Monday, August 31, 2009

What the fuck, humanity?

As if this day hasn't been odd enough--and parts of it have been good, but overall it's been odder than a tech-employed hippie with a decent pair of shoes--two individuals in the past few hours have tried to get me to watch "Two and a Half Men" tonight. (I've attempted it before at their urging and find it a total crapfest.)

Why not just goad me into stepping off the curb five seconds too early and get it over with?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mr. Dunne and Senator Kennedy:

I'm about a million and a half emails and phone calls behind because, as I continue to heal, I've been writing increasingly and, also, seeing sundry individuals in person, which is always nice. As such, I have to hop in the shower and be at a graduation party soon, but it feels strange not mentioning this week's concurrent passings of Dominick Dunne and Senator Ted Kennedy.

Regarding Mr. Dunne, I have a few of his books I bought used years ago and haven't gotten to yet, but I read his Vanity Fair column since its inception and it was often the first piece I turned to when my issue arrived in the mail. He was a damned fine writer and if his work often focused on those whose faucets were 24 carat gold and had caviar served in between tennis sets by a phalanx of servants in starched uniforms who bore names like "Nigel" and "Clive", well, that was his world and you write what you know. I admired his unceasing work as a victim advocate in the wake of the horrific murder of his daughter and, too, that he was able to get (and stay) sober and reinvent himself as a scribe in his fifties. He will be missed.

As for Senator Kennedy, my feelings are a bit more complicated. Unquestionably, he was on the correct side of nearly every major legislative issue of his time and he often lead the charge, particularly regarding health care and civil rights for all Americans and, of course, his early and vociferous support of Barack Obama was hugely advantageous to the latter's campaign. For all of this, I am deeply grateful as a citizen. However, and not to speak ill of one while his family is in mourning, if I were a Kopeckne, I can't say I would have shed a tear this week. Ultimately, in fairness, the line I keep returning to was spoken off the record by a Kennedy colleague years ago in a piece about the senator's complicated and too often tragic personal life, "I wouldn't want Ted Kennedy's nightmares."

Travel safe, gentlemen.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm not a fanatic, but I...

...enjoy "Project Runway" most of the time. Three points in light of last night's episode, though:

  1. Any contestant sporting a fauxhawk should be disqualified immediately and subjected to Chinese water torture by Nina Garcia. Or she could just eviscerate them 'till they cry.
  2. No one, in any context, for the remaining run of the show should be allowed to utter, particularly in a melodramatic tone reminiscent of early talking pictures, "Fashion should be about taking risks." See #1 for suitable punishment.
  3. Would that everyone in their respective fields work with a mentor as knowledgeable, wise, and patient as Tim Gunn.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Best anniversary ever! (As such):

Last Monday, August 17th, marked the 18 year anniversary of when I first developed CFIDS. (Yes, I remember the exact day. The precise moment, actually. asked me to write about it a few years ago and it's here if you're curious:

I'd recently remarked to TJ that most years I spend that day alone and moody and crying--the notable exceptions being '04 through '07 when my life was chock full of deadlines and the symptoms were more moderate--and he decided to preempt such actions this year by throwing a surprise gathering for me at The Elysian. He was unable to send out invites until the Saturday before because, while I'm over the shingles, I'm still much weaker right now and can't as yet plan more than a day or two in advance.

He coordinated with one of my oldest friends, Christy, and sent a missive to my cherished and oft-noted friend, Eric. And while the latter was unable to pitch in to alert my writer friends because, unbeknown to TJ, Eric was in the middle of moving from one state to another, TJ and Christy put together an impressive roster.

Of course, the invitations went out the day before Mom went into the hospital with what seemed to be cardiac arrest. (As noted in my previous entry, it turns out that, mercifully, the problems were comparably minor but still serious. The good news, though, is that Mom is now on Day #11 with no cigarettes and is regarding this near miss as a wake-up call.) I, of course, had no idea a party of sorts was underway. (Nice job, TJ and Christy, putting your poker-faced Teutonic heritage to good use.) And, also, I didn't want to leave the hospital except to sleep. (Mad props to my brother, George, and Thia Elaine for being such stalwarts, too. And Dad handled things as Dad always does, not necessarily recognizing the gravity of the situation, but that worked just fine, as well, and he was a real peach when it counted.)

Sunday night, as I was leaving the hospital a bit past midnight, Mom told me to keep my plans with TJ the following day. I countered that I was postponing them and that no doubt he'd understand. Again, as noted previously, she was completely alert and lucid and wry throughout the evening and in her "Mom" voice, the same one that used to rattle defense attorneys to their core back when she was still a deputy prosecutor, she threatened to kill me if I did not keep said plans. (Again, I didn't know this either, but TJ had invited Mom and Dad and my brother to join everyone, so Mom knew what was afoot.)

On Monday afternoon, TJ and I spent a couple hours at the hospital with Mom and Dad (George had been earlier before heading to work) and the mood remained remarkably light and I think everyone welcomed the banter as a respite from thinking of what might be going on in Mom's chest wall. (At this point, the results were still inconclusive.) Around 5:00 p.m., Mom insisted TJ and I leave and while I was reluctant, I knew Dad was with her and that the situation was essentially under control.

After a really fun and goofy dinner at The Elysian at which it felt great to relax a bit and, you know, eat, I saw TJ's friend, Jeff enter and waved to him. "Jeff's here!" I said, still not catching on, because Jeff and his wife live nearby.

"Keep an eye out for Christy, because she should be here soon," TJ said, smiling and a bit self-congratulatory when he noted the confused look on my face. "Surprise," he said. "I didn't want this anniversary to suck for you, too."

I have had many parties over the years, both epic and spectacle-packed, but no one had ever thrown me a surprise party before. And while a number of my writer friends never received invitations due to the aforementioned (well-intentioned and totally understandable) wire-crossing between TJ and Eric, like I said, TJ and Christy did a damned fine job assembling a super-fun soiree wherein everyone cross-pollinated beautifully and swapped stories new and old.

And while I thanked each attendee the next day, I want to reiterate again here: thank you all, deeply and with the force of a thousand suns, for making a day that would have been grim for a number of reasons, so utterly fucking perfect. Here's to an autumn packed with health and success and giddiness for everyone. And to my large roster of out-of-state friends with whom I talk or email all the time but rarely get to see, maybe I'll be able to travel more in '10. And if not, get your ass(es) on a plane again. Because we'll find something to celebrate, too.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

This feels like one of the longer weeks in recorded human history...

...and while I'm too tired to elucidate and while my postings on Facebook intended to preempt any confusion actually added to it when my cousins' kids in Greece read my updates and the pertinent facts literally got lost in translation, here's the truncated scoop:

I have a living, breathing Mom (again w/ the wood knocking) who has no arterial blockage, does not need angioplasty, did not have a heart attack, and who has quit smoking for good. (One week and counting.) Mom is brilliant intellectually and I am in no way trying to infantilize her when I say she understands rationally and emotionally that this was a close call and all of us feel profoundly lucky and grateful that, in the scheme of things, the news isn't high-five-awesome! but is still quite good.

As I told her and my aunt, I want them around to drive us crazy as long as possible. :) (I never use emoticons here, but in this context, it's necessary or god knows what story will traverse the continents.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Brief film musings before Mad Men season #3 premieres tonight:

One of the best parts about living in my neighborhood is residing within 15 minutes (max) of six movie theaters. For a film lover like myself, I sometimes can't believe how lucky I am. So all I need is a minimum amount of energy to catch a flick and now that I am a wee bit ambulatory, I've seen three in the past two weeks.

A summation:

  • Among those who know me, there is a misconception that my film tastes skew solely toward the dark, which is untrue. It's just that so many ostensibly "uplifting" and "stand up and cheer!" scripts are such unfettered drek, that not only do I not feel uplifted or like standing up and cheering, I actually want to locate the studio exec who greenlit the project and hurl Molotov cocktails at his or her Escalade. However, I saw The Proposal because the reviews were fairly strong and Sandra Bullock is one of my favorite actresses. (Much like James Garner or Cary Grant, she makes it look easy, which, if you know anything about acting, is incredibly hard.) Also, and while this has no bearing on her work as an artist, she has always struck me as a class act who is both generous and aware of how fortunate she is. And you know what? The Proposal was not the most enlightening 100 minutes of my life, but Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, perhaps because of their real life friendship, have genuine chemistry and while even a single-cell organism could deduce they'd pair off in the end, I enjoyed watching them get there. Bonus points, too, that at no juncture does anyone allude to the fact Bullock is almost a decade older than Reynolds. I.e. it is a non-issue, just like it is for dudes on and offscreen. Also, holy hell, I wanted each and every piece of her gorgeously sophisticated wardrobe, particularly the ash gray wool crepe Alexander McQueen dress she dons for the party scene.
  • I saw Julie and Julia with six of the women in my family (it's been a topsy-turvy and often chaotic summer for everyone, so this was the first time all of us had been in the same room since Easter) and found both the feature and the afternoon delightful. Meryl Streep, of course, is perfection, Nora Ephron is at the top of her game, and Amy Adams, whose portion of the film is almost uniformly getting referred to as weaker, is getting a bum rap. She is wholly believable as a writer (admittedly, this might have something to do with why I found her storyline compelling) and she works at a Lower Manhattan rebuilding agency in 2002 for chrissakes, so of course her scenes aren't usually as ebullient as Streep's in Paris because, if one will recall, Lower Manhattan in 2002 was one of the most depressing places on earth. I've now seen Adams in Doubt, Sunshine Cleaners, and Julie and Julia and found her superb in all three.
  • The Hangover, while somewhat uneven, was a ridiculously fun antidote to the weakness I was experiencing that day. Bradley Cooper and his stubble should be cast in everything all the time, Ed Helms, as usual, is reflexively hilarious, and whenever Zach Galifianakis said anything, I was that person in the theater laughing so hard that other patrons turned to see who the hell the bozo was and if she was high or developmentally disabled. (For the record: neither.) Favorite lines of the summer so far: when Galifianakis gets jumped by the naked Asian man and tells him, "I'm on your side! I hate Godzilla, too!" and when Cooper, Helms, and Galifianakis are carrying the baby outside the hotel and the latter says, "There was Ted Danson, Magnum P.I., and that Jewish actor." Absolutely no one but me laughed at this one and as such, I feel the rest of the audience owes comedy a heartfelt apology and a promise never to be so thoughtless and stupid again.
Okay, almost time for Jon Hamm and the consistently outstanding show built around his singularly chiseled visage and Superman blue black hair.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

And to the couple who decided to reenact Barfly last night at 4:30 a.m. outside my bedroom window:

You are not Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway. Your dialogue ("FUCK YOU!" "NO, YOU ASSHOLE, FUCK YOU!") was not written by Charles Bukowski. There is nothing particularly singular about your pain or your drunkenness. If nothing else, the former is sadly commonplace and the latter, pretty banal to anyone over the age of, say, 25.

Either learn to handle your liquor, seek treatment, or take your performance inside, you lame-ass, thoughtless fucks.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Like Wonder Woman in sky blue Converse All Stars:

I'm not superstitious by nature, but all of us have our idiosyncrasies. (Obama shot hoops the morning of each primary or caucus, believing it lucky and joked he lost New Hampshire's primary because he skipped said ritual that day.) So there is a part of me that is hugely reluctant to commit this to print for fear of jinxing things and waking up with, say, bubonic plague or ebola. But here goes:

  • At this very moment, I do not have a fever.
  • I was able to attend an arts event last night for the first time since Memorial Day weekend, i.e. the onset of shingles.
  • For most of the past three weeks, I've used my cane instead of forearm crutches.
  • While I was in a whole lot of pain today and, to borrow Carrie Fisher's line, felt like I slept under an elephant's foot, and, also, was unable to leave the house until 5:00 p.m., I still walked from my place to Denny Ave (stopping several times, but hey) and on the return loop grocery shopped at QFC.
  • On the way home, I was able to carry a light bag of groceries on my "bad" side, i.e. the shingled one.
  • For the past three weeks, I've been able to do all my own grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, and have whisked away my own garbage and recycling.
I'm completely aware that in many ways, all of this sounds like I'm a budding adolescent or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, an aging and decaying old lady, but trust me: under recent circumstances, it is huge. Huge. And just as importantly, if not more so, last month I wrote my piece for Nerve, resumed writing here, and honed in on the novel again. It's too soon to take on other deadlines--the only reason I was able to tackle the Nerve feature was because my parents and TJ did every other single thing for me, like servants but without the quaint living quarters--and I know my immune system still needs much more time to heal. (And, of course, I know that's a relative term.) But after spending most of the summer as a virtual invalid (I haven't even addressed the Percocet toxicity and uncontrollable vomiting), this is, shall we say, nicer.

Fingers crossed, wood knocked, salt tossed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's not a state secret that I've...

...had CFIDS (in many ways akin to MS) for the past 18 years and while I've published dozens of pieces for superb magazines and journals and am continuing to carve my first novel, I have long periods in which I'm nearly immobilized. I would be in public housing if not for the unwavering love and generosity of my family. And, of course, not everyone is so fortunate. No one in the greatest country on earth should have to risk losing everything because a few cells refuse to cooperate.

With regards to healthcare and insurance reform, most of us, particularly the president, knew this would be complex and arduous and, unquestionably, there are legitimate points of disagreement. What's disturbing and bizarre, though, is that there are scurrilous, racist fucks who oppose the president's plan with a vitriol rarely seen outside of combat units and prison yards. What's even more perverse is that they seem mostly lower-income and spottily educated, i.e. those without access to high quality, affordable health insurance and the group most likely to benefit from Obama's overhaul. Strange, but if history has taught us anything, it is unsurprising that some can hate so vehemently even when it is counter to their own self-interest and the safety of their families.

The White House just established a comprehensive web site unravelling fact from fiction as it applies to the myriad aspects of the president's proposed legislation. Wherever you stand on the issues, I suggest you give it a look:

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

At least it's not smack and, so far, I'm sober:

I've smoked maybe a dozen cigarettes in my life in totem, all of them in the summer of 1985 when my brother and I were wandering around London, Paris, and sundry parts of Greece. And largely because we were 18 and 16 respectively and wandering around London, Paris, and Greece. (Mom and Dad were on certain legs of the trip, but my brother and I were often a duo and it was spectacular for scads of reasons.)

Lately, however, and seemingly out of nowhere, I have been craving smokes recurringly. It could be a bizarre systemic reaction to my post-shingles recovery period, but mostly I think it's the stress of resuming sustained work on the novel. And how much of a writer cliche is that?

I'm not going to cave, obviously, particularly that, given the parameters of my compromised immunity, I'd last about a week and a half before my body cavity simply imploded. But I live roughly 50 yards from a temptation-laden convenience store and we have many rivers to cross until the final draft is complete.

So, I guess I'll be chewing through pencils (gross) or, more likely, start purchasing Juicy Fruit in bulk. And if anyone wants to make an oral sex joke, feel free, because you know I probably would if we were discussing you.

It's always something:

First off, well done, President Clinton. That was old school. And viewing the photos of Clinton and Al Gore hugging this morning on the New York Times' site (Gore employed the captured journalists) made me kind of teary.

Secondly, some people, apparently, just like to gripe: I've already read headlines saying Bill should do something "useful" instead, like run for mayor of New York City (what the hell, Daily Beast?) and the Huffington Post accused him of "upstaging" Hillary.

He just freed two U.S. journalists from a 12 year hard labor sentence in North Korea. And yes, obviously, many at the State Department, including Secretary Clinton, of course, played a crucial role in this minefield act of diplomacy. And I criticized President Clinton plenty during last year's primaries. But for fuck's sake, could certain folks climb off his ass for, like, a day and give credit where it is due?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I become amused when...

...a segment of atheists stake their position as adamantly as theists often do, as if they alone know with certainty as to lack of an omniscient deity.

At varying points in my life I have been a believer, an agnostic, and an atheist and for our purposes here, I'm not going to state what I currently embrace or why. (And, for the record, I have loved ones whose spiritual views run the entire gamut and back again.)

This seems axiomatic, but if history has taught us anything, it's that religion and spirituality and/or the lack thereof boil down to an educated guess. So I will never understand the vitriol on either side. Might as well argue about the superiority of yam fries versus onion rings. It's equally as objective and makes about as much sense.

Monday, August 03, 2009

I've written extensively about Henry Louis Gates on Facebook...

...but I'd like to add a few things here:

  • About three years ago, Vanity Fair referred to the esteeemed Margaret Atwood as a "female novelist" and it took every ounce of self-control I had not to upend the magazine stands at the downtown Barnes and Noble, where I happened to encounter the absurd and offending phrase. She's a novelist. Period. In their lengthy and distinguished careers, I'll guarantee you no one described Kurt Vonnegut or Norman Mailer as "male novelists". Along these same lines, I find it infuriating each time Gates is referred to as some variation of a "preeminent African-American intellectual." Gates is one of America's finest and most prominent public intellectuals and, like Atwood, requires no qualifier.

  • In a nutshell, if Henry Louis Gates had been Bill Gates, the arrest never would have taken place.

  • I thought Obama's beer summit was a fine idea and history would be soaked in far less blood if leaders at least attempted something analogous to this first.

  • It's worth mentioning that I can't know for a second what it's like to be a person of color, but I can empathize and extrapolate. However, in no way am I trying to appropriate anyone's cultural identities or maelstroms.

  • This last point is wholly unrelated to Gates or any of the above topics, but more so than anything today, I miss my grandparents so deeply I can feel it in my bones. While it changes and, in some cases, lessens over time, all adults come to know that loss will always remain loss.