Monthly Archives: January 2005

Short, cold trip

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Where’ve I been? New York City. Reason? Talkin’ to lawyers. Did I take pictures? Too damn cold. Did I stand in front of the Fuse studio like a tourist and wave to my wife on TV? Too damn cold. Did I sleep well? Room was too damn hot. How was the Amtrak service? Let’s not talk about it.

And by the way, it’s supposed to be in the 20s today, so why does my thermometer still have a little negative sign in front of that single digit?

Grocery Bag Blues

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I don’t really know quite what was wrong with the bagger at the grocery store tonight. I don’t remember having seen him there before, though he also looked a little familiar to me. He looked about my age, maybe a little older, but he also looked like he had long since hit the wall. His hair, parted in the middle and with the shaggy remnants of a feathered cut that was probably stylish when he adopted it in the ’70s, had a white streak about two inches on either side of the part, so anyone who thought he wasn’t dying his hair somewhere would have to prove it to me. Whether it was the white or the sandy part, I wouldn’t want to pass judgment.

And to be fair, one whole entrance of the store and the bottle return room were closed off, hand-written signs of apology for the inconvenience taped to the doors, whatever issues there were hidden behind a stack of sidewalk deicer pails and some hastily shifted cardboard displays. Clearly, some kind of grocery store trauma, and it’s possible my bagger was involved. He could have been. And that could have set him off-kilter for the rest of the night. (I know how that works, as my entire day was set off-kilter by the simple fact that because of a couple of strategically placed auto accidents, I found myself actually unable to cross the river to get to work for about two hours this morning, and the day didn’t get better from there.)

And, honestly, as someone who doesn’t drink or get high, and who hasn’t for a very very long time, I have lost my awareness that other people do. It always comes as a surprise when I encounter someone who’s drunk or stoned, to catch a whiff of dope on a ski slope (of all places), to find someone at the Y who’s had a few, to run into drunken people in line at the Target. (Haven’t lost my eye for speed freaks, tweakers, and others whose pharmaceutical proclivities make them somewhat less predictable — as Hunter S. said, you can turn your back on a man, but never turn your back on a drug.) So, it’s entirely possible that my bagger was, . . . . No, I’m sorry, I was going to say “in the bag,” which is a pun even I would be ashamed of, and besides, does anyone say “in the bag” anymore? I’m so out of touch. Crispy? Is “crispy” still cool? Okay, let’s just say it’s possible he had imbibed. Something.

Or perhaps he was just having an existential crisis. I mean, what do I know about his life? He could have spent two hours stuck in traffic just three miles from his destination this morning, too. His girlfriend could have broken up with him. His cat could have coughed up something alarming and foreboding. He could just be tired of the rat race, of being a bagger in his forties, of trying to put together a life without a clue how to do it. It could all have just been too much for him.

And I really think that’s all it was. I think life was just too much for my bagger this evening, because suddenly the choices were just too much for him. Although I always present my groceries in a semi-organized fashion — cold with cold, poison with poison, paper goods all together, meats on the side — he just couldn’t . . . quite . . . figure . . . out . . . how to bag it all. He made little piles of things that should go together, then — crisis of confidence! — changed his mind. He placed things in bags, and pulled some of them back out again. I buy eggs seldom, but tonight was one of those nights, and I truly regret, for the eggs, the eggs — the eggs caused him no end of difficulty.

In the end, he gave up on the endless possible combinations, abandoned all decision-making, found himself unable to reconcile his earlier choices with a need to get everything back into the cart — and he pretty much put every item in its own bag. Some bags got two items, but two appears to have been the maximum. Most of the bags had to be reinspected before being placed in the cart, and the eggs, the eggs found a place of honor on the little folding shelf of the cart. But he got it done, and I just had to thank him. I could see how hard it had been. And I felt really bad about the trouble my eggs had given him.

Strange Love

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“The Strange Love of Martha Ivers,” to be exact. Man, what a movie. Found a decent DVD of it for a whopping $5 in a bargain bin last year, and I couldn’t be happier. Finally sat down to watch it last night, and wasn’t displeased. Man, that movie has everything. Thankfully, it’s the kind of movie that no one could really remake today (though that didn’t stop them from trying with “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” did it?). Kirk Douglas’s first role, and a pretty good one. Van Heflin doing that Van Heflin thing — the women love him. Barbara Stanwyck moving away from sex kitten into dangerous dame territory. Long exposition, total reliance on music for mood, and the smokin’ beauty of Lizabeth Scott, who practically comes with her own smoke machine and saxophone music. (More on Lizabeth here.)

My great-great aunt who took care of me when I was young had some kind of bitter issue with Barbara Stanwyck, who by the ’60s had taken to titling herself “Miss Barbara Stanwyck.” This drove my aunt insane, and every time “The Big Valley” came on, she would be sure to proclaim that Barbara Stanwyck, having been married, was no “miss.” (She also held a grudge against Peter Lawford for what he’d done to the Kennedys, but that’s for another time.)


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I’ve got it! The totally derivative TV idea that will finally make me rich, famous, and connected to the Hollywood culture — which, as we all know, are the only ways to be respected in America. Nothing less will do. Ready?

“Googly Eye for the Cartoon Guy” — Each week, a cast of zany animated makeover artists take on a tired, half-forgotten has-been from the cartoon world. Deputy Dawg finally gets the fashion tips that will make him full Sheriff! Tom Terrific abandons his funnel hat for a jaunty beret! Top Cat’s alley loses its Great Depression funk and becomes a hip new bachelor pad! Touché Turtle . . . well, perhaps some of the Hanna-Barbera posse are beyond help.

I can’t wait to pitch this to Cartoon Network!

Photos moving to Flickr

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I’m giving up on Fotolog, which can’t quite seem to get its act together, and migrating my photos over to Flickr, which seems to be doing everything right. Not much new there yet, but the photos are organized into albums, and it has a nice slideshow feature. And it makes it much easier to post photos to pretty up my blog, like so:

Brooklyn Bridge

Snow, book, revolt

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If you know anyone in the B’Gapple, you may want to invite them up for the weekend, because the City That’s Afraid to Sleep is about to get hammered for the first and worst time this winter, and it is not going to be pretty. Normally, I’d be rejoicing because of the coming snow (we’re expected to get about half the foot that NYC is expecting), but it is still quite cold, and Sunday after the snow it’s only expected to get up to around 7 degrees F, a little below my normal skiing comfort level. Hannah has a sinus infection (and it’s entirely possible I have a little one, too), and has missed most of this week of school, so I’m disinclined to push a skiing trip. But oh, man, do I want one, especially having had to sit last week out. Maybe we need to make up for it with an overnight next weekend. Hmm . . .

I tend not to do the popular when it’s popular, and so I’m just getting around to reading Dave Eggers’s “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” after having read everything else he’s done and being a huge fan of McSweeney’s. Turns out it’s just as good as everyone said it was. Damn. Even if you haven’t lived through his situation — both parents dying young and close together, leaving him to take care of his much younger brother — there are elements of the story that are familiar to anyone who has survived loss, and he captures them brilliantly. His writing is clever without being flashy, straightforward, and yet he manages these interesting little conceits that in other hands would be pretentious at best. I loved “You Shall Know Our Velocity,” with its brilliant conceit of the unreliable narrator, and all those unanswered questions at the end, and it’s even more interesting now that I know more of his personal situation. Overall, great book.

Fighting back against the revolt of the appliances. Well, sorta. I finally got a replacement for my CD changer on eBay — nearly the same model, factory reconditioned (well, we’ll see, won’t we), $50 less than I first paid. I couldn’t get one with nearly the same quality for the same price new, so that’s what I went with. And then the minidisc player — okay! So I’m an early adopter! So shoot me! — suddenly put up a fit the other day, swallowed a disc and wouldn’t let go. Something told me this was just a one-time problem, so I took it all apart, got the mechanism realigned, and darned if it didn’t work! Good thing, too, because if it were to go, my ONLY sources of music for the stereo would be my 1987 tape deck (still in great shape, though), and my 1980 turntable. And that would just be sad.

True musical confessions

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1 You know that scene in “High Fidelity” where Dick and Barry are sitting in the record store, listening to a song, with these pained, sad, difficult expressions because they can’t believe that the shoplifting skatepunks could make something that good? “I know . . . it’s really good.” Well, that’s how I feel about “Has Been,” the stunning collaboration between William Shatner and Ben Folds, with support from the likes of Joe Jackson and Aimee Mann. I was originally bemused that Shatner, whose rendition of “Rocket Man” is so classically awful, would venture back into the musical world, even with the little bit of cred he saved up from the Priceline commercials. And while not a major fan by any means, I do get that Ben Folds does some interesting stuff. But I still couldn’t imagine how anyone could take such a collaboration seriously. Then I heard a couple of the tracks on WEQX, the true alternative station that I rediscover every couple of years, and I was intrigued. Then I got “Common People” stuck in my head, and it was all over. Downloaded the whole thing from the Apple Music Store, and I’m sorry to report, it’s truly some kind of masterpiece. Scorching, funny, intensely personal (hey, you sing about your wife who drowned and the children you abandoned, and do it without getting even a little maudlin). It’s really good. Sort of like a “Songs for ‘Drella,” something you’ll have to listen to a few times a year, just because it exists. Damn. Who knew he could do that?

2 Came home with an intense need to hear “Come On Eileen,” and I don’t mean the original, but instead the No Doubt version. The “confession” part is that I have it in my library.

3 I love Morrissey’s “I Have Forgiven Jesus,” which would be a typical Morrissey dirge — but somehow it’s not, and it’s not just that it’s a touch sacrilegious. Though that never hurts, to my way of thinking.


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There’s supposed to be a way for me to embed my favorite video ever – Liz Phair’s “Why Can’t I” – but it just doesn’t seem to work my with Mac, so you’re gonna have to click if you’ve never seen it. Then I’d recommend going to Bowling For Soup’s “1985,” which my kids know every word to, without really having a clue what it’s about. The video is kinda great, though the Robert Palmer tribute may be a tad disturbing.