Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Even classic rock stations don't play The Cars' You Might Think as often as they used to, and that's good.  Not for aesthetic reasons, but because as soon as I hear the very eighties keyboard riff that kicks it off, I'm immediately transported to the day room of the psych ward at University Hospitals in Iowa City, where I half-glimpsed the video for the song in one of my few forays out to mingle with my fellow inmates.

I couldn't even tell you when this was, exactly.  '85, I remember, probably late summer or early fall.  You Might Think was no longer a new song, it had been released much earlier, probably around the time of my first suicide attempt.  Evidently it was still popular enough to see airplay on MTV, because it is the only concrete memory I have of my time there. 

Oh, there are other memories, but they've become so vague.  There was a cute girl who actually tried to talk to me a few times, though I was too messed up to respond, but I don't remember her name, or what she looked like, or anything about her, really.  There was a brooding Sean Penn-in-Bad Boys type, who seemed to have been there awhile.  There was my assigned counselor, most likely a grad student, who was so fucking earnest I found myself making  stuff up just to get more sympathy from her.

And there were windows, which offered views of not much, but beyond the trees and institutional buildings of the immediate area there was much more out there, I just knew it.  I didn't know Iowa City, had never been there, but as Mom drove me to the hospital I caught glimpses of restaurants and book stores and record stores, and I thought if I could just move into one of those, if I could stay there and never leave, I wouldn't have to be making this trip.  My life would be magically better somehow, somehow.

Those windows were temptations, a possible exit, a way out.  And if instead I cut myself on the glass, if I bled and died, well, hey, that would have been okay, too.  I didn't want to be there, in the hospital or in my skin, or anywhere, really.

I was utterly, unbearably miserable, and yet when I heard You Might Think on the radio the other day, I found myself overwhelmed with nostalgia for a time I barely remember.  It seemed at the time that life was a constant downward drift, misery endured only to be ultimately, blessedly ended.  But now it seems my lost years were some sort of necessary crucible, forming me into the whatever-it-is I'd become.  I didn't know it then, but a future awaited, experiences wonderful and terrible, and very soon I'd learn to live.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Uh, yeah, new content is becoming increasingly rare around here, innit?  I'm hoping that will change here soon--I have ideas!  Honest!--but first, for regular readers (both of you!), a bit of an explanation for the silence.

First of all, there's Janie, who really deserves to be mentioned in more than passing, but for now I'll just say that when there's a sweet, warm presence sharing time with you, it makes it harder to excuse slipping away to a keyboard to tap out a few hundred words on whatever the hell it is I usually write about.  So there's that.

Also, beloved puppy Isabella is suffering from a not entirely diagnosed medical condition.  She's mostly fine (and adorable, of course), but trying to get to the bottom of it will involve spending money I don't really have, which brings on financial stress, which is already triggering something vaguely resembling depression, an old friend I'd hoped to never again encounter, but there you go.

Anyway, posting will presumably resume on a more regular basis at some unspecified point in the future.  Or, you know, not.  That's about as solid a promise as can be made right now, and hey, you can hold me to it.  Or, again, not.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


You don't think I enjoy this sort of thing, do you?  You don't think I have nothing better to do than monitor the Associated Press' entertainment news wire, waiting for goofy stories that are easily mocked?  Don't I have better things to do?  Don't I have a life?

To answer these questions: No, kind of, sadly, no and...I'm sorry, what was the question?

Anyway, the Pulitzer=chasing scribes at the AP have done it again, this time with a story imaginatively headlined Rockers Kansas Carry on, Play With College Groups.  (I have no idea why the good folks at the AP failed to capitalize "on" but there it is.)  And it is indeed about Kansas, regarded by decent people everywhere as one of the worst bands ever, and their pathetic attempt to stay down with the kids by playing with college orchestras. 

There's a Noble Cause at the heart of all this--the concerts raise money for the schools' music programs--which is all well and good, but who gives a sweet shit?  I mean, this is Kansas.  The highlight of their miserable existence was Carry On, Wayward Son, which--I've mentioned this before, right?--is simply the worst song of the rock era.  I realize it has plenty of heavy-duty competition, what with the entire songbooks of Journey and Panic! At The Disco and whatnot, but between the idiotic lyrics, preening vocals, cheeseball keyboards and THE worst guitar solo ever recorded, its crown will likely remain in place forever and ever.

Anyway, now they're back.  Well, not so much back as still around, and willing to pander to anyone who will play their music.  And the Associated Press, which didn't spend a whole lot of time getting to the bottom of that whole Weapons Of Mass Destruction thing, did assign a reporter to cover this story. 

Who says journalism is dead?

Monday, September 20, 2010


Randy Quaid Arrested For Squatting In Old Home reads the somewhat inelegantly phrased headline Reuters has chosen for this story, and viewers who know Quaid primarily as Cousin Eddie, his character from the National lampoon's Vacation series, would be forgiven for assuming Quaid was squatting to take a dump.

But no, he and his wife were arrested for squatting like hobos in a bad thirties social realist play, living in a house they no longer own, claiming they belong there despite all evidence to the contrary.  It's the latest in a string of bizarre incidents involving Quaid, who seems to be working to erase all memories of the great actor he used to be.  He was the sad, sad heart of Hal Ashby's magnificent The Last Detail, a member of Peter Bogdanovich's stock company back when that meant something, and a welcome player in such cult favorites as The Long Riders, Quick Change and The Ice Harvest.  

Unfortunately, his dickish real-life behavior and apparent readiness to accept any script he's offered (Balls Out?  Seriously?) threaten to infect his career like a virus, making his very presence a cause for groaning, and retroactively making even his best previous work seem lesser in stature.  He's turning into latter-day Dennis Hopper, only at least Hopper's history of self-immolation was spectacular, whereas Quaid's is just kind of pathetic.

Still, The Last Detail--man, that's a great movie.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I've saluted the excellent entertainment reporting from the gutsy journalists of the Associated Press before, but somehow, they always manage to top themselves.  Sure the obits they ran over the weekend for the great filmmaker Claude Chabrol and wonderful character actor Kevin McCarthy were short and seemingly uninformed, in their brevity almost dismissive of each man's considerable accomplishments.

But yesterday they came through like champs, taking the time to let us know the really important stuff.  First, they broke the story that John Mayer has shut down his Twitter account--well, not so much his Twitter account as an account set up exclusively to promote his new album, which has apparently run its course, commercially--and then came the really big news, a breathless interview with fast-fading reality TV star Spencer Pratt, who spoke excitedly about a possible reunion with his soon-to-be-ex, pop culture footnote Heidi Montag, after they were both detained in Costa Rica for possession of firearms and...oh hell, you know what?  I just read the story, and I can't remember the details.

Well, of course I can't, because who gives a sweet shit about Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag?  The Hills was precisely the type of show destined to be forgotten as soon as it left the air, and while it's perfectly understandable that Pratt and Montag may have a hard time dealing with their sudden, crushing drop to obscurity, it is wholly inexplicable that a supposedly respectable news gathering organization like the AP would do anything to prolong their moment in the sun.  Just because a chucklehead like Pratt calls a news conference doesn't mean you need to cover it, folks.

Besides, the AP needs to get back to covering real news: What's Pete Wentz up to these days?

Saturday, September 11, 2010


What the world would come to call 9/11 happened, as nearly everyone remembers, on a Tuesday.  I can recall that day, that evening, the next morning as everyone else can, as a continuous loop of time spent trying to make sense of something that seemed utterly incomprehensible.  But it's funny--I don't remember how the rest of the day after played out, or the day after that, or the day after.

I mean, I lived in the D.C. area, so the next few days were certainly infused with an increased sense of paranoia, a feeling that the other shoe could drop anytime.  But that feeling lingered for months, especially with the anthrax scare that followed so soon after.  But the actual specifics of the days that followed The Day That Changed Everything...no, I can't recall those at all.

My memory is gone, until the following Sunday.  My wife and I were newcomers to the area, had in fact only lived there a little over three months when the attacks occurred.  But we had carved out our little place in the world, and certain rituals had evolved.  And one of those rituals involved me rising much earlier than her, and carrying out some of the day-to day necessities of life.  I'd do laundry while she still slept.  Or wash dishes.

Or shop for groceries.  Heading out to the market on those dark, slightly chilly mornings of early autumn meant choosing between the Food Lion a few blocks away, or the Safeway just down the street.  Food Lion had more varieties of frozen pizza--always an important consideration!--and the prices were slightly cheaper, but Safeway had the advantage of being closer.  I'd usually alternate.  On the morning of September 16th, I chose Safeway.

Not many people out that early, and the aisles were piled with merchandise waiting to be stocked.  I shopped according to the usual script, picking up the same items I always picked up, and one I only occasionally bought: The Sunday Washington Post.

The tired-looking woman at the register scanned the items, and the clerk bagged them.  He was the same guy who usually worked there on Sunday mornings, a doughy, shapeless middle-aged guy with thinning white hair.  He looked like he might have come from a fairly rough-and-tumble background, but he was always unfailingly polite and talkative.

This morning, though, he paused briefly to examine the cover of The Post, which inevitably featured a photo of the rubble that had once been the Twin Towers.  "3000 people," he said softly, as though to himself.  "3000 people.  Christ.  In America.  We..."  He shook his head, as if snapping out of a dream, and rolled the paper and placed it in a bag.  His eyes glistened as they peered into mine, as if searching for answers he'd never find.  "How could that happen?  How...here?"

I just shrugged, and said something non-committal.  I took my bags and headed to the car, where I sat for several minutes, crying so hard it seemed the tears would never stop.

Friday, September 10, 2010


According to the calender, it's been--zoinks!--two weeks or so since any kind of new content appeared in this space.  There are reasons for this, the most prominent among them being named Janey, who is occupying a lot of my time, and about whom I'll no doubt be writing in the future.  Then there are various little hiccups involving Blogger, which sometimes makes even attempting to post here a pain in the ass, and the slowness of my computer, which...eh, I don't even wanna get started on that.

And then there's the other reason I haven't been doing much here, the real reason, which is that I seem to be having a paralyzing bout of writer's block.  It's happened a few times since I started this site, but the feeling this time is different.  I can't even get words down without growing disgusted with the tone and wiping them all away.  There have been aborted posts here that I deleted in draft phase, consisting of no more than a paragraph or two, which is all the further I could get before I deleted them from memory.  More than likely, they will never be missed, but who knows?  Writing doesn't seem to agree with me now.

But, you know, that's just for now.  Presumably this will pass, and I'll be back to...whatever the hell it is I do around here.  And if this site still has any readers at all, my sincere thanks for sticking with it, even when nothing is going on.   I'll try to make it more interesting soon.  Honest!