Friday, December 31, 2010


The darkness is always there, always visible. I know myself well enough to know it will never go away, not completely.

Still, there is light and warmth, more than I've known for so long. There is Janie, the woman I've been looking for without even realizing it, so full of love and acceptance. There is wonderful Isabella, the greatest dog in the history of dogs. And, as always, there is my beloved little malcontent, my heart and soul, my psychokitty Delmar.

There are great friends and nodding acquaintances, there is music and movies and long drives on lazy days. There is a sense that I've found something like my place in the world, and there is a feeling of contentment.

So what am I doing New Year's Eve? Probably not much, but whatever it is, I'll be doing it with the knowledge that I'm loved, and that I can love back.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I originally wanted to post this commercial break from ABC's 1976 Saturday morning cartoon lineup as an excuse to go on about the second ad here, for the long-forgotten (and little-missed) cereal Grins And Smiles And Giggles And Laughs, possibly the most misbegotten breakfast food of all time.  Seriously--"the cereal that smiles back at you"?  Happy little faces piled in your bowl, waiting to be eaten?  And, if the commercial is to be believed, vomited up by some large-brained supercomputer?  What a wonder that this thing didn't go over!

Possibly even more disturbing, if only as a comment on the state of the nation in the year of the Bicentennial, is the McDonald's ad.  Everybody wants to go out for a morning meal, but only Ronald seems to know that McDonald's is now serving breakfast.  Most baffled of all is Mayor McCheese himself...but wait!  Mayor McCheese presumably runs McDonaldland.  How can he be unaware of this seemingly momentous change in restaurant policy?  Did he not sign off on it?  Was it drafted by others?  A secret cabal, perhaps, working in shadows to ensure that things would go the correct way?  Was Mayor McCheese even duly elected, or did he merely assume the position when McDonaldland's previous ruler was forced to resign in disgrace, perhaps fearing impeachment? 

Not that I spent any time thinking about any of this when these ads originally aired.  I wasn't that cynical as a kid.  Still, I remember all these things, so they obviously had an impact on me, though I dearly wish they hadn't.  There must have been plenty of time spent on weekends back in '76 when eleven-year-old me was outside playing with the dog or having adventures or...I dunno, something.  But any such memories are lost.  But puking computers and badly-costumed politicians ruling fast food empires...that stuff's with me to death.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


The day grew short, as winter days will. It was late in the afternoon when my brother John realized he needed to do some last minute shopping, so I rode along as he drove into Perry and headed for Gibson's Discount Store, the only place open so late on Christmas Eve. He found what he was looking for, and bought himself a present as well--Simon And Garfunkle's Greatest Hits on 8-track, which he listened to on the way home.

It was nearly dark when we got back to the farm, the sky turning ever darker shades of blue. Mom had turned on both the yard light and porch light, which we didn't really need to find our way, but the gesture was appreciated. John immediately vanished to his room, as my oldest brother Keith had already spent the day in his, and my sister Julie was in the kitchen talking to Mom, who made last-minute preparations for the next day's feast. Dad and I were the only ones in the living room, numbly sitting in front of the television, watching without interest the typically awful animated specials run endlessly in syndication, killing time until dinner was served.

After eating, there was some wrapping to be done--I was used mostly to tear off pieces of tape, while Mom and Julie did most of the real work--and then...well, and then, I just couldn't wait to go to bed.  I was all of ten, too old for Santa Claus, but not too old to enact the comforting ritual of snuggling in the darkness, anticipating all the wonders the next morning would bring.  I could hear voices downstairs, and the TV, and the hum of our fuel oil stove.  My family was here, and the next day was Christmas.  For the moment, at least, all was right with the world.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


You know, there are so many reasons to slog on the truly dreadful-sounding Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, it almost seems unnecessary to list them.  You can start with the fact that it recently endured its fourth injury of a cast member, continue with the practice of charging full ticket prices for preview performances of a show that is nowhere near completion (its creators cheerily admit that they STILL don't have a final act), continue by pointing out that its songwriters, Bono and The Edge (who, incidentally, continue to call themselves Bono and The Edge, a fact which calls their very intelligence into question), are touring with U2 and are thus unavailable to provide the new material a preview period might demand, and of course, there's no overlooking the fact that it's called Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, the stupidest title of anything in recorded history.

The greatest venom would have to be reserved for the show's director and co-writer, Julie Taymor (or, as she's apparently contractually required to be called, "visionary director Julie Taymor").  While it is undeniably true that the producers of this thing deserve some of the blame for indulging her too long--the budget is still listed at sixty-five million, though that was the official count on opening night, and numerous revisions (and hospital stays) have no doubt driven the costs up considerably since then--it is Taymor's inability to see the show as anything other than a monument to her own hubris that is so infuriating.  Whatever fans may want or expect from a Spider-Man musical (and I'm not sure many of them would want one in the first place, but whatever), that is not want Taymor intends to give them.  She apparently is determined to use the character as a jumping-off point for a fantasia on Greek mythology, pop culture and whatever else pops into her head.  Such basic concepts as "story" or "characterization" or even "entertainment" seem foreign to her.

Which is all well and good, and I'm not at all opposed to Taymor's ambition (except when, you know, it could cost the life of a cast member), but, boy, is it misplaced.  She's not making some semi-avant garde piece to be seen by the season's subscribers at BAM this time out, she's making a fucking Broadway musical about a superhero.  Given that, yes, she does have an obligation to meet an audience's basic expectations.  She could exceed those expectations, go beyond them, yes, but only if she shows any understanding of what people like about the character in the first place. 

But we're talking about the director of Across the Universe here, so...

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I had a long piece in mind about director Blake Edwards, who died this week at the age of 88.  Basically, I intended to state my deeply-held belief that A Shot In The Dark is one of the best comedies ever made, that Days Of Wine And Roses, Experiment In Terror, Wild Rovers and That's Life are damn good movies, that Darling Lili is crushingly underrated...and that almost everything else Edwards ever did (and he was nothing if not prolific) was incredibly problematic.  But there are serious gaps in my viewings of Edwards' films (I've never actually sat through Breakfast At Tiffany's, mostly because as soon as Mickey Rooney's buck-toothed Japanese caricature appears, I bail), and the whole thing never quite came together and...

Then yesterday came the news of the death of Captain Beefheart, and again, it seemed like I should have something to say about one of the most important musicians of the twentieth century, but I was busy last night, and the computer was acting screwy again, didn't happen.

Then...hey!  This morning I wake up and discover Neil Patrick Harris and Eric Braeden are having a feud on Twitter, and suddenly life is good.  Apparently Braeden was set to do a cameo on How I Met Your Mother, then bailed, prompting Harris to call him a D-bag.  Braeden offered some mildly caustic rejoinders, Harris half-ass apologized...and that's about it, really.

But it's Neil Patrick Harris and Eric Braeden, people!  Dr. Horrible vs The Actor Formerly Known As Hans Gudegast!  The cool, funny guy with the beautiful singing voice for whom geeks everywhere have a (metaphorical and strictly hetero, thank you) boner is squabbling with that guy from The Young And the Restless who used to play that Nazi on The Rat Patrol who kind of became the only sympathetic character on that show, because who could blame him for wanting to kill a dick like Christopher George?

So it's not really a big deal, and not really worth writing about, especially when I couldn't bother to summon any thoughts on Blake Edwards, but it amused me.

Monday, December 13, 2010


The other night I dreamed I stood in a buffet line at some small town community center.  I accompanied Mom, and it was somehow understood that when we got through the line and sat down, we had important but unspecified matters to discuss.  The line was slow, and food kept piling up on my plate.  Mashed potatoes and dressing, a high pile of tuna casserole, a grilled cheese sandwich, comfort food staples of my childhood.  I wondered what Mom and I would talk about, but I was also distracted by the dessert table, which featured brownies and chocolate chip cookies and all manner of cakes--

--Then, suddenly, I woke up.  And, in those few moments of altered perception experienced between the dream state and the real world, I did not find myself wondering what Mom and I needed to discuss.   All I could think was, I didn't get to eat.

Which means...well, it could mean any number of things, but for now I'm going to use it as a metaphor for this site.  It started out as a way to grieve Mom's loss, but it quickly turned into whatever the hell it is now, a forum for me to rage or observe or purge whatever feelings I had at the moment.  For awhile there, I needed this space, the compulsion to write every day was overpowering.  And invigorating.

Lately, though, that urge to fill space is no longer there.  My life has undergone some major changes, and I find that I am--for lack of a better word--content.  There are still any number of free-floating anxieties, but they no longer overwhelm.  As I look back at so much of what has been written here over the past four and a half years, it seemed to reflect my quest to find a place in the world, to somehow belong somewhere.

And I think I've accomplished that, more or less.  So what is there to write about?  Lots of things, of course--but specifically, what to write about here?  Is this site even necessary anymore?  I honestly don't know.  I still love writing, on those increasingly rare occasions when my ability and my interest combine to produce good work.  I enjoy it, but  no longer feel the need to do it.

So--again--what does this mean?  I'm not shutting this down, I'm not signing off.  I'm honestly trying to figure out what this space needs to be, how it can keep me interested, what it will become.  I would like to post more frequently, but I would need to find a reason to do that, and so far, I'm too busy doing other things.  But soon enough, I'll be back here doing whatever the hell I do.

Say, what DO I do around here, anyway?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Let us say there is a political party determined to preserve tax breaks for the super-wealthy at the expense of benefits for the nation's most desperate, wretched souls--hard to believe, I know, but let's pretend--and if such a nakedly rapacious force existed, it shouldn't be difficult for anyone with even a bit of imagination and a mere trace of rhetorical skill to depict them as, you know, kind of villainous.

Or they could do what President Obama has done, and make a deal with them.  He gave them everything they wanted and more, and all they had to do in return was promise to extend unemployment benefits for barely more than a year.  So the downtrodden will continue to eke out a miserable existence, and the obscenely wealthy are free to fill up their swimming pools with gold coins and dive right in, Scrooge McDuck-style, and even the faintest glimmer of "hope" and "change" fades a little more, a faint memory of a promise we once naively believed, or tried to believe. 

Sunday, December 05, 2010


So I had this thing I was working on here, and it's not like i was that far into it or anything, just a couple paragraphs, but still.  The point is, I managed to start cranking out something halfway decent at a pretty good clip, when suddenly--


--my computer froze.  Which it's been doing a lot lately, and it's getting pretty damned--oh, look, let's not get into that.  The point is, Blogger is supposed to autosave these things, but when I returned, it was gone.  Gone!  As though my thoughts had never stirred, as though...well, again, it really wasn't that big a deal.  Just kind of annoying, really.  Hardly worth mentioning.

You know what?  Let's just pretend this whole thing never happened.  Instead, enjoy this...the most disturbing thing you'll ever see.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


I remember the details of individual moments surrounding my father's death--the foggy morning, the flashing lights of the police cars and ambulance, already lined up at Mom and Dad's apartment building before I even arrived, the dread coiled in the pit of my stomach as I called various siblings to tell them the news--but I can't recall the bigger picture, the larger context.

What did I do that night, or the next day, or the day after that?  What was on TV, what music played on the radio, what did I eat, how did I feel?  These are the kinds of things I can recall without even trying.  I can conjure vividly not only the superficial details from when my mom and my brother died, but the continuity surrounding those events.  I can still replay in my mind tiny details of the days before and after, the life I led that was disrupted by these awful circumstances, and the time spent after trying to make sense of that which makes no sense: Conversations ignored, music half heard, minutes dragging on and on, as though time itself had stopped.  And the better parts of those events, time spent with family and friends, memories shared and laughter erupting at unexpected times. 

In other words, these are things that happened to me.  I remember; I was there.  Dad's passing seems more like a dream, arrived at without beginning or end, viewed like a movie but not actually experienced, certainly not felt.  Maybe I was simply in shock from the first Big death of my adult life, or maybe I was unmoved because Dad's condition had deteriorated long before he died, or...

Or maybe there are no reasons.  Details that have been forgotten can't be simply remembered.  There's nothing to do, except to carry on every day with the odd, faintly disturbing feeling that a milestone in my life remains unmarked, and to perpetually wonder what that means.