Full Tilt Boogie

I should be sleeping right now (2:47am) but (of course) I’m not. The idea for this blog filled my head while I was lying there a moment ago, so after only the briefest pitch from my inner sleeper (who in the urban rush of my head has all the influence of a street corner preacher), I got up, made a cup of coffee, and am ready to go.

I want to recount the week just passed. I think it offers a depiction of how brilliantly random and amusing life can be. I didn’t plan this week to happen this way, it pretty much came together of its own accord. Had I realized I was setting up a mother of a week of events, I’d likely have said no to something. In any case, check out a week lived at full tilt boogie.


The big event of Monday was to attend a dinner for Duke alumni donors as hosted by Duke’s outgoing President, Richard Brodhead. Ho hum, you say? Or Ick!, even? Sure, since these kinds of things can devolve pretty quickly into grotesque displays of mutual congratulations. But that’s not the point. The point is I was going to meet Richard Brodhead, which wasn’t significant so much because of his role but more—much more—because of what happened early on when he came into that role, being the scandal that rocked the Duke lacrosse program—my program—back in 2006.

Funny to be writing about that right now, having to do with an institution of passionate importance to me disappointing the absolute fuck out of me (you feeling me, America?). And much of that disappointment can be distilled in the form of Dick Brodhead. I mean, so sorry your leadership moment of truth occurred so soon into your tenure, when you hadn’t nearly established your footing in the role or the sort of relationships within the Duke ecosystem that would have served you better, all things considered. But that, sometimes, is the pay-you-the-big-bucks reality of leadership, isn’t it? Dubya had 9/11, you had the Duke lacrosse scandal (which is painfully ironic, since you and the Dubs both attended Yale at the same time, were in the same secret society while there, and were both confronted by monumental incidents shortly into your Presidential roles)(and those who would find fault with my suggesting any sort of equivalence between these incidents can please go eat a goat). And you both, as far as I’m concerned, handled these moments equally deplorably, and in ways that damaged both lives and institutions.

I’ve spent a decade rebuilding my connection to Duke, and to those ends have unreservedly passed on multiple opportunities to meet Brodhead. Finally this week I said yes, and there I was Monday night, chatting with him and his very lovely wife Cindy (including even about lacrosse—his father apparently played the sport—but not about lacrosse and 2006, rest assured). This being a subject worthy of its on blog, I’ll simply summarize for now that the exchange served mostly to inform me that Dick Brodhead is his own version of Enron—the self-imagined smartest guy in the room (which may be true, as he is one smart mo’fo’).

Thus the week begins.


Tuesday night (all of the big events of this week happened at night, on school nights, no less, thus the epically demanding nature of this week) I went and saw Erykah Badu in concert with my buddy, Lance. This was my first time seeing Badu in concert, though I’ve intended to for years now. And holy cow, is that woman a performer! So much so, I was reminded while watching her of what it was like to be there for a Prince concert. Prince was masterful in concert, leaving nothing to chance, you could just tell, no matter how spontaneous what he did in the moment seemed. And what he did, everything he did, was brilliant. Badu is exactly like that, working with a style of jazz/r&b/hip hop that is all her own, and doing it with ferocious style, grace, and mystique. She had us eating from her hand. So that was great, her actual performance.

But holy shit, what we did to earn seeing that performance! Eryka Badu must be the quintessence of diva-hood. The show was listed for 7:30, which was when we got there. No opening act it turns out, just a dj playing indistinct hip hop music (to this ear, at least). 8 o’clock rolls around, nothing happens onstage. Shit, I think, this won’t start then until 8:30. Our tickets are on the floor of The Warfield, so that means we’ll be standing the entire night. 8:30 comes, 8:30 goes, nothing happens. My mind is now reeling. 9 o’clock comes…oh god, please, please!…9 o’clock goes! NOTHING! Lance and I are now sort of laughing, and sort of pissed. An hour and a half of just standing there, as the room filled with youngsters—youngsters and smoke, that is.

FINALLY, at about 9:25, her band comes onstage—hooray!—and strikes up the music, laying down a funk line to get things moving. Sounds cool, can’t wait for Badu to emerge, where is she, where is she? I’ll tell you where is she: still 20 minutes from showing her bloody mug, that’s bloody where! Even her damn band seemed confused, eventually noodling around in their song because the basic line was starting to sound silly, all to fill time until her highness finally deigned to grace us, etc etc. It was 9:45 when she came on stage! We’d been standing there waiting for over two hours! It’s a fucking weeknight, Badu! WHAT…IS UP…WITH THAT?!


Wednesday was less demanding than the emotionality of Monday and the endurance test of Tuesday. Ann and I went and saw the New York Times bestselling author Peggy Orenstein speak at Sacred Heart School. Orenstein is a social researcher who focuses on girls development. Her most recent book, Girls & Sex, is based on her having interviewed over 700 young ladies on the subject of sex, and the conclusions she drew from these. It was heady stuff, addressing such questions as, is it really feminism if you claim for your own the sexual acts you participate in if these acts still give boys exactly what they want? It was quite something to be sitting in the assembly hall of a Catholic school and hearing so many “fucks” and “blowjobs” bandied about.


Finally, Thursday night, we heard as many “fucks” said (but certainly not any “bj’s”), when we went and saw one of our favorite tv personalities, Anthony Bourdain, here in San Jose on his speaking tour for his new book, Appetites: A Cookbook (bravo on the Steadman cover, dude). It ended up being a pretty good stand up comedy routine, really, one based all on food, of course. Since we’d gotten VIP tickets, we did a meet & greet with him after (which of course amounts to standing in a queue until it’s your turn to approach him, exchange a line or two, and get your photo taken with him).   I asked him about hanging out with Jim Harrison, as he did in an episode based in Montana last season, and to which he spoke glowingly of the man.


That’s a pretty cool run, isn’t it? From meeting my own personal Darth Vader on one end to meeting the swashbuckling, Han Solo-esque Bourdain on the other, with stops along the way to visit the temple of Baduizm and the dark carnival of adolescent sexuality. Tonight, Ann being off for a girls night, I put the Warriors game on at 5pm and damn near made it to the end (7:30?) before conking out.

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