Friday, May 21, 2010

Thank You, Gods of Comedy and Romance, For Having Sex and Giving Birth to the Newest Episode of 30 Rock

I was getting worried about 30 Rock. Liz's single lady jokes were feeling flat. Tracy's shenanigans just weren't cutting it. But the newest episode, in which Liz must attend two separate weddings and Jack has to choose between Avery and whats-her-face-with-the-hilarious-Boston-accent is totally. fucking. hilarious. For one, Liz finally finds someone who likes her (THANK GOD RIGHT? It was getting very unrealistic that every man in New York City hates a wonderfully self-deprecating single lady in her thirties). Add a drunk Kenneth into the mix (he's just the sweetest thing even when he's trying to be mean) and you have an episode that actually allows its characters some emotional growth while still retaining the belly laughs. Also, Cher accents in male characters never gets old. Watch here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Today in Awesomeness

Sam Lipsyte's new novel "The Ask" has been getting a lot of praise everywhere, and that's because it's a beautiful, hilarious, amazing and heartbreaking new book. I just finished it last night, in bed, still sick with some weird fluey thing. This part caught me by surprise...a rare meaning offering in a book which ardently resists the preachy. I'll share it here because it resonated so much with me. It's a conversation between the main character of the book, Milo, and his son.

I took a knee on the sidewalk, clasped Bernie by the shoulders. I'd seen fathers kneel like this in movies, standard posture for the rushed essentials, the Polonius rundown. A little too in love with itself, Don might judge the moment but that didn't diminish its necessity. Bernie might not understand what I told him today, but he would carry the words with him forever, and with them, me.
"Listen," I said.
"Yes, Daddy?"
"Squander it. Give it all away."
"Give what away? My toys?"
"No, yes, sure, your toys, too. Whatever it is. Squander it. Do you understand?"
"Not really."
"Don't save a little part of you inside yourself. Not even a scrap. It gets tainted in there. It rots."
"What does?"
"I can't explain right now. Someday you'll know..."

In the spirit of this passage, a part of me wants to give away the plot of the whole book, but you'll have to check it out here instead. What do I love about this passage? Oh, everything. I love Milo's self-conscious fathering. I love how everything adults say is lost in translation. I love the random stream-of-conscious writing Lipsyte attempts when writing the kid's character. I love that Milo is so bitter, and he knows it, and he wants it to stop but doesn't know how. I love the message of squandering it all, and I love the way it sounds like it might actually be a bad thing, and that that's because we've cast it as a bad thing, when it's really the greatest thing. I love how the moment pops out of nowhere, the way really important moments tend to always pop out of nowhere, and how it ends quickly because it's so rare for two human beings to ever have an epiphany on the same deep level at the exact same time.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I spent the first part of yesterday in a frenzy about my upcoming trip to Berlin. I now have, like, 12 books on the city. I am completely aware that I am romanticizing the fuck out of it and yet I can't help but stare at all the modernist art in the books and read about the city and it's people and history and think, fuck: I must go. But I'm not usually the person who just goes with feelings like this. I'm not the dude who says "I must go" and then actually goes. I'm much more the person who'll have the thought "I must go" and then immediately analyze why I'm thinking this way. So it still feels foreign to have the thought, "I must go to berlin" and know that really, in three months, I will be there.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about Seattle and my place in it. I'm annoyed by these thoughts. I really would like to not be constantly analyzing this sense of place, and the conversations I've been having about the city are frustrating, to say the least. I think we leave certain situations is because, at some point, the conversations we're having with ourselves while we're there are no longer satisfying. They're frustrating. We're not so much leaving a place as leaving the idea of a place we've defined, redefined, battled with and resigned against in cynicism.

I hung out with "S" last night. It felt so comfortable to be around him. I've developed a self around him that feels so familiar. I'm bawdy, I'm crazy, he doesn't mind. I tease him relentlessly but he can take it and he teases me right back. And yet, I'm so keenly aware of how familiar this role is to me - the outlandish, sarcastic gay friend with the bitchy opinions about absolutely everything. He's mostly me, but missing the vulnerability. The vulnerability comes from taking risks, and I'm not taking any right now. I'm living a very safe existence in an environment I've known since a child.

S and I trade Jewish shticky humor in front of his new girlfriend. We can truly become caricatures sometimes. I'm the pushy hypochondriac with the dysfunctional home life, he's the obsessive backseat driver. So S and I are driving with this new girlfriend of his, and she's laughing in all the right places and totally appreciating the weird performance art of our relationship. And now that we have an audience, I feel like our shit is just amplified. We tear into each other. We laugh dark laughs.

We drive down 45th, in terrible stop-and-go, until we reach the freeway. We're going to a party in Seward park...a mansion there, to be exact. My friend, M, just threw a multicultural performance at Garfield High School (sorry about that word), and her party she says, via text message, is gonna be "crackin."

When we arrive at the house, it's clear we've got the wrong address. No one's there. It's Seward park and silent. Not to get all law-and-order on your ass, but some places here give me the heebie-jeebies. It's so eerily quiet in parts of Seattle. An Israeli I once dated compared Seattle to a massive country club. He of course lived in Madison Valley, so take it with a grain of whateverrr but I latched on to this idea for a while. A part of me thinks he was just trying to be a dick and I also think our conversation was built on a bullshit premise, since he was always trying to say things to provoke me, and yet I've wrestled with it for a while. Stuff does happen here, but it's in specific areas, with specific people, it doesn't last long, it's usually not too rowdy and it's over before you know it. The way it's documented on Facebook probably makes it look more fun than it actually was.

Anyway, the party turns out to be somewhere else, so we have to drive back into the city. We take Lake Washington Blvd this time, and it's a scenic drive. The topic turns to cities and parents and professions and bits of local history. We drive by Kurt Cobain's old house.

The party we find is alienating for unexplainable reasons. It has all the right ingredients of a party - beer, loudly-talking attractive people - and yet something is off. It's cliquey. And when I say "it's cliquey" I mean, we missed out on something everyone else in the room seems to know. Some shared truth or sense of place or something.

We leave soon after, and drive to S's place. We smoke. We watch Hulu, talk Youtube. Bonding has become a trip to everyone's favorite cat videos. But there's some real joy to be shared here, and it's not entirely easy for me to feel cynical about it. We end up watching "Food Inc," a film I'd kept starting and stopping in the course of eating a burrito. The burrito won before, but tonight I was hooked, with a few reservations. The film was shocking, of course. But it was also kind of dumb, and annoying. The whole food debate in this country is so young and full of anger and sensationalism. I'm just as pissed as anyone about Monsanto and Wal-Mart and Con-Agra, but I'd like to watch a doc about it all that doesn't pander to my fears. I think, at times, the film shot itself in the foot by being way too heavy handed.

I ended up back on the blog, reading an old post I'd written about dining alone in Seattle, back when I was hell bent on becoming a professional writer a la Jonathan Franzen. It was painful to read. When I wrote it, I was still so high off my trip to South Africa that I was able to be pretty objective about my life in Seattle. I had hope there was another life waiting for me somewhere, so I didn't mind being harsh and honest about the one I currently had.

Truth be told, I haven't changed much since then. I'm still waiting to leave again. I want to feel that objectivity about some other new place. I want to make myself a stranger again. I'm not sure I'll be able to pull it off, but I figure I owe it to myself to at least try.