Monthly Archives: May 2007

ridiculously sublime

5/9/07

It being Tessa’s birthday, I wanted to surprise her with a few gifts (some of which she will get this morning, after I’m already at the airport). The main present was a porch swing, something we’ve all coveted since we started renting this house in Venice.

I found one with a high back for comfort, then ordered it to my cousin’s place in Arcadia (one valley over) so I could do a whitewash pickling stain and then varnish the hell out of it. Somewhere along this journey, the instructions got lost, so I had to make it up as I went along, meaning I had about twelve screws and forty washers left unused. OH WELL!

Rushing home, I was presented with this:

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That, my friends, is the opening moments of Los Angeles’ worst fire in fifty years. I took movies of the billowing smoke as it wrapped around all of us on Interstate 5, but they don’t do it justice. Even as I write this, the fire is only 50% contained, and just destroyed a quarter of Griffith Park.

On the radio, one of the police chiefs just said that he had spent every morning jogging around the park and that there’s usually hundreds of Sierra Club folks traversing the paths. It’s LA’s “backyard,” so they say. What true Angelenos really know is that this is a huge hit to the gay cruising scene – the easiest way to get laid in Southern California (or so I’m told) used to be the dirt trails criss-crossing the golf course and tennis center. Most of that is gone now, so I have no idea what Plan B might be.

Anyway, back in Heterosexualville, I managed to get the porch swing beast home, then waited for Tessa to go to bed so I could crawl into the ancient attic eaves of the house and find studs to screw. [Insert desperately unfunny joke here.]

After struggles with some nuts and washers [insert another soul-crushingly boring joke here], the porch swing was mounted by 3am, and I collapsed on it, weary and exhausted. I think she was pleased today, though. Happy birthday, honey!

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I love my wife – she’s kinda awesome

guess the initials

Guest Blogger Wednesday™!

Hey gang. CP here from the comments section, guest-blogging for Ian from the decrepit yet fabulous Sunset & Vine, smack in the middle of burning Hollywood.

First things first. The blind, abused, timid and terrified puppy at the south LA pound I’d been uncharacteristically telling everyone I know about in an effort to prevent him getting the chair (so to speak) was rescued today and here’s wishing he lives a long and happy life at his new home. So that’s awesome.

In related news, Paris Hilton had someone ghostwrite a letter on her behalf, a petition or something to Governor Schwarzenegger asking for her upcoming 45-day jail sentence to be commuted and she to be granted clemency. Now I’m well aware of the fact that an 80’s action star is our governor and all, but do we not think that:

a) a little jail time might be really, really good for both her and society (sort of like The Simple Life meets OZ, only with lesbians and no cameras)

b) the only difference between her and those women on the MSNBC Inside Women’s Prison shows is who her parents are (I mean shit, on a certain level an argument can be made that they’re both on TV for no apparent reason other than to entertain us/make us feel better about our lives)

c) she not only deserves to be treated no differently than anyone else, but perhaps also made an example of instead of sentenced to rehab or community service or some other such bullshit (I’m serious about this, an interesting ethical dilemma…)

d) in lieu of prison, she should be sentenced to star in a reality show in which she’d be shrunk to approximately 3 feet and put in a cage at The Bronx Zoo with Little Dick Cheney and Little Bill Maher (think The Surreal Life meets Freaks meets No Exit — if it’s a hit, other combinations could include Barry Bonds, Ann Coulter and Aaron Sorkin, and of course me and the cast of Mean Girls — for the record, I’m short enough and they’re perfectly proportioned, so no shrinking necessary on that one.)

Ok. Wow. That got weird in parts, huh? Got away from me a little bit. Sorry ’bout that.

— When I was a kid, I used to have recurring elevator nightmares. Specifically I’d be in the elevator of my building, would press our floor, and when it reached that floor it wouldn’t stop, would just keep going up to 16 and then back down to the basement again. And up again and down again and so on and so forth.

These dreams used to terrify me to the point that I’d wake up in a cold sweat. In some of them, the elevator would eventually fall. In others, it would crash through the roof of the building. I’d also usually wake up when either thing happened. I mention this because after years of not having them, like since I started college, I had one the other night.

Only this was different. (Elevator Nightmare v2.0) I was in Tokyo, Japan. In a glass elevator overlooking the city. And there were other passengers with me, all Japanese locals, none of whom spoke a word of English. I push my floor, the elevator starts, and when it reaches my floor, doesn’t stop. It’s at this point in the dream the other passengers disappear and I realize I’m in the middle of having my nightmare. And the elevator keeps going up and down and up and down and to my surprise and relief I find I’m oddly comfortable with the fact that after all these years, I know what’s gonna happen and I’ll be fine.

(Does anyone know what the hell, no pun intended, that might mean?)

— So things aren’t great. Not for me personally, which (nightmares aside) is pretty damn good and (knock wood) kind of keeps getting better, but the world is going to shit and even with the midterm wins and probability of a Dem. White House in ’08, things aren’t necessarily looking up. It’s a little like the mid-70’s let’s say.

Back then (as in times like The Depression, 50’s post-war Europe, Ancient Greece), it seems like the worse things got, the better and more subversive the art and entertainment became. Specifically, the comedies of the late 70’s/early 80’s (everything from Network to Kentucky Fried Movie to Animal House to Trading Places) were very political and edgy and rebellious, while at the same time being not only completely mainstream, but first and foremost fucking funny.

Today, our American film comedies fall into 3 camps:

1) the high-concept frat-pack movie (Wedding Crashers, Dodgeball, Blades Of Glory — which I hear was a little subversive on the gay tip — rock on.) I used to hear about these in meetings last year.

2) the quirky family comedy (thanks, Little Miss Sunshine) I hear about in meetings this year, films which may include homosexuality and drugs but really have the same simplistic and saccharine message as Leave It To Beaver or The Brady Bunch.

3) the stylized satire (American Dreamz, Thank You For Smoking) which makes fun of a broad range of targets and issues but doesn’t really take aim in a dangerous or meaningful way (like Arrested Development and Chappelle’s Show did so well. TV’s amazing now, but that’s a whole other story).

I’m not saying today’s movies are bad or all comedies should be political and people shouldn’t be able to laugh in comfort and not be reminded of their and/or the world’s problems. I am saying that it’s interesting the comedy hasn’t turned rebellious or subversive on a greater scale as of yet, and that perhaps technology might be the cause.

Specifically, our toys are amazing now. Video games, the internet, our cool little i-gadgets. Like when we were children, these things distract us and make us happy. (And come on, for serious now, the fuck did they have in The 70’s, Pong?)

Anyway, I should really shut the fuck up and stop complaining and do something about it because I’m actually in a position to (meaning in the mix, repped, but hungry and have only had a few relatively minor successes), I know. All I can say is I’m working on it. There is always that idea about the left-wing stooge blogger and the creepy internet stalker…

Ok. That’s all I got. For the record, blogging is hard. If you people have read this far and/or I haven’t bored you to the point of tears, you deserve a medal (or at least a cheap-ass bowling trophy.) Thank you so much to Ian for letting me guest blog and comment and generally being someone I can admire (awww.) And thanks to you all for being a community I actually feel I kind of know, albeit on a level I’m not entirely used to or necessarily understand, but can accept and enjoy nonetheless. From the most sincere place I’m capable of coming from, good things to all of you.

eleventeen

5/6/07

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Lucy every three months from one month to two years (click for bigger)

Sweet little Lucybeans-

This is the letter I write to you every three months, and guess what? You turned two years old a couple of weeks ago! However, I’m going to begin this missive on a very sad note, and you’ll understand why. Y’see, eight days before your Daddo was born, my cousin Matthew was born. He and I grew up as babies and toddlers together, sharing baths, laughing and playing like twins. My baby books and scrapbooks are full of our pictures.

One day he was playing outside, and his father, my Uncle Steve, came home to check in with Aunt Cheryl. Matthew scampered behind the car without being seen, and when my uncle backed out of the driveway, the absolute worst thing in the world happened. I don’t even want you to imagine it, not even when you’re older.

My mom, your grandma, immediately flew down to take care of my Uncle Steve and their little family – she had lost her first husband to a car accident nine years before, and managed to possess enough sympathy and pioneer spirit to keep things together. She dressed Matthew for his funeral and said that his hair was still crooked from when his 4-year-old sister Jana had cut it. That detail always makes me cry.

They buried Matthew on his second birthday. My whole life, I grew up with the sense that someone was missing, that there was an unspoken gap where someone else should be. Matthew became this tiny round picture hanging over my grandma’s bed, a snapshot taken at the beach, the tragedy I was told not to mention.

I would tell myself, in those days, well, maybe it wasn’t that bad. He was only two, and maybe his family didn’t know who he was yet. As I grew older, I suspected that was largely a defense mechanism, and now that I have you, I know that notion to be absolutely false.

You know who you are. Your specific personality lights up every room you’re in. You have no unexpressed thoughts. Tonight, when I told Tessa that someone was inscrutable, you yelled “UNSCRUTABLE!!!” and then you looked at me and said “I’m not scrutable.” And I had to say “the hell you aren’t.”

To prove my point, you immediately said “I’m not wearing socks.”

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above: Lucy, Tessa and Nana, Aug 2005; below: last week

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We have entered into the 2-Year-Old World with you, and have discovered its incumbent mood swings. Frankly, I think the word “tantrum” is overused when it comes to toddlers, when most freakouts are a result of “being kinda hungry” or “being totally tired.” Once we correct for those, your disposition can be described as tumultuously gregarious. In the words of Eddie Murphy, you like to party all the time. You never saw a gaggle of kids you didn’t want to subject to your influence, nor have you spotted a tricycle you didn’t want to commandeer.

You do everything big: you laugh big, you cry big. When you think something’s supposed to be funny, you have a forced guffaw that would be scary if it weren’t so endearing. When you hurt yourself, you adopt the Greek Tragedy Mask, a phrase your mom and I use after Chip coined it in this blog. When you are in your “caretaking” mode, like you do with me in the mornings, or with your dolls Jeannie, Patty and Millie (Ludmilla), your affection and uxoriousness is heart-achingly boundless.

Mostly, I love our pre-sleep ritual. I know I might be jinxing this to put it in writing, but I’m probably the best at getting you down for a nap. In those liminal states of near-slumber, I think we truly understand each other. We talk in hushed tones, whisper our favorite parts of the day, sing songs we’ve made up along the way, then both plunge into an altered state. You twitch your hands and feet en route to sleep, and I fall into a conscious bliss, where I get all kinds of writing done. It’s all in my head, but remains indelible even when I place you in the crib and leave the room.

My favorite quote from you of late: “I’m a little bit scared of Easter.” Man, me too. That is one bizarre holiday.

My favorite grammatical mistake: “These shoes are my’s.” Of course you mean “mine,” but I love that you’re simply following the rules. Those shoes are “mommy’s,” that book is “Laura’s,” that car is “hers”… why wouldn’t these shoes be “my’s”?

The same thing happened last year with “fiveteen.” I couldn’t explain to you why FOUR-teen is followed by FIF-teen and then SIX-teen. When you mentioned it, I had to admit it makes no goddamn sense.

My least favorite habit? The tyranny of “boo boo cream.” I don’t know where you read that phrase, but now every time you have a problem, you’re pretty sure it can be solved with dollops and dollops of Boo Boo Cream, and frankly, we’re running out of Neosporin™.

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when Laura snapped this picture of us trike-constructing, I swore I’d seen another like it…

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…and it was this one of me, my Dad and Kent circa 1973

All this to say: when you turned two, you had already revolutionized my life. You had already imbued your mom and I with your singular presence, and on your birthday, I couldn’t help but look off into the distance and see my cousin Matthew, and the birthday he might have had. I now understand the passion, horror and survival of my aunt and uncle, and while they went on to have a lot more kids, I think I am infinitesimally closer to appreciating what they lost. There is no sugar-coating it: I simply love you like crazy, and I’d really appreciate it if you stay safe and sound for, you know, the next five-ty to ninety years.

I’d also appreciate a women’s hoops scholarship to Carolina

nemo me impune lacessit

5/3/07

I was never one to camp out to see my favorite entertainers, but these days, that number has shrunk unbelievably. At this point, I would only camp overnight to see three things: the North Carolina Tar Heels, the reformation of XTC’s live show, and the Queen.

No, not the band Queen, although I’d certainly stand in line several hours to resurrect Freddie Mercury and have them play “A Night at the Opera” at the Hammersmith Odeon. I mean the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, and Defender of the Faith. She just came to Virginia to mark the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement, and I think she’s absolutely dreamy.

When I was a kid in England, they opened the Jubilee subway line to commemorate her “silver” 25th year on the throne, and in 2002, she actually had her 50th “Golden Jubilee,” a feat only matched by her great-great-grandmother Victoria. This chick has staying power, and if she lives as long as her mother, she’ll see her Diamond Jubilee (75 years on the throne). That would KICK ASS.

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swoon!

Her speech in Virginia today was short and touching, expressing condolences from her country to everyone killed at Virginia Tech, and she even managed to say a graceful thing about our horrible government: even though we have our tough spots, we’ll always be inexorably linked. I don’t know, I found it soothing. She has seen World Wars, experienced death all around her, and lived long enough to provide a little perspective. She eats fake cowboys like George Bush for tea, with Marmite to spare.

Yes, I know all her faults. She can be a pretty cold fish, she doesn’t translate particularly well to the Rave Generation, and her hats can be dreadful. But I wish we had someone like her in the States – a benevolent figurehead with no real power other than a moral center and a sense of continuity. It goes against my pinko democratic principles, but it’d be nice to have an ex-soldier who stayed in Windsor during the Blitzkrieg tell us everything’s going to be okay.

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self-portrait, London 1978

missin’ cousins

5/2/07

Not only was yesterday Sean and Jordana’s 3rd wedding anniversary (that’s the Leather anniversary for those of you playing at home), but they just got into the New York Fringe Festival for theater a third year in a row. That may not be a record, but it’s got to be close – if they’re not careful, they’re going to get a plaque on Christopher Street.

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Sean holding Barno on Xmas Day 2006 – note same pose with our niece Katharine and Lucy behind him

Living in Los Angeles was not a plan, it sorta creeped up on us. I was emotionally set to spend half the time in New York, and half in California, but it’s working out to be more like three months in NY and nine months in LA. The upshot is that I miss my family and friends terribly, and in particular, we aren’t able to see Barnaby’s early milestones. Lucy was also squirreled away for most of 2005, and all I can hope is that the cousins get to have lots of time together when both can remember it.

Lulubeans speaks of Barnaby often, but it’s of the vague idea that he’s probably hungry, and probably wants Auntie Dana to feed him, and that “he wants to go in the car” (I really don’t know what that’s all about, but she has similar made-up scenarios for everybody). Thank god for internet technology, which is about the only way she can have contact:

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She’s going to be freaked out when she sees him now – he so much bigger and is the perfect amalgam of Sean and Jordi. In fact, he’s so big that he’s only six pounds lighter than she is (19 lbs vs. 25 lbs) and he’s only five months old.

I’ll be leaving LA next Thursday for a month in New York, and will be able to see the S-J-B trio in action, but until then, I’d like to raise my glass to Sean and Jordi: we have all been through a lot to get where we are, and there’s nothing wrong with taking twelve seconds, closing your eyes and offering yourself a heartfelt congratulations.

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coriander? i hardly know her

5/1/07

Hey Mom, for the love of all that is holy, can you post your recipe for orange rolls? I’ve gotten way too many emails about it. And for the rest of you, this is Recipe Wednesday™, so please post your most yummy, unusual recipe for us to consume!