Archive for January, 2004

the cold light of morning

Well, for a few weeks there, it looked like the 2004 Democratic candidate might actually be someone I could support without holding my nose. Should have known that wouldn’t last. I don’t think I have anything useful to add to the general post-mortem wisdom on the Dean campaign (and no, folks, a “solid second” by more than 10 points in the state you had completely wired 6 weeks ago is neither victory nor an incipient turnaround), so let’s just move on.

My completely useless and unfounded prognostication: Kerry’s run as “frontrunner” is going to be incredibly short-lived. The Sorta-Super Tuesday states that have their primaries on February 3rd are:

New Mexico
North Dakota
South Carolina
If any of those is an obvious gimme for Kerry, I don’t see it. (Maybe Delaware. Maybe.) Momentum counts for lots, sure, but he’s got no money, no organization, no endorsements, no issues, no charisma and is still, last I checked, from Massachusetts. And while I presently rate the odds of Howard Dean winning any of those states as precisely zero, he’s got a huge war chest, every incentive in the world to spend it in the next five days, and only one possible target for it: Kerry.

My crystal ball says: Dean and Kerry spend the next five days trying to immolate each other, and mutually succeed. Absent a sudden miraculous infusion of competence and media-savvy into the Clark campaign, John Edwards picks up 4-6 states by default, and is standing directly underneath the spigot when the big-donor money pump gets switched to on. We, the people, get to spend the next several months hearing about how a successful trial lawyer and senator is “too young and too green” to defeat George W. Bush, failed CEO, Texas governor and unelected President.

T-Minus ten months, give or take. Gonna be a bumpy ride. I guess I can get enthusiastic about Candidate Edwards. Give me a few weeks though.

(For the record, I’ll be voting Dean, long after it matters. May as well remind whoever it is that there’s a constituency to be catered to.)

we’re all gonna die etc.

I swear to god, reading is often like standing in front of a fire hose of high-pressure stupid, turned up all the way. I’ve relegated it off to an infrequently checked filter, and even then… five minutes of trawling through it is enough to convince me that it doesn’t matter if Bush gets re-elected, because this entire country’s under-21 population is going to be HIV-positive and pregnant in another 5 years. Doom doom de doom de doom.

What I wonder is: was I just extremely lucky? Ann Arbor had excellent primary school sex ed starting in 5th grade, taught by actual educators who were not also the gym teacher. Philadelphia’s was a little more lackluster, but it was in the immediate aftermath of the Koop Report, so they were at least making an effort to talk about contraception and STD-prevention in a vaguely fact-based way. While I may not have been any less awkward about sexual matters than any other 16-year-old, I at least had the basics down: use condoms, your body belongs to you, don’t get pressured into stuff you don’t want, gay people are not slime-monsters from the underworld, you can get pregnant standing up, these are the symptoms of the major non-HIV STDs, and if you think something is wrong, ask a doctor not your idiot friends. The bare, but useful, minimum.

Was this just an artifact of living first in a hippie enclave and then in a major east-coast city, or has “abstinence-centered education” been as much of a complete fucking disaster as I suspect it was? Or was the status quo always this bad and 10+ years of STD-awareness activism failed to budge it? The friends I personally have in the 16-21 age group seem to generally be pretty savvy about this stuff, but that’s probably a cohort with a pretty strong self-selection bias for these factors.

oh, the places I go redux

create your own visited states map

Huh, better than I was expecting when I started it. A few unconnected notes:

A couple of them are layover ringers: Missouri was a 45-minute stop at STL on our way back from Hawaii with Miranda in 1994. (Our first real vacation together — I should really get the film scanner fired up and post those.)

Texas was about 90 minutes of unexpected terror and hilarity: my “nonstop” flight from San Diego to Boston in 1996 turned out to have an equipment change at Dallas/FtWorth — had I known that in advance, I probably would not have worn my Church of Euthanasia t-shirt, with its cheery “suicide · abortion · cannibalism · sodomy” logo on the rear. And perhaps I would have worn a hat over the bright green hair. No joke: I had not even gotten off the plane (hell, I hadn’t even managed to get my carryon out of the overhead compartment) before people started handing me bible tracts. I maintain a theorectical fondness for the lone star state, but the next time I go back, I think I’d like it to be under more controlled conditions.

Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia were all drive-by visits: on two separate occasions, the same group of lunatic college friends and I drove nonstop from western Massachusetts to Florida. The first time was allegedly to accompany Marcel to check out the University of Miami’s graduate film program, but really just because it was midwinter in Massachusetts and we were all stir crazy, the second time was for his wedding. I got no feel whatsoever for the places themselves, but I will say that South of the Border at 3am in a misting rain is like being on the set of a great unfilmed David Lynch movie.

The first trip to Florida was a few short months after Hurricane Andrew had flatted half of Miami, and we arrived in Dade County just in time for the start of rush hour on a half-demolished freeway system, after 24 hours of nonstop driving. I’ve never been so convinced of my own imminent death before or since.

a small, self-incriminating survey

Unlike many of my friends, Dr. Hofmann’s problem child, D-Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, has not played a large part in my adult or even adolescent life. I never did it in college or after, and for the most part haven’t felt the urge: I did it exactly once in High School (note to feds: that would be long past the statute of limitations expiration. note to mom: I’m fine, and I made honor roll that semester), and while I basically enjoyed the experience, the come-down and hangover were so time-consuming (three days and change) that I never felt motivated to repeat it.

But everything is grist for the subconscious’ mill, and a few nights back, I had what for me is a fairly typical anxiety dream: “Oh no, I have to do something important/responsible, and I’m overdue/underprepared/naked!” Only this time, the specfic scenario was unusual: in the dream, I’d just taken a fairly substantial dose of LSD, and realized shortly afterward that oops, I actually had to be at work the next morning. As the dream unfolded, I made a quick, panicked inventory of my options, trying to figure out if there was some way I could forestall the inevitable, when of course I realize…I’m already tripping. Oh bother.

What was interesting, however, and what prompted this post, was how I realized that I was already tripping. It wasn’t any obvious melty visual effect or other deformation of reality. It was a taste, or maybe a smell. A burning/ozone/electric taste in the back of my nose and throat. It’s hard to describe because it was synaesthetic: it wasn’t really the taste of anything tastable at all, it was the taste of something buzzing.

I woke up, remembering the taste, and to my surprise the memory was familiar: I’d tasted the same thing the time I actually did LSD in waking life. I’d completely forgotten it for all these years afterward, but apparently my brain had considered it worthy of long-term storage, because there it was, still filed away, still waiting.

Since then, I’ve asked a couple of friends who’ve also experimented with ergot’s freaky relative, and about two-thirds of them have reported tasting or smelling the same…thing. So I’m curious, dear readers: how about you?

more dispatches from bizarro-earth

“For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible, and no one can now doubt the word of America.”

—George W. Bush, 20 Jan 2004

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. My ass is a goddamn hole in the ground.

oh, the places I go!


create your own visited country map

Tsk tsk. Haven’t maxed out a single continent yet. Never thought I’d regret not taking that day-trip to Mexico from San Diego.

snip snip snip

So, with a weekend of revelry fast approaching, I realized today that I really, really needed to re-do my hair. I can pull this off in 36 hours, but it requires some doing. Step one, of course, is to get it cut.

Unfortunately, having recently moved, I no longer have easy morning access to my favorite Crusty Old Brooklyn Barber, and today I needed to be at the office early, so taking a leisurely morning to scout out the options in my new `hood was not a viable plan.

So fine, I’ll get my hair cut on my lunch hour, right? Well… that’s not quite as easy as it sounds. My office is perched precariously on the farthest northwestern reach of TriBeCa, a neighborhood still largely industrial in nature. Once you get out of the range of the docks and the Holland Tunnel entrance, you’re suddenly in, depending your direction, SoHo or TriBeCa, both of which are full to the brim of extremely chic hair salons, but not exactly well-stocked with Crusty Old Italian Barbers offering $10 clipper flattops, which is what I’m after.

Being a smart lad, I did a little research, and ten minutes of careful picking through citysearch and google turned up a New York Metro article extolling the virtues of Sal’s Barber Shop at 209 Mott Street, just north of Spring. That’s a brisk five minute walk from my office, so I set out at noon with high expectations of straight-razor-wielding Italian guys and dusty skin mags in the corner: a proper barbershop.

Well, after slogging my way through the snowdrifts on Spring Street, I took a left on Mott and immediately spotted a battered old barber pole two doors down. Sorted! I walked in and found: no old Italian guys. In fact, no guys at all. The two-chair shop was being attended to by one fashionable middle-aged woman, giving a perm to another woman, who had her 6-year-old son in tow, happily reading comic books on a chair. (For the nitpickers in the audience: you have to be 13 to qualify as a “guy”. Because I say so.) The store was airy and brightly painted, with fashion magazines strewn about.

But I figured to myself: little Italy is changing, they’re keeping up with the times… maybe this is Sal’s wife? So despite the fact that she looked at me a bit strangely when I walked in, I asked if she had room for a walk-in.

“Sure,” she said, and then raised her voice a bit toward the back. “Gen, could you come help this young man?”

Gen emerged from the rear, a razor-thin young woman with immaculately styled platinum hair, an off-the-shoulder sweater and jeans. Couture, couture, couture. In my life, I will never be as fashionable as this woman. Neither will you. (Well, okay, excepted.) And, perhaps oddly: not a fleck of customer hair on her. She sat me down and asked me what I was looking for.

“Really just a shampoo and trim: number four clippers on the sides, take all the dyed bits off the top, blend it up, flatten it a little and clean up the ears and neck.” I’ve said this so many times I’m just on autopilot.

“Well… we don’t have clippers. Mind if I just cut it close?” No clippers? How can you have a barbershop without… oh, nevermind, I’m here and I need to get my hair cut. There’s a six-year-old kid here. How bad can it be?

“Sure, whatever works.”

“Would you like some green tea?” This was a new one on me: I’ve been offered coffee while waiting, but herbal tea while I’m having my hair cut? But whatever: a few minutes later I was shampooed and conditioned, and Genevieve, after strapping a very chic little hairdresser utility belt onto her waist, was happily snipping away. And snipping. And snipping. And snipping. The other woman chatted with her client. I sipped my tea when I could, and fell into a pleasant trance.

Fast-forward twenty or so minutes: after cutting off what seemed to be an acre of hair, all with a tiny pair of styling scissors, Gen rinsed and jelled me, and handed me the mirror. It was, I will state right now, an excellent haircut. She let me know that I could come back in two weeks for a free touchup, and that they also offer dyeing services if I ever get tired of doing it on my own: I politely demurred on the latter, but liked the sound of the former.

“That’s very nice of you,” I said. “How much will that be?”

“Sixty dollars.”

Ladies and gentlemen: two years of regular poker games at Bob’s cabin in Lincoln. Four years of high school and college drama club. Six months of the world’s most long-winded boss (another story). It all came down to this, and I’m pleased to say that I passed with flying colors: I kept a perfectly straight face, smiled, didn’t miss a beat, pulled out my wallet, paid cash and tipped 12%. I said my thanks, put on my coat and hat, and went outside.

And then proceeded to choke and gibber. It wasn’t until 20 minutes later, when I’d secured a cup of Vosges Aztec Cocoa that I managed to regain my composure.

The moral of this story: if you want to get a haircut in NoLita, no matter how harmless the place looks at first glance, you really, really might want to inquire about the prices before you sit yourself down.

But it is an excellent haircut.

when ski masks are outlawed, only outlaws will ski!

Straight from the “I can’t make this up and if I try to comment I’ll start screaming and never, ever stop” files:

The Los Angeles Police Department is seeking the fast track for new laws to ban face coverings, gas masks or even goggles at public demonstrations, where the devices could weaken officers who want to control crowds with pepper spray and other chemicals. The proposal advanced this week after Police Commission members dismissed any First Amendment objections as premature.

Deputy Chief Mike Hillman, who heads the LAPD’s special operations bureau, told the commission it’s important to move quickly and get the laws on the books before expected anti-war demonstrations on March 20, the anniversary of the U.S. attack on Iraq. In fact, Hillman said, the LAPD would just as soon get the new rules in place to deal with an even earlier expected assault on public order — at the February 15 NBA All-Star Game at Staples Center.

If protesters wear scarves around their noses and mouths and swim goggles to protect their eyes at public gatherings, Hillman told the commission, “the ability of that officer to gain compliance is restricted.”

Sarcasm…powers…failing. Blood…pressure…rising. Must…not…explode.