Point/Counterpoint is a beloved feature that first appeared in the fall 1972 edition of the Weeklings. PC/P is the product of an intellectual tradition hearkening back to storied Oxford debate squads and the golden age of radio, in which two authors match wits over random subjects while being forced to choose a side and defend it on the fly. Readers are advised to stand back, as the heat can get intense. This week’s arm wrestle involves international bestselling author, Big Daddy Don Garlits enthusiast, and all around man-about-town, Mr. Garth Stein.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are now on the clock.
Point (Stein): So I’m walking by my teenager’s room and he says, “Hey, come listen to this! I found this awesome song.” And he’s playing “What Is and What Should Never Be.” He says, “Have you ever heard it?” I say, “Dude, I was making out with Kim Brown in the backseat of Jamie Gordon’s white Monte Carlo when I first heard that.” The Monte Carlo was a huge car. Three couples could make out comfortably in that thing. Those were the days, yo. They don’t make days like those any more.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): I remember having an argument with my father about The Houses of the Holy. He said it sounded like “a cat taking an electrified shit.” Also, he wasn’t too pleased there were naked girls on the cover. Then he told me about how he used to tool around in his ’57 Chevy listening to Buddy Holly. I told him Buddy Holly sounded like he had a clothespin on his junk and that my ’77 LeMans could blow his Chevy off the road. In other words, there’s a pretty profound comment about generational differences to be made here if I weren’t too lazy to think it through.
Cloud Atlas–the movie-
Point (Beaudoin): I can’t think of a single thing I would less rather do than sit through Cloud Atlas. I don’t care about the massive budget, I’m not interested in the (purported) emotional sweep, and I have no taste for three hours of superfluous CGI. This feeling arises not only because I loved the book and even at the time thought it was un-filmable, but also because I recently saw the trailer, which for some reason features Tom Hanks wearing a tan 1978 Alan Alda wig. That detail alone was so depressing that I spent the rest of the day humming “Suicide is Painless” while trying to suppress the urge to take a bath in Old Overholt.
Counter-point (Stein): Due to my severe case of Late Onset ADD, I appreciate the film adaptation of Cloud Atlas, and this is why: there’s clearly no way I could focus long enough to read such a long, obtuse novel. In fact, it’s highly unlikely that I would be able to sit through the three-hour movie version of said novel. I appreciate the film adaptation because, by making it, wheels were set in motion for the studio to release a 05:45 “extended” HD movie trailer, which is now everywhere on YouTube, and that…I can almost make it through without checking my e-mail six times. I agree with your distaste for Tom Hanks (his make-up job is almost as bad as Brad Pitt’s in Benjamin Button). And the fact that they would spend so much money on a beautiful film just so they could suck the sexiness out of Halle Berry is really outrageous. But you have to admit, when Mr. Smith from The Matrix sticks his head in the frame like that, it’s pretty dang funny!
Point (Stein): What is it about organs and old Jewish men? My father loved eating that shit. Livers, sweetbreads, hearts, brains, lungs, tripe, gizzards. My father-in-law actually orders stuff like that in restaurants! All offal is horrible. The taste, the texture. And the concept that most of these things are essentially organic sponges that your body uses to cleanse toxins from your system? Oh, yeah, let’s eat a spleen! Great idea! Let’s eat some large intestines–be sure to wash all the shit off it first! And remember that scene in The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie where the mountain man dude kills the buffalo, cuts out its warm, still pulsating heart, squeezes a bladder full of hot urine on it and digs in? He talks all about how the “tanginess” of the urine makes the meal perfect? Yeah. Think of that next time you’re dishing up a steaming hot plate of pancreas.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): I disagree that all offal is awful. There have been a few nights when I was walking around Rosarito at three in the morning after a fine Cuban cigar and thought “now is the perfect time for a plate of tripe tacos.” And I was right. But late night Mexican taco vendors have a much different–and vastly more pragmatic–relationship with meat than we callow Americans. So it’s unlikely I’d find tripe-trolling nearly as picaresque on any given Saturday evening in Tacoma. Which brings us to that oily little rascal, the sweetbread. Theoretically, eating the deep fried thymus of a calf should be a peculiar and transformative experience. But to me they taste exactly like death. How do I know what death tastes like? Many years ago I reluctantly had dinner with a co-worker who ordered sweetbreads and then began tossing them in the air before catching them in his mouth. The decadent grin that spread across his face–while his teeth turned purple with cheap Rioja and glandular tissue–was a pretty convincing approximation of demise.
Point (Beaudoin): Even as a child, this was always my least favorite holiday. During my twenties I took double and even triple shifts just so the day would be over faster. In college everyone would fly home to be with their families while I was left on campus with the handful of foreign exchange students who, like me, either couldn’t afford to leave or didn’t give a shit. One year, with the entire dorm kitchen all to myself, I attempted to make a yam. And failed. Which, no doubt, is an extremely sad and poignant story. But it has a happy ending, because then I drove to a 7/11 off the highway that had an Elvira pinball machine and spent about twenty dollars in quarters trying to make it squeal.
Counter-point (Stein): Okay, let’s play a quick game of The $20,000 Pyramid. I’ll start: “Valentine’s Day.” “New Year’s Eve.” “Halloween.” Jump in when you know the answer. “Easter.” “Yom Kippur.” “President’s Day.” Go on, you can say it. “Holidays that suck more than Thanksgiving.” Ding! You got it! Look, Sean, I had to go through that whole, I’m-the-only-one-who-can’t-get-home-for-Thanksgiving-in-college-so-I-have-to-go-to-someone’s-lame-house-in-Westchester, too. You know? So cry me a river. And anyway, those were some of the best times, because when I got back to campus on Friday, I had the place all to myself! Not a single person on the Upper West Side! No lines at the sandwich counter at Mama Joy’s! And besides, when I was little and my grandmother was alive and we’d all get together at my aunt’s house–and when I say “all,” I mean all sixty or seventy aunts, uncles, and cousins–and there were like six turkeys and two tons of stuffing, we had some really good times. There was the time Luanna, my cousin, cooked her turkey in the microwave and it didn’t get brown, it was just this pale, white cooked bird, and everybody made fun of her for years after that. And the other time my uncle Hall punched my uncle Steele, and my uncle Val had to break it up and they both started punching him, and think of all the other times. Just think of them! How can you not love Thanksgiving? It means family. It means humiliation. It means fisticuffs. But most of all, Sean, it means no line at the deli counter at Mama Joy’s.
Books (novels) about serial killers-
Point (Stein): Did you see the story in the paper about the cop in NY who was arrested for a whole plot to kidnap women, tie them up in some bizarre way, stuff them in an oven, roast them alive, and then eat them? On an online profile, he said his favorite book was “Green Eggs and Ham.” They have tapes of him talking about his plan to “cook [his alleged victim] over a low heat, keep her alive as long as possible.” Think about that for a minute. Let that settle in. Okay. Got a picture of that in your mind? A woman–maybe your wife or daughter or friend–being roasted alive by some SICK FUCKING COP who has photos of his wife and kid up on his Facebook page. This is a REAL PERSON people! THIS IS NOT A DRILL! So why the fuck would we pollute our fragile social ecosystem with MADE UP stories about these fucking psychopaths when they’re out there thinking up worse shit on their own? Vote NO on novels about serial killers. (They don’t need your puny-ass, whiny, literature-writing help.)
Counter-point (Beaudoin): For some reason in the early nineties “serial killer kitch” sort of fused with the tats and PBR crowd. Books like Apocalypse Culture and various fanzines stoked the flames. It all sort of culminated in possibly the worst snuff-porn movie ever made, Natural Born Killers. At that time, I used to run into this guy on the scene who was really into John Wayne Gacy. The guy was pale and stubbled, always wearing a rank leather trench coat, ubiquitous Skinny Puppy T-shirt, and tinted oval glasses. Every time I turned around at some club or opening he was telling me about a new show of Gacy’s paintings, or how he wrote letters that Gacy would sometimes respond to from death row, or that he was “working on a novel” about “John.” I started hanging out in another part of town just to get away from him, since I was half convinced he was going to roofie me one night and I’d wake up wearing a red gag ball in the back of his soundproofed Econoline.
Being perpetually damp-
Point (Beaudoin): Despite Seattle’s many obvious merits, I am not used to the lifer’s accepted state of fleecy moistness. I prefer to be succulent or dewy. “Moist” is an unpleasant adjective that novels with poorly rendered sex scenes rely on to an unhealthy degree. In any case, I prefer northern New England’s frosty winter of V-necks and powdery scents. Any longitude or weather pattern that leads to a season-long chafe should be legislated away by God.
Counter-point (Stein): What can I say? I like moss. I like to mow my moss. I like to use my weed-whacker and trim my moss just right. If I see actual grass growing in my back yard, I tear it up by the roots and throw it in the compost bin, which perpetually smells of moss. I even wrote a poem for you to prove my devotion. I call it: ”Moss.”
I like moss on my roof. I like moss on my trees.
I like moss on my elbows. I like moss on my knees.
I like moss when it’s rainy. I like moss when it’s gray.
When there’s moss on my eyelids, it’s a very good day.
So please take your sunshine, please take your heat,
Keep them away from my mossy green feet.
I sleep in the dampness, I sleep in the wet,
One day I’ll become moss.
It’s a pretty good bet.
A museum dedicated entirely to blown glass, a suspect glass artist being blown by corporate curation-
Point (Stein): The fact that Seattle has become a shrine to Dale Chihuly as catered by Tom Douglas and developed by Paul Allen is just pathetic. It’s sad and pathetic and lonely. Which sort of sums up the entire city, I guess. At least after the clocks change and we are plunged into six months of perpetual darkness. I mean, colored curlicues of glass spiraling out of an orb? Really? We need to devote a whole fucking museum to this? You know, when I was a kid my parents wanted to go out or something. You know, have a life for a minute. So they dumped me with my aunt and uncle for the weekend and they took off. And my uncle took me to the Seattle Center. This was a long time ago. I mean, like 1975 or something. They had The Zipper and The Egg-beater and the Wild Mouse. I think that’s what it was called. Remember the Wild Mouse? It was a roller coaster and one day it went crazy and one of the cars flew off the track and someone got killed. And remember when there was the fire in the Haunted House? (I offer my sincere condolences to the families of those who were killed or injured in those accidents.) But my uncle took me to the Center and he really got into it. It was serious Feel Like a Kid Again Fun. He and I played air hockey forever in the Arcade, and we went on tons of rides and ate gobs of junk food. And they had these invisible dog leash things and I really wanted one so my uncle paid like $20 for darts to break the balloons to get me one. And it was a seminal childhood experience for me. I love my dead uncle. I love him because he was big and acted like a kid and threw darts for me and never said no to going on another ride. I promise you, THERE IS NOT A SINGLE CHILD GROWING UP IN SEATTLE TODAY who will EVER say that the fucking Dale Chihuly Shrine to Multi-Colored Curlicues of Glass was a formative part of his or her childhood. Not one. It just won’t happen.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): I like pretty glass. It’s fun to type “blown” into just about any sentence. Shiny things that have lots of colors make me happy. “Chihuly” is very onomatopoeic. It’s fun to say softly at first, and then with increasing volume. Eye patches are having a well-deserved cultural renaissance. The jumpsuit is a terrific garment. The idea of having one long zipper down your front is both frightening and sexy. Museums are often quiet, and snack bars have good food. A small museum that you can walk through in twenty-five minutes, without a whole lot of distracting variety, is my kind of spot.
Living in a city without a professional basketball team-
Point (Beaudoin): Ridiculous. It’s one thing to let your team just up and walk away. Hell, it happened in Kansas City. It happened in Minneapolis and San Diego. But how is it even possible for any self-respecting city to allow their team to go to Oklahoma? That’s like bailing on the Princeton application and just letting your daughter go to med school in Lagos instead. During my many years in San Francisco, two things always came to mind when someone said “Seattle.” The first was Detlef. And the second was Schrempf. Seattle is now thoroughly Schrempfless. It’s a modern-day tragedy. Or maybe even a crime.
Counter-point (Stein): San Francisco. Good example of a hard-core b-ball town. How are those Golden State Warriors doing for you? Hey, 1972 called. They want Rick Barry’s underhand free throw back. Sean, I’m with you on the OKC thing. I’m with you on the wimpishness of a city that would let themselves get stripped of a team like that. But, come on, it’s time to face the reality here. Seattle is not a sports town. Oh, don’t go getting all screamy at me. I was a bigger Sonics fan than any of you back in the day. Not the Schrempfest. I mean, back in the real day. 1979. Gus Williams. JJ. DJ. Lonnie Shelton. Jack Sikma. Downtown Freddy Brown. And of course, the master himself, Lenny Wilkins, bringing Seattle it’s only major national sports championship (I mean other than the WNBA Storm, but is that really a major championship?) and that time the Huskies got to “share” the NCAA football title because we were too wimpy to man-up and take it all for ourselves. Wait, did I just say “only national sports championship?” I did! See? This is not a sports town! Look, I lived in NYC for a long time. If as many Red Sox fans showed up at Yankee Stadium as show up at Safeco Field for a Mariner game, there’d be an all-out riot. Shit would be set on fire! Cars would be overturned in the streets! They’d have to call in the National Guard! And don’t even think about showing up at Giant’s Stadium in your ridiculous green Eagles jersey. But in Seattle? Oh, yes, please Mr. Boston Red Sox Fan, take my favorite seats, let me hold your beer for you, please let me know when you’re finished wiping your feet on this ridiculous, passive, Welcome-to-Seattle-doormat face of mine! I mean, be real. People in this city just don’t care. Give it up. Let all the teams go. Pack up the moving vans. Until Seattle fans can grow a pair and stand up to those stupid Boston imports, they get what they deserve. (And by the way, on a personal note? If you’re going to move all the way across the country to live in a new city, have some respect and ROOT FOR THE HOME TEAM. Fuckers.)
Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the end of this week’s Point/Counter-point. Thank you once again for participating. The votes are being tallied and will be released to the public after they’ve been verified J.D. Powers and Associates, as well as the Washington State Attorney General.
Garth Stein is the author of three novels, including the international bestseller The Art of Racing in the Rain. He is the co-founder of Seattle7Writers, a non-profit collective of Northwest authors whose mission is to build connections between readers, writers, booksellers, and librarians. He’s a Seattle Sonics fan who was very much hurt by the team’s relocation to Oklahoma City. www.garthstein.com