Thursday, June 14, 2007


This is my weigh-in on the last scene of THE SOPRANOS. If you have not seen it, scroll down immediately! Or close your browser and go play Catch! Or go watch the earliest episode of this wonderful show that you have not seen, be it the pilot or Episode 51. For those who have seen it:


I loved the ending. It gave me chills and haunts me. The beauty of the ending is that you can read it either way and both viewpoints are equally valid.

Life Goes On:

It was just a family dinner, not unlike the first season finale. What happened at the end was we came so close to sharing Tony's headspace that we viewed every ringing of that bell with paranoia and suspicion. He didn't die, the cameras just turned off, with plenty of fodder for a Season 7 that won't be: the Feds bringing him up on those gun charges, Meadow and Patsy Jr possibly coming after him over the course of that, the ever-shifty Paulie and Patsy scheming against him. The idea of everything not coming to a bloody head and massacre just because the series was ending is a brave and bold choice and sure to alienate everyone who just wanted the big Scarface ending all this time. Chase spent most of this season showing us that, yes, Tony is a scumbag who deserves to die. And then he spared him.

Also equally possible:

The Last Shot

We were obviously being manipulated with all that masterful editing and pacing at the end to suspect sudden violence at any instant from any direction. The guy going to the bathroom is a direct nod to One (I love how they never say the name The Godfather, just One or Two)(but never Three, of course). When Tony and Bobby were in the boat back in 6.13 eight weeks ago, they were talking about what happens when you die and Tony said something about how he doesn't believe you ever see it coming, everything just goes black. In that flashback at the end of the penultimate episode, cuddling up to the M-16, Tony remembered talking with Bobby about how you never hear that last shot. I personally believe that he was executed in that last instant, we were so deep in Tony's head at that point that all we experienced was total blackness and silence.

What I love is that both viewpoints are possible and we got just enough so that they're not contradictory. It would have been garbage if he had done the slow-motion stumbling Sonny Corleone bullet-riddled death with opera music swelling in the background, or if he'd ratted out or even the best thing I could think of, going back to the ducks and the backyard and depression, none of that would have worked.

This was perfect, the only way it could have ended.



Went for a swim in the morning, during which everything finally fell into place for this screenplay that’s been tumbling through my head for the past couple of years. It will be the sickest Dwarf Heist movie ever conceived of! Checked out of the hotel, then spent the next two hours in the lobby writing it out scene by scene and then finishing Gaiman’s Smoke & Mirrors, which was brilliant and I recommend to all creatures great and small.

Off to Dallas for a wedding.



Catherine’s conference started. Slept late. Read Gaiman. Did pushups, worked on ideas. Fun to go hard, also fun to stop. Dinner at Kobe, good but different. They traded hot mustard for chipotle cream sauce – not the call. Stayed up late perfecting the seven-chapter outline of that sci-fi story inspired by the ISS.



So I was delirious when I woke up this morning when it was time for Catherine to drive us 45 minutes to the Kennedy Space Center. Which is pretty much why we have Florida, to me, that and the oranges. I resumed my navigational duties in the shotgun seat of the PT Cruiser but was rocking a blindfold-type mask and giving her directions not unlike Matt Murdock or a Jedi, I couldn’t decide. But I was always right. Then I passed out. Woke up in the parking lot of K-damn-SC, the place where most of the Apollo missions were launched, and Shepherd and Glenn, I think. I could feel the residual ignitions accumulated and resonant in the place, didn’t even think about being tired until hours and hundreds of facts later.

We paid for the most serious tour, the one that gets you closest to the launch pad. It didn’t leave until 12:50 and an IMAX flick started at 11, solid entertainment, narrated by Tom Hanks, 40 minutes of 3D images of moonwalking. Actual moonwalking, I wish it could go without saying. I kept wanting it to turn into fiction, though, a great tentacled thing of a color we’d never seen before to leap out from behind a dune and come for one of the astronauts who’d ventured too far from the LZ. Bill Paxton and Morgan Freeman and a bunch of Apollo astronauts pitched in on narration. Then we went and did a ride based on the sim the astronauts use to test. It was all right. We were definitely pushing more G’s during liftoff but it was surprisingly not as much fun as the one at Epcot. Caught a quick bite at the Orbit Food Court and it was time for our bus tour, which was an hour and a half and took us as close as it was possible to get without security clearance to Launch Pad A, which had the orbiter Atlantis sitting on it already connected to the booster rockets and external fuel tank. They keep the liquid nitrogen in that tank at 498 degrees below and the liquid hydrogen at 234 below. It’s launching Friday, shame to be here so close and miss it. The tour dropped us off at the Apollo/Saturn V center where they had an actual Saturn V rocket, the length of two Statues of Liberty, suspended from the ceiling. It was incredible, just the size of the engines. Then we got to see actual modules of the International Space Station (ISS) that were being inspected before going up, which was quite cool. By now, we were pretty much past fried but had only a little bit more to go. We watched the other IMAX movie, a 45 min piece all about the ISS which might have been the most fascinating thing of the day, just a documentary on how all the nations, particularly us and the Russians, were coming together to, over the course of thirty-odd missions, assemble this modular permanent orbiting facility for research that will accomplish things in zero gravity that can’t be done here; what they’ve already learned from crystal structure growth has implications for cancer research, apparently. Wild stuff. During this one shot of the station orbiting, this almost fully formed idea for a book roared up out of the blue and smacked my mind.

The place closed at six and we still had ten minutes left for the Rocket Garden, one of the coolest phrases I’ve ever encountered (granted I’d pretty much say the same thing about any “rocket _________”). Six classic models pointed straight up and one on its side. It was amazing to walk between them, reading about what they’d done.

Cocoa Beach was twenty minutes away. We changed into swimsuits and played in the warm tide of the Atlantic as it came in and washed back out. I bobbed there in it for a few minutes and decided I should write a book about surfing, mix the traditional Zen up with fractals maybe, then remembered that new David Milch series is starting next Sunday and got excited all over again.

On the way back to the car, I saw the phrase MR DUMPSTER WANTS YOUR TRASH stenciled on a wall next to no sort of trash receptacle at all. It seemed ominous, like the germ of a children’s story.

We drove back into Orlando and didn’t eat until 10:30, but it was a hell of a meal when we did. Then I stayed up until 3, writing all of this.



But then I had the strangest dreams. Kept waking up in medias res, not like me at all. Maybe it was because I was reading Neil Gaiman’s SMOKE & MIRRORS, maybe it was watching Damon rag on the Yankees and the host himself on Letterman, but for whatever reason:

1) I finally work up the courage to call Warren Ellis (whose # I DO have on my cell phone) to ask him for Grant Morrison’s # and Warren teases me a bit and says he calls him all the time and I sound like a nice enough fellow but a bit of a wanker all the same and then of course just hangs up on me

2) There is a massive comic-book convention and I am giving an after-party for it at my parent’s old house on 55th Street, the oldest house I remember growing up in. I come home early from the convention, the content of which is not a part of this dream, just to get it ready. Catherine’s not feeling well, so I get her set up in my old bedroom. She wishes she could help, but I tell her we’ve got it. My mom’s on the case, along with this other guy about my age, making his second appearance as a bit player in my dreams, he wears glasses and never says a word. I mix up this fabulous concoction, it’s like a daiquiri but it’s more ice cream wonderfulness, it’s got frozen strawberries and fresh mangoes in it. All of a sudden, the party’s fully underway in the backyard, but you have to access it through the door in the back of the garage. I fill up a plastic half yard (this from the English pub, no doubt) with my yummy treat and head on back there but some stranger, a twenty-year old doorman, holds me with the news that I can’t take my massive glass back there, only beer is allowed in the backyard. I tell him it’s MY backyard and not to worry about it but before I can make too much of a scene, Blake walks up and tells me I need to simmer down. Now, Blake has been the rational voice of reason (relatively speaking, arguably) more than once in my life and I can’t take him bringing me down to earth just now so I squeeze off about a paragraph of what I think he can do with his common sense and then put my middle finger right up along the side of his nose, fingernail shaking there between his eyebrows. I tell him how much it hurts to do this but this is how it has to be, and he gives a characteristic shrug and says Meh and then I go back to the kitchen to get a damn beer so that I can go mingle at my own damn party, BKV is supposed to be there if he hasn’t already left, and Mom asks me if I’ve eaten anything and I say sure I’ve eaten some peaches and . . . mangos? But then someone comes running in saying Catherine was attacked by someone from the rival high school and I rush into my bedroom and she wasn’t attacked but he was just peering in the window at her all creepy-like and my friends from Austin are sitting with her and she’s fine and says she would’ve torn anybody up who came through, and of course she would have, but then someone yells that the party’s over and we all run into the back and look over the fence into the alley and it’s twice as wide as it ought to be and there are train tracks running through it and just then a couple of baby locomotives pull up followed by this giant vehicle that’s like three times as large and the only thing that I can say about it is it SEEMED like the Jawas’ Sandcrawler but it wasn’t, like it had that shape and you took away that sense of the thing, but it was somehow also a locomotive engine. And then pretty much everyone left standing in the backyard cast their ropes up into the sky and swung up on top of the thing in unison, quite a sight for the few of us landlubbers remaining. But at least I consoled myself, it’s not like I missed The Man, I don’t see . . . . and then a shout comes and I see him hollering at me, clad in some red plaid ensemble that would only make sense in Northern Exposure, his face beaming some secret joy down at me, proud that he’s stayed concealed this long or is maybe the bearer of good news, after all. What he calls down from that great height is, “Rob! Congratulations on getting your book published!” And then the Crawler begins its lazy chug away. I turn to Catherine, astonished. I already knew my book was getting published, but that’s Vaughan up there, he was here all the time! I hurdle the fence and sprint off down the tracks after the cars but they’re fast, too fast.

She tries to tell me It was so cool, he knew about your book. But I’m furious, the guy was in my own backyard and I didn’t even manage to shake his hand, and won’t be consoled

3) I’m eating lunch on the patio at some very posh very humid place, possibly LA possibly Hell, and then who should come in but Ellis and Morrison with their women and I can’t bear to go over and say anything, but know that I must and the prankster friend I’m dining with, who has never existed before this moment, is walking over to address the four of them while they wait for the last two members of their party to arrive when I wake up.

No sign of Moore or Gaiman, but maybe they were the last couple at the end there. Or Brubaker, who knows, he’s been kicking such ass lately.



A wonderful, incredibly dense day. Started out with pushups. The concierge guy told us he could hook us up with a discount on Epcot tickets. We kind of groaned at each other, with just our eyeballs, then said Whatcha got? and he said Sit through this 90 minute presentation where they feed you breakfast and instead of paying $144 for two tickets, you pay $70. I have learned to take your contract work where you can find it and $29ish an hour + a meal is just fine and we said Sure and at 9:30 had this nice enough lady from the Bronx by way of Queens (or vice versa, I forget) trying to sell us on this ridiculous awesome time-share situation which basically meant we could vacation one week out of the year anywhere in the world whenever we wanted to and it was only going to cost us $117 a month for the rest of our lives/the foreseeable future, I’m talking Italy, OAHU, could hear that jungle already whispering, and it really made so much sense we just smiled and smiled and then ran screaming without signing but made sure to pick up our well-earned discounted tickets.

And then we went and, I would say, conquered Epcot. Because it’s all broken up into territories, you know. And we laid claim to every one. The best ride seemed to be Soarin’, (the lack of ‘g’ really grates on me, but is reproduced here because this is the Whole Truth!) so we went and got this FastPass for it, which meant we didn’t have to wait in line and could just come back later at 5 and knock it out, then we went on this killer simulation called Mission to Mars, had to wait a while for that but so worth it, we were broken up into groups of four and put in ships and each assigned a title, I was Mission Commander of course (Catherine was Engineer) and Gary Sinise was Mission Control and before we knew it we were trained and angled up with nothing but a little sliver of launch gantry breaking up all the blue sky in front of us and the clock was counting down then LIFTOFF! pushing a few G’s, felt like, then Hypersleep, asteroid showers, veering through Martian canyons, a couple more fun malfunctions . . . best ride of the day, though, that feeling of liftoff. I was nine again and breathless and anything could happen, the world could swoop down and pluck me up at any time.

I used to be so certain that it was a cosmic mistake or parallel anomaly that my last name wasn’t Skywalker.

Then we went to the Rose and Crown Pub that the twins recommended and had an Imperial sampler of several beers of the Crown (Harp, Bass, Guinness and such, but I’m only now catching the obvious duality here, Skywalker vs. Imperial) and I forgot to mention that the Superman shirt that I just threw on (thinking something on the order of “Imagination, yes.” on the way to Epcot) got phenomenal to disturbing response, like four people at the time-share place alone, you’d think they’d never seen someone outside of Reeve Reeves or Routh wear the big red S before, the agents, the accountants, a potential customer/fellow discountee, Catherine and I were kind of What the hell? about the fanfare, point is, we get to the Pub and the first intelligent person to take note, this Irish bloke who’s greeting, he just asks if there are two in our party and what’s the name, Kent? And we’re just like, Yeah, Ian gets it. And Ian had a few things to say, once the ice was broken, about the new Singer and Raimi flicks, Superman and Spider-Man, was not as forgiving of the latter as I. And it was awesome because he got so excited, I could follow about two-thirds of what he was saying, but he was just speaking gibberish to Catherine. He and I both spoke Superhero. At any rate, fish & chips and Shepherd’s pie and another Imperial pint of Guinness then off to explore the world, killer Beatles cover band, suits and moptops and superb vocal harmonies (even Nowhere Man!), we strolled through every country, our calf muscles somehow reconciling the geographical inconsistencies by behaving as though our hikes were literal, went from England to France (where we watched this cool movie of the countryside on five screens that went 180 degrees around you) to Morocco to Japan to America (which smelled just like the fair, fried foods abound) to Italy and Germany and China, Norway, Mexico, we wanted to see this movie in China but were running out of time and went back to the Soarin’ thing, no we were Soaring dammit, they took three rows of us and strapped us in and then, put it this way, lay your palm down on your keyboard, those are the three rows there, then lift your hand up and put your palm on your screen, that’s what they did so that every row was just jacked face-first into this five-story screen, then they had POV shots of flying around all these picturesque sights of California. I need a hangglider.

On the way to dinner, there was this kickass group of Canucks, Off Kilter, they were like if that one song with bagpipes and Oi!s from THE DEPARTED was a quintet playing five sets a day and shredding, all these complicated almost-bebop guitar and bagpipes melodic lines with Vinnie Jones/Ray Livingston on bass, they were a sight.

Then a nice dinner at this French place, Les Chef de France, I almost went into French when we walked up but at the last minute couldn’t stand to be the prick ordering everything in the native language, but yeah, escargots, bottle of wine, killer lobster bisque, beef tenderloin, we actually had to turn the crème brulèe down because it came in a freaking tub not a bowl and we both thought we were going to be sick (I have not mentioned the massive and necessary amount of hydration that Catherine had us on, but we had probably gone through half a dozen bottles of water at that point) so we excused ourselves and went to get a seat for the fireworks. Catherine said I should ask this particular older gentlemen who seemed to be standing by the stairway down to the water in some official capacity if he had a recommendation on where we should view the fireworks. I didn’t want to mess with him but figured Why not? and got a surprise when he said, Well the best place in the park to view them is right here behind me, only you need a ticket. [big pause] [I decide to bite] Well, how do we get a ticket, sir?

You ask me! he says happily and lays two on us, says Be back at 8:45.

We can’t believe it. It’s 7:45. Do we just sit? Hell no. We missed China! And it’s only half a world away. About fifteen minutes walk. So we stroll, numb and dumb, all the way back over and what a wonder we almost missed. A killer museum plus this movie that compares to the French movie about as well as the martial aspects of each country would if it came down to it (meaning the Chinese would outflank and cannibalize the French before the first word hit the CNN crawl), this movie was a continuous 9-screen 360-degree gorgeous and dizzying piece called Reflections of China which juxtaposed, again, 360-degree shots of the Great Wall or the Xi River with the Hong Kong skyline from 30 stories up. 14 sick minutes.

Then back to our VIP spots, just time to grab another quick pint of Guinness at me olde pub not twenty paces away (the spot was in England, aye) and we sat down to watch a serious fireworks and laser show over the lake in between all the various countries that celebrated the people of Earth as one. The very first firework shot the first line from Gravity’s Rainbow into my mind, A screaming comes across the sky . . .

Epcot was amazing. Quite a lot in one day. But like I said, we conquered it.

Travel Day


The first travel day was madness. Pretty much stemming from right at midnight, me sitting down to watch the first Carnivale season finale (closing with that killer Brother Justin sermon, “The clock is ticking, brothers and sisters . . .”) but then guitar and piano were played and pedals were stowed and the apartment was cleaned and trash was taken out and a shower was had and my face was shaved and I just didn’t have time to squeeze in the last episode of Star Trek:TNG (I DVR’d it!) because it was already halfway between 2 and 3 and then Catherine woke up at 7 at Lake Travis from Emily’s bachelorette party and started driving in to town and called me at the last possible second for me to stumble up (not looking for sympathy, I had been advised to go to sleep early but have always found total comprehension of Zen easier than taking that particular flavor of advice) and we loaded up the car and drove up I-35 to Dallas so we could fly to Orlando but the plane was late and God I needed more water and then when we actually made it over Orlando we, honestly, took three laps of the city and kept hitting all kinds of turbulence and it was kind of awesome in an 815 sort of way but other than that, not (and I was the only person on the plane thinking that, I am just certain). It took an hour to get our bags and rent a rocking blue PT Cruiser, then we went and got settled in the room. Got groceries. Then the penultimate episode ever of THE SOPRANOS a la vino, lots of screaming Holy Shit at each other, then mercifully to bed.