Saturday, June 30, 2007

new york minute

My last two visits to New York have been for business, and on both occasions I found myself at the cusp of hating the place, when I walked into a bar and saw something amazing enough to make me love it.

As a tourist, New York is awesome. You plan a whole day around one or two sights and then you eat whicked good food and see a show. When I'm in New York on business, though, running back and forth across town from meeting to meeting, I feel as though I'm in one of the most inhospitable environments on earth. It's just mile after mile of concrete, steel and glass where the only escape is to buy something, and even that's not an escape because there's always someone jostling against you.

But then, it's New York. And you never know what's around the corner.

Last fall, I ducked into the KGB Bar after full day of hoofing across Manhattan, just to check it out, because I'd heard about it. They just happened to be hosting a nonfiction reading, and this woman told an incredible story about the time she'd gotten a clove of garlic stuck in her vagina. It was mesmerizing and transcendent in the way that good stories are.

This past week I went with my sister-in-law and her roommate to a bar around the corner from their place in Brooklyn, after a long day of pounding the pavement. We showed up and no one had claimed the couch, so we sat down, and not a minute later two guys took the stage and started playing the most amazing music. One played a cello, the other drums. It was a small bar, and I wasn't more than a yard away from the cello player. It was beautiful watching the bow dance across the strings, the way it blurred in the red and blue stage lights. He was so into it. He closed his eyes and cocked his head back as he sang.

Turns out it was a sort of open-mic night for bands. Next up was a group called Lowry, and they were amazing, too. Their lead singer was funny looking, with a short beard and greasy hair combed forward and a snappy thrift-store suit. They had a woman who sang back-up and played tambourine. But I especially liked the piano player, who looked like one of Warren Zevon's buddies in the 70s, with his bushy blonde hair and aviator shades. Every once in a while he stood up from his piano bench and pumped his fist and contorted as if he were in ecstacy.

I bought CDs from both bands. Lowry's was a bit of a let-down (even though the band's lead singer and namesake is from the Kansas City area). But Takénobu's held up. I've been listening to it in my car as I drive around in the rain.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


We took in another stray on Friday night.

Allie spotted him roaming the street after dark. We wooed him in with little chunks of fajita meat. I spent the night with him on the futon in the basement. He kind of spooned me around my shins. He's a cute little bugger. At first I wanted to call him Shrimpy. But then I thought Julio was better.

Rather than care for him ourselves, we decided to take him to animal control. We're going to keep tabs on him. If they can't adopt him out, and he appears to be headed toward the gas chamber, we'll go back and adopt him ourselves and then try to find a loving owner. But we sense he's cute enough that he'll find a nice home.

If you, or anyone you know, wants a cute, skinny little mutt, call 816-513-9800 and ask for animal number A104275.

(Click the image above for a slidewhow of him.)

garden update/great weekend

What an incredible weekend! Spent about eight hours yesterday working in the yard, and another six today. That's been the toughest part of my new job; not being able to garden every afternoon. Nowadays I get home at 5:30 or 6 most nights (though there's always at least one late night per week). I walk the dogs with Allie. We eat. I do some chore type stuff. And most nights there's no time by the end for the hobby I love most. And when I can squeeze in an hour or two, I feel stressed because I'm behind on weeding, deadheading, etc.

So to have weekend like this -- with hours anbd hours of gardening -- is better than gold.

I love to garden while listening to podcasts or audiobooks on my iPod. Yesterday I listened to a bunch of C-SPAN programs, including a particularly fascinating one about China. And today I listened to about half of Buzz Bissinger's Three Nights in August. Brilliant work.

Oppression in China. Tony La Russa's oppressive obsession. Beautiful, beautiful plants and dirt and sunshine. Really put things into persepctive for me. Drained all the stress of City Hall right out of me. Made it seem insignificant, silly.

And, as if that weren't enough, Allie and I saw Knocked Up at the drive-in last night, and it was a real winner. We laughed like crazy at a few parts that really reminded us of us. And, of course, we were at the drive-in, so it was all the more summery and relaxing and delightful.

I think I'm ready for Monday now. Or at least for next weekend.

(click the picture above for a slideshow documentary of my garden as it is today.)

Friday, June 22, 2007

meet the neighbors

Allie and were sitting on the porch eating delicious fajitas when we heard a hellicopter fly by so low that it sounded like a lawnmower on the roof. And the sound of sirens was welling on the horizon, drawing nearer by the second.

We stepped out onto the lawn and craned our necks skyward. It was a police copter circling the next block over.

"Come on," I said to Allie, "let's go check it out."

As we rounded the block, we saw other neighbors on their front porches, standing on their tippy toes, trying to get a glimpse of the scene. Some followed us on our march to the action.

"What if we get shot?" Allie asked.

"We won't get shot," I said. But then, remembering how irked she gets when I tell her something won't happen only see it to happen shortly thereafter, I said, "Well, maybe we will. But it'll be worth it."

We turned the corner and saw the flashing lights, a woman waving her arms in the air, cussing, restrained by the cops. We saw a man in cuffs and some kind of weird face-masked helmet that the cops put on to keep him from spitting, I guess. They kept pouring water in his face.

We asked a skinny man with no shirt and a pair of baggy shorts what was going on. He didn't know much, only that the man in the helmet had received a face full of pepper spray. Thus the periodic water dowsing. He apparently knew the man. "That's Adrian," he said.

We stood and watched for a while as they cuffed Adrian's mom and dad. We noticed a film crew recording the whole thing.

"Wow!" I said. "Cops is shooting this!"

There were a few people gathered in clusters around the scene, gawking like us, hoping, I have to admit, to see something really outrageous. One man sat in an idling Corolla across the street. After a while he drove off, flashing a thumbs up as he left, yelling, "Let's keep our neighborhood clean!"

The skinny man in shorts looked at the cops and scoffed, "I'd like to ask them how many people they've beaten today." Earlier he'd said, "This is a police state." Allie asked his name. He said it is Rick. He and his wife and two daughters live directly behind us. They've lived there for 20 years. He said my garden is "beautiful."

The action had slowed to a procedural hault. We had a brief rush when an ambulance pulled up, but it was short lived. Just then our tall lesbian neighbor four houses to the north showed up. I'd never had a chance to ask her name, so I took the opportunity. It's Jennifer.

As we were walking home I turned to Allie and said, "What a great way to meet our neighbors." We agreed to invite them all over for a barbecue soon.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


(Wow. It's been almost two weeks since the last post. Been very busy.)

Anyway, I've been meaning to post about my visit with the screenwriter. His name is Andy Callahan and he flew in from LA on June 7 to interview me, Jane Rinehart, Marcus Leach and Day Brown (he'd been in Louisville the day before, interviewing Ebony). After a day at Central with Jane and the kids he swung by City Hall to pick me up and we went to Arthur Bryants. Later we wound up on my front porch talking with Allie.

Honestly, I think she and interviewed him more than he did me. It was fascinating to hear about life as a screenwriter.

Andy is working his way up in the world of screenwriting. This will be his second project for Lifetime. It's kind of a break for him, really, because his first film was kind of a first-level Lifetime film, which means it's lower budget and it isn't marketed anywhere but on Lifetime. The movie based on my book would have a larger budget, and it would be advertised on other cable networks.

The way he broke in was to write several screenplays that were never sold, much less made into movies. But based on these works, he was able to get an agent who matches him up with projects. These projects are conceived of by producers, who make a whole lot of money just to come up with ideas and to manage the shaping of the story and the film. For his first completed project, his meeting with the producer went something like this:
Producer: Have you seen Single White Female?

Andy: Yes.

Producer: Have you seen Pacific Heights?

Andy: No.

Producer: Well rent it, because I want Single White Female meets Pacific Heights.

Andy told me the story of his first screenplay, which never sold, and it is a hell of a story. A true story! But Hollywood people are so conformist they couldn't buy it, mostly because it was based on rowing. But, I'll tell you, it was a wicked cool story, and I suggested he think about making it into a book.

All and all it was a fun informative evening. Strangest thing of all, I think, is that he's going to wrote my character into the movie, which I thought was kind of a dumb idea, but I warmed up to it after he explained.

At any rate, he seemed to think the movie was going to get made. The network people are apparently quite motivated.

Friday, June 08, 2007

another award

Cross-X won the 2006 Harry Chapin Media Award for books.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

suckling porcupine

Sorry I haven't been updating. I have a couple of posts in mind, but I've been short on time. Meanwhile, enjoy this adorable creature.