You know, it wasn't the cranberry juice that was an affront to my masculinity, such as it is. It was, well, the "splash"...I order any drink with a "splash" in it and I might as well be wearing high heels.
Monday, April 29, 2002
Sunday, April 28, 2002
Kiss and Jell: Had an eventful day yesterday, enjoying New York City with friends. Sometimes I have to remind myself how fortunate I am to live right next to the greatest city in the world. It's so easy to take it for granted. Of course, I'm blessed to have wonderful friends as well...
First, I met Jonathan Leaf, John Appelbaum, and Caren Lissner for brunch at Quantum Leap, a Village veggie eatery that I've patronized since my NYU days. At my request, Jon told Caren the story of his being a two-time champion on the short-lived, Dick-Clark-hosted game show The Challengers". (The image above, showing the categories from the April Fool's Day episode of "The Challengers," is from the show's unofficial home page.)
After brunch, Caren went home to work on revisions of her second novel, under a self-imposed deadline. (She had good reason to be assiduous, as her first novel, as-yet-unpublished, has been optioned for a theatrical film or TV movie.) John, Jon, and I headed for Twelfth Street Books. We stayed there a good long while, leaving with heavier bags and lighter wallets. Jon then went to meet a friend, leaving me to introduce John to the wonders of the Strand.
Since the Strand usually doesn't have much to offer by my favorite authors–G.K. Chesterton, J.M. Barrie, Philip K. Dick–I'd forgotten how amazing it must seem to someone who has wider literary tastes. John made a beeline for the "W" section in fiction and was blown away by the selection of Evelyn Waugh. Since I'd never read Waugh, he thoughtfully purchased me a copy of Black Mischief (to which he himself had been introduced by Jonathan Leaf).
In the early evening, John and I parted, and I went to the Film Forum to meet another friend, John Guterman. Come this fall, I'll have known Guterman for 20 years, ever since I was a high-school freshman and he was a sophomore. He's married now, with a young son, but every so often his wife holds the fort so he can go see a vintage film. (She prefers more recent fare.) On this occasion, it was Billy Wilder's Cold War comedy "One, Two, Three". I'd never seen it before, and it was hilarious, especially the famous "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini" (sic) torture scene.
Jonathan Leaf had told me about a party that night to benefit the Inverse Theater Company, so I suggested to John Guterman that we check it out after the movie. It was at the old Show World theater complex by the Port Authority, which now has signs outside boasting (or, more likely, apologizing) "No Live Girls". Neither John nor I had ever been there before, so it was a strange experience to ascend the stairs above the video room (which is still in business) to the former live-girl area, which is now used for "legitimate theater" and parties. The decor was suitably seedy–red walls accented by small black and mirrored tiles–but the dancers' poles were gone (at least, as far as I could see).
John offered to buy me a drink, but cringed when I told him what I wanted: club soda with a splash of cranberry. "I can't order that," he protested. It was funny, because Caren had just let me read the first few chapters of her new novel, and they contained a scene where a guy orders a cranberry juice at a bar, braving "a strange look" from the bartender. I admit that I had thought, when reading it, that there was no reason why, in real life, such a drink order should put the patron's manhood in peril, but John made it clear that this was so.
A tall (to this petite powerhouse, anyway) woman offered to sell me a ticket to the hourly raffle. She ran down the list of the hour's prizes, noting that they included "six months' free Web hosting".
"Thanks," I said, "but the thing is, I already have Web hosting."
"That's what everyone's saying," she pouted. She was cute. Her name was Jessica and she confessed to being an actress in Inverse's plays, but was very modest about it. When I complimented her about being able to manage the Inverse playwrights' tongue-twisting Elizabethan-style prose, she said that she didn't get to do much of that, having thus far landed only character roles.
Pretty and outgoing, she struck me as someone who, in an earlier age, would have made a good comedienne, like Barbara Nichols as the cigarette girl in Sweet Smell of Success or Lilo Pulver as Ingeborg in One, Two, Three. I told her that and she took the compliment graciously, though she added that she wished she had landed the role of Juliet in a recent production of "Romeo and Juliet". As it was, she got called back for the part of the Nurse, a fact which surprised me. I mean, the Nurse in "Romeo and Juliet" is supposed to be old and dumpy. I could picture Jessica as a nurse only on "The Benny Hill Show".
Other than the redeeming presence of Jessica as well as Messrs. Guterman, Leaf, and Appelbaum, the party was overall a surprisingly dull affair. I admit that I had actually looked forward to the "Kissing Booth" that was promised in the party's invitation. There was indeed a booth with a sign promising "$3=YUM!" and "$5=HOT!" Unfortunately, the only man in said booth was a guy named Frank [I don't know why, but, after a day with Jo(h)ns, that seemed an singularly unappealing name] who sported a bandana over his head and what my mother would call a jelly-jar beard. (You know: he looked like he had stuck his face in the jelly jar.)
Riding the PATH train home, just before midnight, I pulled out the Evelyn Waugh novel that John Appelbaum had bought me. It felt a little awkward to be reading a book called Black Mischief in public–I wasn't sure what onlookers would make of it–but no one seemed to mind. The book was inspired by Waugh's experiences in an African country. Which one, you ask? The only one that could provide me with an exit line for this entry. In other words, Abyssinia!
Friday, April 26, 2002
The story on "He Can Fly" is that I wrote the song (in a few minutes) and played the tack piano. Ric Menck [Velvet Crush, Matthew Sweet] played the drums. We sent the tape to Tom, who played the bass, guitars and did all of the background voices.
The song is in the middle of the album I'm working on, which is not conceptual, but is crossfaded with other like-sounding songs. It is about my neighbor's cat who took flight in an early morning dream I had. He hangs around our house a lot and will make an appearance on the final mix.
Attached to Andrew's e-mail was his latest studio creation, which he wrote was a collaboration with former Cyrkle member Tom Dawes: "He Can Fly". I'm not sure how much Dawes had to do with it–Andrew sings lead on it–but's definitely the best recording I've ever heard from Andrew, and the best thing I've heard from Dawes since the Cyrkle. (The only other post-Cyrkle Dawes tune I've heard was a disco 45 on London from the 1970s.) It sounds like an transition cut from a lost, Ogden's Nut Gone Flake-style concept album, or, more accurately, The Point(by the Small Faces and Nilsson, respectively). Toytown-psychedelia lyrics about an airborne furry creature are propped up by staccato piano blips and gorgeous, Smiley Smile-like falsetto-driven harmonies.
I wrote back to Andrew to say that I thought the track sounded more like the obscure 1968 RCA band Family Tree–a Bob Segarini group that worked with Nilsson–than the Cyrkle. Haven't heard from him since, so I hope he wasn't offended. Anyone who's heard the Family Tree would know it was a compliment.
Friday, April 19, 2002
I bought it four years ago, when I was at my proverbial "thin weight". I was on my way to interview the Connells for Manhattan Cable's "Videowave" and wanted to do something different, so I picked it up from one of the nightclub-wear shops on 8th St. I still remember running into the store, breathlessly asking, "Do you have a gold bikini?" and being so excited when the answer was "yes".
But the proverbial "thin weight" became a memory, so I couldn't wear the suit last summer. Now, having lost 25 lbs. since July, it looks like I can don it again. All I need is an occasion–and I'm afraid it can't be the next Fabiani meeting (even if it is scheduled to be a foray into the New York Sun).
It was interesting to have the opportunity to ask a commercial buyer and a commercial seller about why younger viewers are so much more attractive to advertisers than older ones, even though older ones have more money and are more likely to switch brands. Roy said it was because the people who make the decisions at ad agencies are young and don't understand the dynamics of the older part of the market.
In other news, the best headline I wrote during my two days at the paper this week was "Pay-phone hike is change for worse"....A couple of hours ago, I went back to listening to all that weepy and cathartic Fortunes stuff [see the second item on that page]–yikes! Also pulled out Phil Ochs for the first time in a while—again, the weepy stuff ("Cross My Heart," "No More Songs," "Half a Century High," etc.). One of the many cool things about Phil Ochs which most people don't know is that he was much closer to a libertarian than an out-and-out radical. In some ways—particularly his tastes in films—he even displayed conservative values. One of his best-known songs, "Pleasures of the Harbor," was inspired by a John Ford-directed John Wayne film, "The Long Voyage Home". I think there's a point on one of his albums–probably the Elektra live album–where he tells the audience how much he loves John Wayne. They laugh, but he's not kidding.
Tuesday, April 16, 2002
Monday, April 15, 2002
Friday, April 12, 2002
The noted campaign consultant, author of the soon-to-be-released Power Plays, and Vote.com founder (still wearing the makeup from a television appearance he had made earlier in the day), was a charismatic speaker, with the down-home cadences (if not the drawl) of a born-and-bred New Yorker. He spent much of his talk proposing solutions to several pressing political problems, including Social Security, the war on terrorism, the war on drugs, and the situation in Israel. Some of his ideas sounded ingenious, others dangerous. With regard to drugs, while I was glad to hear that he was not in favor of legalization, I shuddered at his idea that all high-school students should be tested.
His solution to the Israel situation–that the country should retreat to defensible borders (not as far back as the 1967 ones) and build a wall–struck me as intriguing, but naive (though I couldn't tell you why). He did, however, make the important point that a land-for-peace deal would be unworkable: "To think that people who are willing to blow themselves up will be appeased by a piece of real estate is ridiculous."
During the question-and-answer period, Morris was persuaded to let loose about what it was like working for President Clinton. It didn't take much to get him started. His willingness to discuss intimate details of his former boss's personality was disarming. He reminded me a great deal of people I used to work with in the music business. One might expect them to be circumspect when talking about their former employers, but, often, having taken so much tsurus from those people, they're all-too-eager to dish the dirt.
Morris likened Clinton to a solar-powered battery. When the sun is shining–that is, when the people around him are giving him energy–he processes it and emits it back in a powerful, inspiring manner. But he's not a self-starter. Left in the dark, with no outside stimulation, he runs down, to the point where he doesn't even seem to have a pulse.
That, Morris said, was one of the reasons why Clinton was "promiscuous". He sought out the sexual encounters during the times when he was in less demand than usual. The description chilled me, because, again, it reminded me of people I had known in the music biz. This time, however, it reminded me of rock stars. When they turn to groupies, it is often for the same reason–to feed off their excitement, and to fill the empty space. OK, that, and the fact that they're just plain randy. But there is a similarity.
Sitting near me at the meeting was my friend Paul Torres, just back from a business trip to Miami. Regular Dawn Patrol readers will recognize Paul as the reporter whose notebook was stolen by a man in a Palestinian headdress. On this night, I noticed that he was jotting down notes on a piece of scrap paper. He sheepishly admitted to me that, yes, he hadn't been able to bring himself to carry a notebook since the incident. But he will. He did have a camera, and Dick Morris graciously posed for a photo with Paul, me, and Cato Institute intern Travis Jones. Watch for it on The Dawn Patrol as soon as Paul gets his Oval film back from the developers...
Thursday, April 11, 2002
I did a little soul-searching this morning and pondered if I were too dense to understand the issues under discussion at the events I attend. The answer came quickly: no. The other question is, then, am I too superficial or lazy to give a darn about the pressing issues of the day? If the answer to that is no as well, which I think it is, then what does it take to awaken my interest?
I think the answer is that, as a relatively-recent convert to Christianity, I have a hard time looking at contemporary issues in a vacuum. That's one of the reasons why I love G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis so much, because they were so adept and articulate at framing contemporary political issues in moral terms. Yet, with the exception of First Things magazine (which, unlike, say, National Review, is above my head much of the time), I have had a hard time finding Christian publications and organizations that discuss politics in a manner that is insightful and challenging enough for my tastes. (There are some Catholic organizations that I could probably explore, but, as a Messianic Jew, I'm not sure how comfortable I would feel in them.)
So, does anyone know of a conservative political organization with a Christian bent (as opposed to a Christian organization with a conservative bent)? Would anyone like to start one? If so, please drop me a line. You can use the form on Gaits of Eden.
Oh, all right, maybe I'm exaggerating. Even so, there are occasions when a timely witticism delivered in a newspaper turns me on at least as much as timeless onomatopoeia delivered in a falsetto.
The keynote address by Dinesh D'Souza was excellent. I'd never seen him speak before (for one thing, I don't have a TV) and was duly impressed by his logic and perspicacity. Speaking on the subject of "What's So Great About America?", he said that, for who wish to immigrate to America, the source of our country's appeal is not just the opportunity to make money, but the opportunity to guide one's own destiny.
He also discussed the Islamic world's arguments against American culture, refuting them with the assertion that "liberty is the essential precondition for achieving virtue." He seemed to believe that this argument could make an inroad into the Islamic world, since, he said, Islam believes that the soul requires liberty–the opportunity to make a free choice–in order to accept virtue, which is embodied in Allah. I'm not so sure about that myself, as I've never before heard that Islam accepts the doctrine of free will.
After Cato's Brink Lindsey gave a brief and informative speech titled "Globalization: It's Earlier Than You Think" (in which he warned that the "dead hand of central planning" had too many nations in its grip), my second favorite speaker of the day, Jerry Taylor, took the podium. I have to admit that I did not expect to be excited by a talk about the "Mirage of Energy Security," so Taylor was a very pleasant surprise. Although I've never heard Jimmy Breslin speak, Taylor struck me a Jimmy Breslin type–a hard-boiled, macho New Yorker, a smoker and a sports fan, with a sailor's vocabulary (that he modified for the occasion) and a sharp wit. He had me right from the start, when he talked about how few people approached him for speaking engagements during the past several years, when the markets were stable: "I felt like the Maytag repairman." From there, he covered much of the same ground as he did in his Wall Street Journal editorial which appeared that same morning–that "an oil embargo won't work"–but it was enjoyable to hear it from the source.
After Taylor finished his speech, the seminar moved to the dining room, where each place setting was augmented by a small booklet containing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, neatly bound in a red plastic-coated cover. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Travis Jones, a Cato intern whose parents had the good sense to give him his unusual first name so that he would stand out from most other Joneses. Judging from his wit, they neededn't have worried. Cato president Ed Crane introduced the luncheon speaker, Forbes Global editor Tim W. Ferguson, and mentioned that they had gone to school near one another–Ferguson at Stanford, and Crane at Berkeley. Immediately, before I could even soak in that information, Travis whispered waggishly, "Is that why he made the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution into a little red book?"
Ferguson's speech, while well-composed, struck me as somewhat anticlimactic, because his delivery was so dry compared to those who preceded him. He did make some good points, particularly in describing the differences between Reaganism and Thatcherism. The greatest one, he said, is demonstrated in the contrast between the way the countries handle immigrants–the mass absorption of them in the United States, and the mass alienation of them in the United Kingdom.
When my brain started to drift off into ruminations on how a change in British immigrant-absorption policies would have affected the Foundations (of "Build Me Up, Buttercup" fame), whose members hailed from five different countries (OK, only four if you count that Jamaica wasn't yet independent at the time), I realized that it was time to phone the Varese Sarabande label about my latest liner-note assignment. Still, it was a highly-educational seminar, and I now know that the "dead hand" is not something that my least-favorite 1960s band got at the end of a 22-minute guitar solo.
Monday, April 8, 2002
As we prepared to play, Jon said, "I have an idea for a team name, but James is the only one who would get it." I was surprised at this apparent slight to my knowledge base and demanded to know what was the idea. Jon responded, "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative". He was right; James got it, I didn't. (Jon explained to me that it was a New York Times headline–which James correctly remembered was for a Flora Lewis article–which was the winning entry in a New Republic contest for the most boring headline.)
The first round, covering general knowledge, was tough. I really should have known the answer to, "How many grooves are on one side of a 33 1/3rpm record?" Instead, while I was busy multiplying 30 by 33 1/3 (don't ask), James had the right answer: one. Duh! James and Jon then proceeded to barrel their way through the American history questions, correctly naming all nine presidents who lost their re-election bids. I was left staring in amazement, wondering how they could possibly remember that presidents like John Quincy Adams and Benjamin Harrison missed their chances.
Caren and I showed our mettle during the audio round, where the quizmasters played song snippets and we had to name the title of the Weird Al Yankovic parody of each song. I got "Another One Rides the Bus" (Pink Floyd's "Another One Bites the Dust") as well as the title of Weird Al's parody of the Police's "King of Pain", which resurfaced from deep within my subconscious: "King of Suede". Jon got "Amish Paradise" (from Coolio's "Gangster's Paradise") and "Gump" (from the Presidents' of the United States "Lump"). Caren knew "Pretty Fly for a Rabbi" (from the Offspring's "Pretty Fly for a White Guy"). None of us knew the parody of "American Pie" ("The Saga Begins").
Jennifer had some good suggestions during the visual round, when we were given pictures of cuts of beef and had to identify them. However, she wasn't sure of her answers, so we went with other team members' guesses (not mine–as a non-carnivore, I sat this one out) and did miserably, getting only three out of ten. Even so, we did so well on the other rounds that, as I'd predicted, with the addition of James to our team, we took first place by an even larger margin than we had before—a whopping four points. (We had squeezed by with a one-point margin the last time around.)
One of the quizmasters brought us our prize—a $25 drink ticket–and James got us our drinks. We hung out for another half-hour, playing our own ad hoc trivia game, as James and Jon fired questions about presidents and state capitals. I tried to answer some of them, but, for the most part, just sipped my margarita with salt (only one, thank you—I'm on the wagon) and thought about how happy I was to enjoy a night of free entertainment with friends.
Rook What We Have Here: On a tip from Rooks singer Michael Mazzarella, I just visited the Rooks' beautiful new Web site and found this photo, which, amazingly, was taken exactly five years ago today. For details on who's who, please allow me to refer you to my main page, Gaits of Eden, which also contains a newly-added link to Part Two of my liner notes to PolyGram's never-releaed 10cc singles collection.
Friday, April 5, 2002
Paul later sent an e-mail to his friends, describing the incident:
[My friends and I] left the bar and....I headed to the 6th Ave and 42nd station to catch a Queens-bound F. On the train I began going through a small reporter's notebook marking up some notes I had taken–highlighting what was most interesting. At some point, I stopped and must have dozed off with the pad in one hand and my pen in the other. I was, or at least had been near being, drunk, and it was past midnight. My two mistakes were in sitting next to the doors and in not putting away my notepad.
A tug and the feeling of my pad slipping through my fingers awoke me, and I almost immediately realized what had happened; someone snatched my notepad while exiting the train as the car doors were about to close. I was not plagued by indecision but was fueled by rage; I flew at the doors as they closed and managed to jam one foot and one arm in between in an effort to pry them open. For a few moments, as I wondered for how long the train conductor would wait before re-opening the doors, I could see the back of a denim jacket and hood wearing man walking off to my left towards the stairs.
When this man turned the stairs I couldn't see his face. His hood–actually some kind of black and white mottled cloth wrapped around his head, which may have borne a checkered pattern but I couldn't tell–left only a tiny dark slit for his eyes, which I also couldn't see. In retrospect he was a suicide bomber look-alike. A few seconds later he was almost halfway up the stairs, and he turned slightly and caught sight of me as the doors chimed open again.
He ran. I thought I could author the most realistic, ineffable horror story yet armed only with the pen I still clutched in one hand and what seemed to be murderous fury. Then again, maybe it was the alcohol.
Paul chased the perp through the station, but lost him when he ran outside.
I looked about to my right and behind me–dark storefronts were to my left–and I could only wonder which corner he had turned or what car he had ducked behind under sodium-amber street lamps.
His efforts frustrated, he walked back downstairs.
The next train came along and I wondered why someone would steal a notepad and nothing more, and if anyone would ever believe my story. And I questioned my intial judgement not a few minutes before. It was just a notepad. I slept what I could, but I couldn't avoid a slight hangover and generally being strung out the next day.
Wednesday, April 3, 2002
Jonathan Leaf: Take me; I think abortion is wrong, but I wouldn't campaign to make it illegal.
Jonathan Funke (intensely): I feel the same way about slavery.
While I wait for a friend to e-mail me photos of the evening, you can find images of Messrs. Leaf and Funk from Richard Ryan's "Forty Years of Frenzy" party in the archives.
Another highlight of the evening was a wonderful compliment given me by Paul Torres, a business reporter and Fabiani regular. Paul and I have run into each other a lot lately at such events as Richard Ryan's party and various Manhattan Republican shindigs. He told me that, when he goes to an event and people ask him what it was like, he refers them to The Dawn Patrol.
Tuesday, April 2, 2002
The researchers' assumptions (they even claimed the ancients "freebased") reminded me of what G.K. Chesterton wrote in The Everlasting Man about the differences between popular perceptions of "The Cave-Man" and the people who really lived in the caves. Somehow, that led to my winning headline: "Drugs began in Stone(d) Age".