Monthly Archives: November 2008

his house is in the village though

11/30/08

High in the Taconic range of the Hudson Valley, the last one awake in the house, with the blasting wind embedding needles of ice into the side of the ancient farmhouse. Chimneys, the attic, or the house as a whole is making a slow, medium-pitched whine from the gusts that make little pieces of paper shudder on nightstands and book tables.

These are the last three weeks of the longest nights, the pitch-blackness that tests your mettle, asks if you think you can get through the winter. St. Lucy’s day, evolved from the Scandinavian goddess who might bring light back from the night, is still a fortnight away. There is no snow to illuminate your path, the moon is hidden behind miles of clouds, and family hunkers together in a mystical, worried celebration, subdued by early fatigue and a weak sun.

Those months ago, when you put in that extra nail, when you made sure the beam was steadfast, when you spent an extra minute on that project in the unending sun of a hot, languid afternoon, you might have saved yourself tonight. A little seam, that one stitch, will keep it all together when the winds come. You can probably rest easy tonight, even hibernate. Save your strength, as it has always saved you.

cheers, mate

11/24/08

Studies have shown that the act of being “consciously thankful”, at least when put in a list of the end of each day, can have effects that equal both antidepressants and therapy. It’s one of those easy things you can do – like 20 minutes of exercise and Vitamin D – that pays enormous dividends, and Tessa writes her list every night.

I like to think my nightly sojourn to the pages of this blog provide something close, even when it’s in the form of a spittle-flyin’ rant, but I don’t have the data to back that up. For its part, America has one night a year dedicated to being thankful, which always makes your thanks very vague – family, home, job.

I’ve already used this blog to give thanks to inanimate ideas like Afrin, Excedrin, Dexy’s Midnight Runners (both kinds), the windshield wiper delay setting, Danny’s “Green Tea” dunk over Paulus, Brora 30-year-old single malt and the F#minor 7th chord. So here’s a few animate people who deserve kudos:

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– I’m thankful for my great-great-Grandfather Thomas Evans (center), a coal miner in Pontypridd, Wales, who decided to come to America in 1891, carrying nothing but some books and an old violin. His son John Evans (lower right) sang songs in Welsh to my mom.

 

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Los Angeles, 1941

– I’m thankful for my great-grandma Alice, who was more fun than a great-grandmother should ever be. She’s pictured here with my grandmother (whom I never met – she died in the ’50s) but Alice herself lived forever, long enough for me to meet her as a kid. She lived in a split-level old-folks apartment that was actually fun, and then almost burned the place down while entertaining. Having trouble telling who is who in the picture? That’s because there’s only 14 years between them. Wild West, baby!

 

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– I’m thankful to Thornton “Mr. The Budster” Long, who possessed far more cajones than I did, and bothered to knock on my window at Hinton James when I was a navel-gazing loner set adrift in the first week of college. He had already met Jon and Chip, and decided we’d all be friends.

 

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– I’m thankful for Charlie Todd, now the infamous purveyor of Improv Everywhere (please see their Frozen Grand Central if you haven’t already) but who was once the humble archivist of the Lab! Theater at UNC-Chapel Hill. I left a little note on there sometime in 1999, and a few months later, a friend I hadn’t seen in five years wrote me an email because she was afraid I might have descended into rampant marijuana use. Then I married her, and this amazing thing happened:

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so who are YOU thankful for?

EADGBE

11/23/08

I write to you from the upstairs apartment of a fantastic recording studio located on a 88-acre pasture deep into the hills of northwestern New Jersey – we are in the middle of nowhere, and the stars prove it. My band The Strike has come here to record a little EP of songs, but we got into the groove so much that all 12 of our originals have a rough draft already on tape.

I’ve been a bit loath to post any of the music on here, because pop songs truly have to be heard in finished form, or else they’re just plain embarrassing. Sure, you can have an unaccompanied folk song or a heartfelt duet, but when you’ve got 50,000 watts of pure pop energy with drums, bass, guitar, piano, violin and three-part harmonies, you’d better be sure the ducks are lined up in a nice row.

The last time I slept in this apartment here at Mix-o-lydian, it was my 26th birthday, and we were in the middle of making all the songs in children’s textbooks, grades K-9. It feels bizarre, fascinating and poetic to be back.

When these tunes are mixed, we’ll put up our website, and if you don’t mind a little twee with your coffee, I’ll post some songs here.

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that’s a circle that turns ’round upon itself

11/20/08

Please, please keep on with yesterday’s debate – I’ve gotten calls and emails from several people fighting the fight – but I absolutely had to post Annie’s video for those who haven’t seen it. That she is able to create the hoop illusion without the hoop ever revolving around her… I dunno, it’s magical, and as she is one of Lucy’s godparents, the Lulubeans will be spending some time in front of the computer screen today.


We Shall Overturn Prop H8! from Ann Humphreys on Vimeo.

gomorrah explained, 5 cents

11/19/08

Disclaimer: I love my extended family unconditionally. HOWEVER, they occasionally do things that I find unconscionable, and this Mormon-sponsored Prop 8 disaster is probably the worst. Whether or not any individual family members gave money, I don’t know – but I do know they have a history of unbelievable bigotry towards gays. Even my beloved Auntie Donna once canvassed neighborhoods with some other women, in her misguided attempts to keep the “family” sacred in America.

One of my aunts confided in us recently, saying something akin to “I don’t care so much about the marriage, I just can’t get over the sex.” As I wrote to an old friend tonight, I think most gay men would be pretty horrified at the thought of a 70-something Mormon grandmother in the sack as well, so seems to me they’re even. Except that homosexuals don’t raise $43 million to strip Mormons of their civil rights.

But this brought up an interesting proposition: most people – and perhaps all Mormons – have NO IDEA what being gay really means. To them, when you discuss gay men, their thoughts immediately go to anal sex. Straight, no chaser. You talk about queers, they think rectal entry.

The truth is, a vast percentage of gay men don’t engage in any anal sex at all – when it comes to the primal, universal expression of lust, there are plenty of other ways to stoke your Vesuvius. But like every other human being on earth, sexual congress takes up .001% of their time, and the rest is spent in traffic, paying bills, writing emails, putting out fires at work, and flossing. And like most married couples, they’re probably not having sex at all.

Most of the straight world (and Mormons) know nothing of a “top” and a “bottom”, and the more complicated dynamic of “topping from the bottom”. They know nothing of the intensity and longevity of most lesbian romances, and they don’t know why many gay women keep their nails short. They don’t know the jokes about Chelsea boys or U-Haul girls. All they know is lisping, mincing, and maybe Judy Garland and Liberace.

Studies have shown that the only way for people to change their minds about gay people is to know one. If there is some personal connection to a homosexual, even the staunchest bigoted homophobe sees the light very quickly, and more importantly, changes the way they vote on the issue.

Problem is, none of my cousins in Salt Lake, American Fork, Orem, Provo or Pleasant Grove, Utah will ever meet a gay person, or at least a gay person who is out and honest. So I’m thinking I might set up a booth, or take private questions at our family reunion in August – I’m a flaming heterosexual, but I know enough about the gay lifestyle to answer 77% of the questions asked. Okay, so I won’t set up a booth, but you get the idea.

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In that light, help me out. Whether you want to use your name or be anonymous, share some of your knowledge of the gay world that mainstream America would never know unless someone sat them down and told them straight-out. If you’re of the homosexual persuasion, what are some of the things you’ve noticed that might surprise folks completely out of your world?

It can be detailed, exact, vague or even mundane. Thoughts?

hailing N.C.U.

11/18/08

Some Thoughts About Being in Chapel Hill for Ten Hours for the Kentucky Game

1. Drove through two blizzards to get here. Forget snow, I had barely seen rain for seven months. All those white flecks in the air, how magical!

2. Chapel Hill is colder than BALLZ. You remember that week when it crept into the low 20s, and you were like “what the fuck? I thought we were in the South?”? This is that week.

3. Kentucky can eat it. The last time I saw us play Kentucky in 1990, both schools had the same number of total wins since their programs had begun eighty years earlier (by the way, what were the astronomical chances of that happening?) and Pete Chilcutt threw an errant ball from the floor to Rick Fox for the last-second win, and the place erupted like I’d never heard, not even for the Dook games.

No such eruptions tonight, but it felt good to wipe away one more “total wins” from their column and add to ours. Their fans are the worst. Gillespie should have known he was entering a toxic situation in Lexington.

4. I can’t believe I drove this morning from the University of Kentucky to UNC, to see UK play UNC at UNC. That’s weird.

5. I never thought freshmen looked that young. When we became seniors, the girls would always remark about the frosh, and how young they seemed. To me, they always looked about right: that is, like uncooked dough. I looked like that too.

6. Sometimes you can tell the UNC fan base’s age just by color alone. The older people in the stands wear that Carolina Blue from the ’70s and ’80s that was actual deep sky blue:

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whereas the younger students wear the new Carolina Blue which, to me, has a lot more lavender in it:

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(you can guess my preference, but I’m a purist)

7. My nephew Sam took me to his suite on the fifth floor of Hinton James. I could still name about forty of you, and which suites you lived in circa 1986 (yes, you on the 4th, 9th and 10th floors). I went to my old Room 244, which is now 211A, and met the very nice dude living there now. He had a Carolina blue Epiphone guitar with Rameses on it. ROCK!!!

ungh murgh blarf snurg

11/16/08

I realize that HarperCollins just included the word “meh” in their new English Dictionary, and English is a living language and all that, but seriously… now that “meh” is now a real word, can we all agree to never use it again?

They say patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, and sarcasm is for people who have run out of things to say, but “meh” is for people too fucking lazy to describe their own laziness. If you find something “vaguely uninteresting” or “boringly flawed”, then bloody well say so. There are lots of words you can use to describe your immense fatigue, including “I’m not interested in talking to you right now”, but “meh” is the endgame of communication, and is unacceptable in my household.

Alternatives? Sure! How about: lethargic, saturnine, blasé, world-weary, disconsolate, gloomy, irksome, tedious, wispy, bedimmed… or my favorite, invented by Jiffer and her friends: “schma-schma”. Let me use it in a sentence:

“How was your date last night?”

“I don’t know, I tried to talk to him, but he was all ‘schma-schma’.”

Here’s the thing: “meh” can only be said by letting your jaw droop open in an uninspired attempt to get a monosyllable out – your eyes have to be vacantly staring ahead, lids at half-mast, so bereft of thought, inspiration or opinion that you’ve resorted to the sated, existential grunt of Early Man. You’ve got to do better. If you’re that bored, why are you on the ride?

4:11 positrac outback, 750 double pumper, edelbrock intake

11/13/08

I’m lying on a bed in a hotel room in Frankfort, KY – my brother Sean and I have ventured to the Bourbon Trail to help my buddy Jon fix his kitchen so he can rent his duplex at exorbitant rates. But having just driven 11 hours, I have to ask:

Why the fuck are we even considering bailing out the Big Three automakers in this country? I mean, I get it: 10% of America’s workforce is somehow related to cars, and if these companies go under, the suffering will be immense. But us writing a blank check to Ford, GM and Chrysler is like driving an abused wife back to her husband. These are the BAD GUYS, plain and simple. They fought seat belts, they fought safe gas tanks, they fought airbags, and they fought decent gas mileage FOR FORTY YEARS. If it were up to them, they’d have your kids ride shotgun in piles of shattered vodka bottles.

There may have been a day when someone loved the clean stylin’ of their Buick, the fins of their Fairlane, or even the no-nonsense subtlety of their K-car, but those days are gone, baby, gone. Americans have made two kinds of cars for years:

1. boring, shitty, uninspiring, unsafe, mid-level sedans with shitty gas mileage, or

2. hideous, ostentatious, rollover-prone, SUV Fuck-You-Mobiles with mind-bendingly shitty gas mileage.

By 1999 or so, the writing was on the wall: global warming was real, gas prices were going to go stratospheric, and soon enough, the SUV craze would be exposed for what it really was. All three automakers had YEARS to get an electric drive train going, but didn’t fucking bother. In the meantime, Toyota was staying up late perfecting their game. I’m no Nostradamus, but I did the math in 2002 and the next year, Tessa and I bought the the new generation Prius, the second Prius ever sold in New York.

We would have been glad to buy American, but Detroit was so far behind the game that Ford gave up and had to use the Toyota hybrid engine inside the new Escape. The Big Three squandered a decade of innovation during the Dark Ages soon to be known as the Bush II Era, instead calling hybrids “a bad idea” and pushing Yukons and Escalades on a public eager to buy their way out of post-9/11 fear.

And NOW they come crying to Washington like three obese babies suddenly denied their ice cream? Our new, enlightened government should either tell them to go fuck themselves, or we should give them some money WITH THE IRON-BOUND STIPULATION that they re-work their plants and their plans around a new energy structure, a green-based technology that’ll put us back on top of the world and kickstart a million new jobs.

Because if we give them $100 billion, and the limit of their innovation extends to twenty-seven cup holders and 5 miles per gallon, we really should leave cars alone and stick to our strong points: reality television, bad chocolate and gun-related homicide.

got plenty of nuttin’

11/12/08

I flew back to NYC today for the holidays, and the ladies – all three of them – will be joining me next week. Over the last two days, however, I’ve noticed a few things. It’s very easy to get a table at a restaurant. Best Buy has a shitload of things on the shelves, and while there were certainly people in there, I didn’t see any voracious shopping. And at LAX, one of the busiest hubs of human beings on the planet, the security line at Terminal 6 looked like this:

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That’s at rush hour, the time when that place should be packed to the rafters with screaming babies, confused Belgians, pissed-off Business Class Elite Partners and gruff airport personnel. Instead, there was one person helping us into line, two screeners, AND FIVE PASSENGERS.

On the plane, there were at least five places you could lie across a row. The bags showed up immediately at JFK. I mean, it’s awesome, don’t get me wrong – and Virgin America is in a class by itself anyway – but is anyone else seeing examples of what happens when an economy slows into something rather glacial?