Monday, July 11, 2005

family reunion 2005

After I spend three or four hours picking up my siblings from the airport, it is time to leave. I pack a backpack with book, music, camera, shorts, jeans, swimsuit, three shirts, two pair socks, sandals, and shoes. We get in the car at about 3 pm-- I cleverly avoid driving-- and we're off. The ride is the same as it ever was: ks10 to eudora than through the small town, dumping into hilly beanfields and the back of lawrence, with the municipal airport and concrete tourist teepees. Then onto the turnpike and the speed limit ratchets up to 70. We stop halfway and stretch, at a turnout where the restrooms and picnic areas are tiny semicircular bunkers built into a tall hill. Then a dollar toll and we're out, on abilene's lazy grid, and to the house.

When we arrive we unpack into the diamond motel (kate jon + I have the honeymoon suite, which was apparently flash-frozen in 1977 and only thawed for our arrival). Then mexican food with the early arrivals, followed by catching up. We end the night easily at 1:45 on my grandfather's hanging yellow and white spring chairs, talking politics and philosophy and eating out of a bucket of cheese balls the size of my head while swigging beer (bruce and joey had stolen about half of our stash that night. I'm still sore).

The next morning involves a headache. My treatment involves skipping my shower and drinking a gigantic styrofoam cup of coke that kate has picked up from the gas station across the street. Jon and I get sucked into a terrible movie about pro skateboarding and barely roll into the house early enough to get some fairly nasty Subway sandwiches for lunch. Then it's time for wiffleball at John's, so we all pile into cars and head over. For some reason I can actually bat this year, and double and triple at my first two at-bats, although I lose a bit of toenail and get a gigantic splinter running the bases in bare feet. My fielding is still terrible.

When we all get hot enough we move to John's new pool, which kind of blows me away- there are no straight lines at all in the entire plan, and he's done it all by himself with his family, including inch-tiling the entire bowl. Score one for John. He, as usual, takes it all quietly, although maybe a little less so than when he built the gazebo or the fireplace or his Greene and Greene arts & crafts staircase. Oh, and he never makes drawings.

The chicken dinner sits poorly this year. I'm worried about sparklerettes, which has by now become mandatory, thanks to Kate. In the absense of sparklers this year we're planning another skit, this one based around female wrestling. Jack's name is Jackie O'Nasty. Enough said. Bruce, tanked since noon, is scripted to win, wearing a tiny girl's bikini that is actually worse on him than complete nudity.

I've shotgunned a few beers to get to the point where crossdressing in front of my entire extended family is acceptable. We do this in the shed, drinking Bruce's stash, white cans of Old Style. That is an awesome name for a beer. After the festivities I'm informed that there are three cans of Old Style left, and Jon Sam and I partake, in the pool shed with the door closed. It is at this time that we discover Bruce's bottle of Southern Comfort. The SoCo tastes like bubble gum and the pepsi chaser is doing nothing. At some point, we either invite Bruce in or he sniffs us out, and he fixes everything by changing the chaser to a half-drank can of, guess what, Old Style. Within an hour half of my extended family is in the shed. We are loud and drunk and happy. The night ends for me when I leave to vomit-- I had known this as almost a certainity since my first shot of SoCo. I run into a few walls behind the house and puke so hard I fall into the gravel alley, nearly falling on Carolina, who is peeing in the bushes. We laugh.

I wake up the next morning around 9and I actually feel okay. I'm dizzy, my arm is scratched up, there's a big bruise on my ass, I'm sunburned and it hurts when I laugh, but I feel pretty good. I add all of this up in my head and realize that I'm still drunk. Quick shower and off to the rockets.

The actual launchings on Sunday morning were kind of boring, with the exception of the motor mount on grandpa's winged beast breaking loose and a G size rocket engine doing spirals into the hay. It didn't get too close to anyone so we thought it was funny. I'm still a little drunk, sitting next to Carolina and talking about the future, drinking coffee and stretching my neck. Maybe it's just that I lost my sunglasses, but that morning colors are more vivid, people are more present, and sounds are delicious. Everything is aces. I'm mumbling silly existential bromides when suddenly I can feel it coming. The alcohol is leaving my system and is leaving behind tiny screaming vacuums in my brain and stomach. At this point a third cousin (they never seem to belong) sets off fireworks (don't they know this is for rockets, not kiddie stuff) that make high-pitched screaming noises for 30 seconds straight. It hits me right below the solar plexus, and I don't recover until I'm back at home, in bed, on my stomach, with the coverlet over my head and the windows shuttered.

Monday, June 20, 2005

ramping up

I'm attempting to get psyched for a big project, so I'm going to prattle a bit.

"Do you want to go to a movie?"

"I dunno, mom."

"I don't think there's anything good out. Have you heard anything?"

"Well, this is unlikely, but the New York Times really likes that new Batman movie."

"Oh, yeah I heard that,"

"But I take everything I hear from them with a grain of salt."

"I don't think there's anything good on... I might see that Mr. and Mrs. Smith movie... that's probably really bad but I could see it."

"Yeah... probably not art... but anyway... whatever you think."

I'm not sure when I became terrified of influencing my mother. Nevertheless, I am now unable to make a statement without qualifying it into neutrality. I am unable to state a preference without an addendum, and dissenting information instantly is buried under ellipses and mumbles.

It has something to do with impressionability. My mother genuflects regularly to the Cult of Youth and Buzz, while I am off reading a b-list Fowles book whilst listening to T-Rex and perhaps flipping channels between AMC and USA. I wear a lot of grey undershirts like they were meant to be on the outside. Not that I'm immune-- I wear overpriced suede slip-on active lifestyle footwear and check pitchfork media about twice a day, even though it's only updated five times a week. I like art. All of which makes me a source to my mother. In the scene of high-class suburban Kansas City, while the rest of the town is willfully ignorant (perhaps returning the favor) about what happens in New York and LA, my mother works on scoring a new pair of Campers or knowing the words to the new Shins song so she can sing along in her Volvo-- maybe a step and a half behind 50 year olds in Soho, but running as fast as she can.

Now, I love my mother. I wouldn't change a thing. But I am easily mortified, and my definite aversion to seeming like I give a shit whether people like my shoes or my sound (I do, I do) makes it difficult to have a conversation that references fashion, art, literature, music, or pop culture. I tend to bend the conversation towards the weather, politics, and the squirrels in the back yard. Kansas politics is arcane and depressing, and it has been sunny for a week straight, so there has been a lot of rodent-oriented discussion. Or, I can talk about architecture. Most of my prattle about buildings dissapears into some merciful hole in the air, usually without comment.

My secret plan is to make her think I'm dull, without becoming dull.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Yeah, six month hiatus... can't say there's much of an excuse either.

I'm visiting my parents right now. They're unbelievably enthusiastic about my being here. It's kind of infantilizing in a way; eating dinner with them every night, going to movies, feeling embarassed. My girlfriend and I went to a downtown gallery opening and I found myself walking 10 steps behind them, pretending I was on my own.

In any case I went to a jazz festival last night. With my parents. I have only a passing knowledge of contemporary jazz, and my parents are even less interested. Given my inability to have a normal conversation with my parents about anything but the weather and maybe politics, this was the perfect chance for my mind to wander. These two ideas arose:

1. The possibility of creating a new patriotoism around the fact that our country invented blues, bluegrass, jazz, rock, and rap music. And still is the foremost world power at all of them. No, really, this is amazing. I can't say my ancestors had anything to do with it, but the strange mix of freedom and opression in this country has managed to create most of the great pop music in the western world. Maybe I'm just being Amerocentric, but most European and Asian pop music sounds manneristic and self-conscious. In a bad way, like they're playing by someone else's rules.

2. Most of the people there weren't actually hearing the music. Jazz is so prevalent, especially in its "lite" variety, that the basic tropes of improvisation have been internalized by most americans. When I actually bothered to think about what was being played, I was impressed by how good some of the stuff was, who it reminded me of. But if I stopped paying attention, it might as well have been coming out of an elevator. They might as well have put up a big sign that said "imagine soothing jazz music coming from here."

And boy do I hate the word jazz. Jazz. Most labels for music are a bit goofy. Blues. Rock and Roll. Hip Hop. Crunk. But jazz is the worst. Jazz. You have to enunciate until you spit the "j" and the tail rolls out on infinite sustain: JHazzzzzzzzzzzz. ugh.