September 13, 2007

Boston, Massachusetts
My Socks are Sticky Now

I'm sitting on the curb outside my hotel at 1 in the morning with no shoes on, cursing Vista once more for its persnickety network code.

Failing to resolve my in-room connection, I'm forced out into the cold to be scrutinized by hookers and derelicts.

Danced in Montreal.

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Rain started pissing down about half an hour before the dancing. Those who made the journey were undeterred, so we went out into it and got well-and-truly soaked.

What is it about dancing in the rain? Fun.

There were a handful of dissidents in the bunch. One challenged me to defend my outsized carbon footprint. Another walked off after reading the terms of the bog-standard release form. Fair enough, I suppose. it a French thing?

I have to admit, being in Canada has thrown me for a loop. I mean, I knew it was up there. But do you realize they've got cities and cars and buildings? They've even got their own currency.

I grew up in Connecticut. You go north and you're in Massachusetts. Past that, Vermont and New Hampshire. On the very fringes of existence, just before dropping off into the abyss eternal, there's Maine.

But's like discovering a society of mole people.

All this time they've been up there!

Flight to Boston. Met up with my friend and former co-worker, Dan.

Dan is a designer on Rock Band, from the good folks who brought us Guitar Hero. They're just about at code lock, so Dan let me come by and blow the afternoon.

Issuing my thoughts on the game would feel silly. The trajectory they're on transcends gameness. They're carving out a new hybrid leisure activity that is, in many ways, above critique. But if I had to come up with a quote to put on the box, I'd call it "The single greatest thing that's ever happened, ever."

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These photographs carefully omit top secret details that are so flippin' cool it hurts my brain to think about.

In case you don't know, this'll give you a better idea of what Rock Band is.

Dan is the only person I know with a cooler job than mine.

He begs to differ.

Because of a small permit predicament, the invites to Boston didn't go out until a couple days prior to the event. That being the case, we still had a great turnout.

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We had enough people on hand this time that we were able to take some pictures of the actual event, rather than just a bunch of headshots.

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The cameraman in that last shot is named Sean. He's a documentarian and he's following me around for a couple weeks of this trip.

It's not a reality show type of thing, so we don't bother with the staged fights and teary confessionals. Sean is a serious filmmaker and he pretty much just shoots whatever is happening.

It'll be nice to have a bit of this strange endeavor recorded for posterity. Still, it's hard to get used to being followed around by a camera. I'm all mic'd up so he can record sound, which means there's fancy electronic gear hidden beneath my clothing. When I dance, it usually comes loose and starts dangling in front of everyone. I find this enormously embarassing. It's basically like getting caught wearing a wire.

I'm finishing this on the train from Boston to New York. I forgot that the route passes right through the town I grew up in. I haven't been to Westport in four years. There really isn't much for me to do or see anymore. It's not even a pit stop on this third grand tour of the planet.

I feel kind of bad about that.

September 10, 2007

Toronto, Canada
The Nature of My Superpower

Local news is a strange business. It seems to run on a manic blend of frivolous nonsense and abject terror, undercut by periodic blasts of actual information. Yesterday, I was the nonsense.

Here's a man who dances badly for a living. Let's make him dance in front of a picture of Stonehenge. Isn't he silly? Also, a blind woman was raped in an alley and an infant was eaten by the neighbor's dog. Could your refrigerator be killing you? But first, here's Tracy with the traffic update.

I have to imagine prolonged exposure to this must lead to total emotional paralysis.

Landed in Chicago around 9pm after hours in a holding pattern and an unscheduled landing in Rockford, Illinois to refuel. Spent all night staring at the ceiling. I was wired for some reason.

Wake-up call at 4:30am to go do the local news thing. Done by 9am. Back to the room. Passed out within minutes.

Up at 4pm, phone interview with the Chicago Tribune, sushi dinner, asleep again by 9pm.

Up at midnight. Boston and D.C. invites need to go out. Asleep again at 4:30am.

Up at 9:30am. Time for the Chicago dance.

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The park put a cap of 70 people on our activites. We signed up 70 well before the cut-off time, so we quietly just kept on going.

We had folks from Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota...the guy in the sunglasses drove 8 hours from Kansas City, Missouri.

The woman in the last photo asked me, "Are you the star?"

"Uh. I suppose. Sort of."

"No, I mean are you from Dancing with the Stars? I came here to see Dancing with the Stars."

"Oh. No. I'm just some guy. And I'm terrible...Would you dance with me anyway?"

"...well, okay. I'm here."

Back to the hotel, off to the airport, flight to Toronto.

Had drinks downtown with some folks who want to do a TV show. More on that some other time.

Got some relatively normal sleep, then off to the Toronto dance.

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Lots of parents with children.

In Vancouver there was none of that -- all college age and up. Go figure.

Dinner with the TV show people. Went off with the editor to go see Shoot 'Em Up. Has a better cast ever made a crappier movie?

The Toronto Film Festival is on right now. Loads of stuff premiering that I want to see. Mr. Clooney is here. The Jolie-Pitt meta-organism. Cate Blanchett. Sean Penn. All the usual washed-up has-beens.

I just saw Jessica Alba across the street from my Travelodge. She was on a red carpet with the dreamboat trio of Aaron Echhart, Timothy Olyphant, and of course, Fisher Stevens.


I had a camera phone handy, but these people do not need more photographs taken of them.

You know how in the Fantastic Four, the tragic hero of the group is always The Thing? All the other three can turn their powers off whenever they feel like it and appear to be non-super, but The Thing is big and orange and rocky all the time and he can never turn it off.

I'm watching this red carpet stuff and I realize; Jessica Alba isn't the Invisible Woman, she's The Thing. She can't turn it off.

I'm about to equate myself with Jessica Alba, so please know that I'm cringing right along with you...

I go to these dancing events, and for the hour or two that they last, I'm known by everyone around me. It's rewarding, it's gratifying, but it's not at all in my nature and the whole thing leaves me kind of rattled.

Today, one woman asked me why I don't stay on peoples' couches in each city. I'd be welcomed by many, went her logic, so why don't I save money and enjoy some local hospitality?

My mind swirled with an elaborate answer. I wanted to give her some sense of the need for boundaries, the strain of being perceived as someone nobler than you really are, and the sense of expectation and obligation that can make you want to crawl out of your skin and go hide under a rock. Not to mention the fact that I can well and truly afford a hotel room, and much prefer the sanctity of a key card door lock.

"Maybe next time," someone offered -- a concise deflection.

"Yeah," I said. "Maybe next time."

There's a sense that a lot of people is a step on the way to happiness. It can be a real goose sometimes, like the other day in Vancouver with the guy in the white suit and mask. And in Israel when Melissa and I were rushed through security and escorted onto the plane. That stuff is fun, absolutely. But at best, it's kind of a novelty. And the damage it can do far outweighs the benefits.

Holding these events and meeting all the people is fantastic. But it takes a very centered person to handle it properly. I have to wrestle with myself to keep perspective.

Alls I'm saying is I have a very nice superpower, but I'm glad it's off most of the time.

I have a tendency to come across in these rants as more tortured than I really am. My keyboard is not tear-stained. I'm just thinking out loud. And I'm thinking too much.

September 06, 2007

Vancouver, Canada
I'm Having a Famous Day

Took this picture today while walking to my hotel.


Then I got this email:


I think I saw you today (Wednesday, September 5th, 2007). I was in Vancouver BC... was it you, or was I mistaken? (I was an extra in a music video for a punk band named GOB. We were all dressed in white, and I saw a fellow who looked like you walking by with a large backpack on his back and a small backpack on his front...).

If I'm totally crazy, please say so... otherwise, I'll feel like I just spotted waldo.

Then I danced at the Inukshuk sculpture in English Bay Park.

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Great turnout. Beautiful day. I'm sleepy.