Archive for April, 2003

The Boards

Friday, April 25th, 2003

This ought to be instructional. You can’t come here every five or six days and expect to simply be entertained or, more often, shocked at my level of self absorption. You ought to be able to learn something as well. So, here’s a little lesson for all you career actors out there. This is for all you people who fell in love with acting because you got cast in your high school production of Annie Get Your Gun, but to this day don’t realize that you were cast because the Drama Teacher needed a popular kid. I call it ‘Acting For The Effortlessly Attractive’.

Your job is acting. Your job is not writing, directing, costuming, producing, choreographing, lighting, set or sound designing or, most importantly, performing your stand up. You are going to want to do all these things, because deep down you know that you don’t know a fucking thing about acting and you want people to think you are smart and cool. But you need to remember that you don’t know a fucking thing about anything, so trying to help with everything else makes you an asshole.

a. The writing. Say what the playwright wrote. I don’t care if you think it’s your job to bring the funny, I don’t care if you think memorizing the lines too well make your performance wooden. Say the words. A person who considers his body to be his instrument has no right re-writing words from a guy who considers his mind to be his. As an actor, your job is to look at what is written, and make that into the character. If you decide who your character is, but the lines don’t match, then you are wrong.

b. The directing. If your director says ‘I need you stage left’, the only right answer is ‘Thank you.’ Among the large, long list of wrong answers is, ‘But why would my character move stage left?’ It’s your job to figure it out. Do it, and make it real, that’s why acting is hard, why it’s a discipline. It isn’t about being famous, it’s about thinking and being present all the time. Don’t suggest direction to the director. She or he is seeing more than you are. That, and, as a dumbshit, you don’t know anything anyway so just feel blessed that the hours of work you spend on your abs gave you the opportunity to even be a part of this.

(As a quick aside, when I started acting I was taught the ‘Christmas Wonderment Cross’. It is a sure fire way to follow the blocking without too much worry about motivating the motion. As a child entering a department store, when you see all the decorations and the giant tree, you can cross anywhere, even while talking to the guy behind you.)

(Also, one of my favorite directors, Dan Kois, always builds the entire set for you, fourth wall included, every imagined detail, so that even where the set is incomplete, you always have reasons to go to another part of the room.)

c. The costuming. If your costume looks dumb, then maybe you are supposed to look dumb. If you can’t move right in your costume, then find a new way to move. If it makes your ass look big, or if it gives you love handles, then guess what? Your character has a big ass and love handles. If you didn’t want your character to have them, you should quit eating ho-hos. Theater isn’t a vanity project, so shave off your fucking 90210 beard, take off your fucking wonderbra and try to pretend you’re a real human being.

d. Producing. Don’t make the staff come to you, begging for your free time. If acting is a priority, then switch shifts at work, apologize to your girlfriend about her birthday, give the cat too much food in the morning and do your goddam job. We are actors, that’s what we get to do all day, and there is no-one luckier in the world. I could give a shit if your cable gets turned off, let it go and read ‘An Actor Prepares’ with all your new free time.

e. Designing. As with everything else, you have no idea how things look to the audience. The design team wants you to be who they need you to be for the show, they don’t care if you look yellow in blue clothes or if you have trouble seeing because of the follow spot. The platform is too small for you to release your inner demons? Then try acting. There won’t always be room for you to do chin-ups before your five line walk-on, so the art better start being internal.

f. Your Goddam Stand-up. Sure, we laugh at some of your shit. Sure, it makes it harder to get furious at you for the rest of your staggering lack of efficiency and character. But if someone makes a joke about dogs licking their balls, you don’t have to say ‘If I could do that, I’d never leave the house.’ Remember when you used to walk around saying ‘You Look Mahvelous’ and then you stopped because everyone hated you? Your routine is better than that now, but no less stolen or offensive. Making fun of other guys in the cast when they look retarded is one step beyond the usual cruelty associated with this act, because looking retarded is the first step to an honest performance, and you are unable to even get that far.

Take this as lesson one. Just this much will make you ten times the actor you are now.

(By the way, the cast for this show is spectacular, but being in a theater, I’m reminded why I go so long between plays.)

My Word

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2003

My mom said something interesting to me this morning. She had a radio interview last night and the dude pronounced her name wrong. After efusive apologies she said, ‘Don’t worry about it, I know who I am.’

Yep, this is the one. The most pretentious blog I can write.

My least favorite part of any play I do is the curtain call. Actually, even worse than the curtain call is the elongated conversation that takes place afterwards where people give you the play by play opinion of what you have just done.

It isn’t that I can’t handle criticism, quite the opposite. I don’t care. These are conversations that I am dying to get out of. There is a great scene in American in Paris, toward the beginning, when Gene Kelly’s character, selling his paintings on the side of the road, is approached by an American student studying art in France. It may seem weird to get life lessons from an old musical, but the scene is amazing. She asks him a question about his use of perspective, and he tells her to beat it. “If you like my paintings, I won’t really care and you won’t buy anything anyway. If you don’t like them, it’ll just make me mad. So clear out, sister.”

I know when I have done something good, I don’t need anyone confirming it. People don’t get jobs because producers see them in plays, there isn’t a single person’s opinion that will actually change my life. I also know when I have done something bad. And people’s polite deflection of criticism (the “you guys really pulled it off!” or “you must be really proud!” kind) just piss me off.

People seem to feel a need to give their opinion, which is fine, as long as everyone understands that it is for the benefit of the observer, not the observed. The moment that I affected you when I was on stage is the actual moment, I felt it and you felt it. The commentary on that moment is generally not only wasted, it sort of cheapens it. Many actors say they never read reviews, but I honestly never have. I have also withdrawn my name from every award consideration.*

Last night I saw a series of one acts, produced by some friends, and one of the scenes featured an actress I really like playing an institutionalized woman talking to her doctor. The actor playing the doctor had skill as an actor, and was about 5 foot 7 and rail thin, so, y’know, perfect for TV where they hire miniature people. I was enjoying the scene somewhat, particularly her, when I realized that what had stopped me from liking it any further was the guy.

He was wearing maybe five days growth of stubble on his face. Just enough to increase the edge of his jaw and give him that ‘oldest brother on Party of Five’ look. Just enough to let us know that he was performing, but also aware of his performance. How exactly would a 23 year old guy be already working as a medical doctor, able to dispense prescriptions? And why would a professional have a ‘I’ve been wrestling crocs in the Amazon’ beard? I’m sure the ‘industry’ people who saw these one acts last night can’t wait to give him a slot as a younger brother on ‘According to Jim’, or a shot at the new ‘Bachelor’ or maybe the fourth dude in a new boy band, but the whole thing made me want to break each tooth out of his head with my bare fist.

On the other hand, I like it when people remind me that they love me, y’know, as a dude. I like it when my brothers and sisters and parents say it, I like it when my friends say it (in their own retarded ways). I don’t mean that I want to live a life uncommented upon, but my theater life has become actually more like religion for me. The fact that I have finally agreed to worship in public doesn’t make it any less a personal thing for me.

*The only award I have ever accepted is the Cecil B. Davis Dance Is My Life award, presented by the Iowa City Community Theater. I did the bottle dance in Fiddler and after what felt like a six month run I never dropped a bottle off my head.

Today in New York

Wednesday, April 16th, 2003

I walked outside this morning and licked my index finger and then held it aloft. I plucked a few blades of grass and let them drop to the ground, watching their motion. I stuck my finger in a mysterious white powder and placed it on the end of my tongue, swirling it around and spit it out. I leaned close to the ground and smelled some dog-poo and listened to the distance clip clop of shoes.

I have enough data, and I can announce it. Today is the day we have been waiting for, it’s the day we struggle to remember in the darkest of winter overcoats and knitted sweaters. This is the day we have longed for since September made 51% of us hide the very thing that 49% of us live for.

Today is Breast Liberation Day.

We forget. We think, ‘I know what breasts look like, I have internet access and I watch VIP at 2 in the morning on TNN. Breast Liberation Day can’t be as amazing as I remember’.

But it is. It’s breath-taking. If you are a man who lives with a woman with a remarkable rack, it doesn’t stop you from being hopeless today. BLD is the day we reach down in front of us, grab on with both hands, and lift our libidos up on to our shoulders like three weeks of wet laundry. It isn’t a burden we ask for, it isn’t something we can avoid. Our DNA takes control, and we don’t even have the option of acquiescence, we simply follow, stuttering and stumbling like drunks at a friends wedding.

There are father’s and lesbians with children fighting in Iraq who, for minutes at a stretch, forget all about them today. Conversations are useless, packed trains are visual orgies, the indoors become a punishment, air conditioning is counterproductive. We fumblingly suggest that it is hot in herre. We spend all our energy not looking at women’s breasts when they talk to us.

And remember, BLD is not just about breasts. There are skirts, now. There are knees and thighs. There is the woman running up the train stairs eight steps in front of you, whose skirt keeps leaping up to her high mid-thigh, you can almost see cheeks but not quite, not now, not ever. You can’t believe how heart shreadingly gorgeous a bare leg is, no tights, no jeans, no mid thigh length puffy coat…

Tomorrow it will be 50 degrees colder. This is a one day only celebration this year. Winter may never end. If you are inside, try to run out for a sandwich or something. This is not Christmas, it isn’t Passover, this is not a celebration made by men. This was a gift from a higher power, so do not take it lightly.


PS. Actually it is passover. But that’s just coincidence.

PPS. I figured the % of gay guys who don’t care about girls was evened out by the % of gay women who do. So I stand by my 49%.

Black Box Theater

Friday, April 11th, 2003

I have a small part, it’s true, but the company is really good and it is nice to work with such established people again. With all of the theater and film work I have done since moving to New York, there has been a sense of desperation to it, a sort of energized, exciting desperation to be sure, but no-one really seems to be on safe footing.

The show is called ‘A Soldier’s Play’ by Charles Fuller, and the Black Spectrum theater is putting it on. I auditioned because I wanted to do a show with people that I normally wouldn’t get to spend time with, and sure enough Jamaica, Queens is not a place I normally hang out.

The cast is really extraordinary. When I came in and auditioned, I saw the gym and the basketball court and all the kids and it felt more like a rec center or a Mormon church than a theater, so I didn’t take it that seriously. But every single person in the cast is either quite good (and incredibly talented), or amazing (and incredibly talented). If you are ever wondering which of your fellow castmates is the slow one and you can’t decide, you better check yourself.

Instead of it being a community theater, it is a theater wholly embraced by the community. Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis are presenting one show, and they are already starting to sell out the run. It’s a four hundred seat auditorium, nowhere near public transit, and they are selling out. Most of the cast is union, all of the facilities are top rate, and the talent that surrounds me at each rehearsal is incredible. This is not just a show that can get me warmed up for my next production and expand Gideon’s fan base. This is a show I would hope people would come see even if I wasn’t in it.

There are 12 men in this cast, and the only two women are the director and stage manager. The amazing thing is that, despite the fact that we are all loud and obnoxious theater people, the two ladies rule the roost with quiet dignity. Bette, the director, speaks just above a whisper, but she is so fantastically intelligent that we stop talking the second we see her mouth start to move.

There are small parts for three white actors, but we are in no way excluded from the ensemble as a whole. There is a sort of division, inately, between officers and enlisted men, but not between black and white. I go to the gym every day because I believe you should immerse yourself in situations where you are the below average person as much as possible, it’s the best way to expand yourself. And I wanted to join a black cast to expand myself as well. Stupid, it turns out, because these guys are just great actors, like me, and we are all just playing parts. It’s extremely gratifying.


Thursday, April 10th, 2003

Zooey is a great cat. He is my sister’s cat for all intents and purposes, so when I try to claim he is my cat, you should know that I am lying. My sister has taken care of that cat and loved him completely, and in whatever passes for his mind, you should know that he thinks of Michelle only, and that Michelle celebrates this amazing animal as only an owner would do.

But, y’know… he is sort of my cat.

The last cat I actually owned was named Nike, after a pair of shoes I had just purchased. Nike can be seen in the picture of Kije and Michelle. Nike was awesome, but as he got older, he started spending more and more time out of the house, out kicking ass and fighting dogs and stuff.

A quick aside about Nike. He is The Cat from the musical my mom and I wrote called “The Electric Cat”. If that sounds totally awesome and you want to hear more, feel free to send a check to Gideon Productions.

Anyway, when Nike died it coincided with yet another change of schools and another lost set of friends and girlfriends and the onset of my cat allergies. My mom and sister picked up this retarded Bill-The-Cat looking, rat-faced, homeless kitten, half to salve my broken heart and half because they knew it would make me crazy. I told them, flat out, I had no intention of spending any time with this ugly large headed cross-eyed cat, that I would not clean up after it, and it was not allowed in my room.

He immediately latched on to me and refused to leave my side. He would jump five feet in the air, even as a kitten, to sleep on my hive-ridden neck.

I mean, if you saw this cat a year ago, what you would see is a regular cat head perched atop a body that hovered right around twenty pounds, with a full gray and white lion’s mane of fur around his neck and long payos hanging from his stomach, but as a kitten he had short baby bird fur that always pointed sort of North-Northeast, and his head was far too large for his body. And he was cross-eyed. Completely. If cats actually put on Disney musicals, he would have been Quasimodo.

He loves people more than any other cat our family has owned. Michelle has kept him for years and years, and, most recently, decided to go ahead and change her life plans and get an apartment because he was stuck (with his buddy Fezzik) in a kennel. The only legacy I have is that somehow, Zooey is the only of Michelle’s animals that won’t hide the second someone comes in the room. But that was probably Michelle as well.

Zooey is dying as we speak. No-one is sure what he is dying of. He has dropped from almost twenty pounds to eight. But of course he purred through the tests, he purred through the prodding, he purred straight through his cries of pain when they took blood. This cat has been celebrated by friends of mine and friends of Michelle’s since I was in high school. I know if I called all of our combined ex-girlfriends and boyfriends, they wouldn’t give a crap about us, but they would all be really sad to hear that we are losing Zooey

new list

Wednesday, April 9th, 2003

Duane Read can kiss my ass.

A month or so ago I was having an allergy attack that made it almost impossible to breath. Duane Read refused to sell me an inhaler. Then today I bought DR brand Ranitidine, and when I opened the factory sealed box, it was empty. I opened it just after leaving the store, so they wouldn’t honor any kind of refund.

Anyhoo, time to rehash my birthday list. Because I got cast in a show yesterday, Jordana took me out and bought me a new Discman to celebrate. I also got an ear-mic to use with my cellphone, and the Discman came with a full car thingie, so you don’t have to worry about any of that stuff. I also got awesome headphones.

I mean, the CD player isn’t great, but it’s awesome for 50 bucks or whatever we spent on it.

So, new list.

– Still Carolina shorts, I definitely need those. They are impossible to replace.

– A new digital camera, because I don’t think Steve will get me one unless I get him drunk first. He’s mad because he bought me a camera and I haven’t sent him a picture of Jordana naked yet.

– CDs or a bag would be nice. I want a bag that I can take to the gym, but will also double as an overnight bag that will fit a computer. I always end up taking two bags on a plane, and that’s just dumb.

– If you were going to get me a cool ass palm pilot, but then decided not to when you found out I didn’t lose mine, feel free to go ahead and get it for me. I will love you more if you buy me cool stuff, and less if you don’t. That’s how I work.

– New New Balance Running shoes. I tried running today in other shoes, and I finally just gave up.

– Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. I am about forty pages from the end, and it got stole.

– Double Stuff Oreos. Still missing.

I got cast in a show wherein I am one of three white guys. I will be performing at the Black Spectrum Performing Arts Center in Jamaica. I am, in a word, psyched. I am going to get to hang out with people that I would never have gotten a chance to before this. I have a bunch of auditions this week, but when they called I cancelled everything and told them I would do it. It might suck, my part might be small, but I will probably not get this chance again.

Jordana and I continued to celebrate well into the night last night. I mean, not all that well into the night. We celebrated for what I would consider to be a good while for a man my age who has not been, y’know, celebrating a lot lately. And since I am not really in the habit of celebrating myself, it was nice to be celebrated so aggressively by someone else.

My pool… of presents!

Tuesday, April 8th, 2003

Kansas lost to Syracuse last night. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, when it comes to my pool. Even my poor sweet dead dog didn’t win anything.

So, here is what you can get me for my birthday. Everything I lost in my bag. Including

– really comfortable Carolina blue shorts that I work out in, light enough to not suck but heavy enough so they don’t bunch up while I am running. (Actually these would be impossible to replace)

– my brand new New Balance tennis shoes, perfect for running, actually gave me a couple of extra miles that I couldn’t get out of my old shoes.

– A discman. Preferably one with the speakers that boom right into the back of your skull.

– A bunch of mix cds and regular cds with music that makes you feel nice and other music that makes you angry and want to dance.

– A bag.

– Those knee braces that help isolate your knee but not the expensive ones (unless you want to get me the expensive ones, I won’t complain).

– A digital camera, unless my phone call to Steve Alexander (wherein I said, “Hey, get me a new digital camera you asshole”) works.

– Cool slingback headphones that you can wear regardless of your hat.

– Random medicines that help alleviate pain and allergies.

And, although I didn’t lose it with the bag, I also lost an earpiece for my phone, a CD converter for my discman, and a bunch of double stuff oreos. The oreos were lost when I set the tupperware on the roof and then drove off, so I wouldn’t consider those compensatory, just, y’know, nice and yummy.

One More Bag Stolen

Monday, April 7th, 2003

Children need to be prepared for the world, the world does not need to be child-proofed. That has always been my assertion, and I stand by that. People always claim that shit will be dangerous if it gets in the hands of children, to which I would argue that the same shit is dangerous in the hands of adult morons, which would describe 40% of the people I meet. I think all the legal ages should be dropped to 12. Hell, I lost my virginity at 13, got drunk for the first time a year earlier, got high when I was 14 and read “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “A Catcher In The Rye” in that same year. Everything since then has been downhill.

Despite my claim that we need to be prepared for the rigors of the world instead of sheltered from them, I also find nothing as disgusting as blaming the victim. When something cruel or terrible happens to someone, you have to be absolutely sure you understand what ‘negligence’ is. If you get hit by a car because you walk out in to the street focusing only on opening a roll of Wacky Wafers (this happened to me) then you are surely asking to be hit by a car.

Because a street has a use, that use is to facilitate the speed of cars. It isn’t for the opening of candy. I feel bad for little Sean, that he was hit by a car and never told anyone for fear that he would be in trouble. Had he reported it, the response would have been ‘What did you expect? You should not have been opening candy in the road!’ followed by a possible grounding or worse, years of mockery about not being able to walk down the road. The information, to avoid being hit, now learned far better than anyone could have told him, yet still repeated back to him as a sort of post-emptive parenting, would have been as bad as being hit.

Yesterday Jordana’s car was broken in to. It wasn’t jimmied or anything, someone took a rock and bashed in the window. We were parked on a freeway overpass with a constant stream of traffic two blocks from the Symphony hall and performing arts center, and in line with maybe two hundred other cars. We were on the overpass with cars on the freeway streaming underneath us. My bag was on the floor of the back seat tucked behind the passenger seat and my friend Matt threw his leather coat over my bag

The car had been rifled, the trunk and glovebox opened, and my bag and the coat were both taken. Matt and I lost a lot of stuff inside the coat and bag, including my digital camera and his brand new cell phone. As we studied the street, we saw it was littered with casualties, little graveyards of glass where other cars had been hit at other times over the years, with one brand new pile of glass three car lengths up the street from two minutes before or two minutes after ours.

When I called my mom, she said ‘Well, you should have known not to park in Baltimore. That place is terrible for crime.’ My only reply was, ‘Well, since I was going to Baltimore, the only real choice I had was to park in Baltimore.’ Jordana’s parents don’t want to file an insurance report because their premiums will go up and they will be forced to pay for a mistake they believe we made.

We were robbed, which is much worse than the suspicion now hanging around us that we could have avoided being robbed had we been more vigilant somehow. But we did not “get” our stuff stolen, we did not “have” our stuff stolen. The person who broke in to the car stole our stuff. We parked it in a busy place, we locked the car, we put our stuff on the floor, but even had we not, they went through the trunk via the back seat. The cop said that people hit cars without alarms, they will break your window to steal a quarter off the seat, and he told us not to feel like it was our fault.

I am nothing if not vigilant, especially now. I watch every single person walking by, I always have. After my dad left, when I was fifteen, I spent 12 years sleeping with a weapon next to the bed because I knew I was the only thing between whatever was out there and my sister or mom or family. But there is nothing more we could have done to prevent the break in, and I refuse to allow anyone to describe this as my negligence.

Kije Questions

Saturday, April 5th, 2003

At 12:11 PM -0500 4/3/03, Dan Kois wrote:

1. What is your pet’s name?

Kije Von Williams, Aka Mr. Dog, Aka, Squeejee Frog, Aka Sir Poopsalot, AKA Mom’s Dog. More often ‘Mom’s Dog’ than anything else, because he was attached to my mom in the way that only a dog who never gets to see his master is. My mom has been homeless for the last fourteen years, and the dog, for the last ten years of his life, was more accustomed to hotel rooms and the back seats of rental cars than he was to any one specific room.

2. What is your pet’s breed?

Pure bred Yellow Labrador. And look what that got him, hip dysplasia, early onset cataracts and one of those maudlin regal disease deaths that goes on for too long and leads to embarrassing periods of kings unwilling to relinquish their thrones to their snotty children. Fortunately, Kije ruled exactly nothing, not his own backyard or section of bed or home, not even his own appetite.

3. What is your pet’s age?

I think he has currently reverted to his most perfect self, when he was about eight and a little fat and living in Chapel Hill, either with me or with Ian, or (for about four days) with a sorority that he ran away to and returned only because the girls walked him up McCauley and he was stupid enough to recognize Ian and run to him. He was wearing a Carolina blue kerchief ’round his neck.

4. Gender?

Disputed. Initially male but quickly derailed of any kind of gender training. He was the only male in his brood and had no idea that there was a way to function other than female. He was in his fifth or sixth year before he realized he could lift his leg while peeing.

5. Where does your pet spend most of its time?

While alive, Kije spent all of his time pining. He was not a satisfied animal. He pined for my mom whenever she wasn’t there. When he wasn’t eating Pepperidge Farm raisin bread, he was pining for… I mean, I would say he was pining for the taste of Pepperidge Farm raisin bread, except for the fact that he would swallow whole slices of raisin bread without chewing or tasting anything so maybe he was just pining for the feel of white bread and raisins dropping down his gullet. After he had eaten the bread, he pined for the time just before, when there was no punishment imminent.

Physically, it’s impossible to say where he spent most of his time. He was always in motion, which for a large fat lazy dog is really extraordinary. Mostly he was being moved, either in a carrier or in a car or on a leash.

6. Where did you get your pet?

He was purchased at a farm in LA that grows dogs like him. It isn’t something any of us are particularly proud of, but the circumstances are pretty unique. We had not been allowed to have dogs growing up, my father was terrified of them and, mostly because of that, so was I. When my dad left my mom, it was decided that she should get a dog, a real statement of independence etc., but I was still terrified of dogs. The only dog I had ever been around was my friend Tom’s dog “Lady” who was a large yellow lab. So, despite the fact that my mom was making this grand gesture to help her deal with her divorce, she was actually, as she always has, doing something with her kids absolutely in the forefront of her mind.

When she got to the breeder, the black lab mom and the black lab dad had a litter of black lab puppies, except sleeping in the corner was this weird mistake, a sleeping yellow lab male puppy. My mom asked something of the breeder, and when Kije heard my mom’s voice he woke up, climbed out of the box and went to her. As if he had been waiting for her to come along. It was pretty much all he did for the rest of his life.

7. How did your pet fill out its bracket?

I asked Mac to come over because I wanted to help him fill out his bracket. I had done a lot of research this year, and I had a couple of hunches (including Maryland losing in the first round), and I *really* wanted Mac to win. He came over with some other friends and we were talking shit and suddenly the war started. We all watched the TV for a little while and couldn’t really look at the brackets.

Mac should be *kicking* himself now.

Once I realized that I couldn’t do anything for Mac I decided to enter my dog. That might sound disrespectful to Mac, but I think he sort of considers me his pet bulldog as well, so it all works out. I tried really hard to pick good stuff for Kije, because I really wanted him to win. It was less Kije’s pool than my homage to Kije, and what his pool would have been if he had been a guy and knew basketball and, y’know, wasn’t dead.

8. What is your pet’s favorite food?

Pepperidge Farm Raisin Bread, but that’s like asking Madonna what her favorite sexual position is. Kije wouldn’t eat lettuce, but he liked everything else. He would *chew* lettuce, certainly, but then let it drop out of his mouth like gum when he was done. He loved broccoli, he loved red bell peppers, and he had a fondness for cooked meat of any kind. He liked melons and he really liked grapes. But man, he loved bread.

We would put a loaf of bread on top of the refrigerator and leave. We would come home and Kije would be hiding in our bedroom, even though he *really* had to go outside, and in the middle of the kitchen floor there would be a plastic bag that had been surgically opened with one canine tooth running the length of the top without a single crumb of bread still existing in the bag.

9. What will your pet do with the prize money once it wins?

No-one anthropomorphizes their animals more than my family does. But when Kije died, he did it on September 17, 2001, and we all had the sense that he had waited until he wouldn’t hurt any of us when he went. We were all so worried about the thousands of people who had just died on 9-11 that he could just slip away without us weeping and wailing. My brother Steve (who had to bring him in to the vet because my mom, naturally, was in Eastern Europe) dropped us an email saying

“So many people have lost so much this week. Walking away from Kije’s still form, I couldn’t imagine the pain others must be feeling. Let’s all imagine that Kije is romping on a new, green field in Manhattan with 5,000 new friends.”

So I think if Kije won any money, he would probably want us to blow it on a bottle of wine (a cheap bottle at this point). Or probably, he would want us to buy a loaf of bread and eat it with my mom.

10. Have you seen your pet exhibit any new behavior since it entered the Pool?

He’s actually not been doing much since he died. We have his ashes, and the last time I saw them they were, no kidding, on Ian’s nightstand right next to his bed. It’s just a box, it isn’t a creepy urn or anything. But still, that’s weird, right?

11. Does your pet have anything he or she would like to say to the other pets in the Pool, or to the Pool at large?

The two questions Kije normally asked of everyone were the following, and in this order;

“Are you going to eat that?”


“Can I have it?

The two answers he expected, despite years and years of getting the opposite, were ‘no’ and ‘yes’, in that order. I have to assume that he would ask the other pets on the list the same thing. The advice I think he would give the pets from the great beyond? “Life is short. Don’t chew, just swallow.”

God, Dad and Basketball

Friday, April 4th, 2003

I don’t believe in God, and I think that is a real shortcoming on my part. It isn’t a matter of disagreeing with people who believe in God, it’s just that I simply can’t. They say there are no atheists in the trenches, but the times in my life when I have truly despaired, when my fear went beyond the rational and I found myself saying “Please” out loud, I never for a moment believed that I was asking something of a God, and I never expected any kind of deliverance. I simply had reverted to the most scared and desperate that my conscience could recall, and that was probably as an infant crying out for my parents. I am more trying to get my Dad to help me than I am believing that God will.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have stupid irrational things that I do believe in. I believe very strongly in cognitive resonance. I believe in it so much that I blame it for why I am incredibly bad in movies and at auditions. I can only really act when I am surrounded by an audience. Even if they hate me, I am suddenly listening and aware and alive. I am a really good actor, and I am goddam dreadful in movies. Seriously. My head looks like thirty human teeth swimming in an unset pudding covered in hair, and I act like Pee Wee Herman behind the desk. But in front of a theater audience, I am damn near superhuman.

This cognitive resonance inspires me also to believe that my rooting for a team will actually change the outcome of a game. I alone can’t, but if thousands and thousands of us are rooting for the same guys to win, then maybe something extraordinary will happen. For instance, maybe Shane Battier will get called for a foul that he would usually get away with. Maybe Brendan Haywood would knock down two free throws. Maybe the dookie’s shot would fall in, but it would leave his hand a few tenths of a second too late. If I scream and try hard enough, maybe Carolina will beat Maryland in the ACC tournament again next year.

But I don’t know how hard I will be pulling. I don’t know who will be on the bench coaching these kids that I love. Doherty was fired, despite my blog from last week. I believe that both cognitive resonance, the fact that so many people wanted him to fail, and plain old fashioned lack of popularity drove him out. He was a hard man to love, and that made me love him even more. He was a strict disciplinarian, and that is what I always felt I was missing. If everything they say about him is true, then he is still the coach I want.

He was mean to the kids. But he bled Carolina Blue. Some kids transferred, but it was half because they didn’t like Doherty and half because they knew no-one else did either. I know, I was there. I hated my director at Citrus, and the more shit I talked the more the higher-ups tacitly accepted it. He ended up hating me, and I learned one half of what I should have learned because I was hating instead of listening. I was wrong.

My father was mean to me as a kid, a real task master. But now, I come to him with my ideas, or he sees me in a show, and he thinks I am amazing. No-one is casting me, no-one is seeing my shows, but my Dad comes and tells me that I should focus on being an actor, that no matter what anyone says, he thinks I am brilliant. Matt Doherty came home to Chapel Hill and his father, Dean Smith, never had his back. If people thought I sucked, and my own family agreed, I would resign as well.

Look, he should have gone, and now that he’s gone we can get a coach with more experience. And my belief in Carolina, unlike my belief in God, is still there despite the lack of logic, despite the lack of proof, and despite this latest disappointment. But to think that those guys did what normal guys do just makes me sad. I want us to be better than everyone else, and when Dean and Gut were there I believed it.

One last thing about my dad and God. My dad used to tell us he was Jesus Christ. He would answer our small child disbelief with, ‘Prove it! Prove that I am not Jesus Christ!’ When I was in my early twenties and mad at my dad, I used that to prove what a bad guy he is, but now I find it so unbelievably delightful. I hope I do the same thing to my kids, although I doubt Jordana would let me get away with it.