bumps off the belly of a transsexual hooker in the Lower East Side.

While we were sorting socks and getting the new Harry Potter onto the iPod, Lars Lucier sent me a link about today’s mob scene at the Richmond International Raceway, as thousands of people almost killed each other trying to get their hands on $50 used iBooks. Men were trampled, baby strollers were destroyed, and one woman peed on herself lest she give up her place in line. 17 people were treated for heat exhaustion, and overall it was the best day for Apple Computers since Steve Jobs painted the iMac tangerine.

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The crowd was predominantly minority and poor, which reminded me a little of the digital/analog metaphor I was working on a few months back: namely, this “mob scene” was on the wrong side of the binary divide, and was making sure they – and their families – had a chance at joining the ranks of the quasi-digerati.

Think about it: a 4-year-old iBook still gives you the opportunity to surf the web, buy online, research through Google, apply for jobs, find a place to live, learn word processing and typing… all (at least today in Richmond) for fifty bucks. If I were poor and couldn’t afford a piece-of-shit Dell PC, you bet I’d be in that mob scene, trampling over old people to get my family a computer. Shit, I’d buy three if I had a few dimes to rub together.

The people in that hot mob knew what was at stake. It’s too bad the local cops didn’t, as they had to call in another squadron with riot gear. This early example is easy to ridicule (“hee hee a chick wet herself”) but I wouldn’t be surprised if the “digital divide” in this country didn’t get more violent as the have-nots are increasingly fucked by a culture that is leaving them in the dust. This was not an act of violence, it was an act of revolution by twelve thousand disenfranchised souls, and it was a looong time coming.

flurbtbtbtbt

8/15/05

Look, I’m telling you right now, I might wipe my nose on my napkin. If there’s nothing else in sight, and I can do it clandestinely, what do you care? It’s made of cloth and as long as I don’t make any noise, I don’t see why it’s always such a big deal.

Would you rather I lie? Pretend to sneeze and then just go ahead and do what I was going to do anyway? No. I’m honest about it. You don’t need to inspect my napkin. Why don’t you just go on with your conversation?

And you, little Indian girl. Yes, you, the one at Dollis School in London when we were eleven. You stared at me for an entire week when I first got there, and finally I said what??? and you said “You put your cup over your face when you drink.”

So I don’t tip my head back all the way. So my glass goes into my face. I didn’t even know there was a rule for that. And we were eleven! And it was my first week there, an American in London, couldn’t you have been a little nicer?

By the way, I am going to blow on my food to cool it down. I won’t do it at any of you, but I’m going to do it regardless. And eating soup? The spoon will head toward me when I do it. I know pushing the spoon away from you is supposed to be good manners, but frankly, it feels wrong and looks stupid. It looks self-aware. If you do it, I’ll just stare and wonder why that sort of shit is so important to you.

Okay, so I’ll surrender to your goddamn chopsticks. At this point, using chopsticks when we have a perfectly good fork lying around – this is post-Bronze Age, you know – seems stupid, but I’ll try. But if I drop it, I’m using my fingers. Same goes for those big, messy rolls called “The Samurai” or “The Leafy Dragon.” I just don’t care what you think anymore. It’s not like I fart. I don’t. In fact, if you show me someone who pushes the spoon away from them, I’ll show you a world-class farter.

I’m glad we had an opportunity to talk about this.

norman the stormin’ mormon

8/14/05

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I always loved this diptych of my brother Kent, as it is the perfect metaphor for him – he was incredibly happy to be in the photo studio until the bright flash of the first picture totally freaked him out and made him cry for the second. He is the Sensitive Buddha. It was his birthday this weekend, so this blog goes out to him because I didn’t really know what he wanted on Amazon.

As I’ve oft said before, Kent introduced me to some of the main things that have held fast in my life: the Beatles, XTC, early bizarre poetry, the Odd Bodkins cartoons, Monty Python and I believe he sent me the first or second email I ever received in July 1993.

He once wrote a story about working the backhoe at a cemetery in mid-winter Iowa that was part of the reason I wanted to be a writer. He also sustained a burn injury at his Burger King job – “french frying” his hand – that was so grotesque that I swore I’d never work in fast food. Although I’ve held numerous jobs worse than fast food, I have never set foot near a fryer in my life.

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NYC, 1991

One of the worst memories of my childhood was being sent to awaken him in his basement room after he had been beaten up near the post office in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I was expecting a black eye and some scratches, but I found a teenager purple with wounds and both eyes bloated shut; it was a vicious, cruel thrashing that gave me daydreams of revenge for twenty years.

He is the kind of big brother that makes you want others to have siblings; part of the reason we named our baby Lucy Kent was because we hoped she could be as cool to any future brother or sister that the original Kent was. If she inherits his magnanimity and half his bizarreness, I’ll consider it a genetic success. When he was a little kid, Mom told him that airplanes were kept in hangars. So later that night, she went into his closet, and all his toy airplanes were hung up on the clothes hangers. That story breaks my heart every time.

Kent doesn’t live near us and probably never will. He’ll continue to dispense advice and devastating breakbeats from his home in Iowa City long into the future. He doesn’t really see the need for the big city like we do, another in a long line of white flashes that will only bum him out in the second picture.

I will say this, though: Kent, we love you. So stop fucking smoking, you goddamn retard.

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apple orchard near Mt. Vernon, IA, 2004

okay so you’re elvis or something

8/11/05

Ten Things Created in the Last Ten Years I Could Do Without

1. The Hummer – What a gargantuan piece of shit this car is, a testament to cock in its utter lack of nuance, a fuck-you mobile that extends its middle finger to the ozone as it thrashes down the freeway guzzling 400 gallons of ego per mile. Hummer owners, I’m calling you out: what is your problem? This shit isn’t funny anymore.

2. DVD navigation – How can we invent a game like Dance Dance Revolution, fix the Hubble telescope and fit 10,000 songs on a machine the size of a cigarette box… and still I can’t get anything to work from the “menu” of any DVD? You can’t fast-forward DVDs like VCRs used to; more often than not, you end up skipping to the end of the goddamn movie. Also, they don’t allow you to skip the FBI warning – what is this, Communist Kamchatka?

3. 2.4 GHz Wireless Telephones – Hey, I’ve got a great idea: let’s take the bandwidth that already has every garage door opener on it, not to mention every single internet wifi signal, and PUT A PHONE ON IT TOO? That way, you can be sure to fuck up the internet for everybody living within 200 feet of you, which in Manhattan means about 60 folks trying to check their email. Oh, and make the phones kind of suck, too.

4. Shamelessness – You might have hated Clinton for getting a blow job, and you might have hated his wife for trying to get you health care, but at least they had shame. When I think of modern Republicans, I’m reminded of the scene in “Goodfellas” when Henry Hill describes the “Fuck you, pay me” ethos of mob goons. This government has a trademark on cruelty, brazenness and self-righteous dunderheadedness.

5. Cell Phone Service in Los Angeles – Can someone please tell me why I’m paying for this? How can the 2nd largest city in America have worse cell phone coverage than rural Iowa? And don’t tell me it’s because the mountains; if they did it right, the mountains would actually help. If you wonder why movies are so bad right now, it’s because nobody creative can ever finish a conversation.

6. “Strappleberry” flavor – I can take “tutti-frutti” and “mixed berry” flavor, but “strappleberry” sounds like a focus-group name that allows you to actually taste the Polysorbate 60 sliding down your throat. It also sounds like an anal fungus sore. You know it does.

7. “That Don’t Impress Me Much” by Shania Twain – It isn’t that Shania Twain does these little spoken-word coos to begin each song (like “uh-huh!” or “come on, girls!”), it’s that “Impress” has several spoken sections like “okay, you’re Brad Pitt” that are so ear-screechingly awful that I want to claw my own forehead off from utter twee. Also, this song mentions someone who is too smart, too good-looking, or too in love with his car(?) to have the “touch,” as if those things were mutually exclusive. Plus, she’s Canadian and Canadians should know better.

8. Magnetic tags in pants – Please, cashier, can you just remove these motherscratchers when I buy them? I’m really sick of setting off the alarms in other stores because you didn’t snip off the ferrite coil stitched into my crotch.

9. Dook’s and K’s 3rd Championship – I know we – CAROLINA, that is – just won it all, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to go back and erase 2001. It makes perfect sense that a year that saw the illegal instatement of a frat boy as President and the worst terrorist attack in American history would also see a Dook championship. I’m just happy that the world seems to have righted itself from those awful, awful times.

10. Blogs – Hello? IS THIS THING ON?!?

i got 2nd highest score in Galaga

8/10/05

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Tonight we celebrated our anniversary by getting lobster at a place called “Lobster” and then trekking onto the Santa Monica Pier to ride the ferris wheel. I should also mention that getting Tessa onto something like a ferris wheel is no mean feat, as she dislikes shit that throws your body around in the name of fun. Personally, I crave that sort of thing unless it’s on an airplane, and then St. Xanax can take care of the rest.

We’ve had to be very Buddhist about the last couple of days; this town can throw your mood around like a rubber superball. The problem with speculative careers – as opposed to the obvious paycheck on Friday – is that it can raise a lot of feelings you haven’t experienced since high school.

All we can do is “the next right thing” and “keep our side of the street clean” and “have faith obliterate fear.” I would say “I’m the piece of shit the world revolves around,” but then you’d know where I get all my aphorisms.

By the way, can I just say again how much Lucy liked Caesar’s Palace?

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she’s going to be trouble in there eventually

inchworm, measuring the marigold

8/9/05

Two years ago this second, Tessa and I were trying to eat creamed corn out of a plastic vat while sitting in a hot tub. We had just gotten married a few hours before, had the reception of a lifetime, and now we were at our B&B eating the dinner that was packed by the catering staff.

Bizarrely, the caterers didn’t really know what we meant by “pack us a late-night picnic for after the party,” so they sent us tubs of food without any silverware, and no drinks. The B&B was shut down for the night, so we were on our own: we filled thirty tiny Dixie cups full of water, got in the hot tub, and just plunged our hands into the food, getting it everywhere. When I think of my wedding, I’ll think of many incredible things, but one of them will be the swirls of corn cascading through the hot tub jets.

Now we’ve been in California a while, and I’m acutely missing all the friends and family we had in our barn two years ago tonight, but Tessa and I have each other, and she takes the pangs out of any longing. She has only gotten more beautiful, more funny, and more interesting with age.

Brain-dead American comic strips like They’ll Do It Every Time and The Lockhorns have made 125 years of jokes about forgetting your anniversary, and, I guess, having a wife that runs after you with a rolling pin, but I’m a big fan of anniversaries. The first year was apparently “paper,” and this year is “cotton,” and I’ve had things worked out for both.

Before we had Lucy, we were worried that our entire lives would be eaten up by talking about… um, y’know, Lucy. We made an agreement sometime in March that when the baby was born, we would reserve an hour at night for brat-free discussion (we already had the rule “no talking about work-related shit during the half-hour before sleep” anyway). It turns out that life is much more fluid than our best intentions, and we either obsess over Lucy or we don’t.

We have two elements to our marriage that keep us really happy: we don’t let anything fester into resentment, and we have remained extremely pliable. In other words, never go to bed mad, and don’t get too caught up on where your bed happens to be that night.

I love being married to this chick, man. She’s stunning in so many ways. Two years have sped by in some respects, but they’ve also felt like warm oceans of time. And even though it may seem a little self-involved, I picked some random pictures of us to put on the blog today. After all, this will someday be little more than a public scrapbook for my daughter, and because my parents never really loved each other, I know how important it is to show her two people who do. Quite terribly, in fact.

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mother of Pearl

8/8/05

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small portion of the official picture

Well, I never thought I’d be caught dead in one of those family reunion T-shirts – they always end up in the bargain bin at the second-hand store purchased only for irony (I have a shirt for the Seltzer Family Reunion, Wisconsin 1999 for similar reasons) but I have to say, this time I felt pride whilst wearing the colors.

Despite the average Mormon’s penchant for constant reunions, our Worsley side of the family (descended from my grandma Klea) had their last real get-together in 1986, when I was 19 years old. Since then, the extended family has grown by at least 50 more kids, and I swore by the end of this reunion in Altamont, UT, I’d try to name at least 75% of them accurately.

It’s hard to explain our family to anyone else, but suffice to say that my cousins’ kids, husbands, wives-in-law and anyone who is remotely related to us is thrown into the great mix and accepted as pre-ordained. Aunts once removed frequently work with their nephews-in-law. It’s really quite terrific, as I truly adore my cousins, and their kids usually end up as cool as they are.

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Lucy and her second cousin Chandler

First, a thing about my extended Mormon family. As I’ve said before, I don’t find their beliefs any more irrational than anyone else’s, including mine. They are not the “Mormons” you read about in “Under the Banner of Heaven” – they are not polygamists, and they aren’t ruling anybody with a patriarchal fist. If anything, the women rule the roost in my family; hell, for all the talk of multiple wives, they’ve actually had more husbands.

The polygamy rap is really quite stupid – the numbers of actual polyamorous families in Utah is always sensationalized beyond reality, and they’re all excommunicated anyway. People often mention “the bigamists up in the hills,” which used to confuse me as a kid, thinking that wives and altitude had to be related. My family has nothing to do with that end of LDS thinking, and after the last forty years, have become as open-minded as most people in the West Village.

Well, maybe not the West Village, but certainly Paramus, New Jersey.

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Kent, Melissa, Lucy

I was especially psyched Kent’s family, including my sister-in-law Melissa, and nephews Sean Patrick and Lucas made the trip, as it was the first time they got to see their first real Williams cousin Lucy, and of course, Kent got to hang out with his namesake. Too bad she was such a grumbly-boots during the official pictures, or else it would have been cute.

My family has always been about putting on a show, so Saturday night we had the talent portion of the evening (now you know where I get it, fellow Jartaculees) and I sang a song that I wrote on Grandma’s deathbed and the rest of the kids clanked whisks, pots and spoons to “I Am a Fine Musician.”

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The Dork Brigade, headed by Steve, Kent, Sean Patrick and Lucas, managed to throw everyone into awe (or deep sleep) by reciting the alphabet backwards in under 10 seconds, and naming every state in the Union in under fifteen. Sean Patrick also named every American Senator, which takes longer than you think.

The essence of these reunions is simple: you look around the room at these 85 people and find yourself awash in the buzz of shared experience and shared DNA. We all just really like each other. Or at least I like everybody, and they’re all talking shit about me right now.

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the late-’60s brigade: cousins Mark, Vince, Jana, me – countless photos of us in bathtubs together

Most importantly, Lucy got to meet her Auntie Donna, the matriarch of our family. Now 86, there is a small chance Lucy will have anything but the tiniest wisps of memories of her, even though Donna is trucking very healthily into her autumn. At the church service held Sunday morning, we sat on the mezzanine to take in the scene, and Lucy listened very intently to Auntie Donna’s words. Lucy probably won’t understand how much that will have meant to me.

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Utah is an odd place, and despite my unflinching line of history that rests in those mountains, I have no desire to live there. But a jaunt into the valley to breathe the joy of a huge family is an incredible intoxicant. Well, actually, intoxicants aren’t permitted by the Mormons, but the high is still delightful.

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