The Road Leads Back To You

February 28th, 2009

andy1.jpgIn May of 1992, I drove my red Nissan Sentra from Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to Telluride, Colorado.

I was a twenty-year-old child philosopher, whiling away the summer between my junior and senior year on highways and mountain tops of The Great American West in search of answers for love and life and everything else.

The Sentra’s trunk was sparsely packed; a tent, sleeping bag, primitive Apple laptop, and two guitars: my brand-new Takamine, and my slightly-worn Ibanez.

My final stop was at my Aunt and Uncle’s home in Englewood, Colorado, where I left the Ibanez with my fifteen-year-old cousin, Andy. By the end of the summer, Andy was playing circles around me. By the following spring, his obsessive practicing had loosed the neck from the body. Later that year, he’d joined his first band, Seconds, which released its first CD shortly thereafter. In 2003, he begins two years of touring with Warner Bros. alternative rockers, World Leader Pretend.

Two beautiful solo albums (“Horse Dreams” and “Departures”) later, Andy has just released a third: “Those Who Forgive.”

The record (which you can download for free at Rock Proper Dot Com) is a dusty, rusty and ragged EP of haunted ballads and midtempo rockers. It’s lyrically dense, sonically cohesive, and sparsely textured. Imagine The Band crossed with Neil Young and Wilco but sadder-sounding and, somehow, you’re in the ballpark. Or, as Andy himself (writing in the third person) suggests so evocatively on his website:

Like a field reporter at a hurricane site, Wagner makes poetic the particulars of being lashed by the elements. Angry lovers and desperate loners populate this Midwestern weather map, sharing a flashlight in the cellar with Wilco, Calexico and Gram Parsons. There is a timelessness to Wagner’s music, it sounds current and somehow half-remembered.

Andy’s always sung as if he’s been up all night, leaning over a battered bar stacking empty shot glasses and smoking Camel Lights. And he probably has. Still, he’s never sounded stronger. His delivery is breathy. Vowels scrape past the back of his parched throat. Consonants linger on his chapped lips. He sounds exasperated, but waxing, not waning.

With former World Leader Pretend guitarist, Matt Martin, lending beats, and bassist Ben Clarke providing groove, this fine singer/songwriter — my cousin — has never sounded better.

Narratively, Andy’s “Those Who Forgive” is a life on the road, a year in the world, and a night on the town all in one, moving through contemplative lows and raucous highs in six, sweet, substantive three-minute songs.

The record builds to a reckless, rockin’ crescendo with “Sending My Love.” A serpentine, chunky electric-guitar hook and thumping back beat pushes and propels the album into late-night, beer-soaked foot-stomper territory.

Just as suddenly, though, the album turns. Before you know it, you’re alone on a Windy City curbside.

A few years ago, in the late-night firelight of my bachelor party, Chris Abad, Andy and I traded a few songs. Andy’s “So Long” brought the house down. Here, he performs over a maudlin tack piano and delivers late-night, neon-lit chills.

Surprise, I’m alive
Even though you shot me down
It’s a sad thing
When you can’t sing
And you lose yourself
Along the way

Andy picks himself up, dusts himself off, and begins his long walk home. “I’ll see you on the other side,” he sings on “My Blue Sea. “A few more years and I’ll be fine.”

Andy is wrestling something here: meaning, love, home. He’s seeking. Traveling. Finding his way. The record is a dark one. But it’s bright in the corners. Better still, it’s bright on the horizon.

“Two more hours ’til the sun will rise,” he sings on “What I’ve Been Looking For.”

With the future on my mind
And the city in the dark
About a hundred miles to go
I have to leave it all behind
Just to know what’s left behind

As with the long tradition of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, Andy’s “Those Who Forgive” is ultimately a journey. And like Tom Joad, Maggie and Wendy’s, the trip is a long one, though the destination is right around the corner.

“I think I see what I’ve been looking for for all these years,” Andy concludes. “My road leads back to you.”

I’ve been looking with him all these years too. We’ve spent hours walking and driving and drinking and singing and talking about life and truth and beauty and art and capitalism and family and friends and what it all means. I love him dearly, and feel a huge and deep kinship with his vision, ambition, and struggles. It’s impossible for me to listen to “Those Who Forgive” without filtering it through those dark waters and fine catacombs.

And in the end, as the lights flicker, the smoke clears, the last note fades and the hangover begins to ache, it’s impossible for me the believe that, for Andy, the road leads to anywhere other than precisely where he is right now.

Boys Of Summer, Part II

February 26th, 2009

boys.jpgThe modern twist on the old cliche that “The phone began ringing off the hook” is “My Blackberry inbox was stacked like a bad game of Tetris.”

And so it was Monday at 5:49 pm, incoming messages fall like straight, horizontal bricks in the moments between landing and unloading at the gate, one after another after another.

And so it was still at 6:01 pm. I stepped out of my gloriously-isolated, time-traveling aluminum cylinder into the chaos of my waking life. A frigid wind blew through the automatic doors. Worse, all hell had broken loose in the intervening five hours since I’d left Los Angeles. Ninety-four emails and two Blackberry Instant Messager (BBIM) icons told me so.

The specific issue doesn’t matter. It was just another fire drill, another chance to weigh values against commerce, principles against relationships.

I deleted the uneccesary messages, then tucked it all away in my pocket. I breathed deeply to shake my suddenly-rattled nerves, and scanned the ancient, unhurried baggage claim belt.

Between emails, text messages and phone calls, the instants away from work are fewer and further between for all of us.

Imagine the massive (if momentary) recalibration afforded me, then, when my inbox filled with these photos of Ethan and Edward in Barbados.

Ah! To build a sand castle taller than one’s self. To bound into the surf. To skim across the waves under power of wind alone.

Imagine! You’re three-years-old! A single day spans barely 1/1000 of your total time on earth. Everything is new! Everything is cool! Everything is larger than life!

The complications keep coming. The red light on my Blackberry rarely sleeps.

But there is kind comfort, somehow, in knowing that they’re out there, my nephews, building and climbing, jumping and laughing, singing and dreaming and living every single moment as if it was their first.

And their little sister is following close behind.







Hollywood Forever

February 25th, 2009

hollywood1.jpgThe afternoon before I left for Los Angeles, I walked into my boss’ offices for our weekly meeting. He was turned away from the door, staring at his laptop, captivated by a music video.

“Do you know these guys?” he asked.

Quick cuts and violent camera movement showed a masked group of lean, totooed, scrappy men angrily tearing what appeared to be a filthy, poorly-lit hotel room to bit with all of the cliche’s intendant tropes: shattered mirrors, shredded sheets and exploded televisions.

“They’re called Hollywood Undead.”

From Marilyn Monroe to Natalie Wood to Sharon Tate, Hollywood has always had a dark side. For every Young Hollywood starlet posed in front of a step-and-repeat, there are a thousand also rans. The price of those few, fleeting moments before the flashbulb’s glare is steep. Few of the chose, it seems, make it out alive.

Most mornings last week, just as the California sun, broke over the San Bernardino Mountains, I set out to bag a few miles, clear my head, and gather myself for the day ahead. Typically, I ran west through Hollywood to Beverly Hills then back east along Sunset. The dark side of Hollywood especially evident at daybreak.

Three times, I passed a woman sitting on the corner of San Vicente and Santa Monica Avenues. She sat on the steps of an abandoned storefront, her hair a tangled, matted mess, clutching a sign that read, “Help Me Please” while staring into the morning sky.

A few blocks later, in front of the famed Troubadour, a man no more than forty paced the empty sidewalk preaching to no one at all, shaking his fist and swearing as I jogged by.

I spent the few hours of downtime I had between our show’s premiere and the Oscar Red Carpet with my friend of over twenty years (we’ll call him Jimmy Degoodness) driving from Hollywood to Malibu to Santa Monica and back. Saturday night found us back at my hotel bar sharing a few late-night beers. Our bartender, extra-generous, perhaps, on account of either her boredom or my woeful tale of a thirteen dollar room service beer, was plying us with drink and story alike.

Nicole, it seems, had moved to Hollywood from Portland, Oregon, less than five years prior.

“But I’m going to leave soon,” she said. “I need a change.”

Her eyes, though, betrayed her. Somewhere behind her steely confidence was a different story. She was of a certain age, and a certain degree of beauty, that suggested strongly — perhaps — that she’d been a terrific success in high school. Maybe she played the lead every time. And so she got her teeth capped, packed her bags, and drove south to the PCH, then west into Hollywood. Fives years later, she was tending bar at a boutique hotel just below Sunset.

“I still haven’t been to San Simeon,” she said.

Nicole stories are legion: from Joe Gillis to Rebecca Schaeffer, it rarely ends well. Invariably, though, it ends.

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery was founded in 1899 on the back half of the Paramount Pictures lot there on Santa Monica between Van Ness and Vine. It’s gone on to become the choice for most of the founders of Hollywood’s great studios, as well as writers, directors, and, performers, Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and hundreds more of Hollywood’s greatest studio heads, stars, writers, and directors.

It’s “funeral chapel is equipped for live worldwide webcasts of services.” And it’s trade-marked Lifestories Kiosks (“Because memories are extremely fragile; in time, they fade.”) aggregate photos, film and video tape of “major life events” in a space-aged, stainless-steel, permenant monument.

Which, it occurred to me Sunday night as Brad and Angelina floated past me (‘Huh,’ I thought, ‘That’s Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, like, for real.”), is what it’s all about, really.

Memories are fragile. In time, they fade.

If we burn brightly, though, and projector ourselves through celluloid, pixels or electrons, maybe we will be remembered. Maybe we will last forever.

Ryan Adams writes in his Blackbook Magazine column:

But it’s there; it’s the other side of that coin, and you can feel it as the plane dips and descends someplace just past Las Vegas. Your heart starts pumping in anticipation; you see the beach, or the brightest stars at night. They are all streetlights in an endless web of electric spider casings built to hold one million dreams a second in one million tiny apartments.

That’s why they’re there, stretching, starving and striving for some sort of plastic immortality that, when the power goes out, flickers, fades, and disappears.

Live From 2009 Oscar Red Carpet!

February 23rd, 2009

oscarcarpetsmall.jpgThere was something oddly normal about standing there in the shadow of The Kodak Theater tonight as Hollywood’s most-celebrated walked Oscar red carpet.

Maybe it was the light; the typically sun-dappled, Technicolor California sky was choked with clouds. Maybe it was that I’ve done a few of these before (see also Grammys, VMAs, etc). Or maybe it was optical fatigue; I mean, we’ve all seen a few million red carpets on E!, right?

Either way, I was wound pretty tightly as Josh Horowitz and I pulled into the press parking lot on Sunset & Argyle, the Hollywood sign looming not far above. I pulled my Toyota 626 into my spot, pulled on my jacket, and stepped towards the shuttle bus. Here’s how the rest of it went down…

12:46PT- The Oscars don’t begin for just shy of four hours, and yet I’m a) en route (shuttle bus to Hollywood & Highland from Sunset & Vine; Cindy Adams is on our bus, by the way) and b) exhausted; I haven’t quite adjusted to the time zone despite being here since Wednesday.

12:54PT- “We make most of our money selling video feeds to partners,” one network journalist behind me says. “We had sixty clients last year. This year we’re down to thirty.”

1:00PT- I’m standing on Tom Selleck’s star on Hollywood Boulevard waiting to pass through security. Helicopters are buzzing overhead. It feels like we’re going to battle… in tuxedos.

1:14PT- We’ve assumed our positions, a four-foot wide, six-foot deep, two-level riser roughly half-way down the red carpet. There are far too many men wearing far too much makeup. (One fella’ in front of me is wearing a white bow tie turned orange). At this point, the audience is in place and cheering on cue, but the celeb quotient is zero. Press outlets are interviewing each other.

1:45PT- “Deborah Norville! “Deborah Norville! “Deborah Norville!” Josh says. “I’m about to get inside her edition.”

1:56PT- Al Roker just waddled by.

2:04PT- First celebrity on the red carpet? America’s Best Dance Crew host (and former Save By The Bell star) Mario Lopez.

2:05PT- Fatone!!!

2:07PT- Lisa Renna? Lovely woman I’m sure. But lookin’ a little tired under the eyes, brittle in the hair and puffy in the lips. Not to be mean, but just a little scary.

2:26PT – Wow, Mickey Rooney. He’s walking slowly, holding onto a the woman in front of him, looking up and grinning. What must he think of how radically all of this has changed since, say “Mickey’s Busy Day”?

2:43PT- Wolfgang Puck and Tim Gunn narrowly avoid red carpet run-in. Phew. That Oscar cake of his would have been all over the place.

2:46PT- Price Waterhouse briefcase guys walk the carpet to prompted applause.

3:00PT- Miley Cyrus is here: It’s on like… a silly love song!

3:14PT- Phoebe Cates (mis-identified by the announcer as Selma Heyek) walks by prompting “Fast Times” flashbacks.

3:44PT- Here’s who’s in eyeshot right now: Anthony Hopkins, Louis Gossett Jr., Danny Glover, Man on Wire Philippe Petit and Zack Efron. Such odd juxtapositions.

4:06PT- Gus Van Zandt looks like he got his jacket at The Gap. Great tie, though.

4:10PT- josh just asked the “Slumdog Millionaire” kids how manu Oscars they have between them. I’m not sure they understood it was a joke, but are adorable and hilariously, excellently enthusiastic.

4:14PT- James Franco hip-hop just hugged a random publicist.

4:15PT- “Everybody,” the announcers says over the din of helicopters, “Robert Pattison!!!” Shreiks drown EVERYTHING out.

4:19PT- Within eyeshot: Anne Hathaway (with whom Josh is speaking), Heidi Klum and Seal talking with Dev Patel, Matthew Broderick & Sarah Jessica Parker, Danny Boyle, Richard Jenkins, Penelope Cruz and Fred Willard.

4:45PT- The brain-numbing cognitive dissonance continues as Kate Winslet (hubba hubba), Sofia Lauren, Frank Langella, Peter Gabriel and Robert Downey pass by. Josh valiently hollars, “Robert! Robert! Robert!” To no avail.

4:46PT- Brad and Angelina float by, pausing only long enough to greet “Slumdog” co-star Madhur Mittal.

4:55PT- Josh interviews Ron Howard and David Frost. Christofers’ first job was editing his US interview specials at Classic Video in Cleveland. Now here we are.

4:56PT- Penelope Cruz blows off Josh. Sigh. I think we’re done here.

* * *

I’m back in my room at The Chamberlain now. My tux is strewn across the bed. The screen door is thrown wide. The day is done.

Just a few hours later, though, it already seems like a dream, like something I watched on television. I know I was there; I’ve seen the pictures. So I’m not sure why it seems so fantastical or out-of-body. I’m not sure what that’s all about. I have a bag to pack, a rental car to return, a plane to catch, and a wife to embrace, though. So if you’ll excuse me, I have my own movie to make: The Story of My Life.

2009 Oscar Red Carpet

2009 Oscar Red Carpet

2009 Oscar Red Carpet

2009 Oscar Red Carpet

2009 Oscar Red Carpet

Who Watches The Watchmen?

February 20th, 2009

spoilersep2.jpg I’m popping Excedrin like they’re M&Ms. Worse, I’m washing down my beloved acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine concoction with a thirteen dollar beer.

Aaaaaaaaah, Los Angeles.

I landed thirty-two hours ago, and drove straight to the Pacific Design Center where we were taping our movie show, “Spoilers.” Episode two features the cast of “Watchmen,” including Billy Crudup (“Almost Famous”), Jackie Earle Haley (“The Bad News Bears”), and Patrick Wilson (“Beautiful Children”), plus director Zack Snyder (“300”). My Chemical Romance also ran our little screening through.

Count on me, though, to hang out with the smartest celebrity in the room, my new favorite Californian, actor, author and blogger Wil Wheaton. Wil, of course, starred as Wesley on “Star Trek: Next Generation,” not mention a lead role in a little Rob Reiner flick called “Stand By Me.” He showed up to offer some expertise our sneak peek of JJ Abram’s “Star Trek” reboot (which he did hilariously and effortlessly).

Now, I wasn’t responsible for the department when we shot the premiere episode of “Spoilers” late last year; I was “the online guy.” Well, times have changed. As a result, the experience is completely different: I know the objective, I know the budget, and I know the stakes.

And, after just thirty-four hours on the ground, I know in my bones that a television show unfolds not unlike a rock show. Like, say, a holiday benefit. One person has the vision, enlists a bunch of co-conspirators and then — through compromise, limitations, technical difficulties — watches as that vision is inadvertently altered.

Nervous as I was during the taping, I enjoyed my time with Wil. His values are spot on (enthusiasm, expertise, authority), and he’s exactly for whom the show is produced. He noted our missteps (from a production and tone standpoint) and offered me (the consummate “Watchmen” novice) immeasurable insight. He’s fun, funny, passionate and — best of all — completely, unflappably intelligent.

Much as I enjoyed hanging with Wil, though, I relished my proximity to the audience’s enthusiasm. They were stoked: dressed in costume, chock’d full of smart questions, and hoarse with applause. And the stars noticed. Best moment of the whole night (headache and all)? Jackie Earle Haley and Jeffrey Dean Morgan diving into the audience just long enough to high five their doppelgangers.

As I’m increasingly want to repeat to The News Team, “Those of us in the broadcasting industry need to remember that we work for the American public.” Of course, I’m just quoting Mister Rogers.

The movie, by the way, is amazing for the novice and expert alike. As Wil writes about his evening-ending comment to Zack:

When I approached the mic, I felt my hands get cold and I couldn’t feel my feet. This is typically what happens to me when I’m really nervous.

I cleared my throat and said, “Hi, my name is Wil, and I’m from Pasadena.”

He said, “Hey, I’m from Pasadena, too!”

“AWESOME!” I said, and felt stupid.

I steadied myself, as the entire theater faded away and all I could hear was the sound of my own voice, coming out of someone else, very far away. “I just wanted to tell you that I’ve wanted to see this movie for twenty years.”

I took a breath, and was horrified to feel some very real emotion rising up in my chest.

“I just wanted to say thank you for making it worth the wait.”

Indeed, Mr. Wheaton. Enthusiasm rules!

As do our ratings, so please do tune into “Spoilers” this Saturday night at 8pm ET!

Oh! The Excedrin? Works like a charm. And the thirteen dollar beer (Harp via room service)? Delicious.

So good night, Hollywood Boulevard, goodnight.


The Place That We Are In

February 17th, 2009

vermontsunshine.jpgI’ll admit that I was self-consciously aware of my solitude there in the woods adjacent to Chris and Meg’s Andover, Vermont, weekend house.

I knew the silence was to be relished, stored away for safe keeping when I needed it.

And so I relished the swish of the snow beneath my shoes, the twitter of birds, and the creak of the trees. I noticed how awkwardly I carried the axe, how poorly I swung it, and how resistant even previously-felled trees were to its blow. I spent over an hour in the woods quietly studying the contour of snow on the meadow, clouds on the sun, and ice on the branches while gathering firewood a mere three hundred yards from the house.

I knelt in the snow to consider cat tracks, investigate moss on an old stone wall, and a creek flowing slowly downhill beneath a thin crust of ice. More than once, it dawned on me that I was, in fact, chopping wood and carrying water.

It was a series of moments I hoped to save like a vitamin.

But even as I contrasted the weight of the axe, the ache of my muscles, and the warmth of the sun with the heft of a pen, the hum of fluorescents, and the shadowy chill of Times Square, the self consciousness slipped away. I forgot what I was doing, where I was, or why it mattered. I just was.

A bead of sweat tracked down my temple. I squirrel leapt between branches. I breath slipped between my lips.

I curled my arms around my small bundle of logs, placed them in a sled piled high with firewood, and turned towards home. Traipsing quietly through that snowy field, it dawned on me that these moments aren’t transferable like some existential savings account. They are finite. This moment is it: the place the we are in. And it’s more than enough. It has to be.

Andover, Vermont (Winter 2009)

February 16th, 2009

The Magic Mountain

February 15th, 2009

vtsunsetsm.jpgWhat’s the best part about riding an innertube down a mountain with a bunch of giggling eight-year-olds? Feeling twenty-nine years younger. Better yet? Momentarily forgetting those twenty-nine years altogether.

Truth is, I didn’t have much business even considering spending the weekend in Vermont. My colleagues were crashing a half-hour Chris Brown and Rihanna special at the office. What’s more, we’re taping “Spoilers” Episode 2 (Watchmen, Star Trek, Transformers 2, Harry Potter) in Los Angeles next week, so I’m heading west first thing Wednesday morning. And I don’t even have any clean underwear.

Still, the pace of progress has been numbing. The City’s louder, more foul-tempered and frenzied than ever. The job’s brutally relentless; The Company is down 69%.

So I needed a break. Already. Big time. When Chris and Meg called and invited us to Abadfest Redux (part two of the event that put me in the hospital), who was I to say no?

So here we are. It’s just before midnight on Valentine’s Day. Seven of us are sitting around a big, oak table drinking, singing and laughing with no distraction other than the occassional Blackberry message.

I started the day jogging on a dusty, ash-lined road, then hit the grocery story (list: salsa, beer, pasta). After lunch, we went sledding in the backyard, then headed snow tubing at Magic Mountain. We watched the sun set, then lined up with the eight-year-olds. They were queued and giddy, tossing challenged back and forth.

“You take the right trail and I’ll take the left and I’ll totally beat you!”

“Daddy, can we got that fast!?!”

“I’m scared.”

Chris, just a few kids forward in line, smiled, tossed me a thumbs up, and hitched to the tow rope. I latched on just behind. We moved slowly uphill in the twilight, then dismounted, ran and flung ourselves down the mountain. Anything I’d been thinking about disappeared, replaced by the sound of wind, snow, and my own voice (swearing). Vermont swung around me — the mountains, trees and sky — then disappeared below the horizon. I slammed into a berm, then dismounted for another ride.

Later, over Long Trail IPAs, I realized that in that moment between hitting the snow and riding the berm, only one thought had occurred to me: ‘Wohooooooooooooo!!!’

And now we’re playing beer pong.

Best part of the whole thing?

Silence, the 228 miles between here and there, and feeling like an eight-year-old.







A Soundtrack To Bleed To

February 13th, 2009

damnwells.jpgThese are troubled times.

While I, for one, endeavor to refrain my steady drumbeat of “change,” and “opportunity,” I find myself struggling home through the cold every night having accomplished nothing on my “To Do” list which typically includes both “Eat Breakfast” and “Eat Lunch.” Forget “Run.”

Worse, I wake in the middle of most nights, toss and turn with my troubled thoughts, then climb out of bed long just enough to watch the sun rise before climbing back in again. And then I start the whole thing over.

I won’t even get into my poor, widowed acoustic guitar left stashed in the closet. Or the drive full of “Mister Rogers & Me” footage. Or new apartments. Or someday babies.

I don’t mean to complain; I’m just overwhelmed. I knew I would be. I just didn’t think it would feel like this.

Luckily, I have the world’s most excellent wife, and — running a very, very distant second place to her — a decent pair of headphones. And luckily, The Damnwells (once of Brooklyn, now of Iowa City) have just released a new album, “One Last Century”. What’s more, they’re giving the whole thing away for free.

“One Last Century” finds frontman (and primary singer/songwriter) Alex Dezen in an equally contemplative place. We know he lost his record label (Chris Suchorsky’s doc, “Golden Days” chronicled that), and in the process. And we know the band failed to explode onto the alternarock (or something) scene with its transcendent “Air Stereo” as a result. And the Dezen moved first to Los Angeles to escape to his actress girlfriend, then Iowa City where he is currently enrolled in the esteemed Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

“One Last Century”, then, find Dezen bruised, but not beaten.

Hey little stickaround girl
I wanna know why
Why you just turn me outside
Can’t you just turn around
Hey little kiss a while girl
Didn’t I just see you cry?
Hey honey all I want
Is whatever you’re gonna give

The record is stark and simple, dusty but direct. It’s a long walk home through the cold with nothing to show for the day. But step inside the front door. She’s home, she’s waiting, and she’s glad to see you.

“I don’t wanna be a maybe,” Dezen sings. “Baby let me drive you crazy. I wanna be your dandelion.”

And not a moment too soon.

Sweet Carolina (Or, Living In The Fish-Eyed Lens)

February 12th, 2009

strangepic.jpgI’ve heard about this sort of thing, but rarely really witnessed it first-hand.

I’m at a bar called Brother Jimmy’s on 31st & Lex. Apparently, Murray Hill is the new post-collegiate neighborhood because everyone looks straight out of Central Casting.

“Jimmy, get me a dozen Zeta Psis and a coupla’ Tri Delts, stat!”

I haven’t seen so many copiously made-up, sweatshirt-wearing teenagers preening, posing, smoking cigarettes and hair-flipping, like, ever! (Well, since college.)

Anyway, we’re watching UNC/Duke basketball. Apparently, they’re rivals. And apparently it’s Rival Week on ESPN (or per the NCAA; hard to tell the difference).

Abbi went to UNC. (She was wearing Carolina Blue running shorts the morning I asked her to marry me). As did her sister, Pembry (also a Tarheel), who has a tradition of watching this particular game here.

Now, I’m not a sports fan, and never really have been (I mean, excepting that I run marathons and triathlons). In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve never watched a game at a bar. So there’s a component of Anthropology here.

People clap and cheer when their team scores, as if their doing so has any bearing on the outcome.

Also, people wear jerseys to bars. And colors. This strikes me as odd, if for no other reason than poor fashion judgement. But that’s just me; they may say the same about my generic, navy-blue corduroy sport coat and jeans combo (though it’s worth noting I chose Carolina Blue this morning on my wife’s behalf).

I left college sixteen years ago. And frankly, it never meant much to me to begin with. Sports there even less so. I went to three games in four years: a basketball game, a football game, and a lacrosse match. Other than that, it was pretty much studying (3.6, beeyatch!) and rock ‘n roll.

But let’s talk about the guy sitting next to me, tapping his foot rabidly and yelling, “Get up, Blue!” I’m not sure what he means, I just know that he means it.

And let’s talk about the ten-straw, booze and crocodile-filled fish bowl they just delivered (though not before blowing a ref whistle).

Yeeeaaah, Rival Week!

So, what are my Anthropology 101 study notes? We are tribes. We respond to ritual. We like rooting for representatives of our tribes. And we like to be distracted from the mundane but anxiety-provoking nature of hunting, gathering, and defending against unseen forces of nature. Now, perhaps, more than ever.