Tuesday, October 30, 2001

I love getting random messages from strangers. I'm not like other bloggers who hate strangers -- I'll even write back. Whoever you are, write me some shit. I'm foregoing studying for your voyeuristic ass. Make up something interesting about yourself and I'll pretend to take it seriously. Ask for advice -- I'm full of advice. Just now I give you the advice "Go to your email and write Clay Sails: sailingacrossamerica@hotmail.com"

Know how many strangers have written to me since I started this thing? Oh yeah -- zero.

Captain Natty and me came up with a new idea for Easter. See, little kids go hunting for easter eggs and two things are at work. One, kids *hate* getting REAL eggs on the hunt. When every fourth egg is plastic and filled with gumdrops or hershey's kisses, nobody wants some nasty ass hard boiled mutherfucking egg thats been sitting in the goddamn bushes collecting snail shit and roundup (TM).
Candy -- that's what Easter is about. Candy. Jesus motherfucking Christ died and rose up to heaven so little kids could collect eggs full of CANDY. Yeah yeah -- five a.m. sunrise services with chickenwire crosses filled with daffodils is a scream. Sketching upside-down crosses on your forehead with barbecue briquets is a great way to pass a Wednesday evening, but c'mon -- its always been about CANDY.

That's one. If you're going to do an egg hunt, fuck real eggs.

Two, easter egg hunts are too competitive. Kids try to collect more eggs than everybody else. Little greedy capitalist candy-grubbing whorechildren outracing one another merely reinforces conspicuous consumption. Even though its all about CANDY, parents who dissagree with like my second proposal: eliminate the competitiveness of Easter Egg hunts. Make kids simply write down where they found each egg and leave it where it is for the next kid. Put a number on the tree above it for easy reference. Hell, if you don't have candy in the egg, no kid will want to take it anyway or they'll have to actually eat the damn thing. It solves the problem of smart kids getting more than dumb kids, quick kids getting more than slow kids. No more krying kiddies. No more boiled egg sandwiches for lunch the week after Easter. Yikes.

[you can reach Clay Sails at sailingacrossmaerica@hotmail.com]
Damn, I'm filling up the grad lounge with stink. Occupying a state of matter somewhere imbetween a solid, a liquid and a gas, each new flatulation introduces an immutable presence: country ham, soggy pretzels, egg salad. Its a regular picnic in here.

I need an ass ionizer clamped to my gluteous maximi. I squeeze out a fart and a little fan goes off and sucks it into the ionizer, which de-stinktifies it and blows it away. Or I could add a scented filter: rosewater, cedar.

So last night me and Captain Natty were swigging 12oz kegs of German wheat beer. We had polished off part of a Tom Petty boxed set, some early Richard Pryor, and a wierd Springstein CD that had an interesting version of his heartily uninteresting anthem "Born in the USA" (a song the likes of which turned me off to this rock n roll scion for at least a decade). We threw in a Rodney Dangerfield CD entitled -- get this -- "I Don't Get No Respect". Despite the unoriginality of the title, Rodney Dangerfield is a king of comedy -- a veritable undersung titan. And finally we got to what we hoped would be the juice -- none other than Lenny. Lenny Bruce.

Lenny Bruce sucks.

Whatever he was talking about was ultimately always about how he got arrested for this or that free speach violation. Wee. Our hero. But his main crime is the crime of comedians everywhere -- the ONLY crime of comedians: he wasn't funny. A man can get up on stage and play the harmonica with his butt cheeks and I'll watch him. I'll laugh. A man can get behind the mike and tell stale-ass Polish jokes (like Rodney Dangerfield) and if he has delivery, if he has presence, I'll laugh. But Lenny Bruce ain't funny. To make it worse, whoever made the CD wrote a bunch of adulatory yimyam about Bruce 'changing the paradigm' of comedy and setting the stage for so many comics who came after him. Fuck that. Bruce gets credit for originality only because people decided not to follow his self-absorbed ass because it was so uninteresting it wasn't worth emulating. He gets points for being political when politics is almost never funny, but who else does politics in humor? Sure, the occasional Leno crack at Gore or W, and Chris Rock is a political-comedy dynamo if he feels like it, but nobody else. Like I said,

Fuck Lenny Bruce.

Monday, October 15, 2001

The experts were correct. Everything changed on Black Tuesday.

I used to listen to Radiohead. I thought "Kid A" and "Amnesiac" were important works of art. These albums didn't flow smoothly or easily. In many ways, they were more like jazz than rock and they were sometimes even painful to listen to. They had a mood, an ourve, and many other French-word sensibilities. They had something to offer that was at once mysterious and indefinable and yet unassuming.

Now that thousands of people are dead, a war is on, and people are mailing each other microbes, I have no tolerance for either album. I slip them into the tape player, crank the volume, and feel instant disgust at Radiohead whiny, angst-ridden, complaints. They are rich, they are successful, they are safe. They must get over themselves. Meanwhile, I'm back into well grounded musicians: JJ Cale, Springstein,

If this was the intention of the terrorists, they won.

[you can reach Clay Sails at sailingacrossamerica@hotmail.com]

Thursday, October 11, 2001

Lessons from Crawdads

It is after an incoherent one and a half hour lecture. Oliver Stone talks nonsense and politics, but choppy-like and addled. He is ornery and contrary and somewhat charming in a grumbly mumbly sort of way. Stone is early 50's by now, I'd guess, full of himself, but still willing to ask questions (though maybe not to hear answers). Maybe he got hit by a truck and somebody tried scoop him up with a spade but hadda try acoupla times. Whatever it is isn't pretty up there behind the table with no less than six bottles of water that he doesn't know what to do with. Still, who can blame a man for his looks. Not me. I get uglier every day. And meaner, too.

During the Q&A he tries to short circuit the usual questions about which films are great, what inspires him, where he's failed in life etc. Instead he tries to guess 3 girl's nationalities.

"You Korean?"
"No, Taiwanese."

"You Somalian?"

"You're from Israel."
"No. I'm from Switzerland."

The party is afterword off River Road in Bethesda -- a professor's house. Grad students and faculty only, though it fills up with groupies and oogle-eyed exchange students bearing gifts and carnations.

There is wine and cheese and obligatory sushi. I start with wine. Later there would be crawfish and paté.

"What the fuck is paté?" I say to somebody.

"Liver," I am told.

I nod as if it made some kind of sense, but really who brings liver to a party? Anyway, this is all later.

I tell Stone I agree with him about how California Kids wouldn't fight if New York was invaded. He'd brought it up because he'd asked some kids, and I'd asked my friends the same question once.

" 'Who invaded?' " my friends had said.

Stone asks if they are cowards.

I say no, they just need more information. That sums it up pretty well. We're the 'need more information' group or the 'too much information' group, or the 'don't trust information anyway' group. Unresolvable dialectics, relentless adherence to suspicion, blind faith that everything is out to get us. That's the our idea of "balance".

'Maybe if somebody invades New York they'll do a better job with it' was another answer I got from my friends, but Stone is gone by then, whisked off to stuff his face with mussels and red wine (rescued from the gravity of the cocktail party nerd). Stone is here to prowl for pussy and oblivion, not to solve my world.

The host scurries around making sure Stone has wine and women in each hand. He is a pasty, pale, true-believer marxist with a comical comb over. With his professorial awe he is the perfect foil to Stone's nihilism.

"Oliver is really impressed by you," the prof says to a bombshell Puerto Rican girl in a cutoff shirt, brushing a finger along her shoulder blade.

Next time I see Stone he is slurring his digits into the ear of the Swiss girl, who hugs him intensely.

The Swiss girl leaves. I ask Stone who gives the best party. He mumbles incoherently and lunges for the wine.

The Taiwanese girl presents him with a book. Its a buddhist swami guru yogi. The book is about peace and love. Stone has just told the crowd he's hankering for a cathartic John Wayne style mopup campaign against Osama, but he puts his arm around the girl and tells her he has a gift for her out in the car -- maybe she can hang around. 'Dragon Lady' he calls her. She blushes but is whisked away by her friends.

Later, at the side of the house there is a circle and I'm too late for the joint. It is Stone's weed and better than anyone elses. There are two girls -- one whom I can't see -- and smugly boy with a goatee. All are film students (the lowliest slime of the earth in my opinion, after anthro majors of course).

"I'd lose my Federal Funding anyway," I say, hoping it seems like a joke.

"We're all Egyptians," a girl is telling Stone. He teeters on the grass and nods his head. They're both zonked.

"We don't need history. We should just forget about it. It's meaningless," her friend says, a voice in the darkness. Somehow she is talking to me, her back to Stone and his Egyptian.

"That's what Pol Pot said," I say, not sure if its true. Who knows what Pol Pot said? Even if I had been there, as far as I know he said whatever he said in Cambodian, which I don't speak.

"We're all ignorent of what really happened anyway," the girl continues. "We don't really know what happened in the past -- we just make up stories one on top of another until we belive it."

"Yeah, but it’s a beatiful story," I say.

She shrugs, blowing cigarette smoke out of her shadow.

"What are the three Empires that lasted?" Stone says.

"Greece, Rome, and the Egyptians," said the first girl. "But they were all the same. And England and America studied them, that's why they're all the same one."

"That's pretty radical," Stone says. "You're pretty radical," he says. Its the way he says 'you're fucking nuts' when the issue isn’t really the issue.

"Pol Pot killed anyone who knew the past: teachers, lawyers, scientists. He tried to start over without history, or with only mythological history. Year Zero. A New Beginning. Purity," I say.

"We should just listen more, not project, not always tell people stuff we don't know about," the girl in the darkness says (or something very like it, I was hypnotized by her invisibility). "We should just be in the present. Here."

"Do you think if we all just feel our way through life, we'll come to the same conclusions about how to live and relate to one another?" I say.

"Yeah, I do," she says.

"Where are you from?" I say, adopting a different tact. It is a trap, of sorts, but whose exactly I could not forsee.

"Well...New York...and a whole bunch of other places. But I usually tell people I'm from an island I made up. An island named M---. It's easier."

Later my smalltalk fails and I ignore the Egyptian and the invisible Fantasy Island girl. They ignore me just as well. Stone is gone, having smelled the tomb and gone careening off into livlier prospects. Smugly boy is still sitting there smirking, wisly stroking his goatee. I ask him something lame, just to be companionable. He nods, but just barely.

Fuck you, Smugly. Go listen to Sal Markowitz talk about the death march to Ebensee in the snow, how the midnight horizon flash-boomed over Berlin. Check out the gleam in his eyes. Do not miss that. Don't miss the darkness either, of course, but its the gleam you’ll be wanting. Those allied bombs -- those overdue B-29s – all that revenge that was finally coming after four years in the camps are falling all around and even though he's barefoot and starving and still under the gun he’s still winning. That's the look you want, bright boy. Not any old practiced aloofness, not no faux-tortured wiseness that comes easy when you know knothing. Who gives a shit.

"The stories I'll be able to tell my grandchildren," someone else says, dazzled. "Getting stoned with Oliver Stone..."

I throw out my federal funding joke again. Nobody says anything for awhile.

A shellshocked boy stumbles over.

"I can't believe I *missed* it," he says. "Smoking pot with Oliver Stone. And I can't even say I was over there getting a *beer*..."

"Don't sweat it, kid," I say to the shellshocked guy finally, "Saying 'I almost smoked with Oliver Stone is truer to life. We almost did a lotta things. Hell, I almost smoked with Ken Kesey once..."

Later that night, after I'd gotten lessons from a platter of crawdads, the prof tried to use Stone's presense as leverage for some booty of his own and my ride decided it was time to go.

"Check out the frog," I told the Egyptian and (the now visible) Fantasy Island girl. They were into the iguana, but the frog had ugly little spots and huddled on a little tiny rock in a water and plastocene sea.

"Ok, bye everybody," I said, walking out the door, waving my arms through the screen to nobody in particular.

Nobody waved back.


[you can reach Clay Sails at sailingacrossamerica@hotmail.com]

Tuesday, October 09, 2001

Well, folks, I have finally joined the legions of bloggers who swear off the drug (the illusion of intimacy with strangers) and then start it up again. I am an irregular, unreliable correspondent. I would blame it on Grad School, but I was this way before I began.

Lets see, what happened in the two months since I last posted?

I started grad school.
Somebody blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Somebody phoned bomb threats to my university, shutting it down.
My girlfriend was almost sucked up in a tornado at U Maryland.
My father was diagnosed with colon cancer.
We started bombing Afghanistan.
I had a great time in Pennsylvania (fall colors!)
Somebody released anthrax in Florida.

Other than all of that, I'm fine. Really. But thanks for asking.

I actually have content to post and I will do so very shortly, but for now I'll leave you tantalized and expectant.