Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Heart Like a Wheel, II

Someone out there seems to be rather amused by my romantic antics, so I thought I'd do a sequel to one of my very first postings.

More ex-bfs and other close encounters:

An acting teacher, cute in a goofy boyish way, but too Jerry Lewis to be sexy. Too rabbity. I had the murmurings of a crush, which were nearly stilled the day I saw his red Porsche in the parking lot outside the black box theater. I confess it, I'm a reverse car snob. If you positively must own an ostentatious automobile, you have to be able to wear it well. He was bright, funny, neurotic, affable, confident, a chain-smoker and very long-legged. I was completely shocked to feel the hairpiece sewn into his crown, and completely able to mask my surprise. Somehow I thought he was duty bound to prepare me for it - like if I were Heather Mills, but you didn't know who Heather Mills was, I would definitely tell you I had a detachable leg before any clothing hit the floor. I forgave his vanity because he was nice and and I'm long-suffering, until he started hurting me out of sheer clumsiness. He was cumbersome in bed, precisely the place where one should avoid avoidable pain. That was easy to say no to.

A skater-boy from Palos Verdes, who studied classics at Brown, smoked too much pot, and had his right arm in a cast nearly the entire time we dated. I was completely infatuated with him. He had a face like an angel. full red mouth, big almond shaped blue eyes with long lashes, and brown soft waves of hair over his tender face. Two years before, he had a fling with my former roommate, and was subsequently stalked by her in rather frightening, if artistic, ways. She and I were never very close, and had mostly fallen out of touch. I also had scant knowledge of their relationship until he and I were already together. Nonetheless, she caught the scent in the air - really he told her out of some misguided sense of honor - and started stirring up trouble right away. I don't know if that's the reason he dumped me, or if it really was that convoluted explanation about his drunken parents and the harm his unsettled emotional life could do me. Whatever the case, though we'd never made love, I was completely devastated and came inches from stalking him myself. The grief was huge, and whether it was augmented by the end of school or not, I often was awakened by my nocturnal dolor. I literally cried in my sleep for months.

Or how about J. Wellerstein - hyperactive and hilarious art crowd figure. Immensely talented, his graphic murals adorned the back stairwell of the List Art Center (it was permissible to graffiti there), and he was in a band, Slow Children, like the yellow street sign near school yards. He was about the most fun you could have on a Saturday night, and we raced around together in a manner that was more like two comically sparring dudes than boy meets girl. We remained friends even after our parting. One late balmy spring night, in my junior year, we lay on our backs under an immense old campus tree by the Sarah Doyle house and talked while he tripped his brains out on mushrooms. I was stone sober, but thoroughly entertained and participating in his musings. As he looked up at the sky obstructed by branches and trunk, he observed, "Now I know how my pet iguana feels when I lower a piece of broccoli into his cage."

A NYC upper-east side rich boy, and best friend of a Von Furstenberg, who in college pursued me for two and a half years. I was immediately attracted to this (previously unmentioned and not to be confused with the other) Adam. But almost as fast, I smelled a rat. He was gorgeous, dark, smokey, and stylish. Barney's was his highboy. Smooth skin, smooth clothes, smooth affect, there was no question he made me swoon, but I put up a resistance that would have made Henri Frenay proud. Fall of senior year we were in a class together. Each time he sat with me, walked me to the main green afterwards, and held me in conversation for at least an hour. Over the weeks, I learned of his father's death, the importance of his relationship to his brother, and the Canaanite origin of his last name. Once he got sick, so I took him Theraflu, ginger ale, and some silly dime store toy. After about a month he asked me to dinner, and I finally took the bait. He picked me up on his 60s BMW motorcycle, and we ate angel hair pasta at Adesso's. I guess you could say I was too easily seduced that night, but it had been an epic courtship, after all. I slipped out with a kiss early in the morning, mostly because something was triggering my allergies, and I feared facing him with rapidly swelling eyes. It should have been a sign; my body felt dread. Two days later, Adam's friend Stephan invited both of us to party deep in the locked-jaw of Greenwich, thrown by his father, H de K, aviation millionaire, owner of the Calumet Farm (polo ponies), and inspiration for Jeffery Archer's book and miniseries, Kane & Abel. Adam told me he was going to the Apple, but would meet me there. The Connecticut estate was immense, had several buildings (someone whispered that there was a separate guest house for each of the children), and the party was held in the massive ruin of an old stone barn. The windows were out and the roof had long since weathered away. Dining tables and a dance floor were set up inside the structure, which was lit with what seemed thousands of white candles nestled into and dripping over every nook and crevice in the stone walls. There were armloads of flowers, an incredible supper, Pimms Cup, an African percussive group and dancers, and Tatiana von F flitting about in a black velvet cape. The whole scene was pure magic. But where was Adam? He had seemed nervous and aloof earlier in the evening. Then he finally pulled me aside and quickly explained to me that while he was in New York, he had been invited to our classmate's mother's show at Carnegie Hall. While he was backstage, Diana Ross' daughter expressed her long-standing crush, and so you see, he was now going to be her boyfriend. So that was why I had seen Tracee dragging him across the lawn to the dance floor earlier. I was in shock, but mustered no argument. What could I do? Not only had I been completely outclassed, I had failed to listen to the continuous larum of my instinct. Who can compete with the child of a pop icon when the booty is a superficial social climbing cad? Still, it was astonishing to have been the object of such an enduring conquest, only to be dropped like last night's coat check chit. I had mistaken the lifespan of his affections and his unwillingness to accept my refusals, as an indication of sincerity. So, she got him, and dragged him all around campus for the rest of the year. It seemed like every time I saw them, she was leading him by the hand somewhere or another. Oddly, when I ran into him, he often engaged me with this earnest and wistful look on his face. Usually she was somewhere near by, and as soon as she spotted him talking to me, the hand would reach over like Stretch Armstrong, and drag him away. Even at a graduation dance, he pulled me aside to convey some remorse over... what? He had a lot of nerve. I can only assume he was sorry, but I really think part of him regretted his choice. When the hand showed up this time and pulled him thither, he actually grasped mine and held on. There we three were, Adam in the middle, pulled like Silly Putty, and not letting go of me. But I wasn't trying to drag him back to me, so he gave me his last 'meaningful' look, let go, and she pulled him until they were swallowed up in the dancing crowd. After college was over, I once saw him on last page of Vogue, seated with atleast one other alum. They'd had their picture taken for eating in the right Manhattan brasserie. Balthasar's, I think it was. A while later he married the daughter of one of the ten richest men in America. He almost immediately cheated on her with her best friend and that year's "It Girl," so designated by Page Six and the society mavens. They too married and now have at least one child.

Sophomore year there was a very cute former child actor and friend of J. Wellerstein, who had dated the aforementioned Tatiana, and who allegedly obsessed about me from afar. As usual, I had no idea of it until my roommates boyfriend, Josh, who was also Scott's "big brother," leaked the deep dark secret. Though to my knowledge, we'd never rubbed two words together, I'm told he got quite emotional about the whole ordeal, and a late drunken night vandalized the Sigma Chi hallway outside his room with my name and some avowal of his affections. Well, I'm just the kind of girl whose ego gets seized with adulation, so soon after a date was arranged. I mean, he really was darling. But that was about the extent of it. We had a date, kissed awhile, kept our clothes on and fell asleep, and never went out again. I guess I broke that spell pretty quickly. Within a month he was in a comitted relationship with a very sweet younger co-ed who looked like his sister. My favorite story about him includes Wellerstein and his sidekick (and one of my favorite people at school), Ed Diaz. Ed was this tall, lumbering, long-haired half-indian looking fellow who, though mostly silent, would occaisionally say the funniest things. He always seemed always to wear a half-smile on his face, and we got on very well. Anyway, one night the three of them were in Scott's room as the young actor described his conquest of the night before. Josh's room shared what were very thin walls, so he heard the entire description of Scott's belabored sexual explorations. Ed, who was growing tired of waiting for the punchline, finally blurted impatiently, "Why didn't you just fuck her, man?"

In Prague, I was pursued by a fairly well-known actor, who is sort-of a Paul Newman knock-off - not quite so arrestingly handsome, and a small fraction of the career. He was assuredly male in that way that makes my heart buckle, but I managed to stave off his advances for weeks. Until the night after the wrap party. I had left the late-night festivities in Matt D's suite and secured myself a solo ride on the elevator back to my hotel room. Unfortunately, in a 4:30 am blur, I hit the wrong floor, and had to ride the lift up once more to another wrong floor. I was at the mercy of the call button, pushed by none other than the russety actor who had draped himself over my shoulder for the last two hours. He smiled at me like he'd just found a well-padded wallet, an old friend, and a cask of good scotch, all at the same time. Following me back to my room, he insisted that all he wanted was to curl up beside me; there would be no sex. I had my doubts this would play out innocently, given the voluptuousness of his previous come-ons (he had a fixation on my hips, which he expressed with unnervingly winsome poetics), and his earlier insistence that we go break into the pool together. But he was about the most charming suitor I had met in ages, so I slipped the card in the lock and let him in. Once in bed, he wrapped his arms around me, but decided that he absolutely would not let me sleep unless he could hold me naked. There was quite a long and not unplayful argument surrounding the issue. I really did not want to have sex with him, even if he was impossibly handsome. I was in all sorts of emotional turmoil from the horrendous work situation I was in there, and the last thing I needed was to feel like some sort of star-fucking groupie loser. But he plied me and he reassured me that no further harm would befall me beyond the injury of his bare skin against mine, and that seemed like pure heaven to me. So the clothes came off, and he was as good as his word, "I just want to hold you." He nestled his face into the nape of my neck, stroked my limbs, and held me close. And then we slept, for maybe seven hours. In the morning he left, and I felt sad. But he came back, bringing me bottled water from his room and we stayed in bed for a while longer. He kissed my face and smoothed my hair, and was gone. I learned something about men that night, something I'd always felt, something most people don't want to admit: you aren't so different from us, sometimes you just want some tenderness. It was a perfect night.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I was reminded Sunday night of the reasons I fell for Henry. For quite some time there has been no attraction, even of that kind which naturally draws you in to a friend. Just a sort of dull but respectful neutrality. I have no wish to resume anything physically intimate; it's clear to me now why it would never work between us - those things were apparent too. But seeing again in him what was warming is a very lovely feeling.

Monday, May 29, 2006

What Got Tested in Me Tonight Most Seriously

If you cannot see
the God in all,
you cannot see
God at all.

-Yogi Bhajan

It's funny I should have posted what I posted yesterday, about being careful with people and making amends. Tonight I was confronted with the wrath of someone in my social circle who thought I was mistreating him. He thought I was talking smack about him, and I was not. Ironically, of all the times we've been in conflict (and he's a person about whom it is very difficult to remain neutral), of all the times I've fest annoyed, tonight was not one of them. In fact, the last several times I've seen him, I have not felt any animosity toward him.

Nonetheless, because he had this misunderstanding, he waged a kind of abuse against me I have rarely seen. It was amazing. There was sheer hatred in his face.

I moved myself away from this person (who was never more than a friend), quite awhile ago because I thought it was the healthiest thing for both of us. I can't take his negativity. I wish I had some magic key, or the excellence of disposition to be the source of healing he so desperately needs. This is a very intelligent and physically beautiful and spirited human. But he claws at most everyone he gets close to. I don't know how to be continuously loving and open to someone who is repeatedly and intentionally hurtful. I wish the best for him. I hope he learns to love himself enough to be trusting and trustworthy. I hope he develops the confidence to know that he can be loved for what he truly is on the inside - a very hurt little boy. He has managed to pull to him a lot of nice people. He should stop fighting them, and then he might start to feel what he really wants and needs in his life - love and affection.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Drown 'Em Like Unwanted Puppies

Recently I worried I had offended someone for whom I have great fondness and high esteem. I had made some lameass joke, she looked quizzical, then slightly distressed, then she frowned. What I said, when stretched, could have taken the grotesque form of condescension or derision. So I wrote her a quick email, apologizing for a possibility, and she, of course, wrote,

"I can't for the life of me remember what you could have said to have offended me. All i remember is thinking that you looked
lovely and was excited that you had a painting studio and were writing."

When I refreshed her memory, illustrating the moment when she had worn that pained look, she replied,

"Yes, i think i was trying to figure out if you were joking or not, probably started down the road of "uh-oh, am i stupid for
not getting this?" that's probably what you were reacting to--isn't it interesting that it's almost always about the other guy's
issues and not about us? i get slammed by that all the time. IT'S THE CURSE OF THOSE OF US WHO ARE INCREDIBLY
SENSITIVE!! But then again, we make good art."

You see how pathetically self-censuring I am? Ridiculous. Much ado about nothing. In this vein I replied:

"those of us who are incredibly sensitive" should probably be taken out and shot. maybe we're the source of the world's confusion and woe. dispense of us, and who's left to complain?"

and whine and worry. Of course, I think it's better to be careful with people and apologize for any wrong. Mitigate any harms. But I should probably have more confidence in myself and know that I am good to people to begin with.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Friday, May 26, 2006

Every Time You Propagandate...

God Kills a Kitten.

(you remember this, don't you?)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

In His Chosen Field

Someone asked a neighbor friend of mine to give their resume a once over. Notice anything funny?

Find it yet? I can see the interview going something like this: "It says here most recently you were some sort of superhero..?"

It always helps to know your abbreviations. But the funniest part was watching my friend dissolve in hysterical laughter after he showed it to me. He was crying as he tried to get out the question, "Should I tell him?"

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

(who seems a bit like someone slipping away...)

To a Friend

I ask but one thing of you, only one,
That always you will be my dream of you;
That never shall I wake to find untrue
All this I have believed and rested on,
Forever vanished, like a vision gone
Out into the night. Alas, how few
There are who strike in us a chord we knew
Existed, but so seldom heard its tone
We tremble at the half-forgotten sound.
The world is full of rude awakenings
And heaven-born castles shattered to the ground,
Yet still our human longing vainly clings
To a belief in beauty through all wrongs.
O stay your hand, and leave my heart its songs!

- Amy Lowell (1912)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

From the City of New Orleans

This first letter from RPP in NO:

"I love traveling to places I don’t know anyone.
Somehow I become the listener as opposed to my regular
role, the talker. Oh boy did I hear stories. The tall,
short, black, white, fat, skinny, old, and young were
all out tonight. Those that look jazz, blues, soul,
rock, punk, and reggae were all out tonight. White
boys with long hair pulled back in pony’s, dressed in
stone wash jeans and t-shirts, and black men in
overalls using canes for assistance were all out
tonight. The most eclectic mix of people under one
roof I have ever seen (and I have been under a lot of
roofs) were all out tonight. I was offered a ride
home, a drink, drugs, friendship for life, and a night
out on the town. I said yes to all of the above. I was
told where the best burrito is despite being from
Cali. The bartender hugged me, my ride home hugged me,
and the guy sitting next to me hugged me. I became
friendly with Janessa and Hot Boy. Hot Boy is her
friend, landlord, and lawyer. Janessa says he is a get
out of jail free card if I ever get in trouble. His
dogs have permission to smell her crotch (it’s part of
the lease). The other day they sniffed her booty and
she remarked that it is not on the lease and she is
withholding 100 dollars this month. I will get a bike
tomorrow head to orientation and work, and most likely
get a hug. I love New Orleans. The people here got

A Sendoff to New Orleans

Friday night we threw a benefit party to help RPP with the costs of going to New Orleans to volunteer nurse on her week long break from school (she is an RN, but studying to become a Nurse Practioner). The surplus money is being donated to the grass roots clinic in the 9th ward where she is working this week, Common Ground.

We had a live band comprised of neighbors, including a twelve year old drummer, which would have made it fabulous even if they hadn't been good. But they were good, and they kept the music relevant to RPP's destination. I made a chandelier out of a hulahoop and christmas lights and hung it outside where the music played. We had a raffle with prizes of cd packs, dvd packs, gift certificates, a massive bottle of beer, artwork by friends, and we had a kissing booth. Rima and I prostituted ourselves for charity, which someone later pointed out should really be called "non-profitution." We had great food and drinks. Fresh citrus lemon drops with citrus from my friend's sisters organic ranch, screwdrivers with the juice from our tangerine tree (amazing), sangria with papaya and mango, and some crazy person brought absinthe. Totally lethal. The people who drank that particular anisette were out of their fool minds - apparently it can turn a gay man straight, I saw it happen.

The dogs were perfect, wandering about, amusing the guests, not biting anyone. Duff stood at the edge of the driveway at times and surveyed the scene. At other moments he took his usual stance - passed out on the dance floor.

We had over a hundred people here and raised a little more than seven hundred dollars. So that felt good.

And we had a cake I made for that crazy girl I call my roommate -

The last guest left at 4:30, a bane to the neighbors I suppose, but all were invited and most of them came. I love my neighborhood.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

My Letter of Apology

It starts in a service station bathroom beside the comfort of a Kansas cornfield. The sizable room is wild with wet summer evening heat and impatience. I am nine and dizzy with fear and the walls are rolling. I'm not even sure I can hear what she's screaming anymore and though the room is crowded, I don't feel the other women are there. Like the moment right before the moment when the book finally closes your eyes to sleep, my vision is alternately blurry and sharply focused and who knows how it draws in and out. When I can see, I see her eyes and how she isn't really all there, the one I know, and I wonder who this is in the room with me after all. And I wonder how I could spin the tape backwards, since spinning is the way things are moving, and if I could just get back in time fifteen minutes when I left the car without my tennis shoes, I would. Because it really wasn't worth all this trouble, just to have the pure joy of running through a Kansas cornfield barefooted and being held with the warm and open hand of a midsummer Kansas night's sky, even though she said not to. Even though no one had ever been able to keep shoes on me my whole long life, not even for my aunt's wedding, when I was three and a stubborn flower girl who wanted her feet touching the ground. Where is my aunt right now but in the station wagon with the cousins and not helping me at all right now. What must all these strange ladies be thinking right now, here in this madhouse room with the walls gone wavy and smelling of wet concrete and the unstable floor and the rattle and hum of the hand-dryer that sounds like my new headache. And me crying so hard I'm hiccupping and unable to stop the convulsions even though she keeps yelling at me to stop, and shaking me to stop. What are they thinking, these strange ladies grooming their hair and daubing the sweat under their arms and applying coral lipsticks and frosted pink lipsticks and the strangest one of all is the one in front of me and maybe if she'd just keep her hands off me I could breathe and then my eyes would clear like that perfect evening sky outside and then I could see a thing or two and tell you if the woman standing in front of me is actually my mother.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Boy Falling Out of the Sky

From the poem inspired by this painting came the name of Ken Dornstein's book, which I finally finished last night. His brother, David, really seemed unconsciously to know how he was going to die. Ken doesn't state this as fact, but if you read the story the notion's difficult to ignore.

In some spiritual traditions, it seems stranger not to know the how, why and when of our death. If we live in a state of connection to our spirit, we will just "know." This is not a reality in my personal awareness, but I do feel pretty certain I will live to a ripe old age, like it or not.

(Pieter Brueghel, The Fall of Icarus, c. 1558)

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

-W.H. Auden, 1938

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Putting an End to It

Scott, who swears he wants to die being eaten by sharks, but only to amuse his friends, writes this to me:

"That's it. I am moving to Florida!"

Here's why.

I replied:

"they aren't sharks dum-dum. don't go revising the dream. next you'll want to swap the heroin in our drug pact for twilight sleep. our joint suicide will become bungee jumping. where does the mediocrity end? accept no substitutes. eat no artificial sweetners."

Wise up, Buddy.

99 Problems

Did I say I wouldn't write about the dogs anymore..?

This is Levi, who never liked toys for anything but for the shredding, until he moved in with that big P to the Y, D to the Y. That's right, he's copying Duffy.

RPP and I were talking about Levi the other day, because lately he has been acting a little strange. Well, he's always a little odd, but frequently he just stares at the wall, or gets confused about which room to enter when you call him. Yesterday I found him in that Sphinx posture dogs assume, face in and under the white chair we have in the bathroom. He doesn't hang out in there.

Levi has Cushing's Syndrome (which makes him nervous), poor hips, probably failing eyesight, tarter, occasional temper flares, Phattynomas, yo, and a strange growth and the back of his head. RPP suggested that maybe Levi's developing Alzheimers.

"Levi's got enough problems," I said.

"But a Bitch ain't one," she said.

Levi would like to point out that while Duff got organic grass fed free-range (well, not anymore), Bison bones for his birthday (which he shared, btw), Levi got a lap dance and a beer:

Thank you, Rima.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


In response to my mother's day post, my brother wrote:

"I loved the picture of Dad and (your mother). I had forgotten about Dad's channeling-Tim-Leary phase (a neat trick considering Leary was alive at that point)

Of course, he ended up looking more like Dan Rowan. I remember when hippies first started appearing around Portland how interested Dad was in them (of course the free love aspect probably drew him as much as anything). He took us once to the Duck Soup Cinema, which was the alternative hippie film theater, to see "You Are What You Eat," a film starring Tiny Tim
which was typical sixties melange of druggie clips and non sequiturs. I went to the theater in my Cub Scout outfit and felt tremendously out of place.

The amazing thing in the picture is how normally everyone else is dressed. I am trying to recollect who any of the people are - has your mom ever told you? To continue the Holly Golightly references, that was one of Dad's nicknames for my Mom, and I don't think it was supposed to be meant in a nice way."

I'll have to ask him how that could be an insult (most ladies wouldn't balk at the glamor, I imagine) - either he meant she was seemingly superficial, or he was calling her a prostitute.

An response to the "Frank Mills" lyrics, he wrote:

"This song has interesting connection for me. They were filming location shots for the Milos Forman version of Hair in Central Park one Saturday (in 1978, I thnk) and put out a call for people to put on their 60s gear (which at that point still fit) and come on out. I did just that, wandered around a bit, and found myself in the filming of the "Frank Mills" sequence. The singer was walking through a meadow and I actually brought up some rocks to her as a present. Sadly, the song did not make the final cut of the movie, so my only chance at screen time was lost forever. Hmmm...I wonder if the DVD version has missing sequences?"

It's a good thing my brother's sending me good blog fodder, because clearly I've hit a dry spell!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Happy Birthday, Duff!

Today is the Monster's birthday!!

(This post will probably annoy you if you don't care for dogs, but my brother asked for pictures.)

Duff is now eight.
He is one of the smartest dogs I've known, nonetheless, he has:

- Eaten half a tennis ball. surgery to relieve his impacted intestines = $1600.

- Attacked the hapless rattler. covered that here.

- Stung by a scorpion (sort of his shamanistic initiation part 2, one being the snake).

- Broken out my bedroom window five times trying to get at squirrels, the neighborhood terror, foolishly named "Buddha," and who knows what else. The third time he sliced open a vein in his front right paw. The house looked like the Manson Murders, as he ran from my bedroom and hurled himself against the plate glass in the front door (something he does when he doesn't want someone coming in. Maybe he averted a break in), then into the kitched, etc. My pillows and bedding were soaked. There was blood on the walls, in pools on the hardwood floors, and smearing the aforementioned glass. I wised up (after $300 vet bill), and installed plexiglass. It looks a little trashy, but he's not hurt himself the last two times he's broken it. Fortunately we've gone two years without further incident. My toes are crossed.

- Been attacked at least four times by other males who weren't happy to find the Duff large and "intact." They started it, I promise, but he finished it. A prticulary bad one was with Buddha, who has bitten two neighbors and kept a guy trapped in his house up over the hill. My secret nickname for that dog is "Namaste Motherfucker!" Another was a golden retriever who became jealous when his master tried to pet Duff. "Louis," sorry to say, lost a square cm chunk of his ear. It lay like a scrap on the sidewalk, feathers still attached. The owners weren't pleased. They tried to get me to pay, but "my dog didn't aggress," I said. "But our dog got hurt," they whined. I genuinely felt badly, but that ain't the law and I don't have much extra cash to give to affluent Hollywood Hills couples who don't carefully tend to their animals. I guess they couldn't get the Acura detailed for the following two months. I called my boy "Mike Tyson," for awhile after that.

- He has a couple of holes from the bitches, too. He didn't fight back in those cases, but there is a permanent divit in the left side of his snout from Sadie, the irascible Aussie.

- Despite the existing evidence, is beloved in the neighborhood, but canines and humans alike. He has two local nicknames, "Warren Beatty," because the ladies love him, and "Luggage Head," because my sportswriter friend says his head's so big you could pack it for a trip.

- This moose loves little dogs and puppies, and will groom them. He really is a good natured sort, and will let any friendly and playful dog dominate him, particularly little ones. Shares his food.

- Is generally quite mellow, except that he has become an unrelenting pain in the ass in the mornings, ever since RPP moved in and takes him hiking most every day. If she moves her little toe at 7 am, he bursts out through my bedroom door to find her.

- Gets all the table scraps, but won't eat any vegetables excepting the potato, or corn if it's in something.
- Dislikes chicken unless it's smothered in sauce. This worries me about chicken.

- Will not step on any sort of metal grate or manhole or elevator cover in the street or sidewalk. Cannot be dragged across it.

- When scolded, will drop to his side in pseudo-submission, but invariably his leg will pop open, asking to have his belly rubbed. It's complete insubordination.

- Gets a hard-on in the car. Every time. Don't know why.

- Despite the fact that he will follow me from room to room in the house, cannot hear or recognize me at the park

- Loves his toys to the point that I think he might actually mistake them for living creatures. Kitty, who has been around from the start, is number one.
Purple hippo and Hedgehog vie for second. One of the three is generally brought to bed in the evenings. He will sometimes inexplicably whimper over them, like his heart hurts. He also more rarely tries to shake the stuffings out of them, but mostly he cuddles and grooms them. It reminds me of former Fearsome Foursomer (say that five times fast!), Rosie Grier singing "It's Alright to Cry" in the 70s.

- Is well behaved and unterritorial at parties.
Mostly, he'll find a spot and crash. Sometimes it's in the middle of the dance floor.

- He loves Levi, right down to his nubbin.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

In My Mother's Day

Just look at you, Momma, all Holly Golightly in your neo-classical Halston dress, Vidal S. cut, and slender arms. Dad's looking a little overstyled to suit me, but then your husband was never your ultimate accessory. Still, you made a rather handsome couple, and you certainly left Wichita behind, which was always your aim.

Even if being from the midwest was truly such an onus, you did have a rather sharp-dressed and pretty mother. At least she was back when this photo was taken, back when they called you 'Cissy.' She's not so delicate, but she always reminds me a bit of Vivien Leigh. Just sturdier.

I love you, Mom, and for a lot better things than your good fashion sense.

Ride the Snake

Though it would seem to be another invocation of Sam Jackson, really I'm recalling a Mother's Day three years ago, when I took my 100 lb. labrador retriever on a hike in Griffith Park. Two-thirds of the way up to the Hollywood sign, my accident prone dog (though he's one of the healthiest beasts I've known), decided to embark on his first shamanistic rite of passage. I don't know if he was channeling the Lizard King because of all the time spent in Jim Morrison's "little Hollywood bungalow" across the street (now inhabited by my good friend and neighbor Joe), or if it was just the usual tendency to hunt that overtook him. Whatever the case, Duffy ran to the edge of the road and trounced a patch of tall grass, which elicited screams of "Snake! Snake!" from my friend, Barbara.

Undeterred by the high-pitched shrieks (probably some evidence he wouldn't be startled by the sudden discharge of a shotgun were we after upland game), my Shetland Pony sized dog trounced a second and third time before I was able to drag him off by his immense otter tail. Seriously, if I make a circle by touching the tip of my thumb and forefinger (and I have rather long hands), that's the girth of his tail. It's like the base of a Louisville Slugger, and it can thwack the shit out of your shins, sweep every knick-knack and water glass off the coffee table in one fell swoop, or just rudder him to and fro in the river, these being the reasons why God intelligently designed it.

After dragging him meters away from the beleaguered serpent, whom I never had the pleasure of actually seeing, I checked him for bite marks and found none. However, Barbara had seen the snake and was certain it was a rattler. Difficult to imagine that so provoked it wouldn't have retaliated, so we assumed the worst, and started to head back down the twenty minute walk to the car. After about five minutes Duff started to get a bit woozily and wanted to lie down.

Barbara and I were trying to devise a way to carry this canine Leviathan, who stands 34" to the top of his immense head, and is well over 40" from the tip of his nose to his haunches (exact measurements are difficult, the metal tape makes him skittish for reasons unknown). It was absurd, he hates to be picked up, and even though the venom was sedating, we still couldn't coordinate any resonable movement down the hill. Now, I'm fairly strong, I can move 90 lb bags of concrete and lift full sheets of plywood. And if I were able to get him up on my back, I could probably do a fireman carry. But I can't possibly lift that much weight and bulk up over my head, and furthermore, the distance was too far.

The only alternative was to prod him down the hill as fast as we could get him moving. I knew was bad because one is meant to lie still as possible after a poisonous bite like that. Still, he rallied, and walked himself back down the hill, though he tried repeatedly to sleep.

Forty minutes later we were crossing Hollywood on the way to the Vet hospital. The two bites on the right side of his throat had swelled larger than an orange by the time I got him there. The next morning, when I went to visit him, he came lumbering out, all dopey on narcotics. He could barely lift his head, which like his neck, was swollen up to the size of a Newfoundland's. Though he couldn't raise his head up when he saw me, his tail started wagging, but in super slow motion. It was maybe in quarter-time of the motion of a pendulum on a grandfather clock. Then he collapsed onto the floor in fatigue.

His four days and nights at the dog hospital, five vials of anti-venom (they run $500 a bottle), morphine (apparently it's among the most painful things a dog can endure, iv's, antibiotics, and a time release painkiller patch like they use on terminal cancer patients fixed him up right. The vet said I'd gotten him in quite fast, and the only necrosis and damage was at the wound. He still has a one and a half inch wide butterfly shaped scar on his throat where the hair permanently fell out, and gray hair on the second, smaller bite.

The house was so strangely quiet during his hospital stay. He's not a barking or whining sort of dog, really the most silent I've had, but you get rather used to the sound of their breathing. It's soothing, actually, Anyway, he's just fine, and I owe a major debt of gratitude to Barbara's husband, who showed up and paid the vet bill in its entirety because "Duff's like an institution on the block." Thank you still, Michael, and Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Frank Mills

(I originally intended to put up a long explanation as to why I posted this song. I think I will elaborate further at future date. Have you heard the original version on the Broadway album? Her voice is girlish and sweet, and fills me with the most bittersweet nostalgia and longing for people who have slipped away. In particular, it reminds me of a certain individual, who bears almost no resemblance to Frank Mills whatever, but the emotion evoked is the same. The tune is really quite simple, melancholic, and yet somehow optimistic. It's just plain lovely.)

I met a boy called Frank Mills
On September twelfth right here
In front of the Waverly
But unfortunately
I lost his address

He was last seen with his friend,
A drummer, he resembles George Harrison of the Beatles
But he wears his hair
Tied in a small bow at the back

I love him but it embarrasses me
To walk down the street with him
He lives in Brooklyn somewhere
And wears this white crash helmet

He has gold chains on his leather jacket
And on the back is written the names
And Mom
And Hell's Angels

I would gratefully
Appreciate it if you see him tell him
I'm in the park with my girlfriend
And please

Tell him Angela and I
Don't want the two dollars back
Just him!

- from Hair the musical. Rado & Ragni, 1967

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Best Misspelling Ever

Reading a friend's screenplay I came across this gem:

"Sensory depravation tank."

Is that what we should call those quarter-op adult film booths? Or the inside of Cheney's cranium? Wish I'd thought up that phrase.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Ice Caps

A letter from my brother, with whom I am back in contact after too many years. The picture's from a trip the family took when I was maybe five, and I'm standing between two of my three siblings. The posture cracks me up.

"Hey, thanks for the Glacier pic, fuzzy as it is (matches my memories).
I sent it to R____ who didn't remember the trip at all. Anyway, it is
Glacier, since we didn't get up to Banff. I seem to recall we were
thinking of heading that way, but didn't figure that provinces are a LOT
bigger than states, so it would have been several days extra driving.
I do recall from that trip seeing the Northern Lights for the first time.
I think that was the last trip we took together before things started
really falling apart.

Also, in a few years it will something of a keepsake to remind people
that there once were glaciers. I also read that glaciers are moving
faster now that it's warmer, so the term 'glacial pace' may have to be

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Snakes on a Mania!

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful trip.
That started from this tropic port,
aboard this tiny ship...

If you haven't heard of it, then you've probably been coiled under a rock for the last eight months. Samuel Jackson is starring in a new air disaster film that is causing quite a bit of cultural bedlam. We've got impending catastrophe, criminal intrigue, we've got sex in a bathroom at thirty thousand, but most of all we've got SNAKES!

Before you go mocking it, consider that this movie appears to be a cultural phenomenon, not in its content, but in the sheer volume of interest it is generating. "Snakes on a Plane" is redefining a space in the pop culture history of fan worship. If it succeeds, it will be nesting in good company: Beatlemania tore the hair and good sense out of lachrymose teeny-boppers in the early 60s;
1977 saw impossibly long queues for the original Star Wars release, and two years later, deadly lines of entry decimated the crowd at the Riverfront Stadium Who concert; the Cabbage Patch Kids were the first instance I recall of the now annual Christmas Stampede at Toys R Us. Now arrives the era of Al Gore’s Internet, where Web surfing can become a tidal wave of pop momentum. Within this context, The Blair Witch Project (1999) pre-release Internet buzz clamored loudly through fan sites, Web rings, et. al. Important to note the allegations that much of the excitement was generated through crafty web plants. Still, the din was heard round the world, and Blair was a genuine success, financially and creatively. This time the excitement's been spontaneously generated, and it's hard to imagine an opening weekend that spells box office Boo, Hiss! The product isn't even out yet, and pre-fans are blogging, meme-ing, slangin', crank phone calling airlines, writing songs, poetry, cartoons, a game and video parodies. Can't wait until the Bunnies at Angry Alien get busy on this one. Till then, settle for their rendition of Jaws.

All of which begs the question, can you parody what you have never seen? More importantly, can you successfully spoof a thing of no real significance? Notable cultural moments don’t occur for no good reason. Something slithery's underfoot. We’re a country at war, in the White House and abroad, and the culture is replete with an ethos of fear (threatened as we are by homosexuals, immigrants, terrorists and sick birds), while Hollywood concurrently bursts with horror genre projects. Scary movie production is at an all-time high. "We’ve got snakes on a motherfucking plane!"

Richard Hofstadter argued that a society in denial of its inherent contradictions gives rise to pathology, "mobilized into action chiefly by social conflicts that involve ultimate schemes of values that bring fears and hatreds, rather than negotiable interests, into political action." This is the "“paranoid disposition," that gives rise to widespread hysterical response. Hysterics, according to Elaine Showalter, are defined as individuals who have lost their capacity to admit and express what they feel. Sometimes the actual voice is lost, 'globus hystericus,' or expression becomes exaggerated in uncontrollable emotion and fictionalizing. These creations of imagination are really metaphors containing the contradiction between what the individual is denying, and what he substitutes as a replacement for the truth.

Think of the Cold War era and the exaggeration of the ubiquitous B horror film, for instance, with it's redundant yet telling theme of invasion, subtextually pointing to communism.
Or examine the resurgence of sensationalism in the 70s cinema, in large part generated by the "Master of Disaster" himself, Irwin Allen.

Was this Vietnam guilt, or simply an extension of anti-communist propagandizing? Whatever the case, Irwin and his peers raised some hellacious storms: natural disasters, noisome animals, and severe technological failures. Consider his credits: Towering Inferno ("One tiny spark becomes a night of blazing suspense."), Poseidon Adventure, The Swarm (from the trailer: "It is a documented scientific fact that a giant swarm of killer bees is now moving towards the United States. The swarm is coming! extraordinary plan for survival."), and for television, Outrage! Cave-In! Fire! Flood! The man made an entire career on the strength of the exclamation mark alone!

Hysteria, it turns out, is well conducted by the age of media. Showalter explores this in her book, Hystories, "Hysteria is part of everyday life. It not only survives in the 1990s, but it is more contagious than in the past. Newspapers, magazines, talk shows, self-help books, and of course the Internet ensure that ideas, once planted, manifest themselves internationally as symptoms."

Art forms work through metaphors, which function to sort out problems both personal and societal. "Psychology regards all symptoms to be expressing the right thing in the wrong way." A preoccupation with horror then is the focal point for a society steeped in fear, anxiously wishing to keep itself safe. When suppression is greatest, mannerism/theatrical affectation and entertainment become more grossly exaggerated. "Follow the lead of your symptoms," advises James Hillman, "for there's usually a myth in the mess (of snakes!), and a mess is an expression of soul." For those of you who doubt the psychological power of art exerted in social/cultural movements, let me direct you to propaganda, the 60s, The Werther Effect, and Stendhal Syndrome.

So I located “snake” in my various dictionaries of symbols, as well as a thesaurus and my American Heritage Dictionary (someday some great benefactor will get me an OED), all of which produced the following meanings:

Traitor (remember the parable about the woman nursing the ailing snake? Once healed he bites her. As she lays dying, she asks, “Why?” To which he replies, “Woman! You knew I was a snake.”)
Bedlam (that's crazy talk!)
Crook (Mostly like a traitor, I suppose)
Complicated situation (snake pit)
Shamanism (Well, it is Sam Jackson, after all.)
Temptation (like the sound of that)

Two additional meanings stood out, "a very significant sign, not to be feared. A sign of healing" and, “the emergence of the unconscious (repressed) material into the light of consciousness." Transformation and Resurrection. Tall order for a Disaster film.

Mikhail Bakhtin authored an entire book about the Grotesque and Carnivalesque in art and culture. a category into which Horror/Disaster surely falls. The Grotesque and Carnival traditions of parody, satire, and exaggeration criticize negative aspects of society, thereby bringing light to the dark realms of societal neuroses, repressed libido, and pathologies, The Disaster Horror sub-genre, though framed as a kind of drama rather than comedy, parodies these weak spots unwittingly, which is why they tend to play out humorously for savvy viewers. Bathos on a Plane! It is precisely this absurdity that seems to be drawing so many people into the Snakes' lair. And let's face it, fear and pain (schadenfreude) are fundaments of funny, hence, "the butt of the joke." But tearing down false or hypocritical social constructs is not just good revelry, it’s healthy for the culture. In fact, it is the essence of democratic discourse. Question authority, question art, question everything.

So, what are we looking at here? What are the Snakes Signifying?


Imagine the story as a dream. The plane (a vessel of our direction and travels as a culture), is soaring at high altitudes (lofty ideals and, additionally or alternatively, our consuming desire for rapid success). The snakes Grendel about (monster figures are shadow figures, unintegrated parts of the self) the cabin, terrifying the passengers (citizenry). FBI agents (investigators probing the shadow - ideally, they are truth seekers) Samuel Jackson (hero, also the Law) and his partner (one white, one black - mythically this pairing is potent as a coupling of opposites. One might read in a peculiar function of race here, but there I won't delve. Read Toni Morrison's essay, Playing in the Dark, for a literary analysis. Draw your own conclusions.), escort incognito (more shadow and unrule, though he's an innocent) witness (truth teller - here's another duality, concealed truth - only the shadow knows), whose presence on board summons the snakes. The FBI pair are the best hope for resolution, to avert the "fall" ( avoid the 'fatal retribution' of hubris), or anomie (break down in social order, as well as personal unrest).

But what truth needs to be told? What could the snakes represent?

THE TRICKSTER (Freaks on a Plane?)

The trickster character is a recurrent mythic device in literature. Jung defined this archetypal figure as "a primitive cosmic being of divine-animal nature, on the one hand superior to man because of his superhuman qualities, and on the other hand inferior to him because of his unreason and unconsciousness." Often represented as animals (ravens, foxes, coyotes and SNAKES), as well as "freakish" god-humans (tremendously un-p.c., but historically, this includes dwarves, the mentally ill or deficient, the blind, hermaphroditic, minorities...),
these figures, also known as psychopomps, have often represented access to other worlds. They are "seers" and instigators of change. In accordance with Grotesque traditions, tricksters seek to tear down; they are class levellers. As Bakhtin wrote, "Privilege is a death blow to theater (culture). All that is High wearies in the long run." Tricksters are social cleaners - they take out the trash, they eat the Sin. So the snakes aboard the plane are trying to eliminate what isn't working, what has grown stale. As with all disasters, real or cinematic, no one is spared, rich, poor, young or old. But like all good Tricksters, they do what they do with humor.

TALIBAN (Snakes in Bahrain?)

In our current climate, post 9-11, with an ongoing War on Terror, the most obvious conclusion is that the Snakes are Terrorists. Air travel is inseparable from our zenophobic fears after Flight 93. The airplane has become one of our most tightly controlled social sectors. Even without pernicious interlopers, there is so much that can go wrong. Many people fear flying, and not without practical reasons. Heavy with protocol, the airplane is a "repressed" vessel, a pressurized cabin. The potential of humans creating disorder aboard, makes it moreso. Shades of Orientalism turn those snakes right into Fatwa missionaries, enemies of Liberty and Justice. Oddly enough, this wouldn't be the first representation of Islam as a serpent. During the Crusades, and in Romance literature, Islam was a Dragon that Christendom sought to slay. Can't imagine what else St. George and the other Knights might have wanted from the Turks, but it all sounds vaguely familiar... Come, let's go to Constantinople.

The IMMIGRANT (Scapegoating the Snakes: More People We Want Off the Plane?)

Closely tied to the Terrorist fears, immigrants have long represented "invasive" forces to citizens worried about their employment and the depletion of their pocketbooks. Just this Monday (5/1), we had another Immigrant Protest Day. I'll not make too much of this, but the country continues to be quite focused on the issue (is Buchanan still trying to erect that wall?). Certainly it's easy and traditional to blame would-be citizens for societal problems. Hell, scapegoating's a favorite cultural past time, and precisely a thing the Trickster/Snake would like to bring down.


Poisonous ophidians are dangerous. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Before I sink into tautologies, this might best be illustrated with a bit classic film dialogue:

Indiana Jones: There's a big snake in the plane, Jock!
Jock: Oh, that's just my pet snake Reggie.
Indiana Jones: I hate snakes, Jock! I hate 'em!
Jock: C'mon, show a little backbone, will ya?

PESTILENCE (I got nothin')

"See, I will send venomous snakes among you, vipers that cannot be charmed, and they will bite you..."
- Jeremiah 8:17
Anxieties run high when disease is present. Avian Flu, like AIDS, is heightening social tensions. Dangerous, winged, it flies through the air with the greatest of ease, (frankly, I'd focus my health fears more realistically - namely worry about those steaks they serve on the plane). Fortunately for us, Sam Jackson tends to "get medieval." Of course, that's part of the problem to begin with. Disease alludes to the Plagues of Egypt, just so Fundamentalists can have more fun. Back to Showalter: "in a supportive cultural environment, after entertaining the mainstream of popular culture, hysterical syndromes multiply as they interact with social forces such as religious beliefs, political agendas, and rumor panics." Suddenly the snakes are the Lord's dark emissaries, sent to smite the wicked.

"The path of the righteous plane is beset on all sides by the iniquities of these snakes and the tyranny of those evil motherfuckers. Blessed is the plane, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the snakes through the friendly skies, for this plane is truly the snakes keeper and the finder of lost as shit motherfuckers. And I will strike down upon thee with lots of venom and motherfucking anger those who would attempt to crash my plane and destroy my snakes. And you will know my name is Samuel L. Motherfuckin’ Jackson when I lay my taser upon thee." Esnakeiel 25:17

Which brings us to...

SEX (Cakes on a Plane!)

I understand that in an effort to boost the "PG-13" rating up to a solid "R," Snakes went back into production for a round of reshoots, including a "Mile High Club" scenario. That's right, somebody's gonna 'do it' in the bathroom (Jakes on a Plane?). As if that weren't enough, I hear the snakes, who are naturally shy creatures, get their fangs a-salivating at the introduction of pheromones, intentionally released into the cabin. Makes 'em feisty - something straight out of "When Animals Attack," or "Snakes Gone Wild!"

Need one point out the phallic imagery of both the snakes and the plane? If there is sex on this plane, small wonder it's headed for disaster. If you watched any of the slasher films of the 70s and 80s, you know the central 'morality play' device, wherein virginal teenage girls are caught 'in flagrante' and mortally punished. These are cautionary tales, like modernized versions of the Victorian Fallen Woman, except the modern girl doesn't kill herself, a psycho/sociopath cuts her into ribbons. One imagines those movies backed by the Moral Majority, which, like the 700 Club, really was neither. If anything fuels an hysterical fire, it's a repressed sexuality, whether it be Puritans and the Witch Trials, (I've already mentioned the Victorians), legions of sexually unfulfilled and overmedicated Eisenhower-era housewives, or the contemporary Horror of Untraditional Marriage (Snakes on a Mountain? No way, that's Gay!). What is it, exactly, that we think could happen? Remember, we didn't let the Sam Jacksons of our country marry for quite awhile, either.

But sexuality is divine and sacred, and few mythical figures represent that notion more potently or universally than the snake. When the Cretans and the Hebrews went about worshipping snakes, they didn't try to separate the two. (Hey! Nice Cakes!)
Gnostic literature praised the serpent of Eden for bringing the “light” of knowledge to humanity, against the will of a tyrannical God who wanted to keep humans ignorant. In Babylonian iconography, like the Garden myth, the snake offered man the food of immortality, which really is sex. Likewise, in Kundalini the snake is coiled at the base of the spine (root chakra), symbolizing immense life power. As it rises, it creates a spiritual awakening and healing.

The symbol of the caduceus contains these yogic notions and is unmistakeably evoked in the Snakes on a Plane movie logo. It is also a fertility symbol. Often depicted (along with the Easter Lily), as the rod of impregnation to the Virgin, it was delivered by a Seraphim, the root word of which means "fiery serpent." Mostly known to us now as the symbol of medicine, the caduceus was the Hermetic "wise serpent," representing commerce and the tree of life. Also found in Aztec and Navajo art, the snake is shamanistic. It sheds skins and is reborn in perpetuity; the snake is the circle of life. If the Snakes are generative, which makes them inherently sexual, then they have a spiritual purpose. So, these sexual impulses we've repressed mandate expression, otherwise the life cycle ends. Rob Brezny paraphrases Carl Jung, who "believed that all desires have a sacred origin, no matter how odd they may seem. Frustration and ignorance may contort them into distorted caricatures, but it is always possible to locate the divine source from which they arose."

And maybe THAT'S why Samuel Jackson is now making a movie with Christina Ricci, about a white nympho who must be cured by a black bluesman, Black Snake Moan.


Why even bother to interpret it? Could just let it be, but the fans have run amok - burlesque, caricature, flim-flam, whatever you call it,
there is something sublime and flattering to mimicry. The Grotesque-Carnivale tradition embraces these notions, even when the lampoonery seems merely to skim along the surface. Here's some more of the fun it has already generated.

Whichever interpretation suits you, it will be most entertaining to watch Samuel Jackson, like a modern St. Patrick, driving the snakes out (never you mind there are no snakes in Hawaii).

This whole thing has already reached Rocky Mt. High Altitudes. Check out the cute snowboarder:

And when the Mother Fucking Snakes gross $100,000,000, we'll have "Remakes on a Plane." Sam might be tired of those snakes, but I can hardly wait.