Thursday, May 29, 2008


There's no excuse really. For not writing for so long. It's not like I've been busy. It's not like there hasn't been any down time.

I'm back from Seattle. There, I attended some meetings, stayed at a great hotel, had some fine French food, saw some waterfalls, and went to a Mariners game (they won.)

I highly recommend Virgin America airlines. Sure, the car rental shuttle driver "joked" that there's nothing virginal about America. But anyway they give you video games and cable TV and lots of medium-strength music to listen to.

Today, I'm back at the office. The campus is sleepy, save for the cranes and bulldozers. The phones have been silent. The email has been dormant. I have 20 minutes left here today. Which means I can leave right now.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Seattle, For the Third Time

I'm going to Seattle this weekend for a conference. Yes, that conference. To honor this journey, here's a short list of things I've done in Seattle, a list I hope to update soon.

1. In 1996, I left my treasured black jacket in a car. I had this jacket since 1988. Yes, it was eight years old and I was still very upset that the jacket would be gone forever. If only.... if only some kind soul (whose name, face, and purpose escapes me) packaged and mailed the jacket back to me. I kept it for two more years before ritualistically disposing of it in an alley off Emerson Avenue in south Minneapolis.

2. In 1999, I went with my (then) (future) (ex) wife to Seattle to celebrate the millennium. We stayed in an odd Bed & Breakfast. The breakfasts there were great, the bed uncomfortable.

3. On that same 1999 trip, we had a nice New Years Eve dinner at a nice restaurant in a nice part of town near some nice water.

4. Later that night we tried to find a good spot to watch the millennial fireworks from. We drove around some large body of water and finally stopped. The display was colorful. It was suddenly the 21st Century!

5. We went up to the top of the Space Needle. And eventually came back down.

Ideally, I will expand this list to ten the next time I run out of ideas.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Aunts, Learners, Poems, and Mayo

My cousin writes (brilliantly) about my mother.

Soon, I will write about his mother.

The mothers are, of course, welcome to start their own blogs.

Best book of the year.

Two new poems by me.

(Brief aside where I talk to two basketball franchises as if they were people: Please, Lakers. Do what you have to do. It needs to end. They need to be put away. For the good of the game. And Timberwolves, go ahead and just do it. O.J. Mayo is a good choice. Yes, we need a center and that Lopez twin sure has improved since that game Jason and I went to in '07 but he's not a #3 pick. Plus, I like the Trojan-to-T-Wolf synergistic symmetry.)

(To the guy in the next office playing his Middle Eastern music really loud: I grew up listening to that music. Especially when my parents would take me to gatherings of the NJ Egyptians or when my father was in a nostalgic mood. Although I admire the plaintive blues-like wailing of the female singer and the deep reassuring echoes of the male background singers, it DOES NOT MEAN I ever want to hear this music again.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Alabama the Crimson Tide

This may be my first post written from an airport.

It will likely not be my last.

I'm in Portland. I wasn't here 24 hours ago and 24 hours from now I will be safe and secure in my apartment on the hill, restlessly awaiting the sunset. Once it it dark, I will rest.

Actually, I should be in that place 3 hours from now but I was going for symmetry.

The people here look like they've seen a thing or two. And those that haven't would have if they hadn't looked away.

Karen - Congratulations for your victory in the year-long contest to see who would represent the Group of Seven in Las Vegas during the World Series of Poker. You'll do great Karen, baby in belly or not. Just remember they've got a name for the winners of the world but not for those who lose. Also, thank your husband for is 600 chip bet on that AT8 flop with one spade. A smaller bet would have kept me in it and my nut spade flush would have given me - not the birthday boy - the dominating chip lead. Still, I have a feeling you would have pulled it off. You were the best player and I was tired from the night before during which:

I attended a concert by this band and saw these two people together (date?) in the audience.

Such a vision - polygamist grandmother and grandson together at a hipster indie Echo Park rock show - would have made anyone too dizzy too sleep. Plus, there were other things.

Also at the show - this band sang the best live song I've heard (listen to Under the Sun.) And yes that is the man responsible for Blister in the Sun. Word.

They're about to board us. Bye.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Quince de Mayo

It's hot again.

I'm going to Seattle next week. Can't wait. I spent two memorable stints there, once in '96 for work and once in '99-'00 for the Millennium. It's the city of constant sunshine and no rain, the green city of hills and espresso-scented bookstores. Should be fun. In between the conference sessions on student retention and residential campuses, I'll sneak out and walk the streets of downtown, contemplating the ifs.

I think I'm in love with my new Miquelrius notebook. Between Pau Gasol and the NoteBook 4 Eco, Spain is on fire!

I promise you it's coming soon - my new definitive proclamation of the greatest song of all time. It will be a detailed entry, full of elaborate justifications, detailed lyrical analysis, seemingly superfluous put-downs of other songs, and a mirthful celebration of a song that may be the most beautiful, important thing ever.

What song is it? You'll just have to wait (wait wait wait wait).

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


I forget about this band for about 10 years. Apparently, they're still around... and still really good. (Their 1992 song E.T.A. is one of the perfectest songs ever.) Their music is perfect for today's weather - cool, cloudy, wavy, mystical, poetic. I'll stop.

(Yes - the first song on the above link is a complete Stairway to Heaven ripoff. At least they improved on the inane lyrics.)

There are some important primaries today. Barack - you can win one of them, I know you can. Other candidate - it's over, even if it isn't; in other words, Hillary - if you leave, I promise I'll hire you as my new assistant.

I need to write a story. It's been too long.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Sermon on Limekiln Pike

I've never slept quite that deeply. It was as if I was in a coma. When you wake up and you have 15 minutes to get to work but you need to shower and the drive is 25 minutes, it's sort of a shock to the system.

But here I am, at the office. As productive as ever. Sentence fragments.

What could I randomly bring up right here, right now? Weekend snapshots? (No - that gets old.) Movie review? (Standard Operating Procedure - good.) Songs I like (That's already gotten old.)

Story from my past? Sequels to famous blog posts? Hopes for the future? What do I write about?

Was that an earthquake? I think it was. Either that or that giant crane on Exposition Boulevard collapsed.

Exposition Boulevard - lovely name for a street. That was one of the street names that fascinated me on my first visits to L.A. in the mid-80s, back when the hope for the future was palpable and the dismissal of the past was a given. You see, my family - we liked to move.

So I remembered Exposition. And Imperial Highway. And the boulevards of Hollywood- Santa Monica, Sunset, and Hollywood. And, for some reason, Century Boulevard. Yes I know this all sounds like that Randy Newman song but I swear this is what I noticed then, from the back seat of a family rental car as we scratched our way into what would come next.

My own hope for what comes next: blurry bliss, conversational tangents, dead end street, sunrise, sunset.

The family vacations to southern California in the 80s came often. If I remember correctly - 81, 82, 84, 86 (twice), 87. We would be anchored in Orange where the relatives lived. We would take day trips to Laguna Beach and Los Angeles and once (regrettably) to the San Francisco Bay Area (can't remember where that hotel was but it was nowhere good). We would visit theme parks and vibrant (or dying) malls.

We would return home to Pennsylvania or, later, Minnesota tanner and sleepier. Depending on my timing, I may have returned home before the postcard of the Hollywood sign reached the drummer in New Jersey or before the postcard with the picture of the pier over the Pacific Ocean reached the girl in the trailer park. Hey whatever happened to her? Let me Google that name. No, it's too common. It's pointless. I'll just remember the time we saw Ghostbusters over in Montgomeryville. Or the time we saw The Karate Kid at The Barn.

Enough reminiscing. What have I done lately? Besides building my iTunes library and honing the screenplay? Not much. I think I'll take a walk.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Devil in the Eye

With today being the first of May - May Day - it's a good time to revisit the story of the greatest thing I've ever heard anyone say.

(Note: My writing style two years ago was a little overwrought. Imagine me telling this story today - two years older, a more confident blogger, more jaded, more serene.)

You should listen to two of the best Tindersticks songs I've heard in years. And I've heard them all. These are from their new album, out this week.

Which reminds me of the day in 1995 when John and I drove from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. We were coming back from a non-lost weekend, in time for a Sunday night show at the Troubador - the Tindersticks opening for Stephin Merritt (of the Magnetic Fields). We were Magnetic Fields fans then. Who wasn't, with The Charm of the Highway Strip defining '95 better than anything, anyone ever could?

We didn't really know who the Tindersticks were. Their name sounded cool. I think I knew they were British. So we get to the Troubador - legendary home of 70s L.A. folkies, the place where Elton John went from obscurity to worldwide fame in the time it took him to finish a 14-show residence in 1970 - and we settle in, waiting for the iconic Merritt to sing sad songs about the road. But it's the Tindersticks who blow us away - Stuart Staples in his Bryan Ferry suit singing his soul out to the audience of 74 or so people, the rest of the band providing confident sturdy European accompaniment... making us all feel like we were in Berlin and Paris at the same time, between two wars... any two wars.

The next day, I buy the second Tindersticks album - the one with the pale sad man on the cover - thinking its their first one. Weeks later, I buy their first album, thinking it's their second (looking at the song titles, I think there was a definite liquid/fluid motif running through this album.). I put Tiny Tears on every mixtape I made between '95 and '98. No wonder the girls thought I was sad.