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Monday, January 13, 2003
1) They found Pete's body 1-1-02. There are families who didn't have that finality, as sad as it was. He was physically intact, and that is - somehow - a comfort. A man who had seen the papers and recognized Pete as the firefighter who saved his life that morning contacted my sister. He told of numerous others Pete and his men rescued, hurrying them to safety in the seconds before complete collapse of the tower. Apart from proving he died instantly, this confirms that his efforts were worthwhile (concretely, not abstractly, as it might seem to some that have no information regarding the specifics of their loved ones' final moments). There are families still laughing together today thanks to Pete's bravery and that of his buddies. There are still some people who take the trouble to share this kind of solace.
2) Went on a cruise trip with Shelley, My sister Maureen and her husband Ira, my brother Brian, and our nephew David. This was affirming, and showed us that we could still, well, laugh together. I discovered that I REALLY love escaping reality via a floating hotel with a dozen different bars, and actually proposed to Alex Crank that he dip into his benefit fund to join us on another. I suspect he has better things to do with the money, and while I don't, I have no money either, so it's kinda moot squared.
3) Don and Kathy Brockway, marvelous friends and exceptional people, hosted a "house concert" with Richard X Heyman that instilled enough good vibes to last for many moons. Don and I share the same birthday, and he's a mensch, so I can't blame the stars for any of my own bullshit. I also mention this event as proxy for the various invitations (whether accepted or regretfully declined) to salubrious conviviality offered us this year. Broken salsa bowls at the Guzman apartment and empty bottles in the LaGrutta backyard bear testimony to a thousand ephemeral moments of effusive bonhomie. Cheers, all.
4) Brian O'Connor and Bianca Bob Miller gave me paying work this year, doing two of the things I like doing most: writing and singing. Money being tighter than a clam's leotard, this is deeply appreciated. Bianca, by the way, also graced Uncle with her talents. Her efforts in response to Sept 11 were (and are) beyond merely inspiring; she is a human antidote to a world of bullshit. Brian, on the other hand, spouts and inspires bullshit of a type and degree that make me wish Vaudeville still existed so we could take our act on the road.
5) Speaking of the road, Miles Hunt and I are hoping to traipse through the UK before too long, doing our Everly act for the punters. A very strange series of coincidences emerged this year, which practically render us cousins. Watching this inebriated crooner - fresh off the plane from Dubai - strum through my tune "The Lost Children" at CMJ (after a stunning turn by Michael Ferentino and Andres Karu) warmed the very cockles, and at that time I didn't even know about the interwoven histories of our respective kinfolk.
6) Rich Black boldly stood up for my Horror Garage artwork against an inhospitable editor, and anytime anyone stands up for my work I stand up and cheer. I spend a LOT of time sitting. "Rrrrrricoooo… Negre!"
7) A sweet and revivifying trip to see Jennica and Dave Kalbaugh down in Maryland (via West Virginia) may well have proved Shelley's and my salvation as the year approached its especially anxious terminus. Mountains, antiques, dear friends too rarely seen, and a bunch of their local chums who actually LIKED my new album!
8) Uncle sessions, abetted by a host of friends under Bill Miller's generous auspices, often overcame the anxieties and sorrows behind the project for a blessed while. The result does not for the most part embarrass me, which is an accomplishment. Imagine my feeling when the phone rang: "Hi, Sport? Van Dyke Parks here." He recited Ives for the album, which is one of the things - like Nadina Simon getting me into MAD - that make doing this shit worthwhile. So is the pleasure of seeing and hearing my friends bringing these things to life.
9) Tina Herschelman and others at Kill Rock Stars (but especially Tina) handled my tardiness, schiziness and general out-to-lunch-ness with patience and kindness, making Uncle a far better experience and product than I could have otherwise managed. Slim Moon continues to demonstrate a faith in my music that I can no longer muster, but try to live up to. My thanks also to Sleater-Kinney for keeping KRS fit to carry dead weight like me.
10) David Garland, aside from generously showcasing my work on his radio show, permitted me the high honor of collaborating with him on his incredible music and my own. He totally took over 3 tracks on Uncle, raising the vout quotient well above code. Conversations with him are like a shot of B-12.
11) Through an odd route unwittingly engineered by Garland and my esteemed pal Irwin Chusid, a long-mourned childhood friendship was reanimated when Matt "Hawkeye" Mignone shot me an email. A bosom chum I haven't spoken with in 30 years, Hawkeye's emails have brought more happiness to me these past few months than he could guess. We are now planning to reconvene for real in the old schoolyard on April Fools Day, only 3 years late for a rendezvous there we solemnly agreed to make during one of our last conversations way back when.
12) I had a run in with a cop after too much wine at Adam Yauch's Dad's gallery opening (and too much of some toxic green shit at a niteclub with Steve Martin afterwards), but the charge was dismissed. Whew!
13) Olivia the English Bulldog arrived in our lives, and THIS, my friends, is a dog. When we bring her to visit my folks, they seem to lose all their infirmities for a while and laugh like kids. That's a GOOD girl!
14) J Lo touched my boner. Nah, just checking to see if you're awake.
15) The premiere of THE TWO TOWERS, which I told you all about in a triple e-spam. If you missed that, ask me for it. It's a wee bit wordy. But any chance to see Claudia Handler and Brad Dourif deserves mentioning again.
16) Did Knitting Factory with Al, Maria, Meredith, Bill, Matt and Cliff. It was nice to play, for once, in a place that impressed people. It was in every way the same kind of shit hole as usual, but these are the things that allow one to cling to fraudulent claims of actually existing.
17) Alex Sullivan graduated High School. Proud mama Shelley and proud step-pappy Sport joined Alex's grandparents Troim and Frank Handler to witness the glad event. I sat - for the first time - in bleachers, which gives me a brand new reason to avoid sports. News 12's Doug Geed sent his regards.
18) Ted Raimi offered to direct a video, a project which fate on my end has repeatedly confounded but which WILL happen, or bust.
19) Started to assemble the home studio, some Ed Roth kits, and my Irwin Interior Decorator kit.
20 and onward) So much, so may people. Alex Crank got hit with a motherfucker, but the humor and dignity with which he handles his situation can only awe a crybaby like me. Jay Spero is in better health, and that is cause for hosannas. Steve Young has enlisted me in the noble cause of immortalizing the American Industrial Musical. For the first full year, I read no newspapers and am better off for it. I have had another year of the privilege of caring for my folks, which causes much stress and fear but is a tangible way to show appreciation to (and savor time with) them.
Other things keep coming to mind, but I'm getting bleary.Some "brief list!" Life now is tough, no doubt. There are things ahead that scare me, and things that might be wonderful if I can overcome enough of my pessimism to look forward to them. But it is impressive, as I look at this stream-of consciousness list, how much of this year I've a reason to be thankful for. Too often I'm immersed in crises and depressions; too much time is spent regretting the things I was unable to do - projects, parties, so forth - and things I've failed at - careers, lifelong dreams, so forth. Too much time hating people who are better off forgotten.
Even through the recent, rough holidays there have been great things. Steve Espinola's house with Biff Rose, Joie Lee, Andrea, Shelley and Alva. Toasting the good fortune of Paul LaGrutta's hard-fought dream, his restaurant, on New Year's Eve with Julia and Wayne and others. Getting snowed-in on Christmas Night at the folks' house with Shelley, David and Maureen, camped all over the house in pajamas like old times. Swilling whiskey with Perry Serpa, Jim Santo, Gio, Steve M and David at the Nasty / Good Cop bash, and then over to see Meredith Yayanos play as magnificently as usual with Jim Sclavunos and Vanity Set. Seeing my condolences posted on the Russ Berrie corporate web site in remembrance of a wonderful gentleman with whom I had only brief contact, but to whom I owe a lot of smiles. Shelley gave me the best bunch of toys I've gotten since 1969.
All these names, and many more unmentioned, and this misanthrope has to admit that it's people, not Berrie Jigglers, that keep me breathing. Not that the Jigglers don't do their part. Spero Meliora, my friends. And thank you all.
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