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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Grade: F-

There's lots of ways to fail in life.

In elementary, middle and high school, my preferred method of failure was to take a math test. This simple action almost effortlessly and nearly always resulted in a failure. Once, in ninth grade, I received a math test back with a single digit score: a striking, red "8."

Me: "What's that?"

Mr. Costango: "That's your score."

Me: "What's it out of?"

Mr. Costango: "Um, 100."


In real life, there are no more tests, at least, not ones on which teachers write red single-digit numbers. Now there are just tasks, at which we either succeed, soaring high above the clouds, floating seemingly on adrenaline alone-- or we nosedive into the ground, our faces and our pride immolated in a blazing haze of fire and gasoline.

Usually, I squeak by my daily tasks scoring anywhere from a B+ to a C-. I rarely ever get an F, and, sometimes, usually when I'm trying to be sweet or romantic with Mrs. Apron, I get dangerously close to an A. My wife likes to say that I get extremely intelligent and have an inordinate number of good ideas on the weekend. This weekend, though, it is not looking that way.

Although it's only Saturday afternoon, this weekend I'm treading water and peeing in the pool somewhere around an F-.

Yesterday, which I count as part of the weekend, I took off from work early to drive to New York City to see a friend of mine perform a one man show that he had been working on for around a year, a show that I helped mentor him through the writing process, a show that was intensely personal, as I suppose all one man shows are. I also managed to squeeze in a delectable sushi dinner with Dave, which was nice. And raw. And gay. I also, however, wanted to shove one more little errand into this haphazardly-planned NYC mini-trip:

I wanted to drop off a bouquet of flowers at a bereaved police precinct.

As many of you know, I, for well over a decade, have been an ardent law enforcement advocate. I support the police however and whenever and wherever I can. When a police officer gets shot, I try to spare some coinage for his family, especially if it's a young family. I drop off copies of my book to the struggling department or district house. I write letters to parole boards to keep cop-killers where they belong: on ice. I write editorials to newspapers and letters to politicians and I am a general pain-in-the-ass.

Two nights ago, a young police officer in Harlem was getting off work and he saw some dude breaking into his car. Though he wasn't in uniform, he grabbed his gun and chased the scumbag down the street. Three undercover officers saw him running after a guy with a gun, and they shot him twice, killing him. The officer who died in the hail of bullets was black, the officer who shot him was white. I'm not even going to touch all that here-- it's not why I'm writing this. Maybe that'll be for another day.

Friendly-fire incidents are always deeply tragic, because they destroy many lives and the guilt an officer must live with after he shoots a fellow officer is oftentimes insurmountable.

I asked Dave if we had time to deliver a bouquet of white roses to the Harlem police precinct that had just lost the officer.

"Sure," he said. "We'll make it work."

To say that two well-dressed, bearded Jewish guys (one wearing a fedora and carrying a bouquet of white roses) stood out like two herpes-covered penises in Harlem is an understatement. But I wanted to do the right thing. As we approached the precinct house, there were six news vans from various stations outside, setting up cameras and doing sound tests. Dave stayed outside and Blackberried. I went in alone, with my white roses.

At the front desk, there was a muscle-ridden, very red Irish cop with tats on both arms dealing with a Hispanic gentleman as best he could. The Hispanic gentleman was trying to hand him two crumpled papers.

Hispanic Gentleman: This.

Irish Cop: "This" what?!

Hispanic Gentleman: This.

Irish Cop: What? What is it? What are you trying to do?

Hispanic Gentleman (insistently, motioning with the papers): This.

Irish Cop: Oh, Jesus. What?! What is that? Give me that! (Grabs the papers.) What is this? This is a photocopy of your driver's license? I don't want this! I can't even take this. Why are you giving this to me?

Hispanic Gentleman: Si.

Irish Cop: Look, just sit down, okay?

Hispanic Gentleman: Espanol?

Irish Cop: No. No way. No Espanol. Sit down.

Hispanic Gentleman (giving him the other piece of paper): This.

Irish Cop: I don't want that. That's our address. I know where you are. You're here. Just sit down. (Looking at me in exasperation.) Can I help you?

Me: These are for the precinct.

Irish Cop: What for?

(Pause. I stared at him.)

Me: Um, what for? For your loss? How about that?

Irish Cop: Oh! Oh. Oh, God. I'm sorry. Listen, I'm sorry. We, um-- we have to be a little wary, you understand. You know?

(Another officer came over.)

Other Cop: We're very sorry, sir. He wasn't trying to be facetious. It's just that.... the officer who died didn't work here. This wasn't his precinct.

Me: What?

Irish Cop: The officer who shot him worked here. The deceased officer was from another precinct. On 101st street, if you want to bring these there.

Me: Oh. Great. Well, I'm kind of pressed for time so, why don't you guys just keep them. You could use them too, I guess.

Other Cop: Yeah, we're all goin' through it. Thank you, sir. For real, thank you.

Grade: F-.

After the play, I tried to navigate the New York City subway system. I wound up taking a cab back to my car.

Grade: F-.

Today, I tried to get leaf bags. I came home with no leaf bags.

Grade: F-.

Today, I tried to get black touch-up paint for my car. I went to one dealership, they had none. They were kind enough to call another dealership, who checked on their computer. They had some. I drove to the other dealership. Turns out they didn't have any either. See, in computerland, they had one bottle. In real life, they didn't have any.

Grade: F-.

Welcome back to high school math.


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  2. :(

    I feel like a failure at least twice a day. Usually for things other people probably don't even notice.

    You're an incredibly thoughtful guy, despite. So maybe it really is the thought that counts?

  3. I fail personality tests once in a while. Does that count?

  4. I doubt the officers who received your roses gave your efforts an F-. In fact, I think the roses ended up where they were meant to be, even if it wasn't where you intended.

  5. I concur with Cecily.
    I cant imagine what the officer is going through who pulled the trigger. Doesnt matter that he was doing his job. Its just an awful horrible shame for both families.
    I think the flowers went to the right place too.
    but for fuck sakes how can you fuck up fucking leaf bags!?!?!?..
    Remember you still have the rest of today!


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