Monday, December 17, 2007

The Path Sick Sorrow Took

When I went out
I'd been in twelve years. It was kind of quiet,
very much a whimper. I moved to San Francisco
and two nights after I went
to a place in North Beach called Vesuvius.
I just walked in on a cool afternoon and it was all
as I'd left it: the dark, scarred wood bar,
the familiar, not unpleasant gloom, the bottles arrayed against
the mirror. I went in and sat down
and ordered a scotch on the rocks.

It was amazing to me how easy it was.
The glass was sat before me
without comment or question.
I picked it up and hefted it, felt its weight
in my palm and then
took a deep drink.

The heavens did not crack open, the bar did not split,
I did not drop where I sat, struck down.
It was really rather anticlimactic.

I felt like the reformed thief
who once more takes up
his lockpick. I felt like when,
after having been in England for a year,
I drove again. The movements, the patterns
were all still there though rusty. They did not take very long
to warm up, to loosen, to work back in.
I'd uncovered a rut worn an age ago
through a field long since overgrown.
The path remained.

What happened after, where the path still led,
I don't have to tell you. The path still led
where it led. I may still be breathing
fighting fucking crying loving lying
but mostly I am dead.

Participate in Democracy

Go to Daily Candy (click here) and vote for Smart Fitzjerrell, the punky, sexy clothing line by Arkansas native and personal friend of mine Mary Kathryn Wells. If you don't, another Arkansas native might be elected our next president. And none of us want that to happen, do we?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mixed tape v2.0

This is pretty fantastic.

It's just not the same, making mixed CDs instead of mixed tapes; the care and craftmanship involved are so much higher with a tape, so much more personal. You really had to sit with the songs, crouched over a boombox, hitting play and pause, cuing it all up just right. When you finished one—that you'd invariably made for a woman—you felt there was a bit of your own personal body and soul in that tape. And they make great documents, little solid items, the plasticky rattle, the handwritten songlist, the cut-and-pasted tape jackets, the old pictures.

Monday, December 10, 2007

File under jokey fragments, recent

1.

In retrospect,
my life was tits and whiskey.
I'd be lying if,
on this late-November night,
I said I didn't miss it a tit. I mean a bit.

2.

I need to write more about other windows.
I'm getting bored of my own stories:
Yes, Antarctica, dishwasher blah blah blah.

3.

I have sat imperiously, tie'd and jacketed,
in the lobbies of luxury hotels.
I have sipped coffee in Venice Beach hostels,
washed up from a firing.
I have mopped floors at the world's bottom
and fallen before bulls.
I'm 28. I should have spread things out more.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

First feature

My first feature article for Meetings & Conventions has been published, just this month. Go here to read it. I'm quite proud of it; I hope you all out there in TV Land enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Beachblogging

I'm sitting on the beach in Puerto Rico right now. Insane to bring your laptop to the beach, you say? Yeah, you're probably right—but the beach is only a few steps from my hotel, the El San Juan, so, y'know. The hotel is nice but for the pervasive, thumping techno soundtrack that is seemingly impossible to get away from: in the elevator, in the halls (which you can hear, faintly, the insistent bassline, at night in bed, in your room—no kidding), and even right here, right behind me on the beach. So maybe having a laptop out here, with a just-fine WiFi signal, isn't so strange. The waves are rolling in and the breeze is cool. There are a few scattered people in beach chairs nearby.

Puerto Rico has been great, if a bit odd. The city seems strangely empty—at least, Old San Juan, the 500-year-old downtown area, does. It's beautiful, though, the Creole (I think) architecture, all the pastel colors, the little lizards sunning themselves. I like a lizard, I've decided. They are cute little critters, how they are totally unmoving and then, bam, in a flash, they're off.

We've seen a lot of interesting hotels. The new La Concha, which is being renovated right now in time (they say, though I don't see how they will get it done in time) for a Sunday, Dec. 8th opening. The La Concha is an old hotel built in the Tropical Modernism style which has lain fallow for 10 years now—just went to seed. They're doing a ton of work on it, though, and it looks like it's going to be a beautiful hotel when it is finished.

That's all for now. Think I lost the signal.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Funnies

I hate the word "Funnies." That's why I used it. If I could have written "Friday Funnies" in that googledy Comic Sans font, I would have.

But so. Here are a few things, one about bombs and two about Obama.
  1. Beware, those who use urban slang! No longer can you shout, "This pretzel mix is the fucking bomb."
  2. I just found out Barack Hussein Obama is a smoker. I can't tell you how much this pleases me. And, yes, yes, I know: Smoking's bad blah blah blah. But I like that Obama smokes. Why? Because it shows that he hasn't had all of the humanity wrung from him by politics. Humans do stupid, pleasurable things—they have bad habits—like smoking; and I, for one, would rather elect a fallible human than a perfect robot. It's funny, but in in this way Obama reminds me more of Bill than Bill's own wife does. (Not that spouses are necessarily similar, but you get my point.)
  3. Time for reader participation, via the comments function: What do you think Obama's brand is? I've got my money on Camel Lights, but damn do I wish he smoked Lucky Strikes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

11/27/07

The dates dotted in this journal, with gaps
amidships, are clicking on up inevitably,
as they are wont to do. Three years now,
and my want for you, my want of you,
keeps coming back like an old football injury.

I never played, but the metaphor seems apt:
prior glories, hard hits, a longing looking-back
that, too rigorously examined, having kept reading,
proves not to hold up so well. Well oh well.

Used to I could induce rapture
at will, by picture, poem, or rereading
old emails. Often, substances got in on the act.
A doomed, dready dreaming, mouthing a memory
like an ice cube in August: delicious, but gone quick.

Now not so much. Sobriety's conspired
to make life realer. Clarity can be a bit dull.
That old pull's perhaps been dispelled
by my newfound stability. The pilot light's lit
but I've turned off the gas.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Back in Black Tie

From this past Friday night at the M&C Gold Awards, held at the Angel Orensanz Foundation Center for the Arts on Manhattan's Lower East Side:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Birthday 2K7

I had a good birthday. Thanks to all of you who wished me one—and nuts to all of you who didn't. (Not really; I just like saying "nuts to you." Makes me feel like a 1930s "newsie.")

My mom and my dad both called yesterday to wish me a happy birthday. Both of them sang the happy birthday song to me; it's kind become a family tradition to do so.

After that, though, on the phone with my dad, he said, "Man ... you're 28. Two years away from 30, 32 years away from 60 ... unbelievable."

"You're right," I said. "I know. It's just a bad calculus that don't ever get any better, does it?"

"No, it sure doesn't," said my dad, laughing hard.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Post No. 200!

Happy Post No. 200 to me! To celebrate, here's a something I wrote:

On Sun and the Interest of What’s Happening

In the Viennese café, after the movie,
we chose a sunstruck seat
in the covered outdoor garden’s corner.
“How have you been doing?” we asked one another.
“How was Japan?” “How are you and your man?”
“Japan was good,” I said. “Japan was really great.”

Maya was enjoying Brooklyn: the quiet, the space,
the more-laid-back life. But she wasn’t sure she’d stay

in the city forever. In fact, Maya was sure
she wouldn’t stay. I sipped my latte and picked at
the strudel with schlag. The light made it all
seem somehow unreal, like when in shadow
you view a street thoroughly smashed by sunshine
across the way. “And I don’t know where I’ll go.”

Earlier, in the movie, a bad-for—but mad-for—one-another couple
looked out, arms around waists, onto a Paris dusk.
I thought of my girl like that, then, and London.
It wasn’t good but it was something.

“So who do you see?” Maya asked. I stirred
from my sunny reverie and rearranged the cutlery, anxiously.
A minute earlier I’d have had an answer, but the sun seemed
to shut all that down;

the light a viscousness in which I’d been trapped,
sap slowly surprising an insect, henceforth caught,
preserved for eons, dust motes dancing in slo-mo.

Everything telescoped. “Joe,”
I said. “I talk a lot to Joe.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Something stupid this way comes

Loyal readers of this blog (both of them) are likely familiar with my hatred for stupid neologisms. In these "pages," I have previously excoriated The New York Times Magazine's use, in an otherwise fine profile of the band The Arcade Fire, of the word "ginormous." It has come to my attention that another terrible word is upon us: vajayjay. Apparently this word is being pushed/popularized by Oprah, after being used on Grey's Anatomy (though of course the word predates the show). I learned of the plague-like spreading of this awful word via The Onion A.V. Club's blog The Hater, which is written by Amelie Gillette. (Also, isn't that a great name? Nothing like a nom that conjures both a cute Frenchwoman and shaving.) In the entry in question, Ms. Gillette introduces us to the word vajayjay, "aka the world's most annoying word popularized by the world's most annoying popularizer of annoying things, Oprah." Well said.

I'd just like to go on record here and say that I am sick and tired of the infantilizing of everything. Ginormous is a word a teenager says. Vajayjay is a word a toddler says, or a toddler's mommy says to her (or, I suppose, him, though I can't imagine why). Similarly, men are not to wear shorts unless at the beach or engaged in some vigorous outdoor activity; enough with the T-shirts sporting clever sayings or kitschy nostalgia, like Mr. Bubble—in fact, enough with T-shirts, unless they are of the plain white variety, altogether. All these words the people who write Gawker use: douchebag, asshat, and the like are what junior-high students call one another. So fucking knock it off already. Wear your pants like a man, your skirt (or pants or dress or whatever, I don't care, I'm not trying to start a thing here) like a woman, say "fuck" when you want to, and lay off the childish euphemisms for your naughty bits. Let's start to elevate the discourse by—oh, I dunno—elevating the fucking discourse.

Monday, October 29, 2007

It has been my experience

that people are split more or less evenly between two differing camps when it comes to Halloween: there are those who love it and there are those who think it's stupid. And, much like Republicans and Democrats, you don't find too many switching sides. Also, it's often disastrous when a member of one group tries to date a member of the other: much like the Montagues and Capulets, only with one person (girl or guy) dressed up like Romeo or Juliet, and the other in street clothes, or "civvies," because they think that dressing up is stupid.

I fall in the latter camp. I dunno, I just don't care.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Done with my chores, Pa.

Here at work, one of my bosses calls our work "chores." As in this week, after getting back from Japan, his asking me amiably, "So, are you catching up on your chores?"

I kind of like that. It makes me feel like the magazine is a family that is obligated to care for you; you just have to earn your keep by writing stories, chopping firewood, and toting water.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

This one goes out to Dad

I read this recently in The New Yorker. I was surprised by the use of my own personal dad's favorite hymn, as well as by the—not onomatopoeia, but something close (does anyone know the word for this?)—that ends it. An excellent poem.

Aubade in Autumn

by Peter Everwine October 15, 2007

This morning, from under the floorboards
of the room in which I write,
Lawrence the handyman is singing the blues
in a soft falsetto as he works, the words
unclear, though surely one of them is love,
lugging its shadow of sadness into song.
I don’t want to think about sadness;
there’s never a lack of it.
I want to sit quietly for a while
and listen to my father making
a joyful sound unto his mirror
as he shaves—slap of razor
against the strop, the familiar rasp of his voice
singing his favorite hymn, but faint now,
coming from so far back in time:
Oh, come to the church in the wildwood . . .
my father, who had no faith, but loved
how the long, ascending syllable of wild
echoed from the walls in celebration
as the morning opened around him . . .
as now it opens around me, the light shifting
in the leaf-fall of the pear tree and across
the bedraggled back-yard roses
that I have been careless of
but brighten the air, nevertheless.
Who am I, if not one who listens
for words to stir from the silences they keep?
Love is the ground note; we cannot do
without it or the sorrow of its changes.
Come to the wildwood, love,
Oh, to the wiiildwood
as the morning deepens,
and from a branch in the cedar tree a small bird
quickens his song into the blue reaches of heaven—
hey sweetie sweetie hey.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Back from Japan

Back from Japan. A crazy, bizarre, wonderful trip. Among other
things, I:
  1. Sat at the bar where Bill Murray first saw Scarlett in Lost in Translation.
  2. Got attacked by deer outside of a temple in Nara.
  3. Fell in love.
  4. Saw Mt. Fuji from the window of the Shinkansen, or "bullet train."
  5. Ate many, many things which I had no idea what they were.
  6. Bowed about one million times.
  7. Got offered a naughty massage.
  8. Shook the hands of about 50 Japanese schoolchildren, who wanted to try out their English on me.
  9. Saw all these tiny, nearly three-person bars down back alleys in Osaka.
  10. Stayed in five-star hotels nightly.
... and much, much more.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Prison Break

I see ads for this show, and I don't get it: do they just keep breaking out of prison every episode? Do they keep getting put back in? You'd think that such an inept crew of prisonbreakers would eventually just settle in at the ol' hoosegow.

Which brings to mind:

Hoosegow: NOUN: Slang. A place for the confinement of persons in lawful detention: brig, house of correction, jail, keep, penitentiary, prison. Informal: lockup, pen. Slang: big house, can, clink, cooler, coop, joint, jug, pokey, slammer, stir. Chiefly regional: calaboose. See FREE.

Thanks, Roget's II!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A remnant

Harry Stares It Down

God, the long weekend looms,
a cold spot in the hallway, lonely fullness
of action outside, the flecking
Christmas lights up far too early.

Saturday stretches out like a hungry animal.
It growls: alarm, wake, shower, coffee,
pacing the floorboards until 5pm arrives
and unlocks the liquor cabinet.

Later later later later

Later, a smile stuck stillborn,
Harry doesn’t laugh with
the others at the bar, their jokes.
Like a retarded kid capering, he thinks cruelly.

So, what to do. Only this:
Crush the fucking can, cracked cherrywood
bar and buy another. Good buybacks here.
And mostly, drinking’s better than not.

But then comes
last call and
still there’s Sunday
to stare down, sweet Jesus Sunday,
an arid expanse inhabited only
by twenty-four smirking hours,
an orange light blinking on the percolator.

And when that day’s duly weathered, again it’s:
alarm, wake, shower, coffee, until

work and a blessed white mind
on Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday.
Thursday. Friday.

Dying for the weekends to quit coming.
Too chickenshit to do it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bill O'Reilly Is a Horrible Racist

Recently, Bill O'Reilly took the Reverend Al Sharpton out to dinner at Sylvia's, the famous Harlem soul-food restaurant, to thank him (the Rev.) for appearing on The Factor. Here is what that classy fellow Bill had to say about the place:
"It was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all."
My god! Can you believe it? Blacks — blacks! — behaving themselves in a restaurant!

O'Reilly went on to add, "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M.F.-er, I want more iced tea.'"

I mean, can you believe it? Who woulda thunk it?

At any rate, Media Matters for America posted a clip of Bill saying the stuff above on its website, thus stirring the pot (appropriately, I might add — I feel like lots of the ridiculous shit O'Reilly says just gets ignored, 'cause he's such a lunatic) and prompting Bill Shine, senior VP for programming at Fox News, to comment, "This is nothing more than left-wing outlets stirring up false racism accusations for ratings. It's sad."

Yeah, it's very sad, isn't it, Bill and Bill? Terribly sad. I mean, here O'Reilly was, trying to give the coloreds credit for behaving themselves in a restaurant, and what happens? The vicious left-wing media attacks him for it. Poor O'Reilly.

That fucker should be fired just like Don Imus. But it won't happen — or it won't happen easily — because it's Fox News.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Flavorslaton Strikes Again

Upcoming goings-on include:

Thursday 9/27 @ Jacques-Imo's: The SugarTone Brass Band
Friday 9/28 @ Webster Hall: Okkervil River
Saturday 10/6 @ Randall's Island: Arcade Fire
Wednesday 10/10 @ Southpaw: The Raveonettes
Friday 10/12 @ JFK: Hunter (ooh ... meta) goes to Japan!
Thursday & Friday 11/1 & 11/2 @ Terminal 5: The Decemberists

Any & all are welcome to attend any & all events!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Nathan Rabin's Year of Flops

I don’t know if any of you out there in TV Land have seen these before, but one and all have to start reading The Onion A.V. Club’s series “My Year of Flops.” Here’s a link to the entry on the movie The Fountain, which made me choke back laughter (“Maybe they figured they could fire Aronofsky right before shooting wrapped and give Hugh Jackman a ...”).

Basically the guy, Nathan Rabin, just reviews the most terrible movies of all time. It’s amazing. Here’s what he had to say about the recent Lindsay Lohan movie Georgia Rule:
“The film’s bizarre tonal left turn from Evening Shade sassiness to emotion-choked family soap opera suggests what Golden Girls might look like if they decided to shut off the laugh track for a three-episode arc illustrating that Rue McLanahan’s geriatric sexual adventurer was raped during college and that all her vamping and lustful one-liners were really a desperate way of overcompensating for not feeling desirable or pure sexually.”
Wow. I mean, that is just a colossus of a sentence. I am in awe. That might be up there as one of the greatest sentences ever, no kidding.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A beautiful paragraph

Herewith, please find a beautiful paragraph from a beautiful story about the parrot named Alex who recently passed away:
Many linguists argue that only human brains have the ability to nest ideas within ideas to form the infinitely recursive architecture of thought: When you’re done eating breakfast would you look in the box at the back of the table for the yellow rubber glove with the middle finger turned inside out?
Man, that's just, wow. I highly recommend the (short) article, which can be found here in The New York Times.

Kid Nation

This Wednesday evening at 8pm is the CBS premiere of Kid Nation, a new series wherein 40 kids aged eight to 15 are left in an abandoned mining town to fend for themselves.

Yes, that's right, it's Survivor but with children. This, I think, has the potential to be one of the best shows ever—maybe even better than Joe Millionaire. Can you imagine the possibilities? What if they form a pudding-based economy? What if they elect a dog president? What if they start eating each other? Man, I hope they start eating each other. I hope it ends up like the Simpsons in which Bart takes over Kamp Krusty, I really do. (I'm fully aware that it won't, but a man can dream, can't he?)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

NOBODY NEEDS ANY OF THIS SHIT

The street profiled in this NY Times article is Grand Street, which is about 5 minutes from my apartment. The writer writes that "those looking to find what made this neighborhood [Williamsburg] cool a decade ago need to venture a little farther these days, to Grand Street — where a good-looking mix of old and new restaurants, experimental galleries and girlie boutiques have carved out a more relaxed way to burn through a Saturday."

She then proceeds to take a little tour down Grand, enumerating the best of the street's shops. There's Pop, "an adorable little shop that sells colorful dresses and graphic t-shirts," Armoire, which "serves cold mimosas to members of the local fashion set as they paw at exquisitely crafted silk dresses," and Chopin Chemists, which "looks like an old apothecary shop, but ... sells designer candles like Paddywax ($16.99) and Voluspa ($21.99)."

Adorable ... paw ... fashion set ... designer candles ... (elsewhere in the article) pretty ... popular with laptop users ... storybook ... arty ... splurge ... and so on and so forth.

Just let me ask: when did hipsters completely transform into yuppies? Maybe it's been happening all along, and I haven't just been paying attention, but the smug, self-satisfied consumerism with which this article is shot through makes me SICK TO MY STOMACH. You do not need a goddamn twenty-two-dollar candle. You do not need to burn through your Saturdays. You do not need cold mimosas. To hell with storybook, pretty, arty, splurging and the rest of this nonsense. It's all escapism, it's all worthless and it won't make you happy.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Long time no blog

Hola, amigos. What's goin' on? I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but it's like life keeps raining shit down on me and I don't have a shit shovel big enough to clear it all away.

Anyway, in the news today, CNN's obtained a transcript of the new Bin Laden tape. I think you can also buy it on iTunes for $1.99. Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security, said that "the United States follows a standard procedure to analyze any tapes it receives."

He goes on:

"We review it for authenticity, we review it to see when we think it was made, if it's a single tape or a compilation of outtakes. We look to see if there are overt messages or hidden messages."

A compilation of outtakes? Is that, like, a blooper reel? Or a "best-of" mixtape? Deleted scenes? Alternate endings? I wanna see the one where Bin Laden keeps cracking up when saying the name of Russia's president.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Story Em Donich

Yesterday I visited my friends John and Andrea at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where late Thursday night Andrea gave birth to Story Em Donich. After a somewhat-fraught birth, Story and Andrea (not to mention John) are now doing just fine. I think they went home today.

It was great to meet Story, less than three days old. She sucked on my pinkie finger for a bit, and it was amazing the force of suction she had. And she wailed a bit, but was very sweet as well. Here are some photos of her, so cute (she's the one on the right, this is no Ted Brogan birth):

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Autumn comes and the days all start late

All at once one October morning you wake up and the light’s different, angled through the open window which, all night long, eyes closed and mouth ajar, you faced, a bit of breeze come through to flutter the curtains. It’s fall in New York, and it’s as if a crew of window-washers threw a bucket of sudsy water on the city and then squeegeed it clean. A film’s gone, hot August haze burned off, and everyone’s friendlier, more calm, not sunblind and sweat-soaked, sticky.

It’s one of the city’s two annual periods of transition, spring and fall. Summer and winter are static, owning the days and weeks with unquestioned authority—but spring and fall are interregnums, chinks in the armor, breakdowns in the system that summer- and winterly holds total sway.

Today, the twentieth, ten days later, is a gray day; now we should be sweating through shirts, the city reeking of garbage and last-gasp sex, hail-mary flirting, the end of a season; a sort of madness like in Sam’s summer, with which you empathize—but no, you’re wearing a sweater and so’s the carved-blonde beauty sitting across from you, her front to the window and her back to you, in profile.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Urge to blog fading ... fading ... rising ....

Last night I saw The Simpsons Movie with a friend. It felt, in the first few minutes of the movie, like I was watching something really generation-defining; seeing The Simpsons on the big screen kind of felt like a ticker-tape parade, a flag planted on a summit, a long-overdue victory lap.

On top of this, the movie was really funny, in that uniquely sweet way The Simpsons has really made its own. I maintain that, no matter what people say about the decline of The Simpsons, that I still, at least once a new episode, laugh out loud at something. Last night was no different: I laughed, harder than I've laughed in quite awhile, at maybe four or five moments in the film. I mean really laughed hard. The best part by far was at the end, when Bart reunites with Santa's Little Helper (aka "the dog") and asks him how he managed to survive. I won't say what the dog says (or, rather, barks, with subtitled translation), but it's a twisted, golden moment.

I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

She was the sort of woman

She was the sort of woman in whose face one could see her male relatives. She didn’t know this, though, and so at the bar with girlfriends she’d wonder why the boys would give her a quick look and then slide in next to not her. Or if one, for whatever reason, did slide in next to her, the next morning she’d wake and he’d be there but then go, a sort of look of panic on his face when in her face he saw her brothers. She’d look in the mirror, after they’d left, and wonder why; she’d tilt her chin up and to the side, then check her profile. She saw nothing, though, having for all her life looked at herself in the mirror, and indeed her brothers and father straight in the face; nothing looked off.

Save for one thing: her nose, which was not a bad nose; it was her grandfather’s hooked nose, and she loved her small, feisty grandfather—but she recognized nevertheless that this was not a woman’s nose, at least not an American woman’s. It would have looked OK on a Slavic peasant girl, evoking everyday nobility and feminine tenacity—but on her it declared itself too assertively, and assertive was not the current American female ideal.

So: she got it chopped off, planed down, turned up—retroussé. When it was done the boys slid in more often next to her and, mornings, didn’t leave so quickly. But in the mirror, into which she still of course looked daily, she now saw the difference. Absence announced itself: she no longer looked like the male members of her family. This made her sad in an odd way, mourning the loss of something she’d never been aware of ‘til it was gone, but also happy and damnedly free, cut loose from familial history and entirely her own as she studied the sidewalk’s flecks of mica while walking home in the cool city night.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Is it just me ...

... or do many of the paragraphs in this New York Times article about the mysterious Higgs boson, or, more colloquially, "God particle," sound like the dissection of some internecine gangsta rap conflict?

To wit:
The team, known as the D Zero collaboration and numbering some 600 physicists from 19 countries and 88 institutions, will not even say whether there is a bump in its data until the scientists have decided for sure that it is nature calling and not just a random statistical fluctuation.
And:
D Zero is the younger of two rival detectors at the accelerator. The other, known as the Collider Detector Facility, or C.D.F., was built and staffed by an equally large group that is scouring its own data for the Higgs and other new phenomena.
More:
The race is further complicated on the American side by the rivalry between the C.D.F. and D Zero groups. Earlier this summer, Fermilab had to schedule a pair of back-to-back seminars so each group could announce its own discovery of a new particle, a combination of quarks called the cascade-b.
Oh, snap!
Dr. Konigsberg, of the rival team, said they had their own analysis of their own b-quark measurements underway. He compared the rumor to a game of telephone that “starts one way, ends up the other.”
Them physicists are straight gangsta macks, 187 on the Higgs boson, son.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A heartwarming story

Courtesy of my good friend Joe Gordon:
So I went to this place called the White Star Tavern on Saturday. It's a dive down by Drake Field. A guy at work told me about it and says that he goes there all the time. A few of us from work, Todd, my colleague in employee relations, my old boss Robert, and Brent, our guide, went for the sheer hell of it. And let me tell you, if Roger's Rec [a filthy Fayetteville bar—ed.] is a 6 on a 10-scale of nasty redneck bar-dom, the White Star was a good 8.5 if not 9.

It's one of those places where, when the door opens, you immediately go from blazing sunlight to smoky, neon-lit ambiance. The Johnny Paycheck song blasting from the jukebox seems to be turned down and all conversations cease when a stranger (me) walks in. Robert was already there, so I strolled over to him at the bar and then ordered a Busch (not Busch Light) in a bottle. They only serve beer ($2 anything) and they only take cash. The music seemed to get back to it's normal level and the conversations resumed. Soon after taking a pull on my beer, a gentleman also by the name of Joe asked me if I wanted to play pool. And, if I did, I had to use the cue he was offering to me: an old mop handle with blue chalk rubbed over the nub end. I politely declined, but Joe gave me the crook eye nonetheless. We took a seat at a table. At one point a sign fell from the wall revealing the sole window in the place allowing sunlight to stream in. The crowd at the far table erupted in jeers toward the bartender who quickly ran over and wedged the old metal Budweiser sign back in place, thus calming the rowdy redneck vampires. I stayed for about an hour and a half, had four beers and then left. Quite an adventure.
I should say so. Here's to broke-down bars and mop-handle pool cues. Long may they live.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Doesn't this picture of this hotel room ...

... look a bit malevolent? It’s like a conspiracy cabal meeting of pillows and chairs. Or it’s like the Simpsons wherein the babies at the day care stage a coup d’etat and liberate all the pacifiers from the locker. And then when Homer, Bart and Lisa come to pick up Maggie, they creep tentatively through the day care and then back out slowly, carefully, through the piles and piles of staring, satiated babies all sucking with a wet, echo-y sound on their pacifiers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It's not narcissism ...

... if someone else asks the questions.

But so: I invite you to visit my friend Ross Mote's blog, where he's posted some questions answered by yrs. truly.

Dig it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Back from hiatus

Hi all. The above is a pic of me at Gay Head on Martha's Vineyard, after a 20-mile bike ride that wore my ass out. Note the clay cliffs in the background—they're really cool, all different colors.

To see more pics from our trip to Martha's Vineyard, go here. I highly recommend the joint.

More TK.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Happy Trails to Me

Today is my last day at Vault. It's been a good run; I had fun.

As of Monday, July 9th, I'll be a Senior Associate Editor at Meetings & Conventions magazine. I'm psyched.

So ... to anyone out there in TV Land who might be so inclined, no more sending stuff to my Vault email account, nor the physical Vault address.

Also, I'll be on Martha's Vineyard from tomorrow, June 29th, through Saturday, July 7th, without access to email—so if you wanna get in touch, give a ring on the ol' cell phone.

Cheers—

Hunter

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Overheard in New York

"I can make you talk like an Indian."
"How?"
"I went in that Internet cafe the other day and it was really sketchy."
"How many are you? You? You? C'mon."
"You're still a soldier in your mind ..."
"But nothing's on the line."
"Excuse me. I just want to look at the menu. Excuse me."
"I think what it is is it's a way of detachment."
"I'm trying to finish before I leave. I shouldn't care, but I care."
"Well, apropos of your sister's trip to Cairo."
"It smells like updog in here."
"What's updog?"
"Not much, man, what's up with you?"

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Yes, Virginia, there is a mustache

It was August 2002, the hot ass-end of summer, and I had just moved from the East Village to Williamsburg. I had barely moved into the place when I took off on a cross-country bus trip on the Green Tortoise.

I had a goatee at the time. The trip was two weeks—down the Eastern Seaboard, through the South and Texas, and into the Southwest, where we hiked the Valley of the Gods, Zion National Park, and more. I smoked up in the desert among the prickly pears with one of the bus’s drivers (named "Razz") and wandered real high through Carlsbad Caverns.

The last stop on the trip before dropping folks off in Bakersfield and continuing on up to San Francisco, where Green Tortoise is based, was Vegas. I had never been to Vegas before. Like I said, I had a goatee at the time, and had not shaved for the whole two weeks—so I was looking pretty scruffy. I thought it’d be good for a joke to shave my shit off and have only a mustache in Vegas, so at a gas station outside of town I bought some Bic razors and shaving cream. Put it in a brown paper bag and, when we got to the Strip, went with my brown paper bag into a very nice, plush bathroom in the Bellagio, right off the casino floor.

Now, I’d been on a bus for two weeks, so I was pretty rough-looking. So I’m in the bathroom of the Bellagio, people coming in and out, and I lather up my face and get to cuttin’. And cutting, my friends, it was. I dunno if you’ve ever tried to shave off a full beard with a Bic razor, but it don’t work so good. But anyway, I get about halfway done—I’m bleeding all over the place—and suddenly I realize how sketchy this looks: like I’d just fucked over some people at the poker table and was now trying to change my appearance.

They didn’t call security on me, though, so I finished “shaving”—more like hacking through jungle underbrush with a dull No. 2 pencil—and emerged, fully mustachioed, into the cool Bellagio. I took up with the curly-headed girl in black that I was hollerin’ at and we went to play blackjack. The mustache stayed for the rest of the trip and has stayed since (save for one drunk night on a dare).

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Beasties

Every once in awhile, a rumor would make its way around town—town being McMurdo Station, on Antarctica’s Ross Island—that a penguin or two had wandered into our rough-hewn hamlet. Not being accustomed to seeing much besides humans locomote in these environs, our ears would prick at these reports and we’d rush out on break from the galley to see the little Adelies in their self-important huff and waddle.


The short, fat little black and white birds looked like nattily attired, curious tourists as they poked their beaks around town and we humans watched, rapt, but kept our distance. The best way, though, to see an Adelie was when out on the white, flat, endless expanse of sea ice when you’d see one rushing, Alice and Wonderland White Rabbit-style, headlong toward some very important date for which the bird was, invariably, late.


Other than the Adelie (our immediate corner of the continent lacked the Emperor and Chinook penguins found elsewhere on the Ice), our only other oft-seen cohabitants were the seals and the skua birds.


The seals—fat, grey, impassive yet, in a way, graceful creatures—you’d see sunning and lazing in groups of three or four out on the sea ice. Sometimes pups—from their happy, near dog-like faces you’d understand why they were called that—would be with the adults, who would raise up from their flop and look at you purposefully if you got too close. But we rarely got too close, out of respect for the wild environment and the Antarctic Treaty.


Lastly, the skua birds, or just skuas, were scavengers that looked a bit like dirty gulls and had no natural predators, and so were utterly unafraid of humans. They would walk right up to you, entirely unruffled—or, more likely, if you were carrying food, divebomb you, Ride of the Valkyries-style, when walking between buildings. They were ornery neighbors, but we took it all in stride and enjoyed the chance to see these charming, sometimes cantankerous beasties in their natural habitat—after all, we were the visitors; they, unlike we humans, could survive and indeed thrive on that harsh continent.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

DO NOT READ FURTHER

... if you haven't yet seen the final episode of The Sopranos.

OK, I warned you.

I posted this just a minute ago under this thread on Gothamist.com:

Amazing episode, and entirely true to life: most of the time in life, not all that much happens—not even to trigger-happy mobsters. My roommate, brother and I were on the edge of our seats for the final seven minutes in the restaurant, as every little look from someone looked like a hit coming: but it never came. That's the hell that Tony has devised for himself—not a hell handed down by the universe, but one of his own making, wherein neither he nor his family will ever be truly safe.

But, he lived; and things were going pretty well for him and his immediate family there at the end. And that's life, that's what David Chase & Co. have been trying to tell us (among other things) all along: the universe does not punish bad deeds or reward good ones; it is what it is, and there's no old man up in the sky throwing lightning bolts or sending bread from heaven, however much we may want to believe that.

I think that what Tony "got" during his peyote trip out in the desert was that, yes, there is another plane of existence, another something out there, but—like the sun that flashed at him, it is indifferent to what we do on this earth. We may come from somewhere, but whatever that somewhere is doesn't have any feelings one way or the other about what we do here. This was the only true way The Sopranos, given its entire preceding run, could have ended—no matter how many red herrings David Chase threw us along the way.

Congratulations to everyone who has been involved in this incredible show—which, if I may be so bold, deserves to be mentioned alongside such great and timeless works of art as Ulysses, Guernica, Citizen Kane, et al. Job well—and, most importantly, honestly—done to the very end.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

My dad's thoughts

on high school reunions, the attending of:
At some point everyone should attend at least one just to experience the experience. Kinda like eating Jello—perhaps fun while being slurped but not too satisfying afterwards—but, hell, it ain’t natural to live in America and not experience Jello.
Well said, Dad.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Strangling Karl

Things being today
what they are, all my old things begin
to become mythy and massive—
my economist friend from Oxford,
I’ll tell the kids—or maybe
he’ll come visit and we’ll tell, in tandem,
the story of how he strangled Marx.

To have a fondness for what’s past—
like Woody Allen for Annie Hall, or me
for the Bodleian and the Firkin, mornings
on the river vomiting up beans on toast,

is a good thing if taken rarely,
like a dozen donuts bought and downed
on a Sunday-morning whim—then
it’s like when the wind brings
a sudden scent of sea
with no sea in sight.
But dwell overmuch

and it edges toward what
the old sea captains called Nostalgia
and Debility—an overripe August stink
that threatens to overwhelm
with its too muchness, a realm
of malignant growth, a pestilential
purple cabbage plant,
a garbage-fed mulberry tree
that leaves a fermenting carpet
of fly-wracked berries.

So these are my thoughts
with respect to returning
for my high school reunion.

But kept in check, forward momentum maintained,
with second sight I see a morning
years from now—though I may never
take a drink again, a cigarette
can always be snuck: we’ll recreate how,
in Berlin, we came upon a looming stone statue
of Engels, standing, and Marx, seated—and Kevin,
lover of capitalism, acolyte of Adam Smith,
managed just barely
to get his arms around the stone neck of Karl,
with a gleeful grimace on.

I’ve still got the picture.
He got that Marx sumbitch something good.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What is lazy writing?

Main Entry: lazy writing
Function: noun
1 : the first sentence of this story from Sunday's New York Times, about the opening of the as-yet unnamed state park in Williamsburg (my neighborhood), Brooklyn.

This is why people call The Times elitist and out of touch with reality—and are sometimes correct.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dishwashing for fun and profit

This guy ain't got nothin' on me ...

... though I still might read his book, since he is, after all, a fellow dishwasher-in-arms.

This is terrifying.

OK, so, Mayor McCheese. No big deal, right? Look more closely.

Isn't this picture sort of vaguely terrifying, like in a decadent Weimar Republic-type way? Note the mayor's accusatory glare and malevolent expression. Doesn't he seem to be staring into the depths of your soul? What about the weird shadows on his head, and the raised eyebrows? Can't you just see him yelling "Schnell! Schnell!" to some poor gypsy, or perhaps calmly torturing a suspected spy? There's something just so bad-trippy about this picture.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I take the subway. I also eat the Subway.

On Saturday I was on the G train heading south. A man sitting with a bike across the aisle from me said, "Got a bike here for sale, real cheap."

"I don't need a bike," I said. "I ride the subway."

"You do what?"

"I ride the subway. I don't need a bike."

"You ride the subway?"

"That's right."

"You know the restaurant Subway?"

"I do."

"You ever eat at Subway?"

"Sometimes."

"So you ride the subway ..."

"Yes."

"And you eat at Subway."

"That's right."

"OK then," he said. "Just checking."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Is it just me

or does this CNN.com article about Prince Harry not being able to go to Iraq make the British Army sound like the Boy Scouts? Not just because of the word "troop," but also because, at the very end of the article, there's this sentence: "Jobson said he did not believe Harry would quit the army, despite being kept out of Iraq."

"Jobson said he did not believe Harry would quit the Boy Scouts, despite being kept out of the Annual Troop 23 Jamboree."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I have been remiss

lately, w/r/t blogging. ("W/r/t" means "with respect to"—it's a David Foster Wallace tic that I picked up about ten years ago, when I first read Infinite Jest.)

But so: a few weeks ago I wrote a review/recommendation (here's the link) of a book by Tom McCarthy called Remainder. A fine book, and it fairly crept into my system.

The reason I bring it up today is because, on Sunday, I got the keys to my new apartment and went over there. I had, of course, been there before—but what struck me on Sunday was how much the building reminded me of the building that plays a central role in Remainder: the cooking smells (though not liver, as in the book), the noise from behind doors, the little window in the bathroom looking out onto a courtyard of sorts, the wide, airy stone stairways ... it was an interesting bit of déjà vu.

It's worth posting here, from Merriam-Webster, the def. of déjà vu; I was not aware of the second def., though I love the implications:
Main Entry: dé·jà vu
Pronunciation: "dA-"zhä-'vü, -'v[ue]
Function: noun
Etymology: French, adjective, literally, already seen
1 a : the illusion of remembering scenes and events when experienced for the first time b : a feeling that one has seen or heard something before
2 : something overly or unpleasantly familiar
Kind of cool and creepy, hmm?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

It is this sort of writing

that visits me in my nightmares:

Recruitment and selection

Members of the Human Resources Department work to source, identify, and attract top creative and business talent to [company name redacted]. Our mission is twofold: to partner with business units to achieve the goals and objectives of the Company and, through this process, to sustain the Company’s premier status within the fashion industry. Our Company aims to provide every employee with a comfortable and professional experience with [company name redacted], from the first point of contact and beyond. [Company name redacted] believes that it takes people with different backgrounds and views to strengthen a well-rounded company. It takes diversity of culture, style, education, experience, and geography to add value to the Company. This ultimately results in a positive impact on the Company’s global business.

It is anti-writing; it is virulent and damaging. It drains words of their primary use—as carriers of meaning. Orwell was right:

"The whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought...We're destroying words - scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We're cutting the language down to the bone. In the final version of Newspeak there'll be nothing else...A word contains its opposite in itself. Take 'good', for instance. If you have a word like 'good', what need is there for a word like 'bad'? 'Ungood' will do just as well...Or, if you want a stronger version of 'good', what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like 'excellent' and 'splendid' and all the rest of them? 'Plusgood' covers the meaning; or 'doubleplusgood' if you want something stronger still. In the final version of Newspeak there'll be nothing else...

In the end thoughtcrime will be literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word...Every year there will be fewer and fewer words and the range of consciousness will become a little smaller...By the year 2050 - earlier probably - all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron - they'll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of Big Brother will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like "freedom is slavery" when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now...There'll be no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime ...The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Miscellany

Here are some words which may no longer be used:
  1. Sunworshippers. Noun. An awful word used by hacky travel writers when trying to sound bougeouis and at a loss to come up with some new way to describe people that go to beaches.
  2. Landed. Verb. "I landed my dream job at Glamour magazine yesterday." A word used chiefly by new female initiates to the New York publishing world. Often travels in packs with Cosmopolitans and very bad music on iPods.
  3. Ginormous. Adj. See previous post.
  4. Gawker Stalker. Noun (proper). An "app" made by the blog Gawker.com, which plots, on a real map of Manhattan, where various celebrities have been sighted. Now you can know exactly where the person who is no different from yourself except in that they had the bad taste and hubris to pursue a dubious career in self-promotion, aka acting, buys a hammer!
And here is an amazing story from The NY Times about Kool-Aid pickles, or "Koolickles." Further proof that kids in the South are the smartest kids ever.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Go Go Arkansawyers

It's a big week for Arkansans in New York.

Today, on DailyCandy, the inimitable Little Rock native Mary Kathryn Wells' clothing line, called Smart Fitzjerrell, is featured. Check out the fun write-up here, and the clothes here.

Last night, I saw Jeff Nichols' movie Shotgun Stories as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. I can't give enough props to Jeff—the movie was moving, funny, pretty, sad, and hopeful; aka everything a great movie should be. If you live in New York and want to see it, there's one more screening, this Saturday at 2:30pm, at the AMC 72nd Street East. Go here (scroll down to the movie's title) to read a synopsis and buy tickets.

As for me, another Little Rocker in NYC—I ain't done shit. But I'm having fun.

Friday, April 27, 2007

3/28/06; or, After changes, we are more or less the same

At Lodge again. Joe and Jeff are in the middle of a staff meeting talking about drinks to their servers off to the left; I miss the waitstaff camaraderie. It's definitely a group business, something the publishing industry lacks -- the room of one's own, the inky wretch, smells of the lamp; it's all solitude.

Whereas in the table-waiting game, and on the Ice, there was a real bonding, Us vs. Them mentality. Standing out on the back loading dock after Thanksgiving, passing the bottle of wine 'round the circle of blue shirts, with that white, sharp Antarctic sunlight making us all squint -- that was a killer moment, one of my all-time up-theres.

It's that camaraderie I miss, that maybe we used to have at the start of Rough Guides, at least in the beginning; and especially after 9/11 at the Afghan place on St. Mark's and the Grassroots Tavern next door.

That's part of the reason I like coming here -- to be, if only in a peripheral way, and only for a bit -- part of that club.

What does it remind me of? It reminds me of all the things I've been a member of: high school, ROTC, Collins' parties, the JYAs at Oxford, the SPIers at NYU, the DAs on the Ice, going over to John's roof after work all those days, drinking beer and looking at the Empire State Building. Knowing people and liking most of them, being part of a community.

Perhaps this is part of what draws me to being a cop.


Editor's note: I no longer want to be a cop.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The No. 1 Killer

This morning at about 11am, Derek and I were sitting on the chairs outside of the Champignon cafe, having a coffee and cigarette, as we do most mornings.

A old black man with a scruffy gray beard shuffled up to us. "Either of you have a cigarette I could have?" he asked.

"Sure," I said, and proffered my pack of Camel Wides. He took one while saying something like, "I been quit for a few weeks now, but it's stressful here in America."

"Sure is," I said, as Derek offered his lighter to the man. The man lit the cigarette and, as he puffed his first puff and gray smoke wreathed his face and he began to shuffle off, said, "Thanks. Stress, you know—that's the number one killer."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

On a quiet Cobble Hill afternoon

On a quiet Cobble Hill afternoon,
the season's first nice Saturday, I sit inside
at a window smoking
and drinking Diet Coke, outlooking onto
the brown brick building set below bright
blue sky, framed by the window
two rectangles, one above the other, seamless,
like a real-life Rothko.

A bumblebee, dronelike, is surveying me.
Against the blue he -- the bee --
is black, shadowed, shorn
of his yellow.

Earlier I was napping.
Earlier I was listening to Sky Blue Sky.
Earlier than that I was in the city.

The brown building's now lightening,
in response to what the sun does daily,
sinking off west.
The bee has buzzed off.
My cigarette's done and now a noise
of cars somewhere, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway,
gently, like a white apartment curtain fluttered
by summer wind,
breaks my reverie.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Remainder

I recently finished a great book—one of those “can’t put it down but wish you could because it’s so good and you wish it would last longer” kind of books. It’s called Remainder, and it’s by Tom McCarthy, a Britisher and member of the International Necronautical Society, which I think he had a hand in making up, and which I don’t really know much about or really care to investigate further.

Sorry.

But the book is great. Riveting, odd, suspenseful and—in what I’m beginning to realize is kind of a hallmark of books that I think are great—it made me feel a little bit crazy, myself; I found myself sort of acting out some of the main character’s neuroses and patterns, putting on the face of that particular character.

Some books from before that have made me do this and feel this way include:

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry
Ulysses, by Joyce
and The Recognitions, by William Gaddis—this one the most so

Now, if you’re still reading, you might be thinking, “What a pretentious fucking list, and of course all those books made him feel that way—they’re great books, classics, and near-unanimously recognized as such!” Well, fuck off. Also you miss the point of what I’m saying, which is that—surprisingly—Remainder is now on that selfsame list. See?

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry
Ulysses, by Joyce
Remainder, by Tom McCarthy
and The Recognitions, by William Gaddis—this one still the most so

At any rate, it’s a great book. It is about a man who has an accident—he’s hit by something falling from the sky—and who later, after coma and physical rehabilitation and memory loss and so on—receives a large monetary settlement from the company or companies responsible for what hit him. But that’s not the important part. The important part is what, in a flash of inspiration in a bathroom at a party one night, he decides to do with the money.

Will I tell you what he does with the money? No I will not. It’s too bizarre for me to spoil here. But suffice it to say that the book, as all good books, isn’t even really “about” any of that—the guy, his accident, what he does with the money. Rather it’s about why we do anything; the ways in which we move through and relate to the physical world and other people; and what this “means”—and here I’m talking deep, existential meaning; what it means for consciousness, perception, and life on the macro level. How we relate.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I am so famous

Check my just-younger brother's blog for a link to a small piece I did recently for Men's Journal. I do not necessarily believe such flattery as Jacob gives of my writing, but I certainly appreciate it.

Here is the link to what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Green Tortoise

I did not take this picture. It comes from Green Tortoise.

For two weeks we traveled, on a unique version of the Great American Road Trip. We didn’t go like Sal and Dean did, balling that jack hard along Route 66; rather we rambled in style—de gustibus non est disputandum, mind—on the Green Tortoise, a green-painted, ramshackle and raucous “sleeper bus” that makes the trip several times a year (along with its turtle brethren) from East to West Coast.

We loaded up our colorful packs in NYC; and as we rolled out of Manhattan across the George Washington Bridge, a sense of swelling rose within our breasts. As Simon and Garfunkel sang, “We’ve all come to look for America.”

And what’d’ya know—we found it. From the Big Apple it was down the Eastern Seaboard, to Cape Hatteras and Okefenokee, where the gators lurked in the swamps. Thence we turned right and started that long crossing. We partied all night in New Orleans, where one of us, we thought, had got pinched by the cops. We had a big party down by a Louisiana river, spanned by one of the last elevator bridges in the country. The morning after, our campsite looked like the scene of some mad war. We blew through the rest of the South and right by Houston, which loomed up on the left, an alien planet silver and shining.

Out west, though, where we began to meander and linger, was where things got really interesting. We smoked a joint among the prickly pears and wandered stoned through the cool Carlsbad Caverns. We gambled in Vegas, the Great Unwashed at Caesar’s blackjack tables. One early morning after a hard rain we coasted calmly into the soaked, red Valley of the Gods—and, after a hike as we drank “cowboy coffee” on a hill, the strains of Van Morrison’s “And It Stoned Me” reached our ears for the first time ever and, well, stoned us.

After that was denouement. We pulled, ragged and ravished, into San Francisco and the Green Tortoise Hostel in North Beach, just up from where Ginsberg published Howl. Fog-wracked and fresh, San Fran felt like a city with no memory—but memories, of a whole continent behind us, were all we had left.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Ob Hill

The peak in the back is Observation Hill. The buildings about a third of the way up are a disused nuclear power plant called ... well, read on below.

On Antarctica’s edge, ice-locked into the France-sized Ross Ice Shelf, lies Ross Island, the primary base for the British expeditions of a century ago. Many reminders of their efforts remain, including a stirring monument at the crown of the 750ft Observation Hill (or “Ob Hill,” as it’s known at McMurdo Station, America’s chief Antarctic research facility, which lies in its shadow). Ob Hill was so named because it was used as a lookout for ships returning to the Ice; today it is climbed by station residents to get a view of their utterly alien, white environs.

The first third up the extinct volcano consists of loose volcanic scree, which must be scrambled up until one reaches a road that winds partially around the hill to “Nukey Poo,” a decommissioned nuclear power plant. Here, most climbers turn to look for the first time—much like a new Manhattanite walks to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge before turning to look at his city’s towers—at their temporary home. McMurdo looks like a small mining town from this vantage point, with homey curls of steam topping each parti-colored yet faded building.

Ob Hill’s next two thirds must be bounded up, billy goat-style, over large, haphazardly strewn rocks. About 250ft from the top a small, boulder-topped peninsula flattens out in front of the climber, offering another opportunity to take a breather and look out. Now the frozen McMurdo Sound and, further off to the left, the imposing Royal Society mountain range can be seen. To the right looms the smoking cone of Mt Erebus, the world’s southernmost active volcano.

Climbers corkscrew up the hill’s left side, which obscures the top so that one is nearly at the summit by the time one sees the solid wooden cross which stands as a memorial to Captain Scott and his men, who perished on their return from the South Pole. The cross is inscribed with a line from Tennyson’s Ulysses which—as the town, sound, mountains and volcano spread out in front, with the seemingly interminable expanse of the ice shelf behind—serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made so that the climber can stand here today and survey: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

Friday, April 06, 2007

A short history of fire in Joanna Newsom's Ys

Fire—a thing that, of late, has been kind of a preoccupation of mine, for obvious reasons—is a big lyrical concern in Joanna Newsom’s latest album, Ys. The word, or some variation thereof, appears multiple times in four out of five songs on Ys.

From “Emily”:
that the meteorite is a source of the light
and the meteor’s just what we see
and the meteoroid is a stone that’s devoid of the fire that propelled it to thee
From “Sawdust and Diamonds”:
then the slow lip of fire moves across the prairie with precision
From “Only Skin”:
it was a dark dream, darlin’, it’s over
the firebreather is beneath the clover
beneath his breathing there is cold clay, forever
a toothless hound-dog choking on a feather

~

and when the fire moves away
fire moves away, son
why would you say
I was the last one?

~

through fire below, and fire above, and fire within
sleeped through the things that couldn’t have been if you hadn’t have been

~

clear the room! there’s a fire, a fire, a fire
get going, and I’m going to be right behind you
and if the love of a woman or two, dear,
couldn’t move you to such heights, then all I can do
is do, my darling, right by you
From “Cosmia”:
water were your limbs, and the fire was her hair
and then the moonlight caught your eye, and you rose through the air

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

When the hits keep on comin' ...

... read some Larkin.

A co-worker reminded me of him today. He—Philip Larkin, by the way, is who we're talking about, the late English poet—was an odd bird. A galumphing, bald, bespectacled, sexually frustrated bird—and also, it just so happens, maybe the funniest, most sad, and most poignant poet of—the century? The whatever? Who knows. I have no authority to say anything beyond the fact that I never ever get tired of him. (Another I don't never get tired of? Miller Williams, Lucinda's dad.)

Most of the time, reading Larkin, it's a light, or feels like a light, affair; he rhymes a lot; he makes jokes; he curses ("They fuck you up, your mum and dad /// They don't mean to, but they do"); he seems to have a wry smile, very English, on his face all the while. But as my co-worker and friend this afternoon reminded me, Larkin also often swerves sharply, becoming strangely sad and deep.

My co-worker reminded me of this facet of Larkin by sending me the following, in response to my bitching about not having enough money to afford, well, life.
Money

Quarterly, is it, money reproaches me:
'Why do you let me lie here wastefully?
I am all you never had of goods and sex,
You could get them still by writing a few cheques.'

So I look at others, what they do with theirs:
They certainly don't keep it upstairs.
By now they've a second house and car and wife:
Clearly money has something to do with life

—In fact, they've a lot in common, if you enquire:
You can't put off being young until you retire,
And however you bank your screw, the money you save
Won't in the end buy you more than a shave.

I listen to money singing. It's like looking down
From long French windows at a provincial town,
The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad
In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.
Always with the windows, with Larkin. What a strange obsession. I wrote something about windows, once, in response or inspiration. Here it is (and keep in mind this dates from '98, so read on forgivingly):
Distances

I like distances
And far off places.
I like high windows
That frame miles
Of steaming interstates
And strip malled green valleys.
I like how sometimes
From rooftops
After rain
The suburbs
Look like Aztec jungle.
This was written in the Honors Lounge of Old Main, on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where I went to school (and which some of you reading no doubt know).

Hopefully I've gotten better, writing-wise.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fire pics

So the TK I promised is still TK. (For those of you non-publishing types, "TK" is editor shorthand for "to come.")

For now, though, here are a couple pictures of the fire. Some guy on the street took them. Many of you may have already seen these, but if not, here they are.

Picture 1 is of the building and the fire trucks and etc.

Picture 2 is a still from a short movie some guy shot at the scene, and features me. (The link to the YouTube video is below this picture.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

OK so here's what went down—part the first

Early Sunday morning at 3am I was awakened by a number of things. I didn’t really know what was happening, but in my dream there were alarms and voices and buzzers. I woke up to smoke in my room; not much, but a bit. The fire alarm in the living room was going off. Someone rang my bell.

I opened my bedroom door and there was a lot of smoke in my apartment. I ran back into my room and grabbed some socks, shoes, keys, wallet, and a zip-up sweatshirt. I was in my pajama bottoms (not a onesie, unfortunately) and a white T-shirt.

I opened the door to my apartment and the hallway was filled with smoke; many alarms were going off and someone shouted up the stairs, “Get out! Fire!” I couldn’t even see down to the second-floor landing there was so much smoke, but I just ran down anyway without really thinking much. (So much for all that grade-school fire safety training.)

On the way down I banged on the apartment door below me, yelling to get out. I busted out the front door and there were already fire trucks pulling up, or there, I forget. I sat down on the sidewalk in front of the building and pulled on my socks and shoes. One of the guys who lives below me (and whose apartment door I’d banged on) gathered up my stuff while I put on my shoes and yelled into the building, ringing the buzzers for all the apartments.

We ran across the street. The smoke—which was coming from the tire store down on the ground floor of our building—was acrid and hurt your eyes. Two or three fire trucks were there already; more—at least eight—would eventually arrive, along with the Red Cross, ambulances, cops, and passers-by.

It was cold outside; I was shivering. I had forgotten my cell phone. Ladders started to go up all around the building. I saw a kid being carried out by a fireman on a ladder from his window; on the way down it looked like he was throwing up. He got to the street and was just kind of milling around in front of the building, not looking like he knew what was going on. I went over to him.

“Are you OK, man? C’mere, come with me.”

I led him away from the building and got him some water. “Thanks.”

A crowd had already begun to gather. I forget whether or not flames were licking out of the tire store, but I think they were, as well as the apartment directly above the tire store. Firemen went to work with buzzsaws, sending up showers of sparks, on the steel grates of the tire store, from behind which thick smoke was pouring. I found the other kids from my building and we stood and watched the thing burn up.

More TK.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Theme + new subtitle

I have noticed, lately, a bit of theme emerging within these pages. As such, note the new subtitle for this blog.

So without further ado, here's today's helping of the former:

A Little Tooth
by Thomas Lux

Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone. It's all

over: she'll learn some words, she'll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail. And you,

your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
are sore. It's dusk. Your daughter's tall.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

***NEWSFLASH***

***NEWSFLASH***

The following statement was issued via iTunes HQ at 6:06 EST (-5hrs GMT):

Individually, both Beyoncé and Shakira are two of the most powerful female voices in modern pop. Together, they might just be invincible. The duet "Beautiful Liar" will appear on the deluxe version of Miss Knowles' second solo album, B'Day, when the deluxe version is released later this year.

The world now waits and watches, to see whether Ms. Knowles and Shakira (surname unknown) will use their newfound invincibility for good or ill. As a precautionary measure, all U.S. troops have been recalled from Iraq, to fortify the homeland against an all-out attack—Beyonce’s dirty bomb posterior plus Shakira’s thermonuclear hips—the likes of which the country has never seen. A curfew of 10pm has been issued for the lower 48 states, and the president will address the nation tonight in an emergency broadcast on all the major networks.

Jay-Z could not be reached for comment regarding his self-dubbed "hottest chick in the game's" newfound invulnerability—and, as some reports are having it, heat vision.

We will update you as the situation develops.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The smokes pop out

Going through old pictures, the smokes
start to jump out at me; there's one
behind my ear, head-on
to the camera and inscribing a circle,
perfect in its symmetry,
a white-rimmed lunar eclipse.

I look tough.
Most of the time
photos lie by showing only one aspect
of a thing at a time.

In the photos we all have cigarettes.
We don't,
but we look like we could or should,
because we are young.
Cigarettes are for the young, and quitting
is an acknowledgement of
one's own mortality.

My life will not be
a field by the river, crawdads
and free smokes, festival beer
and in-jokes.
Or it won't be that entirely or all the time.
So, realizing that,
down go the Marlboros.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sometimes I think a third hand would be good

Like when you're in the shower and you're trying to squeeze some conditioner into your hand, except the conditioner bottle is made of thick plastic and you really need two hands to squeeze it out -- so where, I ask, does the conditioner go? Hence my idea that a third hand might be good.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

With apologies to Pound

IN A STATION OF THE SUBWAY

The angry train crashes in
to the station, a rusted-out car
crunching down a dusty hill.

Is it just me

or is this beginning to remind anyone else of this, from Raising Arizona?:

GLEN: Yeah, it's a good one . . .
Course I don't really need another kid, but Dottie says
these-here are gettin' too big to cuddle.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Humor quiz

Here is a quick humor quiz.

Which is the funniest planet?
A) Pluto
B) Earth
C) Uranus
D) Neptune

Choose carefully.

Monday, March 12, 2007

To an Antarctic Traveller

What follows was given to me recently by a friend. It choked me up on the subway, and it chokes me up now. Dig it.

To an Antarctic Traveller

By Katha Pollitt
1.
When you return from the country of Refusal,
what will you think of us? Down there, No was
final, it had a glamour: so Pavlova turns,
narcissus-pale and utterly self-consumed,
from the claque, the hothouse roses; so the ice
perfects its own reflection, cold Versailles,
and does not want you, does not want even Scott,
grinding him out of his grave—Splash! Off he
goes, into the ocean, comical, Edwardian,
a valentine thrown out. Afternoons
in the pastry shop, coffee and macaroons,
gossip's two-part intricate inventions
meshed in the sugary air like the Down and
Across of an endless Sunday puzzle —
what will such small temporizations mean
to you now you've traveled half the world and
seen the ego glinting at the heart of things?
Oh, I'm not worried, I know you'll come back
full of adventures, anecdotes of penguins
and the pilot who let you fly the cargo — but
you'll never be wholly ours. As a green glass
bottle is mouthed and rolled and dragged by the
sea until it forgets its life entirely — wine,
flowers, candles, the castaway's save me
meticulously printed in eleven languages — and
now it rests on the beach-house mantel
opalescent, dumb:
you'll stand at the cocktail party
among the beige plush furniture and abstracts,
and listen politely, puzzled, a foreigner
anxious to respect our customs but not quite sure
of the local dialect, while guests
hold forth on their love of travel —
and all the time you hear
the waves beat on that shore for a million years
go away go away go away
and the hostess fills your glass and offers crackers.

2.
They named a mountain after you down there.
Blank and shining, unclimbable, no different
from a hundred nameless others, it did not
change as you called to it from the helicopter
it was your name that changed
spinning away from you round and around and
around as children repeat a word
endlessly until at last it comes up pure
nonsense, hilarious. It smashed
and lay, a shattered mirror smiling meaninglessly
up at you from the unmarked snow.
More lasting than bronze is the monument I have
raised boasted Horace, not accurately, and yet
what else would we have him think? Or you,
that day you wrote yourself on the world itself
and as the pilot veered away forever
saw mist drift over your mountain almost
immediately and your name stayed behind
a testament of sorts, a proof of something
though only in the end white chalk
invisibly scribbled on a white tabula rasa.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bada Bing!

The above picture is what I was just eating. I saw it at the store in the freezer and I had to have it. It was actually really good, but what bizarre marketing. "The Snacks that America's Favorite Mobsters Love" -- wait, why? I've never seen Tony and Christafuh eat Chipwiches.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend these ice cream novelties. They are even tastier than eating Mickey Mouse's head:

Thursday, March 08, 2007

My friend Emily

I have a friend named Emily who is currently teaching school in Thailand. Last night I chatted with her via Google Talk and we discussed, among other important issues, Cookie Monster's recent repudiation of cookies. I had been told that he even changed his name to Vegetable Monster.

Emily, shocked and dismayed, did some research and emailed me the results later. What she sent me, which I'll reproduce below, is maybe one of the greatest emails I have ever received.

Emily wrote:
I think the only change made to Cookie Monster is that now he has learned (and tells children) that cookies are just a "sometimes food." A monster does not live on cookies alone. So now he eats other stuff, too, like fruits and veggies. I think the Vegetable Monster thing was just hype following this little change. The end.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A List

Ten Things that Should Be Wiped from the Face of the Earth

  1. Wine bars.
  2. Celebrity weeklies.
  3. Sleep coaches for babies.
  4. Of-the-moment phrases used to describe an ostensibly important bloc of voters, such as “Soccer Mom” (the O.G.) or “NASCAR Dad.”
  5. Strollers that in their bulkiness and unwieldiness recall WWII troop carriers.
  6. Untucked dress shirts and the men that wear them “out.”
  7. The Crate and Barrelization of Manhattan (and, increasingly, Brooklyn).
  8. The word “luxury,” and everything to which that word is attached.
  9. The trapper hats everyone seems to be wearing.
  10. Cigar bars.
Go forth and wipe.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

That Friday

That Friday
* a Hunter Slaton original

That Friday I was fizzing angrily above it all,
in a the hell with it, hail-mary mood. The clouds
were grey so the Empire was too, gunmetal,
like a battleship, or a battleship in the game Battleship.

That building had moods. Feelings
rushed through me like high clouds, quickly,
over a scooped, fresh-scrubbed valley. The reason was because

of the meeting. During the meeting (and after, and later)
I had seen red, like a Pamplona bull on the boulevard. A righteous fury'd risen
within me, a red mist a bulletspray.

Leaving my work building
the street was a curl I shot; I made appointments
left and right: a stalking,
deep-breathing, Serenity Prayer-saying
sneaker-clad tiger, burning bright.

Put a Geiger counter on me and
I would have fairly crackled.

After I got nearly to where I was going
in Bryant Park I paused. The grass
was all ripped-up and gone, sand-flooded. A small sign said

"The lawn is closed for reseeding." I should say it was.

Pacing through puddles I counted it down, checked the watch
did some breathing, before the interview. The meeting:
would it turn out to have been a good or bad thing?

I couldn't tell and couldn't smoke; I'd quit. That morning
I'd woke sober, for the 10th month. Ten times ten times ten times I hadn't, hating
the swim up from sleep. But not this one.

On the air was the smell of spring: fresh, newness, thaw;
the opposite of November woodsmoke. I remembered
my intro to the city'd been here, into 11 W. 42nd and the green chairs

of Bryant Park. The park was not being reseeded then
and soon it would not be again.

I pushed through the tall revolving doors and went in.