Monthly Archives: January 2013

to stop without a farmhouse near

1/15/13

I totaled the car.

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To be fair, it happened a few days before New Year’s Eve, en route to picking up the ladies at the Albany airport back in New York, but we just got the news that it was a total loss.

It makes me sad because it was a steadfast and true car, one that Lucy had given special meaning when I said we were getting a car that had all-wheel drive for the ice. She replied, “Yes. It can also drive on ocean waves, over mountains, and even on HOT LAVA. It’s called Strongtaneous.”

Strongtaneous (a hybrid Ford Escape) did everything asked of her until a guy swerved into my lane, and I reacted with that slight twitch of the wheel – completely fine during normal circumstances, but in this snowstorm, it sent me into the guard rail, where I spun once, and managed to hit it again.

I’ve always prided myself on being able to drive in the snow, always having great reaction time and instincts, but this confluence of events put me into the highway barrier regardless. Thank god there was nobody else around on that godforsaken night, an hour into the blizzard.

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And so now we look for what Tessa’s calling Strongtaneous Deuxième. The insurance company is giving us almost full value for the car, so if any of you want to make us a little less blue, tell us of an SUV with great gas mileage, ready for winter, with room enough for both people and harebrained schemes.

 

priceless gem

1/14/13

While watching my beloved North Carolina men’s basketball team fight a very physical Florida State squad, I had something of a quiet epiphany. It was part-way through the 2nd half, and we were swapping the lead back and forth like fourth grade boys handling a frog. Reggie Bullock grabbed an offensive rebound, drove it back in for a basket, and I suddenly realized it was okay if we lost.

Losing is not something I enjoy, or something any of us Carolina fans are particularly used to, so after 27 years of rabid fanhood, it didn’t feel natural. But as I watched this young team begin to coalesce around a larger idea, I knew they had bought into the program, bought into each other, and were giving it everything they had. What more can you ask for?

I’m always amazed at fans who decide to stop watching when their team isn’t doing well, or inversely, only get excited when the tournament is on and we’ve got a shot. I’m particularly demoralized at the crop of UNC alums who have decided that the academic scandal surrounding the AFAM department and football team has rendered us damaged goods.

For me, it’s just as simple as believing in gravity or the reoccurrence of spring; hewing my spirit to the Heels is not a choice, it’s a natural phenomenon. I’ll watch them by myself at the farm and scream at the wall they’re projected on, just as loud as the times I’ve screamed in person at the Dean Dome, or with my brothers-in-arms on Cameron Avenue.

We ended up winning on Saturday against Florida State, a good old-fashioned barnburner in hostile territory. But the fact is this: we have no dead-eyed assassin from 27 feet; we have no 7-foot center able to instill his will; we have no point guard who will score 24 points when no one else can. Yet what we do have is the core group of electrons that can spin around the nucleus of the Carolina Way and be an element for the ages.

Tessa has a picture of Danny Green in her office bathroom:

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Danny was incredible – his teabagging of Greg Paulus remains one of the great moments of the Carolina-Dook rivalry – yet he and Wayne Ellington hitched their legends to the streaking comet of Ty Lawson and the Jupiter-sized power of Tyler Hansbrough. This year’s roster has none of that astronomy. Put simply, there is nobody on the team good enough to make anyone else better.

But that’s not the gorgeous chimera Dean Smith created. Despite the aberrations we’ve always loved, Carolina has always been built like a precision watch – individual pieces powering a sum more than its parts. The watch runs faster under Roy, and it’s a bitch to learn, but it’s damned near a masterpiece when it’s going.

 

bank error in your favor

1/13/13

In a case of “how to create a re-branding news story out of a topic that has remained static for 85 years”, the Monopoly game has decided to shit-can one of its venerable tokens (you know, the race car, the boot) and you get to vote in a replacement. Like my little girl, I’m a sentimentalist, and no doubt whatever they replace is going to end up a sad, forlorn favorite (like Apple Cinnamon Pop Tarts).

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when we did Election Protection in Reading, PA in 2004, I made Reading Railroad T-Shirts from our Monopoly set

Oddly, I was listening to Marketplace on NPR yesterday, and they asked people which token they chose when they played Monopoly. Which is one of those weird, innocent pop culture questions for which almost every American has an answer. I thought the top hat was cool, but seriously, I loved the iron:

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It had a built-in handle to move it around, scorching opponents as you went. Now that we have woodstoves at the farm, we could actually use an iron like this, heating that fucker up until it glowed orange and emitted plasma. How about you?

 

to our coy mistresses

1/10/13

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Lucy and Tessa, Christmas Eve 2012, Santa Cruz, CA

No matter what, you should head over to the Huffington Post, where the lead story on the “Women” page is none other than MY AWESOME WIFE giving you the 10 Things [She] Knows About Work Now That [She’s] In Her 40s. I do hope it contrasts nicely with the Wurtzel article I mentioned a few days ago, because Tessa writes in a way meant to be commiserative (rather than isolating).

I gave my own concise career advice some years ago on the blog, and while I have made it an ironclad rule never to repeat myself – not even the early entries nobody read – I will paraphrase it here for you.

Keep in mind this was written for artists, but it might work for other jobs as well. So here’s…

Uncle Daddo’s 7 Rules for Startin’ Your Artistically-Fueled Career:

1. Form your own work-obsessed community of like-minded souls.

2. Stop fucking drinking. You can drink when there’s something to celebrate.

3. Do not attend any social event to “further your career”. No leads ever come from meeting someone at a party unless you were there for other reasons.

4. Put yourself in the way of things happening. Go to other people’s shows, read other writer’s work, help build something with your hands. You need the input of strangers and you get better at your craft every time you set foot in a foreign room.

5. Build up your social circle. When it is large enough, take a retreat somewhere to work on your endeavors, and always bring along one or two people whom you don’t entirely know, so kinetic energy can gather. Be the ride everyone wants on.

6. Listen to the advice of people you thought were stupid. Listen to the critique from people who have nothing to do with your field. Gems lie hidden within.

7. Be very, very good. Don’t worry about being precious. Dork out. Spend hours obsessing. Be persistent. Find your hidden trump card, your side entrance, your secret password. Once your foot is in the door, immediately force your body in. This is not a rehearsal; this is it.

 

perennial as the grass

1/9/13

If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s get sick. Wait, I also know how to pee into the bowl so you can’t hear it. So that’s two things.

Hold on, I can also do Morse Code on the violin, and get pretty much any cat to come to me. So that’s four things. But one of those four things I can definitely do is get sick. A lot, and all the time.

Such favorites include hallucinating in 2003, or perhaps dealing with suppositories while driving on the interstate, or four huge diseases in 10 days, or even Uncle Daddo ruins the trip to Hawaii! And the surgeries and SURGERIES!

So it will come as absolutely no surprise to any of my medium-sized disturbed following that I’m intimately familiar with this winter’s influenza and the variations thereof. Having finally – FINALLY – beat both the 8-month sore throat and the weeping full-body rash, I got the flu, or an RSV that ruined half my holiday, and fully took away my ability to speak for six days.

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when I showed up at the doctor upstate, they made me wear a mask – ‘cuz they’re all about making a brother feel welcome

Despite all this, I am BULLISH on my HEALTH and refuse to be demoralized and BELIEVE I’M HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. But I can offer you these following Tips to Surviving This Year’s Insane Flu and Related Maladies:

1. They actually did a good job matching the flu shot to the flu this year. Better than most years, in fact. This is despite most of the doctors in Massachusetts telling me that it was a complete bust.

2. However, you can still get the flu, or at least a lesser RSV that will kick your ass. This is the worst influenza in a decade, so yes, if it seems like everyone around you is getting sick, it’s because they are.

3. If you get the laryngitis version, you must take a full day off without talking or whispering. I’m serious. If you don’t, your lungs will fill with green goo, and you won’t be able to vocalize your complaints about your lungs.

4. You will know when you are really sick and you won’t be able to deny it. There is no “pushing through” this one; no “sweatin’ it out” or “putting on a brave face”. You must accept what has come.

5. When it comes, cancel all plans for three days and LOVE THYSELF. You might as well cancel, because you’re not going to be present. And you have to stop worrying about what you won’t get done. Just be kind to yourself and take the break. You will be better in half the time.

6. Part of self-love is self-medication. You must sleep at night, so my advice is to bust some ZzzQuil. It is liquid Benadryl (which will also act as an antihistamine) and isn’t habit-forming. During the day, use Mucinex-D, which is the original good Sudafed combined with guaifenesin, to loosen it all up (you have to sign for it, thanks to meth-heads).

7. The cough lasts forever. Or at least it seems like it, long after you’ve stopped being contagious. It is awful and normal.

That is about it. Strive to be well, but be gentle with yourself. As the Desiderata says, avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.

i’m a sinner i’m a saint

1/7/13

If you lived in my greater extended literary world – and that mostly means “getting snarky forwards over email” – you’d have heard about the Elizabeth Wurtzel piece over at NYMag that has had tongues a-waggin’. You can read it in its entirety here, although like most things in modern life, you can have an opinion about it without even experiencing the original.

Wurtzel is most famous for Prozac Nation and a host of other confessionals that were famously called the “woe is me, me, me” memoir genre by an early adopter of the blood sport of Wurtzel-bashing. She was also a contributor to the Next book, which is when I met her. We wound up having a smattering of debauched group nights on the town when a few of our common circles briefly merged in the undulating throng of a pre-sorority East Village.

(As an aside, don’t you think it usually sounds a little desperate when someone says “full disclosure: I know this person” in an article? I know the journalistic reasons, but it always comes off a little smarmy.)

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me at the Purple House around that time, early ’90s

Anyway, there has been practically nobody easier for other writers to hate, perhaps in the recent history of Lower Manhattan. She doesn’t make it easy for herself, often mistaking incendiary proclamations for genuine insight, and including details of her life guaranteed to make you roll your eyes and say “oh please…

This last essay has proven to be a high-water mark for Wurtzel-based invective as a glance at Twitter or Slate makes clear. No doubt the seven or so of you who read it will have your own opinions.

But let me just add three thoughts, which may or may not be related to the issue at hand:

1. E. Wurtzel remains a good writer. I’ve heard all the rumors, know all the stories, and I don’t give a shit. She has a thing, and it’s better than most of ’em out there.

2. Criticism this cruel and virulent absolutely must be viewed through the prism of sexism. If a guy were writing the same stuff, he’d be lauded for his tender honesty, and his harsher passages would be construed as a romantic yawp. I don’t think anyone, not even chicks, have an understanding of how EASY it is to HATE women showing any power.

3. Lastly, we all suffer from the worst kind of hipster Puritanism. We have no trouble complaining about our first-world problems, but try to absolve ourselves by heaping insult on anyone else who is honest about their tastes and privilege. I find myself deliberately not mentioning things here because it’s impossible to get across without looking like a fluffy dilettante dandy.

We all feel this subconscious, powerful guilt about living in a country with so much largesse, when there’s unbelievable suffering in the rest of the world. So we’re fine with bitching about slow wifi speeds on an airplane, but when Elizabeth Wurtzel mentions Harvard, croissants or a Hermès bag, we cry foul.

This leads us all to create façades of who we are, rather than the real picture, because if any of you got the real details, you’d likely be horrified. Social media has only made it worse; now you can curate this idea of yourself in real time, through little snippets, updates and pictures. Hell, I’ve been a caricature of myself on this blog for more than ten years!

You may not find Wurtzel trenchant, or tasteful, or even interesting, but there are other venues you can go for that. If you want an uncut closed-circuit feed into someone’s psyche, however, you can’t be surprised at the mess.

 

let’s get to know one another once more

1/6/13

1. Favorite flower – the peony

2. Favorite SweetTart – the blue ones

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3. Favorite wind instrument – clarinet

4. Favorite French fry condiment that isn’t ketchup – garlic aioli

5. Favorite epithet I don’t use much myself – douche

6. Least favorite holier-than-thou comment – “I don’t even own a TV”

7. Least favorite dog breed everyone else likes – Schnauzer

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8. Least favorite film cliché – panning up from a woman’s shoes

9. Least favorite astronomical nomenclature – waning gibbous

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10. Least favorite kitchen implement – ring of crappy measuring spoons

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How about you, fair readers?

 

tabula rasa

1/1/13

This is it! This is not a dress rehearsal! There is no subtext to this text, there is no secret group who is really in charge – to quote Morrissey, all I do know, is we’re here and it’s now!

2012 was for suckers, for hangers-on, for oar-draggers. It was for barnacles long attached to the bottoms of hulls, for asking questions and not bothering to stick around for answers.

It was “good enough”, it was meh to middling, it was skirting along, subsisting, then toasting a beer bottle to “getting away with it”. It would have been “close enough for jazz” except playing instruments was hard work.

Think of what you had to listen to in 2012. Think of the hours wasted in front of mouths. The driving. The clogging inefficiency. That ends now.

I don’t speak of revolution, just a simple page turn. No sado-masochist self-torture resolution that burns brightly for two weeks then flames out. Just smart decision after smart decision.

Is it a cliché to do it as a new year begins? Sure, but this year we stop worrying what the heart-dead think. This year we take the “guilty” out of “pleasure” and play the songs at top volume. We neither seek permission nor beg forgiveness. What has either ever really done for us?

This year we recharge our community, we do lots of service and favors, and we decide that if we’re alone, it’s because we’re leading.

2012 was for middle-men, for grifters, for half-baked plans never carried through. We spent 2012 waiting for the other shoe to drop, but in 2013 we realize the man upstairs only has one leg.

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