Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mr. Ravioli

I recently bought the Complete New Yorker, a set of DVDs that contain the last 80 years of that wonderful magazine. I've had a subscription for the last seven years, and, after finding some favorite articles in those first few issues, I've had a hard time parting with even a single issue. But, having recently moved in with my Fiancé, Joli, I have been encouraged to minimize. The DVD collection not only allowed me to throw out 300-400 issues of the magazine, but I also found quite a few other unnecessary issues of other magazines in my collection. In the end, there are very few issues of Maxim magazine worth buying, let alone keeping.

One of my favorite stories to date was Adam Gopnick's "Bumping into Mr. Ravioli: A theory of busyness, and its hero," a piece about his daughter's imaginary friend, who never seems to have time to play with her.

I never had an imaginary friend as a kid. But my sister had something called "The Fireplace People," whom she could see lounging and crawling about on the guardrails of the winding Colorado mountain roads. I can still remember being envious of that. She had books and imaginary friends in the hills. I had Danger Mouse, Legos, and our strange neighbors' kids.

The original piece appeared in a September, 2002, issue of the New Yorker. It was also included in the 2003 Best American Essays collection. You can find the full text by registering with Access My Library. Or you can listen to the audio recording at Assistive Media.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Questions and The Answers

My plan for this space is to explore the literary areas of interest to me, including writing, interviews, books, and articles. And so I've come up with a list of questions that I'd like to ask people; I think they reveal a lot about the person being interviewed. Appearing first in print and in the future, most likely, in sound recordings, here are the questions as responded to by Hunter Slaton, editor, Southern-Fried Gentleman, and all-around great guy:

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
What do you want to be now?

I said, for the longest time, that I wanted to be a brain surgeon. Why? Because that seemed like the most advanced possible job. Not just surgeon, but brain surgeon. What can I say, I was an (annoyingly) precocious kid.

What do I want to be now? Some form of editor/writer. I'm happy that the job I chose directly after college has more or less been perfect for me. That said, I did apply for a job with the CIA awhile back ... and I've always had a fantasy of being a city planner.

As taken from a series of interviews during the taping of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon:
When was the last time you were violent?

Were you in the right?

Physically violent, I can't remember. I'm a lover not a fighter. But there was one time back in college when the girl I was with, or had been with, continued walking away from me when I was trying to talk to her. Things were really bad between us then, and she knew exactly how to push my buttons. I grabbed her arm as she tried to walk away, and she reacted, well, let's just say strongly. I haven't done that again. And no, I wasn't in the right. I should have just let her walk away.

Oh, and the curator of this blog and I started Fight Club on Antarctica. No biggie.

Describe an instance when you placed a good deal of trust in a complete stranger.

In New York this happens far more often than this does in other cities, I think; there are always weird confluences and situations you find yourself in with strangers wherein you are required to place some (not a ton, but still) amount of trust in one another. That, I think, is the process by which the fabric of the city knits itself.

But so: most recently, I was at an AA meeting and me and the guys setting up the meeting had blown a fuse. So I was underneath the area where the outlet was, trying to fix it, and as I came back up, I slashed my back on two wood screws poking down from the shelf above.

In short order after, I found myself shirtless in the bathroom of the St. Luke's School, where the meeting is, having my wound (which was in the middle of my back, and so therefore unreachable by me) cleaned and bandaged by a guy in AA I'd just met that evening. That's just one example of the egalitarian, altruistic nature of the program.

Tell about a time when you gave a heartfelt apology.

Since getting sober, I've given a lot of these, and I expect to give more soon as I move on to the 9th Step in AA. That's all I'll say for now.

Do you own a vanity book - a book you haven't read but keep on the shelf in the hopes that people will think you've read it?

What are the qualities you associate with this book?

I wouldn't say it's a vanity book as such, because I have read some of it and fully intend to read all of it when my plane crashes and I'm washed up on a desert island, but I haven't yet been able to make it through all of Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce. To me, Finnegans Wake is a massive, strange monolith in the wilderness of literature. It contains multitudes (an understatement if there ever was one). I think it's got the whole history of human language, endeavor, fear and hope in there. At least I think so.

Describe the last time you lost something of value.

Is/was there a place you repeatedly look/looked for this item?

About a year ago now, my company was having a picnic in Central Park. After the picnic, I went downtown on the bus and got off at Astor Place. As I went to light a cigarette, I realized that my Antarctica Zippo lighter was missing. This was a real talisman for me. When I was still drinking, I kept it at home, such was its value to me and such was my fear that I'd lose it, drunk, out some night. When I got sober, I started trusting myself more and so started carrying it again.

But so that day I stood there on the street and knew that I could go back uptown and probably find it in the grass, where I knew I'd left it. I decided, though, that that chapter of my life was done -- sometimes things don't end right when they end; sometimes there's a long denouement. And so I let it go. I felt distinctly lighter (get it?) afterward.

Annular rings indicate the age of a tree; they form as a result of their environment. Give your age. Describe an event that aged you and when it occurred.

Many things have aged me; none more so than when the ship of myself ran aground on the rocks of Antarctica. This happened, or began happening, a little less than three years ago now. It was my own personal Vietnam. And a line from Thomas Pynchon's V. comes to mind: "The old sea dog chuckled. 'Oh there will be. You wait. Everyone has an Antarctic.'"

What makes the world go 'round?

The strange ability nested within all humans to imagine a world better than the one in which they daily live.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Jewel vs. Kurt Loder

I have been searching for FOREVER for a transcript of the little tussle that occurred between Jewel and Kurt Loder years and years ago.

As you may know, Jewel wrote a book of poetry that was wildly popular--to the dismay of many English teachers, I'm sure.

Kurt Loder found some problems with it:

LODER: There's a line you have,'There are nightmares on the sidewalks/there are jokes on TV/ there are people selling thoughtlessness with such casualty.' Casualty doesn't mean that, does it? Casualty's like a guy gets his arm blown off. I mean isn't that...

JEWEL: That's a type of casualty.

LODER: What?

JEWEL: It's a type of casualty that ...

LODER: No, really. I thought you were trying to say casualness.

JEWEL: No, casualty.

LODER: Oh, OK. All right. Are you a tech person? Do you take computers on the road, do you log on, e-mail?

JEWEL: No, I'm a bit archaic. I mean, I still write everything by hand. It's quite archaic.


JEWEL: It is wow. I'm dyslexic as heck. I mean, I just can't type well.

LODER: Really? That'd be a problem for a writer.

JEWEL: It is a bit of problem. I mean, putting the book together. Everything was done by hand. I had to recopy it legibly to get it...

LODER: That explains casualty probably.

UPDATE: Here's the video!!!