Monthly Archives: May 2010

catherine wheeled


This one goes out to all of you who carried one or more babies in your belly, or came along to swoop up and save a li’l pumpkin who needed you, and how insane it is that a card manufacturer had to give you a day of your own, when we should take fifteen minutes out of every day to bask in the incredible awesomeness that is all of you.

And when that same Mother’s day falls upon the actual birthday of the mother of Lucy, well, then, that’s a celestial event in my household. There was once a time when I pushed my rock up that hill, when I felt Zero at the Bone, and the skies modulated from gray to grey.

I was a little troubled

Hookah with my senses bubbled

All Edward leared

Then she appeared

And the moon which formerly shone

On the marbled midnight mile

Suddenly just packed its bags

Now shines from her bright smile

Then she appeared.


photo by Lucy

quiet, i’m visualizing my future porsche


I watched just twenty minutes of Project Runway this season while Tessa was convalescing on the couch. However, it was the finale episode, and it was long enough to see yet another contestant behave in a way I find utterly stupefying. For those of you who don’t watch the show, don’t worry, it’s only a metaphor.

Anytways, “Project Runway” had winnowed the contestants down to four designers: two had already made it to Fashion Week, and two others were competing for the third spot: Mila (a vaguely dour 40-year-old woman from Dallas) and Jay (a 31-year-old slightly-queenie guy living in San Francisco). During one of his tête-a-têtes with the camera, Jay was utterly derisive, positively dripping with disdain for Mila, saying he wasn’t even thinking about her, and was only really competing with the two guys who were already in.

jaynicolassario.jpg milahermanovski.jpg

Jay vs. Mila

Of course, Jay doesn’t beat the other guys – he doesn’t even get past Mila, and doesn’t go to Bryant Park. Obvious enough, but it led me to thinking: Yes, I know it’s a reality show, but once you look at it philosophically, why the fuck do people say such stupid fucking things? In what way was he helping himself? He obviously believed it would have cost him something to stay silent, or to offer even faint praise (as Mila did to him).

While talking to Tessa this afternoon, she summed it up: all of us have a very complicated relationship with the things we don’t have yet. Entire industries have sprung out of the psychology of want and the self-help of desire, the business of getting things you think you deserve. The most prevalent right now – and the easiest to mock – is The Secret, with its pseudoscience and blaming the victim (“you didn’t want it enough!”), but like all belief systems, it contains shreds of truth.

One could say Jay was just thinking in the Secret’s own vernacular of violent positivity; if he put his sights higher than Mila, he would surely pass her by. Tessa mentioned all the visualization work done by modern athletes, “pre-enacting” both the race and standing on the podium. There’s no room for losers on Sportscenter or at auditions; hell, there’s not even room for people who think they might lose.

I tend to think Jay suffered from one of the more tedious character flaws of young artists – the belief that your own hubris is part of the art itself, and if you drop your pretense, the art will suffer in kind. Kind of like “of course I’m an asshole – I shatter preconceptions, just like my novels! If I offer pleasantries to you, I’m not being honest to my work!” I say this as someone who has no doubt pulled something similar out of my ass.

But here’s the thing: that shit don’t work. It always comes back to the art in question, or the actor in question, or, in business, your sales, your profit, your performance. If you say something asinine en route to your end result, that doesn’t make you a wunderkind or a failure, it just makes you asinine.

There was only one person who said he was the greatest while he was the greatest, and that was Muhammad Ali. All the other greats let their work do the talking: Michael Jordan may have been a dick, but he never went on record. Wayne Gretsky, Dean Smith, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, The Beatles and Jim Henson all behaved with grace, and acted like they’d been there before.

Demurring and acting graciously doesn’t just endear you to your fellow man, it actually relieves pressure on yourself, allowing you to work without additional loss of stomach lining. To those who say they need the extra pressure to turn in brilliance, I say horseshit: if you’re meant to be what you seek, there’s more than enough pressure.

I know being well-mannered about your goals makes for boring television, and you’re never going to sell a book entitled “The REAL Secret: The Universe Doesn’t CARE What You Want” but I’ve seen enough nice guys (and girls) finish first to wonder why everyone else is being such a dick about it.

hammer a six-inch spike through a board


We just got done watching Real Genius this evening, and watched Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (the one with the whales) last week – Tessa had seen neither, which in my circle of ’80s accomplices, was required viewing. Up next will be Overboard and Spinal Tap (I know, right?)

Do you have any cultural touchstones you love, but your significant other has yet to experience?


I loved Michelle Meyrink with the blue-hot fission of a thousand supernovae

and when president fillmore said jump, we said-


I’m not that fucking old, people, I swear I’m not. I know being 42 sounds ancient to you folks in your twenties (as it did to me back then) but trust me, at 42 you’re dating a cousin of the same bullshit you used to be dating at 28. Yes, there are a few physical changes, but they’re mostly restricted to hangovers and love handles. As a guy, your precious daydreams have wavered little; they usually manage to come back to boobies without too much fuss.

However. When I explain the peculiar habits or technology of my youth to Lucy, I sound like I should be churning butter for the Mormon Handcart Brigades across 19th-century Wyoming. Consider the recent things we’ve discussed:

• When I was a kid, there was no ATM machine, so my mom waited in line with her car at the drive-thru bank, where she would write a check for cash, then insert it into a metal canister. The canister would be sucked through pneumatic tubes to the teller, who would then put a stack of $20 bills in it and shoot it back to us. This happened every Friday afternoon, and the line of station wagons without air conditioning stretched forever.

• We had three channels of television, and a fourth PBS station came in fuzzy. In order to watch Sesame Street, my dad had to roll up tinfoil into big snakes and stick them on the aerial behind the TV. You couldn’t go to the bathroom during it, or you’d miss something. And it was in black-and-white, which was all washed-out until you put this plastic cover on the screen that made the picture look better.

• Kids didn’t have car seats, and when I was three years old, I traveled from California to Iowa sitting between the front two seats – on top of the emergency brake – without a belt, in a 1966 squareback Volkswagen.


helping my dad wash the VW

• Nobody had a phone in their pocket until about ten years ago. Before that, you just had to leave messages at people’s houses and hope they checked them. But when I was a kid, there were no answering machines, so sometimes you’d let the phone ring fifteen times until they could get to it. When we moved to London when I was nine, we arranged our friends to pick us up by writing letters called aerogrammes.

• I went to the doctor and he zapped my eyes into seeing clearly about ten years ago. Before that, I had to wear glasses, but I hated my glasses so much that I would take them off for almost every picture. So there’s hardly any pictures of me wearing glasses, and there’s hardly any pictures of anybody from that time because you used to have to drop your film off at the drugstore and wait a week before you could see photographs.

• When I went to the University of North Carolina, I got a Macintosh for my junior year, but my sophomore year, I was using a typewriter. One night I was fixing a stuck key when the typewriter ribbon fell out of my bunkbed (I was on the top bunk) and it rolled around the room. I had to get Uncle Chip and Uncle Jon to help me roll it all back up, and our hands were all black.

And thus starts the questions: “what’s a typewriter ribbon?” “how do you write an aerogramme?” “why is there a brake for emergencies?” Oh, I’m not old, I’m NOT. I STILL ROCK AND/OR ROLL! But some anecdotes make me feel like I’m a three-hundred-foot oak tree that has seen empires rise and fall.

wonderfully wonderfully wonderfully wonderfully pretty


In the middle of April in 1987, my mom and 14-year-old sister came to pick me up at Carolina en route to a beach house they’d rented in South Carolina for Easter weekend. My 16-year-old brother Sean had already been on campus for a few days, doing some underage drinking and hooking up with a chick in Cobb Dorm, which I thought was pretty impressive.

Mom and Michelle walked the four flights of stairs up to 407 Grimes, where they saw my roommates Chip and Jon, all of us in a room that defined being nineteen years old in 1987: Cure posters, Springfest t-shirts on the floor, blue cups, sugar cereals and a map of America where someone in the dorm had drawn an arrow above Maryland saying “girls above this line fuck”.


later that day in a field near Dillon, SC: Michelle, their friend Jessica, and Sean

It was there my sister first saw Jon Vaden, and I doubt either thought much of it; Michelle was middle-angst, post-parents-divorce with half her head shaved, and Jon had RTVMP homework (usually defined by Chip as “having to watch ‘Three’s Company'”). It was a brief encounter, but whatever seedling was planted took twenty-one years to germinate, and I should know – a few months later and a few blocks away, I met my own wife, and it took us thirteen years to get our act together.

Jon feels an incredible amount of pressure, most of it self-inspired, to behave honorably, and in many cases it came at the expense of his own happiness. He has always stuck with situations long past his sense of self-preservation, because he knew it to be the right thing to do. We used to give him nicknames like “Needles” and “Will You Stop Touching Me” because we thought he was emotionally halted – the truth was, he was feeling things far too much.

My sister, for her part, wandered the Land of Dudes, where she temporarily sacrificed the absurd, intense delightfulness of her pre-teen psyche to the numbing mediocrity of guys who had no business keeping up with her. Finally, she packed it in, moved to Napa Valley and resurrected its Arts Council before being whisked away to Santa Cruz to oversee a million-dollar budget in one of the best metropolitan arts communities in the country.

They have always seen each other at various farm get-togethers and Jartaculars, as my close friends and family have wonderfully blurry lines, but they began their courtship over a feature not directly intended for marriage: the “chat” function on Facebook’s old Scrabble™ application. You know, the one that was good.


on Saturday, with Sean officiating

If there were ever two needs met, two souls actualized by one event, Jon and Michelle getting together defines not just love, but the efficiency of love. In one act, my sister finally finds the man she has been looking for, no longer having to slow herself down so that the stragglers can keep up… and one of my best, oldest friends in the world can finally be content, be sated, be blissful, and relax.

Not that he will relax, nor she, because Michelle and Jon are inherent doers of stuff, accomplishers of things, and wranglers of interest. But tomorrow, we’ll drive them to the San Jose airport, where they will board a plane for Hawaii, and for a few days, may the gentle swells of a warm ocean tell them both their wait is over.


(photos by the amazing Lars Lucier)