Monthly Archives: August 2009

for every season


Okay, I want all you out there in your various locales to have a wonderful summer weekend – Tessa and I just had a very nice bit of career news, something we’d been working on since last October, and we’re careening off into the wildernesses. I’m taking Lucy to our family reunion in Altamont, UT… and Tessa is attending Surf Diva camp in San Diego. YEAH, BABY!


Lucy last month at Maroon Bells lake, Aspen CO

need batteries today sir


Get out your absinthe bongs, fire up your heroin spoons and get ready to do a line of blow off a hooker’s ass:  RADIO SHACK IS RE-BRANDING!!! That’s right, our trusty Radio Shack is shaking off the doldrums and becoming THE SHACK! Of course, you can only say “The Shack” while looking like Buddy Christ:


Seriously, is there anything more reprehensible than a corporation trying to wiggle their way into colloquial YoungPeopleSpeak? It always sounds like your parents talking about using The Twitter to send an email. Let’s also not forget the endless focus groups and millions of dollars that went into this “repositioning of the brand” – all that work to end up with a name that evokes a place you get date-raped, rather than a store that sells the electronic WowWee™ Alive™ Panda Bear Cub.

“Radio Shack” is just fine as a name, and certainly no more stupid than “Chuck E. Cheese’s” or “Hammacher Schlemmer”. Companies always think their problems can be fixed by spackle and signage, rather than an honest look at the changing retail world they’re living in. As I’ve said before around here, I always thought Radio Shack would continue to exist for another 400 years, because someone always needs a 1/8″ jack-to-stereo RCA adapter and 50 feet of ethernet cable, and they need it NOW.

Best of luck, “The Shack”. I will continue to haunt your aisles; I’m always on the lookout for a good coaxial coupler or a 15-amp ceramic microwave oven fuse. But rest assured I will roll my eyes in disdainful superiority as I pass by your “reinvigorated corporate signage” and “brand revitalization” en route to the HEXBUG™ Micro Robotic Inchworm.

you’re mucking with a G here, pal



at the “town meeting” in Hudson, NY last Saturday

We seem to be entering some pretty dangerous times in America – not from Muslim extremists, Russian submarines, or semi-disposable Swedish furniture, but from our fellow Americans. While we’ve spent the last decade concentrating on Iraq and North Korea, the most dangerous threat to our national stability is coming from a group of people who eat at Wendy’s, watch “The Mentalist” and love baseball.

These motherfuckers go by several names: “birthers”, “tea-baggers”, even “deathers”, but they’re functionally the exact same set of Americans: predominantly white, middle-class “conservatives” over 35 who are dead-set against anything Obama is trying to do. I put “conservatives” in quotes, because they have almost nothing in common with classic conservatism – instead, these people have the following characteristics:

– they are virulent racists who know they can’t be racists anymore, and thus choose to couch their bigotry in such canards as the “Obama isn’t an actual American” horseshit

– they view the federal government as evil by definition, even though they live almost exclusively through the largesse offered them by the federal government

– they have a violent reaction to the government making any decisions about their health care, instead opting for huge insurance companies to make those decisions instead

– they don’t want to pay for anything, have no inherent ability to feel pain for anybody outside their immediate family, have a narcissistic selfishness that is only outweighed by their propensity towards confrontation and anger, and appear to be completely impervious to facts.

This subset of Angry Americans has been percolating for a long time, but two things have given them legitimacy: the rise of a certain “news” network that feeds on their hatred like a heroin dealer, and the utterly shameful Presidential campaign of John McCain and Sarah Palin. Most normal people got their first glimpses of these wingnuts during the coverage of Palin’s anti-Obama rallies, when shouts of “terrorist!” and “kill him!” were met with a tacit wink and nod.

A lot of people have lumped them together as “angry Southern white males”, but that’s accurate in neither geography nor gender. Sure, their numbers are highly concentrated in the South, but they can be found traumatizing town meetings pretty much anywhere (see pic above), and a shitload of them are women. Besides, I have a knee-jerk reaction to Americans from other regions denigrating the South like they’ve got it figured out. I’d prefer we stick to the states that deserve it, like Kentucky and Georgia.

Regardless of their place and relatively small numbers, I admit to being a little scared of what these people are capable of. I would not put it past them to put little militias together – they’ve already made a HUGE run on guns since Obama’s election – and take things into their own hands. I would also not put it past them to attempt the unthinkable, and all of you know what I’m talking about.

What is a pansy liberal like me to think? I emulate the meditating Buddhist as much as I can, but part of me always thinks of David Mamet’s lines in “The Untouchables”: They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That’s* the *Chicago* way!  Since these fuckers are well past any kind of sound reasoning, so far removed from logic, can’t be swayed by statistics, and consider a respectful debate to be profane, I’d like to know what us progressives should be ready for, if these nutters take it to the next level.

I shouldn’t call them names? Why not? What does it matter anyway? Would they change their minds if we were nicer about it?

Every time I write something like this, I get emails from people telling me I’m overreacting and there’s no boogeyman, etc… which is fine, I’m more than happy for this dead-ender movement to fizzle out, if that’s what will happen. But we just elected our first black President, and these fuckjobs have nothing to lose. History has shown us, time and again, that violent pushback occurs directly after the status quo is ruptured. I just hope these twits dissolve into their own obesity before they get their gun rack unlocked.

“Their coded message to their own lunatic fringe is very simple, ‘Go for broke’… [they’re] literally leaving a loaded gun on the table, saying ‘The first person who wants to use this, GO AHEAD'”

ask me, i won’t say no, how could i?


Some definitions, according to Lucy:

1. “‘Adopting’ is when your first family doesn’t really work out, but your second one is totally great.”

2. “A square bathtub with lots of bubbles is a jacuzzi.”

3. “A sunny day with no sun is ‘overcast’.”

4. “Anniversaries are birthdays for things that aren’t people.”

I totally jibed with the last one, because today is my and Tessa’s anniversary – six years ago, we had a wedding, a party, a rainstorm, benedictions in ancient tongues, and even a jacuzzi full of corn (but that’s a whole other story). The benefit of thinking of an anniversary as a birthday is this: it locks in the exact time of year as the unifying factor, not the arbitrary number of years it has been since the event.

In other words, I don’t get anything out of the “40th anniversary of Woodstock” or even the anniversary of the release of “Abbey Road”. Those are totally arbitrary remembrances based simply on our number system, which was in turn based on the number of fingers we happen to have.

But a birthday? Mine is May 26, and always evokes the beginning of summer, and the warmth of possibility. Lucy’s birthday (April 14) always conjures the first blossoms of lilac and cherry trees, and cold nights giving way to gorgeous afternoons. My nephew Barnaby, born on December 15, will know his birthday in the excitement of snow, Christmas shopping and impossibly short days.

And so it is with our anniversary: August 9th, pretty much always the hottest day of the year. I will always associate our wedding with jungle greens, overgrown vines, languid evenings, steamy basketball courts, bats flying overhead during parties, and torrential downpours. I will also remember the date as the best party I’ve ever known, an assemblage of people so rare and so wonderful that I grow sad to think how hard it would be bring them back together.

But mostly, on this date, I just think how lucky I was to be looking at this woman as I read my vows:


August is a very hard month, that much is clear. No national holidays, a sense of suspended animation, the influx of bizarre weather and a sense that everything takes 45% more effort. And yet, whenever this date comes around, I feel as I felt then: utter clarity as that irrepressibly hot, overcast, unbelievable day filtered into night, and we sang songs by the Smiths, laughed with our favorite people in the universe… then ran, sopping wet, into the rural taxi minivan and let him take us wherever we wanted.


hollow of hands


from Tessa:

As the regular readers of this blog know, I very rarely leave my imprint here. I love my husband and his feisty flourish of words. I love the rants and raves and naked emotion. I even love how profoundly and determinedly wrong he can be about things and people on occasion. I mean, who else lives so boldy outloud? But this is and should be his platform, without the needling of a contradicting wife (or, worse, undermining writing partner).

But Ian asked me to write something about Cooper, so here I am. Struggling.

I don’t think I can articulate much coherently. It’s been an emotional day. Here are a few impressions from the funeral.

I will never forget the way Wendy – Cooper’s aunt – reacted when she saw Ian today. She needed him so much. Sure, Ian hates The Republican Party but, other than that, he’s the least judgmental guy on earth and I think that was the air that Wendy needed to breathe.

And all of us there will remember Cooper’s father Quinn speaking about the moment he heard that his son was dead. His mind went blank and his body went cold. He left work and went to the car and then called home again. “Are you sure? Has someone called the paramedics?” And Jana said, “Quinn, he’s is gone.”

In that moment, Quinn described a kind of striking calm, a clarity, a spiritual strength that washed over him. And that strength has clearly guided him and his family through the unthinkable. Through picking a tiny casket for a little boy. Through choosing a burial site for your kid who’s supposed to start kindergarten in the fall. Through holding your other children as they grieve for their adorable little brother.

Hunter, Cooper’s oldest sister, talked about how she would miss Cooper’s sweet little body cuddled up next to hers. And Duncan, his next oldest brother, muttered “Coop would wake up in my room with a lot a good ideas, like let’s go outside and go swimming. And then we’d run around and say ‘You’re it. No, you’re it. No, you’re it.’ until we got tired and then we’d go swimming again.”

Cooper was a cool kid. He was one million percent boy as much as Lucy is one million percent girl, and, of course, she had a huge crush on him. He was six months and ten days older that her and, by the last time we saw him, he’d become a blur of wild boy fun, jumping in and out of the pool, climbing trees and riding bikes faster than Lucy could say “wait for me.”

Jana, Coop’s mom, is Ian’s first cousin and his first crush. She’s also the person who taught me as much about taking care of a baby as anyone. When I came to the family reunion with 5 month old Lucy, she was there was 10 month old Cooper, effortlessly lugging him around like the best loved sack of potatoes on earth.

I don’t share the same theology as Jana – my spiritual life leaves me with more questions than answers – but in this moment, I’m so grateful that she believes that she will be reunited with her little boy in heaven. For tonight, that’s what I’m going to believe too.


allemand left and do-si-do


Okay, so I’m flying up to Utah for a funeral today – and I’d like to take my mind off the intense sadness for a bit. Of course, that means one thing (well, five things, if you count ham radio, calligraphy, P.J. Hairston, and breasts): the upcoming selection on “So You Think You Can Dance”. Yes, I’ve already wasted plenty of your time on this, non-SYTYCD watchers – but it’s the finale tonight and tomorrow, and the four finalists offer an interesting look into America’s psyche.

The last few contestants were voted off by phone, and the winners will be determined the same way. I’m not sure what the “SYTYCD” voting demographic is, but it’s probably not the same nation of 13-year-old girls who sway “American Idol”. I’d guess three voting blocs: teen girls, gay men 21-48 years old, and farty dilettantes like me and the wife.*

Here’s what I’ve concluded so far:

1. Yes, my Mormon theory seemed to be proved wrong, but you never know. Randi might have been eliminated weeks ago if it weren’t for my garment-clad tribesmen in the hills of American Fork, UT.

2. “SYTYCD” voters systematically cleansed the show of all the “totally queenie gays” except Brandon. When you’ve got a dance show, and 2 of the 3 male finalists appear to be straight? I smell a hetero-bias. Ade personified African manhood, and Evan is the Norbert Leo Butz of the next generation.


Kayla, Brandon, Jeanine and Evan

3. In five seasons of the show, there’s only been one female winner, so it seems like it’s time for another one. But let’s break it down, shall we?

EVAN – You gotta hand it to him… at hobbit height, it’s hard for the guy to pull off anything in the Latin genre, and his physique reminds me of guys at the dorm. But he can surprise you with a high-flying Russian leap, and he’s got style. Plus, every girl in America wants to marry him. Hard to tell.

BRANDON – I’ve always liked him, even during Mary Murphy’s tearful pleading. But his solo to “Carmina Burana” last week was fuckin’ legendary. I don’t know how he managed to save that masterpiece until this late, but it was just brilliant, and it might put him on top.

KAYLA – Blonde “with fantastic lines” (most overused phrase on the show) does absolutely nothing for me in solo mode, but really shines when paired with a male dancer for a narrative piece. She’s the glittering white hope for the show’s producers, and pretty much always delivers.

JEANINE – My (and Tessa’s) favorite. An afterthought in the top twenty, she flings herself into each performance, and works unbelievably hard. Her face is made for the back row in a Broadway venue, and obviously has a way more demons and/or intellect than Kayla. I could watch her dance all week (and will, because we got tickets to the tour).

Now, obviously Janette should have been here, but Mia Michaels fucked up AGAIN and called Janette her favorite dancer, which led every fan of the show to vote for someone else to save them from elimination. Seriously, Mia and Tyce… positively heartbreaking choreographers, and unrelentingly shitty judges.

My thoughts? The most interesting battle is between Jeanine and Kayla. Both represent the two basic dream states of Americans: aspirational and inspirational. Kayla is the dream house, the unbelievable blonde, the body born to dance – you can aspire to be her, but you can’t be her.

Jeanine is the rags to riches, the hard-working brunette, the girl with curvy parts who made it work by the intensity of her drive – she inspires, because in some small way, she allows you to believe that you could do it too.

Kayla is a little bit Jordan, Jeanine is a little bit Hansbrough. Is America feeling aspirational or inspirational? Time will tell, my fellow reality television spazmoids!

*Tessa is not farty

suffer the children


Whatever your spiritual predilection, I’d like you to hold a thought, offer some light, say a prayer or take a little pause for my 4-year-old cousin Cooper, who passed away this weekend. He was the son of my cousin Jana, making him technically “once removed” – but in my extended family, there are no such delineations between kids. He and Lucy never stopped to ask anybody what “second cousin” meant when they were busy playing on the floor.


Cooper borrowed Lucy’s Carolina hat, Aug 2007

I can only explain the particular heartbreak of this story by going back 40 years: when I was very small, I had a cousin named Matthew. He was Jana’s little brother, born nine days before me. There are countless pictures of us in the tub together, riding proto-Big Wheels, smearing our faces with batter and peeing into flowerpots.

Just before his 2nd birthday, Matthew had a fatal accident in his family’s driveway, becoming a subject my own grandmother – who survived the Depression and was not known to show emotion – couldn’t discuss without bending over in her chair and bawling. Words beggar the sadness that befell my uncle and aunt. For me, there was always a missing piece in the family fabric, a person that was supposed to be there, but wasn’t.


Matthew and me, Xmas 1968

Now little Cooper has suffered the identical fate, the unthinkable happening to the next generation in the same exact family. There’s nothing poetic about this, no larger point to be made, just unspeakable sadness set against astronomical odds.

One of Tessa’s compatriots, someone who had lost a 7-year-old, said that he had come to understand that “no matter how short, every life is complete.” Perhaps there will be a day when my cousin Jana and her husband Quinn will have similar thoughts, but now, all they can do is survive the worst thing that could possibly happen to a parent.

And the family member who had been driving… my heart absolutely breaks. This person is one of my favorite people in the world, let alone the family; nobody sweeter, less judgmental, more genuine, more kind. What can any of us say? All Tessa and I can do is fly up to Utah and be present. Just let them know that we will bear witness to sweet Cooper’s life and represent the other far-flung relatives that couldn’t attend.

I have no religion, no structured faith – only the lovely mosaic of friends I’ve cobbled together and the family whose ranks I joined through endless joyous Christmases, fights over french fries in the backseat, and games of Rook that lasted well past bedtime. I live thousands of miles from my cousins, and I don’t agree with them on politics, on theology, on pretty much anything – but I’m inextricably moored to them, and that brother/sisterhood has always been an unthinkable blessing. It doesn’t have to make sense, loving your family. Some things remain unconditional.