Fuck. Balls. Ass.
I just lost a whole entry, except the last paragraph, so here goes:
This was going somewhere, but it can't for the life of it remember where and it's late and I'm going to be no good at helping it get back on track. So listen to Bishop Allen and if you like 'em I'll have done my good deed for the week, because I know it's a theme I beat over the head, and I sound like a VH-1 commercial for putting glockenspiels in the hands of inner-city youth as if that will make the difference between crackhead and a senator (perhaps it will) but music fucking counts.
I boiled a bunch of run on sentences and a story about my day and walking in the cold down to the point, and then I lost everything but the point.
Advantage: you, the reader.
In short, getting back to New York was a long, painful, and cold ordeal.
My flight, the ticket for which my grandma got me, was non-stop. Granny Jan (my dad's mom) does much international globetrotting (as opposed to national globetrotting); when I visited New York the first time in July 2002, it was her doing (early graduation present.) She has accrued the crazy frequent flier miles, I was to be the benefactor. No hour-or-two layover in Pittsburgh or Philly, leave the ground in Phoenix and the next ground I touch is NYC. Problem was the flight didn't go to NYC. It went to Newark.
The Newark International Airport is considered to be just fine for getting into the big city, just as fine as JFK or LaGuardia, which I usually fly out of. I don't know why it's considered that. I think it's ass.
To make a long and painful tale merely brief and excruciating, my dad said it was easy to catch a train into the city, and I'm notoriously cheap, so I thought, sure, I'll forgo a cab, lug all my shit, save a few bucks, and rough it. It will be cold and there will be stairs, but for sure I will have that weary-traveller feeling that's so romantic and glamorous when you don't go from airport tram to bus to train to the uber-people-glut of Friday night Penn Station, everybody going out of the city, you trying to break into it with a ton of bag slung over your shoulder, to a subway car where one of a pair of diminutive Dominican girls says "That bag BEST not be on my foot!" to shoving your way through a turnstile to the frigid six block walk that only seems like ten miles because you started your day someplace where it was sixty-five degrees, warmer tommorrow.
Next time, a cab. Hell, two cabs. One for me and one for all the clothes I thought I'd need for some reason back in Phoenix which isn't paradise but in January might as well be.
Now it can be told.
This break I've been soaking up all the things I don't have, in any traceable amount, back in New York: home-cooked food, a big bed, video games, television. The moments when I've been able to combine at least three out of four have been among some of the happiest of my weeks here. I have spent an inordinate amount of time in front of the tube, and an inordinate portion of that time has been spent watching MTV. There was a period there where we couldn't bitch and moan enough about MTV lost all its music videos and all its integrity, even though most of us weren't alive when MTV played strictly videos, and no one was alive when it had integrity. (oh DISS.) We were totally missing the point.
In the stead of music videos, MTV has put a stable of consistently exploitative and brain-dead reality shows that could not be more fucking entertaining if they tried. (They reached their zenith with "Made" and "Making the Band 2" and I'll knife-fight anyone what says otherwise.) They are sick slick editing geniuses who know what exactly what they're doing and God love 'em for it. Tommy Hilfiger's daughter rendered incapable of happiness by a lifetime of uberprivilege, the male audience rendered incapable of arousal by her horse-faced best friend. Ex-Real World cast members shimmying up rickety product-placement obstacle courses teetering over swimming pools. Affeminate fat kids from Brooklyn being egged on to a third sit-up by steroidy drill sargeant types.
Who wins? The American viewing public.
Anyway, longwinded introduction can be summed up thusly: if MTV were a girl, I would sleep with it, as faux-vapid and secretly pragmatic as it, as a girl, would be, much like Bree in high school who we all suspected would leave her business card after she'd fucked you.
They have this new show, "Boiling Points," which isn't divinely stupid, it's just stupid. They're playing it about eight times a day, like they do when they're trying to launch a new show, so you can catch the episode a friend has earlier described to you when you're eating warmed-over Italian food on the couch at three in the morning (Winter break ROOLZ, as the kids say.) A lot of the locations where they film their stunts, trying to get people to freak out at their epicly annoying behavior, at least in the one episode I've seen, are places I pass every day at school. This came as no surprise. Me and this show crossed paths, once. And the results were as unpretty as they were anticlimatic.
It's an afternoon which will seem more dramatically significant if I describe it as the last beautiful afternoon of the year, and I won't feel bad about it, because in my memory, it was. I'm waiting on a bench in the park, underneath trees whose branches sustain an orange-jacketed tree surgeon (yes, they have those) who shouts to his partner down below. I'm waiting for Emilie to come out of her dorm so we can bum around in the park before I have rehearsal in the final hours of this most gorgeous of days. Dan calls me. Dan is Emilie's childhood friend and my friend by way of both of the comedy troupes I'm in; he's the film director in Hammerkatz, the sketch comedy group. Dan says it's urgent, come to Tisch right away. Tisch is where I'm going at six after the park. I don't want to go to Tisch right now. I want to lay in the park with a pretty girl. But, spurred by the supposed urgency and depressed and ever the maker of regrettable decisions, I go.
I get up to AJ's office (AJ is the director of Hammerkatz) expecting someone to be on the floor bleeding. Nothing less will justify robbing me of my potential afternoon. As nerdy comedy folk, we don't really deal in injured bodies, though, so I decide I'll be satisfied with the unfunny third beat of a sketch on the floor, bleeding. It's not.
Dan and AJ excitedly gather AV equipment and explain that MTV is filming one of their retarded hidden-camera shows at a restaurant right around the corner. They give you what are purported to be free appetizers, then they charge you for them. If you don't flip out you get a hundred bucks. Their big idea is pranking the pranksters: we'll film Dan as he not only flips out but goes legitimately psychotic, see what happens, then we'll reveal ourselves as having been taping them, then we'll yell "Cheese it!" and run away in a large and exaggerated silent film fashion (This last part is my contribution.) We'll show the tape, if this works, at our next show. I am to go in in advance of Dan, camera in my backpack, sit down behind where they've set up, while AJ gets shots from across the street.
Okay, I say, and we go downstairs lugging several thousand dollars of audio-visual paraphenalia.
Apparently the poorly-disguised production van out front with cables running into the restaurant isn't giving it away, and neither is the producer's table at which the recently gotten sign releases allowing their pissed-off faces on TV. Just as I sit down, a customer throws a shrieking fit at the cast member and is about to drag her boyfriend out when she's told she's being taped. She jumps up and down triumphantly. They lead her over to the table. Dan walks in just as this is happening. We're made.
He calls me from the bathroom. There's no chance of them trying the same thing on him, they just saw him walk in. There's nobody else we can call to come down and freak out. We're so made. We leave, any and all chances of besting MTV and shouting "Cheese it!" and any hope of salvaging my afternoon dashed.
I have AJ take my backpack back to Tisch; unbeknownst to be the camera's still running inside. I go and get a soda before rehearsal starts.
So if you're watching "Boiling Points" in the weeks to come and you spot a long-haired blonde kid sitting awkwardly behind that annoying girl with big camera glasses, reading Chekov, camcorder maybe jutting from his backpack, that's me. I told you it was anticlimatic. Unlike the bitch goddess of reality television, I have the decency to warn you before I subject you to something.
Today was a fuck-yes day. Inexplicably so.
I wake at 2 PM and I'm all like Fuck yes. You know the feeling. I call my dad to find out what time my brother's basketball game is. 4:30, says Pops. I eat leftover chicken and macaroni and cheese from Boston Market, the food of the gods, and I watch Kids in the Hall. I swing by Sonic for a giant beverage that is half price before five PM (Happy Hour, suckas.) Oldies radio is playing one of the twenty songs, the impression I get from oldies radio being that there were only twenty songs produced before 1980, and they all fucking kicked ass. I have the window down and my short-sleeved arm hanging out. I drive fast; the world shimmers. Some Creedence would be nice, but "Hit The Road, Jack" will do in a pinch.
I pull up to the middle school and enter the gym, then mount the bleachers several steps at a time. My dad isn't there yet. John Paul is warming up with his teammates out on the court, and if he sees me, he doesn't acknowledge me. His friend Gerald does. "DC!" he shouts from where he stands, next in line to send a warmup shot clanging off the rim. Gerald is more or less my brother's best friend and definitely his sidekick, because Gerald is just pushing four feet tall and if listed his hobbies would probably include "tagging along." I never had a diminutive sidekick in middle school. I had to settle for this kid. (Either he was my troublemaking rebellious sidekick or I was his brainy gutless sidekick, it probably depends on who you talk to.)
When I got home from school I was struck by how tall my brother had become, and although he isn't the tallest kid on the court, he definitely towers over the other team. The game begins, and so does a predictable pattern: John Paul steals, breaks down the court, followed closely by some kid who blocks his shot. Steal, break, block. This happens three times before my dad shows up a few minutes into the first quarter.
"I hope they put Gerald in," my dad says. "That's always a hoot."
I'm rooting for the Sabercats, eternal rival of my junior high alma mater's Rattlers, a treason on par with eating lunch at Burger King several months after having expressed a half-hearted preference for the fries at McDonald's. Pretty much everywhere, except for on the other team, rag-tag, flabby, and losing by a three-to-one point margin, there are gawky arms poking out of jerseys. Twelve textbook definitions of "adolescent" handling an orange ball in a manner my dad says is much better than usual. It's hilarious and fun to watch, and I start to get misty for a mid-puberty life I never had.
Between the first and second quarters, every middle schooler who isn't currently engaged in the basketball game, including the eight grade team waiting to play, disappears out the bleacher doors, smiles on their faces. A couple authority figures follow a few seconds later. Probably a fight outside. Awesome.
Man, I think, watching the kids attempting to have adult relations at one-third the height, we thought we were such hot shit. Even I thought I was hot shit, and I was aggressively, awkwardly, plumpily, collectible-card-game-playingly not hot shit. Then we thought we were hot shit in high school. Now we think we're hot shit in college. One wonders where one files the paperwork to become the independent too-cool-for-school adult one was always pretending to be.
My brother is good; his general athleticism and general out-hustling of everyone else on the court make up for an obvious lack of basketball supertalent. From behind one of the baskets the too-small cheerleaders instruct us that when they say "Saber," we are to say "Cat," then they proceed to not just say but shout both "Saber" and "Cat" without really giving us a chance to chime in. My dad wonders which one of the girls is Keena. Keena keeps calling our house looking for John Paul, and when he's not there, she gets testy. When he comes up at halftime, John Paul explains that she's not in cheer, she's on the step team.
"And it's a good thing, too," he says, making his way back down.
"Why's that?" my dad asks.
John Paul's back on the court now, the second half about to begin. He turns around and shouts: "Distraction!"
By the fourth quarter he has twelve of his team's forty-some points. My God, I think, my brother is a badass.
Gerald makes a shot. John Paul tells us later it was his first of the season, but at the time, Gerald played it off like it was everyday while everyone around him freaked out with congratulations.
After the game, John Paul is getting his stuff, I'm getting what you would call nostalgia if nostalgia didn't have an element of wanting to go back to whatever time you're mooning over. I don't envy these kids their webs of Instant Messenger intrigue and their developing bodies; compared to what has followed it, middle school blew ass. But at the time it was all so gosh-dang significant, and it was ridiculous, and it was fun, and I'm glad my brother seems to be doing it ten times better than I ever did. There are whole constellations of characters and sequences of events in his life I don't know about and will never know about, and I'm glad of it. I hope he enjoys it. I hope he attaches more dramatic importance to the events of his wonderful little life than maybe they actually deserve.
Sure worked for me.
At 7:40 my dad and I went to my brother's hockey game. I am proud to report that he rocks at that, too.
PS, my rebellious sidekick is going under the knife today (being Thursday.) Nothing serious, but be sure to send him your bestest get-well wishes and keep him in your thoughts and prayers. After all, he would pray for you, if he believed in any deities besides Ray the cat, Mark Twain, Kiltlifter, and Tony Hawk: Underground.
The year begins and I am thoroughly confused.
What were you doing at midnight? my grandma asked me yesterday. Hangin' out, I said, watching the ball drop. Which is true. At midnight I was with I'm going to go ahead and guess twenty-five people in the living room of a house where Guillermo used to live and is still, in the parlance of my friends, "Gurg's house" watching the orb of Waterford Crystal descend into Times Square on TV. I was holding a cup but I wasn't drinking. I was standing behind a girl I wasn't kissing but I would later.
Good, Grandma said, 'Cause they say whatever you're doing at midnight on New Years is what you'll be doing the rest of the year.
Makes me wonder why you don't hear about more people who spend an entire twelve months readjusting their sparkly party hats or turning to the person behind them to offer them a hug and a swig of cheap champagne.
And if you'd have been kissing some hot babe, Grandma said and yes, those were her exact words, that's what you'd be doing all year.
How tragic that would be, I said.
I was just watching some VH-1 expose on reality TV shows and it has me thinking about the fuzzy lines between life and entertainment and art, the sort of stuff I spent all semester trying to avoid thinking about, in spite of my Writing the Essay class's best attempts to get me to do otherwise. Unfortunate considering I was watching TV to avoid thinking. Avoidance, concious or otherwise, has been the leitmotif of my Christmas break. Avoid writing, avoid thinking, avoid picking up the phone: the boiling point has been reached.
I have to write but writing's a burden. It's heavy with obligations and fears, and a hiccup in your routine can have you using those as excuses. Not having anything to say is an excuse not to write. Going to bed is an excuse not to write. After a while you've gotten so good at slinging around excuses that the length of time you've been away from the keyboard in itself becomes an excuse; when you sit down what you write will be stodgy, long-winded, stilted, self-indulgent, and you'll say see, I was never any good and I was right to put this off and the memory of this rocky return will be more fuel when this cycle repeats itself, and it will.
In Writing the Essay, the class that asked me to consider (at length) art and its relation to practically everything, a request to which I replied um, no, the teacher suggested we let our writing mimic the subject we're describing. For an example she gave us an essay about a baby's first steps where some of the sentences were long-winded and some ended abruptly, like a newly bipedal infant catching confidence then falling on his ass. I am writing about the difficulty of getting writing again after a long and shamefully voluntary abscence. It is awkward and scattershot and for the life of me just not very good.
I got an A in that class, by the way.
In Case You're Wondering, I Am Talking Around Something: I shook the faith someone I love has in me and I don't for the life of me don't know how to make it right.
You can tell your grandkids the New Year's Eve superstition, and if you fudge the timeline a little bit, you can tell them that at the beginning of 2004 I was at the keyboard, typing away, and that was the way I stayed the whole year. And since you've already started exaggerating, you can leave out the part about how I was thoroughly confused.