Under The Weather


Sometimes I think how nice it would be to have a little sickness. Nothing serious. Nothing involving vomiting, for instance. Diarrhea I could live without, and any of the numerous snot-based illnesses would not be on my list.

Just a basic fever-malaise-sleepiness kind of sickness, something to send you to bed, away from chaos, armed with Tylenol, liquids and every episode of “I, Claudius,” the best mini-series ever.

It never works out, unfortunately. When that sort of thing happens, I’m usually too busy sleeping and dreaming of giant amorphous globs of matter. And that’s probably too much information; sorry.

We’ve had some warm weather lately; nothing to trigger any alarms other than with the media, but warm. I got up at 6 a.m. yesterday, prodded by my son who was having a milk emergency (i.e., he wanted cereal), and took advantage of the cool morning to take a walk and water the flowers. By early afternoon it was getting toasty on the west side of the house, so I went to the basement to cool off and be productive.

I’ve written about my basement before, and I see no reason why I shouldn’t continue. It’s a day basement, partly underground but still with plenty of light, and obviously designed as a mother-in-law apartment, laid out and plumbed/wired for a living area, bathroom, bedroom and kitchen; about 1200 square feet.

Since we have 1900 sq. ft. or so upstairs, plenty of room for us, and our mothers-in-law tend to like where they live, the basement has always been an afterthought. I had a home office down there for 17 years, and at different points we’d use it as guest quarters, a den or even a master bedroom, but for the past few years it’s been a repository of broken futon frames, old computers and Star Trek paperbacks.

It’s the coolest part of the house, though, and since my wife suggested that I at least carve out a living space, a redoubt where we could retreat from the near-90-degree weather — and since I always do what my wife suggests, except when I don’t — I headed down under for the day.

I think maybe I went overboard. I started moving junk, boxes and broken furniture, and I couldn’t stop. I found out that carpets are surprising durable, and that furniture deemed unworthy for upstairs is actually quite functional downstairs, as long as you turn it right side up. Suddenly (well, not suddenly), we had a very adequate additional living space to beat the heat, complete with a loveseat (newly covered), a still passable if mildew-y sleeper sofa, an entertainment center with one of our approximately 1200 TVs, an only slightly handicapped chair, and a coffee table.

But basements are generally Disneyland for mold spores, as we all know, and perhaps specifically my basement. I admit to being pretty ignorant (i.e., in denial) about mold except to know that it can affect the immune system, but maybe it was mold. Maybe it was just my time.

I just know that around 7 o’clock yesterday evening I started to feel strange, and by 10 I was feverish. Julie said in the middle of the night I swung an arm around and touched her, and she thought she’d suffered second-degree burns. I was hot, and in no mood for Roman intrigue or anything else on TV that didn’t have NyQuil ads.

I seem to be better now, although most of today was interesting, sort of somewhere on a scale between lethargy and delirium. And I have a meeting tonight I really can’t miss, so I’ve been following the old common sense maxim: Feed a cold, negotiate with a fever.

My sickness, whatever it may be, will retreat long enough for me to fulfill my obligations tonight, and in return I will reward it with ice cream when I get home, and nothing even remotely resembling PBS programming, which seems only fair.

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UB-Day May 31

(For more information on what UB-Day is and why you should care, read this post.)


Chris Elliott (5/31/1960)

Chris Elliott has a pretty impressive pedigree.  The son of Bob Elliott (of “Bob and Ray” fame), he became a familiar face in his early 20s after multiple appearances on Late Night with David Letterman, including as “The Guy Under The Seats.”

In 1990, Elliott created and starred in his own sitcom, Get A Life!, about a 30-year-old paperboy who lived at home with his parents (his real-life father, Bob Elliott, played his sitcom dad).  He became a cast member of Saturday Night Live in 1994, and starred in his first movie, Cabin Boy.

In the last two seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond, he played Peter, Robert Barone’s brother-in-law, a role first played by Paul Reubens.

Since 1998, Elliot has appeared on the television show King of Queens multiple times.

Trivia: Favorite song is “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John.

Age Today: 47.

Shares Birthday With: Colin Farrell (31), Brooke Shields (42), Lea Thompson (46), Gregory Harrison (57), Tom Berenger (58), Joe Namath (64), Sharon Gless (64), and Clint Eastwood (77).

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UB-Day May 30

(For more information on what UB-Day is and why you should care, read this post.)


Kevin Eastman (5/30/1962)

Kevin Eastman is an American comic book artist. He is best known as the co-creator, with Peter Laird, of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Eastman is the current owner, editor and publisher of the magazine Heavy Metal.

Eastman is also the founder of the Words and Pictures Museum, a museum dedicated exclusively to comic book art, and of Tundra Comics.

Eastman is married to B-movie actress and model Julie Strain. Strain starred in the animated film Heavy Metal 2000, the direct to video sequel to the 1981 feature film Heavy Metal.

Kevin currently lives at his ranch outside of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Trivia: Eastman has a fairly extensive acting history, as well (who can forget his riveting performance in Lingerie Kickboxer?).

Age Today: 45.

Shares Birthday With: Wynnona Judd (43), Colm Meaney (54), Gale Sayers (64), Michael J. Pollard (68), Keir Dullea (71), and Clint Walker (80).

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Our guests are gone, back in Texas as I write (I assume), leaving the three of us wondering exactly what happened but glad to have been there when it did.

Here’s a brief summary, in case you’re interested.  Read it sitting down.

Beth and Cameron arrived late Tuesday night, reaching our doorstep around 1:30 Wednesday morning.

WEDNESDAY: They leave at 8 to spend the entire day on the Olympic Peninsula with friends, getting back here about 11:30 pm.

THURSDAY:  Beth and Julie go mall ratting, while Cameron and I shop for food.  We come back and cook, me roasting a couple of chickens (my only contribution), Beth making her fabulous Key lime pie, and Cameron creating chicken enchiladas (stunning), guacamole (to die for), and chocolate chip cookies (ditto).  I believe the two of them spent a grand total of seven hours in the kitchen (Julie was teaching and I went out to a meeting during this), and we ate at 9:30pm.

FRIDAY:  Beth and Cameron spend the entire day in Seattle with Julie, going to Pike Place Market and the Seattle Art Museum among other places, getting back around 9pm.

SATURDAY:  They leave early for the Columbia River Gorge, about three hours away, for a Bjork concert (among many other performers).  They start for home around 1:30am and get back after dawn.

SUNDAY:  After sleeping until the early afternoon, we eat and then they go out to visit with some of Beth’s friends, getting back around 10pm or so.

MONDAY:  They get up and head out once again for more visiting, coming back long enough to watch the Spurs beat the Jazz (Cameron is from San Antonio), then leave for more friendliness.

TODAY:  Leave at 4am to catch their flight home.

I assume I was in my 20s once, although now I have no idea how I survived it.

We had a great visit, though, and the weather was perfect (it only rained on Saturday, when they were gone; the rest of the time was sunshine).  And even though Cameron snuck out without leaving me the recipe for his enchiladas, an oversight that will be remedied soon, I did learn how to make his grandmother’s chocolate sauce.

I’d made a couple of batches of ice cream, and realized we didn’t have any chocolate syrup in the house.  Fortunately for all of us, Cameron apparently carries his grandmother’s recipes in his wallet, because he whipped out a 3×5 card with instructions and it turned out great, too.  It sits in a jar in my refrigerator now, along with chicken, lasagna, chalupa and half a pie, which I suppose I’ll just have to eat, in memory of them.  Also, I need my strength.  All that watching wore me out.

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UB-Day May 29

(For more information on what UB-Day is and why you should care, read this post.)


Annette Bening (5/29/1958)

Born in Topeka, Kansas, Annette moved with her family to San Diego in 1965, where she began acting, scoring the lead in The Sound of Music in a junior high production.  After getting a degree in theater arts from San Francisco U., she joined the prestigious American Conservatory Theater and began to get attention for her acting chops with such parts as Lady Macbeth.

While her first major film role was in The Great Outdoors with John Candy, she burst into prominence with her turn in Stephen Frear’s The Grifters, getting an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.  This was followed by Bugsy, during which she and Warren Beatty got all cozy and stuff.  She and Beatty now have four children.

Her most famous role to date, probably, was in American Beauty, although personally I thought she did a fabulous job in Running With Scissors (2006).

Trivia: Was supposed to play Catwoman in Batman Returns (1992), but got pregnant.

Age Today: 49.

Shares Birthday With: Melissa Etheridge (46), Rupert Everett (48), LaToya Jackson (51), John Hinckley, Jr. (52), Al Unser (68), and Fay Vincent (69).

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UB-Day May 28

(For more information on what UB-Day is and why you should care, read this post.)


Brandon Cruz (5/28/1962)

You have to be a certain age to appreciate Brandon Cruz, although I’m not sure what that age might be; mine, certainly, but maybe people who were parents in the 1970s, too.

Brandon was a child actor who played Eddie Corbett on the TV show The Courtship of Eddie’s Father with Bill Bixby (1969-1972).  There was nothing groundbreaking or special about this show, but as I type these words I’m humming the theme song (“People let me tell you ’bout my best friend…”), so.  And that was one cute kid.

In the 1980s, Cruz fronted a hardcore punk band from Oxnard, California called Dr. Know, which released several records. He later joined the Dead Kennedys as lead vocalist. He quit the Dead Kennedys in 2003 and rejoined Dr. Know, which continues to perform, and has a new CD in the works.  After quitting the newly formed Dead Kennedys, Cruz played a show at Tompkins Square Park with several bands including Choking Victim and Millions of Dead Cops.

So maybe not as cute anymore, but hey: We all grow up.

Trivia: Cruz was interviewed in the documentary film American Hardcore: The History of American Punk Rock, 1980-1986.

Age Today: 45.

Shares Birthday With: Elisabeth Hasselbeck (30), Kirk Gibson (50), John Fogerty (62), Gladys Knight (63), Rudy Guiliani (63), Jerry West (69), and Carroll Baker (76).

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The iWar Generation


Born into Ronald Reagan’s America, reaching adolescence with start-ups and soaring markets, traumatized by Columbine, stunned by 9/11, members of the Internet Generation or Cellphone Generation or File Sharing Generation have added another demographic asterisk to their résumés: They have their very own war.

My Sunday commentary in the Seattle Times is here.

(Illustration by Julie Notarianni/The Seattle Times)

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UB-Day May 27

(For more information on what UB-Day is and why you should care, read this post.)


Richard Schiff (5/27/1955)

Oh, please.  Like I’m picking anyone but Toby Zeigler today.

Richard Schiff was born in Maryland and briefly attended The City College of New York before concentrating on a career in the theater, primarily as a director.  After moving into acting in the mid-80s with television roles, he was cast in The Lost World: Jurassic Park by Steven Spielberg, followed by parts in Dr. Doolittle with Eddie Murphy and the asteroid opera Deep Impact (the one without Bruce Willis).

After starring on The West Wing since 1999, Schiff chose to leave the series in its seventh season (2005–2006), and was contracted to appear in half of the season’s episodes. However, with NBC choosing to end the series, Schiff continued to appear until the end of the show’s run in May 2006, though he did not appear in the series finale.

He co-stars in The Martian Child along with John Cusack, Amanda Peet and Joan Cusack later this year.

Trivia: He dropped out of both high school and college (although he eventually received a GED).

Age Today: 52.

Shares Birthday With: Joseph Fiennes (37), Frank Thomas (39), Louis Gossett Jr. (71), Lee Meriwether (72), Harlan Ellison (73), Henry Kissinger (84), Christopher Lee (85), and Herman Wouk (92).

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UB-Day May 26

(For more information on what UB-Day is and why you should care, read this post.)


Lenny Kravitz (5/26/1964)

Leonard Albert Kravitz is an American Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and arranger whose “retro” style incorporates elements of rock, soul, funk, reggae, hard rock, psychedelic, folk, and ballads.

In addition to singing lead and backing vocals, he often plays all the guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and percussion himself when recording. He won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance four years in a row from 1999 to 2002. He was ranked #93 on VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock”.

Trivia: Lenny’s mother was Roxie Roker, cousin to Al Roker and the actress who played Helen Willis on The Jeffersons in the 1970s; the Willises were one of the first interracial couples portrayed on television, and Roxer herself was married to Syd Kraviz, a white man.

Age Today: 43.

Shares Birthday With: Matt Stone (36), Helena Bonham Carter (41), Bobcat Goldthwait (45), Sally Ride (56), Hank Williams Jr. (58), Stevie Nicks (59), Brent Musburger (68), Jack Kevorkian (79), and James Arness (84).

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Eighteen Years

One of the advantages of living in the same house for so long is that there remain perpetual landmarks, even with all the changes. There are still doors where there used to be doors, even if little heads are now closer to the top.

I persuaded Beth to pose this morning in front of the flowerbed in an attempt to recreate a picture; the perspective is slightly different, the camera is newer, and the 4-year-old has been gone a long time. I can still see her, though.

flower bed.jpgLawn Summer 2007 014.jpg

Easter Sunday 1989-May 25, 2007

And while I’m at it, I might add that the roses seem to be thriving today.

Lawn Summer 2007 013.jpg

Funny what will grow.

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