This is Zach's personal blog. If you're looking for his movies, please click here. Otherwise, have fun!

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Sigh... I'm sorry, loyal readers. I don't know how long this negativity is going to last. I guess it's just a phase, like eating hard candy or licking electrical outlets.

Warning: manure imagery.

Thinking about ideas for stories is like taking a shit. It takes a long time to get ready, and then it's all out very fast.

While you're chewing on that, let me explain the context. I have a list of ideas for long projects (novels usually, screenplays occasionally, plays rarely, although it wasn't always so). Now, when you're an untrained, unschooled "writer" like me, you can't start immediately writing a draft at the first hint of an idea. If you do, you'll wind up writing yourself into corners, forgetting where you want to go, and so on.

Aside: I've only taken one creative writing course and I've never had any prose published, though I have had a few plays produced (for no money). So, I'm not exactly a writer, really. Especially since I haven't written a word in over two years. And by "writing" I obviously don't mean this blog--I'm talking creative stuff.

Anyhow, where was I? Right. For my first full-length play, I didn't really do an outline, just a hell of a lot of drafts, but I was young, stupid, and in college at the time. For my second, I started a play, randomly, with very little forethought, then scrapped it and outlined a new one, using the old play as a subplot. I finished it in 1997 and I'm very proud of it. No one will touch it with a ten foot pole. Oh, well, that's show biz--you move on.

The longest thing I've ever written is still unfinished; a fantasy novel, of which I've written maybe two-thirds. But with this one, I put a lot of effort into re-writing the outline, many times, getting familiar with the characters and so forth, before committing a single word to the text itself. It helped, though I made changes during the writing process, naturally. Again, I haven't written a word of it since 2000. Some of it is good, some is pretty awful. I don't know if I'll ever finish it, but I hope I do, if only so I don't become one of those people with half a novel in their closet drawer.

Now I have two good ideas for novels. One is straight, one is another fantasy-ish thing, though more subtle than the above. And I'm terrified to even begin them, because I might never finish the first one. And, for that matter, because I might finish the first one and hate it.

This sort of thing is very familiar to real writers, I'm sure--even my blocks aren't original. I hope to overcome it. But here's the trick: every time I get a rejection, the wind goes out of my sails. So even if I do finish one, two, three, or none of these books, the moment someone--anyone!--says they don't like them, I'll give up.

I've decided I'll be much happier if I give up sooner rather than later. So! If you have the capability to read a Microsoft Word document, and would like to tell me what you think of my unfinished novel (about 250 double-spaced pages so far), drop me a line and I'll send it to you. Hey, why not? Maybe it's actually good after all.
I just read the opening paragraph again, and I realized I had originally intended to write about how long my ideas take to percolate before they're fully formed. Hmmm... I should have done an outline.
The ten blogs on Blogger's "Most Recently Updated" list have been up since yesterday. The list appears to be stuck. Those lucky bums.
Don't Move to Oklahoma. For a couple who's lived on the East Coast all our lives, K and I have had our share of close calls with tornadoes. I'm thinking of this because a tornado touched down in La Plata, Maryland, which isn't particularly close to us, but the same storm passed over our town. It got me thinking about the various tornadoes that seem to follow us around.

  • 1995, central New York. While driving along Interstate 90, going home to Syracuse, we had to stop because of a torrential rain storm. We found out that tornadoes had touched down just south of where we were.
  • 1995, Monmouth, Maine. While I was employed at a local theater, there was a torrential storm (which knocked out power in the middle of a performance of Much Ado About Nothing) and a tornado formed directly over the center of town, though it never touched down.
  • 1997?, Silver Spring, Maryland. While picking my wife up at work, I hear over the radio that a tornado has touched down, one town over.
  • 2001, College Park, Maryland. A tornado touches down around the Capital Beltway, tearing through College Park and skirting our town, Greenbelt. You can still see the damage path.
  • 2002, the above-mentioned storm in La Plata.

Not a bad record for folks who've never even visited Tornado Alley. Call Aunt Em on the cell-phone, would you?

Monday, April 29, 2002

You may have noticed I didn't boldface any headers today. My apologies. My past two days have been so awful that boldface would slap me in the head and make me keel over. See, I can't even come up with an amusing metaphor--that's how out of it I am.

D's getting a molar on the right, and here I thought teething was over with a year ago. Poor kid. I try to remind myself that as painful as his patented continual-one-whine-all-the-time is, he's got to be in a lot of pain himself, or he wouldn't do it.

The chamomile tea, my drug of choice, is kicking in. Burble burble zzzzz....
Two dogs in our court were put down these past two days. One was old and in a lot of pain. One was young and ignored, with nothing else wrong with it.

The latter dog, who had been outside on a chain practically since the day she arrived, was a beautiful little puppy. She couldn't have been much over a year old. But she was outside on that chain in all kinds of weather. Her owners had been cited, so I am told, and in any case it was clear they didn't really have time to take care of her.

So they took her to the pound.

And had her euthanized.

Our next-door neighbor--the one who had the other dog, the one who was sick--actually found a new home for the puppy. It was too late.

I've been hoping that there's another side to this story, because the concept of having a dog killed just because you can't take care of it is repugnant to me. Take it to the pound, sure, even if it would get killed after seven days. But they just... put her down. So no one else could own her.

Our dog has torn up every piece of furniture we own, eaten entire boxes of cereal left on the counter, vomited on my feet. Our cat has been in and out of the vet since we got her. This poor puppy couldn't have been any more trying to take care of.

I just hope, as I said, there's another side to the story.
ROTFL! This cheered me up.

Not Your Father's Tea Kettle
Phew. Guess I needed sleep.

(I didn't get very much, unfortunately.) Anyway, Mr. Hyde's gone--it's just me, good ol' Dr. Jekyll, back again. Really. I mean it. Why don't you believe me?

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Rant #4--round up the usual self-pity.

Old habits never die. SOmetimes I wish I would.

I am sick and tired about being discontent with my life. I wish I were born stupider. Or at least I wish I didn't have ambition.

As Salieri said in the movie version of Amadeus, "if God refused his touch from me, then why implant the desire?"

But what do I desire?

Money, fame, paparazzi, all that BS? What is it, really, that I want?

And why is it I cannot love what I have?

I once said I'd rather be sane than creative. But is that the truth? Have I, by attempting to combat my depression, lost an essential part of myself? Am I the same Squelch who once wrote and acted, stayed up late, debated? What the hell happened to ME?

I do not know who I am anymore. My life is swallowed up in fatherhood, lawnmowing, grocery shopping. But would I even do anything productive if I didn't have those things?

I am a fraud. My fingers wanted to type, "I am a fraid," which is just one keystroke away. So I'm an afraid fraud. Afraid of... losing? Sitting back and making myself be nothing but a father? See, I understand that's a noble pursuit. I wouldn't mind, really I wouldn't, IF I REALLY BELIEVED IT WERE NOBLE.

This is why I wish I were stupider. Why I wish I hadn't been raised with all that "You are the most special person in the world" B.S. Guess what, Mom and Dad? I'm not. I'm average. Like everyone else. I'm just some guy who will be forgotten in a hundred years. I am not special anymore than anyone else is. I won't cure cancer. I won't write a book. I won't even finish drywalling the bathroom ceiling to my satisfaction, for crying out loud, because I can't get the hang of smoothing it out.

Why do we tell our kids this? Why do we so want to throw around the word "gifted"? I once read about a study in which there were four groups of kids. Two groups were considered "gifted," and two were normal, and within each set of two, one group was _told_ they were gifted and the others were told they were normal. In other words, in each set, there was one group that was lied to.

I sometimes wonder if my parents were told that I was gifted when I was just average. How about the pressure, huh? I hung out with kids who were taking CALCULUS in NINTH GRADE. These rich people jumping into Ivy League schools without breaking a sweat, and then my dad saying "Grades don't matter; what matters is how hard you try. What, you got a C? You're obviously not trying hard enough."

I hate myself when I feel this way. I'm a selfish S.O.B. who can't recognize how much he's on Easy Street. But I feel like I can't MOVE, damn it. I feel as though I peaked before I was married and now it's just downhill. I want to achieve! I want to be proud of what I'm doing! But my mind is wired the wrong way. Somehow, I believe that what I'm doing now does not have value. What am I? A caregiver. A man raising his son. That's valuable, right? So why don't I believe it? You could ghive me electroshock therapy and I still would call myself a failure because my name's not in the alumni magazine! But what, what, what? What woulod I consider success? Is there anything? What would I be proud of? There's always going to be someone better.

If anyone who actually knows me personally is reading this, rest assured that I'll be OK aftyer a good night's sleep. This is exhaustion and a bad day talking. But that doesn't mean I don't feel this even when I'm happy. There's still something missing. Whatever I may think will cure it--moving to New York, sending D to day care, no matter what--I'm just not built to be happy. I'm a lame-ass ugly kid being teased on the playground, now until my dying day, which I'm sure will be a long way from now, because the world is too cruel to simply put me out of my misery.

At moments like this, a terminal disease would seem like a gift. Of course, I do have a terminal disease. The doc gives me only seventy more years to live. That's one way of looking at it, isn't it? But somehow I don't think that'll give me the leeway to make grand trips and spend lots of money, which is the only "happiness equation" I haven't yet tried.

What a shallow asshole.

I suppose I'm crying out for either help or pity, in that I'm writing this to a public forum. I suppose this is another way of making my friends and family worry about me. Maybe I get off on that. But I started this blog as therapy. So here it is. Worry. Worry your pretty little heads off that Squelch isn't happy. Big news. When have I been happy? The happiest day of my life was D's birth. I try to remember the involuntary tears of joy as he was pushed into the world. A magical day. But it doesn't stick, because then I see him hitting me as I put him to bed, a little toddler striking out in the only way he knows how, and I see myself, vainly striking out at the world, a world that loves me if I only could allow it to do so. I see my mother, closing the door on me as I yell at her just before my college graduation. I see my father telling me to get out of the house after a bad argument. I see my wife, shocked and crying as I'm in one of my depressions. Rather like this one.

I cannot cry.

The tears don't come out, as if they know that my simple mood swings aren't enough to cry about. Tears, smarter than me.

Yet there is so much more I want to scream about. To scream, cry, drown my troubles in a vat of alcohol I cannot drink. Drown and dissolve my life until it looks as insignificant as it really is, a tiny speck in the bottom of the glass.

There was a fatal accident on the Beltway today. I was caught in the traffic. But I thought to myself, what if I were on the scene? What could I do? I once thought of becoming a volunteer EMT, but I allowed myself to be convinced that I didn't have the time to devote to it. So: nothing. I allowed myself to be convinced of my essential worthlessness, just as I allowed myself to be convinced against going to college in New York, just as I allowed myself to be convinced to try for another child. Yet, the buck stopped at my feet, did it not? I made my own decisions. I was the one who chickened out and took a safe job after college, rather than blindly auditioning for shows in Boston. Why did I allow that?

This is wrong--sick and wrong. I am not a fool. I know I have a fortunate life. I need to quit whining and get on with it. Accept that you are not Mozart, or even Salieri. Accept that you are not the most special person in the world. Just be. Exist. Live. No matter what. But, man, I want to cry! Why can't I cry? Cry for the loss of my dreams! They float somewhere in the sky, forver lost. I let go the string and they floated away. Dreams. I have no business having dreams anyway. My life is not my own anymore. I sold it long ago.

I could endure it all if I were still creative. But my stories are gone. There's no new tale to tell. My pen is dry. And all I have left is bile like this. And who wants to read bile?

I am floating up from my chair, looking at the screen, reading what I'vw written. It's time to get to bed and be ashamed of this in the morning.

Saturday, April 27, 2002

And yet more proof of my lack of imagination: I'm linking to another "Blog of Note," but this one really is unique. This woman's writing style is just incredible.

I'll Raise Corn, Thanks.

At Maryland Day, a sort of open-house at K's graduate alma mater, K and I once again went head-to-head about the perfect place to live.

We had just come from a demonstration of livestock and horses and agruculture in general. I'm not much for that sort of thing, so, being the rational and tolerant man I am, I had a conniption when K said she'd love to live on a farm.


I had to let it all out in one breath, you see, to avoid smelling the cow pies. K pointed out that if we lived on a farm we'd be used to the smell. I said this was a smell that I never wanted to get used to.

As I write this, I'm reminded of a long-ago childhood memory, when my mom and I went to New Brunswick, Canada, shortly before my parents' divorce. At one point, we stayed in a rented room on a dairy farm for a night. One of the hands gave us a tour of the farm itself, pointing out the milking machines and the like. Cows were hooked up to them and everything.

As he was saying something like, "And that's where the cows feed," the bovine directly in front of us--while still hooked up to the milking machine--relieved itself, rather loudly. My mom laughed hysterically and said, "And that's cow shit!"

Her seven year old son, meanwhile, was trying desperately not to throw up, pacing out of the barn as quickly as he could.

I haven't thought about that in years. But it might explain why I refused to drink milk all the way into college.
How do you pronounce "quixotic"? Somewhat quixotically, I sent an entry form to the 48 Hour Film Project--one day after the postmark deadline. I'm hoping my begging email and groveling snail-mail note (which I enclosed with the entry form) will let them overlook this. I threw in a dig at the Washington Post while I was at it--this project is a D.C. thing, and the Post's Weekend section didn't print any info about it until the day of the deadline.

Considering Rex (a partner filmmaker) and I made our first film in one day, I bet we'd get a good one together. I really hope we make it, but somehow I expect they got more entrants than they can use anyway. We shall see.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Blogrolling. And so, I've added a series of links to my blog, which means I've given up Any Pretense of Originality, especially since at least two of the linkees are already on the "Blogs of Note" list. Still, as I discover new ones, I suppose I'll keep adding 'em.

There is one other blog I read, but I don't think its author is particularly interested in more readers--a sentiment I admire, and wish I were honest enough to emulate. But no, I check Site Meter every time I log on.

(You know who you are. Just wanted you to know you were excluded for altruistic reasons. Am I creeping you out yet?)

Stay tuned, gentle reader... creativity is just around the corner.
[Edit: what the hell does that last sentence mean?]

What was that about intimate conversations?

Last night, I asked K if she minded that I was writing this blog.

"No," she said. "But I do wonder what will become of it."

I shrugged. "Nothing will come of it. It's just an exercise."

"No, I know that," she said. "I mean--I hope no one will try to take advantage of you."

"Oh, you mean like someone stalking me?" I laughed. "I don't have enough people reading for that. Besides, it's not like I share our most intimate conversations or anything."

I sat down next to her and continued, "No, what I meant was... do you mind that I'm writing these feelings down, rather than sharing them with you?"

She didn't answer immediately. I hastily added, "It's just a different muscle. I mean, I think I'm better at writing than talking as it is. And... I doubt I'd write at all if I didn't think someone, somewhere, might read it."

"That's fine." She smiled.

"You can read it. I mean, if you want to know how I feel."

Score another one for male openness.

That's Not a Growth, It's My Son.

Remember how I said D finally seemed like a separate person? Well, D disagrees.

D has a fairly busy schedule, though we've managed to avoid booking him to within an inch of his life like some parents do. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he's at his nursery school in the mornings (without me), and on Friday afternoons he goes to a parent-toddler group at a special developmental school (with me). So today, we headed to the school, and I'm assuring him the entire time--from the moment we started cleaning up the house--that I'll be with him during school. To no avail. CLING! like static on a dress just before a hot date. (Yes, I'm a guy; haven't we got beyond sexism in choice of metaphors, people?) I'm talking arms around my legs with titanic force. This continues (well, except for when he's strapped into his car seat) even when we're in the classroom and I'm clearly not going anywhere. He's screaming, crying, and not leaving my side. I get a weird juxtaposition of feelings when this happens:

  • He loves me so much! I'm important!
  • Gawd, I wish he would stop crying.
  • Is he going to keep screaming for forty minutes if I leave?
  • Cannot breathe. Arms tight around neck. Passing out...

Finally--remembering that the nursery school folk said he was fine immediately after I left, I bolted for the teachers' lounge and had a Kit Kat and a Coke, leaving him in the teacher's care, and when I returned, he was indeed fine.

It's all in the anticipation, I guess.
This is Satirical. Wise words from RG over at The Suburban Limbo:
So what's the connection between DJing and blogging? Both rely heavily on the reuse of materials created by others. Many blogs are just lists of links, sometimes with a witty comment, sometimes not. We see something interesting or funny and think, Oooo, I should share this with the world. Similarly, a DJ picks songs, perhaps tweaks it a bit, adding reverb or sound effects, speeds it up or down to blend with the next song, and shares that with the dance floor. Bloggers are like the DJs of the internet, although most of us don't dress as sharply as DJs do (yes, we've got bodies built for blogging, just like FM DJs have faces built for radio).

I bring this up because I'm wondering about the value of link-oriented blogging. What's the point? Okay, if you use the link as a stepping stone and take off from there, adding lots of original thought and spin, fine. But too many times - and I'm guilty of this too - bloggers take the easy way out. Like a bad DJ who shows up at gig after gig with the same 50 records, bloggers surf the same news sites for weird stories, throw links back to the blog and go to bed satisfied that we done our part for the web's self-publishing revolution. Why bother? Does anybody really need us to point out general news stories or oddball items from Yahoo? I think not.

What does it mean? I don't know. If nothing else, I think it means I want to push myself harder to come up with original and interesting blog entries. The value of linking to general news seems just about nil to me, although pointing out a good feature here or there still holds some cred. Hopefully, by stating this on the blog here and now, I'll box myself into a corner and be too embarassed to add pointless links to items everybody knows.

I couldn't agree more. ;-)

Thursday, April 25, 2002

No Monty Python Tunes, Please! Today, D sang. Not an earthshaking event in itself, as he sings every day. But today he sang to me a song I had never heard before:
To the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It":
Put your finger on your nose, on your nose...
(repeat as needed)

Again, not exactly Beethoven, but it was the first time I had heard him sing a song that I hadn't taught him... or at least been present while he was taught.

So there it is: he's truly a separate person from K and me. And it's only gonna keep happening. I'm so proud of him, and I can't wait to hear what he sings next.
More gold from the "recently updated" blog list: Being Daddy. Someone who understands... Go there RIGHT NOW and thank me later.
Passive-Agressiveness: Lesson One. When I went to New York, I planned my T-shirt wardrobe very carefully. The first day, when I was due to meet my old high-school crony Bill, I wore my Chicago Improv Festival T-shirt, as if to say, "Ha! See, I've done INTERESTING things since I knew you!" And for seeing Mike, I brought my Party Time-Mountain Language (an old show we did together in college) shirt, as if to say, "You damn well better remember where you came from, big shot!"

Actually, I chickened out on the latter, mostly because I didn't want to attend an Off-Broadway show in a torn and holey T-shirt.

I've always enjoyed T-shirts as forms of communication. One of my favorites only says "simplicity" across the front; I wear it as an antidote to the Nike or rock band billboards everyone else pays $20 to wear. I once performed a one-man show where I wore ten T-shirts at once, pulling one off for each scene (each shirt represented a different state of mind). I ended the show bare-chested. Surprisingly, no one threw up.

This has been an excerpt from my new book, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.
Far be it from me to link to InstaPundit, one of the "famous" blogs, but I actually agree with this observation:
Of course, sometimes a peace movement can be right. But the thing is, I don't think that most people in today's "peace movement" are there because they want peace. If that were the case, they'd object to war in general. Most, however, only seem to mind war on behalf of civilization.

Gawd, I've become a war-monger! But it's true, isn't it? Why condemn soldiers and look the other way at suicide bombers?

However, there's plenty else to dislike about this blog, as well as the whole "reasonable right-wing," as witness this:
Hated? Me? How can you hate someone for a weblog? But then, hatred doesn't come as easily to me as it does to so many who see themselves as part of the Forces of Good. Oh well. I'm tempted to say let them hate me, so long as they fear me. And there are more bloggers where I come from. . . .

He's talking about the academic left, which is pretty well ignored in American political discourse anyway. But to me, "hatred" is about saying my brother-in-law is evil because he's gay, or welfare mothers don't love their children, or that I am neither citizen nor patriot because I am an atheist. (This last was said by none other than George H. W. Bush back in '88.) "Hatred" is a corner pretty well occupied by the American right, if you ask me. Not that they don't have a few companions.

Hey, Squelch, didn't you say this wouldn't be a political blog? Shaddup.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

I've gotten into the habit of checking Blogger's Ten Most Recently Updated Blogs, in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough. So far, the closest I've come is, which is very well written and often quite funny. Plus, it's New-York-centric, which is nothing but good in my book. He did a good job of teasing the "David in Nigeria" scam, though it was done better earlier by Gene Weingarten in the Washington Post.

In a moment of weakness, however, I followed a link entitled sexychick's erotic fantasies (WARNING! Adult content), which is, well... it wouldn't be worth mentioning (or braving the embarassment) if it weren't for the first few entries. She's putting on a very lewd and not-for-children front. But really, read the beginning... haven't we all been there? I just want to give her a hug and say, "You won't be sixteen forever." That, or I want to turn around and pretend I didn't see her.

Why did I follow the link in the first place? Well, c'mon... I am a little bit male. Please don't hold that against me.
Washington, D.C. police chief, Charles Ramsey, as quoted in the Washington Post:

You think I hate protesters? If it wasn't for protesters, I wouldn't have a job today. You think a black man could ever be police chief in this town if the civil rights demonstrations didn't happen here in the '60s? I owe it all to protesters.

Amen, Chief.
Rant #3: Talent, as Practice writ large. Today I decided to write an entry in the faux-dialogue style sometimes used by professional op-ed writers--you know, the one where they have a "conversation" with a taxi driver, or ghost of their grandfather, since it's easier than actually interviewing a real person and possibly learning something new.

"God!" I said to my guitar calluses. "You hurt like the dickens!"

One callus looked up at me and said, "That's because you haven't been playing."

Somewhat surprised that the hard place at the end of my index finger would suddenly speak to me, I nevertheless said, "What are you talking about? If I haven't been playing guitar, that should make you hurt less, not more."

"I hurt not with use, but disuse," the callus said, not in the least perturbed by the Band-Aid I wrapped around his face. "You haven't been practicing! How else are you gonna get to Carnegie Hall?"

"I don't want to go to Carnegie Hall. I'd settle for the New Deal Cafe; they're less demanding. Besides, I play all right as it is. So what if I can't wail like Santana or crunch like John Lee Hooker?"

The callus waggled my finger at me. ("Stop doing that," I said.) "I know you. Don't try to hide secrets from your own flesh. You lust after the singing riffs of George Harrison."

"I don't deny it," I said. "But why should I work for it? Why can't I just be magically talented? Why not let the music flow from my fingers to the frets immediately, without this tedious need for scales and arpeggios?"

"WHY?" the callus screamed, upsetting my son, who ran away from Daddy's possessed digit. "How do you think Harrison or Santana or Hooker achieved this skill?"

I shrugged. "They were born with it, I guess. You know--talent." I submerged my finger in hot water, confident I had won the debate.

"Talent?!" burbled the callus. "Ha! A fable. Or at least, vastly overrated, given how many 'talented' people exist in the world. Yet only a few achieve rarefied heights! Why? PRACTICE! Set aside your blogs, your family, your vanity, and go forth and be the rock-and-roll star you always knew you could be! Is it not true that others surpass you, despite the advantages you have?"

I pondered. It was true--one of the best guitarists I knew had cut off half his thumb, yet he played, and better than me.

Cut off half his thumb....?

"Why are you looking at me like that?" said the callus.
Does anyone know where I can find a copy of the sheet music for James P. Johnson's "Charleston," preferably for free, as I assume it's now in the public domain? I'm getting sick to death of playing Prokofiev and other Russian composers.

Some good free sheet music sites (mostly jazz and ragtime, as that's what I'm currently searching for):

I suppose I could do the honorable thing and actually buy it, huh?
Here's a fun read: Laura listens to a radio show about The Band. Scroll to the bottom of the page and read upward. This is from a long-ago pen pal of mine who I recently rediscovered (how else?) via the Internet. Though I'm not familiar with the particular songs she mentions, the joy she feels listening to the music is palpable, practically radiating from the screen. You can almost hear her feeling like she's sixteen again.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

New York, Part Two. As implied (in the sense of beating-you-over-the-head-with-a-hammer) in previous entries, I saw Mike Daisey's Off-Broadway one man show, 21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.Com, this Saturday at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village, New York City. Quick review: it was an amazing night of entertainment. The most striking element--the tune that you hum as you leave the theater, as it were--is the laughter. This is one funny show. But it's also poignant, and though it doesn't straddle the fine line between comedy and tragedy (the most difficult and highest calling of the playwright, in my opinion), landing squarely on the side of comedy, it'll make you think a hell of a lot more than, say, Shear Madness.

The show chronicles Mike's brief tenure at, where he began as the World's Worst Customer Service Rep and rose to the heights of World's Worst Business Rep, falling in (metaphorical) love with Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos along with the rest of his coworkers. Though one has to figure the events themselves weren't as entertaining as Mike portrays them, we're not paying for the events themselves, and a little fictionalization in the pursuit of entertainment is okay.

For a substantive discussion of the merits of the performance, I'd suggest you check the New York Times in a few weeks. I have no doubt it will be a money-in-the-bank review, unless the critics are even stupider than I think they are. That's not what I'm writing about though; rather, this is a personal appraisal from an old college crony who saw Mike in action and even collaborated with him.

First of all, there's the charisma factor. You may think that when I say, "I wanna be like Mike," I'm talking about Jordan. No. Michael Daisey is the most charismatic person I have ever met. It's some kind of a magic trick. When you see him perform in a piece like this one, where he is playing himself, you will be convinced that he is simply talking to you. Never mind these other people. Mike is just having a conversation with you, albeit one where you're not expected to talk back. On Saturday night's performance, he had us in the palm of his hand from the very first line.

Secondly, the structure. It's a story well told, certainly. But it's also cleverly put together. From story, to an example of Amazon's culture, to love letter, back to story... the same sense that helped him write good poetry and stories in Colby has helped him fashion a very tight script. (I have no doubt that his director and wife, Jean-Michele, also had something to do with this.) There were a few moments in which I saw echoes of his earlier work--notably, his interview for his second job at Amazon, where the interviewer cuts him off and pressures him exactly as the House Committee for Un-American Activities pressured Bertolt Brecht in his (as far as I know) first one-man show, The Inner Life of Bert Brecht. (Of course, for the latter show, the audience itself played the committee; this wouldn't be very practical in a real theater, so an offstage voice filled the role this time around.)

Thirdly, the theme. And here I have to tread carefully, since I have no reason to believe Mike and Jean-Michele won't eventually read this. (You know I love you guys, right?) A major motif that runs through the show is the Bezos seduction--that is, the cult of personality that is built around this Vision of Jeff Bezos, Lord of the Books. Mike communicates with Bezos through a series of (fictional, one hopes) love letters, which follow the arc of a seduction and eventual breakup.

But does Mike know he's writing about himself? Don't forget about that charisma I mentioned. Every person who has met Mike professionally or socially has immediately said, "This guy's got it, whatever 'it' is, and I want to be as close as possible to him." Including me. Everyone! (Except, by her own admission, Jean-Michele, bless her heart--that's probably why they fell in love.) So you see, that cult of Jeff could really be interpreted as a cult of Mike, and perhaps this show is his way of dealing with that; of preparing himself for the eventual possibility that the bubble will burst, as it always does.

But then again, maybe not. Mike posted a profit, as it were, on this show, in the form of a book contract, nearly a year ago. They posted their first profit just last quarter--after at least five years of business. So watch out, Mike. You're going to be a huge success, and the bubble won't burst if you never have one. Congratulations, my friend, on an incredible piece of theater.
Coming Attraction. As promised, a review of Mike's show 21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ is forthcoming. Well, not really a review, per se. After all, I'm not a critic, I just play one on TV. But I thought it might be interesting (not to mention more gossipy) to explain in the context of what I know of Mike's performance style from ten years ago at Colby. Some has changed, some hasn't. In any case, it'll be up before the night is out (probably before 10:00 Eastern time, if anyone is holding their breath).
Welcome, Mystery Alaskan. Weird... someone has come back to read this more than a few times whose time zone is in the Yukon Territory. Looks like I have a fan in the frozen north. That, or their IT manager just never set their time zone correctly. (They use a Mac, too, which makes me happy.)

Is it wrong that I'm using Site Meter? Is it wrong that so much information is sent over the internet and it's so easily accessible? I can't see IP addresses, thank goodness, so no temptation to steal identities even if I knew how to do so.

Still, as a performance whore from way back, I'm glad to have even the tiniest of audiences. But really, I am just doing this, like so many others, to get back in the habit of writing every day. (How original.)

This fellow's reasons for writing are much the same as mine, and he expresses himself so well. Check it out. (I wish his typeface weren't so small, though.)

D is asleep for his afternoon nap now. His second day care session went very well, I am told, and he didn't even notice when I came to pick him up, he was having so much fun.

Warms the cockles of my heart... got to get that cockle operation, I hope Aenta will pay for it.
Yes, I spelled "hydrangea" right, and I did so before I looked in the dictionarey.


Yardwerk, Kraftwerk's ugly stepsister.

In one corner of our front yard, there is a twig which my wife, K, holds dear to her heart. She refuses to believe it's just a twig, of course; to her, it's a potential hydrangea. This is, indeed, a beautiful flower; but this twig is not beautiful. In fact, it's barely visible, hidden under a wad of pachysandra.

I think it originally came from my mother; it was a gift that came too late in the season to plant, but was planted anyhow, and hasn't bloomed since. K sees leaves on it. I see moss.

Before I went out to trim the hedges and mow the lawn today, she implored me to not step on the twig. Step on it? I can't even see it! Nonetheless, I gave it a wide berth; so wide, in fact, that that section of the hedge wasn't trimmed.

Even so, I'm positive the damn thing won't grow, and I'll be to blame, somehow...
And so, life goes on after the NYC adventure... my big task today while D is at day care is (drum roll) yard work.

And, as an aside, is there anything more pathetic than checking YOUR OWN blog to see if there are any updates? "Oh, yeah... I write this, don't I?"

Monday, April 22, 2002

New York, Part One.

Saturday morning, I took a Greyhound bus for the first time since 1990, and was surprised to find it was a decent way to travel--pleasant, quiet, and on time. I didn't get a seat to myself, but that wasn't a great hardship, as my companion didn't say a single word the entire way. I was a little disappointed, as she was reading Congreve's The Way of the World, a British Restoration play, and I wondered why; I've never seen anyone read a play on public transportation before. Was she an actress? A professor? A doctoral student? She then opened a Buddhist magazine, putting the play away and any opening for conversation with it. (Naturally, I saw about five people reading plays over the rest of the time in New York. I guess it wasn't that big a deal.)

The bus arrived twenty minutes early, and I lost most of that time waiting on the N train platform to get to Queens, where I was staying with my friends Bill and Andrea. They had kindly offered their futon in exchange for hearing some of my scintillating stories about D's potty training. At least, that's what I like to think, 'cause that's all I had to offer.

Bill and I went to high school together, and for a while hit the same career path. We diverged eventually, and now he's a playwright, whereas I'm just a failed playwright. Andrea works at Playwrights Horizons, so it's a match made on Broadway. And their cat, Buddy (no relation to our dog of the same name), attempted to bite my thumb off on the first meeting. I didn't hold that against him.

They took me to dinner at a nice Greek restaurant around the corner from their apartment, and it was there I learned that true New Yorkers never thank the waiters. At least, I was the only one in the place that did so. Of course, I thank 'em even if they spill hot soup in my lap. That didn't happen, but my point is that I may not be a good benchmark.

After that, we went our separate ways--Bill and Andrea to a show in Soho, and me to the Village, where Mike's show was playing at the Cherry Lane Theater. I got there extra-early because I had never been to the Village before. I walked around a bit, and wound up at a jazz bar called Garage, where I nursed two Cokes (heavy drinker that I am) and did my best to look morose.

(I suppose I ought to explain what Mike's show is about, but in that the vast majority of people who see this are clicking through from his own web site, it's probably not really neccesary. In any case, I'm not reviewing Mike's show in this entry--that'll come later.)

After Mike's show--which, I will say, was excellent, and you're a fool if you miss the opportunity to see it--he and his wife, Jean-Michele, gave me a tour of the theater, and then we went to a weird little restaurant down the street (click here for Mike's impressions of this place), where, after saying they were so relieved to talk with someone who wasn't involved with the show, they talked for an hour about the show. I should be charitable and note that I encouraged them to do so, as much for my own learning as for the not inconsiderable entertainment value (Mike and Jean-Michele are two of the most entertaining people I know). I think they just needed to get it out of their system (understandably) and after they were purged, they listened quite patiently to the same three D stories I tell everyone ten times.

We talked about their travails with the producers, which I am not at liberty to discuss (Mike's NDA with may have expired, but not his common sense), and Jean-Michele made a trenchant point about being a main character in Mike's book and show: when she first visited the publishing house, everyone thought they knew her. Thank goodness I'll never have to worry about that. (Although it reminds me of something I wondered--how many of the people watching the show knew that this "Jean-Michele" character was in the back of the house, calling the cues?)

After that, I stumbled back into Bill and Andrea's at 2:30 AM, which is about five hours past my optimal bedtime these days, and collapsed onto their futon. I didn't sleep well, and woke up at 7:30, an hour and a half before my hosts. I had joked with them about this, being a parent and all, but I never thought it would actually happen.

They served the world's most amazing bagels (again, just around the corner; why don't I live there?) and we went and walked around the theater district for a bit, and then they bought me lunch, as I had subtly hinted they should ("I only have four dollars in my wallet and I'm starving"). I decided I wanted to take an earlier bus than planned, since, surprisingly, I missed K and D terribly.

Why surprisingly, you ask? Well, simply put, New York feels like home. I was born in Brooklyn, and though I only spent three years there, it burned itself into my brain. I had never wanted to leave in any of my previous visits, and I've always regretted that I never lived there. Yet that Sunday, all I wanted to do was see my son before he went to bed, and cuddle on my wife's shoulder.

I guess I'm finally growing up.
Growing Exponentially. We now have had eight, count 'em, eight visitors to this blog, though that may count the same person twice or more times (that I cannot tell). So, since we now have enough readers to fill my tiny living room: grab a spot on the couch, take a drink (we're limited to orange juice and milk, I'm afraid), and keep reading. I'll be talking all about my wonderful trip to New York, whether you want me to or not.

Oh, and I finally jumped on a bandwagon before the Washington Post covered it: Weblogs: Where Everyone is a Pundit. Decent article by Howard Kurtz, though it concentrates on the blogs that do the political thing. Personally, I don't have much interest in aping Andrew Sullivan, but I may check out some of the others.

Stay tuned, my loyal handful...

Friday, April 19, 2002

What, you thought they'd take the bus? Steering Toward New Fuel At Metro (

From a story about how D.C.'s public transportation board narrowly approved buying a bunch of natural gas powered buses: For a half-hour before yesterday's vote, environmentalists demonstrated in front of Metro headquarters. They carried signs that read "Diesel Kills" and "I Want My CNG" and walked in a circle near the main entrance, chanting "Diesel causes asthma: Buy CNG!" But most Metro board members missed the drama because they drove to the headquarters, parked in an underground garage and took an elevator to the meeting room, never walking through the front entrance.
We have a winner! Holy cow! Mere minutes after I posted this, a lucky visitor from the University of Southern California dropped by Rooster Spice and stayed for thirty-seven seconds! So, our first visitor! If you recognize yourself, tell me what operating system and browser you were using (for identification purposes) and you'll win a small prize.

Aside: it's pretty scary how much information I know about you, whoever you are. But don't worry, I'll use this power only for good.
This weekend, as thousands descend on D.C. to protest just about everything, it seems, I'm leaving for New York to see my buddy Mike's off-broadway show. And you know what? I bet I'm gonna have more fun.

Besides, the Bush II administration will heed protesters... when? When hell freezes over? Nah, that's too likely. I'm trying to think of something witty, but it just isn't coming. Maybe it's because, if I were protesting, I'm not sure which side I'd be on. A lifelong Democrat pacifist favors a Republican war... I never thought it'd happen.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

If no one reads a blog, is it actually written? I keep checking Site Meter for the lucky first reader of this thing. Stay tuned.

(Stay TUNED?!?! Who the hell am I talking to? HA HA HA!)
Ha! I got quoted. I'm reading this guy's stuff far too much, ain't I?
Remind me of this when he's a teenager. Strangely enough, D's first day at his part-time day care--today--was neither really easy (as I expected) nor really difficult (as I had been warned). It was pretty much like any other day.

I took him into Mishkan Torah Nursery School, which is walking distance from the house. I walked, he strolled. He's been very reluctant to walk in all this heat lately, so, stroller it was. When we got to the door, I took him out of the stroller and he walked right in. So far, so good. He's certainly been to classes and the like before, but I was always there with him. When he realized I was leaving... well, that's when the crying started.

Fortunately (as I had to remind myself, again and again), the teachers were professionals, and D wasn't the first kid who had trouble the first day. But it was much harder to leave than I expected. I thought I'd be jumping for joy in my newfound freedom. Instead, I had a little knot in my stomach that didn't dissipate until I picked him up two and a half hours later.

He was still crying as I arrived, by the way. I was told he did quite well, actually, but as far as I was concerned, he could have been crying the whole time.

Then, I figured, since I had been alone for a good long time, the afternoon would be much easier to handle. Well, it wasn't, not really--I still had to try to make him nap to get some peace, and when he didn't, I still felt exhausted and beaten. We ordered a pizza for dinner, which we can't really afford to do. But I couldn't deal with cooking, not with the heat. Yet I had had a break.

Maybe, all this time, I've been too hard on myself. I thought that I simply didn't have enough stamina to handle D. Maybe it's better than that; maybe I don't have the stamina for life in general.

He's in bed as I write this, in the room next door... talking to himself. He's still saying farewell to a little girl in his class... "Goodbye, Clementine."

See, with all the exhaustion and trouble and misbehavior (really, not all that much), he's still the light of my life, and seeing him laugh, or point at K's belly and say "That's the baby," reminds me that I am glad I'm here to watch him grow up.
Build Your Own Air Conditioner. Here's a tip if you're struggling through August-in-April like us here in the nation's capital. Last night at midnight, fed up with the blistering heat (yes, at MIDNIGHT!) in the bedroom, I went downstairs, filled a ziplock bag with ice, and hung it in front of our window fan.

It worked surprisingly well. If you're keeping score, the bag o' ice was a bag o' water by 4 AM, if not earlier.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

And Just What Makes You Legit, George? Before I hit the hay, just thought I'd share this from a cool blog called "The Suburban Limbo." What Ari says is true of course; you just need a Supreme Court victory for true legitimacy.

And while I'm thinking of things political, am I the only one who hopes that the war on terrorism doesn't give us an excuse to continue the Cold War habit of propping up antidemocratic regimes, simply because they are (to quote the President) "with us"? Tell them to free their political prisoners (and presses, damn it!) and then they're really with us. Ahem. Okay, I'm done. We now return you to our regularly scheduled apathy.
(okay, FINE, the below entry is weak. Give me a break, I had to write something.)
Crazy hot. I'm sure a lot of people in the Washington area have written about the heat already. But you gotta admire the Washington Post editorial board, who say "Heat BAD! Stop right now!" as though the media could control the weather. Then again, maybe the editorial board's onto something--they'd probably do a better job than the Post's own weather page, which was famous for predicting rain throughout the drought of '99. Kind of like folks who bought Yahoo stock in middle 2001.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

I'll take Gallagher for the block. Mike Daisey has a nice couple of statements about fame in his blog. To which I would only add what I tell myself when I realize I'm not on the path to celebrity:

If you're never famous, you'll never have to worry about being on Hollywood Squares.
I thought of something else for the list: "finish this blog." Ooo, how meta-bloggy!

On the Blogging Graveyard, a mini-rant.

It's time to get back into the schwing of things. Time to tune my guitar, pay the bills, enter the bank statements into Quicken, fill out the forms for D to go to day care, animate a scene for a internet-based web trailer, and... um... here's where I come up blank, so maybe that's the end of the list?

Ha! sayeth the Mr. Hyde inside. There IS no list! I mean, no END! He's tough, my Mr. Hyde, but he's as incoherent as me, so he's not really a worry.

Well, I've been doing this blog for a week, with no end in sight, but I'm pretty sure it will end at some point. Is there somewhere that dead blogs go? For folks like me, who have tons and tons (tonnes and tonnes if you're British) of drive for milligrams and milligrams of time... hel-LO mixed metaphor... what was I saying? Right, folks who lose interest, leave projects behind themselves like so many gum wrappers, what happens to those old projects? Is the Internet just a version of my mother's attic, writ large?

Something to think about, when I get bored. Three, two, one...

Monday, April 15, 2002

Here I spit, broken hearted. Golly, did I really write this? Sometimes I hate the person I become when I'm tired and envious. Or, is that: I hate the person I sometimes become when I'm tired and envious? Whatever the idiom may be, the problem remains the same. Some people get drunk on booze, or high on drugs; I get stupid on depression.

The above-referenced entry is actually a fairly tame example of my Mr. Hyde writings. So far, I've sent letters to family and friends that have left people feeling "guilty and attacked," and one email even sent my wife home in tears, terrified I was going to do myself harm.

I tell myself (at the time) that I'm just being honest and that they won't be bothered and if they are they ought to be anyway 'cause they deserve it. You know, all those usual rationalizations; we're all familiar with them, and none of them are true. It's very easy to hurt people who care about you if you accuse them of not caring; and if you're telling these things to people who really don't care, then why are you bothering?

For me, I simply hope I can recognize that when a good friend has great success, they didn't do it just to make me envious. After all, I'm not the center of the universe--my son is.

And 75% of Attendees Bought a CD! Last night I went up to Catonsville, Maryland to see Love Syndicate, a kind of folk-funk band. I should, in the interest of full disclosure, point out that their bass player is my younger brother, C---s. The band was playing in a spiffy new student center at UMBC. No matter how spiffy, it was clearly not a hip-hop-happening place to be on a Sunday night. Attendance was... ahem... spotty.

Part of this (most of this) wasn't Love Syndicate's fault. The room they were supposed to play in was double-booked, so the folks who came by at their advertised starting time were treated to a roomful of academics eating pizza, which, while no doubt entertaining, is not what you expect to get out of a folk/funk band from Philadelphia. The band started an hour later than advertised, and despite the snafus and so on, delivered an excellent set, starting with one of the songs that garners applause at the first riff, Sense of You. (I should say, when their fan base is there, it garners applause. As Josh, the lead guitarist, singer, and principal songwriter, said, "We told a lot of people in Philadelphia about this show... they're still in Philadelphia.")

In any case, mad kudos to Love Syndicate for delivering a great show to a tiny number of people. Hey, they'll be back at UMBC for Quadmania on April 27th, with Busta Rhymes headlining--since that's supposed to be attended by thousands of students, I bet they'll make a lot of new fans.
Here's today's existential dilemma: did my son actually drink all his milk, or did he throw it on the floor and let the dog lap it up?

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Rant #2
On the Self-Centeredness of the Modern Theater

It's all about the audience, innit? That's why I preferred film to theater, at first. A play has a chance of being seen by one tiny group of people. A film, if it's a well-known one, can reach an entire country and more. Still, as I started writing and acting in plays, I noticed the one thing film doesn't have--the act of being LIVE, of having living, breathing, sweating people in front of you, who you can take out for a drink afterward, make love to, and be crushed when they don't call you the next day.

Not exactly a huge revelation that--that's what theater is all about, right? Live theater.

But as a performer, and as a writer, I keep coming back to the "audience" issue. Not just in terms of numbers, but in terms of type. Here in DC, at least, most of the new plays that premiere are About the Writer, generally a sardonic gay man, who hangs out with actors and so forth. And the only people who go to see these plays are sardonic gay actors.

Perhaps that's a bit of an overstatement. But it seems to me that if one only writes what one is familiar with, instead of something universal, one can never break out of a solipsistic trap. They always say, of course, Write What You Know, which seems to be an excuse to write about the same topic all the time. I wish creative writing courses would also say, Know New Stuff!

In any case, theater these days seems to not care that it's utterly irrelevant to the rest of the world. Come on folks. If all you write is stuff that appeals to other theater people, you'll never grow beyond your borders, and tourists will watch the Disney musicals on Broadway and the next Tennessee Williams will write for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Of course, this might just be the bitter sour grapes of a failed playwright. Who knows? Maybe I don't like any current theater and that reflects on me, not theater.

Maybe, but then....

I helped found an improv group. We performed not in theaters, but bars. We had audiences full of not actors, but folks who otherwise would have been watching "Survivor." We packed the houses (at least some times). People are starved for live entertainment. If someone wrote a play that was as entertaining as an improv show, you wouldn't be able to keep folks away!

Who the hell is gonna write that play?

Saturday, April 13, 2002

I am filled with a vague sense of dread. Film at 11.
Because it Rhymes With My Last Name. This blog was originally called Squelch's Rants4All, but I haven't been doing much ranting. I suppose that's a good thing, basically; conversely, you could say I don't have much to rant about now, but I'm sure that will change, probably sooner rather than later. (Possibly even as soon as the next entry. Who knows?)

My style will develop as I continue writing, but right now, it's less than unique. I hope to inject a lot more humor into the entries. Comedy is a difficult task, as the writers of Saturday Night Live would attest immediately after being fired. Improv was a good way out getting out my comedic urges, and I was pretty good at it. I hope that will translate over to the written word; I've never really tried it.

Still, to return to the topic, it became abundantly clear that too many people already ranted in their blogs (usually about the Israeli-Palestinian war at this writing) and the title "Squelch's Rants4All" didn't really seem... interesting any more. So, I changed it. I hereby christen this blog "Rooster Spice," a name with almost no meaning and even less significance, but one which will hopefully draw a second look.

Friday, April 12, 2002

We Interrupt This Program For Some Sentiment. It's late at night and I should be lying in bed with my wife, my hand on her belly, waiting for the new baby to wake up and kick my hand away. I think I'll take my own advice. Good for me.
Sparky? It's fun, occasionally, to look at old writings and wonder, "Who was this guy, and what the hell was he thinking?" I found this on a Zip disk, under the filename "i don't f--ing know!" which is a fine answer to the above question. This may or may not have been a serious writing exercise at some point. I somehow doubt it.

It makes me laugh, no matter what you may think of it. (Not much, I would hope.)

The problem was the back yard. If the yard had been bigger, or if the neighbors had been farther away, Mickey wouldn�t have had to kill the dog. The dog--Sparky was his name, right?--would still be frolicing away, chewing up shoes and barking, and Iselle would be buried in the back yard.

A ranch in the outer suburbs would have been only a few thousand dollars more. A ranch with a nice, big, shaded yard. Sure, the resale potential was limited, for the moment. The interest rates were dropping all the time now, though, and today�s dream home seemed like tomorrow�s dump when you could get a 30 year fixed rate at 6 percent. And so now, the eminiently sellable townhome he was stuck in--the one with the tiny yard and the close neighbors--was a blot on the market, an ink stain that didn�t wash out in the Classifieds.

The only motor function Mickey had left was his nose. He twitched it with glee. Reckless abandon.

A Necco wafer would have tasted good.

Bounding over the fences, Sparky was the ideal dog. The fences weren�t ideal, though, because Sparky bounded over them, and damn it, fences were meant to keep dogs in! No, no, said Iselle, take him to training. This was after the fiftieth runaway (it seemed like fifty anyway) and Mickey, all three hundred pounds of him, panting and sweating, was ready to let the damn dog die in the wild. If he wasn�t so cute...

Training costs money, said Mickey. In a metaphorical sense, he said this. The words were never uttered out loud. That wasn�t Mickey�s way, you see. He preferred to sit and stew. So: Training costs money, Mickey stewed. Mickey actually said, "No."

Iselle looked hurt, and retreated to the bedroom.

Mickey often wondered how that other Mickey, a Mr. Mouse, would handle the threat of murder. Probably giggle in a high-pitched voice. Mickey had tried this in the past, with little success, at job interviews, funerals, et cetera. It just didn�t work. He thought about adding the ears, but decided to leave Well Enough a loan.

Wellman needed the money after all, and the law firm of Enough, Already, & Lief had been good to him over the years, representing him in his lawsuit against Pocono Resort Mud Flats. Wellman Enough, Jr. had represented him. They had won the case after proving that Mickey�s driveway had been a mud flat long before any resorts had hit upon the now-popular theme. Well was just a young lawyer then, but he had since become destitute paying for his late-night Beffy the Vimpyre Slyer addiction. Mickey, flush from the settlement, helped him out, and in turn, Well got him a puppy--Sparky. "I humbly thank you. Well, well, Well," Mickey had said. This time it was out loud.

They had a big laugh over that one.

Alas, alack, if only Well had known the poor fate of yon puppy. But how could he? Mickey and Iselle seemed like the perfect three-hundred pound couple for a three pound puppy. Provided he wasn�t sat upon (spat upon, ratted on) he should do fine. But no, he would up buried in the too-small backyard while Iselle cavorted with Homer Already.

She had met him through Well, for Pete�s plugs! Galling it was and galling it would remain until the operation. Everything in the world was galling just before a gall bladder operation, but nonetheless, it vexed Mickey like a small tapeworm.

The doctor entered the room and Mickey twitched a greeting. The doctor left. Apparently he had entered the wrong house. Mickey sighed. Why hadn�t he been sent to a hospital by now? Instead, all these anasteomdliosigsts were jumping in and out of buildings. The whole town needed new gall bladders. Something about the Government and big black helicopters. Or did he dream it?

Iselle was gone! He screamed inwardly.

Why, why, why did she leave me for that Homer?! D�oh!

He died. There was a notice in the paper, next to the gall bladder alert.

Phew. (Rather scary.) Who was that guy?
I am told there is too much poetry on your average blogs. Did they mean original poetry, or quoted poetry like the poem below?

Thursday, April 11, 2002

I hate poetry, usually.

Tuesday morning I woke up and saw this article on the front page of the Style section. Briefly, Richard Russo won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novel Empire Falls. Prof. Russo used to teach at Colby College, my alma mater, and I had the good fortune to take a creative writing course with him. I think he gave me a B minus, but that's neither here nor there.

I was stunned and happy for him, and happy for myself that I was connected to him in some minor way. Of course, I'm just one of many students he's had, and I doubt he'd remember me. (This is the truth this time, not just some self-pity, as I was an unremarkable student.) I hope someday to meet him again, maybe on a book tour, and see if he'll ever have a character named Squelch who isn't something of a twit.

I read the article again a day later, beyond the front page this time, and saw that a gentleman named Carl Dennis had won the Pulitzer for poetry; this would have had no impact on me had the reporter not excerpted the first few lines of his poem "The God Who Loves You." They made a huge impact, and here is the poem in its entirety, reprinted absolutely without permission:

The God Who Loves You
by Carl Dennis

It must be troubling for the god who loves you
To ponder how much happier you'd be today
Had you been able to glimpse your many futures.
It must be painful for him to watch you on Friday evenings
Driving home from the office, content with your week--
Three fine houses sold to deserving families--
Knowing as he does exactly what would have happened
Had you gone to your second choice for college,
Knowing the roommate you'd have been allotted
Whose ardent opinions on painting and music
Would have kindled in you a lifelong passion.
A life thirty points above the life you're living
On any scale of satisfaction. And every point
A thorn in the side of the god who loves you.
You don't want that, a large-souled man like you
Who tries to withhold from your wife the day's disappointments
So she can save her empathy for the children.
And would you want this god to compare your wife
With the woman you were destined to meet on the other campus?
It hurts you to think of him ranking the conversation
You'd have enjoyed over there higher in insight
Than the conversation you're used to.
And think how this loving god would feel
Knowing that the man next in line for your wife
Would have pleased her more than you ever will
Even on your best days, when you really try.
Can you sleep at night believing a god like that
Is pacing his cloudy bedroom, harassed by alternatives
You're spared by ignorance? The difference between what is
And what could have been will remain alive for him
Even after you cease existing, after you catch a chill
Running out in the snow for the morning paper,
Losing eleven years that the god who loves you
Will feel compelled to imagine scene by scene
Unless you come to the rescue by imagining him
No wiser than you are, no god at all, only a friend
No closer than the actual friend you made at college,
The one you haven't written in months. Sit down tonight
And write him about the life you can talk about
With a claim to authority, the life you've witnessed,
Which for all you know is the life you've chosen.

So many different ways that this poem hits me in the gut and upside the head. The Pulitzer committee made the right call this year.

Being a Man at Gymboree.

Well, for one thing, I can't commiserate with the mothers about how awful my butt looked after pregnancy. That's not a huge loss, I admit.

Still, it's clear that there have been many friendships formed in these groups. While I don't particularly make myself hold conversations with anyone, I sometimes wonder what I might have in common with these women, except, of course, our kids. Do I even care?

The center of the Gymboree universe is D, of course. As it should be. But is it possible to strike up friendships with any of these VERY married women without it looking like flirtation?

Maybe we could just exchange recipies. Which is a good place to stop, since it's time for me to fix dinner. (Ah, the Family Man...)

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Here's Something Pathetic. Yesterday, something really important happened which I forgot to report in the previous blogs. (I preferred to yammer aimlessly and post old stories.) K, D, and I went in for an ultrasound.

Well, in fact, it was only K who actually was examined, of course. But it was only D and me who saw the screen. In every ultrasound room we've seen, the screen faces AWAY from the mother. What sense does that make? I suppose they don't want to alarm you if your baby has nine heads. At least this place allowed us to come in with K--the first place we went to on this pregnancy made D and me wait outside for what seemed like hours (because it was hours).

I think I saw the heart, which was cool. But on the whole, it didn't seem to make this child any more "real." When will that happen?

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

What's on my mind today? Good question.

I have a few ideas for books, animations, etc., percolating in my head at the moment. An animation idea seems to be the most potent... a kind of metaphor for the choice one must make between sanity and creativity. Maybe that's something I can Rant about later.

(It was a choice in my case at least... maybe other folks can manage straddling the paths...)

I wonder if I've bit off more than I can chew with the Star Wars animation project. But since no one seems to have noticed my existence as of yet, it's possibly not a problem.

It rained today. About time.

Rex wondered a while back if I should join his sketch comedy group. Assuming even that the other folks would want me to join. It would get me writing on a regular basis. But then, that's what this is supposed to do, too, yes?

I remember now what I wanted to rant about! Are you one of those people who goes gung-ho into a project and lets it consume your life and then forgets about it?

Me too!

Come to think of it, that's why I started blogging. Hmmm....
Here's a short story I wrote in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

As told to


John H. Watson, M.D.

Chapter One


"I say, Holmes," I said, gazing down from my usual perch watching the streets below the large bay window in Holmes� study, "what do you make of the gentleman below, who seems to be bent on entering number 221 in the fastest possible manner?"

Holmes, who was noodling at his violin across the room, said languidly, "Other than that he has had very little to eat this morning, that he lives in Sussex but keeps a flat in town, that this flat is in Cheapside, that he has never read the works of Tacitus, and that he is without a doubt the most foul-smelling individual in the Kingdom, what did you have in mind?"

"My dear Holmes!" I ejaculated.

"Clean that up, would you, Watson?" said Holmes, gesturing at the ashtray.

"But Holmes, you could not even see him at the window!"

"Ah, Watson, the simplest trifles! Surely you noted that before I began my latest excursion into the late neoclassical violin sonata, I polished the wood to a mirror-like sheen?"

"Then you saw his reflection in your violin?" I asked, amazed and elated at my friend�s visual prowess, especially as would have had to see not only a reflection but through the casement of the window.

"Close, Watson, but not quite!" he chuckled. "I saw a reflection of your glasses--in which I saw the reflection of the gentleman on the street."

I nodded in frank admiration, then pondered, "But what of his meal (or lack thereof), his living arrangements, his knowledge (or lack thereof) of classical literature, and of course, his stench?"

"Ah, yes. Well, you see--"
At this point, our guest thundered into the room, and I was never to know the subtle yet no doubt evident details which allowed my friend to make his deductions. However, I can say that at least one hypothesis was correct. The gentleman was indeed ripe.

"Mr. Sherlock Holmes!" the gentleman blustered, red-faced.

"A name to which I have been known to answer," said Holmes.

"I have a most--damned, a most perplexing issue to be dealt with!" The gentleman shook his head and took a handkerchief from his waistcoat and began mopping his brow.

"Pray, take a seat, Mr�.?"

"Foogypants. Horace Q. Foogypants." The gentleman sank into the all-too-tiny chair I provided. He looked askance at me. "That�s a name I would care to keep secret. Dr. Watson, I presume?"

I nodded. "The same."

Foogypants turned to Holmes, an air of contempt mixing with his abominable smell. "Must he be here?"

"Dr. Watson has assisted me on a number of occasions," my friend intoned carefully, moving his hawk-like nose from side to side and upsetting a wine glass in the process.

"I require utmost privacy!"

"I assure you," Holmes assured him, "he is the soul of discretion."

Foogypants rounded on me. "I�ve read your stories in the Strand!" the portly gentleman snarled. "They always start with Mr. Holmes here assuring the client that you are the soul of discretion. But the stories wind up published nonetheless. Is it not so?"

I must admit, dear reader, my situation was not ameliorated by the foolscap and quill I had produced upon the client�s abrupt entry. Even so, I was stunned when Holmes turned to me and said, "He may have a point, Watson."

"My dear Holmes!"

"Go on, go on. If the man wants a little privacy, you had best go home to your wife anyway. I deduce today is her birthday." With a wave of his hand, Holmes bade me to the door, and, sputtering, I left, walking dejected and alone down Baker Street.
As to the rest of the adventure, dear Reader, if you happen to run across Mr. Horace Foogypants, do ask him how it turned out, as I�m quite curious myself. Why he didn�t want to be written about, I don�t know�

The End
So, now we begin with this new form of therapy. Hmmm....

I thought my son was playing in his room when I was trying to get this to work. In fact, he was in my bedroom and our telescope fell down on him. He wasn't hurt, I don't think, anyway, and stopped crying fairly quickly. Naturally, I felt awful that I wasn't watching him.

Now he's in his room again, sleeping, with any luck. Can I really do this once a new one arrives?
Okay. Apparently I can't use iCab to do Blogger. That'll put a crimp in my style to say the least....

In any case, here's a little rant I wrote back in December of 2001. Though I didn't know it then, it was my first blog. So, here it is.
On Jealousy and Fame and Jealousy of Fame

Rant #1, 5 December 2001

My good friend Mike Daisey, who I knew very well at college from '91-'94, is well on his way to fame and fortune. Well, at least fame, though if his book sells half as well as I think it will, fortune won't be far behind. He's already been interviewed on NPR, one of my dreams; he's about to publish a book, another one of my dreams; I'm sure he'll achieve a few more of my dreams before he's done.

I don't mean to imply that he's doing these things just to co-opt my dreams. I'd venture to say that he barely remembers me anymore, though that may be a bit harsh, considering we have gotten together many times since college and remain in contact today. He even mentioned me once in a one-man show (we had helped him stay in DC while he was driving across the country to Seattle).

It seems that every time I start to feel reasonably content with my lot, someone pops up with a success story that sends me spiraling back to adolescent needs and wants, with petty envy and all that jumping at me from all sides. I suppose I should be happy, after all. I own my own house, I have a beautiful wife and an amazing son who I care for full-time. I don't have a job, so I can devote myself to whatever I want to do at that particular moment. Yeah, that's right, I think to myself, life is good. Don't I enjoy piano lessons? Don't I have a good time playing in The Gonna's, the World's Most Unknown Band? Ain't I getting better at animation and filmmaking?

The Squelch doth protest too much, methinks.

After all, Mike has a beautiful wife, too, and a child (though I'm not sure said child knows that Mike is her father) and for all I know he can play the piano too. So it's not a question of "Well, Squelch, he may have all that, but does he have what you have?" Um, yes, he does! And while he may not be happy per se, he's at the very least no more miserable than I am.

I don't mean to make this all about Mike, mind you. There are plenty of other friends I have of whom I'm seethingly jealous. Some of them no doubt are doing better than me because they went to better schools, had better contacts, and so on. They may even have had more talent, though, secretly, I still doubt it. What they did have: DRIVE.

After all, if a kid from rural Maine (this is Mike again) can be so successful, it can't be ALL about coming from New York City. I would guess it takes three things to succeed in the world of celebrity and arts: talent, ambition, and contacts. Two out of those three things aren't bad. Talent is in fact probably the least important, considering a high school classmate of mine just directed the film "The Animal."

So, taking as a given that I'm talented (a dubious given, but roll with me here), what about the other two elements? Well, surprisingly, I have more than a few contacts. But what stops me is the whole ambition thing.

This is what's strange. I have ambitions. My prime ambition is... to be ambitious. I look at what I've accomplished and I say "WHERE's the REST of it?" How about that bestselling novel before I'm thirty? Hell, what about FINISHING a novel before I'm thirty? (I've got a little over a month at this writing.) Right now it's a struggle to just finish this missive here.

Bottom line: I've succeeded in areas I never expected to succeed in (family) and failed where I never thought I'd fail (theater and writing).

So what happens now? If I succeed in my career, will I be happy? Well, maybe. But I won't succeed in my career unless I leave what I have behind. So I guess I just have to learn to live with disappointment.

And I hope Mike writes some more books, and keeps giving me reasons to be jealous.
Why isn't this working?