Oct 04

An Occurrence on Territorial Road

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An Occurrence on Territorial Road

1983, junior year, and I have recently been accepted into the ranks of the pretty-cool-high-school-kid group. Not the top echelon, mind you, but doing okay for myself, thanks to success in sports and a pretty and accomplished 12th-grade girlfriend. I am taking said girlfriend to a surprise party at the home of one of our friends, so we park my car way the hell down at the end of the block and start walking all the way back to the guy’s house.

He lived down near Territorial Road, which at that point was just filling in with houses but still had plenty of farmland. His side of the street was all typical rural Oregon split-level ranch houses, the other side was a cornfield. I walked along holding hands with my girlfriend, watching the way the moonlight played on the cornstalks.


I often wonder about my panic reaction and what it meant. What I did was: a) drop her hand; b) run straight at the guys; c) start yelling at them. Screaming, really, with rage and fear and all the primacy I could muster. Strangely, my voice actually kind of disappeared, but I was yelling nonetheless, ready like Black Bolt to end the world with just one word.

Of course, it turned out to be three of my friends, including the guy throwing the party for our mutual friend. Even when I realized this, I couldn’t stop myself from making little kung fu chop hand motions all over his chest: my hands wanted to hit him, and were moving like they needed to attack, but I was able to use mental power to pull back the blows so they were non-lethal. Haha “power.”

And, of course, the girlfriend was upset that I dropped her hand. I was supposed to stay with her, right? To protect her, right? Well, as I tried to point out, I thought I was protecting her by attacking these guys. I didn’t know who they were, I said, I thought if I could go after them and clear a path, I’d grab you and we’d move together.

Actually, I was making all that shit up, and she knew it. What I did was turn mindless ape, and there was neither rhyme nor reason why I did what I did. I was just scared, man, terrified that it was all going to be over, right there near the cornfield, just a block from where we were supposed to go. I think about that night sometimes, but mostly just because I wonder where she is now, and whether or not that night played any part in her dumping me later for Rich Johnson.

Oct 04

getting caught

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getting caught

I’ll tell you what fear is, it’s what Hitchcock knew. I’m always skating on the thin ice, always snatching a moment at the record store here and a random troll of the Internet at work there, running to the post office at the last second, running up to and over my deadlines, that’s the kind of guy I am, relying on my tiny amount of genius and ever-dwindling stock of charm and naive cluelessness to get me by…but what if, one day, it didn’t work? What if I were called to account? What if I was discovered? What if they all found out what an IMPOSTER I really am?

I’ve had this feeling since I was little: that I’m just not what I’m cracked up to be. I am surfing on the wave of everyone else’s lofty ambitions for me, but I know they’re all stupid for believing in me, I know what happens when the wave breaks, I know how quick the sharks are to eat the swimmers.

I think I need to get back into therapy, for realz.

Oct 04

Etan Thomas: NBA Progressive

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Etan Thomas: NBA Progressive

Check this out: a strong statement by NBA dude Etan Thomas, who is apparently a poet and anti-war activist. Thomas is a fifth-year center for the Washington Wizards, which I still think of as the Washington Bullets, which still reminds me that Sandinista! is a better album than any of you will admit, which still makes me bitter all these years later. A Syracuse graduate, Thomas had his best year last year, partially on the roster of my almost-champion fantasy NBA team. He also has some righteous dreads.

As the article states, other NBA players who have spoken out against the war in Iraq are Josh Howard and Steve Nash, as well as Dirk Nowitski, I think. Not sure why there aren’t more…oh, wait, yes I am. Remember the controversy when Rasheed Wallace pointed out some really basic and common sense stuff last year? It’s not exactly a free-speech festival out there….

Sep 04

Thankyou Mr Stein

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Thankyou Mr Stein

Halibut is a bugger to cook, I’ve often found, too dry for grilling or baking, to prone to leaking fat for steaming, I’ve often despaired of cooking the bloody stuff successfully, which is a shame, as I’m very fond of it.

However, thanks to the ubiquitous Mr Stein I succeeded last night in leaving it’s flavour intact, whilst also retaining some moisture AND not having great unseemly gobs of fat all over it. The method he suggested, and which I recommend trying is to cover the steaks in olive oil, until they’re completely immersed, then heat the oil very gently until it’s unpleasantly hot to the touch, no more. Then take it off the heat for fifteen minutes and let it cook through in the residual heat (you may, as I did, have to return it briefly to the stove top). When you lift the steaks out and pat them dry, pour the oil carefully from the pan and all sorts of lovely fishy juices will have sunk to the bottom. I had it with cucumber fried with dill and a little wine vinegar. It was jolly nice.

Sep 04

Texas Rangers rookie relief pitcher Frank Francisco was arrested for…

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throwing a folding chair into the stands during an altercation between Oakland A’s fans and the Texas bullpen. The woman who got her nose broken by the chair is married to one of the main hecklers. Officially, of course, I disagree with this action, bad move rookie, you could have killed someone, etc. Unofficially, it’s kind of thrilling and awesome. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more. I’ve yelled some stuff into the visitor’s bullpen at Fenway myself.

Dudes were talking smack all game I guess, Francisco just gave up a homer to tie the game and got yanked; instead of hitting the showers, he went back to the pen like he knew it was gonna jump off. The Rangers are morons anyway, the Oakland fans are morons, that’s what happens when you razz the bullpen / disrespect the fanbase. Many frowns, take ’em down, pass ’em around, it’s awful on both sides, a dirty shame, a real black eye for the National Pastime.

Yet this was Oakland. They might have been saying some toxic shit. Oakland people have never gotten over being bitchslapped by Gertrude Stein all those years ago: “There’s no there there.” They hate the world, the world hates them, circle of life, move along, nothing to see here. So: it’s a push.

However, this was nowhere near the best heckling ever. That would belong to my friend Mike as we stood at the Satyricon in Portland Oregon in 1984, waiting for our buddy Jeff to come on with his crossover metal/pop band called Alloy. The band onstage: ISCARIOT, THE DARK MASTERS OF METAL. Every dude looke like “Spider” in School of Rock. They would screech and then jam and then wait…portentously…trying to milk it…and then go off into sub-Rush drum-led histrionics. Sounds okay, but it sucked and you better believe it. So during one of these pauses, Mike goes all “Take off, you knob!” right at the lead dude. Guy stared, trying to scare us with his supposedly demonically possessed eyes, but nothing happened. Now THAT is good hecklage.

But we didn’t get chaired for it. Hey, horrible things like this make the sports world go round, more for the talk shows and experts to “fight” over. I don’t really want this to happen a lot, but it’s gonna, and I guess the worst we could do is to overreact to something as pure and spontaneous as taunting the opposing team’s pitcher and then getting out of the way of the chair that player throws so that his wife catches a nose jammy.

Ain’t that America.

Sep 04

We’re Not Exactly Juventus

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Tonight was the first practice for the Falcons, my daughter’s U-10 soccer/football/whatever team. Ten players of varying ability and personality type. We have our talented but mercurial striker, great scavenger of other team’s mistakes, long blond hair and quick feet but always losing a shoe or getting mysteriously injured, rather like oh say Totti or Van Nistelrooy. Our other striker is slow but steady, no lateral ability at all but once she gets a head of steam worked up it’s probably going to at least trouble the keeper, probably maybe a Hasselbaink. We have our short but plucky midfielder who made the leap last year into really quite useful, Shaun Wright-Phillips all the way. Our main goalkeeper is tiny but fearless, constantly plucking the ball off someone’s toe when she has no earthly purpose doing so: Barthez without the gesturing, which you could argue is not really Barthez at all. The two new kids are fast-but-clumsy-yet (J.DeFoe?) and with-confidence-will-be-great (L.King?). Our up defensewoman is dogged and dramatic, Makelele but maybe without the touch. And my daughter, who hated being keeper (we call it ‘goalie’) last year because she’d play half the game being bored but under pressure and then spend at least half the rest of the game on the bench, is now (with the departure of last year’s superstar defender, a really talented kid with a huge foot and an instinct for the angle, for Mt. Horeb, which is kind of like Real Madrid except without the money glamour tradition or ambition) the tall enforcer at back, John Terry except with hair more like new lad Spector at more like Melchiot-length. (There, of course, the analogies break down. At least two players are micro-kickers without feel for the game except maybe once a game when one or the other will make an amazing run. Don’t know who they might represent yet.)

The first year this team existed, we lost every game except one where we tied. Last year, we won every game except for a loss and two ties. This year, we start our season on one week’s notice after only one practice. My daughter’s new ball, purchased for 10 bucks at Target, is bright metallic purple. The favorite game at practice is to drench the other girls with water during the break; second favorite is to scrimmage against coaches and parents. This Saturday, it’s my turn to bring snack because we’re first alphabetically on the list. I’m thinking granola bars and some kind of juice pouches. I wish they’d let me be a coach but they won’t.

God bless the Falcons.

Sep 04

“Margaret Meehan, Parkdale?”

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“Margaret Meehan, Parkdale?”

Don’t know how this will translate to the Brits but I never do, did y’all have SCTV over there ever? Did it become a cult over there the way it did over here with lonely kids who stayed up way too late because they couldn’t sleep because their brains kept going over and over things that they had done that day, early teens the EXACT SAME AGE as Sam Weir in “Freaks and Geeks,”, kids who wanted to think they were smart but wanted other people to be smarter so they’d get the geeked-out jokes and references they were throwing around, kids who drank this stuff in like screw juice because they knew they’d finally found people who were not only smarter they were also cooler and better and awesomer and nicer too because they were Canadian?

I hope so. I loved SCTV, me and my geek friends; I had jock friends and rich-kid friends and nerd friends and girlfriends too, but never felt more comfortable than with my geek friends no matter what they looked like, especially if they could quote a whole Johnny LaRue whiny soliloquy or Lola Heatherton exclamation (“I wanna have ALL your children!”). I watched this in its 30-minute original version and its 90-minute WTF NBC version and committed it all to faulty memory and thought I’d have to keep it there.

Then that sweet invention called the DVD was invented, and a sweeter invention called my brother Tim who just sent me the 5disc set just out on Shout! Factory. I watched part of the first episode tonight as I made my incredible Quinoa in Semi-Spicy Sauce* and damn if I wasn’t suddenly back 13 years old again (a white t-shirt and Levis 501 jeans and some 250-pound basketball high-top Nikes, still a few months away from earning my letterman’s jacket to complete the uniform), staying up late, looking for soulmates:

Guy Caballero. Bob and Doug McKenzie. Count Floyd. Dr. Tongue and Igor. Edith Prickley. The Schmenge Brothers. Bobby Bittman and Sammy Maudlin. Gerry Todd. Earl Camembert. Mrs. Falbo. Bill Fracas. Dusty Towne. Sid Dithers.

And poor sweet pathetic Margaret Meehan, doomed and destined to ring in even though she doesn’t know the answer, even though Alex Trebel (sic) has ordered her not to touch the button, she can’t help it, tears coursing down her face, she HAS to guess the answer before the question’s read. “Henry Miller?” “Victor Hugo?” “The Beatles?” “Love to Love You Baby?” Oh Catherine O’Hara, you were my first love. Well, second maybe, gotta count Kim S*****. Oh, and Stacey L********** too. And Nadia Comaneci and Chris Evert and Lola Falana. Whatever. Anyway.

So I had to get that out of my system. Forgive me. Holla back.

*Saute 1/2 an onion, stalk celery, 1 chocolate pepper, stalk bok choy, frozen corn, all-spice, chili powder. Add organic quinoa and 1 can diced tomatoes. Stir like a bastard then cover and reduce heat. Freak out periodically and stir like aforementioned bastard, so it doesn’t stick to the bottom, that’s gross. Keep adding water to puff up the quinoa. It’s the perfect protein you know.

Aug 04

Split Allegiance: a Very Bad Idea I’m Going to Try

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Not sure how this’ll translate, but I’m going to root for two NBA teams this year. I realize that this means that I will be being disloyal to the Portland Trail Blazers, the team I’ve followed my entire life, but they deserve it. I’ve stuck by them in the lean years; we used to go see them at the Memorial Coliseum back before they were any good at all, a new franchise that always had the Rookie of the Year but no veterans and no discipline and no hope. I’ve triumphed with them: I actually left the room during Game 6 of the 1977 finals so I wouldn’t jinx the final moments of the game, 55 howling suburbanites screaming for Philly blood and me in the Stark’s backyard with my fingers and toes crossed. They got really bad right after that, then good again in the mid 1980s and early 1990s, only to be thwarted by Detroit’s mini-dynasty and Chicago’s major one. And I stuck by them in the last few years, the “Jail Blazer” era, when we went through a succession of unlikable unmanageable prima donnas and troublemakers and knuckleheaded decisions by management.

But I cannot root for them anymore, not wholeheartedly. This is NOT because we failed to make the playoffs for the first time in two decades this year, and it’s NOT because we just traded two fairly good role players for aging headcase Nick Van Exel, nor is it even really because I never got over the way we rotated our logo 90 degrees to make it “cooler,” only to achieve the opposite effect. No, none of those things.

It is because my heart has been stolen by another team, the gritty overachieving Milwaukee Bucks. Michael Redd, he of the square head and the deadly shooting touch! Lurch-like fellow Daniel Santiago, who will probably start again now that we lost Brian Skinner to the Celtics! Tiny rookie point guard T.J. Ford last year, slicing up defenses like birthday cake, only to suffer a season-ending (but hopefully not career-ending) spine injury! And the guy I think should have been Coach of the Year, Terry Porter, who went to college up here at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, was on the Trail Blazers for the resurgence, and managed to take this team of nobodies to the playoffs when every single pundit had us slated for a bottom-five finish!

My old team is still strong in my heart but my new team is just as strong right now. This is madness, I’m torn between two lovers unless I can learn to EXPAND MY HEART like the Grinch on Christmas morning and love them both equally, tragically, ecstatically, unwisely, too well. Pray for me, Freaky Triggers, pray like you’ve never prayed before.

Aug 04

Dear the Rest of the World,

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Hi, how are you. Let’s get right down to it: I am American by birth and citizenship, I have never left North America, I have played baseball while eating a hot dog, I stopped playing (our)soccer to play (our) football in 8th grade mostly so I could do something normal for a change, I have eaten rattlesnake in Wyoming and met Fred Biletnikoff, there is no getting around it.

So I think I am as qualified as any to speak for our entire nation when I say that we’d like to apologize for our appalling assholery during these Olympics. Paul Hamm is an ungracious twit whose scores have been artificially boosted by an intimidating judging system. Gary Hall Jr. is on some kind of drug that no human should be on, he’s a pumped-up dude-man who would try to start a fight at Taco Bell about someone getting cuts in line ahead of him. Our vaunted basketball team has shown itself to be a large collection of selfish million- and/or billionaires, and has been righteously stuffed for it by Lithuania and Puerto Rico, guttier teams who’ve been playing together for yonks (oops that’s a Britishy sounding thing scratch that) since Mary met Joseph, teams with a pinpoint vision and lockstep profundity.

I will not apologize, as did our TV commentators, for Justin Gatlin and Shaun Crawford staring into each other’s eyes as they crossed the finish line in the 100m trials together, I thought that was awesome. And nothing has been more gangsta than Crawford winning a heat wearing a baseball cap backwards on his head since, I dunno, maybe Comaneci or something. I will kind of apologize for our inventing softball and shoehorning it into an Olympic sport and then winning nine straight games only giving up one run, that ain’t right. But we’re all thinking eight more years and someone will jump up and beat us down like protesters.

And we’re sorry for the fevered Los Angeles crowds in 1984 acting all Orwellian with the “U.S.A.” crapola, celebrating even though the CCCP wasn’t there was mighty uncool. And we apologize for all the “Do you beLIEVE in MIRacles” when we won the hockey gold in Lake Placid, we won the game but we shouldn’t have acted like it was the second cousin of Buddhahood like that.

But no sorry for Jesse Owens sticking it to Die Mann back in the day and no sorry for Bob Beamon. They were cool. Gatlin, who used to see himself as an artist and designed prom dresses for girls in his high school before realizing he could run ONE HUNDRED METERS in LESS THAN TEN SECONDS, is cool. Our 17-year-old fencer, Mariel Zagunis, from my once-hometown of Beaverton, Oregon, is cool.

Michael Phelps is kind of a nothingburger personality-wise, and I pretty much disliked his posturing after the relay, but the Aussies did do that whole air-guitar thing in our face four years ago so chalk it up to Mme. Payback, who is indeed a luscious bitch, plus the kid is a really good swimmer. He’s not as bad as whiny old Brandon Larsen or all our other badsport types, we dish it out, we might as well learn to take it, but we can’t take it, we’re fairweather johnsons, we need to run with the alpha dawg, whatever. A nation of yapping hounds, your reaction to it all just depends which side you’re on. Argh.

Actually I might be in the minority on this, so consider it the minority report. I like us being fair winners, I don’t like us being pouty weenies, that’s about it. Any country that wants me, and can interest me in their beach volleyball teams (hint hint Brasil call me) can have me.


Matty Jo.

Aug 04

Some Quick Notes on Cheap Surrealism

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Some Quick Notes on Cheap Surrealism

Just got home from seeing Anchorman with my brother Jeff, clearly the most surreal film of the decade so far, and that’s saying a lot, considering the stiff competition from Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and Super Troopers and Soul Plane (which was horrible, really, but very close to brilliant in a way). When teenagers walk into a cheap funny movie these days they’re getting godardian radiation and bunuel cooties right along with boobs and fart jokes, it’s Python without the Eric Idle smugness (remember his “quite frankly we didn’t think you’d live this long” speech in Yellowbeard that was the only thing that keeps that movie from being the single greatest cinematic work of all time?), it’s a thing of beauty.

I once said on ILX that my two favorite movies were Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia and Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein and that one could locate my tastes right in the middle, and I think if I had added His Girl Friday and Big Trouble in Little China and She’s Gotta Have It and The Lady Vanishes and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and Lagaan and Black Orpheus and The Thief of Baghdad and Better Off Dead and The Big Sleep and Miracle at Morgan’s Creek and Caddyshack and Twice Upon a Time and The Knack and How to Get It and This Is Spinal Tap and Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams and Strange Brew and Monsters, Inc. and The Asphalt Jungle I would have been right. (And about a thousand more movies duh.) (Especially the ones that don’t fit the template like The Adventures of Robin Hood and Hoop Dreams.)

Oh I’m going to kick myself tomorrow for forgetting a lot of things.

But it seems like there’s a common thread here, a casual effed-up edge of nonsense crossed with low realistic stuff whether humor or violence or both, that touches me on a deep level, and that’s why I’m so excited when suddenly Will Ferrell and his news team are rumbling all the other news teams in San DiAAAAAHgo with weapons including a trident, a big stick with scissors jammed through it at odd angles, and a table leg. And when Kumar is having his “I’m in love with weed” dream and they’re all holding hands and they’re kissing, and then we see them in bed, and then Kumar’s in the future struggling with paying the bills and weed brings him a cup of coffee and he says “why don’t you learn how to make coffee you WHORE”–well, that’s just about as mean-spirited as it comes, but it’s funny as shit, it’s a bag of weed.

Movies that tell stories are nice, I appreciate that on a few levels. But movies that do things that books can never do, create worlds we cannot inhabit, give us razors for our eyeballs, revolutionaries on fire, convoluted pretentious mysteries , flying dogs named Hosehead, David Lo Pan and his search for a Chinese girl with green eyes, dudes arguing about cricket scores while fighting off the Nazis, villages all bursting into song awaiting the rains that would save their village and the song ends because the rain never comes…that’s the kind of stuff I want, bizarre off-the-cuff stuff. Not too much to ask for now is it? It’s no coincidence really that Julio Cortazar wrote the stories on which Godard’s Weekend and Antonioni’s Blow-Up were both based, and furthermore no surprise that he’s my favorite writer probably ever–he hated genre and tried to destroy it, but honored it too, and knew to tell jokes in the middle of sadness.

Oh, what am I talking about, I’m not sure. If you read this it’s because I looked at it tomorrow morning and decided that it was okay. Otherwise, I just told myself a whole bunch of things I already know.