Don’t Know, Don’t Care

I got people asking me: Sarah Palin, she just up and quit? Why, why?

Well, I’ve thought about it for a couple days, and there are a range of possibilities.

One, another five-inch heel is about to drop, and she split before she had to quit.

Two, somehow she thinks this will help her in running for president in 2012, given that she can start making speeches and raising money and hanging out in Iowa now. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You go, girl! (Shithead.)

Three, she’s pregnant again, this time with the Weekly World News’s alien baby.

Four, some enchanted evening, hers and Mark Sanford’s eyes met across a crowded room at some Rotarian rubber chicken dinner.

Five, she’s in deep mourning for Michael Jackson and just can’t go on, man!

But the one I’m leaning towards is six, she’s just plain batshit crazy, and boy are we lucky she never became vice-president. To wit: WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING JOHN MCCAIN? WAS THIS THE ULTIMATE END RESULT OF SOME FIENDISHLY CLEVER MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE INDOCTRINATION IN A NORTH VIETNAMESE PRISON CAMP?

Whatever. Bye, Sarah. Don’t let the door hit ya where the….

*sound of door slamming*


Okay, so eight playwrights walk into a city…

…and what happens?

Actually what happens is Open City, a project dreamed up by PlayGroup, Portland Center Stage’s ongoing playwriting workshop. In short, we all nominated eight locations in Portland, wrote them on paper, tossed the paper into a hat (or a mayonnaise jar…I can’t remember), drew our locations, then drew our number of players. And wrote. And it’s freakin’ cool. (Except my piece.)

The playwrights are: Althea Hukari, Shelly Lipkin, Ellen Margolis, Steve Patterson (I just wandered in from the street, looking for beer), Andrea Stolowitz, Patrick Wohlmut, Nick Zagone, and Matthew B. Zrebski. Matt’s directing. The cast is: Deirdre Atkinson, Ben Buckley, Timothy M. Hill, and Lara Kobrin.

It’s Monday, February 2, 2009, at 7:30pm at The Gerding Theater, Portland Center Stage at The Armory (that’s the big stage, folks). Admission is free. Plus it’s the cherry on top of the fabulous Fertile Ground City-Wide Festival of New Works, which means there’s a party afterwards. With beer. So wander in.

Tomorrow and the Day After

There’s a crack in everything….

We’re just about a week out from the first debate, a little over a month away from the election. I’m puzzled. I don’t have any certainty over this election, which is probably good because I’m frequently wrong right when it comes down to the wire. Over the years, my gut was right about predicting Carter (’76), Reagan (’80 & ’84), Bush (’88), Clinton (’92 and ’96), then wrong with Gore (2000) and Kerry (2004). In other words, George W. Bush fucked up my average, along with everything else in America.

This year, my gut says Obama. But, as I said, I’m not certain. I am, however, feeling better because McCain’s bounce evaporated after just a week, and the celebrity/puppy love over Palin seems to have faded, as crushes often will once you get to know the person, which leaves McCain with basically nothing.

And it’s weird about history, but I’d forgotten the absolute nihilism I felt in ’92 at the prospect of another four years of a Bush. As apocalyptic as it turned out, I didn’t feel that bad in 2004 about W., much as I despised him, because, shit, who could have imagined Katrina? That was when I knew, indeed, that we were living in one of the worst times in American history. You…are…there.

But, back to this year’s politics. Here’s why I think Obama has a chance. He’s basically been steadily leading McCain in both the popular vote and the electoral college (where it counts) since he clinched the nomination. Last week, directly after McCain’s Hail Mary pass (which no one seems to acknowledge was as much a desperate attempt to keep his party from splintering as it was to change the overall game), McCain edged ahead, but not by much, and, in fact, more or less pulled to a statistical tie. The debates will tell the tale, certainly, and neither guy is the most briliant debater in history. (Though Biden’s very good, and the VP debate ought to be…fascinating. It’ll either be a slaughter or it’ll look like the first Kerry/Bush debate, where Kerry clearly won but Bush didn’t screw up so badly that he didn’t croak his incumbent advantage.) Brass tacks, though: 2004 was very, very close, really coming down to Ohio. Obama’s a stronger candidate than Kerry, is running a smarter campaign, and, despite the fact that he automatically loses a few points due to race (there are just some white people who will never vote for a black guy), he holds a very strong hand in at least winning every state Kerry did. That won’t be enough, of course, but he’s also putting other states in play sufficiently that both campaigns are contesting states that McCain shouldn’t be worrying about. His ground game is also reputed to be extremely good, his grassroots organizing, and McCain’s is rumored to be a mess. It was Bush’s ground game, particularly among evangelicals, that carried his ass in 2004. Sometimes, it helps to be a community organizer. Obama’s fundraising and use of the Net is clearly superior to McCain’s.

And this is where I think Palin screws McCain rather than helps him: he’s 72 years old, he’s had melanoma four times, and he’s going to look like 26 years of rough road by the time we get to the final stretch, when even youthful, vigorous candidates begin to look like papery husks. All that puts an emphasis on Palin possibly becoming president, and, I think, with people so worried about their checkbooks, jobs, homes, and retirements, the thought of putting a clear lightweight in charge of a listing ship will give them serious pause. She needs to either game up in a big way or Obama needs to make a serious misstep, else McCain has a steep hill ahead of him. Not a good place to be when the Republican brand is so bad their presidential candidate can only get traction by running away from it. Plus there’s simply the war: McCain won’t end it, and people–especially those with military ties who have borne the burden and traditionally vote Republican–are done with it.

So that’s what my gut tells me. It’s pretty clear that people can choose 1960…or 1929. But, as The Clash (and many others) noted: the future is unwritten. There is, literally, no telling what could happen between now and November 4th and how absolutely mindbending this all could become. The entire economy melting down, a terrorist attack, a gigantic skeleton falling out of a closet, and the stars could realign. And if that happens and McCain wins, all those folks who muttered about leaving the country in 2000 and 2004 might actually start dusting off their passports. Not that it’ll do them a lot of good, because by that time the whole damn planet will be swirling ’round the drain.

…that’s how the light gets in.
-Leonard Cohen–


Jesus. The first draft of the new play is finished. How the hell did that happen? At some point, it just took off like a rocket, and it was all I could do to keep up with it.

The working title is still “A Great Fear of Falling” but I’m not quite satisfied with that. In the vernacular of the play, I caint be satisfied. It’s a weird sucker. Not that my plays usually aren’t, but this one’s…a weird sucker. And it involves my long unrequited love with music (the blues, in this case).

Will it work? Damned if I know. I’m just riding the buzz right now, and that’s good enough. As Hemingway said: a place you’ll never know. (Unless you’re a writer, of course.)


Can U Ubu?

Saturday, the monster arrives…

The last show of the End of the Pavement Micro New Works Festival at Portland’s Back Door Theatre: Eight wonderful playwrights from across the country (including three Portlanders) inspired by Alfred Jarry’s monstrous, awful, disgusting, horrible, and absolutely delightful Ubu Roi, the play that some credit with starting Dada, surrealism, and, when it opened in Paris, a riot.

Probably no riot of July 5th, but we do think Ubu Lives! will do justice to Jarry’s spirit and will celebrate Independence Weekend in sly, subversive style. The eight plays will be helmed by four fine Portland directors and will feature an avalanche of actors, including a couple New York actors who’ll be in town for the weekend. The plays are:

The Bathhouse: Written by Annette Lee/Directed by Sharon Sassone
Ubu in the Air: Written by Francesca Sanders/Directed by Tamara Carroll
Queen Bee Syndrome: Written by Tom Sime/Directed by Sharon Sassone
Dumbsday: Written by Nick Zagone/Directed by Jonah Weston
A Sugar Coated Pill: Written by Jim Reyland/Directed by Tamara Carroll
Roi C Noggin: Written by Brian Sands/Directed by Adrienne Flagg
The Thing About the Neighborhood: Written by Lia Romeo/Directed by Adrienne Flagg
ubu’s last crapp: Written by james moore/Directed by Jonah Weston

The show starts at 8:00 PM, doors open at 7:40, and admission is pay-what-you-will. Please make reservations in advance, folks, because there’s only one performance, the Back Door is a small theatre, there’s a big cast, and this really will be the final Pavement Production. To make a reservation, call 503-312-6665 or e-mail

New York Makes Better Sense After Two Martinis

I learned that early in my Manhattan tenure. On my very first solo walk around the city, I came around a midtown corner to face the Algonquin Hotel.

It’s hard to explain the simultaneous resonance and disconnect of this. I had spent the last five years steeped in American writers of the 1920s, and here was one of their nerve centers. (Scribners would prove a greater let down.) I pushed through the doors into blended fantasy and reality.

In truth, it was just a hotel, though gracious, and, after a brief stroll through dining room where the Round Table once held sway, I found myself in the beautiful Blue Bar to the right of the lobby. On the walls hung framed napkins decorated with James Thurber doodles. I sat at the bar itself, alongside an elegant couple, and feeling very much the West Coast pseudo-hippy, in long hair and beard, Frye boots, beat-to-shit blue jeans, pre-Cobain flannel shirt, and black leather motocycle jacket. The barman asked me what I wanted. At the time, my drink of choice was a margarita (Cuervo on the rocks, never blended, with salt). But, without hesitation, I said: martini.

Wet or dry, sir?

I ordered dry as it sounded a tad more sophisticated, but in truth I had no idea of the difference. (I later came to prefer wet, and always with gin. I see absolutely no value in a vodka martini, other than the olive’s tasty. I’ve also since had martinis both shaken and stirred, and I see no difference there either–sorry Ian. The gin seems no worse for the supposed bruising.) The drink was perfect. I chatted with the beautiful couple, who were rather charming once you punched through their haughtiness, and ordered another round.

The real magic came when I left the bar. I’d been there a couple hours. The sun had gone down, and New York’s lights swirled, slightly gauzy in a light fog, amid honking horns seemingly playing the intro to Rhapsody in Blue, and pedestians all hustling, gruff or laughing, and graffiti, and madmen trying to sell you watches strapped up and down their arms. And it was all…perfect. Utter insanity, with it’s own kind of logic–a beauty I’d never seen before. A line broke in me: I dropped my guard and let the city in. I became a New Yorker.

For several years, every payday post-work, I would saunter to the Algonquin, find a seat at the Blue Bar, order two martinis, and have the most stunningly fascinating conversations with strangers. Once I was there reading D.H. Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers” and a pair of out-of-towners pointed to Lawrence’s picture on the back of the book and asked if that was me. Unfortunately, I fought off the impulse to say yes, yes, and autograph the copy for them. (“Look, Alice. We met Mr. D.H. Lawrence in New York, and he gave us one of his books! He said we should check out this ‘Lady Chatterly’ book of his. It’s about gardening.”)

In perfect New York manner, I regularly rediscovered my sanity at the Algonquin by temporarily puttting it aside for an evening.