Monthly Archives: March 2011

st. john’s wort-hless


Okay, so this is a pretty cool tool Google has made for us: the 2011 Google Map NCAA Basketball Tournament Schedule Generator (or at least that’s my name for it). Apparently the first game of the actual Big Dance™ – and yes, that has actually been trademarked – is Clemson vs. W. Virginia at noon EST, so that’s when the brackets are closed and locked.

Get your picks in this morning if you haven’t already, so you can join in the endless talking of shit. Also remember to take Vitamin D, Omega 6 and L-Creatine!

casting pods thither and yon


The news is horrifying over the ocean, so there’s two things you might want to consider:

1. Donate at MercyCorps, my personal favorite, low-overhead, highly-effective charity helping people on the ground.

2. Turn your mind to more irrational things, and listen to the Tar Heel Bred, Tar Heel Dead podcast for this week, an episode where I was proud to be the lugubrious, rambling guest. Andy Bagwell and Reed Tucker are two amazing fellas who manage to turn out a deeply enjoyable show every weekend, so you should subscribe.

I’ve known Andy since he was 18, back when I was a senior at Carolina and at the height of my finely-cultivated douchebaggery, so I’m lucky he (and any of the Selected Hilarity guys, for that matter) still gimme the time of day, not to mention his occasional comments right here on the blog. Reed – just like his brother Bryan – is soft-spoken, fiercely intelligent and quietly very funny, which makes the podcast rock.

All of us play basketball, and we challenge you to an old fartz game.

Speaking of which, keep adding your names to the comments section (with a working email, jje!) so you can join the 137th Anniversary NCAA Tournament Challenge. Like Zeppo Marx said in 1930, your picks won’t get any better before Thursday!


Zeppo, second from left, contemplates the Southeast Regional bracket

never mind the bullocks


Welcome, ladies and gents, to the 137th Annual NCAA Basketball Bracket Challenge!!! Yes, since 1874 the xtcian team has been bringing you the chills and spills of college basketball brackishness, and hundreds of you have gone home winners. Who could forget our first winner, Jedediah Blankenship of Panhandle, Indian Territory?

And what about our first celebrity winner, then-ex-President Grover Cleveland in 1902? Who would have thought his surprise pick of Haverford College over Sewanee could possibly come true?


Cleveland discusses the Midwest bracket with Mark Twain and George Washington Cable

Now it’s your turn, once again, to vie for immortality. Simply leave a small note (and perhaps a recipe) in the comments section below, making sure to put in your email address, which shall remain hidden. The invitation will follow. The winner gets a dram of the best scotch I’ve had in five years (a 1970 Glen Grant) – or for you teetotalers, something equally fascinating. Allons-y!




When they brought my sister home from the hospital, I was Lucy’s age now (5) and psyched. Not just for the baby, but because there was this giant dishwasher wrapped in a pink bow in our kitchen, and I was pretty sure that thing was going to take us to Mars. Ex-Pink House residents take note: that was the same dishwasher that we had in our kitchen in Chapel Hill, to give you an idea how old it was.


Since first holding her that afternoon, I have always been preternaturally comfortable with my sister, and I took her on as a pet project. I prided myself on being the only person that could make her stop crying, I learned how to change her diapers in under 20 seconds, and when she got older, I was in charge of brushing her hair and picking out either the green or purple dress that hung in her closet.

When she turned five herself, I distinctly remember thinking that she had “turned” on me, but what really happened was simple: she’d developed a mind of her own. Her singular drive has been the source of perennial jokes in our family, but it has also saved her from the kind of navel-gazing and paralysis the rest of us endure. In fact, she turned into the best-put-together of any of us, skirting past depression and ADD to run whatever show you’ve got simmering.


winter 1976, with Dad

My mom always says she’d always choose me for a long road trip, but I think I’d always choose Michelle. She has a gift for the absurd, an intolerance for fools, a thirst for experience, and she’d probably get us there on time.

Now there’s the matter of her husband Jon. I’ve recounted this story before on these very pages, but falling in with Bud, Chip and Jon was very much like going to college and discovering you had three brothers your parents never told you about. Jon is not touchy-feely, not demonstratively warm by nature (his college nicknames were “Will You Stop Touching Me” and “Needles”) but sleeping in the same bedroom – nay, the same BUNK BED – FOR A WHOLE YEAR – was not only effortless, but frequently hilarious.


mock party frustration, Nov. ’87

He can seem like an old man, but when one of the guys in our dorm mistook our room for the bathroom and peed all over Jon’s styrofoam plates and jars of Goober Grape, he thought it was kind of awesome. He has saved all the boarding passes for every flight he’s been on, and has them arranged in a book by year. What he doesn’t know is that I’ve saved almost all of my boarding passes too – except my accumulation is a little like Steven Wright’s description of his seashell collection (“I keep it scattered on all the beaches of the world”).


at party with Colette, 1986

In short, around these two people, I admit I have always been the fuck-up. I’m the one making them late, I’m the one who did something with careless disregard to someone else’s desire, I’m the one who didn’t do the summer reading and has to glom onto their notes. I have always been easy to hate; it usually doesn’t last long due to a modicum of charm, but I know how I come off. I try too hard, I don’t try hard enough, I beg you to come, then ignore you, I’m too wide a target, and nobody will ever name their kid after me.

We’ve been way too far away from Jon and Michelle over the last week or so – separated only by a rocky California coastline, it’s still oddly hard to make a quick jaunt to Santa Cruz. We want to follow the rules and make sure the baby avoids the usual confluence of germs visitors would bring, but when your sister has a baby… it’s just weird not to be passing it around the room the way we did the day she came home.

On Friday, Michelle left me a message saying she had “news” and to call her right back. From our outpost in Durham, NC, I finally reached her, and she told me the baby’s name: Andrew Ian Williams-Vaden.


And none of this is supposed to be about me, I swear, it’s all about our kids, and their generation, and giving them the best chance to be awesome, kind, and full of passion… but I just had to stop for a second and well with tears, because I really never thought I was going to be the kind of person who gets a namesake. In all of us lies a little soul that feels forever damaged and ugly, and for some, it’s closer to the surface than others. Occasionally, though, you get a reminder that you might have made some right turns along the way, and this little guy will always be here to remind me.


young person’s guide to the orchestra


I’m perfectly capable of understanding it’s just a game, but if you don’t have some ritual in your life, and you never have a place where like-minded souls can congregate and shout as one, your life may be the lesser for it. The home Dook game has taken on a shamanistic tone for me, and this being my 26th in a row (my lucky number, while we’re in that territory) it meant the world that some of my favorite people on earth sat with me. It was Lucy’s first live game ever, not counting this womb classic.

In 2005, we were undergoing a similar dreary run of losses to Klown Kollege, and our friend Lee said she’d burn some sage under my lucky Dook shirt to get its spirits back:




I asked for the same treatment this time, and Lee actually found some neighborhood sage and performed an identical ritual:




We were joined by Lucy’s dear love Jack, who had come down from Brooklyn with Dana and Lindsay. After eating at Pepper’s, we took the shuttle to the game, but not before taking pictures with the driver:




We managed to get some of the best seats I’ve ever had for any game, a splurge I thought was worth it, given the elite clientele. Front row of the mezzanine, not far from halfcourt:




If you were watching CBS, you could see Lucy’s pom-poms oscillating wildly (although not well in this screen shot):




At the game were many of your fave contributors, including caveman, craighill, and the awesome GFWD and scruggs:




A few days ago I posted this picture of the Dook game in January 1990:


Here’s roughly the same view 21 years later. As you can see, the “Turn it Blue” campaign really worked, and many more students are closer to the action (not enough, but it’s better than the sedate morgue the lower level used to be):


Looking down, it was even more impressive, given this was supposedly Dook’s little section. I think this looks awesome:




You all know how the game turned out – indeed, it seemed almost preordained a few days before. We stayed to watch them cut down the net, and I got this shot of Roy. Click to see a bigger version, and look at the faces of the players… utterly priceless:




I’m not sure if I could have asked for any better night for Lulubeans’ first game, and Tessa made it even better by getting us on the Fan Cam three times during the game!




Walking back to our car at the Pink House (thanks, ladies!) we bade farewell to the New Yorkers in a heartfelt embrace on Cameron Avenue:




And when it comes to rumbustious street riots, my daughter knows a good time when she sees it – a delicious nightcap of mass hysteria before bed:




high holy days of hoops


About to travel to North Carolina with Lucy and Tessa to see the home Dook game, my 26th in a row (and Lucy’s first live game ever!)

Any of you Cackalackians know how to reach me, and if you’re at the game, come to Section 108 in the mezzanine… I’ll be the one covering my daughter’s ears from the noise and my vituperative epithets. May your weekend be merry!


picture I took of Pete Chilcutt dunking on Christian Laettner’s face, January 17, 1990




Hey, my sister Michelle just went into heavy-duty labor and is off to the hospital! Wish her well, won’t you?