Monthly Archives: March 2013

meet me at the place near the thing where we went that time


Here’s the thing: travel is not for everybody. It is not easy. Sure, we’re living in a time of miracles – I’ll leave Los Angeles today at 4:50pm and wake up on the other side of the earth – but nobody should ever feel bad about balking in the face of such a cavalcade of minutiae both minute and mountainous.

This is especially true now; technology was supposed to make travel smoother, but if you plan on keeping beloved gadgetry in another country, you’ve just added a geometric layer of busywork. I spent 2 hours on tech chat with AT&T in order to get texts in Italy (at least ones that don’t cost 3,50 € a character) and I won’t know if it works until I get there.

Yes, there are those trips where you can “go native”, flush your cellphone down the loo and do lines of blow on your iPad, but this isn’t that sort of trip – I have to keep in radio contact for work, and also make sure I rendezvous with the ladies in Rome.

Hopefully, y’all know what I mean by “the ladies”. This isn’t 1990, after all. But while we’re on the subject… FUCK! Wouldn’t texting have made things SO MUCH EASIER back then? How the wandering lemurfuck did we do anything back then?

I mean, I met people at airports. At the People Express terminal in Newark. In Madrid! Without cellphones! I can’t even remember how we made arrangements… did we write letters, and just assume everything would work out?


When I was 13, my parents let me take a BUS to Chicago from Cedar Rapids, IA. I stayed at the Bismarck Hotel because I saw an AD for it in the BACK OF THE NEW YORKER. I did it because I wanted to see the painting American Gothic at the AIC. I had no idea how to get to the Bismarck, or the Art Institute, and my parents had no plausible way to reach me. How did these things happen?

Have we been rendered completely fetal? Did I spend three hours researching European schuko Apple-compatible USB chargers because I have become a hopelessly emasculated, lily-livered glob of high-maintenance goo?


Wait, I got completely distracted. What were we talking about?


a vesuvial belching of syllables


Just as a bit of housekeeping, I’ll be going here on Thursday:



Well, more specifically here:



Although now that I look at it, the resemblance to the southwest part of England is remarkable:


Anyway, I’ve been accepted to a writer’s workshop in Positano, on the Italian coast, just south of Pompeii – and for one week, I’ll be at Le Sireneuse helping other writers with their work (and they, too, with mine). Then Tessa and the Lulubeans will meet me in Rome, and we’ll spend spring break listening to Lucy speak Italian she learned from swiping Tessa’s computer and bustin’ the Rosetta Stone software.

Never fear, my friends, just like last time, I doubt I’ll possess the self-possession to not keep writing to you during the whole event.

Tips, tricks, suggestions, and gift requests?


suppressing one’s gag reflex three decades running


I am taking the red-eye tonight to North Carolina, since now THERE IS ONE. No more stopping in Dallas/Ft. Worth or Pittsburgh or Charlotte, which is just ghastly when you’re taking the red-eye anyway. Speaking of which, when I was in my 20s, “the red eye” meant something else. So did “red wings”. Or did I say that already? But I truly digress.

For them’s what wanna know why I’m making this trip, my 28th home Dook game in a row since I was, like, 17 years old, there are so many reasons over so many decades, but I think this pic of a Koach K Klown Kollege fan may say more than mere words ever could:



say the bells of st. johns



Spanking (and other milder forms of punishment) has come up in conversation lately, not to mention a very Slate-ish article in Slate about whether or not it contributes to mental illness – so I’d like to go ahead and ask the wealth of interesting parents out there: do you spank? If not, do you use any kind of physical behavior modification at all?

And what did your parents do?

Be honest, and use an anonymous animal name if that encourages more explanation or conversation…


choking down cheese since the truman administration


Wow, so many incredible messages about yesterday’s blog – all for an idea what would never happen in 4.7 million years! I mean, suppose you wanted to save The Rathskellar in its original subterranean location just off Franklin Street. I’m told it has something to do with code, and pipes, and permits.

Are we talking $25,000 that nobody has? Or $1.5 million that nobody has? Forget that you could never hire Squeaky again (is he still among the living?) or that we can’t be 19 again, eating bowls full of cheese. What are the actual brass tacks about getting The Rat online and operational? Given that the restaurant covers alumni from 1948 to 2008, that investment might actually make sense, wouldn’t it?

I mean in the original spot, sewage be damned, not in some bullshit strip mall off Jones Ferry Road that lasts for 18 months before going the way of all things (i.e., yogurt). I want the same tables with our initials scratched into them, with that booth just under the translucent paving glass of the Franklin Street sidewalk.

Because, truly, what’s left that any of us still know?

• Four Corners (not my hangout, but it had its own charm)

• Sutton’s Drug Store (imperative)

• Spanky’s (I know, but, well, it does survive)

• Carolina Coffee Shop (same spot, but bears no resemblance to earlier incarnation)

• Ye Olde Waffle House (I rarely got up in time to actually eat there, since it closed at 11am)

• Mama Dip’s (new location, equally awesome, but a bit far afield)

Is there anything I’m missing, O Ye Heels from the mid-’80s through Dean’s retirement?


at the 2nd of the Cat’s Cradle’s 3 locations, with Chuck B, Nic J, Dave B, Steven C, me, and Pat H… AND MY HAIR WAS AWESOME, HATERS


it takes you in and spits you out


I’m going to make this short and sweet: an institution that pretty much defined Chapel Hill and Carolina for many of us died today, and the outpouring on Facebook is unlike anything I’ve seen since… well, never. Not even the national elections had this level of public hand-wringing amongst my particular diaspora of North Carolinians.

For those of you who went to other schools, it was simply a pizza joint called Pepper’s, but it represented something much bigger. In 1986, when they finally finished Interstate 40 through greater Chapel Hill and on to the ocean, the clock started ticking on anything interesting or weird still left on Franklin Street, and the closing of Pepper’s Pizza means we have hit 11:59.

The interstate brought massive malls and commuter townships like North Raleigh, Cary and Morrisville. Then UNC ditched its terrible meal plan and developed on-campus restaurants and hangouts that catered to every whim. The first salvo was fired in 1987, when Fowler’s market closed, and with it, “Big Bertha”, a massive walk-in refrigerated room the size of a small church, carrying every kind of beer. Hence this iconic graffiti from the early ’90s:


No longer could students walk to a grocery store: they had to take what the campus would give them. Soon thereafter, beloved restaurants and experimental stores began dropping like gnats. A wonderfully beat-up movie theater called “The Carolina Blue & White” became The Gap, which became… vacant. The huge malls on I-40 started its slow death grip on downtown.

I kvetched nine years ago about the endless coffeetization of Franklin Street, waxed philippic about Pyewacket closing 11 years ago, pissed and moaned about Jeff’s Confectionery and The Intimate Bookshop shuttering a decade ago… but now that the Rathskellar and Pepper’s are both gone, I will make one last argument:

CHAPEL HILL AND UNC, WHY ARE YOU BEING SUCH IDIOTS??? I know this sounds stupid, but every time a place like Pepper’s closes, about four thousand of us subconsciously decide never to come back. Ostensibly, you want us to keep visiting the school, show it to our kids, foster the kinship we’d nurtured, and spend money – the kind of money we didn’t have when we lived there. But if there’s nothing left we recognize, why should we?

Yes, I can hear the detractors now. “Waaaaaaaah!,” they cry in sarcastic derision, “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! They took away my Barrel of Fun and my Schoolkids Records and now I’m gonna take my toys and stay home! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”

Fair enough. But while you’re busy thinking that us alumni are a bunch of crybabies clinging to the past, we might as well forgo that trip to our alma mater, and then our kids probably won’t want to go either, then our GAA memberships will lapse, and before you know it, the only connection we’ll have to UNC (besides basketball) will be a few random comments on long-abandoned Facebook pages.


Jon leads my sister past another failed Cold Stone Creamery, Chapel Hill, Dec. 2008

My radical solution? You can let the free market take care of everything else, but find a way to subsidize one or two of our cherished places. It may seem moronic (or socialist), but it’ll engender good will for decades, and it’ll eventually pay for itself. Chapel Hill will get to keep its entirely-past-expiry-date label as “cool and bohemian” and perhaps… just perhaps… the town can be saved from becoming another soulless “New South” nowhereville replete with chain yoga centers, “Noodles & Company”, and sad baby saplings guy-wired into bright-red cedar mulch.

I’m coming on Saturday for the home Dook game, the same way I’ve come for 28(!!!) years in a row, but I’m a dork, a completist, an anomaly. I’ve managed to make new memories with some of these eye-rolling restaurateurs – after all, in a decade, some other Carolina grad will stomp in anger when the Yogurt Pump closes. But for now, you guys have got to stop the bleeding. Re-open the Rat, for god’s sake! Put new pipes in Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe! Give us a shred of evidence that Thomas Wolfe was wrong!