Monday, June 30, 2003

the krispy kreme at the corner of queens and providence has this row of stools right along the front window. they are very cushiony and only come up to knee-level. they look like little red mushrooms. we sit there whilst consuming our doughy treats. a grocery store shares the parking lot and the stream of customers coming and going provides an unending supply of patrons to crack on, create storylines about, or decide which two famous celebrities that person is the love child of. this game is often funniest when you select two parents who are of the same sex. for example, one of the waiters last night was the love child of stephen rea and keith richards; however, our waiter was the love child of a co-worker and one of the bad guys from top secret. see, funny.

while christine, michael, and i were sitting at the window last night, a kid in his early twenties was loading bags into a red hatchback. he had badly-managed white guy dreads, which i know sounds redundant, and was dressed in the nouveau gutter punk style that some of the kids are fond of these days. the funny thing was i couldn't concentrate on which two male celebrities he was the love child of because i was flooded with memories. he reminded me of this neighborhood kid, dusty, i knew in eighth grade.

dusty rode around on a white honda spree scooter and would snort lines of salt at the rec center to get attention. he and his sister, whose name i forget, used to light bottle rockets in the street sometimes. my parents didn't believe in fireworks for kids, maybe it was some little known catholic rule, so i would sit on the curb and watch. i remember that dusty's sister was afraid of the fire and, one time, wore a yellow dishwashing glove on the hand she used to light the bottle rockets. i say, one time, because that was how many times she wore the glove before it caught on fire while lighting a bottle rocket.

last seen: popeye
last heard: the children's hour SOS JFK
last read: Baseball is pastoral and relaxed and modern America is anything but pastoral and relaxed.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Betty Lonely
lives in a duplex of stucco
on the north bank of a brackish river

that's from a vic chesnutt song. his lyrics are vivid, very much like reading a book. if you like flannery o'connor or any southern lit really, then his lyrics will probably get to you, too. a whole bunch of years ago, i discovered him on a cd that came with the oxford american music issue. i bought is the actor happy? a few months later after finding it in a bin of cassettes marked $1.99. it remains one of my favorite albums. i haven't heard much of his new stuff, but i can attest to the brilliance of the aforementioned album and also west of rome. i had the rare pleasure of seeing him perform when i was at carolina. the room was about half-filled and here was this thin, little man in a wheelchair with only a guitar and one of those metal things that holds a harmonica hanging around his neck. we all sat indian-style on the floor, in a semi-circle around him, and he played whatever songs we called out. i just heard that he'll be in charlotte in a couple of weeks. do you want to join me?

last seen: go, hearts and minds
last heard: the pixies 'mr. grieves'
last read: vic chesnutt's bio

Saturday, June 28, 2003

for the third time in thirty seconds, i start over, reading the back of the case, but the fevered, squeaky-voiced, interruptions come again...

sunshine, sit!!!
sunshine, sit!!!
sunshine, sit!!!

i peer between two dvd cases toward the registers where i see a boy, who must be all of six, shouting at an aging golden retriever. the boy's mother, oblivious to her son's shouting, is busy renting two movies and chatting up the cashier. she offers no help. the obstinate canine spins in circles and sniffs the lower shelves worth of magazines; sad for two reasons. first, that there are no crotches within leash-distance and, second, because magazines are so boring and he can't read. the one thing he refuses to do is sit.

am i the only one who finds it inconsiderate when people bring their animals into shops? i say this as an allergy sufferer but also as a concerned citizen. when i lived in a college town, it was much more prevalent. you know, a chubby guy in a phish t-shirt would walk into a bookstore with a dog or some random stoner pet like a ferret or iguana. i don't see too many guys like that anymore. now, it is usually couples with small children and giant dogs, like the boy and sunshine. i don't understand the logic. do you so not give a damn that you take your pet everywhere or are you just randomly walking your dog when you are overcome by an insatiable need to rent krull?

last seen: the manchurian candidate, hulk, giant
last heard: gillian welch 'acony bell'
last read: This is Brigitte Bardot meets Barbarella on a handbag-swinging jaunt through Montmartre.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

derrick was the first one who called me old man. i was 18 when he first did it. others have done the same since. it could be the pork pie hat or the sensitive stomach or my predilection for cotton handkerchiefs which i carry whenever i leave the house. i don't mind. there are worse things to be called. besides i like the style of old men. i like that they hold doors open and wear undershirts and, i don't know if this is a distinctly southern old man thing, but i like how they acknowledge each other on the street, even, and especially, if they have never seen each other in their lives.

usually it is a simple downward tilting of the head, say between 10 and 45 degrees. no words need pass between them. the nod says it all. ever since handing in my yankee card over 13 years ago and moving from upstate new york, i've adopted the nod. the other thing they do is if they are driving down the street with the windows down, and they always are, because old men don't use the air conditioner in their cars, they wave. sometimes if they pass folks standing on a porch or street corner, they'll give the full arm-out-the-window. they never shake the hand around as that would be poncey. no, they just extend the arm and let it hang there in the air with the palm open.

greetings needn't always take the effort of the full arm either. they have an arsenal. at the extreme end of the greeting spectrum, they have the simple one finger greeting. michael and mark's grandfather was fond of this one. say you're driving down the road with your hands on the wheel at 10 and 2 o'clock. a car approaches in the other lane, but you're an old man and you don't have the energy right now for the full arm out the window. you just leave your hands on the wheel and extend the index finger of your right hand. if the other driver is also an old man, they will do it back or else give you the nod.

last seen: the guy on 77 north in a green convertible jaguar speeding up behind my car, then honking, passing, and shooting me the bird because 65 in the slow lane is apparently not fast enough. [editor's note: dear the guy who shot me the bird, when the revolution comes, i will be the one dancing on your flaming entrails and selling your wife and children into white slavery. your pal, james]
last heard: the aislers set 'the red door'
last read: The New York Times reported that a soon-to-be-released environmental report from the EPA was edited by the White House so that an entire section on global warming is whittled down to just a few paragraphs...instead, added a reference to a study funded in part by the American Petroleum Institute that questioned those findings.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

a friend of mine is relocating to middle america in a few months, pursuing an advanced degree in theatre. she is confident that she could handle the actual physical moving (truck-loading, driving, unloading) along with the help of her mother, but she thought that one or two of her friends assisting might make things quicker and smoother. to that end, michael did a little research for me comparing the prices of return trips via air, train, and bus. the first two options are, naturally, a little pricier than the bus; however, i would like to avoid the bus at all costs. would you like to hear the story of why i hate the bus with a long tangental story that leads up to the fateful day of my eventual bus-hating? of course, you would...

i was nineteen, living in new orleans, and had just scored my first full-time job. the reason i applied for the job was not for the money; rather, it was for this one huge perk. you see, in exchange for working at the university, they offered me a tuition waiver which would allow me to finish the last three years of my degree in the same amount of time and, essentially, for free. i was probably only making 17 grand, but i thought i was rich. i had my own apartment uptown, close to the streetcar line, and near the garden district. the only thing i lacked was a car. a few months into the job, my family presented me with one. i suspect the generous gift was a combination of two things. first, a thank you for not saddling them with further tuition bills. second, an attempt to allay the fears of my worried mother whose nerves were fraying everytime her baby boy recounted an adventure in laundry or grocery buying in a busy city via bicycle. whatever the reason, i was now the proud owner of a 1986 silver subaru station wagon provided i could find a way up to hunts-vegas, alabama where my dad was stationed at the time.

still with me? this is where the bus part of the story begins. (you're so patient with me when i ramble like this.) so, i buy a ticket on greyhound for my first long distance bus trip. i arrive to the station, as i arrive anywhere, early. the bus is delayed. twice. instead of worrying, i read, try to play guess the smells, or devise stratagem for defending my chair, a territory now, to be defended against the flotsam and jetsam of humanity which begin to wash up very close to where i sit. we eventually board and things seem fine...until biloxi. when we stop to pick up a few more people, greyhound realizes that they have overbooked the bus. seeking to stem outright revolt, they relax the safety regulations that they have posted just about everywhere on this vehicular behemoth and allow the unwashed masses to stand for the duration of the trip down the center aisle. one guy even sits to the right of the driver in the little steps near the exit. less than one half hour outside of biloxi, it began to feel like the middle passage. i abandon any attempts at reading and instead focus on some hackneyed form of meditation, trying to imagine my pain as a white ball of healing light. soon, a hispanic gentleman, who i discovered spoke absolutely no english, had tired of standing in the aisle beside me and was now sitting on my armrest. part of me felt bad for him having to stand. i felt lucky that i, at least, had a seat. the other part of me, the stronger part, was not happy that this guy's ass would be less than a foot from my face for the duration of the trip.

the rest of the journey passed in a blur. before my feet touched the warm alabama asphalt, i'd vowed only to use greyhound again in two instances. one was if i ever found myself on the lam. the other case was just like the movies. i was finally paroled from some rural prison for a crime i did not commit. the giant metal doors would open onto a vast un-peopled landscape and a stripe of two-lane blacktop, waves of heat rising up from it, so that trees in the distance seemed to shake. i'd begin walking the first few miles, west, i think, past sign after sign warning motorists against picking up hitchhikers. after a few hours, a big silver greyhound would pass me. i'd immediately see the red brake lights come on as it eased onto the shoulder a few hundred yards ahead. i'd hold my hat on top of my head with my right hand and run to it, thankful.

last seen: double indemnity, guinevere
last heard: django reinhardt 'i surrender, dear'
last read: ...carrots carved into lobsters, butterflies carved out of radishes, beautiful flower blossoms carved from beets.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

jean's recent book post has inspired me to continue the theme here. she describes the apprehension she felt when a friend presented a novel as a gift. she subsequently hated it. i'm sure this happens to everyone. i know that i've been on both sides of this dilemma: the receiver of horrible favorite books and the giver who, after pestering his friend with a thousand did you read it?s, discovers that they didn't like or, even worse, didn't read my treasured title.

my theory is that so much of our sifting for meaning in a text comes from what we bring of ourselves to the novel, where we are in our lives at that moment, the things we've done until now. [stepping down from soapbox] that's why most books never strike me in exactly the same way upon re-reading. i'm almost afraid to revisit one of my all-time favorites-- carson mccullers' the heart is a lonely hunter-- for fear that i'll find it trite or melodramatic.

in other book news, i finished nickel and dimed last night and started mrs. dalloway this morning. both are for my book club. the virginia woolf is our july selection. i will probably pick the ehrenreich book in the fall, along with the mineral palace by julavits. i haven't actually read that one yet, so, if you did, email me with your thoughts. hmmm...what else about books/work? i found out that i get to work the neil gaiman event for the library's reading festival; in exchange, they are giving me two tickets for joyce carol oates. ha ha, i win twice. oh, and i just got picked for the graphic novel/comic selection team. ain't too bad getting paid to evaluate graphic novels on the company dime, especially when most of the committee is made up of your friends.

last heard: stereolab 'refractions in the plastic pulse'
last read: Proceeding from an awareness of our tendency to limit ourselves by settling on a single way of thinking, a single way of seeing, a single set of objects desired or possessed, Brakhage’s art denies the whole skein of bourgeois complacencies inherent in possessiveness, in the notion that who we are depends on what we own or what “personality” we project. [editor's note: i started watching disc one of this anthology last night. i am unsettled.]

Monday, June 23, 2003

aside from one horrible slip in 1999, when i thought it would be a good idea to let my rapidly-thinning hair grow out again, i've spent most of the past nine years shaving my head. see, when i was an undergrad in the early 90s, my hair was long, almost to my shoulders. i could offer many excuses for this, but this story is about why i cut it, not why i let it grow long in the first place.

what finally made me decide to cut it was not the occasional cashier or ticket taker calling me miss and then getting flustered and saying i mean, sir. no, it was a burrito what did it. i was sitting at one of those crappy white plastic tables, about to shovel in some food before running to my next appointment. now, this burrito, it was big. i had to attack it in the two-fisted style. i hefted the beast, leaned forward, and gaped my maw. this lean forward was my downfall because my bangs fell between the gaping maw and the burrito. before realizing the error, there was no time to move, i pushed the whole mess into my mouth. a clump of brown hair hung down from my head. the end of the clump was in my mouth. slowly, i pulled the now bean-covered clump from my mouth.

that afternoon, i walked to supercuts with my friend, liz, because i didn't know anyone with clippers, and asked the lady to cut all of my hair off. it took a bit of debate since the woman didn't want to shave my beautiful locks. in the end, i won. i mailed my mom my ponytail in a plastic bag. she may still have it in a drawer some place. now, just about every other saturday, you can walk up to my apartment, hear weekend edition filtering through the screen door, and see me kneeling at the bathtub with a pair of clippers.

last seen: network
last heard: 10,000 maniacs 'jubilee'
last read: the fact that no less than 42 senior administration foreign policy and justice officials have been recruited from AEI and the Federalists...suggests that Wednesday's events may herald a much more antagonistic attitude toward NGOs on the part of the government.
bonus: look at me is a collection of found photos.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

movie night at sam's doesn't occur with the frequency it once did which is kind of sad since he has the whole home theatre set up. our boy rituals-- movie nights, poker, etc. --are usually timed in imprecise cycles, guided only by chance. those of us who are single don't have much trouble meeting, but trying to assemble anything larger than a quorum can be tricky. so, when i heard that sam was considering a movie night, i planned on attending. over the years, he has introduced us to many little known classics, all the while being careful to temper these with an assortment of more dubious films. themes from this second set vary but lately the undercurrent is asian and/or violent, like korean amateur wrestling or lethal baby samurais who fight from, but are not inhibited by, their baby carriages, or a team of chinese soccer players who use their karate powers to attain a winning spirit. last night, though, saw the rare mingling of genres when our host presented peckinpah's straw dogs, a film i'd heard about but never seen. when dustin hoffman threw boiling oil on a guy's face, i started to wonder whether i was seeing something special. all doubt was cast aside, however, when rainman used an antique bear trap as a weapon and clamped it around the main bad guy's head. ah...i, cineast.

last seen: straw dogs, southern comfort
last heard: agsfb 'it's there'
last read: I have done it because I love the album. I love the album as I have loved few pieces of so-called popular music in the last ten years. I love it so much that I am having one of the songs sung at my own wedding. I love it so much that I have given away any number of copies of it as gifts. I love it so much that I am still playing it almost four years later.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

the buzz about chuck olsen's blogumentary finally filtered down to my tiny, dust-covered postage stamp of earth. a couple of the sites that i regularly visit mentioned it, so i wanted to see the trailer. if anyone had asked me why, i would have pushed the glasses up on the bridge of my nose, taken a deep breath, and then said because the art and science of this form interests me. the more honest, and far less noble, reason was that i read of meg's being interviewed and she is one of the countless internet girls that i harmlessly crush on.

as the first strains of the freshly-downloaded trailer wafted from the speakers, friend X, who was seated on the couch, asked what i was watching. i explained that a guy was putting together a documentary about weblogs. before turning back toward the television, friend X replied, fascinating, in his usual acerbic, though half-joking, tone. a few moments passed and he began to recount a conversation that he'd had with our friend, Y, during which they discussed all of the things that they hate about other people's weblogs; occasionally, even mentioning people i knew. during this retelling, any comments that may have emerged which sought to rip the ol' 42short a new one were tastefully omitted.

i'm sure it comes as a surprise, but i am tempermental when it comes to criticism. the scars from my undergraduate fiction workshop still itch sometimes. that's why i tend to keep my comments about others to myself. well, all except one:

dear internet,
please no more posts about your cats.
love, james

last heard: cinnamon 'world of crime'
last read: what they want do is not just to stay in office but they would like to institutionalize the very regressive program put forward domestically, a program which will basically unravel whatever is left of New Deal social democratic systems and turn the country almost completely into a passive undemocratic society

Friday, June 20, 2003

a list of things that you can buy from grier's almanac, a publication which i found on a table in the pharmacy when i took my aunt to get some outpatient surgery this morning

a lawnmower
man-bait perfume
jinx removing soap
slot machine angel pendant
pad-a-panty, the easy way to a full figure
choir robes
baby chicks from a hatchery in iowa
triple strength lucky mojo bag
pamphlet- armageddon, then world peace
choir gowns
money drawing oil
come to me oil
showers of gold oil
baridium urinary analgesic
a 20-lb. tiller
a replica .45 side arm
beekeeping equipment
flywheel engines
strong love cologne

last seen: mr. smith goes to washington
last heard: nas illmatic
last read: Writing itself is the aim, for it is writing, not publishing, that transforms individual human experience.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

when michael asked how long the little girl had had that rainbow-colored cast on her arm, she looked up at her mother for help or confirmation. she turned back toward us, smiling, holding up three fingers. i didn't catch what she said. i figured that if the three fingers represented days, then it was no wonder that she could drink a strawberry shake and eat fries with that bum wing, but, if the three fingers only meant hours, then she was probably here because she'd been brave.

the little girl's mother worked nights here. i also recognized her because we always seem to be at the laundromat on the same mornings. we normally say hello or give each other the requisite head nod.

michael and i smiled at the little girl and then i went back to catching him up on things. before i got too far into it, he stopped me mid-sentence. his head stayed pointed in my direction but his eyes shifted to the left, in the direction of the mom. he whispered, did you see those socks? the lady, who was wearing shorts, had on these pink and white argyle socks which, if i remember correctly, were pulled up just above the knee. sometimes michael's such a rookie. i mean, everyone knows that i like girls who wear cute shoes. of course, i saw the socks.

last seen: of human bondage, spartacus [editor's note: i think i will begin introducing myself the same way that tony curtis does in this movie: antoninus, singer of songs. i also juggle a little.]
last heard: would-be-goods 'leave my mind alone'
last read: Mental note: Ignore their cries for help next time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

the ballad of hurt-butt and hurricane caesar

[scene: lunchtime. today at chik-fil-a. i am sitting at a table facing the fifteen-foot plastic kiddie playland. two moms sit at the table next to me. their kids come running in from fifteen-foot plastic kiddie playland.]

mom 1: (with her arm around kid 1's shoulders, walking toward the exit) it's time to go. say goodbye.

kid 1: bye, hurt-butt.

kid 2: bye, hurricane caesar.


bonus: jen and i went to the white stripes show last night and ed just posted a great review of the evening; he only left a few things out. first, the concession stand sold two kinds of beer. both were terrible and cost $5 each. second, there were two guys battling behind the crowd (but, ed wouldn't have seen that since he was standing in the front). the end, by james kelly.

it is wrong to confuse the misguided wedgies or the swirlies of yore with the exquisite violence perpetrated in schoolyards throughout this great land by eighth-grade boys of my generation. the former abuses are minor. if a movie is set in the 1950s, these are the kinds of things you expect the characters to do to one another if they get cross...usually after one guy calls another guy a square and just before a tall lanky kid with a crackly voice and a coonskin cap runs awkwardly out of the frame.

the kids at my middle school could only dream longingly of such benign torture. i was a card-carrying member of a roving band of skate rats which, thankfully for the general population, only attacked their own in complicated rituals that i look back upon with great warmth.

let's say you were one of the unlucky kids born between the months of september and may, and odds are you were, you could look forward to a beating. like biggie said, birthdays was the worst days because you would inevitably be cornered by about ten of your friends. each of them would mercilessly punch you in the shoulder, one time for every year. what...did we ever cut school? why, no, because you'd get it the day you returned and likely be punched even harder for skipping. it was best to get your beating out of the way before first period, so you didn't spend the day looking behind you.

another short-lived trend was called treeing. this delicious agony began when a group of boys, spotting a friend across the schoolyard, would swarm said friend and tackle him. at this point, everyone in the group would grab some part of the poor lad's flailing legs and drag him screaming to the nearest tree.

step one: find tree
step two: position victim so that tree trunk falls between legs
step three: the two boys holding the left leg pull
step four: the two boys holding the right leg pull
step five: the tree-crotch connection is made and victim is lifted off of the ground

ah, kids and their games.

last heard: mirah 'million miles'
last read: i haven't seen this much shoe polish on car windowshields since selena died.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

[editor's note: tomorrow will mark a return to the rambling, self-absorbed narratives that you're used to reading here; for now though, you must endure a link-heavy list of poorly-crafted run-on sentences and fragments which outline the days since my last post.]

wednesday- dateline: people's republic of chapel hill (as michael affectionately calls it). dinner with tom before our show. much laughing in the parking lot. met jean and several of her friends at cat's cradle. guffawed hardily at the lovely slideshow action. excellent reviews can be found here and here. returned to charlotte around 2:30 am.

thursday- slept for three hours. caught a plane. window seat, grrr. sat next to an older couple. discussed our books prior to takeoff. fell asleep. awoke somewhere over middle america. instantly depressed, i missed the serving of mid-flight breakfast treats. instantly happy, the old woman produces a bag of mid-flight breakfast treats from under her seat. we got one for you because we thought you'd be hungry when you woke up. secretly hoped that this gracious woman and her equally-gracious husband had, in their younger days, peopled the earth with many gracious children. late night drive from chapel hill + 3 hours sleep + bumpy plane ride + airport shuttle + caltrain + big lunch + time change = sleepy. i crash while christy attends a bikram yoga class. later that, dinner, more wine. close the day with the rock star treatment.

friday- crossed the golden gate bridge for the first time in my life. thankfully, at that moment, no fog. proceed to muir woods. think to myself, now i really have been from the redwood forests, to the gulf stream waters. didn't know trees could be that big. felt tinier that usual. hooray, postcards made of wood. head back into the city. mmm...BLT at the pork store. bought some new kicks. hajj to amoeba music. pass a fat, dirty, barefoot guy playing a mandolin on the sidewalk. see spellbound. pick up christy's friends for dinner and tour their new apartment. learn that their rent is 4 times what i pay to live in charlotte's own fight club house. a long wait for a table. SF is colder than north carolina at this time of year. wine keeps me warm while we wait. pelde and mariah entertain a baby who dines inside. they make faces and raise their arms. i am entertained as well. after an hour, the staff takes pity on us and brings a plate of tater-tots over. i discover that tater-tots complement merlot quite nicely. are finally rewarded a table. get my bloat on. sleep.

saturday- day trip to monterey bay aquarium. face-to-face with my first california highway patrol officer, or CHiP, if you will. sadly, she isn't ponch. hit monterey in time for the sea otter feeding, then scope out the jellyfish exhibit. ps- they are rad. purchase one plastic sea creature for my windowsill collection. and, oh yes, there was penny pressing. stopped in mountain view on the way home for dinner. saw a guy busking. he was a bassoon player.

sunday- recovery day. went to a winery in cupertino. free music and many peacocks. one passed very near where i sat. i was briefly frightened. saw l'auberge espagnole. quiet homemade dinner. sleep.

monday- home.

last seen: spellbound, l'auberge espagnole, the recruit, love liza
last heard: burning spear 'brain food'
reading: barbara ehrenreich's nickel and dimed

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

being allergic to even the slightest traces of dust does not bode well when one of your favorite pastimes is digging through the vinyl at the salvation army. my last trip there, on friday, they had received a new donation. most of the jackets looked water-damaged along the bottom, like they had been stored on the floor of a garage for many years. judging by the condition of the albums, their respective dates and genres, i created an elaborate history of the collection in my head. [cue dream-sequence harp music here]

i imagined that a man had died sometime in the middle 1970s, might have drunk himself to death or maybe just got hit by a car, i couldn't be sure. his wife refused to part with the records. the music never reminded her of him, in fact, she always hated his music. so, it wasn't out of sentimental longing that she kept them, rather, she thought they might be worth something. trouble is she never got around to finding out. one day, she got sick of looking at the boxes and asked her new boyfriend, whom she met at church bingo, to take them away. he started to load the trunk of his green plymouth duster with the endless cardboard boxes and, with each one, his bumper inched closer to the ground. he stopped for a minute. a dark sweaty circle had formed on the front of his v-neck undershirt. he looked over at the woman, his eyes all squinty in the noonday heat. she was standing just inside the garage, out of the sun. he asked her, hey, where should i take these? the edge of the woman's once-pink, now-moth-eaten house dress shifted back and forth in the light breeze. she took a last long drag on the cigarette and flicked the butt into the yard. then, as she turned to walk back into the house, she called over her shoulder, i don't care. anywhere but here.

even if that isn't how it all went down, the runny nose i got while digging through the salvation army's record bin was all worth it. i left with an old al green record and a collection called 6 days on the road- trucker stars sing songs of the road for 98 cents each.

[editor's note: dear everyone, i will be on vacation for the next week. tonight, i'm going to see the trachtenburgs in chapel hill, then, in the morning, i'm flying to san francisco. i know how it is not to have new content to take up your workdays, that's why, as a public service, i am including a few links to some of my favorite links pages. your pal, james]

girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes:
or, a few of my favorite links

here comes trouble
mass distraction
chinese american princess
lather rinse repeat

last heard: de la soul 'change in speak'
last read: You have to admire the gall of this adminstration when they preach peace and wage war and extoll our freedoms yet run a concentration camp in Cuba.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

sometimes when i begin to read a book, i might get fifty pages in and it just isn't doing it for me. maybe a few years will pass. i'll come back to the book a different person. this time, the title will completely engross me until i've turned the final page. this has happened with many, many books, but only once has it happened with a movie. that movie is casablanca. i'd rent it and before peter lorre even finished talking to humphrey bogart, i'd be sleeping. the film confounded me. it confounded me in the same way that jam bands do or grown men who wear baseball caps at the dinner table.

no more, though. i watched the film all the way through for the first time yesterday evening. as you might imagine, it is near the top of AFI's 100. i'm working my way through that list because i was told that it's important to have goals. some of the films i watched a long time ago, so i'm viewing them again before crossing them off the list. since starting this little project, i've seen 70 of the 100.

it is embarrassing how many movies i haven't seen which are a part of our collective consciousness. i recognize their, by now, cliched images when they are parodied in other films and i know key lines, but i still haven't viewed them in their entirety. in my defense, i have seen a lot of the not-as-huge titles.

king kong, frankenstein, city lights...nope.
a place in the sun, bringing up baby, the apartment...yep.

last seen: casablanca
last heard: radiohead 'sail to the moon'
last read: Both sides can agree on one thing at least: lies can also come in the form of omissions. Because it wasn't only yesterday that Saddam Hussein's dictatorship became one of the worst ever. All the democracies knew it. They kept quiet about it. They accommodated themselves to it.
another reason to like target: they sold me hail to the thief for $11.88 this morning.

Monday, June 09, 2003

sitting in the washateria this morning, i dug around in the pocket of my shorts for the hastily-scribbled to-do list: laundry, shoeshine, confirm flight, bank. i read it again to be sure, thus confirming my suspicion. change your entire worldview appeared nowhere on my list. the funny thing is that's exactly what happened and from the most innocuous place, too, a january 2003 issue of instyle magazine. i'm flipping the dog-eared washeteria copy of said publication, waiting for the spin cycle to finish, and, i'm not ashamed to say it, actually enjoying the glossy photographs of selma blair and shalom harlow, when all of a sudden i get to page 161. there, staring me full in the face, is an article entitled simply j. lo's rules for life. surely, ms. lo could offer me sage tips on many things, but here she was purporting to have the rules for life, all of it, not just parts. i was, understandably, compelled to read the entire article.

[editor's note: what follows are the rules. these twelve commandments were presented in bulleted form. i have deleted the annotations.]
change is good. don't have a signature scent? get one. let your mood dictate the way you dress. tight isn't always right. don't sweat your make up. make yourself feel right at home. throw dinner parties. pamper yourself. be ambitious, but not bitchy. stay in touch. be nice to your body. keep the fire burning.

profound, i know. take a moment. breathe. now, re-read the list. go on.

imagine how many tragedies might have been averted had we been given the rules earlier. no rwandan genocide. no 2 fast 2 furious.

imagine how many tragedies we will be spared now that we have them.

thank you, jenny from the block.

last seen: clerks
last heard: isabel allende on diane rehm
last read: On the customer side there would be enough room for about 2 adults to stand comfortably, and on the other side there would be a large hairy guy wearing a leather vest. Maybe a T-shirt under the vest, maybe just the vest.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

it felt like we walked out of the theater and into bangladesh last night. the steamy air was heavy to breathe. a downpour was flooding the streets. jenn and i went next door to grab some take out before heading to my place, so that she could wait out the rain. the road home was almost completely flooded. i drove down the middle of Laurel, but, even on this higher ground, the water had begun to rise. an oncoming city bus sent waves cresting toward us. i was afraid the old ford would be carried off into someone's yard. we took a circuitous route back to the apartment, avoiding the more flooded streets. my driveway was inaccessible. we parked a block away and waded to the apartment.

as i white-knuckled the drive home, all i could think about was louisiana. i was a young man and a relatively inexperienced driver. with angry horns honking behind my slow-moving subaru wagon, i thought the water probably isn't really that deep and started through the intersection. the water kept getting deeper and deeper until it was lapping the hood of my car. by this point, it was too late to turn back. i gave it a little more gas and started to emerge from the lake i'd just traversed.

the car died three blocks later in front of one of those horrible daiquiri shops that dot the jefferson parish landscape like a pox. some guy at the bar offered me a ride home, if i would wait for him to finish his drink. i sat nursing a coke for the next 90 minutes in this bar that looked like it had been decorated by an apprentice set designer for miami vice. it was particularly sad since this was 1994. while the storm continued outside, i hunkered down in a sea of pink and turquoise neon and listened to this grown man's story. how he was in school to learn to become a blackjack dealer, how he hoped to get a job at harrah's when they finished building it, and, by way of explanation, how he was spending the afternoon at the daiquiri shop because he was skipping blackjack class today and didn't want his mama to catch him.

last seen: laurel canyon, rushmore
last heard: lou donaldson good gracious!
last read: birds of prey #s 50-53

Saturday, June 07, 2003

there is one art-house theater in our sleepy burg. it has but two screens, and, even so, we feel lucky to have it. when michael returned from a trip to minnesota recently, he was like an explorer weaving tales of a city of gold. he spoke of art-house multiplexes. i sat in awe. the manor, our own little art-house, is walking distance from my apartment. yesterday, the deal that i made with myself was, if i got all of my chores done by 2pm, i could go to a matinee of laurel canyon. everything was fine until the lady at the box office informed me that the 2 o'clock screening had been cancelled. wha' happened?, i thought. she offered me a free pass to the 4 o'clock show, but i had plans.

i was determined to have movie time, but this was the only theater in town showing this movie. throwing caution to the wind, i drove twenty minutes, chopping my way through the vine-covered suburbs, to a giganta-plex. my new plan was buy a ticket for whatever was starting as soon as i got there. i must note that this is a very uncharacteristic move for me as i am not so much into the caution-throwing.

after parking in row five, then hiking to the front entrance, i bought a ticket for the italian job which was starting in five minutes. while standing in line, i noticed that the lizzie mcguire movie was starting at 4:20 and proceeded to giggle to myself. heh, heh, 4:20, said the voice in my head.

i didn't expect much from the italian job but it was enjoyable hollywood fare. dirk diggler, the transporter, and scott evil had most of the good lines and, how could i really complain about a movie that included california soul by the fifth dimension. that song always makes me smile.

last seen: the italian job, tender mercies
last heard: trailer bride 'clermont hotel'
last read: bottom line is unless the two people engaged in the act are fabio and rhea perlman and they're using some crotchless stunt pants made by Industrial Light and Magic, i ain't buying what these cats are selling.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

the scene is a large chain bookstore. i'm sitting on a bench amongst the periodicals, minding my own business, as usual. why am i here? i'm trying to kill a few minutes before work by reading a review of the new style wars dvd; that's when she really starts in on him. there is this girl on a cell phone, cute face, cute shoes, one bench down from me talking to what-i-can-only-intuit-is her boyfriend.

you're just getting up? you know, there are lots of places hiring, she tells him. her tone growing more terse. i know it's hard. i had to sacrifice, too. that's why i didn't go back to school this semester. you just have to get on the bus, come over here, and get a job. there's a magazine on her lap. she holds the page at a distance, between her thumb and forefinger, like it's something dirty, then turns it. during this long pause, i'm guessing mister right is formulating some excuse as to why his unemployed ass is just rising from slumber at 11:40 on a thursday morning.

meanwhile, all i can think about is how much i hate it when people air their dirty laundry on their cell phones. i don't even mind public scenes. rather, it is this business of the phone that i find exhausting. at least, when two people are there, arguing right in front of you, it is entertaining. there is the possibility that it could spill over into fisticuffs and, really, who doesn't laugh when a woman throws something at a man or somebody gets a nice shiner? no, what is tiresome is only hearing non sequiturs barked into a phone. things like, so it burns when you go, huh?

last seen: talk to her
last heard: stereolab 'metronomic underground'
last read: Global Peace Containers is an not-for-profit organization that has perfected a method and system to economically convert retired international shipping containers into sustainable housing and community buildings such as medical facilities, schools and neighborhood centers.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

jody was popular. she was taller than all of the other girls. she was pretty and she could play tether ball like nobody's business. kids would huddle around her, waiting for a joke to escape her lips, so that they could all laugh.

her birthday party in sixth grade must have been one of those where the mom makes the kid invite the whole class; after all, i was there. jody lived up the street from me. when i arrived, children were milling around, encouraged by jody's mom to wander the house with their glasses of punch, but to be careful. the evening was scheduled as follows: punch, pizza, cake, then we were all going to see ghostbusters.

laughter from the back of the house filled the hallway where i was standing. i made my way toward it. some kids were standing and others were sitting on jody's bed. i tried to sneak into the tiny room, hoping that no one would see me. i still enter rooms that way. eleven was not a good age, neither was twenty-six, but i digress. i was a husky little boy sneaking into a room full of popular kids.

jody was standing just inside the doorway. i slid up next to her, not because i was that cool, but because i didn't want to walk any further into the crowded room and risk tripping and falling down in front of these kids. the conversation i wandered into was about first kisses, a subject i had no first hand knowledge of, so i was comfortable listening to everyone else talk. one-by-one they spoke and the room was silent as we listened to each other's stories. what with it being sixth grade and all, the stories weren't very exciting, mostly just a who and a when before the next person spoke up. everything was quiet when jody started to speak, but, instead telling her story, she looked down at me and asked, what about you, jimmy? i said that i had never kissed anyone before.

...then, in front of everyone, she kissed me. i remember these two long arms extending down. i remember two hands on the sides of my head. i remember the way her lips felt. i remember no tongue was involved. i remember, after the kiss, her saying, now you have.

aside from the day i bought a cassette copy of rant and rave with the stray cats with lawn-mowing money, this is my most vivid memory from sixth grade.

last seen: the blob
last heard: heavenly 'cut off'
last read: After that, I was Michiko Kakutani whenever I needed to be.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

the fact that i am drawn to a particular type of girl is not news to the readers of this weblog. what is news, however, is the fact that i believe i've re-discovered the genesis of that attraction. during one of those fast-paced conversations peppered with in-jokes and obscure pop culture references, i found out that jen had never seen some kind of wonderful; so, last night, we decided to rent it.

that's when i saw her, ooh, i saw her

watts wasn't on the screen for more than three seconds before i felt that fluttering lightness in my stomach and i could hear, really faint-like, the crinkly sound of my heart tearing into two pieces.

last seen: some kind of wonderful
last heard: the psychedelic furs 'sister europe'
last read: Forty percent of the U.S. population will accept virtually anything that Bush and Co. say. Most of these people get all their news from television. This 40 percent of the population will never agree with us, and there is nothing we can do about it. They will not change, nor will they see the light. They are the fundamentalists of America, the religious shock troops, the millions of fearful, and the conservative wealthy who fund and fuel the current conservative efforts at hegemony. It's not easy to write off 100 million people. In our own stubborn way, we liberals and progressives think everyone can change.

Monday, June 02, 2003

i watched the entire first season of the jeffersons in two days. surely, some kind of record has been broken. this in spite of the fact that the electricity went out for 8 hours and i spent most of saturday afternoon helping a friend move into a new townhouse. neither of those things figured into my training for this monumental test of strength, yet i completed the task before me. dare you challenge my endurance?

choose your weapon!

last seen: bloody sunday, the jeffersons: the complete first season, that obscure object of desire
last heard: the softies holiday in rhode island
last read: Maybe that's the way we make things comprehensible. Experience doesn't come at us in a clear narrative. It's a buzzing blooming confusion.
bonus: flexing my mad haiku skillz...

cute record store girl
just used twee in a sentence
you'd be swooning, too