Friday, October 29, 2010

Scenes from a wedding

Brother Rob was kind enough to put up some pix of my kids from Alison and Justin's wedding, so here they are.  Natalie was pretty much a show stealer, most agreed.

Sadie and Graham were also very cute.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


When I get a new CD (yes I still buy them), I typically fixate on a song and completely obsess about it, playing it over and over again until it basically suffuses me and wraps me up in its perfection.  Right now, this is the song.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bettie Serveert at Local 506

Went to the show last night. It was good to see them live after all these years, in a room filled quite reasonably with other 40-somethings trying to get their groove back on.

But my god were they loud.  Were all the bands like that back in the dis-ay?  Between being up late and how loud it was, I felt almost like I had been drinking this morning. And how does Carolyn van Dijk or whatever her name is keep her voice when singing over volume like that after all these years?  In fact, it was difficult to determine if she actually had kept her voice, or at least the nuances of it, as they were not on display.

Just as importantly, why were they so loud?  It seems like a young man's game, a phallic need to project narcissistically into space, and certainly the lead guitarist fit the phallic bill, and van Dijk, sadly, played the Narcissus role.  You might have thought they had gotten over it.  We were all there on a weeknight, admittedly, to pretend that we were young. But it certainly was not lost on me that I was pretending.

Monday, October 25, 2010

In the mountains

Asheville. Wedding at the Biltmore.  It's hard to imagine anything much more incongruous than this house being built in backwater Appalachia late in the 19th century as lavish as the Biltmore House, though mom's husband David assures me that tourism and leisure have been core to the regional economy since around then anyway so maybe it's not that wierd.  The Biltmore now has 1800 employees managing 8000 acres.

At the wedding itself I got seated next to a nurse from Charlotte in sparkling Jimmy Chu shoes who asked me what I did for a living. When I told her what I did, she said something like "it would be better with a different president."  Whatever my misgivings about Obama's success in his first two years, there's no doubt he's the best option we had and, indeed, have had for some time.  So I arranged a new orifice for her.  I said it didn't matter who was president, taxes need to rise because of where we've got ourselves, and that the Bush tax cuts were the worst fiscal decision of our lifetime.

On the way back from the mountains we drove through the Craggy Gardens area of the Blue Ridge Parkway, where we probably drove as high as 5600-5700 feet, and where you're so high up that the plants are like those in Quebec.  It was awe-inspiring (though the kids were bored). I think Mary was finally convinced that North Carolina is indeed really cool.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My trip to Orlando

All work, little fun.  For excitement, I rented a car.  The first night I drove to a hotel near the airport, the Sheraton Suites, which I scored for $59 off of Hotwire.

I went running around a barren area of corporate America, filled with every shade of middle tier hotel you can imagine. There was a Holiday Inn with a Hooters in it. Just the thing for the kids.  I ran past an Oracle building, where I came to the end of the road, and a big field next to the interstate leading back towards a runway or something.  I ran across the field, and the air got cool and fresh, and I could sense some of the original charm of Florida, though there was a menacing looking trailer off in the corner of the field which looked a little too Texas Chainsaw like for the kid.

I also saw some "development coming soon" and "this office building for rent signs".  The most unexpected thing, though, was that a Starbucks along Rte. 482 was closed when I went past it this morning at 7:30 or so.  Starbuckses are supposed to be open at that hour.

For the conference I stayed at the Loews Portofino on the Universal World (or whatever it's called) property.  The whole place was a little cheesey, but they could have messed it up a whole lot worse, and would surely have, if it had been built in Vegas.  In fact, when the sun was going down and after, it didn't look all that fake.  And, in fact, it was possible to get confused about where you were from within the many piazze within the hotel, just like in the old country.

What I don't understand for the life of me is how hotels never have the Fox Soccer Channel or, quite often, Comedy Central.  What else are you supposed to watch?

There was a CNN news store at the airport.  I wonder where the Fox News viewers were supposed to purchase their news?  Oh yeah, they don't read.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


At the bottom of the escalator, where passengers take leave of escorts, an Asian couple in their late 20s were kissing and giggling uncontrollably before the female of the pair flew off to wherever she had to go for the week. As she passed by, an austere white woman of 60 or so scowled at them, presumably because they were in the way.  Whatever. I was just trying to think back to when I had been uncynical enough to titter like that, especially in public.

On the flight to Orlando, a 4-5 year old boy sat by the window and screeched from excitement as the plane lifted off the tarmac.  A couple of rows back, his twin brother did the same.  First flight. Awesome.

Earlier, on the blacktop outside Estes Hills's gym, Graham rode his bike in circles large and small for 11 minutes without touching his feet to the ground on only his second day of riding, as his dad kicked himself for forgetting to bring the camera to shoot a little movie.  Not that we have that much space on our memory card.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yet another soul

As I may well have said before, no riches quite beat new music, and the great benefit of being middle aged is that it doesn't matter at all when you come across it. It can be years late, and no one will mock you for being so out of  date, or, if they do, it's really their problem.  So coming across the Shins in a stack of CDs recently was quite a revelation.  The album version of this song is beautiful, but somehow this acoustic version seems more direct, less mediated by technology and indeed, technique.  And check out the lyrics below. The guy can write.

Foals in winter coats,
White girls of the North,
File past one, five and one
They are the fabled lambs,
Of Sunday ham,
The EHS norm.

And they could float above the grass,
In circles if they tried,
A latent power I know they hide,
To keep some hope alive,
That a girl like I could ever try,
Could ever try.

So we just skirt the hallway sides,
A phantom and a fly,
Follow the lines and wonder why
There's no connection.

And week of rolling eyes,
And cheap shots from the trite,

And we're off to Nemarca’s porch again,
Another afternoon with the goat head tunes,
And pilfered booze.

We wandered through her mama's house,
And milk from the window lights
Family portrait circa ninety-five,
This is that foreign land,
With the sprayed on tans,
And it all feels fine,
Be it silk or slime,

So, when they tap our Monday heads,
To zombie-walk in our stead,
This town seems hardly worth our time,
And we'll no longer memorize or rhyme,
Too far along in our climb,
Stepping over what now towers to the sky,
With no connection.

Oooh waooooooo waooooooo
Oooh waooooooo waooooooo
Oooh waooooooo waooooooo
Oooh waooooooo waooooooo

So, when they tap our Sunday heads,
To zombie-walk in our stead,
This town seems hardly worth our time,
And we'll no longer memorize or rhyme,
Too far along in our crime,
Stepping over what now towers to the sky,
With no connection.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The ADP Call Center in Bangalore

.. or wherever.

Had a problem with my FSA account managed by ADP and called customer service.  They guy who picked up seemed to have an Indian accent and was, almost certainly, in India.  People always complain about call center experiences, offshoring, etc.  This guy was frickin awesome.  Very pleasant, gave me good advice, sent me on my way with good wishes for my day.  What's not to like?

Only in Montreal

Going thru my wallet I found the business card of one Gretzky Chery, the super-friendly young African-Canadian guy who helped us get a rental car from Enterprise when Natalie and I went through a few weeks back. I would wager that it's only in Montreal that a guy of apparently West African descent (maybe Cote d'Ivoirian or Senegalese?) is gonna have his first name be taken from a Polish-Ukrainian-Belarusian (most likely from the shtetl, honestly) hockey player. Gotta love it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

On the field

Yesterday Nick Nack and I took Natalie -- along with her team -- to a cross-country competition an hour or so away.  I thought it would be good for her to be in an actual athletic competition, something she has avoided for her 10 odd years on the planet.  And it was good for her, as we shall see.

But first we had to deal with me.  When we got there, there was blaring music, there was blazing sun, there were tents for shade and really skinny cross-country looking kids jogging around getting ready, checking out the course.  And the kids were nervous, and I was like "oh man, my daughter's getting involved in a real competition here."  And she is not morphologically optimized for x-country, no lithe gazelle she.  Nor has she trained a ton (which I think is appropriate for a 10-year old).  But the prospect of her competing in the blazing sun got me stirred up, and I just wanted to keep her in the shade, hydrated.

So her coaches got her out on the course, running around, checking it out, and when I saw her and Isabel way out in front of the other kids I was like "slow down, girls!"  And then the race before hers all the kids, including Natalie, were running around cheering for their teammates, and I was afraid she was going to tire herself out.  And they took forever to get her race started, and I can't nudging her and Isabel over into the shade. And then at the starting line Nick Nack was leading the kids in "strides", sprinting out 50 yards before the race, and I ran over saying "what the hell is he doing?"

At this point in time, another of the coaches, one who had run on the Olympic 10k team in her prime (not all that far past) turned to me and said "Are you always critical of everything?  He's doing strides.  Why don't you just chill out, man?" And there were a few more sentences which I have forgotten or repressed, and I realized that I must have looked entirely like "one of those parents."  So I slunk away.

And then during the race I ran around the course and cheered.  Only I didn't really feel comfortable just cheering for Natalie or our kids, but I was totally feeling it for the really plump kids who were bringing up the rear, and I stuck around and hooted and hollered for them, and I realized that it was all about how shitty I felt on most athletic fields of endeavor back then, not because I was fat, but because I was scrawny and uncoordinated and was never top tier at anything, till I was 13 or so and started to break out on the track and the field as well.

And Natalie had a great attitude all day.  She ran almost a personal best in that nasty heat, though she wasn't toward the front of the pack, and she cheered for her team and when I encouraged her she stayed with me and cheered for fat kids we will probably never see again.  And in the evening, when she was talking to grandma and Rob on the phone with Mary, she kept saying "we've got to tell them about my race."  And then when the subject of it came around she said "Oh, it was just a race."

Thursday, October 07, 2010

What to say

Sat at my desk today.  Worked.

Went to lunch with the guy I sublet my office to.  He told me some things that may be useful in the business world and could make me a more effective professional, but are not interesting, and are reflective of a wierd functionalist reductiveness that is part and parcel of dealing in the for-profit world.  Am I really excited by this?  No.

On the other hand, we sat with Graham's therapist this morning and had a great conversation. The guy is very interested in learning about our little boy and also our family dynamics which impact his development.  At the end of it Mary was a little upset with me because she had not had time to hit on all the points she would have liked to because we ended up talking about my relationship to my dad, Graham's granddad, for a while.

As you can tell, these were two very different conversations.

Here's a picture of Graham from his trip to Williamsburg with grannie.  There are others he would probably prefer be shown, including many ones with him astride this or that cannon, but this one I like particularly.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

2 days in Paris

Directed by Julie Delphy (her directorial debut), this one had gathered dust by our DVD player for some months.  But then, uncharacteristically for us, we watched the whole thing start to finish in one setting. 

Delphy and boyfriend Adam Goldberg (he of The Hebrew Hammer fame, he was a bad-ass stoner at Columbia when I was there in grad school) are "lovers" from New York who come by her place in Paris on their way back from a "vacation" in Venice. Hilarious hijinks ensue. It seems so improbable that Woody Allen didn't have a hand in this movie, though Goldberg channels him as a character and Delphy's concept and execution owes a lot to the old pervert genius.  Only it's funnier than Allen's stuff has been for the last decade.

Rent it.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Obama's Failure

I was at a party yesterday talking to a couple of older Chapel Hill women wearing batik and other old school fabrics, and talk turned to politics.  To rile them up, I said outright that "Obama has failed."  It worked, and they pointed out that Obama had pushed through major legislation, including health care, stimulus, and financial reform, despite the fact that the Republicans were being the party of no really effectively.

This is all true, and these would be momentous accomplishments indeed for any legislator.  But Obama is not one anymore, he is an executive.  His job is not to get laws passed, but to manage the country to a better place, to execute and get things done.  The government cannot itself create enough jobs. He needs to bring his stakeholders along to where he wants them to go, and he has not done that.  He has been outfoxed by Karl Rove, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and a bunch of other jackass freaks.  The business world has put on a very effective capital strike, holding lots of cash on their balance sheets and not hiring people because they are so scared. 

Obama hasn't convinced enough Americans that he's doing the right thing.  We may hope that the health care reform will end up being transformative enough to justify the tremendous sacrifice that has been made for it.