Monthly Archives: May 2009

th’ place to be at unc


It was September 1987, I was a junior at Carolina, and I was super-psyched because I was attending my first “literary salon” party at Jenny Offill’s house on McDade Street. Jenny was in my creative writing class, as were RJ, Molly, Kristin, Yelvo and a host of other folks who went on to rule their own planets. Jenny had made lemonade, and a bunch of us were sitting in the living room making casual literary conversation, and I have to tell you, I felt like I was finally being invited to the parties I was always supposed to attend.

At these little gatherings, you could say whatever you wanted; you could be as intellectual or erudite or passionate as you wished, and nobody was going to roll their eyes and say “whatever, FAG.” You got to try on personas and trot out theories and discard both when either got tiresome. Having spent most of grade school hiding under my desk, and the better part of high school engaging in emotional sublimation, I lapped this up. I was in heaven.

And as I was sipping lemonade spiked with bourbon, a brassy blonde charged in from outside. Her hair was going seventeen different places at once, she wore an oversized white men’s oxford shirt, and she was already smiling, mid-story. She had just come from Granville Towers, where she’d participated in some massive “Dating Game” send-up in front of the whole dorm. Pretty impressive for a freshman in her third week at Carolina.

One of the Dating Game questions was “Can tell us something peculiar about you?” She’d replied, “I have little brown specks in the middle of my blue eyes.”

I found this interesting. “You do?” I asked. And immediately, this girl leapt across the room, hovered about three inches from my face, pulled down her left eye and said, “Yep, can you see it?” Sure enough, little sunbursts of brown and red in the middle of a massive blue eye. How amazing it would be, to have known right then, that this 18-year-old freshman and I would someday have a little girl of our own, a girl with eyes so blue that I find myself hovering inches from her face just to go swimming in her little skies.

But we had so much time to pass before this chick in the white Oxford and I would see each other in those hues, so many other people to date, to fall for, so many cities to live in, so many jobs to commit ourselves to, so many nights wondering who the other person was, not realizing we’d already met.

Oh, my awesome wife, your birthday is tomorrow, and I just wanted say this: even though we’ve known each other twenty-two years, and by now you should be so familiar, I still feel the same exhilaration, the rush of possibility, every time I get close enough to see the tiny burgundy sunrises in your eyes. Happy birthday, sweetie!


i agreed to WHAT


I am having one of those nights when I cannot keep my eyes open despite it being 7:30pm. I know this happens a lot for some of you, but having been a freakishly vampiric night owl for thirty years, it’s entirely foreign to me. Might someone… tha Budster, LFMD, Cris, GFWD, kent, Ehren, lead the charge today? Something guaranteed to piss everybody off?

next up: i am the walrus



playing with blacklight (from Spencer’s Gifts) just before bed

SCENE – In a darkened bedroom, Daddo (Ian) is entering the “song phase” of the nightly Putting Lucy to Bed opus. He has already sung “Blackbird”, and now chooses “Norwegian Wood” to end the evening.

DADDO: (sings) “I – once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me. She – showed me her room, isn’t it good, Norwegian wood.”

LUCY: What’s Norwegian wood?

DADDO: It’s wood, from – you know, Norway. (starts singing quickly again) “She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere, so I looked around and I noticed there wasn’t a chair-“

LUCY: There was no chair?

DADDO: (sings) “I – sat on the rug, biding my time, drinking her wine-“

LUCY: Why was he biting his time?

DADDO: No, it’s “biding my time.” With a “d”.

LUCY: What’s “biding”?

DADDO: Well, it’s like, he was just sitting there, waiting for something to happen. When you “bide your time”, you… you know when you’re sitting criss-cross-applesauce at school and waiting for the teacher? That’s “biding your time”.

LUCY: (not convinced) Huh.

DADDO: (sings) “We – talked until two, and then she said, ‘it’s time for bed’.”

LUCY: (in “that makes sense” tone) Yeah.

DADDO: “She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh-“

LUCY: Why was she laughing? Was there something funny?

DADDO: No, it’s just that – sometimes people laugh when – I’m going to keep singing, OK?


DADDO: “I told her I didn’t and crawled off to sleep in the bath-“

LUCY: Why did he sleep in the bath? That sounds very uncomfortable.

DADDO: (pause) Yeah, fair enough. I always thought it sounded uncomfortable too. Maybe it was one of those gigantic English clawfoot tubs-

LUCY: But why-

DADDO: Because she took the only bed, so he had to sleep in the bath.

LUCY: Huh.

DADDO: “And – when I awoke, I was alone-“

LUCY: Because she had gone to work. She said so.

DADDO: (stifling laughter) “This bird had flown-“

LUCY: What is a bird doing there?

DADDO: No. Oh my god. Sometimes the Beatles called their girl friends “birds”. Like a nickname. And since she had gone to work, John said “this bird had flown.”

LUCY: Okay.

DADDO: “So – I lit a fire – isn’t it good, Norwegian wood.”

LUCY: He lit a fire in the bathtub?

DADDO: What? No! He got out of the bathtub, realized he was alone, then he lit a fire in her fireplace.

LUCY: I don’t think she had a fireplace.

DADDO: Sure she did. That’s how he lit a fire. In the woodstove.

LUCY: With Norwegian wood.

DADDO: Yes, he – well, wait a minute, I think her furniture was Norwegian wood, but not the firewood.

LUCY: Daddo, I can’t wait to sing this with you.

DADDO: Oh, sweetie, I can’t wait to sing this with you either.

slap-chop, the lambada and nkotb excluded


Which leads me to today’s CODE WORD question: what specific invention of the last twentyish years are you most thankful for? Must be fairly granular; you can’t say “the Internet”, it must then be something specific on the internet. Thoughts?

um, how does “never” work for you


I’d like to welcome you to a discussion that takes place between Tessa and me on a bi-weekly basis: my crazy notions about education. I would like to pitch a few ideas to the world at large and see where they land, if you don’t mind.

1. Assigning homework to kindergartners is bullshit. If you want to see how to turn your child’s insane wide-eyed imagination into total drudgery and automaton-like conformity, just take a look at this graph:


I’m sorry, kindergarten is for EATING CRAYONS. It is for finger painting, then putting your finger in your butt. It is for spilling shit all over creation, laughing so hard you wet your pants, and thinking boys are doo-doo heads. As stated in this excellent article in today’s NYT, “a flotilla of research shows homework confers no benefit — enhancing neither retention nor study habits — until middle school.” Did you hear that? MIDDLE SCHOOL.

2. Assigning homework AT ALL is bullshit. Yes, this is where I sound like crazy “I wanna raise the drinking age” guy, but I’m serious. When I was in high school, our day started at 7:30am, and if we did anything artistic or sports-related, we got home at 8pm. Then we had an AIRCRAFT CARRIER load of homework for each class, doled out by teachers who didn’t think any other teacher gave out homework. There were actually not enough hours in the day to be attending school, and even if there were, that’s all you did with your fucking life: you attended school.

I loathed it. I didn’t have one millisecond to pursue any interest in the world I once had. All those weird skills I tell you about, like ham radio, calligraphy, odd languages, composing, carpentry? All begun in junior high, when I still had time to breathe. In the real world, you might have a suck-ass job, but if you’re smart, you leave the job at 5 and come home to do whatever you want. You’re at school from early in the morning to late afternoon… why the fuck do you have to bring it home with you?

Don’t give me that line – used above – about improving “retention and study habits”. All that means is that you’re temporarily retaining knowledge to be vomited out at test time, then promptly forgotten. As for study habits, why can’t you learn that at school itself? Take a class in “using your time wisely” or some shit, so when you come home, you can get on your bike or just lie back and daydream. That’s where most money-making ideas come from anyway.

3. School should start no earlier than 9:30am. Show me a high-schooler, and I’ll show you a fucking somnambulist. Teens have drastic chemical changes in their nervous system that force them to stay up later, while also making them need nine hours or more sleep. Personally, I slept-walked from 1981 to 1985, and only partially woke up for UNC. Story after story shows how later starts would benefit attendance, test scores, academic achievement and sports. Yet there’s always some asinine Puritan moral high ground that accompanies early risers – traditions no doubt handed down from our farming ancestors, you know, like whipping kids with a leather pitchfork strap – that’ll keep our school fettered to the godawful early morning.

I don’t know, I hated school, almost every minute of it. I hated the inefficiency of those vast hours spent doing busywork, the arbitrariness of testing, and the gargantuan slabs of homework for homework’s sake. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to have engaged in endless projects that taxed my imagination and my deductive skills, something that forced me to break something down and rebuild it. Hell, I could have even dealt with boring-ass trigonometry and backwater poli-sci if I weren’t so damn tired and didn’t have to take it home.


maybe I just wish it was all like this