Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hard-core Wake-up

Rise and Shine
Sophomore year of college, my roommate Joe and I developed a radical system of rousing oneself in the morning. The system was as follows: When the alarm goes off for the very first time, immediately get out of bed. No hesitation, no hitting the snooze. We called this system “Hard-core Wake-up.” And it worked. Mostly.

This being college, Joe and I lived in a dorm room. Joe and I being men, we had our beds bunked. I was on top, Joe was on bottom. The couch was situated alongside Joe’s bed, forming a little crib that he would climb into, evenings. When I got out of bed, I would hop from my bed down to the couch and thence the floor. (Can you see where I am going with this?)

Hard-core Wake-up, as I said, worked. The trick, for anyone who’d like to play along at home, is that you must brook no discussion with yourself about whether or not to wake up. You just hit the deck when you hear the alarm, Pavlovianly and immediately.

But sometimes the system of Hard-core Wake-up, my position in the top bunk bed, and the invariable alcohol consumed the night before intersected in bad ways. Occasionally, in leaping groggily from bed, I’d hit the couch wrong or hit the arm of the couch and, still disoriented from sleep, go sprawling. One time it was worse.

This time was at the end of sophomore year. Joe had already left. Classes were over. I’d stayed behind to finish up a paper and for a couple of parties. I wouldn’t be back next year; I was going to Austin for the summer and then Oxford for the next year. One of the last parties was at my friend Collins’ house, out in a little back courtyard parking lot off the street. His was an ugly, squat, four-apartment, white-painted cinder-block building, but I loved that place. We’d sit outside at his little table and umbrella and drink beer from the keg and smoke cigarettes and bullshit and all of that felt like it would never end. Then it did end.

As I said it was the end of the year. I had gone back to my dorm room after Collins’ party to sleep. I was all packed up, my room entirely stripped of furniture and possessions; everything was in my car, as I was driving back to Little Rock that day. I had trained myself in the art of Hard-core Wake-up.

So when the phone rings (with that newsroom-style clanging bell ring that, sadly, seems to be disappearing) at oh, say, 8am, I instantly leap from the top bunk, feet seeking the couch—But no couch. I felt like I fell about six feet, landed like Spider-Man, squatting, arms out, fingers splayed, thoroughly hung-over and thoroughly shaken awake, now. It was kind of like the feeling you get when you pick up a glass expecting it to be one weight, because you think it’s glass, and in fact it’s another weight, because it’s actually plastic, and you end up picking it up way too fast as a result. That was how I came out of bed and to the floor that morning, with a brief flash of terror-filled cognitive dissonance. And dry-mouth.

I snatched the phone’s receiver off the wall and immediately laid down, flat on my back, boxers-clad only, on the bare floor. “Hello,” I croaked. It was my mom.

That was pretty much the end of Hard-core Wake-up … or was it?

Don’t Call It a Comeback
Recently, my buddy Sean was expressing his desire to wake up early, like me (I rise at 6am for work).

“No you don’t,” I said.
“Yes I really do,” Sean said.
“Well then there is only one way forward, Young Grasshopper,” I said, cracking my knuckles and flexing in the fashion of a long-retired martial arts expert who has just made up his mind to return to battle for the sole purpose of avenging the killing of his teacher. “That way is Hard-core Wake-up.”

An amusing musical training montage followed. Sweatbands and jump-rope were involved. Also Sean snapping out of bed and me there with a clipboard, marking down his time and screaming at him that it wasn’t good enough damnit and then throwing the alarm clock out the window in rage and disappointment.

Eventually he got it. Or he’s getting it. See, the good thing about Hard-core Wake-up is that it’s self-reinforcing. The first day you do it is Not Fun. But every day you do achieve Hard-core Wake-up, it gets a little easier, a little more natural. Waking up begins to feel more like an on-off switch, rather than a swim up out of something deep. I've been coming back to it, too. It was good on this weekday for the following reason:

Alarm buzzed, I woke. Got up (almost) instantly. Went into kitchen, poured a cup of coffee from the pot I’d set to brew at 6am the night before. (This, Dear Reader, is one of the great joys of life: Coffee ready the moment you wake up.) Went back into my bedroom and sat on the edge of my bed, feet on the windowsill, looking east. It was 6am and the sun was rising. I wrote the following:
Sunrise, from the window of 322 Rodney Street: The clouds looked like burning canoes, painted wispily by a traditional Japanese artist, frozen in their orange sorbet waves down a river of robin’s-egg blue. And the shoosh of cars from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, behind me. Within minutes the canoe clouds disappeared, the ice-cream fires were extinguished, the painter packed up. And I dressed for work.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Thoughts on the Democratic National Convention

I'm watching the Democratic National Convention right now; I just saw Caroline Kennedy introduce a tribute video to Ted Kennedy, and then the senator himself came on to give a rousing, fiery speech—he remains the Liberal Lion.

The tribute video choked me up a bit, to be honest: One of his brothers died in World War II, and then they killed his other two brothers. That happening would probably turn a lesser person to bitterness and rancor, but Ted's kept on fighting, all these years. It's inspiring.

And all the people waving Kennedy signs ... of course I wasn't old enough to remember Camelot, John, and Bobby, but I feel the fervor, fifty years later, for Obama. I really think this election represents a restoration of the fighting, proud side of the Democratic party, and I for one am honored to feel a part of it.

It's simply this: The Democrats are the party of the people, the party of the common man, the party of human rights—and I feel fucking great to be a Democrat, life-long 'til the day I die. Go Obama and Biden!

Now for a lesson: Are you in a battleground state? (I'm looking at you, Arkansans.) Are you registered to vote? Are your friends and family? If not, do this: Google "[your state] voter registration" or [your state] board of elections." Look around and find the voter registration form; most states these days allow you to print out a PDF of the voter registration form, fill it out, and mail it in—usually you don't even need a stamp. (Here's Arkansas' voter registration page ... scroll down to download the PDF.)

But don't just print out one PDF for yourself; print out a few. Keep 'em with you. In the next week or two, talk to your friends and co-workers about the candidate you support—and I'm not even saying it has to be Democratic. I don't agree with the Republicans on most issues, but they are a valid voice as well—and it's an axiom that the more people who are engaged and registered and keeping the politicians accountable, the better our government will run for all of us: Our families, our new babies, our brothers and sisters, our husbands and wives.

So talk to your friends, family, and co-workers. Ask them if they're registered. If not, pull out a form and encourage them to sign up. I put together a small voter registration drive earlier this summer and got, with the help of two friends, 51 new voters registered—and it felt fucking good.

What difference does one vote make? Not much. But one voter talking to a couple of voters, who talk to another couple, who maybe gives $10 or $25 to Barack's campaign (click here to do so via credit card), and encourages others to do so as well ... that makes a difference; both in politics as a whole and in your own personal life. Trust me. It'll feel good.

And vote Democratic, the party of the Kennedys, the Clintons, and now the Obamas; the party of the people.

*Addendum: Just watched Michelle Obama's speech, and then her with her daughters afterward, with Barack live from Kansas City. Michelle gave a great speech (and is really sexy, by the way), and Barack seemed like a normal guy, a cool dad. And their little girls—Man, just too cute. THAT is the family we need in the White House.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Woke up this morning 6am the sky looked like an ice-cream fire, sorbets burning out over Brooklyn. Later West Fourth, walked western SoHo, shopwindows all shot up with light. A bar fight, a ruin, a skinned shoo-in. A friend seen below his store's sign, but the sign seen first and a thought: I wonder if Carlos is here. Carlos was there. Dressed in black, a business, man; discussed old apartments. "354 haunts me," he said. I laughed and agreed. "354 haunts me, too."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

File under fragments, fall-related

Two buildings across the way, with the gleaming Hudson beyond, behind the brick air-vent towers of the Lincoln Tunnel, toward which we are descending amid fall-like morning light, are getting new, mirrored silver skins. Put me down for one too.

Being in Europe, seeing the rowers in boats under a gray Swedish sky ignites in me the desire to be someone else: To not lead my life, to lead another’s, one who speaks Swedish, or lives in Murray Hill, or has a house in Austin. I think of Jibz and her girlfriend, doing what in Stockholm?, and under the same sky I am under, the same spray from the Baltic. But my self always catches up to me.

Friday, August 08, 2008

I Montauk Monster New York

I rarely post things such as this, but this T-shirt is such an awesome non sequitur that I couldn't resist. (If you don't know what the Montauk Monster is, click here to learn about it.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Adjö så länge

Tonight's my last night in Scandinavia. Right now I'm sitting on my bed in my room at the Hotel Grand Stockholm, with the windows open (it's 50 degrees out—a little taste of fall) and Robin Holcomb playing on my computer.

It's been a great trip. Gorgeous cities. I was in both Copenhagen and Stockholm. I love being in European cities, especially when it feels fall-ish like it does now; it feels so out of time, so disconnected from America, and maybe it reminds me of my first trip to Paris, nine years ago now, in October or November, I forget which. And then, in Paris, with my friend Amber and her friends, I drank too much wine (and smoked too much joint) one night, and was down for the count: Threw up, got undressed, laid down in hotel bed, had the spins; But I rallied.

I roused; washed; re-dressed, and came back into Amber's hotel room, where the party was still going on. "I am Lazarus, come from the dead!" I said. "I have come to tell you, come to tell you all."

We went out that night to a basement club, hot and sweaty. We walked along the Seine in the rain. We took a black cab back to the hotel. Later in the trip, we visited the Pere Lachaise cemetary, fall leaf-littered and blustery. We saw Jim Morrison's grave, and Maria Callas' ("whoever she is"), and Oscar Wilde's, which on the observe reads thusly:
And alien tears will fill for him
Pity's long-broken urn
For his mourners will be outcast men
And outcasts always mourn
Now in Sweden I think about that; or I think about that often. Now I'm listening to Robin Holcomb; a cool breeze is blowing in from the Baltic:
Consider, friends, when this you see
How my life was lived by me
How I shall pass I cannot know
But I don't mind to be starting over
And back to New York tomorrow.

Friday, August 01, 2008

R.I.P., McCarren Pool Parties/Movies/Concerts

It was fun while it lasted. Mostly.

From The New York Times:

It’s Been Quite a Pool Party, but the Days Grow Short

That all said, I can't really complain about it becoming a pool.