Thu, Apr 23
ALICE OSWALT vs. JASON STATHAM@ 1:00 PM
My baby came 5 days earlier than expected. Today she’s one week old.
I had mixed feelings about even announcing this – privacy issues and all. Some people have already Twitter’d or Blabbl’d or AssSqueak’d about it, and a few comedy websites have picked it up as if it’s some dark rumor. So let’s make it official – on Wednesday, April 15th, my way-more-brilliant-and-resilient-than-me wife gave birth to our first child – Alice Rigney Oswalt.
I didn’t want to announce this on my website, or on my Facebook which, truth be told, I shut down ‘cuz of all the psycho messages I was getting. I mean, I appreciate knowing that you were awake at 3am and heard a katydid chirping my name and that’s why you’re warning me that a hobo-harlequin’s going to kill me with a tire iron on Christmas, but…I mean, didn’t you get tired just reading that?
But MySpace has become a neglected strip mall, which is slowly going out of business because someone built a shiny new mega-mall just down the street. Every now and then you stop by because abandoned, derelict buildings have a weird beauty to them. Have you been over to Friendster lately? The rats are so tame they’ll let you pet ‘em. So think of this as me taping up a discreet flyer in the window of the sketchy Chinese restaurant next to the dollar movie theater where they’re still showing THE WILD WILD WEST. I want to announce this, but people are going to have to pack a sandwich and drive somewhere to find it.
But yeah, babies. There’s a whole cluster of us, my friends and I, having babies, all within weeks of each other. A friend of ours pointed out that we all conceived in late July or early August – during or after the San Diego Comic-Con. She said, “You guys saw some chick dressed as Wonder Woman, got all hot and bothered, and then went and made a baby with your wives.”
Which is naïve and of gross. None of us were slinging +5 Conception Wands after seeing a chunky fan-girl stomping around in tights and a bustier.
No, what gave us our Life-Spawning Hanzo Steel Trouser Swords was the early TERMINATOR footage.
I’m sorry if this is getting sentimental and precious. I’m one week fresh from bringing another life into the world, and I’m fragile.
And I’m raw because of the sudden, early arrival. Nothing went wrong medically. The delivery could not have been smoother, or more matter-of-fact. But watching my daughter get lifted into the light and hearing her first cry didn’t have a tenth of the emotional impact as the clanging un-reality of entering the delivery room.
Do they design delivery rooms the way they do on purpose? Because there’s something pointedly mystical about the whole thing – a passing-through-a-shimmering-gate kind of Arthur Machen groove they’ve got going on at the hospital. One minute I’m sitting in the hallway while they prep my wife – in my light blue scrubs, booties and mask – and the next I’m being hustled into an over-lit, creamy-white room full of masked people, all of them subtly gliding and waltzing around silvery, flickering machines that hug the walls like the ghosts of giant spiders. I hold my wife’s hand and we make jokes but all I’m thinking is, “When you leave this room, everything is different.” It’s a case study version of the Afterlife, one you can’t stay in – but neither can the tiny person who appears there. You’re supposed to carry them out of a sterile, safe room where you’re both surrounded by professionals and experts and R*E*A*S*S*U*R*A*N*C*E and back out into a world you’ve been knocking around in for forty years. You’ve seen a lot of beauty and grace out there in the world but holy FUCK are there a lot of casual, cruel, and clumsy cretins…most of them in charge of all the dangerous machinery.
What was also bittersweet about the whole thing was how her arrival so beautifully tore the delicate tissue my day-to-day existence is made of. I didn’t realize, until the 2am feedings and sudden squalls of crying and pooping how, how over-structured I’d made my existence.
And before I use the term “nerd” here, can we all quietly retire that term? “Nerd” has become too narrow in 2009. The first thing you think is, “Nerd – yeah, it’s someone who likes comic books and science fiction.” And I do.
But that term now has to be stretched to include extreme cinema, bizarre archival footage, music, travel, food, excellent TV shows like THE WIRE and BREAKING BAD and, let’s face it, most sports. I put regular experimentation with exotic drugs under that umbrella. And “nerd” just doesn’t cut it.
How about – “enthusiast”? That covers my interests, which are too wide-ranging and rambling to satisfy my distant, bewildered relatives who thought they had Christmas shopping all sewed up for me when they heard “comic book”, and grab the nearest thing with Spider-man printed on it. Then again, I never need to worry about running out of coffee mugs.
Where was I? Oh yeah, my enthusiasms.
So, between the internet and my circle of ear-to-the-ground enthusiast friends, I’ve got weeks and months and, sometimes, years mapped out in advance of what I’m going to see, and hear, and read, and what I’m rubbing my hands together in anticipation of. And I’ve reached a point in my career where I’m given a lot of early screeners and galley proofs and screenplays, so I’m forever three or four months ahead of the curve. But then there are special occasions. I want to experience these fresh out of the bakery ovens, and not at the point where the yeast meets the eggs. I want to sit, side-by-side with the masses, and bang my head against the seat in front of me, and re-visit my teenage self, and all of the things he loved.
Which brings me to CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE.
I’m sure you’ve read my earlier blog entry, GAY-THAM FOR STATHAM. It’s been added to a lot of standardized American textbooks, and President Obama is having it added to the Preamble.
So for months and weeks I was anticipating the release, last Friday, of CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE.
And let’s take a moment here. CRANK, let’s face it, was the cinematic equivalent of meth, terror, oral sex and shameful joy, delivered at the end of a taser. And I saw the fucker on TV.
And nowthe writer/directors – Neveldine and Taylor, who are probably, as I write, this, having a shirtless pit-fight with a hippo full of PCP – were laying down a goddamn SEQUEL to their masterpiece. “Yeah, remember that opium you took that enabled you to speak to the dead for five minutes? Well, we’ve got this new stuff that’ll let you punch one dead person for ten minutes.” That’s what the mere CONCEPT of a sequel to CRANK felt like.
So me and my circle of friends (let’s call us the LONErs – League of Nerdy Enthusiasms, for people who can quite give up the “N” word) were all planning on hitting the Thursday midnight screenings. Because any dickpimple can type “First!” into a comment thread. But to LIVE he concept of “First” – that’s where the last drops of Viking blood ended up in the bloodstream.
But little Alice had different plans for me, and once I saw her, in the way station of the delivery room, I didn’t want to know anything else. At least, not for awhile.
We stayed in the hospital until Saturday. I won’t go into the minute-by-minute details of the stay, except to say that, at midnight on Thursday, I was following the Twitter feeds of Aziz Ansari, Paul Scheer, Eric Appell, Steve Agee and Scott Aukerman while they watched the midnight screening of CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE and I lay on an army cot in my wife’s hospital room. Alice was sleeping in her crib and having the cloud-flavored dreams that babies have while I read my friends’ text-bursts about exit wounds, groin trauma and Corey Haim.
“It’s a whole new deal,” said Dave Grohl, who had the room next to ours. His daughter came on Friday, and on Saturday afternoon we lugged our wives’ luggage down to our respective cars. I didn’t say much – it was Dave’s second baby, and I figured I needed to absorb whatever advice he was giving. Except that it was being transmitted from a sleep-deprived rocker to a sleep-deprived comedian, so that’s all I really took away – “It’s a whole new deal.” He might have said more but I was hearing less, so that’s what I got.
And it is a whole…new…deal. I’m going to be honest and say I haven’t decided, one way or another, whether it’s good or bad. I know I’d rather sit with Alice and her mom, watching AMERICAN IDOL while we keep reminding ourselves that it’s night, and that AMERICAN IDOL may as well be our GOOD MORNING AMERICA, the way our schedule is now. And I spend my days like one of the bush pilots in ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, sitting and sipping coffee, and waiting for my wife or the night nurse to send me out on an errand. I’ve learned to love podcasts, which make driving around feel less like an intellect sinkhole than listening to the radio.
And I’m warning you, LONErs out there on the brink of parenthood – staring at your baby will become your new X-Box, your new Alex Ross art, your new Tarantino film. You’ll stare and stare with the kind of fascination you haven’t felt since you first saw STAR WARS (or THE MATRIX – fuck, I keep forgetting I’m forty). My gallery of otherwordly avatars – the masked killers and vigilantes and film noir sirens and Lovecraftian hosts – are still around, but they’re faded and have to wait their turn. We’ll see if I turn into a pedantic, boring asshole, an ex-LONEr who renounces his past and tries to protect their kid from everything they used to spice their existence.
Tuesday morning I went to the first screening of CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE at The Arclight. I went with a friend of mine, Gerry Duggan, who had HIS kid, his son, on Monday the 13th, two days before Alice.
Our wives insisted we at least get out and see this movie they knew we were dying to see. Those are the kind of super-cool chicks we married.
And there we were, in the Arclight, with what looked like five other random people. CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE didn’t do well, which I think President Obama needs to address in his next State of the Union.
But Gerry and I sat there, happily assaulted by the seizure-inducing editing, lung-bursting pace and all-around psycho-kill-titty-scrotum-ness of CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE. Neither of us had showered. We’d gotten three hours of sleep between us in as many days. We were dehydrated and shaking from coffee and junk food.
And, we lived the reality of CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE better than any of our friends who’d seen it the previous Thursday. It was if someone created the greatest 3-D technology ever – Jason Statham was onscreen being sweaty, exhausted, jittery, confused and smelly, and that’s EXACLTY HOW WE WERE SITTING IN THE THEATER.
Thank you, Baby Alice. You made the first movie I saw after your birth the most immersive cinematic experience I’ve ever had. I owe you my understanding when, at 22, you write your first screenplay – CRANK 9: PREGNANT AS FUCK.
And unless you see CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE after four days of screaming, poo-filled diapers and sleep deprivation, to the point where your body is emitting a swamp-ass odor that could pierce the engine block of a pickup truck, then I don’t want to know you. CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE demands that kind of dedication.
In short, it’s the perfect movie for new fathers. Because you’re going to live a version of that movie every day for the rest of your life.
Oops, Alice is crying. Gotta get inside with the baa-baa.
By the way, this is what I see in my head when I hear Alice’s banshee wail:
I can't wait! Juice me!