Gentle readers, I will be taking the next four days to celebrate how much I love being a pinko commie pill-popping leftist stooge pearly pink pussy freakshow. See you all on Tuesday after I recharge my wits, and get back to writing needlessly profane and annoyingly contrarian prose on these pages. Go America, but mostly, Go Heels.
Can somebody please tell me why this jerk is still on the Supreme Court? We always knew this self-loathing twit was certainly no legal genius, but the list of transgressions has gotten so long that the only honorable thing for him to do is resign, gather up his Tea Party wife, and park himself in Wyoming where he can no longer use his merciless legal briefings to torture the downtrodden Americans least able to fight back.
Of course, every attack on Clarence Thomas only makes him worse; he ingests criticism the way Voldemort slurps unicorn blood in the first “Harry Potter” novels. Right-wingers say that progressives have sour grapes because he’s not like his predecessor, Thurgood Marshall. Even mentioning Marshall in the same sentence as Thomas sets the civil rights movement back five minutes, in my opinion, but that’s not why I loathe Clarence Thomas. I despise him because he’s a bully and a dick.
Whether his persecution complex started – or was merely solidified – by his now-obviously-perjurious testimony in the Anita Hill case, he hides behind judicial robes he’s not fit to wear. He now says an attack on him is actually an attack on the Supreme Court itself, which shows a stupefying level of self-importance, and a fundamental disregard for how this country works.
I remember 20 years ago right now, sitting at the counter at Spanky’s in Chapel Hill eating a burger, watching the confirmation hearings on the TV above the bar. I was thinking “Geez, that guy so obviously did it, but he’s going to be confirmed anyway, and we might as well get used to it…”
Actually, I was 23, so I was probably really thinking “howmuchisthisburgergoingtocost-IwonderifDillonFenceisplayingtonight-jesusthatchickis hot-howthefuckamIgonnapayrent-IhopeEricMontrossrocks-jesusthatotherchickishot” but then eventually got to “we might as well get used to it and see what kind of Justice this Clarence Thomas cat is.”
So he’s had 20 years, and now we know. He’s a terrible Justice. He is mean person. He is stunningly incurious. He’s an ethical disaster. The Supreme Court has nine members out of an American population of 310 million. This is the best we can do?
On the plane to Vegas, Salem and I started talking about great TV episodes, and so I grabbed the barf bag and wrote down some of our favorites. I called the list Accidentally Great Episodes of TV That Appeared in Culture At Just the Right Time and the rules were as follows:
• no episodes that are clichéd “jump the shark” moments. The episode had to be a show that was firing on all cylinders before and after.
• no season finales. No trumped-up “Who Shot J.R.” stuff inserted into the season-ender to make sure we came back in the fall.
• no series finales, which means, sadly, that the last M*A*S*H or Newhart don’t count.
Love to hear yours, but in no particular order, here’s what’s written on our Spirit Airlines motion sickness bag:
1. E.R. – Hell and High Water… I remember watching this with Scotty at the Pink House in late 1995, and it was the episode where Doug Ross (George Clooney) saved the kid in the storm drain. It was in the middle of the second season, and it was so goddamn heroic and fucking awesome that Scotty and I just had to laugh at each other when it was over. Although it took him a while to find his footing, I always felt like Clooney was a real star from this day forward.
2. The Simpsons – The Crepes of Wrath… By this point in April 1990, The Simpsons were absolutely taking over everyone in college who owned a television. It wasn’t just required watching, it became instant canon. This episode featured Bart being shipped off to France as an exchange student after putting a cherry bomb in the school toilet – where he not only has to drink anti-freeze-laced wine, he blows our minds by bicycling through the paintings Bassin aux nymphéas by Monet and Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows. These days such inventiveness and absurdity has ruled Adult Swim for years, but back then, it was nothing short of a cultural revelation.
3. Good Times – The Big Move, Part 2… This was the second episode in the fourth season. The father and patriarch, John Amos, has died – and Florida (Esther Rolle) has simply carried on, refusing to believe it. At the end of the episode, she is doing busywork in the kitchen, and out of nowhere, breaks down… well, you just have to see it:
4. Glee – Preggers… I’ll always have to cop to disclaimers with “Glee”, but this episode showed it could do more than treacle and lip-sync their way through the pop catalog, culminating with Kurt (Chris Colfer) coming out to his football-lovin’, car mechanic dad. Kurt’s return to school this season, featuring an entire act break that was nothing but his “As If We Never Said Goodbye” fever dream, was probably better, but fans of the show know how wonderful this early coming-out moment was.
5. The Sopranos – Whoever Did This… Ralphie’s (Joe Pantoliano) head in a bowling bag. I am pretty much instantly sickened by any sort of dismemberment, but this episode in the middle of Season 4 was just horrifically incredible.
6. Battlestar Galactica – Exodus, Part II… Hard to believe this was the fourth episode in the third season. Even explaining it sounds insane to those who haven’t immersed themselves in the short, mind-blowing run of BSG, but it’s the one where the Galactica and Pegasus ships make a suicide run to save all the people stuck on the gray, murderous New Caprica planet. As intense, edge-of-seat crazy as scenes from “Aliens” and “Blade Runner”.
7. What’s Happening!! – Doobie or Not Doobie… It’s impossible to explain to any kidfolk these days how goddamn HUGE the show “What’s Happening!!” and fat boy Rerun was for about two years in the late ’70s. But this episode featured the Doobie Brothers (also kicking major bell-bottomed ass at the time) and remains enshrined in our brains forever. Plus, it taught us all a valuable lesson in illegal bootlegging (although I think the whole two-part episode was just an excuse for Rerun to sidle up to Michael McDonald to ask “Which Doobie you be?”)
Others we thought of: the “Turkeys Away” episode of WKRP; Very Special Episodes about Drugs on “Family Ties” and “Facts of Life”; the Hindenberg crashes in front of John-Boy on “The Waltons”; some juicy “West Wing” episodes while Bush II destroyed America in real-life; Angela/Jordan on “My So-Called Life”; and certain picks from Season 2 of “24”, “Alias” and “Welcome Back Kotter”.
But the flight to Vegas was short – y’all got any more?
As if it weren’t obvious, or as if anybody cared, I’m in the wild woods of upstate New York, planting a small orchard of fruit trees by our barn, watching our daughter dance around the farmhouse, and finishing a script due already. I feel untethered, unfocused, and unburdened by needing to be an active participant in the world.
There is a lot of work involved in just keeping up. I remember when I was a junior in college, still a virgin, and somebody mentioned their first time having sex. “Well,” he said, “I was eighteen, and you’re eventually going to find yourself having sex by then.” All I could think was, “actually, it’s pretty easy not to have sex.”
Likewise, on a slightly larger scale, it’s pretty easy not to be on any sort of radar; you need to keep up appearances, do the little things, or else you will simply fade away. Tessa explained a party trick – never say goodbye to the host, because slipping out unnoticed gives you credit for about an hour longer than you actually stayed.
I think of these two girls I knew at Carolina, both with brown hair, one taller than the other, very pretty, always hanging out together. One or both may have been a transfer, but I’m not sure. Our fifth year, in 1990, Salem and I hung out with them every few days. They came to every party early, stayed late, and we always loved their company. They’d bring movies over on a random weeknight.
I never said goodbye to them at the end of the year, always figuring I’d just see them around, in the happenstance serendipity we used to guide our social lives. But I never did, and they slipped away, and by the time they popped back into my head, it had been years since I’d seen them, and their names had been replaced by mountains of other data.
In the days before Facebook, this kind of thing happened all the time – the only difference in this case is that I remember that I forgot them. I’ve reestablished many old connections with the social media we’ve got now, from my first boyhood crush in London to an anonymous kiss onstage to old nemeses who’ve become trusted confidantes. But there are still lost friends, visible to me only in the wispy cirrus clouds of memory, small ghosts who haunt little thoughts like a forgotten word.
Some fancies come when you call them, and others require silence rewarded with sudden apparition. Not everything needs to be conjured. Sometimes you drop your book of spells on purpose.
With the 4th of July coming up, I’m writing a blog letter to my possible grandchildren about the “state of America” right now. Yes, I know that’s eye-rollingly presumptive, but is there anything you’d like to add?
As suspected, I caught a lot of grief from my blog of yore about men being intrinsically soulless until acted upon by a female force (my First Law of ThermoSexualDynamics), although these days most of my detractors come via personal message on Facebook. Let me apologize in advance for not always taking the mantle thrown at me via FB; I loathe Facebook’s email interface, and besides, why does everything have to take place on goddamn Facebook, anyway?
I’ve been asked to either say something specific or say nothing at all about the nature of “manhood”, and since it’s not in my DNA to “say nothing at all”, I’ll go ahead and try to make bullet points (option-8 on your keyboard!) I’ll make the same disclaimers as always – I cannot say that I am the master of any of the following three codicils.
In my estimation, you cannot truly be a worthy man until…
• you learn self-germinated restraint. By this I mean boundaries that you give yourself based on your intrinsic character – not because you’ve got your mother, your girlfriend, your wife, the cops, the government, or some external force lording consequences over you.
Here’s the thing about guys that pretty much nobody realizes: if you give them an inch, they will take the whole inch, and then look at you like a confused dog when you’re upset they went ahead and took that inch. Men are water; they seek their own level, they spread out their limbs until they meet some buttressing force that gives them something to lean on.
Most men look at “chances not taken” as bizarrely wasteful and unnatural, which is commendable in business and the arts, but not kosher if you’re a sexting Congressman. Stopping yourself from doing something you KNOW you’ll get away with is one of the most difficult actions a male can muster. George Mallory may have climbed Everest because it was there, but that’s no excuse for fucking the babysitter.
• you realize you aren’t going to live forever. I’ve fiddled this tune before – and credit 9/11 for giving me the perspective to start a family – but all men need to have that dire, existential crisis of their own mortality where they see their own death as not only possible, but probable. They must come to terms with it, and this means NOT staving it off by hooking up with a 21-year-old and going on an ecstasy bender.
They must accept a certain healthy, benign nihilism and get back to enjoying the amazing life they were building when they were so rudely interrupted by the loss of their ego.
• you have completely sowed your oats. This goes for both genders. If there’s anything I have seen as a constant truism in life it is this: if you do not sow your wild oats at some point, they will eventually sow you. The takeaway from Dr. Richard Lucas’ PSYC 28 class at Carolina – perhaps one of the top 5 classes ever offered since 1793 – was “be crazy now so you’re not crazy later.”
People who marry early, people who bloom late, people who never had that crazy five years of dating, the travel, the job-hopping, the wanton lust of fucking for fuck’s sake… the seed of regret blooms until it is a lump in the throat too big to ignore. If you are a guy or a girl who never had at least a few years to howl at the moon, you are a guy or a girl who is probably going to leave your marriage.
Okay, so you are intrinsically well-adjusted and never needed any of that. You never needed to see the world, you’ve always had a healthy sense of your own limitations, and you’ve always done right for doing right’s sake. I applaud you, sir. This bucket of broad-brush generalizations is obviously for someone else.
Okay, so I’m packing for the summer and getting the house straight, so no regular blog today, but… BUT… if you’re willing to put up with some sub-par video and really crappy sound, I’ll go ahead and embed our Livestream video from the show last night at the Viper Room.
I will do so with the following disclaimers:
• it sounded much better in person. The vocals especially. Indistinguishable from this video, in fact. Ask anyone! Ask Tessa, she never lies.
• my mike worked in performance, but apparently not on the video until about 11:44, for the song “Iowa”.
• I need to work on my stage presence. Probably because I make my bass parts too hard, which means I need to concentrate on that.
• the video guy tends to zoom in on people at random.
So, for all 2 of you who might watch this (hi Mom!) (oh wait, she probably won’t either), here ’tis!