Archive for January, 2003

Skip this one, if you want.

Friday, January 31st, 2003

To say I suffer from bi-polar disorder is really missing the point. I suffer from it in the same way that drug addicts suffer from being high. It’s so tied to my personality that I embrace it like a gorgeous girl with the clap, relishing the infestation because it goes hand in hand with so much intimate release.

You’ve seen the movies and read the books, but for most of us, it isn’t Lord Byron or Mr. Jones or whatever. There are cycles of good and bad, and the good is quite nice (although it can be annoying) and the bad is pretty terrible (although it can help you work some shit out). The best part of the bad is what I am going through now, what Jordana calls ‘dysphoric mania’, when I have many of the outer signs of the manic phases but I am still fighting. This means I actually get a lot of work done, I don’t need very much sleep, and when I really set my mind to it, I can be pretty fun to be around. But there is also this nagging fatalistic feeling, a sort of desperate failing, like if I don’t continue pushing forward, if I stop for even a moment’s breath, I will spiral horribly.

I wrote yesterday about Iraq and several other things, but upon re-reading it, I just couldn’t post it. Self indulgence smells worse on me than on just about anyone else. Which is ironic to put in a blog, but I am really using this as a way to exorcise the crap I shouldn’t be working on and focus on my music.

I mean, seriously, level with me, did I really just say that I need to be focusing on my music? When people say that kind of stuff to me, I hope they get cancer, and quickly. I mean, do it, for fuck’s sake, don’t tell me you need to do it.

Several of my friends are writers, or attempted writers, and their work ethics are each beautiful in their own way. My dad and mom were both artists growing up, both of them had to spend long stretches, pencil in hand, glowering over scores, memorizing or creating them. And I know that, despite everything, when my dad said he needed to study, it wasn’t because he thought he should. I felt like whenever he wasn’t studying, he was wishing he could be. And my mom, I mean, Jesus, my mom would sometimes ask me to be quiet for a minute in the car when she was driving because music was coming to her. She would run upstairs and disappear in her studio. That is to say, her door was open, we were walking in and out, but she was buried in her music, entirely.

And I never feel like that unless I am memorizing a script. I feel like my dad and mom looked growing up. The problem, of course, is that my dad chose the symphonies his orchestra was playing, and my mom chose every note she was writing. As an actor, I walk around terrified that I will scramble, pray and prostrate myself to get a role that, ultimately, I hate. I did a film some time ago that I have no feeling for whatsoever, none of my identity was in it, I don’t have a clue what the script was about, and yet I worked like crazy to make it good. I failed.

So here I am, working with the two most talented people I have ever known, trying to create the roles that I would want, hoping that I can find someone else to do them. I am writing songs that I would want to sing, and crafting a story about people that I would want to watch. It’s the only thing I know to do. And, yeah, there is that horrible sensation that if I stop, I’ll fall right off the planet.

Go to hell, Dook.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2003

The U.N.C. men’s basketball team is playing what many consider to be a must-win game against Georgia Tech tonight. Carolina is 2-3 in the ACC, and 11-7 overall. We (yes, we, dammit) need to win 17 games to make the bubble of the NCAA tournament, 18 games would assure us a place. This game is important, yes, but despite what people think, it is not a must-win game.

It’s hard for me to claim to be a tarheel, as I was only enrolled at the college for one semester as a continuing studies student. But I attended classes for two years there, as did my then wife. I could only afford to pay for one of our tuitions, and I tended to be the one to fail out of school, so it didn’t make sense for me to be the one enrolled. Plus, as a casual student, I wasn’t required to take tests or actually show up unless I wanted to.

I have to say that Carolina was the beginning of the end of my marriage. Although she and I were both happy there, the place separates the flash from the substance, and once we left, (and went to LA of all places) my pining for a more substantive lifestyle made me unbearable for her to be around. I mean, she’s on a soap opera now, and I have my Carolina life back, so we both kind of won, I think.

I am a tarheel, despite the enrollment. When I got to Carolina, I was a boy, a fool. I was married and 23, but still, I knew nothing about art, about life, about beauty, about friendship. I had wanted to be a ‘real actor’, not the musical theater actor that I had spent five years becoming, and I went to UNC because there was so much opportunity to do just that. To act. At Carolina, they did seven student shows a semester, and there are three or four other companies on campus that do three or more shows a year.

I could give you the list of people I worked with there and tell you where they are all now, but I am trying to avoid names in this thing as much as I can. Suffice it to say, I was spoiled rotten, and in two years I crossed off every role on my “Must Do Before Turning Thirty” list.

More than that, it was the nights spent talking and drinking, the lunch trips to the cafeteria where we would use up all the unused meals on people’s cards. The morning that two friends and I covered the campus with paper announcing another friend’s birthday. While virginity loss and drug dabbling and experimental homosexuality were going on around me, I was learning what it was to have friends that you *love* so deeply that it lasts years and years into the future. It may be that way with every college, but the other three I went to inspired none of the same.

And that’s the thing. Jawad Williams (one of a stretch of extraordinary Carolina players that share my surname) scored three points last game and we lost. He could have done better. And I know he was kicking himself after the game, the same way I cried for hours when we had to cancel one of our performances of “La Bete” because I had lost my voice.

But he is suffering there, at Carolina, where your suffering translates into maturity, where you meet your partners for life, where people expect the best from you, even if you are a boy or a fool. You won’t be for long. You wake up the morning after a loss or a failed test or a drinking binge and you breath the clean air and look at the Carolina blue sky, and you call your friends and your life takes another step toward being just slightly better than everyone else’s life.

This game tonight is not a must-win, because by being a tarheel, they have already won.

Hoo, boy, here he goes.

Tuesday, January 28th, 2003

I’m reading “Guns, Germs and Steel”, which I can’t recommend enough. It is an overview of the history of cultures and an investigation into why certain groups of people were able to consistently defeat other groups. It completely destroys any theories about ethnic proclivities or other racist bullshit. My childhood friend Anastasia was visiting my sister a few weeks ago and she touched on the book, saying, ‘if you believe that sort of thing…’ and I was a little stunned because it just makes so much sense, how can you not? It’s so smart and, to someone who finds racism a sickening answer, so comforting.

As I have been in this book for the last month or so, it seems like the abortion debate is swirling around us again. My girlfriend’s father Joe (there should be a word for that relationship for chrissakes, it has to be one of the most weirdest, touchiest relationships there is) is a hard core, radio-talk-show right winger, although he claims he is a social moderate. When the Republicans took control of, y’know, everything, I made a deal with him; if Pataki does extend health care for poor children and pass a gay rights bill (both promises he made to the left when running) I would vote Republican. I mean, shit, if the republicans are gonna do that, then I’ll be a frickin’ republican. In return, if the Republicans try to enforce a conservative social agenda (which as a Jew and a Friend-To-His-Wife-And-Daughters he would be crazy to support) he would vote Democrat.

Pataki has restricted the amount of health care available for poor people at emergency rooms. Suddenly, the republicans are putting abortion back on the table. Somehow, I doubt Joe is going to go through with our deal.

In “Guns, Germs and Steel”, Diamond separates societies into four groups, “Band”, “Tribe”, “Chiefdom” and “State”, but he assures us that the lines are very fluid. When you have five guys living on an island, you have a band, but fifty thousand people is sort of a gray area. And this is another way that the book appeals to me as a leftist. He posits complex ideas, takes nothing on faith, pursues everything as an intellectual exercise, and yet still says that there are no absolutes.

It doesn’t matter when you think human life begins. It doesn’t matter. DNA replicates- if a zygote has rights, then so do carrots. If a divided cell drops out on to a tampon, you don’t consider it murder. Pregnant women aren’t counted twice for a census. But that’s all beside the point. You can say that a thing is so, but without irrefutable proof, which will never be provided in this area, you have to legally respect the fact that others disagree. And biblical proof doesn’t count, unless you want me to tell you exactly how much rain has to fall every second for a flood to cover the highest peek in forty days and forty nights.

And that is what separates the left from the right. The right agree on simple answers, the left argue shades of gray. We can’t organize, we don’t have huge viewership on TV or ratings on radio or sales on books because our views on everything are still in debate. We are still looking for answers to the hard questions, and the answers aren’t defended as if they are ‘truth’, they are discussed as ideas.

Even for a book like this, my hardcore leftist, vegetarian, lesbian friend says, “If you believe that sort of thing.” It was written by someone almost like her, but there was some small thing she disagrees with. Only in right wing thinking do you get people exactly like each other. It’s easier to say “ditto” than it is to think.

Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome…

Monday, January 27th, 2003

Knowing full well that another musical is seriously low on the priority scale of any thinking human being, my friend Mac and I have decided that we have something important to say and, really, a musical is the only way to say it.

The interesting thing about creating something is not necessarily coming up with good ideas, but throwing out most of your good ideas and keeping only the great ones. It’s hard to know what those are, often, but fortunately Mac has been produced fairly often in New York, and that serves as a constant reminder: There will be other plays for the other ideas.

Mac and I are both drawn to the politics of abuse, why people accept it, why aggressive men are more attractive to both sexes, why women constantly seek out men they shouldn’t want. Despite what you see in what Mac calls ‘Nerd Fantasy’ movies, the quiet, thinking, sweet guy doesn’t ever get the girl, unless he is also terribly handsome and just might erupt in violence. The red haired girl will end up with Charlie Sheen, and as soon as Winona Ryder realizes how hot she is, she’ll dump Lucas in a second, trust me.

And I am not one of those nice guys either, it should be said. I tend to be aggressive and loud and oafish, if anything, so this isn’t wish fulfillment on my part. But most of my friends are massively intelligent and they also tend to be somewhat shy. These are guys with incredible success waiting for them. My closest seven or eight friends, including the aforementioned Mac, are guys who are so intelligent and so diligent that success just waits for them like fruit on a tree, and yet they don’t have women all over them. I’ve always done fairly well in the girl department, and I am a goddam nightmare, prone to hysteria, loud as only a conductor’s son turned actor could be, and basically a failure at virtually everything I have tried. None of my friends made it to thirty without a high school diploma, having failed out of four colleges, and one divorce already out of the way, and yet a beautiful woman with an astronomical I.Q. seems really happy to live with me.

I hyperbolize a bit, but that leads to the question we are asking with this piece. Do people want that fear of failure or abuse in their lives? Why are we so drawn to the irrational and dangerous? Are we really that bored, that infatuated with drama, that we will find someone lousy or, as happens in our play, that we will turn a good person bad? If you learn to live without that passion for destruction, can you be happy or just content?

By the way, I’m not sure what this Blog is for, but I doubt seriously anyone cares what I do every day. Suffice it to say, I get up early, go to the gym, work on music, and do my best to amuse my friends. That’s it, every day. So, I guess, just assume that goes at the top of every blog unless I say different.

Children grow older, too…

Sunday, January 26th, 2003

I have a friend who has a nineteen year old cute Asian girl in love with him. He is 28. What, exactly, is one supposed to do? Fortunately, or unfortunately, he knows he simply cannot date this girl. He knows that it’s legal, that if two people like each other it should be fine, etc. But he also knows that she has no memory of the Cure, that she wasn’t alive when John Lennon was shot, that her earliest Presidential memory was Bush Sr., (whom I voted against.) The list of common experience begins when she is five and he is fourteen.

We keep getting older, and sometimes I feel like we just keep storing up more and more scar tissue. You are born as this perfect pink thing, and you run into the coffee table when you are six months old, you fall down the basement stairs at one and a half, you start taking and giving punches, suddenly cooking mistakes and STDs start building up and you find yourself having to deal with a shitload of, I guess, ailments or baggage or whatever. But it all feels like scar material, when I look at my friends. I feel like we are, many of us, stumbling out of the hospital ward with Kevin Costner begging them to let him keep his foot.

I should say that there was a celebration held in honor of several of my friends’ birthdays last night, and it was really fun and nice, but it has me thinking about aging. Melissa turned 28 and Clay turned turned 26. He was 25 the day before.

So, there are two responses to these ailments, this baggage. One decision is that the basement stairs and the coffee table are dangerous and should be feared. You remember when that thing hurt you and your sole concern is to not let that happen again. And this, to me, is getting old. Making wild, far-reaching assumptions based on your past experience.

I aspire to embrace the other option. I have not fallen down the basement stairs in 31 years, and I don’t fear stairs or basements (except that basements really are scary as hell, I don’t know why). It might be the making-stronger-if-it-don’t-kill-you mindset, but I think the more stuff you have to drag yourself through, the less you have to fear. And you get that from age, plain and simple. As I get older I get more scarred, less scared.

But the chasm between 19 and 28 is too wide to traverse. That is what you do to a chasm, right? You traverse it? Anyway, it isn’t that nine years is impossible to overcome, but those particular 9 years, you just learn too much. For me, those nine years included four colleges, three pseudo-retirements from the stage, a marriage and a divorce, a period of hating and fearing women, and the discovery of adult love. Not everyone packed their twenties with that much drama, but still my poor friend will have to pass on what has been described a thousand times online in both print and picture, and hold out for something real.

Friday, January 24th, 2003

My relationship to food is, like everyone else’s, really complicated. I hover between 210 and 230 (pounds that is) yet I still don’t really put a lot of pressure on myself to avoid food that is bad for me. To compound this, I have a pretty aggressive case of GERD, and I have been told to avoid soda, coffee, fatty foods, spicy foods, etc.

I have learned to control my reflux by simply not eating that much at any one time, and by not eating after about 8 at night. But the thing is, as an American, the food issue is more precious to me and all of us than anything else. Abortion, the Middle East, presidential politics are all things we can discuss, but weight is just too sensitive for most people.

My soon to be sister-in-law Tessa (that’s the last time I write that, from now on she is my sister, as well as my other sister-in-law and my real sister) had lost some weight a few years ago, and I told her so, and she said, ‘thank you, but y’know, I really don’t even want to think about it, or make it something I aim for or dwell on.’ And it is so true. I don’t want to think about it.

Jordana, about whom you will read much I am sure, has one of those builds that women really aim for, and yet she hates herself for her eating habits, which she describes as ‘snacking all the time.’ My sister Michelle, who is an ardent vegetarian and eats organic food, derides herself for being unhealthy. Two days ago I ate two Taco Bell chicken burritos, a KFC chicken sandwich and a Wendy’s Chicken Sandwich meal. In one day.

I caught the Norwalk virus three weeks ago and lost ten pounds in a week, and I felt a perverse sense of pride. I was sick and people were jealous. How does that make sense? My roommate Amy lost almost thirty pounds, and she is still unhappy most of the time. Because she isn’t still losing weight. When I made pancakes and toast for breakfast she said ‘Do you want more carbs with your carbs?’, and I just wanted to say, ‘It’s just breakfast, really. It’s just three pancakes and a piece of toast. It isn’t wrong.’

By the way, Amy is awesome and she was just joking. But that’s the thing. We all hear judgement in what everyone is saying.

There is no answer. But if I am 210 pounds and I ran three miles today, I can’t really beat myself up if I eat carbs with meat tonight. No one should.

Take this seriously

Thursday, January 23rd, 2003

Although this is the first post I am doing to this blog, and despite the fact that I know there have to be several better ways of introducing myself to the vast blogger community, (and I don’t take it lightly that this is in essence a public forum to discuss the important issues facing our country and the world, and that the world is getting hotter, more people are getting better bombs, and the lunatics have taken over the assylum), but I feel like I need to address my recent shift in loyalty away from Wendy’s and toward Taco Bell.

Wendy’s has always been my favorite. When my older brother got his driver’s license, we used to go to the Wendy’s right next to Norfolk Academy and I would get a plain double and marvel at the fact that so many other people were smothering a perfect food with ketchup and vegetables and all kinds of crap.

But something has happened. Taco Bell is more satisfying, less greasy and, despite the jokes you might make about them combining the same six ingredients in every option, there is actually more parity in the quality of each individual offering than in the burder joints. You can eat there with a vegetarian, which comes in handy if you have, say, a sister or a girlfriend. And there is something about the beans that feels like it coats your ribs on a cold day.

I’m not recommending Taco Bell for more than one meal a day. In fact once a week might be overkill. But if you are going to have fast food, I honestly think that Taco Bell is the top of the list.