Monthly Archives: November 2010

meet me by the pelicans in st. james park

11/30/10

I have a rather odd code word question for you all today – I’ve been thinking lately about people who decide to “disappear” for a time, canceling themselves off the grid and leaving no trace. Famous people have done something similar – Agatha Christie did it for 11 days in 1926, John Lennon had his lost weekend in the mid-70s (when he wrote his best solo song #9 Dream, and even nitwit Mark Sanford went to Argentina rather than run South Carolina.

Given modern interconnectedness, it isn’t easy to pull off a even a temporary disappearance, but it’s still possible. So my question is this, answer as anonymous animals if you can…. if you were given the ability, how long would your lost weekend last, where would you go, and what secret person might you meet there?

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yo fat girl, are ya ticklish

11/29/10

I realize I might be the last person to see this album cover on the internettz, but I just want to say this: having worked in collaborative rooms full of people pitching ideas for a single project, I desperately want to have been there for this:

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A few things to note…

• the “Big Bear” logo is actually dripping with honey. Because bears really like honey, they steal it all the time.

• bears also like cognac, because they’re clutching a glass each, in their dainty paws. The cigars are to be expected, but a nice aged cognac? Brilliant.

• just because Big Bear sports a purple ascot doesn’t mean he doesn’t like the ladies. Truly subversive.

• the tray is full of nuts and berries, almonds and strawberries in particular. Strawberries. How many rap albums have plates of fresh strawberries on the cover?

i pledge allegiance to my peeps

11/23/10

Given that the big institutions in life turn out to be cruel behemoths that don’t care about your well-being, I decided to spend this Thanksgiving being thankful for the little groups I’ve been a part of. The fraternities/sororities, the engaged coterie of like-minded souls, the odd brother-and-sisterhoods I found myself in. They range in size, but if it weren’t for them, then I would truly be a lost electron buzzing through space.

• the collection of ham radio guys in the early ’80s in Cedar Rapids, IA. You were all a lot older than me, but you taught me how to string a 40m dipole antenna and told dirty jokes, and the first unofficial “club” that would ever have me.

• the fiercely intellectual clique of inscrutably droll “Happy Seven” folks in my high school, who set the bar impossibly high for all smarts and humor.

• the Four Guys Not Named Biff, who coalesced in 1985 at Carolina, and never broke up. One is now my brother-in-law, one is Lucy’s godfather, and the other remains a fierce friend constant.

• the Daily Tar Heel, a staff that was as brilliant as it was fun-loving, and a group of editors who knew just how much rope they’d give me on Wednesdays. When they shouted out “Budget!” every evening, I felt enormous pride to be a part of them (especially since I didn’t have to go to the budget meeting).

• the Lodge at Carolina, a fraternity so bizarre in its day that they would take me, Chip, and Fred Weller without any philosophical gymnastics. I loathed some of my time there, but it definitely taught me how to relate to other men, and for brief shining moments, I bought into a magic so powerful that it lasted years. (oh, and thanks to the Kappas and Pi Phis for putting up with my tomcat bullshit as well)

• the small salon of creative writers at the English Department where I met my wife, crossed with the explosive creativity of the Lab! Theater back when they allowed it to happen – we took brilliance for granted, and now you can see our kin all over Broadway and Hollywood.

• “From the Hip” – a failed photography/book project that spawned a small collective of friends in the mid-90s… and taught me that there are jobs that can be loved.

• the Pink and Purple Houses.

• the extended Jartacular world, a large collection of lightning-witted, funny, casual philosophers that aren’t afraid to tackle an issue once broached, and aren’t afraid to down half a bottle of 45-year-old scotch in one swig.

• the even bigger Carolina world, a group of people I fully/half/hardly know that share the same irrational love for a team in sky blue that I do, and understand Dean Smith’s worldview to be more important than basketball (without getting creepy about it like some other teams I could mention).

• and over the past seven-and-a-half years, you!

10-Q, you’re welcome

11/22/10

Man, I was all set to write down the things I was Thankful for this Thanksgiving, but it devolved into a profanity-sautéed flambé of how much this stupid-ass country sucks green donkey balls right now, so I deleted the fuck out of it. Half-cup of eggnog later, I’m doing much better, thank you, and already have a nutmeg-sprinkled inkling of how to do it better.

So I’ll rewrite it tomorrow, but for today, perhaps I should open things up with a pre-Thanksgiving bit of smart-assedness with this question: What do you think you should be thankful for, but to be honest, it’s just sort of a pain in the ass, and you’re getting tired of pretending?

just a boy and his porn-on-audio

11/18/10

We have been a single-car family in Los Angeles for almost five years, and if you know anything about being American and/or being in Los Angeles, you’ll recognize that as a feat of superhuman deprivation. By living in one of the few parts of town that allows for any sort of walking – and juggling our schedules like mad – we’ve pulled it off, but I’m here to tell you I’m throwin’ in the towel.

I finally began to feel extra trapped, you know… “fettered”… “bridled”, as it were. I need to exercise my god-given right as an erect phallus of Americanism to drive myself to Alaska at a moment’s notice. Not that I will, mind you, but I gotta have the option.

And so I’m driving our hybrid Ford Escape from upstate New York to California, starting right after Thanksgiving. I’m thinking of going this route, plus-or-minus 250 miles in either direction:

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I’m pretty set on watching my beloved North Carolina Tar Heels play Illinois in Champaign, IL on November 30, so that’s a start. I want to see my brother Kent in Iowa City, The Chipper in Wichita. Will I be driving near any of you, or do you have suggestions? I’ve done this trip about 27 times, but always open to uprooting the tedium that accompanies our nation’s bloated midsection!

a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure

11/16/10

Speaking of John Lennon’s haircut, Apple (the computer company) finally made a deal with Apple (the record company) and the entire Beatles catalogue is now on iTunes. Even as one of the world’s biggest Beatle fans, I will go on record to say Apple’s teaser page was a mistake:

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Claiming you’ll “never forget” news that big is kind of crazy, especially given the kind of batshit culture we’re in, but I took it as part of Steve Jobs’ personal love for the band. By the way, I figured it had to be the Beatles announcement because of the “another day” reference… Another Day (1971) was Paul’s first solo song, derided savagely by John on How Do You Sleep? later that year – basically, two geniuses having a spat that ended in reconciliation, a little like the two Apple companies themselves.

But what was the reaction to the Beatles finally coming to iTunes? Unmitigated, cast-iron, vituperative SNARK. You’ve never seen such cockful disdain amongst the digiterati, and surfing the comment sections of articles like this or this show how angry your internet-dominating friends are about it. From “A Bajillion Hits” we get this piece of comedy and the always-too-cool Gawker has an article called Why You’re Too Cool for the Beatles on iTunes, in which they make fun of people who are too cool for it, while also stating why they’re too cool for it.

Before I begin my rant, I’d like to go back to “A Bajillion Hits” and copy, verbatim, their self-description from the site:

BajillionHits.biz is the Internet’s leading social media and tech lifestyle site for influencing influencers with engaging, next-gen strat that’s disrupting the traditional paradigms of innovation… @BajillionHits will help you learn how to win the Internet many times over.

Okay, fine. I’ve had to write paragraphs like this for companies as well. Catchwords, energy-driven text, outside-the-box fetishism, I totally get it. And yes, I also understand all the internet techno-fanboys wanted something “better” from Apple, like “streaming from the cloud” and “iOS 4.2 for the iPad”.

But what is lost is this: the Beatles are exactly what started all of this in the first place. Long before the internet reduced all creative writing, music and art to the word “content”… there were the Beatles, four broke lads living inside themselves, unwittingly erasing the blackboard of modern music and rewriting it with absolutely no musical training.

They weren’t the only ones, of course, but they brought rock music into the realm of art, and indirectly (or directly) spawned almost every band you love today. Either way, they helped make pop music important enough to carry around on… well, your “content” delivery device, be it a Walkman, an iPod, an Android, or the Next Big Thing everyone was waiting for.

Bajillion Hits might be “disrupting paradigms with next-gen strat”, but without the actual creators of beautiful things, all of this tech shit is empty, rare-earth-metal sucking garbage. Without artists, there is nothing to put in the “cloud”, there is nothing to download, there is no reason to get version 4.2 of ANYTHING.

Without “Modern Family”, “Hey Ya”, “Mad Men”, “Inception”, Wilco, Phoenix, “Wall-E”, and the White Album, there is no goddamned reason in the world to own a fucking iPad, or an iPod, or any media delivery mechanism. These internet commenters, with their high dander and seen-it-already boredom, are the definition of spiritual death.

They don’t understand that the Beatles being on iTunes is a big deal to those who aren’t sprinting alongside them, a whole generation of kids who aren’t interested in the dice-roll world of torrenting, and are happy to buy things if they are available and inexpensive. They are the massive part of the market that perhaps Steve Jobs understands, and if the entire decade-long catalog of Beatles songs are now available to them, then maybe it will be the same as when my brother Kent gave me Rubber Soul when I was 11 – a day I will never forget.

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this hoodie makes me street, yo

11/15/10

Of all the things I truly loathe about culture right now, none stands out quite as much as Justin Bieber’s hair. It’s that horrific wave of twee that crashes just above the eyebrows, followed by a nonsensical counter-swirl on the other side – creating, in me, truly a weather system of hate.

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It’s long enough to be ever-so-slightly rock and/or roll, but coiffed and subdued into radio-friendly submission. His hair lies to you. It promises an intensity that it will never deliver. It is focus-group tested, all interesting edges sawed off, and yet still manages to be so awful as to stop traffic.

The original haircut was really only done correctly by four people, and one of them did it the best:

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Of course, with all this kvetching about Justin Motherscratchin’ Bieber, only one thing could happen: I woke up this morning, looked in the mirror, and realized I’d morphed into the enemy.

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thou shalt

11/14/10

Today’s code word question is easy – it’s all about covetousness. Without too much thought…

1. What gadget do you currently covet?

2. What piece of clothing/shoes do you currently covet?

3. Besides the wife, what thing does thy neighbor possess that you covet?

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adventures in fertility: Chapter III, Icarus regrets, and retires puzzled

11/11/10

(continued from yesterday’s entry)

“I’m the piece of shit the world revolves around.” My friends who have been in AA taught me that one, and if anything comes close to defining my childhood, that’d be it. I’m not quite sure how someone can grow up with world-class self-loathing and a belief that rules are for other people, but somehow I managed to do it. It might have been a combination of my parents, who always praised us as “off the charts” – and my schools, which acted as institutions of daily humiliation.

Either way, it left most of the kids in my family with a deep sense of entitlement and (my favorite word for it) exceptionalism. When we started the fertility process, I dismissed all statistics as boring and depressing numbers meant for someone else. If we were given a 10% chance of something happening, I would think “yeah, sure, if we were regular people. Don’t they know we’re superstars?”

I say this not to be a dick, but to come clean; most forms of exceptionalism don’t do you any favors. Sure, that sense of entitlement led me to believe I could dare string words together for a living (which worked, thank the lord) but when you don’t believe in statistics, you are going to be doubly horrified when your exceptionalism turns out to be completely unfounded.

The day comes when you realize that in some things, you are just a schmo like anyone else, and nothing brings that realization faster than failing at fertility. We were superheroes, I thought, we had Lucy before we even tried, and my wife ran marathons, and I come from a family of gajillions, and my mom had my sister Michelle at 40 (in 1972!) and Tessa’s pregnancy had actually been fun, and… then we got older.

The graph shows fertility falling off a cliff after 40, and maybe we just grew imperceptibly older in those precious months, and some key ingredients inside us followed suit. Maybe one hormone, one little chemical, but it was enough. The day will come when all women will be able to freeze their eggs long before even meeting their partner, and this deadline will become a thing of the past. But we don’t live in that world yet.

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in Chicago, 2002

And so we turned to adoption. A couple of weeks after the last IVF went away, we had our first meeting with a very good adoption attorney who gave us a 3-hour briefing on the way it works. I can’t get into the details, but there’s a lot of “selling yourself” to the birthmother, lots of picture books, and LOTS of paperwork.

In the weeks afterward, we followed the directive of the state: a 9-hour class on adoption, a “home study” that involves interviews and a visit to your house, and even a class on trans-racial adoption. It’s all fascinating, heartbreaking, and… nerve-wracking. You’re being assessed by your lawyer, a potential birth mother, and a social worker… fingerprinted, scanned by the FBI, and asked questions that might scare someone who has never been in therapy.

I can’t go into details, because this is very fresh in our minds, but we were placed with a potential “birth mother” about two weeks after our meeting with the lawyer, which is unheard of. We developed a relationship, made travel plans, and spent 6 weeks contemplating the awesome potential of a newborn in our house. And mere hours before a major step was about to be taken, just a few days ago, it was all gone.

Imagine a giant pregnancy test hanging in your home, the size of a massive pendulum swinging under a grandfather clock. Every two days… or every week… it changes from positive to negative, and then back again. And every time it changes, you must massively reset your own expectations of what the rest of your life will be like. It is not for the faint of heart.

We have a wonderful kid, and while I don’t need more reasons to adore and appreciate her, I find myself lingering by her side, utterly transfixed by the miracle of her presence. And my wife, she is a continent of goodness, lapped by rocky seashores of strength, gorgeous blue eyes for skies and blonde prairie hair. She is such an amazing mommy that I am steadfast in making sure another little person may call her such by name.

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