Monthly Archives: April 2012

an aprium a day keeps the lawyers away

4/30/12

I will do everything in my power to keep this from being boring. This is going to be a blog entry about how I spent today in upstate New York planting fruit trees on our little farm. Some would call this “horticulture”. Others would look at a blog entry about horticulture and say “like hell I’m reading that!”

To which I would say “What?!? And miss the fun???” And then I’d promise to pepper it with low-class profanity.

So it’s spring, right? And we all know what spring is about: FUCKING. Or at the very least, plants fucking each other long-distance. You see, a lot of plants need the pollen from another plant to make more plants. And some fruit trees need pollen from another close-but-not-the-same fruit tree to make fruit.

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19th Street, Cedar Rapids, IA

The above picture is the house I lived in when I was 3-9 years old, taken by my dad in the early 70s. The maple trees to the right were the major draw, but if you look a bit to the left, you see an apple tree closer to the house.

This was a “crabapple” tree, which was the source of no end of frustration for me. I can understand purely ornamental apple and cherry trees for their beauty, and the lack of any mess. This motherfucker, however, grew full-grown green apples that littered the lawn and tasted like shit. Ever since then I swore I’d have trees that grew things we could actually eat.

No doubt, faithful reader, you remember my successful Song of September apple escapade, and the logical extension of that is a dwarf orchard of many different fruit trees. Yes, I know “Dwarf Orchard” sounds like a terrible metal band, but it’s actually a real term: the dwarf trees are grown on roots that stay about 7-8 feet tall.

Using Google Maps, Lucy and I printed out a picture of the “orchard area” at our farm, and set it on a cookie sheet. Then we made little diamond-shaped “trees”, and stuck them to the picture/cookie sheet with magnets. This way we could move them around like chess pieces so that the tall trees were in the back, and the pollinators were next to each other:

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Then I ordered 27 little 4-foot trees, following about a year of research. Peaches, plums, pluots, pears, apricots, cherries, even a nectarine, an aprium, almond, and two mulberry trees. Fast-forward a few months, and here I was at the farm, facing a gaggle of baby treelets. I marked them with numbers according to Lucy’s sheet, so I could plant them in the right place:

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Oh wait, is this getting bogged down?

COCK AND BALLS!

ANALINGUS!

SHAVED LEFT-HANDED ARMENIAN CHICKS WITH JUGS!

Now where were we? Ah yes, I decided that this dwarf orchard was not only going to be totally organic, but also biological. I read every word of The Holistic Orchard by the awesome Michael Phillips, and planned a way to grow the trees, beat disease and subdue varmints using only biological and natural methods.

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the slurry, sexy, Mycorrhizal root dip for a cherry tree

F’rinstincts, one excellent idea is the use of beneficial fungi called Mycorrhizae that attaches to the root and supercharges your tree. Also: pure liquid fish, neem oil, kaolin clay, compost tea, and ramial wood chips.

FARTS!

TESTICLES!

BONERS!

By the end of the day, I was bone tired, but 27 fruit trees are in the ground. It’s not much to look at right now, but this is the long game. Some will bear fruit this year, but most of them will be rocking by next. Come have some, won’t you?

And thus I leave you, addled reader, with a few porno pics of some glaringly obvious sexual organs. Of a pluot and an apple tree.

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you little

4/25/12

Okay, time for the “I’m single-parentin’ this week and walkin’ in a stupor” question that allows me to hear from you out in Greater Blogboro:

How would you end the phrase “kids today sure are ________”

In this case, “kids today” = “ages 15-26” and you can use one word, three words, or even three sentences. Unrigorous, anecdotal bullshit is heartily encouraged – as is broad generalization, mean-spirited guessing, and outright calumny that says more about you than them. Thoughtful analysis is nice too. It’s for a little idea I’m working on.

Thoughts?

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Textin’ Teens™ clip art added for demotivational cliché purposes

the shantytowns of polk place

4/24/12

While doing a little research for yesterday’s blog, I came across something utterly fascinating to about 27 of us, but fascinating nonetheless: UNC STV’s “Video Yearbook” for 1986-87. I had no idea such a thing existed, so out of morbid curiosity, I clicked ‘PLAY’ and was instantly transported back to the Reagan administration.

I had an “ambient recognition” of so many faces I’d seen while at school, without knowing who any of them were. After all, there were 22,000 of us, and I was still a 19-year-old whelp, still a year shy of writing the column, and two years shy of losing my virginity. Just finding my classrooms was a big victory.

And suddenly, at the 16:09 mark, out of thousands of people, I saw myself at 19 looking directly into my eyes at 44:

UNC STV’s “Video Yearbook” (1986-87) from UNC Student Television on Vimeo.

Many years back I wrote a script where a woman was able to time travel to any point in the past as long as she had an analog cassette tape recording of that moment. She was able to “ride the ambient noise of the background” to that specific time, and inhabit her old body with her present mind.

When I saw this 2-second bit of old videotape last night at 3am, I swear to god I almost did the same. I remember the smell of the dogwoods mixed with the pungency of the Everclear PJ they mixed for the Trader Vic’s party at Chi Psi. I looked behind me and saw the hot-tub-in-a-trailer we had hired for the event, where my now-brother-in-law Jon and I wound up a few hours later:

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with Debbie Fox-Currier and Amy Jennings – where are you ladies, anyway?

The kicker? That party was exactly 25 years ago Saturday. I shan’t bore you with the rest of my twee nostalgic mindscaping, but if you went to UNC at any point between 1985 and 1988 – or want to see how short certain short pants were – these three videos will do the trick (not to mention some of you are in them).

All of us have plenty of pictures of people – your kids, your parents, your friends – buttressed by the occasional shot of an unsatisfying sunset. Look at the albums on Facebook, and they’re pretty much all humans taking pictures of other humans (and dogs). But it’s the odd photo of our surrounding stuff that always fascinated me.

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our triple dorm room that year, 407 Grimes

I always take a quick shot of any room I’ve lived in, partly because I know they tend to be interesting later, and partly so I can yell “THERE’S THAT FUCKING SHIRT!”

When Jon, Chip and I lived in the room above, we found an old exam schedule taped to the back of the bureau at the far right of the picture. It was from 1955, and listed exams for Saturday classes, the idea of which we found reprehensible. But we had no idea how things operated day-to-day in 1955, no sense of how they actually lived in that room, how they ate, where they spent their lives when they weren’t taking stiff black-and-white pictures.

For some of you, that 1987 video may be more boring than watching grout cure, but it does two things for me: it offers a quotidian glimpse into what normal life was like for us, if only for the shots of cobbling the school newspaper together with hot glue, and watching students buy that horrible taco salad they used to serve at Lenoir.

It also reminds me of the whizzing vectors of our timelines, and how so many of us were together in the same place for just a bit, and how goddamn fantastic it is when it happens again.

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my hair did that naturally, and continues to do so, thanks

transports of ecstatic women

4/23/12

The following article from my school newspaper The Daily Tar Heel started making the rounds last week:

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LAB! Theatre puts a techno spin on a Greek tragedy

There are several reasons the Lab!’s remount of “The Bacchae” kept appearing in my inbox: first, anything to do with Carolina and “the theater” will always pique my interest; and secondly, if you didn’t know better, you’d think it was from The Onion. It’s true, Paul Simon sang “every generation throws a hero up the pop charts”, but I’d add that every generation has a charismatic drama major trying to get everyone on stage naked.

I have a soft spot for “The Bacchae” at the Lab! Theater regardless – sure, it’s a play about a mother beheading her own son in a sexual frenzy and carrying the skull around, but it’s also where I first touched my future wife.

Y’see, the worshippers of Dionysus (called the Bacchae or Maenads) were a gaggle of raving, ecstatically-supercharged sex vixens who danced, suckled wild wolves, and tore farm animals apart with their bare hands. Naturally, this translates to a college casting call that says “EVERY HOT CHICK IN THE DRAMA DEPARTMENT – AND YOUR FRIEND – PLEASE BE IN THIS PLAY”.

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And in the fall of 1987, director Doug Wagner trucked barrelfuls of dirt and leaves into the basement theater, clad his Bacchae in “Beyond Thunderdome”-attire, and let loose. No doubt I bore my long-suffering readers with stories of UNC’s confluence of talent in that era, but this play was pretty stacked: Fred Weller was chisel-cut awesomeness as Pentheus, local rock hero Quince Marcum was Dionysus, and if you looked down, you would see many women slithering over your feet: among them, future newswoman Laurie Dhue, “L-Word”-star Laurel Holloman, Young Conservatory director at the ACT Amy Rosenberg, artist Kasey Jones, acting inspirer Jacki Greenberg Loewenstein, woman of a thousand talents Alystyre Julian, and, of course, my wife.

Tessa and I met for reals a few days later at a sort of book salon held by Jenny Offill and Lydia Millet, but that night, there she was, bespandexed and with enough hair product to start a flash fire. Many people in that play became friends I hope to take into the 2060s, but you know what? It wasn’t even that good.

But it was memorable, and ultimately proves something I’ve long held as truth. Researchers on creativity and invention say that the most fertile ground for ideas happen when differently-talented people live in close proximity. When a computer engineer, a plumber, an electrician and a violinist all live on the same floor, magic has a chance opening.

Companies have begin to take note of these happenstance breakthroughs, and don’t segregate their departments so rigidly. But the one place that is becoming a totally anaerobic, musty echo chamber is the internet you’re reading this on.

Already your Google searches are silently programmed to give you personalized results within your comfort zone, and you’ve no doubt “hidden” many of the Facebook friends who have horrible politics. Your bookmarks, habits and “news feed” are all arranged to reinforce the things you already know.

There’s nothing wrong with that, and god knows the friendly faces can succor your heart with joy. Plus, there are lawn signs in your neighborhood that can make you want to salt the earth they’re stuck in. But think back to when we were surrounded by slightly-insane, oddly-wonderful people living on the same floor, all of us unburdened of the chore of constantly choosing our company.

I used to endure my suitemates in Hinton James, the ones that collected their spittle in clear 2-liter bottles and displayed them on the shelves, but now I see that they helped make me a better writer (and I hope I helped Trip and Jeff be a better [whatever they’re doing now]). That’s what’s going on right now at Carolina, as they launch another version of “The Bacchae” at their fellow students.

I grudgingly accept that the people I disagree with the most are providing essential fertilizer. I love that this naked-techno “Bacchae” is being done a few hundred yards away from biology majors who think they’re insane. President Obama is going to UNC tonight to be on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at Memorial Hall, and not just because he loves our basketball team; he’s going because we have always been – and continue to be – a public school full of thousands of accents, where even a Greek chorus girl can grow up to rule the world.

oh, those golden grahams

4/22/12

Tessa heads out for North Carolina early this morning, which means it’s sweeps week for the Lucy & Daddo Show®! We DO WHAT WE WANT WHEN WE WANT until FRIDAY!

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Breakfast: Pancakes with syrup (and syrup)

Elevenses: Boo-Berry

Lunch: french fries

Tea time: pizza middles and donuts

Dinner: cookie dough

hits include:

• leaving wet towels on wood furniture

• ironing grilled cheese sandwiches “Mr. Mom”-style

• opening new cans of tennis balls purely for the sound

• “Pit Bulls and Parolees” marathon

• taking a bite out of each See’s Candy and putting it back in the box

• leaving fridge door open while playing the Wii

• many games of “What Happens If” and not cleaning it up

So if we don’t answer the phone it’s because WE CAN’T FIND IT UNDER THE LAUNDRY and we don’t want to talk to you UNLESS YOU’RE REALLY FUN AND WON’T JUDGE US.

Haters gonna hate!

High five, heel-click and FREEZE FRAME!!!

the witches of east laurinburg

4/18/12

I consider myself North Carolinian – it’s where I spent the majority of my late-blooming puberty, it’s the place where I lived the longest, and it imbued me with most of my belief system (courtesy of Dean Smith, Frank Porter Graham, and Rasheed Wallace). Of course, one source of pride for all Cackalackians is that we aren’t South Carolina, a place where dreams go to die of heart disease.

In fact, of all the talk of the New South, we’re the only state that has done it right – Georgia tries hard, bless its heart, but its politics and infrastructure are positively vile. Forget about Alabama, Tennessee will only break your heart, Virginia is a suburb, Florida ain’t the South, and all of them have the motto “thank god for Mississippi” (a state that guarantees no other will come in last).

North Carolina has remained on top, economically and culturally, because it saw the future coming and actually did something about it. We switched from a tobacco-ruled economy to a culture that embraced Richard Florida’s “Three T’s”: technology (pharmaceuticals, IBM, RTP, etc.), talent (UNC, NCSU, Davidson, Wake, even Durham Klown Kollege), and tolerance (like Chapel Hill, Asheville, Wilmington, and most of Durham).

Sure, we have a healthy dose of moron rednecks, but so does New Hampshire. We’ve got our overprivileged white debutante country club families, but just look at Rhode Island. We’ve got the sun, the beaches, the mountains, and we were the only real southern state that voted for Obama. And believe it or not, we’re the only state in the South that doesn’t have a ban on same-sex unions.

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my attempt at artily depicting our beach share, Duck, NC, fall 1981

Then along came this unbelievable hunk of shit called Amendment One. Crafted with the usual cruelty by Republican assholes running out of people to hate, the bill not only bans same-sex marriages, but also civil unions. When asked why the fuck a law like this would be trotted out while the economy is still reeling, Commissioner and outspoken twat Todd Johnson said, “If the moral and social issues of our country are not addressed, we don’t have to worry about the economic issues. They will not matter at that point in time.”

Look, I get it: the Republicans are out of ideas. They’ve got nothing left except epithets and think-tanks dedicated to making blacks and gays hate each other. The sound you hear emanating from Romney’s creamy-white ass is the cadaverous death-rattle of end-time farts.

But two things actually matter to me. First off, that fucker Jesse Helms has finally been dead long enough that it isn’t the first thing other Americans think when you say “North Carolina”. We’d rehabilitated, we’d almost become the South Done Right, the “light on the hill” that promised the best of all worlds: enlightened thinking with enlightened weather.

The other is this: no matter the outcome, what does it tell children when their government puts something like this up for a vote? We’re supposed to look up to our civic leaders, and they’re openly telling the populace that 10% of them aren’t real people? Maybe some of you conservatives types engage in this with a shrug, figuring as long as you distract people with one hand, the other can keep power and fiddle with your real concern, the business of money.

The end justifies the means, you think, and politics is bloody. Do what you must to win. It’s the binary age, digital, you win or lose, it’s all “moneyball” and stats.

I have to say, I’ve been tempted by similar canards on my side. I’ve reveled in how fucking stupid Michele Bachman, Sarah Palin, and Darrell Issa are, delighted in the perversely hypocritical travails of Larry Craig and Mark Foley, cackled with glee whenever I saw even a tangential benefit to progressive causes.

But the time will come when white, married, straight guys like me won’t have to stand up for the gays of the world; they’ll be able to do it for themselves. I hope they show you a little more mercy as you insult them from your wheelchairs. In the meantime, fuck Machiavelli, fuck your tacit approval of this sort of cynical bigotry. I promise you it won’t be worth it.

to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe

4/16/12

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every three months – click for bigger

Hi there my sweet wonderful pumpkin-pie Lulubeans! Guess what happened exactly seven years ago? YOU WERE BORN!

I started out writing quarterly missives to you on these pages, but here’s the thing: your father has trouble with time management, and frequently stays up too late to write these things. You already knew all this; one of your first scientific words was “nocturnal”, whereupon you said “it’s when something is only up at night. Like Daddo.”

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at school

Speaking of science, I don’t think any snapshot of your current obsessions can escape your love of the stuff. On the weekends, when you get somewhat-free reign of the television in the early morning, I’ll walk in to you watching “How the Universe Works” or “How It’s Made” on the Science Channel.

Your head is then full, all day, of the life cycles of galaxies and, of course, how pool cues and car batteries are made. But you save most of your brain space for animals – anything captured by a National Geographic camera, or featured in your encyclopedia of dog breeds.

This has all led to a show I call “73% True”, which is my name for your running commentary of all knowledge real and invented. You will say roughly three things that are absolutely pitch-perfect fact… and then the fourth thing will be so wolfshit insane that I will spit out my food.

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Example: the other night in bed, you were talking about how koalas weren’t bears, and how marsupials can put their pregnancies on pause while another baby is in the pouch. Then, after a few seconds, you said, “Daddo, can I tell you something? Did you know that dogs hibernate?”

Both your mom and I adore your love of dinosaurs so much that we openly fret about it ending, but you don’t show many signs of slowing. You just had your birthday party at the Museum of Natural History, where I could feel how much you wanted to tell the tour guide that there was no such thing as a pterodactyl (true fact). If and when your dino days do end, it’ll be because there was no more left for you to learn, without taking a college course on the Mesozoic.

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in our room on the Big Island – not gonna get caught not knowing

Which is interesting in context. You love your friends, and desire to protect them, but you are famously uninterested in joining the inchoate cliques now forming in grade school. You’ll play tunnel-tag with the best of them, but your rest state is observing your class from a slightly-removed perspective.

I suspect you have misgivings about humanity as a whole; in your eyes, large groups of humans only exist to trash the planet and hurt animals. As you said to me in the bath last night, “I love art and music and math and science, but social studies? I don’t get it. Why do we have to learn about people?” It’s as if you think All The People™ get all the goddamn airtime all day long, why do you have to talk about them at school too?

I should mention that you have inherited my family’s musical ear, which is a blessing sandwich with curse dressing. It allows you to play pretty much anything the piano teacher gives you, as long as you’ve heard it first. Which means you’re doing it all by ear, and not reading the music. Which is awesome, but also lazy (but awesome) and lazy. In other words, my piano-playing exactly.

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busy secretly hating frosting

As for your demeanor, you still float through rooms, paradoxically ethereal and loud. Despite your omnivorous appetite for facts, your dreamscape imagination life is fully online and operational – in fact, I’ve come to understand that “73% True” doesn’t mean “27% False”. In fact, is it in that 27% that anything can happen. At night, we use your menagerie of stuffed animals and have invisible pitch-black dialogues that carry us everywhere.

I’ve often talked about your instantaneous anthropomorphizing of anything and everything, going back to your hand crib of early toddlerhood. Maybe it’s your ability to turn anything into a narrative that makes the world such a breathtaking place when we’re around you.

Your mom and I have kept the heart-wrenching details of our fertility and adoption issues from you, since they’re complicated, and it’s not wise to teach you about holding on to the hope of a miracle. And besides, we have so much fun with you, every day, that the craziness of Babytown can seem ever-so-less important.

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although you’re probably the best babysitter ever – with Marlena on Kauai

While we were stuck in a hotel room last week, we turned on the TV just in time for Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. The episode was about black holes, the Susskind-Hawking debate, and string theory. The show discussed how Stephen Hawking conceded his battle by admitting that information was indeed retained even if an object was swallowed by a black hole. String theorists say the information is “saved” at the edges of the universe in holographic form.

I turned to you and said, “So, Luce… I just want to tell you it’s okay to be confused. NOBODY understands string theory. You can go to another college after your first college and still not understand cosmological string theory.”

“I think it’s easy,” you said, busy misspelling “Easter” and “bunny” on your doodle pad, “A black hole’s like a copy machine that destroys the original.” I prepared to file that under Kids Say the Gosh-Durndest Things when I realized… you were right. You’d just simplified the holographic principle of black hole thermodynamics.

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two pictures taken at the same time – top: Lucy, Tessa, Lucas; bottom: the picture Lucy took

All I can really say is this: you’ve allowed me to discover the world again, away from the vultures of my own childhood, this time from the awe-filled perspective of your wide-open heart. I love to sit near you as you work things out, because it gives me a contact high. Your mom and I expended so much effort to make our family bigger, going down so many blind alleys, occasionally becoming the people we swore we’d ever be. We were secretly hoping for a miracle, but the fact is, we already had one.

haste is a poor counselor

4/15/12

Thank you, Miss Norton in 3rd grade, for not coming to my rescue when the whole class laughed at the book I chose for my report. It allowed me to understand I was truly on my own, and I developed the defense mechanisms I needed to survive.

Thank you, Mr. Medley, for berating me for a full half hour at my piano lesson so that tears ran down my face, and I was utterly encased in shame. You said I had “plateaued” and I wasn’t getting any better. Even though I was nine at the time, I would later recognize the moment when it came in other pursuits.

Thank you, Mr. Hannay, for telling me in front of my music composition class at Carolina that I couldn’t write music and should stick to words. I used that motivation to quit your fucking class and write a column for the newspaper AND write music for a successful band later on.

Thank you, GYK, the exec at Fox, who wondered aloud – to whomever would listen – that if my wife and I got a deal in Hollywood, then “there must be a place for anybody in this fucking town.” I’ve thought of you with a tiny reservoir of unfettered glee every year for the last six seasons when we sell something.

Thank you, former housemate JLJ, for saying you couldn’t believe I was dating this one girl because you “always considered her out of my league”. It was the first I’d ever heard of the idea of romantic “leagues” or even the notion that somebody would be out of mine. The comment made me assess my “status” and cemented my opinion that we were all rock stars and nobody was out of anybody’s league.

Thank you, Clay Boyer, for walking into my room at the Purple House, seeing me lying on the bed with a crazy hot chick from New Orleans, and saying, with sincerity: “Don’t get complacent.” And then walking out. You don’t know how many times that moment has made me jump the groove and get back to the business of creation.

And thank you, nameless fucktwats who jumped me by the bike rack as I tried to run home from elementary school in Cedar Rapids, IA. You provided me the three things I needed to succeed: tales, empathy and revenge.

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