“I’m not prescribing Ritalin, Tom.”
Myself, I don’t really believe in gym memberships, electric toothbrushes, or gastric bypass surgery. However, I don’t try to dissuade others who feel that they benefit from these phenomena. Similarly, while I am quite fond of Elvis Presley, expensive lipgloss, and antidepressants, I accept the fact that not everyone regards them as the best evidence for a loving god. So, if Tom Cruise requires the occasional audit to keep turning out the generally high-grossing entertainments for which he is famous, I say: whatever. (Although I do wish he would lay off the starlets.)
That the actor does not share my live-and-let-live spirit should have been abundantly clear to anyone who caught his performance on the Today Show. Indeed, when Matt Lauer tried to talk to the actor about his Brooke Shields diss in particular and his willingness to offer untrained, unlicensed, unsupported, and unsolicited medical advice in general, Cruise revealed that he’s not just eccentric and opinionated, but that he is, actually, a full-on crank, and really kind of an asshole. Even Rosie O’Donnell agrees: In a June 25 posting on her free-verse blog, she suggests that Cruise needs some “humor and humility” (she also offers some poetic thoughts on Oprah’s recent humiliation at Hermès).
Basically, Lauer asked Cruise if Brooke Shields was wrong when she said drugs helped her recover from post-partum depression; or to put it another way, does Tom Cruise know what’s better for Brooke Shields better than she does? After calmly enduring a stream of illogic, non-answers, and increasingly personal attacks, Lauer concluded that Cruise wants for people to be well, but only if they achieve wellness in a Tom Cruise-approved—and Scientology-friendly—manner. Cruise did not care for this, but his attempts to defend himself against this rather subtly slung accusation of monomania tended to prove Lauer’s point.
If you’re a connoisseur of whacked-out celebrity ranting and other spectacular displays of mental pathology, you should totally check out the video (available here). My absolute favorite part, by the way, is when Cruise calls psychiatry a “pseudoscience”: Considering what Cruise presumably thinks of as real science, this is actually a compliment.
Saturday, June 25, was my first anniversary. It was also the day of Mt. Pleasant’s citywide festival of yard sales, so we celebrated by participating one of our shared passions: rooting through other people’s discarded crap. Ted added some rare, pre-pulltop specimens to his beer-can collection for 10¢ a pop. I got some swell old aprons and several excellent gardening books. Then we ate eggs at Agnes’s Wonderland Diner.
Tuesday Night in Key West
This is my beautiful cousin Sarah and her handsome groom, John Dallas, just before they announced the conch-shell blowing contest, which I lost to a little girl who plays trumpet, which I feel gave her an unfair advantage. I was, however, gracious in defeat, not wishing to make a fuss on Sarah and J.D.’s big day.
Tuesday Morning in Key West
When I came down to the pool in my hot pink paisley sarong and floppy lime green hat, my sister laughed and laughed. Perceptive viewers will note my subtle response in this photo.
Monday Morning in Key West
I’m in Key West for my cousin Sarah’s wedding. So is my sister Rachel (on the right, just out of the pool) and my dad (to the left).
Neko Case at the Majestic
Ted took me to see Neko Case on our first date. I had never heard her before, and I’ve got to say that the price of his stock rose considerably as soon as the show started. It’s not impossible that we might never have gotten married if not for Neko Case.
That girl sings like an angel. Her voice is pure but distinctive and heartbreakingly expressive and I am so grateful that she chooses to uses it to sing old-time murder ballads, sultry country classics, and original songs written with pedal steel guitar in mind. Also, she’s just lovely to look at—a little bit tough and a little bit frail, like all the finest honky-tonk beauties.
With our first anniversary approaching, Ted and I decided to treat ourselves to a trip to Detroit for the Neko Case show at the Majestic last night. It was another great set. Honestly, Ms. Case’s voice is so magnificent that seeing her perform live is surreal. It’s just so difficult to believe that such a perfect sound could arise—unaided and unaltered—from a human throat. Neko and the band did a couple of my favorite songs, both from Furnace Room Lullaby—the title track and “Guided by Wire.” They also did Bob Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain,” which was nice since Ted was in the men’s room when Ms. Case sang it at the Blind Pig.
I should also take a moment to say a few words about opening act Johnny Dowd. He plays guitar—feverishly—and the rest of his band consists of an organ and drums. This alone would make him distinctive, but, oh, there is so much more. Dowd seems like someone driven to play by the volume and energy of influences he has absorbed. He covered Donna Summer, quoted Black Sabbath, and during his performance I heard echoes of The Spencer Davis Group, Tom Waits, Jay Hawkins, the Talking Heads, Anthrax, various Delta Blues artists, and ? and the Mysterians—not to mention the kooky je ne sais quois that must belong to Mr. Dowd his own self. I think Ted put it best when he said, “Clearly, Johnny Dowd follows his own muse.”
[PHOTO BY RYAN DOMBAL, 2004, SWIPED WITH GRATITUDE FROM THE MACK.]
Another Open Letter to Katie Holmes
Look, Katie: I know where you’re coming from. I almost converted to Judaism for a guy, but—come on—as religions go, you can hardly beat Judaism for street cred. I mean, doesn’t it, like, kind of make you stop and think when you consider the phrase “Scientology, a religion founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard”? And, I mean, he wasn’t even an especially great science-fiction author, either. It’s not like it’s a religion invented by Asimov or Heinlein or Ray Bradbury or something.
Is it just that you’re feeling neglected by your own church? Because—seriously—I bet if a bunch of A-list Catholics got together and asked the new Pope to build a Celebrity Centre at the Vatican, he would totally do it. Maybe you could start a petition or something. Maybe Nicole Kidman will help.
And, on an unrelated note: Even if you let your boyfriend choose your faith, even if you let him choose your agent, even if you let him choose your roles, you should never let him choose your best friend.
Tuesday night, I was in Ann Arbor for Community High’s graduation ceremony. While each and every member of the class of 2005 got the chance to say a few words—I was particularly impressed with the girl who quoted Cicero in Latin—I was not invited to speak. As the proprietress of my very own blog, though, I can talk whenever I want, and I would like to take this opportunity to drop a little wisdom on my young friends and former students.
When I was teaching at Community, I tried to fill my classes with delightful information and thought-provoking images, but that was just to get your attention. (Note to teachers: you should be aware that, if you use the phrase “hot girl on girl action” in front of a room full of teens, said teens will not only remember that moment forever, but they will also repeat those words back to you at every opportunity.) I wasn’t really interested in teaching you facts: I was interested in teaching you to question everything—not with cynicism, but with honest wonder and a respect for complexity. I didn’t just want you to learn: I wanted to give you new tools for learning. I wanted to make you think, because I believe in thinking.
With this recent rite de passage behind you, you are about to embark on a unique time in your life—maybe not the best time, but probably the coolest. You are now bona fide adults, but you have not yet acquired any of the major accoutrements of adulthood. Children, a spouse, a career, a mortgage, a debilitating amount of credit-card debt: You should not be in a rush to obtain any of these—especially that last one. You should be enjoying the rights and privileges of your age while avoiding as many unnecessary responsibilities and entanglements as you can.
You are passing from adolescence into the golden realm of post-adolescence. If the former is a period of physical revolution, the latter is the time for intellectual, emotional, and spiritual transformation. You should give yourself some freedom, some room to move around. Feed your brain and your heart and give them space to grow. Experiment with experience, but try to avoid alcohol poisoning and the really hard drugs. Don’t just practice safe sex: Be kind and smart, too. If you’re on your way to college, take all the classes that interest you, even if they aren’t in your major and don’t fulfill any of your requirements. Be aware that your freshman roommate will probably be a nightmare beyond your worst imagining, but the experience will make for good stories later in life. Those of you who aren’t going away to school should move out of your parents’ house as soon as you can realistically manage: This is much more important than saving up for a new car or some other expensive bullshit. And, again, please do not ruin your peace of mind and your credit rating buying crap you can’t really afford—it’s so not worth it.
I seem to be wandering into the realm of practical advice, which, if memory serves, is the kind of thing people your age are quite tired of hearing. It’s only because I care. But I shall stop now, and leave you with this: Have as much fun as you possibly can, because it’s never going to be easier to do than it is right now.
Paperback Interview: David Sedaris on Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
I had the chance to talk to David Sedaris when Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim was published last year. Our chat was quite brief. He wasn’t rude or an asshole or anythingfar from it. Mostly, he seemed kind of shy and reticent and perhaps slightly bemused that anyone would be interested in interviewing him. Anyhow, our conversation, and my experience reading latest new book, produced this review. About a week after we talked, I got a thank you note from him. (This is only the second time an author has sent me a thank you note for an interviewthe other was Lynne Rossetto Kasper. I’ll say this about those public radio people: they're awfully polite.)
This was not my first encounter with Mr. Sedaris. I met him at a party a couple of years ago. Everybody wanted to talk to him, so my friend Griffin and I lurked in his vicinity until he had a free moment; then we swooped. I had known Sedaris would be at the party, so I had an introductory anecdote (mostly true, if I remember correctly) all prepared. I don’t know if he actually enjoyed my little story or if he was just being nice, but he invited us to sit down. We had a lovely chat. Sedaris asked if we had eaten yet. Griffin and I replied that negotiating the buffet table seemed like a trial. The tweed-clad humorist stood up and said, "Come on. It’s not that hard." What a sweetheart.
An Open Letter to Katie Holmes
I can’t tell you how worried I was when I opened my mailbox to find the latest issue of Us Weekly. There you were, with him, and a big headline, bright yellow and all-caps: GETTING MARRIED!
Now, Katie, I know the past few weeks have been a whirl. I also know that your friends are concerned, and that you haven’t even been checking the messages at your place since you moved in with him. I’m hoping, though, that I can reach you.
Marriage? Katie, what’s the rush? You just met this guy. I myself, am an old cow whose biological clock is ticking so loudly that it keeps the neighbors awake, but even I spent a year getting to know my intended before we got engaged. You’re young and lovely and you’ve got a big movie coming out—that Batman franchise is indestructible. You owe it to yourself to slow down, take your time.
And, Katie, it’s not just the fierce pace of this relationship that has me worried. Can I be brutally honest with you for a minute? This guy you’re dating: He totally gives me the creeps.
I mean, really, think about it: How did you two get together? Did he ask you out on a date? No, he didn’t. He asked you to take a meeting. At his office. Basically, he made you interview for the job of going out with him. That’s either unpleasantly manipulative or sadly insecure. Whatever. It’s not normal.
Then he asks you to drive him across the parking lot to his car. What’s that all about? I mean, was the parking lot, like, acres and acres? I mean, the guy’s an action hero. He can’t walk? And, apparently, he didn’t like it that you keep a messy car, so he sends some assistants over to your place the next day to clean it out. Now, look: If he had shown up himself, with a shopvac and some ArmorAll™, that might have been sort of sweet and thoughtful—a tad OCD, but sweet and thoughtful. He sent assistants, though. That’s just control-freaky—well, control-freaky and still a tad OCD. I mean, what’s his deal? He won’t go out with a girl who has a few Del Taco bags on the floor, some CD cases strewn about the front seat? Has he sent anyone to tidy up your bathroom yet? When you moved into his place, did you find a case of feminine deodorant spray waiting for you?
Ok. Maybe I’m getting a little carried away. It’s just that I care, and, well, this next part is going to be really hard for you to hear. I don’t know if you read Us Weekly, but they ran a little sidebar a couple of weeks ago that suggested that you were maybe not his top choice for girlfriend. A source says that he gave his publicist a list of 20-something actresses to pursue, and that Jessica Alba was number one. He even had Lindsay Lohan on there until he decided she was a little too wild. Your rep totally denied this story, but, she would have to, right? Maybe she told you about it, but I just wanted to make sure you know.
And I’m not even going to say anything about Scientology. I know a lot of cool people—and formerly cool people—are into it, but you know it’s not a real religion, right?
Look, I saw you on Oprah, and I saw you physically recoil and cling to your equally alarmed hostess when he was freaking out. That was instinct talking, Katie, and you should listen to it. Seriously. He’s not the guy for you.