Archive for December, 2003

Too Damn Old

Friday, December 5th, 2003

It’s hard to feel “too old” for anything. You are never really sure when the day passed, the day you became too old for something, but man when you are on the far side of it, you realize not that you are now too old, but that you have been too old for something for a *long time*.

I don’t know when it happened, but I can’t hang posters on my wall without framing them first. I have to have a boxsprings support for my bed. I can’t dye my hair any more. I don’t know when I got to be too old to wear mittens, but I have to have all my fingers available to me now in the winter.

As is my style, I’m going to tell two stories here. First is from a rehearsal where I was working with a group of kids back in ’91 or ’92. As we were singing a bunch of stupid little songs, some other kids came in the back of the room and sang some mocking noise and then ducked out. I ignored them. They did it again, and I did it again. Then I had the kids sing and I went to the back of the room and when the boys stuck their heads in, I pulled them in with me. “Do you guys like to sing?” “GET THE FUCK OFF ME!!!” “Nah, come on, do you guys like to sing?” “ARE YOU A FAG?” “These kids here, these kids who are singing? That’s ten bucks a song plus ten bucks an hour.”


“Yeah, that’s right. We sing about 12 or 14 hours a week and do maybe 30 or 35 songs. These 12 year olds are making almost 500 dollars a week…” “FUCK YOU! GEDOFF!”

They ripped out of my grasp and left. They didn’t come back. The kids started singing again, but they sucked now. “What’s wrong, you guys suck?” Megan finally admitted, “I keep thinking those boys are gonna come back.”

“Those kids won’t come back because it’s too much work,” I said, in a piece of elegance that I still hold on to on cold nights like tonight. “There are two ways of living. One way is to see how much you can accomplish, and the other is to see how much you can get away with. Those boys wanted to see if they could yell obscenities and not get caught, once they got caught they knew they couldn’t get away with it. You guys are here because you want to see how much you can accomplish.”

I swear I said that. When I get going, I’m fucking awesome.

Summer of ’96, I was producing As You Like It and I called a meeting of the entire staff and cast of the production. I knew these guys (God bless them, I still know most of them) and I knew that they were only half into making this play happen. I didn’t realize that some of my friends thought this would be a pep rally and brought banners and stuff to hold up when I used my catchphrases. I didn’t know it, but it didn’t surprize me when I learned about it later.

I sat down in front of this motley group and said, “I want to find out if we should pull out of this production.” No-one said anything. “Seriously, this is wrecking our summer, we should be having fun, the music isn’t ready, the money isn’t raised and none of us really wants to do it. I am suggesting that we just pull out of the time we asked for and have fun with our summer.”

Of course, pretty soon, even the most cynical 21 year old was on board and trying to convince *me* that this show could be awesome. I mean, it wasn’t, but of the things that never happened, raising money wasn’t one of them and I was able to pay people and, frankly, live in New York off the money for a month or two.

I’m getting to the point, just relax.

I realized today that I really may have outgrown my ability to inspire. The Gideon Three, as it were, prod each other in little ways, but honestly, we’re going to make plays anyway, all three of us are hell bent on crippling time-consuming obscurity and on expressing ourselves like so many feline anal glands, so we don’t really have to inspire one another. And these kids? They’re too much work for me. I just know there are people who are both talented and self-starters out there.

I mean, if I was twelve and I had a chance to make a couple hundred dollars before Christmas, even I would have done it. Especially if it meant being a musician. But, I think I’ve proven that I have survived and even thrived without anyone inspiring me for the first twenty or so years of my life.

All that to say, it occurs to me that I’m too old to make people do things they don’t want to do already. I can make people do them well if they are willing, or I can stand in awe and appreciation, but I can’t really change anyone’s mind.

Bow Down

Thursday, December 4th, 2003

One day, KROQ in Los Angeles, which is a much better station than KROQ in New York, was hosting a party for the movie “Swingers” and they were playing a lot of that Zoot Suit Riot kind of stuff. It was ’97, it was the time for swing music to pendulum back in to national consciousness sort of like “Latin” music (actually Latino good looking musicians singing white music) made it’s small mark in the summer of ’98. As I listened in the car, I heard and then remembered the Squirrel Nut Zippers from a few years hence in the Happy Chap, so I went to the mall to buy their record.

As I was buying the record, the girl in the store glowered at me with disdain. I *obviously* was only buying this record because of the KROQ promotion. Then the girl I was with said, “Do you know if Swingers is playing anywhere?” The movie had, of course, been out of the theaters for about a year. The girl behind the counter said as much and then said “The corporate heads at KROQ are just milking it to sell albums…”she picked up SNZ and said, “like this one.” She smiled and shoved it in the bag.

Last year, we went to Otto for dinner. Otto is one of Mario Batali’s restaurants here in New York. I love Mario because of his cooking show, I wrote a blog about it some time back but since I don’t have the capacity to link, you’ll just have to find it or trust me. Anyway, I love several things about his ethos, he believes that simplicity is key, he believes in buying the best ingredients to begin with and fucking with them as little as possible, and he is knowledgeable about *why* something is made a certain way.

That being said, I have his cookbook and I’ve eaten at his restaurants a couple of times and I’m not a huge fan of his actual food. But I adore him.

At Otto, I was talking to the waiter, and as I talked I could feel Michelle shrinking in her chair. “We came here because I’m a big fan of Batali’s TV show.” “Oh. Really.” said the waiter. “Sure,” I blabbed on. “No matter how stressed out I get, it’s nice to watch a guy cook who really knows what he’s doing. I watch it as much to relax as to learn any recipes or anything.” “Yes, well,” our waiter said back, forcing a smile, “I think most of the people in this restaurant are here because of the TV show. You’ll be uspet, I’m sure, to learn that Mario isn’t here tonight.” Michelle was mortified.

Okay, here’s the deal. I don’t care if you serve food in the very best restaurant in the best foodie town in the country, you’re still a fucking servant. I know there are skills behind what you do, you have to have tenacity and strong forearms in order to carry those trays, and sure you have to know the program at the register. But you are a servant. You serve. You *butle*. You butler me when I come to your store.

You may think you are privy to something special and important, but you aren’t. It’s just food. Soon, it will be poop. Yes, there are people who have more refined taste buds, but loving food is like loving sex. You’re supposed to. If humans didn’t love food, we’d be goddam dead. Do you mean to tell me that you have been thinking about *FOOD* all this time?

Why aren’t we sitting around discussing the finer points of cunnilingus? God I would love to stumble across the group of people snearing at one another because they haven’t discovered the latest masturbatory techniques. Food and sex are the *basest* things we deal with in this world, they are the guaranteed home runs. Sure, you can have a crappy meal and a bad amorous encounter, but to live your life with some sense of superiority because you have good onion technique is insane.

In a fit of pique, my father once said something to me at a dinner party. I was about seven or, I don’t know, twenty, and I mentioned that the guests were all wearing tuxes and so were the waiters, and my dad said, “Yeah, we’re all wearing tuxedoes, but the waiters and the musicians show up for the performance at the back door, the guests all come through the front door.”

I don’t know if that’s an exact quote, but it’s nice to know, in my heart, the a symphony orchestra job is a blue collar job. A shi-shi waiter is a glorified errand boy. That guy at Otto? He’s getting better and better at his job, spending day in and day out refining his waiter technique, years spent bringing food from a guy who can cook it out to a guy who can afford to eat it, never getting any closer to being either of those guys.

Oh, and if you’re working at a chain record store in a mall? Just kill yourself. Take as many other employees as you can with you.

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2003

The blog world seems to move in waves, between a colorless sniping hatred on the one hand and a mutual admiration association on the other. I’ve got some mad props in the last few days which I hope doesn’t mean I’m about to get another missive from an old friend telling me I suck.

In order to pass along the good will, let me give you the address of my favorite blog outside my family. I wish I could just post a link, but that requires some kind of written out stuff with slashes and hrefs and stuff that I don’t know.

There are two guys in Iraq who are keeping this blog going back and forth and finally, this morning, one of them changed the colors so we know which is writing what. Despite the fact that you can tell they aren’t American, the talk of queues and liters, they also have a young person’s voice. They write in such a way, with an ironic and angry eye, that I know if I hung out with these guys I would be friends with them.

They don’t constantly condemn the Americans, they are certainly annoyed at the inconvenience and feel like this war is completely wrong, but they don’t seem to be big fans of the way Iraq was before either. I just love reading what they write to one another, it’s refreshing to know that the young American voice might actually be a young international voice, that you don’t have to be raised on The Simpsons to have a refined sense of irony.

One other thing. I just read the lead article on Salon about Lewis and Tolkien’s relationship, and although this is something I’ve read about a thousand times before, I also have the kind of mind that forgets every little detail moments after I learn it, so it was cool to read again.

When you read something like that, you find yourself really wishing you could be one of the three guys on that walk. You wish you could be one of the roommates with the Coen Brothers and Holly Hunter or whatever. You always wish you could be part of this great collection of minds going back and forth inspiring one another to further greatness.

It then occurs to me that I might actually already be in a group like that. When I think of the writers and artists who want to be associated with me, I realize that we are actually quite extraordinarily above the fold and that it’s possible that I am the weak link. It’s possible that if I can just get my ass in gear and hold up my end of the brilliance (if I’m capable) then we might actually be a group of brilliant artists instead of all of them being brilliant and me hosting dinner parties.

So, y’know, I’ll get right on that.


Tuesday, December 2nd, 2003

I had to try a couple of different usernames just to get on this site. Maybe I should post more.

You look at today, and apparently, the government is warning about possible attacks in both Kenya and Saudi Arabia. Also, the “terror threat” is at, y’know, *yellow* or some such thing. “Elevated”, to be sure.

It’s become the new “what about the children” hasn’t it? Every time someone suggests a better way of running the country, some dumbass yells “but the *children* are gonna suffer!” No-one dares to say what’s on their mind, that children are supposed to suffer, that makes them hard and smart instead of insipid self-help obsessed little shits who finally mature in their mid thirties. When do you think they’re gonna change the terror threat thingie from yellow? Never. How could they? “We’re basically okay now, don’t worry about it, a terrorist attack might happen, but as far as we know it won’t.”

No politician worth his salt is ever gonna lower the fucking terror threat index back to safe. No country in the history of man has ever been safe, everyone is always under attack, and the truth is we are safer living in America today, with a rational rule of law and the most refined military in human history, than any other person has ever been since Adam shtumped Eve. But, sure, I gotta admit, there is the threat of someone who hates us attacking us.

I mean, let’s be honest, the threat of massive plague should be “elevated” right now. Flu season, you know. God knows when those microbes will attack next.

I walk through bed-stuy without any problems, my neighborhood is mostly Mediterranean with a lot of Arabs, the studio where I work is filled with death metal wannabes, and you know what I’m actually scared of? I’m actually scared that my friends don’t like me as much as they pretend, that my wife tolerates my bad behavior, that my parents are going to be too old to help me raise my children. I’m afraid of doing bad to other people cosmically, and I am afraid of being alone for too long. I act in accordance with these fears, and regardless of what Tom Ridge keeps saying.

There was a time when our leaders told us that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself, when we were brave. Now, we are soft children, yet to mature.

I promise, I’ll write a few days in a row and talk about stuff other than this. I don’t actually even care about this. I mean, I think that’s what stopped me writing, I realized that blogs are mostly lies, even when the writer is telling the God’s honest truth. The second you post it, you realize that your feelings are actually duplicitous and that there is no way to keep a journal that makes sense.

But, I’ll keep writing if you will. And you know who I mean, Mac, Sean, Michelle, Margaret Cho, etc….