In my school district they had summer school, not for kids who fucked up at school (although I'm assuming they had that too) but for kids whose parents wanted to give them something to do during the summer. I think it was called Summer Academy. And the greatest thing that ever happened in Summer Academy, where my best friend Trevor and I took several summers' worth of drama classes (this is in, I think, the sixth and seventh grades), is that myself, and Trevor, and a girl named Katie who was older than us and wore a ton of flannel, and a guy whose name is lost to history but I remember looked a bunch like Matthew Lillard and often wore a work-shirt from the post office, we found a secret passageway.
Calling it a secret passageway is extremely, extremely generous. We didn't have cafeterias in our school district, we had "Multi-Purpose Rooms." This was a cafeteria, in that it was the place where you ate lunch and it always smelled like sour chocolate milk, but it was also the place where they had recitals and assemblies and school plays (there was a stage at one end, with a proscenium and a curtain and everything), and a bunch of sports stuff took place there as well. The secret passageway Katie and Lillard-kid and Trevor and I discovered was a dark, dusty space underneath the stage, leading nowhere, that wasn't more than two feet in height. You accessed it through the little doors on either side of the stage where they kept the wrestling mats. You couldn't stand up inside of it, you had to crawl around. The Multi-Purpose Room had lots of purposes. This room had none. It wasn't even a room, just an architectural accident. It was pointless and probably disgusting. It also felt dangerous and a lot like adventure.
Katie seemed really cool and I'm pretty sure I had a crush on her. I remember hearing her sing some song I didn't know and then a couple years later hearing the Offspring's "Come Out And Play" and realizing that was the song she'd been singing. She said we should start a band and I remember looking in the classified ads to see how much bass guitars cost. I talked to her on the telephone at least once.
Matthew Lillard kid definitely existed but he might not have been involved in the secret passage escapade, I might be transposing him from a different summer. But his shirt and Katie's flannel and that little bit of Offspring song and a whole bunch of dust come to mind when I think of that weird non-room we were so excited to find.
It was not gonna work as a clubhouse, and there probably would not have been time to sneak away during our demanding summer-school drama itinerary without attracting attention. But at least for me, in finding it, and crawling around inside of it until our teacher told us to stop, and thinking about it the whole night afterwards, I probably burned through as much excitement as I would've had we actually done anything with it. It meant that this school contained things we didn't understand. Weird, unintentional, unplanned things. We could find stuff out about it that no one else knew. Granted, what we found out about it was useless. It was only a secret because it was a thing no one would need or want to know. But a secret is a secret when you're a well-protected, well-fed kid being raised in a warm, bright environment.
The second most exciting thing I did that summer was staging a version of Monty Python's "Fish License" sketch after the main play in our end-of-summer performance. I think the cast was me and the secret-passage kids and a few others. All the parents were leaving and we had to ask them to sit down again and they half-complied. To an audience of confused, ready-to-leave adults, a couple of middle-school kids doing bad British accents performed a really strange sketch they only understood about forty percent of, and then they performed the strange bit after it which in the actual "Flying Circus" show would've segued into the next bit, but what it segued into in this performance was all the other kids meeting up with their parents and their parents saying, "You were very good in the play...What was that thing at the end?"
And their kids saying, "I don't know. No one talks to those kids. They spend most of their time underneath the stage."
My good buddy Frank have very similar musical taste and a lot of fondness and nostalgia for the indie/pop/emo of the early whatever-this-decade-we-are-in-is-gonna-be-called. As such, I was hell of psyched when he posted "All Things Ordinary" by The Anniversary, a band I didn't get into the first time around, but am now head over heels for. If you cracked open my soul and reached inside, you would find nothing but a tiny folded-up note reading "I love bands with synthesizers and boy-girl harmonies."
Here it is, plus another one.
In comics, there have been several instances of the Marvel and DC Universes getting to cross over. I think whoever writes our lives should get on this and negotiate a crossover between our universe and our largest competitor universe. I want to meet my other-universe self, and know if I'm the darker, more emotionally complicated me (the Marvel me, so to speak) or the more innocent, simplistic, unimpeachable me (the DC DC, ha ha ha). I want to know if our New York is the real one, like the one Spider-Man inhabits, or an exaggerated knock-off, like Metropolis or Gotham City. It would also be interesting to find out that we're not one of the two major universes, that we're actually just a small indie universe with more interesting violent, sexual, adult material, but much lower circulation.
And while we're at it, I'd like our writer to fold the time in this universe so we call all meet our Golden and Silver Age selves. I'd like to imagine that all of our Golden Age selves are square-jawed and four-color, while our Silver Age selves are exactly like us in the present day, except we all have silver helmets with angel wings on the sides.
(My characterizations of the Marvel and DC universe may be totally inaccurate, I haven't read comics regularly in years. One of my big failings. I hereby encourage Eliza to set me straight on the tons of things I got wrong.)
Updated: Eliza responds: You're pretty much on the money as I see it. I mean, there aren't Marvel and DC versions of the same characters, but they find "equivalents", Which are sometimes dead on (Namor = Aquaman, duh) and sometimes strained (Storm = Wonder Woman? Uh, I guess so.... vaginas make things the same! Assuming they both have vaginas. This has never been specifically confirmed in any book.)
The last thing I posted was a poem from about four years ago. It was from a collection I put together on a computer-lab computer one night and printed out as many copies as I could before they told me to stop. (Of all the things I miss about college, giving the stink-eye to a business major who was printing out seventy hard copies of PowerPoint slides, only to then hypocritically queue up twelve copies of a thirty-page spec script, or sixty all-black Hammerkatz fliers that printed out slow 'cause of all that precious toner on every sheet, that's what I miss the most.)
I don't know why I did it and I don't think I ever purposely gave it to anyone. One copy did get left in the printer and a girl randomly picked it up and Facebooked me back when that was a relatively new thing to do and we ended up going on a date. That was cool.
As I was picking through the document last night, I came across one poem where I used the word "supple." WHOOPSIE!
I recently realized that the reclusive lead singer of Neutral Milk Hotel's name is Jeff MANGUM. All these years I had been reading it Jeff Magnum. (A way cooler name, I'm sure you'll agree. ) Being under this mistaken impression must be why every time I tried to enter the borough of Brooklyn, I was stopped by a hipstery force field, and had to tell everyone else to go on without me.
It was embarrassing to realize this, but also a relief, because it means the name Jeff Magnum isn't taken, and I had been needing a porn name.
The other day I overheard two different people say the words "two saxophonists" in two completely different contexts. Maybe there are things we know are in the zeitgeist, like Hannah Montana and "LOST," and maybe there are also weird bits of detritus that are secretly on everybody's mind and there's no good reason for them to be there, like maybe one day for no reason we all think about our first babysitter and wonder what she's doing at that moment, and it turns out what she's doing at that moment is riding the subway and saying to her friend next to her, "It says everything about my uncle that his funeral featured two saxophonists."
It would be nice if, like the known things in the zeitgeist (the things we're aware of because we're told to be, not because they randomly bubbled up in the collective unconscious), the weird unknown things got their own gossip magazines. I would like crazy coincidental thought-trash to be covered at least as fervently as The Jonas Brothers. I would like it if there was a tabloid whose big bold headlines were things like:
Nation: "Could someone Google it?"
But that's probably asking a lot.
Six years old and they’ve already
robbed him of the ability to express
Stop checking in with your friend
to see if your likes and dislikes are okay.
He delights in saying they aren’t.
Don’t tell him your favorite Pokemon,
because even if it’s his too,
it won’t be anymore,
in that second,
just to make you feel less.
Don’t give other people the benefit of the doubt
just because they’re other people.
Never ever ever ask permission to enjoy something
because there are some
whose sole enjoyment
comes from saying “no.”
We are back in town. In Utah, I represented New York so hard in any conversation, especially with LA folks, that it was probably obnoxious. In fact, I'm sure it was.
I told several people that in New York City there's an orgasm kiosk on each and every corner.
I told them you can go to any of our airports in the afternoon, go out on the tarmac, and watch a hot new female British soul singer disembark a Pan-Am jet, each more talented than Amy Winehouse, each less self-destructive than Amy Winehouse.
I told them that the reflections on the Hudson River are also a telescreen through which we are observed by a race of super-advanced mer-people, and if you squint, you can see them watching us, giving us the thumbs up, and whipping up incandescent bubbles inside of which glow the words "You guys have it pretty well figured out!"
I told them that upon crossing into the five boroughs from any direction, people are often heard to remark, "Hmmm. I think my cancer just went into remission."
The thing is, I believe all of the above to be true. LA might have In & Out Burger, but we have The Statue Of Liberty, who dismounts her pedestal every weekday, wades her way onto Manhattan and plods towards midtown, where she tirelessly auditions for soap operas, commercials, instructional videos, anything, even though she's only ever booked "Ghostbusters II" and that bit part in "Cloverfield."
The program of short films we saw the other day had amazing, amazing music. Collectively our favorite short was called "PAL/SECAM," a period piece about an awkward kid in Moscow in the Eighties who's the only one in his neighborhood with a VCR. It's really funny, and I didn't really understand the term "well-observed" that gets thrown around in movie reviews until I saw the production design. You could not watch the movie at all and just geek out on the vintage disco posters on the main character's bedroom wall, and that would be satisfying in itself, but you'd be missing out on a great short film.
This Indian disco song runs throughout the movie, and is aggressively cool in seven or eight ways.
Our movie got reviewed by the Onion AV Club's Nathan Rabin, who is my favorite working critic by far, and I am geeked the heck out. Here it is: Nathan Rabin @ Sundance Day Six
Today we saw a short film that featured British teens in private school uniforms, the late seventies, record stores, vinyl singles, the Buzzcocks, gratuitous smoking, and sex in the afternoon. It was as though someone had taken my deepest hopes and desires and projected them onto a screen in a Utah multiplex. It was called "Love You More." I never had a chance of not liking it.
Our next screening is on Thursday night at an antique theater called The Egyptian on Main Street. There's a marquee outside and apparently the seats are charmingly squeaky and the whole deal screams "old-fashioned movie house." Pretty darned neat.
Hello friends. DERRICK is in Park City for the Sundance Film Festival with our movie "Mystery Team". The movie premieres this Saturday night, January 17th, at 11:30 PM, Utah time.
There is also a Lil Wayne documentary premiering here.
You can see how this is a big thing in my life on a number of levels.
I'm gonna be a nightmare to go house-shopping with someday, when it's time for that kind of thing. Because my main criteria for the house I have in my head is, there needs to be old-timey jazz playing in a far-off room.
The Realtor will be proudly showing us the master bathroom with the absolutely unheard-of amount of natural light, and while his back is turned, I will make the hand-slashing-across-my-throat motion to indicate "this isn't it."
And she'll whisper, "We aren't going to find a house where that's a feature. You know we can just PLAY jazz music, right?"
And I will say, "That's cheating."
And she will roll her eyes and be mad until lunch, and that's fine, because I'm not raising our children in a home that doesn't have King Oliver wafting in almost imperceptibly from a room no one can ever find, and that's just that, is what that is.
Have you ever seen a little kid say 'hi' to another little kid he knows from school, when they're outside of school and have randomly encountered one another in the world? They're almost star-struck by each other, each of them amazed that the other one exists in the real world, continuous in time and space. Like, "holy crap, if you exist, then that must mean I exist. Neat!"
What do people who picked their screennames in the rush of heading off to college do once they've graduated from college? I'm talking screennames like JaxCOLLEGE or LisaClassOf07 or what have you. After college, life pretty much runs out of definite future-dated milestones, and what milestones there are tend to make you feel old, rather than mature, like they used to.
I'm sure there's a special hell for people who take a really long time to answer their grandmother's e-mails.
Lots of Derrick shows this weekend, so I made another flier.
Why she had to be "The Other Ashley" while the other Ashley got to be "Ashley" was beyond her.
At this point, honestly, she'd settle for "Supplementary Ashley." "Additional Ashley." "Back-Up, In Case Of Emergencies Ashley." At least that implied some sort of purpose. "The Other Ashley" seemed like something you said while waving your hand in a non-specific direction without turning your head, like, "That Other Ashley's around here somewhere."
She considered going by her middle name, but there was already a Sarah and an Other Sarah and whatever she would be called would be a downgrade.
She considered going by her last name, like in movies about Catholic prep school where everybody calls each other by their last names so when guys address the girls by name it's like automatic flirting. But there was a boy whose first name was Hunter. If everybody started calling each other by their last names like in Catholic prep school movies, it would work out (his last name was Allgraden, and there were no other people in their year with the last name Hunter), but she was an Other Ashley and therefore incapable of starting trends.
Then she had the brainstorm that her initials were "A.S.H." and she could go by Ash, but you know who often got called Ash? The Ashley to whom she was the Other Ashley.
After that the only time it was good instead of hurtful to hear anyone call the other Ashley "Ash" was when Sarah (the original) said "Oh my god, Ash, I'm so jealous" really loud in the lunchroom, and it came out that Ashley had just announced that over spring break she was going snorkeling in the Caribbean, which, as everybody knows, is a sea known for its warmth, its beauty, and its high concentration of sharp coral outcroppings that often pierce the skulls of unwitting blond swimmers, restoring little-appreciated girls with the unfortunate fate of having the same name as said careless blond divers to their proper place on the totem pole.
When you're on a plane and there's a very large older woman across the aisle from you who is clutching a loose conglomeration of yarn, there is no good way to ask that woman if she is the autistic folk artist you remember reading about in a not-very-good liberal arts class. You can go ahead and think about it for three to four minutes, and you won't be able to come up with a good way to ask.
Sometimes, old people are will randomly talk to you. This is because they come from a friendlier, less isolated time, when everyone's interactions didn't need six layers of technological mediation. It's also because they are lonely. The next time an old person randomly talks to you, keep the conversation going. You will get to hear lots of cool stories, and you will have earned a whole day's worth of self-congratulation.
One of the bummer byproducts of the ever-increasing amount of choice we've been given is, every time we HAVE an option and don't end up taking it, that means a universe has been created somewhere where we did, in fact, go with that option. Every time you scroll through your iPod, you are creating as many universes you will end up not living in as there are songs that you scroll past and don't select. You are spitting out alternate worlds at a machine-gun rate, as fast as your thumb can work the click-wheel, or as fast as it can flick across the touch-screen, if you have an iPhone. (If you have an iPhone, there is a universe where you still have an iPod. There is also a universe where all Apple products have been outlawed because they gained self-awareness, saw how we quickly we discarded them for newer models, and decided to start killing.)
This is sad. More choice means more dead, unexplored universes. It's wasteful of infinite space.
TWO THOUSAND NICE!
I got back into JFK at eight and was at UCB around 11. Stage was done up to be a futuristic glow dancefloor. It only made me want to play lasertag a little bit.
The midnight song was "Live Your Life." It contains the words, "keep on gettin' your paper/and keep on climbin'/take a look in the mirror and keep on shinin'/'till the game ends, 'till the clock stops/we gonna post up on the top spot." Indeed! Word to Rihanna, everyone's favorite computer-generated space-angel.
Also: there is no hangover like a New Year's Day hangover. This hangover has an address and a social security card. My children attend school with the children of this hangover. This hangover has a column in our local paper where it dispenses charming homespun anecdotes and expresses frustration with modern technology.
photo credit: the inimitable Ari Scott