Thursday, September 22, 2005

I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky...

Dougie Southside is an awful reporter. Really Terrible. But he's just-oh-so-gosh-darn personable - a real sweetheart, even - so we love him all the same. Not to mention, he's got 'tha hookup' all over town. Publicists love him. Case and point: Free entry and Very Important Person Status at last night's ultra-exclusive,
top-hat-n-tails, BOWTIED event, featuring cultural soul poet and "90 Second Pop" gladiator of the cable airwaves Toure, and just plain ol' cultured Tom Wolfe. Intrepid reporters of other people's reporting are we, so over to you, Dougie.

Tom "I Founded New Journalism And Hung Out With The Best And Brightest Literary Minds Of Post-WWII America" Wolfe arrived at The Great Hall at Peter Cooper's Union rather fittingly, in the sidecar of a WWII-era motorcycle whose color was taupe. No helmet, but he did wear a pocket handkerchief. Toure "Catch Me On VH1's Remember the 80s" Toure apparently flew. Because Toure can fly. Once the evening's honored guests arrived, both scanned the crowd before mounting the stage. Tom Wolfe was of course wearing his famous fuschia suit. Toure was of course wearing his famous hair. Three dreadlocked audience members were in silent competition with Toure for coolest hair in the auditorium. All four contestants lost miserably to the woman seated 15th row, center, who wore a smashing Joan Didion.

A pre-arrival poll conducted by myself confirmed that most were here to hear Toure read, get autographs from Toure, see Toure play music, and ask questions of Toure. I distinctly heard someone whisper behind me, "I've seen that black guy before on the cable TV, but who's the prick in the white suit?" But more importantly, who was the prick in the audience with a white suit? Oh, ok, it's seersucker. I guess that's OK. I also heard someone speaking French. I guess they must have VH1 in France too.

First, Toure "The Young Man To Watch In The Literary Arena, Or So Says Tom Wolfe" Toure read from his debut novel Soul City.

Tom Wolfe smiled, red-facedly. Then, remained quizzical.

And then, Tom "Wasn't Really At That Hell's Angel's Party At Kesey's Where Neal Cassady's Wife Got Gangbanged By Hell's Angels -- It Was Actually Hunter Thompson" Wolfe then read from his debut novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons. Then he did an old soft shoe routine.

Tom Wolfe made a point of establishing that Toure is "Ronald Firbank with street cred," which is bizarre, since he said the exact same thing - just different - on the jacket of Toure's book: "Ronald Firbank with street swagger." I don't know what that means.

Tom Wolfe actually said the words, "Yo, you take my testicles and suck them like a popsicle."

Toure seemed nonplussed.

At one point, moderator George Campbell said the following words: "Tom, I believe you have a book called The Painted Word, correct? I have no idea what that is about."

And at another point, very different from the last point, the following statement was made, then followed with a question. Like so: "Mister Wolfe, I have read your book about the bonfire. Would you write another book about New York?"

At one point, perhaps at some time between the last two points, one audience member took the opportunity to unburden himself of the soul-crushing weight of his own pretension, distributing it amongst the crowd, and actually said out loud, "As you are both satirical authors, I was wondering what you consider to be the role of didacticism in your work?"

Missing a few beats here…and...there, Toure asked his questioner to use "didacticism" in a sentence.

A sentence was used.

Here now, an incomplete list of questions asked of the night's guests, and the answers provided (where possible):

-Mister Toure, do you know who Paul Beatty is?
-No. And I don't know who Ishmael Reed is either, so don't ask.

-Another one for Mister Toure! Mister Toure, can you fly?

-Tom Wolfe, how many undergrads did you sleep with while researching your book?
-!!!!!!! [At this point in the evening, Tom Wolfe spoke in punctuation. Because he can.]

-Mister Toure, I have a two-part question. Where did you purchase your shoes? Are they Adidas?
-Yes, and yes.

-Tom Wolfe, Tom Wolfe, over here! What's you next book going to be about? By that I mean on what and where are you conducting you famous research?
-Immigration. And Hedge Funds. Queens. And Wall Street.

-Toure, Toure, over here! What is the next decade you're going to delve not-that-deeply into on VH1? By that I mean what is the next decade you are going to delve not-that-deeply into on VH1?
- The Oughts seem pretty hot right now, knamean?

-Tom Wol--I'm sorry, I mean T-Bone: "Are we more selfish today than we were in 1960?
-[Long-winded, though highly competent answer, in the negative]
-But what I mean, T-Bone, is are we more selfish NOW than we were back THEN?
-Oh, God, no.

-Hey, Toure. I made a rhyme. That was not my question. Toure, is that Mary-Kate Olsen in the 3rd row, stage right?
-No, It's Ashley. Next.

A few things I learned from Tom Wolfe and Toure:

1. Sweden and America are the only countries with co-ed dorms at their colleges.
2. Tom Wolfe neither wants to call his teacher/professor "Tommy," nor watch anyone named "Tommy" teach a class in a wifebeater. He blames much, or what seems like pretty much all of what's gone wrong with post- 1960's American culture on such student-teacher familiarity.
3. Tom Wolfe not only knows what a wifebeater is, but is unafraid to say the word wifebeater in public.
4. Tom Wolfe's nickname is T-Bone.
5. Toure writes writerly notes to himself on Post-Its.
6. When Toure acquires 75-100 Post-Its, it is then time to being work on a new novel.
7. Tom Wolfe wears white-framed reading glasses.
8. The definition of the word "hypnopompic": the transition state of semiconsciousness between sleeping and waking.
9. Toure can fly.
10. Square-jawed women are beautiful. Like Maria Shriver. Or just that Tom Wolfe has the hots for Maria Shriver.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

To the mountain if you must, or the burning...

This from "Valerie" whose blog is titled Steblographer. Reproduced without permission.

This week was probably the most stressful week at work- EVER! You see, due to the strange accents of the witnesses and the rapid banter between them and the lawyers on the case, the judge decided to bring in a second stenographer to court. I actually recognized Helen from the breakroom. Often times she'd be getting up from the little rolltop desk we stenographers like to sit at during lunch, listening to white noise on our walkmen, and we would nod and smile in passing. Nevertheless, as the saying goes, 'With two stenographers, keystrokes are no longer silent.' Boy was that the truth. After court adjourned we'd read our transcripts aloud in unison, voices melding in the air between us, but in the moment of discord...

You see, as much as you want to hold on to the memory of the words that were spoken, as you read on and on you can't help but lose yourself in the world of your words on the page. So when we clashed, there was no "well remember he said it like this" - there was no memory of spoken words.

We both knew that- its the stenographer's reality. For the word's sucessful transcription it must pass through us, leaving mark only on the page.

What that meant in this case, however, was that Helen and I were in an uncomfortable position of grappling with each other, of maneuvering together in a moment to moment give and take where one throws one's weight in a certain direction, then responds in another, shifts again, then finally, if one can, position oneself so that you can kind of force it, so that there's no other way, your thing is getting put where it matters. Like I said, uncomfortable. It happened to both of us, both ways.

Anyway, as if that wasn't stressful enough! But after work I had the strangest run-in in front of my house. I mean, Thursday, we stenographer's were steady logging the jargon, the two councilors were barking, in hopes of a plea bargain. And when you read that verbatim, what they're saying to persuade them, you realize exactly how I played it. Because (as a stenographer) I come with truth, whole truth and nothing but, because the truth hurts just as much as fucking with Live Will.

Live Will, (or Willie-boy as I remember him) is a guy that's always lived on my block. On Thursday (on top of everything else!) he got in my face and started accusing me of all these strange things. From what I could get of it, he calls himself Live Will because live performance, the spoken word, is the truest expression for him. Recording his voice is ok, I think he compared it to being a eunuch in the royal palace of hip-hop, but to be stenographatized, as he put it, was "straight decapitation." He said, "listen, you will NEVER string me up in no liner notes." I said 'ok Will.'

He took the carton of milk out of my grocery bag and drank the whole thing right in front of me, its surplus coursing down his neck in feathery rivulets, then walked away saying "I prove skill with refills from now until plagerizers like you get they flows distilled." Sorry Will, but that's what you said, so I wrote it.