Archive for June, 2003


Wednesday, June 25th, 2003

Caput, if I remember my Latin, means head. We get a million words from Caput, everything from recapitulate to capitalism to, um, cap, probably.

But on the head-making money front, I had two phone calls this morning. First, a forty five minute call from my mom and then a forty five second call from Jordana. Which, actually, is how they both like to work, my mom in long spastic meandering idioms, Jordana in simple declarative statements.

My mom is in Utah doing a set of recordings that have effectively eaten up a few extra years of her life. She is working on a project that is not her own music, simply because her financial life is so desperate she has no choice. I wish she was working on music for herself, instead of devoting an enormous amount of time and energy to a show that I think has a limited chance for success…

Y’know what? I’m not gonna start. There is a person who has devoted himself to creating a musical despite the fact that he has no experience with any one aspect of creating a musical. So my mom is stuck in a flea bag hotel in Utah, miles away from her family, unable to celebrate her son’s engagement with her future daughter-in-law, and she is trying to rewrite music, press releases and scripts, all of which are borderline impossible to decipher.

But my mom has no money. Once she committed herself to the life of an artist, she has basically been barely getting by ever since. True, she is terrible with money, the other day I rescued a hundred dollar bill that she had accidentally thrown away in a grocery store trash bin, but she also had no money from her family as a child, effectively started from zero after the divorce, and, even at 71, is still working just to pay her rent.

I got off the phone with her after finally yelling at her that she was wasting her life trying to make this piece work to her standards. Some people are perfectionists and some are musicians, and unfortunately for my mom, she is both of those, and poor, all at the same time.

Then Jordana called me and quietly said, ‘I need your help getting me out of here.’ She doesn’t work for a bad man, she doesn’t do work that steals her real talent… but she has gotten awfully good at something that she cares nothing about. And it isn’t fair. ‘I can’t come in late, because it just means I’m behind. I can’t miss a day because that day’s work has to be done on top of the next day’s. And I don’t enjoy weekends because I just have to come back on Monday.’

And that’s all she said.

So, the life of an artist? What is it worth? Do I want Jordana, at 71, to be doing a job like this so we can get by, so we can help our kids? Are we starting out all wrong? I need to figure out what I can do to move myself from a sullen artist to a man concerned with capital, and fast. I have skills that can be parlayed, I just have to figure out the right way. And eight dollars an hour may not be the right way to go, but it might be a reasonable first step.

Acting Nice

Tuesday, June 24th, 2003

Balance seems to be a much bandied about word. Very often, just when you think you have found a way to answer a specific problem, it turns out that your answer, without a healthy dose of its antidote, is itself a huge problem.

In music, I feel like there is a constant balancing act between precision and passion, between articulation and energy. In fact, that is a balancing act in all form of expression, learning how to say exactly what you mean but in a way that is more exciting than just saying it. It’s sort of the trick.

After years of working in the studio, I got a lot of CDs given to me by other studio guys, and these chunks of music never really meant very much to me because they generally suffered from enough articulation but not enough energy. The problem was that all of that time spent in the studio trying to get stuff perfect had made it difficult for me to listen to recordings that were thrown together. These “three chords and the truth” bands, as Ian calls them, made me furious.

The same can be said with an actor’s approach to his career. The hardest thing about acting, it turns out, is not the acting, but the creation of opportunities for you to act. Because of a confluence of circumstances, including the fact that actors are now supermodels, that bad acting is less important than the cult of personality that might follow an actor, and that acting has become little more than pretending on film followed by assiduous editing, acting has become something that anyone can try and that most people want to do.

Acting follows this same balancing act, but the approach to your career has to as well. The stories of actors who are completely self absorbed and painfully unkind to those around them are well known. It is almost celebrated in the same way that Bill Gates, even to those who hate him, is respected as a captain of industry. Most actors look at the people they are working with as potential show stealers, as possible future threats to their next job, and doll out as much affected nonchalance or outright cruelty as possible. And the truth is, this level of arrogance and fingernail scratching is necessary if you are going to go to three or four auditions a day for things you won’t get.

On the other hand, kindness is the thing that gets you farthest when hostility has failed you. Every company I have worked with since about 1993 has wanted to work with me again. (Every company I worked with before that thought I was great but was probably glad to see me go, my cruelty was matched by a quick tongue and a slow mind and I treated people as hilariously badly as I could).

Because of my relationships with my family and friends, in the state we are in now, I find that I am erring on the side of kindness more than cruelty. Ian has become, through Tessa, a much softer version of his old self, easier to wound and more open to affection, and his and Michelle’s reactions to the attacks on the city have probably made me inadvertently more aware of my effect on people. And Jordana is so maternal she is practically a breast, it’s hard to be arrogant when you are sprayed with the milk of human kindness a couple of times a day.

That is an awesome image.

So, despite the fact that I like cruelty in my humor, despite the fact that I love pratfalls and jokes where people get embarrassed, I find that I have less and less emotional energy to deal with the professional actors of this world.

So, let’s say you get a chance to work with me, even for a day, even just on a reading or something. Do try to be kind. Arrogance and cruelty are small minded reactions to moments of stress. I know you have a dick, and I’m sure it’s simply huge, but I don’t really want to get into a measuring contest. I have spent so much of my life acting like an ass just to prove that I have a place in this world, and I think, I’m not sure, but I think that most of that time has been wasted.


Friday, June 20th, 2003

It’s that time again. I should know when this shit is hitting me, I can taste it in my mouth. It tastes like metal, I brush my teeth for ten, twelve, fifteen minutes three or four times a day and I keep buying gum. Then I can’t get to sleep, when I sleep I dream constantly, and I wake up before my alarm. I snap at my fiance, I bitch out my family at the least provocation, I am always wishing I was drunk.

Yesterday, I even was dying for a cigarette, something I haven’t even thought about in a year. I just wrote a 5 k email complaining about Spam. Why would I complain about Spam when I get about 1/10th of what my mom gets? Or rather, why bother complaining about Spam? What am I a stand up comedian? “I get too much spam, and my wife… oy! Don’t get me started…”

It’s ridiculous but I don’t seem to know it’s happening for a few days into it. I have no self awareness, despite all my navel gazing, I always forget that when I am watching stuff happening I am also there happening and others are watching me. So I just barrel through my life like a wrecking ball and I can’t seem to get my shit straight.

Two separate things I want to talk about.

I romanticize my bi-polar disorder, and I hang on to it. I like it, in many ways. The depressive bits are comforting, in a way, because my mom was always a bit of a depressive growing up and I also have a sort of Judeo-Christian fascination with my own failure to achieve. The manic times sometimes live up to what they are supposed to be in movies. I’ve never run up on stage and conducted the orchestra, but I did find myself, eyes closed, conducting my newest mix tape on the subway yesterday.

(as an aside, I could have been conducting on the subway with my balls out of my pants and no-one would have cared on the subway. However, an Arab man was taking pictures of his wife and three kids on the subway and a black homeless guy came over and yelled at them for being terrorists threatening to blow up the N line. It was humiliating to see affluent tourists being hassled by crazy homeless people, I was ready to kick the bum’s ass. But the Dad dealt with it really well, just getting off at the next stop and switching trains.)

That being said, this fear of flying that I have developed is in no way good. It’s terrible. It is actually destructive to me. I want to go to California and see my dad, I want to be able to go around the country and do recordings or shows if the opportunity arises. Jordana and I have been talking about honeymooning, and I think she would love Hawaii, but how they hell are we gonna get there?

I find my mind wandering to being in the cabin of the plane. Turbulence hits, and I see the back of the seat in front of me, I feel my hands gripping the armrests and the seatbelt tight across my lap. And I hear women screaming. Seriously, it is out of control.

I have to fly on July 5, and ever since I found that out I have been miserable. Every time I think about it I want to barf. I even talked to Jordana last night about borrowing her car and driving out, but I won’t be able to get the car back. The bus or the train will take three days, and I will lose hundreds of dollars in missed work.

So, yeah, mental illness can be hilarious and you can hang your hat on it if you want to. But delusional paranoia, especially irrational, new found paranoia, just sucks.

Grouchy this morning…

Friday, June 13th, 2003

A childish foul mood has taken me over. For some reason, the continuing raging debate between what one wants to do and what one has to do is inescapable, we are constantly being cornered into the stuff we hate doing even if we avoid things like a day job or kids.

Gideon has a wonderful play that all three of us adore, we just aren’t sure if it might only be us who find it funny and awesome or if everyone would. We are desperately trying to work our way through it and decide if we should keep it in the festival we might be in this summer. That’s right, there is a festival we might be in, but we aren’t even sure if we want to keep this play in it. Because the play might be completely different by then and the festival opens on Ian’s wedding day.

Michelle also has a show she wants me to do with her at the end of August, and I have three weeks of recordings to do in July for a musician I loathe, and I have to fly there. I am also trying to finish the re-write on the gay one act I wrote (the one act is fine, the characters are gay, and I don’t have a title, so…) and I have an idea for another one act that a different theater company will do a reading of if I go ahead and write it.

And then there is Torch, still hanging over me. When I actually get into the music I love it, but there is a huge stumbling block in front of me. I am waiting for ‘The Song’, that one that hits about ten minutes in to the show, the first really up tempo piece, heavily verbal, big rock-out showy dance-y kind of thing. I have about eleventy hundred bad ideas for it.

(I told Mac about my idea for this one act I am writing now and he said it sounded cool, that I should write it, etc. and that I seem to be going through a phase of “refined insincerity” in my work, which I was excited by because it had never occurred to me that I had any kind of unifying themes in my work. But when I go back through my theatrical writing over the last few years, I do seem to be fascinated by the insincere specifically. Of course, in theater everything is artificial, but I am fascinated by lying and reversals and embraced betrayals.

Which I guess makes sense.)

All this to say, people think that the life of the lazy person is easier than the life of the diligent person, but I think the former ends up doing more work then the latter, and is less pleased with the work he has done. In the same way, a freelance artist does sometimes find him or her self in a position where the forseeable future is tied up in shit he or she doesn’t want to do. A person who gets up every day and goes to a job simply for money and does stuff that doesn’t interest them sees the same ocean of crap. The difference is that the end product is for the artist is more personally expressive and therefor more worth it.

I think the best possible world for me would be in producing or event planning. I love doing it, I’m really good at it, and, faced with the knowledge that I have to do stuff I don’t want to regardless, it would be great to have a steady job where the end could actually satisfy me as much as producing does now. I just don’t know how much I get out of performing, much less acting, anymore. As someone once told me, ‘Just because you’re good at it doesn’t mean it has to be your job. I’m great in bed, but I’m not going to be a hooker…’

Wednesday, June 11th, 2003

Maybe spiritual people maintain this feeling, but for me, any belief in the supernatural left me around the same time that adolescence did. I remember that I used to believe in sprit guides and reincarnation, although God was always completely foreign to me.

And I must be wrong. So many people believe in God, there has to be some kind of terrible arrogance on my part, or simply shallow mindedness. But whenever people begin in on Faith or Spirit or describe anything as ‘spiritual’, I immediately start thinking they have a screw loose.

That being said, I do have palpable reminisces about belief. I know exactly what it felt like when I thought that things were happening that I had a direct relationship with on a completely non-physical level. And I think there ought to be a word for that feeling, the specific magical feeling you have when a surge of adolescent belief shifts into a sort of magical reality.

We are missing a lot of words. Shaddenfreude, and I might be spelling that wrong, is a German word that describes the sensation of taking joy in someone else’s pain. It describes many people’s reactions to Martha Stewart and I guess Hillary Clinton a few years back. Our weather words are pretty good, ‘Blizzard’ was invented in this country for the midwest, but I still don’t know what to call this extended winter turned muggy summer we are having. ‘Wet’ is all the weathermen can come up with.

My friends tend to be, above all else, wordsmiths. Some of them, like Mac and Ian and John, with professional aspirations (if being a poet counts as a profession), but most of them, like Ehren and Steve, are just fantastic word players. How we use words is similar to how other guys drink or play basketball or cite baseball trivia.

I think this is all related…

Ah yes, here’s how it’s all related. We are living in a world, my social group, where the commentary is almost as entertaining as the happening. We are rabid sharers of information and opinion, always letting each other know, in the most facile and showy terms, exactly what has happened to us, exactly how we interpret those happenings, and how much funnier it all would have been had we told the joke.

But that world away from this physical one, the world we don’t have words for, is one that we never talk about. I know nothing about the spiritual lives of my friends, mostly because if it ever came up we would shoot it down immediately. When Ian described his reasons for choosing his wedding date he gave me an obligatory eye roll at the ‘non waxing, non waning moon’ part, but for all I know he has had his charts done and regularly meditates, he just doesn’t discuss it with me.

I worry a little bit that I am missing something, but I also have this overpowering inclination that the spiritual life is just not for me. I don’t mock it, in many ways I envy it, but I cannot, for some reason, find any iota of truth within myself that there is a power greater than myself.

Probably just an ego problem.

Wednesday, June 4th, 2003

Man, I haven’t written in weeks. Of course, I failed out of high school with just this sort of work ethic, so at least I am being consistent.

Sean P and Jesse are visiting from Iowa. Sean P is the ‘Sean’ of my last blog, who is a totally different Sean than me. has a better description. There was also a Shawn Williams in my show, that just closed, but, y’know, more on that later. Or not, maybe, who knows how much more I’ll write.

There is a weird sense of rejuvination that you get from being around people who are fifteen years younger than you are. Both Sean and Jesse are way better people than I was at their age. I was a cut-throat mother fucker who was really more interested in my own fiscal and sexual success than in anyone else’s opinions about anything. These guys are fascinating and fascinated. The openness with which they laugh at stuff took me years to find.

But the amazing thing is that all four of us (we are up at Ian’s farm) have the same sense of humor, and very similar tastes in music. I played Cex for my friends and, with the exception of Mac, they didn’t really like it, but Sean loves it and even quoted the same lines to me that Mac does. While Mike J was playing Handsome Boy Modeling School for me in Cali, Sean P. was playing it in his room in Iowa. And every night when Sean P and Jesse run to cartoon network to watch Family Guy and Futurama, my friend Steve is watching it right along with them about two hundred miles to the East in Chicago.

And maybe that’s why I don’t feel old when I’m around them. I’m getting married for the second time, but it sort of puts all that in perspective. On sitcoms the old farts always do something retarded when they try to recapture their youth. John Goodman, at the ripe old age of forty in 1988, put on a leather jacket and did his hair up in a pompodour, and then tried to ride a motorcycle. All acts that couldn’t possibly have been from his youth in, let’s say, 1968, unless he was a total zork.

Me, I’m doing roughly exactly what I would be doing. The only difference is sleeping until noon. So, maybe me and my buddies are doing just fine.