Saturday, August 30, 2003

Bi-curious superstar seeks mediocre pop tarts for tongue kisses, headlines:

As the entire goddamned planet knows by now, Madonna frenched Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera two nights ago on MTV's Video Music Awards show.

For the past hour, I've been trying to concoct something witty or prescient to say about this, a trenchant piece of pop culture commentary, but I can't, because I'm too pissed off.

First, we must now brace ourselves for the monkey-see-monkey-do spectacle of Gwyneth Paltrow--Gilligan to Madonna's Skipper--osculating with Jessica Simpson. (The mind reels.)

Secondly, we know the inevitable, cringe-inducing interview is coming wherein Madge states, "Everyone's projecting their own prurience onto this. A kiss can be a sacrament, or a baptism." It's too late to swim: I hear the shark music, and we're going to get eaten.

Lastly, I will now endure the bang and the clatter as pieces of my broken heart rattle around inside my chest. The woman who captured my imagination for the past twenty years--who gave me such a hyper-joyful night two years ago in Madison Square Garden--has apparently run out of ideas, and songs. (She's yanked the girl-on-girl crank so many times before, and generously estimated, "Hollywood" is a piece of blockheaded crap.)

This song is over, say goodbye.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Thursday, August 07, 2003

"What kind of sick bitch steals the ice cube trays?"--Tom Arnold in "True Lies":

As I write this, I'm more than a little creeped out. (And no, not just because I find myself quoting the former Mr. Barr.)

My car was broken into last night. At first, I thought that the glove compartment had fallen open, because its contents were strewn on the passenger side floor. Then I realized that my seats were pushed back, my armrest was upended, my emergency flashlight was smashed and its batteries flung about, and--the kicker--my ashtray was ajar and its cigarette lighter was missing.

What the fuck?

I live in an ostensibly safe neighborhood--whatever that means--but this is the eighteenth time that my building's garage has been broken into in the twelve years that I've lived here. This incident is particularly unnerving because: 1) It's the first time my car has been hit, and 2) There were no signs of forced entry.

Now, I drive a thirteen year old tan Topaz. My friends call it "the county vehicle"; my brother calls it, "that piece of crap you embarass us with." It's a litmus test in my social circle: my pals who are lawyers, teachers, and architects gibe, "Did you lose a bet?", while my writer and actor cohorts ask, "Can I get a ride?"

The thing is, I like my little car. I love to get dressed up, but I can't get worked up over the vehicle in which I'm seen. The Topaz--or "the Paz", as I've affectionately dubbed it--is delightfully utilitarian. It's perfect for lugging props to and from rehearsal, and if phad thai leaks through its to-go box and onto the floor mats, it just doesn't matter.

So, why, in a garage filled with new model BMWs, Acuras, and a gorgeous vintage Mercedes, would someone spend the time and effort to trash what's clearly an inferior auto with nothing of value inside? (It sports *a tape deck* for God's sake.)

The police officer who took the report believes it's an inside job. This isn't the first break-in we've experienced where there were no signs of forced entry. As he put it, "You live on a main road with nothing *but* cars parked outside. Why bother breaking into your building to steal when there's so much to steal right outside?"

Why, indeed. I know that this is, thankfully, just a property crime. But I also know that some sick fuck--possibly an acquaintance--is walking around with my cigarette lighter. It's never been used--I don't smoke--but I sure as hell hope they get burned.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Signs of the Apocalypse and Desultory Thoughts:

1) Re those new, seemingly ubiquitous Telecom USA-MCI commercials featuring John Stamos: Did every other carbon-based life form turn them down?

In the midst of a bone-crushing recession, why would an established company in a hyper-competitive field hire such a total fucking cipher to endorse their product?

Have you ever wondered what John Stamos thought of something? Once? Ever? Jesus, people, keep it smart.

2) Re the restaurant chain, Hooters: Why not just call it "Beavers" and be done with it?

I need a mocha.

Last week was, literally, the best of times and the worst of times:

My father was about to turn seventy, and all of us--my mom, brother, sister-in-law, assorted aunts, moi--were engaged in preparations for the birthday party that said bro and sis-in-law were generously hosting.

Dad is cranky as hell, but terribly sweet deep down: think Lou Grant from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", but with a Greek accent and a talent for cursing in two languages. Instead of mellowing with age, his capacity for yelling has increased in recent years, and it's both awe-inspiring and exhausting to hear him rail at Seattle's evaporating parking spots, CNN's Aaron Brown, and the fact that--post-Iraq War--Safeway still carries French bread.

That Dad is merely chronically pissed off and not actually bitter is somewhat of a miracle. He was a child in Greece during WW II and Greece's subsequent civil war. He and his family had already been forced from their home by the Nazis when his mother contracted tuberculosis, was quarantined, and died without medical attention because all of the doctors were treating soldiers on the front. His last memory of his mother: the paramedics are dragging her off and she's reaching for him, crying his name. He was six.

So, Dad is entitled to his crankiness. But last year, he had a heart attack--he's doing remarkably well, thank God--and none of us want him to have another one the next time he has to talk to an automated teller.

For his birthday, I decided to make him The Book of Good Things: a giant scrapbook filled with good news from around the world, random funny stuff, and happy memories. For weeks, I compiled articles about Israeli and Palestinian doctors working together; Gorbachev spearheading an international committee to convert the former Iron Curtain into a wildlife preserve; interviews with his faves, Don Rickles and Bill O'Reilly. When laughter and justice appeared in short supply, I wanted him to have a place he could turn and think, "It's not all bad".

Last Monday night, I began pasting everything into the bound leather scrapbook. I started with several pages of family photos (careful to leave out relatives who annoy him) but I did include pix of my brother's two dogs--one recently deceased--and my four rabbits. We're an extremely close family, but we're not sappy in that cloying, Franklin Mint commerative plate kind of way. We simply love our pets.

As my living room became a whirl of double-sided tape and dissected back issues of Vanity Fair, my little brown bunny, Oscar, stopped eating. I stayed up all night, alternately working on Dad's gift and handfeeding Oscar miniature carrots and timothy hay, the latter to no avail.

The details are extremely painful, so I'll cut to the chase: Oscar died while I was working on The Book of Good Things. Amazingly affectionate, gentle, and whimsical, Oscar always made me laugh. If I was petting one of the others, he'd come hopping to be petted, too. He'd lick my hand a certain number of times and then place his head under my hand so that I could groom him, too. He loved Italian parsley, eschewed cilantro, and never whacked his sister, Lulu, when she nipped him in the ass.

I'm reminded again of what I already knew: love can't cure the ill or save the injured and that seems profoundly, preposterously fucked-up.

I also know how all of this sounds: holy mother of God, no dead pet stories in the blog, please. I get it. I loathe cheesiness, too. But I'm reminded of what Henrik Hertzberg wrote in The New Yorker last year re Bono's work to alleviate Third World debt: surely one can't argue that the world is a *worse* place because a rock star raises awareness and millions of dollars to lessen abject poverty. That's how I feel about Oscar, and all pets: you can't say that the world is a worse place because our animals allow us a glimpse of the spiritual and tap into our boundless supply of silliness.

My father's seventieth birthday party was a relaxed, giddy affair and complete fucking fun. Family, old friends, and colleagues travelled to be with all of us and toast Dad on his big day. Dad and his cohorts swapped tales from their years working at the prosecutor's office, the cousins needled each other as only cousins can, and through it all, everyone ate and drank copious amounts. (Some stereotypes are true.)

I love Dad so much and am profoundly grateful he's still here. My family and I are lucky in *so* many ways. But I miss Oscar and can't believe he's gone. For awhile, I guess, that's how it's going to be.

Friday, August 01, 2003

It's Up to You, Sanatorium, Sanatorium:

"One explanation for why writers enjoy hanging around other writers is because writers often instantly forgive one another for being difficult or weird. In this way New York City is, for writers, a kind of literary sanatorium. I mean to imply in that equation some strong theoretical reservations about the sanatorium."

--from Tom Bissell's "Protesting All Fiction Writers!", The Believer, July 2003