Monthly Archives: May 2008

mmmm forbidden loafers

5/12/08

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Oh man. Just when I was about to get something done, I found Like.com and their selection of men’s shoes. I am now about to go down the rabbit hole.

So if you had to choose one pair to get right now, gents or ladies, which would it be?

the davie popular

5/11/08

A few transitions happening at our glorious alma mater, and all three bear mentioning. And I’m not even talking about the excellent Holden Thorpe being named Chancellor of UNC, which is a big deal for those of us in his age group. I watched a Heels game in a hotel room with Holden, and he is not only a top-notch leader for Carolina, he also knows when Tyler isn’t moving across the paint to provide secondary defense.

But here’s our personal stuff. First off, Tessa and I are beyond over the moon that our nephew Sam applied to UNC in the hardest admissions year in history and GOT ACCEPTED!

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me, Lucy and Sam at the Morehead sundial, March 2007

We can’t wait to be Creepy Aunt ‘n’ Uncle™ coming down to Chapel Hill every weekend we can, thoroughly embarrassing Sam until he has to sit us down and say “look, I really love you guys, I do, but…”

Passing Sam on I-95 on his way out of North Carolina is our mentor (and minister) Peter Kaufman. This is a huge loss for UNC, and it’s doubtful they even know it yet. After battling the administration for a long time, the University of Richmond made him an offer nobody could have refused, and thus he’s taking his show up to Virginia, where we hope to keep teaching his class each year.

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Peter introduces Tessa, March 2004

The term “dying breed” is thrown about like a sad cliché, but that’s what Peter is: a true iconoclast that held thousands of 20-year-olds under his sway, if only for a few months. He is not the most political, or politic, teacher in the world, and no doubt left many of his colleagues throwing their books across the room after some arguments.

But these colleagues weren’t fit to carry his water; and now that I’m in a position to give money and time to UNC, I can call things the way I see them. Peter was a huge feather in Carolina’s cap, a published, brilliant thinker with huge swaths of expertise and huge swaths of doubt. At our wedding, when he shouted out his benediction in ancient Hebrew, it felt as if the words fell from the sky in glorious rapture. His absence on the quad should be mourned.

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The Kaufman Benediction made Chopin freak out

And lastly, our buddy Ehren graduated from Carolina today. But here’s the thing – he actually left school many years ago and was finishing by correspondence. His very sweet girlfriend Tammy planned a surprise party at a park in Brooklyn and a ton of friends showed up at noon to celebrate his commencement.

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Lindsay and Ehren at the farm, September 2005

Problem was, Ehren was not there, and couldn’t be reached by cell phone. Nobody knew where on earth he was, and as more people gathered, the weirder it got. Turns out he had attended a bachelor party for another Carolina grad the night before, and the rumor was they were still opening bottles of tequila at 4am. He finally surfaced later in the afternoon.

Thus Ehren not only missed his original graduation back in the ’90s, but also missed his surprise graduation today due to tequila, which, in my book, is PURE ROCK AND ROLL. I raise a shot of Don Julio 1942 Anejo for Ehren’s effervescence, I raise a glass of ancient wine for Peter’s constancy, and I raise an ice-cold Coca-Cola (like Roy has) for my nephew Sam’s initiation into the fold that has kept us warm for lo so many years.

blue is not blue, red is not red

5/8/08

Eventually we won’t be so political on this blog, but for now, it’s like crack and we can’t seem to stop. My brother Kent wrote something I’d like to post below, but first, I had a moment in the car today that perfectly encapsulates why this election is so charged for me. It’s tiny, I admit, but here goes:

Rebuffing calls for her to quit from most Democrats who are capable of simple math, she said “I believe all fifty states should be counted… they told me to quit after Iowa, and then I won New Hampshire, and then we had big victories on Super Tuesday, and then I won Texas and Pennsylvania, and I was never supposed to win Indiana!”

And so, in one quote, Hillary summed up why I can’t stand her brand of politics. The “all fifty states” comment is about Michigan and Florida, and all of you know why counting those votes – or even clamoring for them – is reprehensible on her part. The “quitting after Iowa” is not even accurate; nobody called for her to quit, but that’s not even the point. We are in a very different place right now, after Obama’s huge lead in delegates and popular vote, so the two situations aren’t remotely comparable. That’s like justifying a box full of Krispy Kremes by starting out with a Diet Coke.

Going further, Hillary did not “win” Texas. Obama got more delegates there, and that’s what counts in a primary. And of course, the kicker is Indiana, where she had polled ahead by double digits for months before the primary.

You can call this sort of behavior “playing the game”, “hard-nosed politics”, “asinine cherry-picking”, “egregiously disingenuous” or even “lying”, but all I know is that I’M SICK OF IT. Is Obama a saint incapable of fault? Of course not, but in all the mud-slinging, I’ve never heard him rattle off a laundry list of half-baked bullshit and tried to sell it as reality.

You may think his mantra of “hope” is half-baked, sure, and you might mistrust his flowery oratory, but he’s not trying to pull a fast one. You can opt in or opt out of his message, but he’s not trying to alter your perception of truth for his gain. That is what we’ve endured for eight years, it’s what Hillary has shown us for eight months, and I just can’t stand it anymore.

If you think I’m an asshole now, take a look at an entry from four years ago when we were going through Bush-Kerry. I had a pretty silly theory about the Martha Stewart verdict and Democrats, but I did think that Americans were eventually going to tire of The Lie. I just thought it would happen sooner.

Anyway, here’s the mystical, magical, Buddha of our family, Kent:

***

OK, my man Obama said we should have a national dialog about race.

Here I go into the breach.

Commenter Matt recently said: “There’s no difference between voting

for someone just because he’s the same color as you and voting against

someone because he’s not.”

So first let me rebut that: Group Solidarity is not the same as

Blanket Prejudice.   Matt was also disappointed that black voters went

over 90% for Barack, out of what he presumed was ‘racial solidarity.’

That is oversimplification to the point of caricature and stereotype.

As any African-American person will tell you, a person who has a

father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas is not someone with whom

they would automatically feel a affinity.   Obama’s book “Dreams From

My Father” is substantially about his struggle to find a cultural

identity for himself.   He is a man who as a young adult chose to

identify with African-American culture, and to live and work in a

black community.  Given his background, education, and even the words

he uses and the accent he speaks with, Barack Obama does not

automatically strike many African-Americans as “one of them.”

I’ve no doubt that many, if not most, black folks are thrilled to be

able to vote for an African American candidate for President for the

first time.  But if you actually look at what has happened this year,

his popularity with African-Americans came because the Clintons

engaged in what many African-Americans viewed as race-baiting.

Hillary Clinton lost her support in the African-American community by

her own actions. Barack Obama never had their support as some sort of

birthright.

Barack Obama is winning the black vote overwhelmingly for three

reasons: 1) Hillary Clinton alienated black voters by her own words

and deeds. 2) Barack Obama showed he was a viable candidate by winning

races in very white states. 3) Black voters have found a way to

identify with Obama.  Yes he’s a brown skinned son of Africa, but more

than that, his message is one of a country united to solve our

problems — an inclusive coalition where diversity is celebrated.

Barack Obama describes the United States as the sort of place

African-Americans have always wanted to live: someplace where they’re

judged by the content of their character and not the color of their

skin.

Barack Obama doesn’t get a free pass from anyone, especially from

African-Americans.  In fact African-Americans are arguably his

toughest audience.  If you’re African-American, and your family

background is culturally African-American, and the majority of the

people you associate with are African-American, you will know one

thing for sure:  Dark skin confers no special qualities on those who

wear it.  Black folks know black folks they love, they hate, they

trust, they distrust, they fear.  In other words, if you’re

African-American, other African-Americans are as individual as

snowflakes to you. If you aren’t a fool, you trust no one just for

being black.

Now I’m a white guy from Iowa.  I’m not a spokesman for black folks,

by any means.  I was raised by my mother not be racist, but I’m always

going to know capital B Black Culture from the outside.   I do know

this: as a White American, I’m the default.  My skin color confers

upon me a whole array of unearned entitlements in our culture.  I’m

the guy that could shoplift with impunity while the salesgirls at the

Mall are following the black folks around the store.  I can’t presume

to know what it feels like to stand out as a minority member in

society.  Well I can,somewhat, when I’m in black neighborhoods in

Chicago or Detroit, but if black folks were treated by white with the

kindness and hospitality I’ve experienced in those neighborhoods, we

wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

Since I’m 50 years old, I’m old enough to remember the Civil Rights

struggles of the 60s, and the assasination of Martin Luther King was a

huge event in my childhood.   I can only hope that my own children who

learn about the struggles of the past as history, not a lived-through

trauma, will be part of a multicultural society, where people are more

comfortable with each other. All of the old ideas and prejudices over

skin color are meaningless.   Being African  American, or European, or

Asian is much more about Culture than race. Culture is something about

which one can learn. Culture is something that you can share. Cultures

can get all mixed up together and form new Culture.   To cling onto

divisions and categories of the past is to not see the world as it is

in front of your eyes.  Yo Yo Ma is (arguably) the best ‘cellist in

the world, Keith Richards backs up Chuck Berry, suburban white kids

get obsessed with Japanese Anime, and my African-American friend Dave

from Detroit  is obsessed with early 90s British Shoegazer bands.

We’re all individuals and unique and it’s about time we really do

start judging people as individuals.

arachibutyrophobics anonymous

5/7/08

I was up at 5:45am in New York in order to attend a meeting at 3pm in Beverly Hills, and the flight was, according to one of the flight attendants, “one of the bumpiest he could remember”. Which makes me feel really good, because (as old-timers here might recall) I used to be so petrified of flying that I’d drive the Prius back and forth across the country. And today’s flight? Didn’t bother me AT ALL, in fact, I barely remember any turbulence as I slept.

This is a huge victory for me personally, because once those phobias set in, especially as we age, they can calcify to the point of no return. Sometimes, it’s not the fears of childhood that are the most devastating, it’s the ones you come to later, long after your emotional elasticity has hardened. Coming back from an adult phobia is incredibly hard work, but it’s really worth it: the feeling of accomplishment is as good as any aced test or Xmas bonus. I still have to cling to rigid behavior and slightly OCD habits to keep me sane, but there is some freedom therein.

So in my exhaustion, today’s CODE WORD is: what is a personal phobia that you are currently enduring, or a fear that you overcame at some point in adulthood?

spelling relief

5/6/08

You know who I like? My nephew Sean Patrick Williams. We got this last night at 10:15pm from Kent:

They still haven’t called Indiana yet, but an important number for us: Obama with 71% in Monroe County. This is where Sean has been working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, for the past month. It’s not a victory he can claim by himself, by any reasonable measure. But I’m his father, so I’m not reasonable. I think it is all because of him. We are very, very proud of how hard he has worked for the Obama campaign. More than that, we’re proud of how he went about it — everyone in the Bloomington office could not say enough to us about how great Sean was. Don Griffin, the pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Bedford, IN where we went to church Sunday, greeted us like long lost family, because of how much he liked Sean.

You know what else I love? My peeps, baby:

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So what do you think should happen now?

because your mother said so

5/6/08

By no means am I presenting the following list as remotely original, insightful or revolutionary… but we’ve been collecting a few thoughts about toddlerhood and I was wondering if any of you parents out there had noticed similar things about your little munchkin.

1. Their rules for English are better than English’s rule for English. Beyond Lucy’s “fourteen, fiveteen, sixteen” and “they relax, I relack”, her everyday grammatical mistakes are always based on logical extrapolations from other “normal” words, which kinda makes us, the “good” English speakers, the foolish ones.

2. If you think putting a toddler to bed later makes them sleep later, you will both be exhausted in short order. That rule may work for us, but stretching bedtime into the night almost always pays diminishing returns. For Lucy, I think there’s a sleep cycle that ends in the 4am to 5:30am region, and when she’s able to cross that gap with another sleep cycle, she’s able to saw toothpicks until 7:30am. If for some reason, she goes to bed late, that sleep cycle happens at 5:30 to 6am, and she’s up for the day (but overtired and therefore absurd).

3. They do not come by their value judgments instinctively; they get them from you. In other words, if you make a big deal about the letter G and the letter J making the same sound, they will get slightly more confused, because it’s apparent that you think it should be confusing. This can be expanded to much larger issues – I’m convinced that if we woke up one morning and either Hank or Ankle were floating at the top of their aquarium, I could simply say “they died – it’s like going to sleep and never waking up” and that would be that. Lucy also seems unbothered by the fact that she loves and protects two fish and then eats other fish for lunch.

4. Birthdays are not about presents, they are about the possibility of cake.

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Breakout™ – you needed the Atari paddle wheel

5. Parenting is more like the old video game Breakout than you might imagine. You can never stop your kid from doing what they really want to do, but if you’re quick, you can deflect their wishes with a particularly edgy distraction. In doing so, they’ll bounce off their 5-minute obsession en route to chaos somewhere else – but at least it’s a chaos you suggested. For Lulu, when she used to get incredibly upset, Tessa used to leap up and say “let’s go look at the lemon trees!” Now it’s a little more complicated, like me inventing a quick story about some lost cats, but it’ll still keep her from drawing on the couch with markers.

just after her first birthday – she’d already walked to me twice, which made it worse!

6. The real epiphany is not when they first walk, or say “mama” or any of that: it’s the day they’re first able to tell you what hurts. I think Lucy was 15 months or so when she told us one night “My ear hurts.” And from that day forward, my friends, parenting gets a LOT easier.

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i was just thinking about you

5/4/08

Whenever I don’t have my camera, I’ll take pictures with the cell phone, but the nature of that business means they don’t ever get into the right folders, and thus languish for months. I discovered pics of Lucy as an infant on my Treo about three weeks ago. Anyway, here are some interesting moments in the life of being my phone:

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my mom’s first day with Hildy in November

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our niece Katherine tells Lucy a story on our kitchen floor over Xmas

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I try to get out of an incredibly bad lie on a bizarrely warm November afternoon in Queens

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convenience store in Fresno, CA… both views on Nazis are represented, you know, if you can’t decide

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in the locker room during Salem’s wedding

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Lucy is making a VERY IMPORTANT POINT…

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…which, of course, is exhausting

sonnez les matines, sonnez les matines

5/1/08

When your life has almost no meaning, you shape your existence around the tiniest cues, imbuing them with meaning that nobody else could fathom. Like the obsessive-compulsive – who counts stairs, holds her breath at stoplights or makes sure he has an even number of paces en route to the bathroom – a young, depressive misanthrope without a regular job will let almost anything become touchstones to his structure.

In the late-90s, when (as XTC sang) all my schemes came to a humiliating end, I drifted into that world, able to subsist on the dying entrails of a freelance life and keeping a vampiric schedule. But I was always too much of a control freak to go completely to pot (although I tried that too), and thus gave myself arbitrary vespers. Both were in the form of lost digital watches.

Somewhere in my mom’s apartment in New York, there lurked a digital watch in an unpacked box, stuffed in some drawer, god knows where. At precisely 2:43am every night, the alarm would go off, and since I was up late writing, I’d hear it every time. Thus 2:43am became my witching hour thereafter; I was not allowed to start any project after that time, and if I was currently engaged in writing my tortured novel or playing Tetris, 2:43am meant it was time to wind down.

Transitively, there was also a digital watch buried deep in my own stuff where we lived in Hollywood. The alarm was set permanently to 12:04pm. I actually tried to find this particular watch with zero success, but after a while, I stopped looking: my days had an end, and now they had a beginning. True, when Daylight Savings Time came and went, there would be odd shifts, but the theory held.

I stuck to the 2:43am and 12:04pm rule for years, long after one watch’s battery, then the other, died deep in their respective storage bins, their mystery leaving as it had come. I mean, who sets their alarm for such bizarre times? Anyway, by Y2K, I’d gotten a real job and had to abandon that schedule… but still, once in a while, I’d see a clock read 2:43 and think of an old friend.

Now Tessa has a digital watch that goes off in our bathroom every day at 3:17pm. What the hell am I gonna do with that?