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Friday, December 28, 2012

Hey There, Hot Shit

As I sat here staring at the blank Blogger template, I turned and looked over at my wife.  She sitting, just over there you know, doing some hand-work on some custom-made window shades for the living room. I waited till I'd caught her eye, and I lifted my left eyebrow, because I can't lift up the right.  She looked at me.

"Hey there, hot shit," she said.

I love being married-- and I love being married to a girl who says things like that to me.  I love being married to a girl who creates custom-made window shades for the living room, and who isn't afraid to cry in bed when the lights are off while she talks about therapy and her insecurities about who she is.  I love being married to a girl who likes to be held while she sleeps.  I once dated a girl who didn't like to be held in bed, didn't like to be spooned or touched.  I mean, what the hell was she?  A fucking Communist?

Our marriage is different now than it was when it started in 2006, and it's different now than it was in 2008 or 2010, too.  We don't spend as much time in theatres and concert halls and venues and the like as we used to, and that makes me sad, and I know it makes her sad too.  But we're parents times two now and something has to change-- some things have to change.  There are more arguments now, and I don't think that's because we're turning sour or something like that, I think it's because there's more at stake now, there's more important decisions that have to be made, daily, and the more things there are going on that carry gravitas, the more disagreements are going to happen.

It's inevitable, like graying pubes.  Sorry, sometimes I'm just twelve.  But you knew that.

My wife works very hard, and I don't just mean at work.  I mean at home too.  And, there is very little in her life or our lives that provides some sort of catharsis, but one thing is, was, and always has been a comfort is that, at the end of every day, we get to collapse in our nice (could be bigger) antique bed and hold the hell out of each other.  I think some of the fierceness with which we hug sometimes or cuddle sometimes comes out of a fear of life-- it's scary out there-- and about how, if you don't hang on, you might get swept away by it all.  Sometimes you need to hold on, very very tightly.  And sometimes that's okay.

I was talking about my wife's brain surgery to a colleague today, and remembering some of the details of that whole mess that I hadn't thought about in years.  I remembered the smell of her in the hospital-- disinfectant and matted blood and the cold, metallic scent of the staples was enough to make you sick.  But I still climbed into that Stryker bed with her and held on tight, because I was scared she was going to get swept away.  The only woman who really understood me, appreciated me, cared for me and allowed me to do all the same in return-- I let them wheel her away from me and put her in an elevator and cut her apart.

I still don't think I've forgiven myself for that, all these years later.

She's ironing the curtain behind me now.  There's one hung up in the living room-- and it's beautiful.  No.  Not beautiful...

Hot shit.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ouch. That Smarts.

"You know," I said to a caseworker in the dictation room this morning, dead eyes meeting dead eyes, "I would never cheat on my wife, but this job can definitely suck my dick."

I've been trying to leave for maybe eight months-- maybe nine.  Maybe it's been since my kids were born, I don't know.  I don't remember.  I've sent out so many emails, it's disgusting.  I've been on Idealist.org so many times it's appalling.  Every time I attach another horseshit resume to another fantastically made up cover letter email, I want to shit studs and puke drywall.  It's repetitive and demeaning and unkind.

The rejection emails do not bother me, not even a bit.  I could care less.  I couldn't care less?  Who cares?

Not me!

I just submitted an excessively and predictably lengthy application to work for the V. A. as basically a mid-level bureaucrat, desk-jockey, paper-pushing, phone-weilding asstriloquist.  And, I've got to tell you, plate tectonics and priorities really must be shifting in this harried little head of mine, because I'm practically salivating at the thought of sitting at a desk all day, answering the telephone, talking to down-on-their-luck, washed up, beaten down, PTSD'd vets about the process of securing, exploring, appealing, and exercising their benefits and horning in on markedly more money than I'm making and sucking at the glorious teat of a federal pension.

mmmmmmmmmmmm...... suck suck suck suck suck suck suck................. moist

But, of course, I'm getting WAY ahead of myself.  The job was open from the 18th-20th, and there are fourteen (FOUR-FUCKIN-TEEN!) positions open in Philadelphia.  Now, because it's the government, they want to make sure you're nice and smart before they hire you, you know, so you fit in with everybody else already on the federal payroll, so you had to submit your transcript(s) in order to complete the application process.

This wasn't easy to accomplish when you work full-time, have two children, and only two days to accomplish this feat.

Muhlenberg, my undergraduate alma mater, made it pretty easy, and relatively inexpensive.  For an unofficial transcript, you fill out the form online, pay $7.25, ($5.00 for the transcript, $2.25 internet service fee) and they email you your grades in around 24 hours.  Done and done.

La Salle, graduate school and true to its staid Catholic roots, is a little bit more rooted in the dark ages.  After tithing $32.50 (don't ask me where they came up with that bizarre number) they will Express Mail you the transcript.  They don't do the eThing.  Fortunately, I had until 11:59pm on the 20th to fax the transcripts to the gub'mint, and I did it by 8:20pm.  And everything was going fine.  What wasn't going particularly fine was looking at my Muhlengrades, which I hadn't really thought about since I graduated back in 2002.

I graduated as prick # 211 out of 450 some other pricks and pracks.  Solidly middle of the pack-- indistinguishable, certainly academically, from one schlub to the next schmeck.  Sure, I wrote, edited, published, promoted and sold a book as an undergraduate, and I was in a lot of plays, and wrote a lot of plays and had one of those plays be a semi-finalist to go to the Kennedy Center, and I distinguished myself as the first Jew on our hallway to have sex with a Catholic girl, (I didn't even have to tithe) and I probably distinguished myself in other ways, too, but, academically, not really very much happening there.

I got a D in biology-- having sex with the Catholic girl didn't help like I thought it might-- and I guess that's because I never went to class.  I guess the biology class I took in high school, where we spent untoward amounts of time coloring in pictures of amoebas, talking about "Power Rangers" and watching "The Money Pit" didn't help like I thought it might.  A cold, hard C- in Critical Thinking, which I think, objectively and non-academically, is something at which I'm pretty adroit.  I bombed a couple other classes, too.  Oh, right.  Intro to Psych.  C-, which is kind of funny, considering that I work in an inpatient crisis psychiatric hospital and I supposedly know my dick from a mushroom.  I did very well in all my theatre courses, but I guess you'd have to be Nicolas Cage on ice and ether to fuck that up.

Joking aside (really, it's no joke: I hate that flat affect fuckstick) I was surprised at how saddened I was by my college grades.  I ended with a cumulative GPA of 3.302.  I looked at the scanned transcript and I was disappointed in myself, something I would have bristled at had it came from my parents-- but it never did.  At least, I don't remember them saying they were disappointed in my grades-- certainly not in college.  Where grades were held in extremely, I think excessively, high regard in my wife's family, in my own, they were not really relevant.  Far more weight was given to the overall experience.  I remember my parents being concerned for how I was doing in college on an emotional level, particularly since, mid-way through my sophomore year, I started going to the counseling center for once-a-week sessions and didn't stop until I graduated.  I had suicidal thoughts for the first, and only, time when I was a freshman.  Bullied mercilessly, lost and lonely, and stripped from the tender clutches of my once-adoring mother, I got very dark indeed-- and told no one.  Because, well, why would I?

In grad school, I ended with a cumulative 3.7, because, I guess, La Salle gives out A's like communion wafers.  I got tons of them, and never went hungry.

I guess, if I'd wanted good grades in undergrad, I would have, I don't know-- studied?  I didn't think you were supposed to study in college, so I didn't.  I never really knew how to study anyway.  In high school, I did my homework on the bus on the way to school, and I did fine, so I didn't really know what all those people were doing in the college library all the time.  I went there because there were hot girls there and I liked hot girls.  Now, when I got to the library, there's just mentally unstable people cursing under their breath and blowing air on their notebooks filled with religious ramblings.  I masturbated, a lot, in college-- and my eyesight was always poor and my palms are still hairless to this day, but I guess educational mediocrity is the price for my ambivalence and spilled seed.  And I suppose, in the end, I'm okay with that.

Especially if it gets me a comfy office chair and a G7 pay rate.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Their Children, And Mine

My son crammed the cupcake full-on into his gob so hard I was worried he was going to suffocate himself.  That's how Jewish fathers think.  I guess maybe we shouldn't have gotten him a cupcake that was approximately the same diameter as his head.  My daughter wouldn't touch the thing, at least, not with her hands.  She held them up high at a dainty angle and licked her cupcake to a long, slow, moist death-- her tiny, flicking tongue the snake-like weapon in this dirty masquerade.

I told the story of my children eating their first cupcakes to approximately six different coworkers, at different times of the day, on Monday.  By the third retelling, the third "That's so CUTE!", I silently prayed the floor would open me up and I'd be sucking on Hades's dick with my hair and skin on fire by lunchtime.  

On Friday, twenty children fell to the ground-- their clocks stopped forever-- in a mindless, senseless, brutal and hateful act.  The next day, my two children turned one.  My wife said she was sad that their birthday will be forever linked to the calamity at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and it wasn't something I had thought about until she mentioned it.  Maybe it will be, maybe not.  I don't know.  I'm like you in that, after Friday, I don't know anything anymore.

And I don't much want to.

I don't want to talk about it anymore than I want to talk about my children's birthday.  It happened.  Everything that can be said's been said.  It's been said on Facebook and on Twitter, from behind lecterns and on pulpits, on television and on the radio.  It's been said by the copy machine and at tables and on chairs, some that swivel, some that used to.  I've said everything that can be said about my twins' birthday.  I don't want to talk about it anymore.

You understand.

I don't want to go on Facebook-- ever again.  Some people are trite, some are sincere, but I hate them either way.  Some won't leave it alone, some post pictures of candles and say dumb things.  One idiot my wife went to school with said her cat "sensed something was wrong in Connecticut".  If you want to open up a discussion about mental health in this country-- start with her.  I want to delete my account entirely, but what about all the pictures?  Of my children and my wife and my life, and how will I ever secretly ogle the inaccessible girls I went to high school with?

Well, it used to be a secret.  Actually, probably not.

I guess I'm not very good at expectations.  I'm expected to talk about the shooting as much as I'm expected to talk about my children, but I resist.  I squirm.  I'm petulant and vague, always holding back.  Talking about the shooting makes me ill and talking about my children makes me uncomfortable.  I feel idiotic and small, silly and vain.  When I am badgered at work into showing pictures of them on my cellphone I get sweaty and hot-- it's not an enjoyable experience and, the louder the cooing, the more fervently I pray for that hole to open up below my shoes.

"You know," I said to the only real friend at work I'll ever have, "I really miss the time here when I was new and no one talked to me, and I just came in with my head down, did my job, and left unnoticed."

Now I'm expected to talk-- about... I don't know what.  People places and things.  About whatever.  And I can banter and make jokes and hold a conversation.  I can do that.  I'm just dying inside, or wishing I was.

I like to think I'm the kind of man who says what he thinks, who tells it like it is, who owns up to how he really feels, but I'm not.  I'm not that at all.  My father is, because he doesn't give a shit about what anybody has to say in return.  I'm obsessed with it.  I don't know how you get what you get from your father or your mother that way, but I don't think I got much from him except his body hair and his brown eyes.

I have things to say-- about their children, and mine-- but I don't know where to begin, or why I would.  I don't know who would care, and I don't know if I'd respect them very much if I found they did.  I have some things to say about the 2nd Amendment and mental health and masculinity and security and this country and our mentality and our tragic flaws and statistics and prejudices and I have some things to say about the new thing my son did today, or how my daughter looked in her gray hoodie, or the lump in my throat at this moment or that, about thus and so.  I have a song to sing, O.

But I don't remember the words.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Staycation

"Well, do you have any time off?" said the therapist to his nail-bitten patient, who looked crumpled and harried in the thinly-padded black Ikea chair before him.

"Um, yes.  I suppose-- I think I do.  I do," muttered the $50 co-pay in corduroys.

"Then take it," replied the therapist, who isn't always so direct.

"Oh," the patient replied, tracing the top of his worn and scratched travel coffee tumbler, "okay".

------------------------------

Monday, the nanny came, and I left.  I was bewildered and stupid, like I was feeling up a girl for the first time and her bra was a combination of barbed wire and a Rubik's Cube.  I wandered out of my house and got behind the wheel of the CR-V.  I turned around and looked in the back and saw only two gigantic, empty car seats.

No babies.  I don't have to drive cautiously.  So I threw the column shifter down three notches and floored it.  As it's a CR-V and it drives like an old mail truck, not much happened, but it was still exciting to me.  I got its oil changed.  My old Israeli mechanic made fun of me.  I didn't care, because it was my week off.  Also, I was there for an hour-and-a-half, while he stopped changing my oil to answer the phone (six times) and to make coffee and to bullshit with random people dropping off keys and cars and was generally absent-minded, or maybe just ambivalent.  He also took time out to scream at some dissatisfied customer whose car was returned to him two days earlier, and died again.

"I TOLD YOU, THEN IT'S A PROBLEM WITH THE RELAY TO THE COMPUTER AND I CANNOT FIX THAT, AARON!"

Then there were some Hebrew epithets that I vaguely remembered my father shouting at slow-moving motorists when I was a boy.

After the oil change, I went to some hipster trendy emo annoying cafe to meet a friend of mine for coffee.  She's a flutist and she has a tattoo (I mean, I only know of one) and earrings made of petrified Alaskan something tusk.  Wolf ribs.  I don't know.  I have no business being friends with somebody this cool, but life's funny that way sometimes.  The flat-chested, nose-ringed crunchy Vermont-wannabee barista got me coffee in my worn and scratched coffee tumbler and it cost me $2.00.  My flutist friend got a for-here mug with endless refills and it cost her $3.00.  She insists she got the better deal.  I said you should be rewarded for bringing your own mug.  We talked about our various and sundry neuroses.  She can't go into a mainstream, big-chain supermarket with its floor-to-ceiling shelves and fluorescent lights without having a panic attack.  I hate myself.  So, it was like that.  She gets her packages delivered to the cafe.  I had half a bagel.  She took the other half home.  I thought that was funny-- it's something that someone who lived through the Depression would do.

Weirdo.

The library was my next stop.  Time to renew my card.  It expired four years ago.

"There's a six dollar and fifty-cent fine, too," the librarian said, "would you like to pay that now?"

Of course, I thought to myself, then I'll gleefully slit my wrists with my newly-renewed library card.  I smiled at her.  My smile is solely meant to creep people out.

Off to the computers downstairs to search for a job.  Soul-deadening-- worse than making a sandwich for tomorrow's lunch-- sifting through the meaningless job descriptions the 4-6 years of experience necessary, the ambiguous non-profit titles that mean absolutely nothing: program manager, program specialist, program assistant, associate program specialist, program coordinator-- they all mean the same thing: you sit on your ass in some rented office, answer phones, write emails and newsletter articles, copy shit and blog and silently wish you and everybody you know would die emphatically and expeditiously.

I applied for three jobs Monday.  God, I hope I get it.  How many boys, how many girls.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was with the babies.  I really like being a father, but I don't really know what it means yet.  I have twins, and they have me.  That's about all I know.  And I make dumb voices and faces a lot, and it seems to do the trick.  They like the nanny better than me, though.  I always knew they would, even before we had a nanny.  Or kids.

Thursday I had the day to myself again, and it was largely a repeat of Monday, only without coffee-with-incongruous friend.  I got my eyes examined.  Got lenses installed into an amazing pair of antique glasses that I got in a dramatically-sniped eBay auction.  No, they're not Warby fucking Parker, they're REAL.  And I love them.  My prescription changed, and I'm still adjusting.  It feels like I'm looking at the world through an astronaut's helmet.

At therapy yesterday, I thought my therapist would congratulate me for taking his advice to skip this week of work, but he didn't, and I was pissed.  It was really hard for me to do, I had to challenge feelings of guilt and obsessiveness and love of routine and a feeling that I don't deserve to do anything nice for myself.  Instead, we talked about me going on anti-depressants because I made the mistake of saying "I don't enjoy anything" and "I don't really want to do anything-- I don't want to stay home, I don't want to call people and I don't want to go out and I don't want to go to work".

Whoops.  Guess that must have sounded off an alarm bell or two in his well-coiffed head.  Thing is: I've always been this way, and I don't know who I'd be if I wasn't, and maybe meds will make me feel better and maybe I don't wanna feel better.  Maybe I'm a big baby.

Waa.

I don't know what I want to do for a job, and I don't know what I want to do when I'm not at my job.  And isn't my life terrible and hard!?  Aren't I just having such a rough time of it!?  Don't you just want run up and give me a big squelch and tell me it's all gonna be okay?  Give my hair a tussle?

Validate me.

Vindicate me.

Valorize me.

Save me.

The fact of the matter is that, a week away from an inpatient crisis psychiatric hospital is no small thing, whether you're taking the babies for a walk or getting new eyeglass lenses in an old frame. I think too much about things-- did you know that?   But it's Friday now and I return to work tomorrow morning for it to all begin again and anew.  I'm already fretting about who's been admitted, who's been discharged, what groups I'm supposed to run, how will it all ever be okay again and how did my babies get to be one year old?

Tomorrow.

I guess I should have written about that instead of this.  There's that judging mind that I can't seem to turn off.

-------------------------------------------------------

"You know, a lot of people say that medication helps with that," the therapist said to the $50 co-pay.  He stared at him and crossed his legs tightly.

"Do they?"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tab. BOO!

It's come to my attention recently that you can't make a joke about rape without getting flayed alive.

I guess that's because rape isn't funny.

Then again, who decides what's funny?  Individuals do, of course.  But then there's groups.  There's probably individuals out there who'd find poodle-in-an-electric-socket jokes funny, but I'm willing to bet that groups like PETA and the SPCA wouldn't-- officially and on-the-record.

Although maybe there's a quirky, young, just-a-bit-off SPCA intern out there somewhere pushing papers and trolling on blogs who'd laugh at a joke like that.  Just, you know, once he clocked out and got home.

Matthew Inman, creator of "The Oatmeal", a blog whose penis is a thousand times huger than this blogs'll ever be, made a rape joke.  And everybody freaked.  The joke, for the three of you who still read this blog and the two of you who haven't heard yet, featured a small F5 key running from a large and scary beast and the caption reads, "Every time the internet does not perform as expected, I rape the shit out of my F5 key".

I'm guessing nobody would have said anything if Inman had written I fuck the shit out of my F5 key.  Oh, words... you're so weird.

Comedy, which frequently uses (weird) words, is weird-- we learned that from my last post; 4 seconds, you know-- and it's also very, very dangerous.  It's much more dangerous than being serious, because being serious is just so obvious, it's so out in the open-- there's nothing more to being serious than being serious.  There's lots more to comedy.  It's loaded, and we all know loaded things are scary.  Don't point that rape joke at me.

A friend of mine showed me a clip from the Louis C. K. show where he's helping his young daughter brush her teeth in the bathroom.  The daughter innocently tells C. K. that she loves Mommy (they're divorced) more and likes being with her better.  C. K. appears wounded, but takes the insult in stride and continues helping her brush her little child-fangs, and then she rinses, spits, and leaves the bathroom.  When she does, C. K. angrily gives her the finger once she's safely exited and out of view.

It's funny to give your young daughter the finger, right?  No.  But I laughed.  And I don't even like Louis C. K.  I think he's obnoxious.  Still, I laughed.  So it must have been funny-- to me, anyway.

You might not have laughed at that, and that's fine, because a joke (whether it's a good one or a bad one or even an appalling one) gets sent out there into the ether and whomever reacts reacts the way that they do.  A joke can either be

1.) hilarious

2.) really funny

3.) funny

4.) kinda funny

5.) not funny

6.) in poor taste, but still kinda funny

7.) offensive

Do you have the right to get offended by something?  Sure!  It's America!  Let's put on our "Number 1 Dad" aprons, barbecue the shit outta some dead animals, crack open a beer and get offended!  Getting offended is our right, goddamnit!  But do we have to raise such ire, unleash such forceful condemnation that we lambaste some hapless schmeck who stuck his foot in his mouth-- should we be shaming and castigating and ending careers over this?

I kind of wonder about that.

I kind of wonder about people in glass houses and all that bit.  Who among us is without sin?  Who has never said something ill-conceived, or even ill-meant?  I wonder if the rabid denizens with the pitchforks and torches out there, broadcasting their righteous indignation to the wicked world are as lily white themselves as they purport to be.  Are we a bunch of tightly-corseted Victorian frailties crumpling down upon our tufted fainting couches?  Or are we big boys and girls who can see and hear something appalling, identify it for what it is, get out all that vitriol by penning a status update or two about it, and then move on to what's for lunch?

There's lots of things out there that I shouldn't find amusing, but I do.  Maybe my soul is as twisted as a barber's pole.  Maybe.  I don't really know what that says about me.  I don't know what it says about my upbringing or my parenting abilities or my effectiveness as a father or a behavioral healthcare provider or even as a human being.  What I do know is that, while my sense of humor may be as warped as old glass, I'm not the kind of person who would seek to couch my own inferiority and frustration and flaws by attacking some idiot behind a microphone or camera lens who said something cheap or dumb or disgusting.

Who cares?  Fuck 'em.

Remember-- you can always change the channel.  You can always set phasers on "Ignore".  You can choose to govern your own tongue so you do not commit such an egregious verbal solecism yourself.  Because, in the end, you're all you have any control over anyway.

All humor is derived from pain, it's just a matter of degree.  I suppose the only joke that doesn't hurt somebody is a knock-knock joke, and if that's the society we want to be, where we can only do what's safe, I guess comedy clubs and films and television are going to be replete with jokes about chickens crossing the fucking road.  I get taking out "redskin" in "Peter Pan", I get changing "nigger serenader" to "banjo serenader" in "The Mikado".  There is a difference, though, between hate speech (which, I hate to tell you, is as constitutionally protected as a game of peek-a-boo) and poor taste, and I worry that certain sectors of our society are equating the two, which is more dangerous than comedy itself.  Because then, if those two irrevocably different entities are equivalent, how will we truly ever know the difference?

Rape isn't funny-- but, in my mind, if you want to go ahead and do a dumbfuck thing like try to make a joke out of it: it's America-- go ahead.  The Holocaust isn't funny, and lynchings aren't funny, and, frankly, Polish jokes and blonde jokes aren't funny either, but the fact of the matter is this: you've said something horrible, you've written something disgusting and shameful and dreadful, whether you've done it in the privacy of your living room or on Myspace 9 years ago or at the dinner table and your father freaked, you've done it too, so, basically, have your reaction, get it all out so we can all move on, and while you're at it, shut the fuck up.   The other fact of the matter is yo mama's so nasty the deodorant threw up on her armpit and thought it was her pussy.

Monday, December 10, 2012

4 Seconds

Apparently, that's the secret.  That's what you need to know.  That's it.  That's all.

I don't know why it offended me the way it did.  I don't know why I was taken aback, soured, instantly priggish and resentful and almost insulted.  But I was.  I'm like that sometimes. 

I was at a rehearsal for a Gilbert & Sullivan roadshow.  I hate doing roadshows.  To me, they're like a pimple that becomes infected and then results in the immediate amputation of the affected body part.  Roadshows start out small, innocuous and barely problematic.  "Oh, it's just this and that and it'll be thus and so and then it'll be over."  And then it turns into more songs than you were comfortable with, songs you've never done before, then all of a sudden there's costumes and props and blocking and -gasp!- CHOREOGRAPHY.

(I don't do choreography.  Because it involves feet.  I do not have feet.  I have ankles, attached to biscuit-tins)

And then they tell you where the roadshow is.  It's in some godassfucked place you've never heard of and it's for a bunch of elderly people who'll be watching you while peeing in their pants, and not because they find Gilbert's searing humor funny.  They can't hear it anyway. 

And I know all this, but I agree to do roadshows because, well, I love G&S and I'd do it on the equator or inside a toilet bowl and because, you know, I'm an idiot. 

So, I'm at this rehearsal last night and a colleague of mine leans into me and proffers a tidbit of G&S trivia/advice after I'd just sung a patter song.  I guess I immediately got my back up because I don't like it very much when fellow performers give advice.  That's why we have directors, so other performers don't fillet each other in the dressing room.  Anyway, he was trying to be helpful, and I like him, so I suffered through the following well-meaning anecdote.

"You know, Kenneth Sandford said that in this moment onstage that he shared with Katisha in 'The Mikado' that if he waited four seconds before responding after Katisha said, 'My face is plain' with his line 'It is' that he got the most laughs.  So you should really wait four seconds before doing your bit in the 'Little List' song."

And I smiled politely and said that I would try it.  And I won't. 

I guess I just don't understand.  I guess I'm still a petulant, truculent, pain-in-the-ass boy who bristled at the Theatre Chair's suggestion that I go get an MFA in playwriting all those years ago.  ("Why should I do that?  Can't I write plays now?")  Don't give me advice, even if I love and respect you.  Your breath shall be wasted, I promise.  And don't tell me cute stories about world-renowned operetta stars, because I hate them-- the stories and the people-- because I will never ever come close to them, whether I wait four seconds or not.

Mediocrities everywhere: I absolve you.  I absolve you, all.

I suppose what annoyed me most was that, to me, comedy is so much more than that-- it's so much more than math.  Four seconds or three or six.  That's not comedy.  That's counting.  And I don't care if you're Kenneth Sandford or not but, if you're standing up there on stage going "1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi" or whatever English people say when they're counting, you're not acting.  You're not in the moment.  You're not up there having a conversation with Katisha and regarding her face.  Likewise, comedy cannot be distilled that way-- it's cheap and it's false and it's crude.  It negates all the other work that a performer does-- what about the slight cock of the head, the crook of the neck, the barely observable lift of the left eyebrow?  The thinning of the lip.  The blunted smile, the sideways glance.  Inflection, nuance, tone-- there is so much more.  It's timing, not time. 

I can't explain it.  I can do it-- sometimes-- and sometimes I can't.  Some nights a moment gets a laugh and some nights the same moment doesn't.  Maybe it works and maybe it doesn't.  And what defines a moment "working"-- five people out there cackling hysterically for six seconds or a quarter of the audience tittering while others sit with a satisfied, knowing grin?  And others, still in the dark.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it.  Maybe I take comedy too seriously.  Maybe it's just a quaint anecdote tucked away in a G&S bible, oft repeated by the minions and the minyans.  And maybe I'm just jealous.  Because nobody is ever going to quote a passage from this blog to anybody else as an example of what one should think or say or do about comedy. 

No, I'm definitely jealous.

I suppose I'll grow up one day-- maturing, they call it-- and I'll forget what I know because I use it so infrequently, and I'll turn to the tomes to read about what others who came before me knew, and I'll quote their quaintness to young and lithe performers who will be my age now.  And I'll forget to trim my nosehairs, too, because that's the way these things go. 

1 Mississippi.  2.

Sometimes I'm sure I know what funny is-- I can make my wife laugh after nearly ten years.  I can make strangers laugh-- old friends who know the innuendo before I do, and newish ones, too, who are just figuring out my stilted, self-effacing delivery.  Sometimes the humor's Jewish, sometimes it's vulgar, sometimes it's in rhyme while I'm prancing around like the English prat I wish I could be and be paid for it.  Sometimes it's an accident. 

My face is plain.  And I want to ride the bike myself like a big boy.  Look, ma.  No hands.  Look at me go.

I know I'll never be as funny as Kenneth Sandford, or John Reed, or Martyn Green or George Grossmith-- and I guess I don't want to.  Because I don't listen to my elders, or yours.  I don't have four seconds these days anyway.

3 Mississippi.

Four. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mr. Fix Shit

In case you've been living underneath a life-size Sphinx made of foam core and cat litter, you know that we re-elected Barack Obama recently.  A bunch of different demographics came together to make that possibility a reality-- so the news media says-- and it's looking like minorities, women, and "the young" played a significant role in the President's validation.

At 32, I guess I no longer qualify as "the young".  I think membership in that particular subsection goes to 18-25 year-olds, it might even go as high as thirty-year-olds, but it definitely doesn't extend to those of us born in 1980.  I know for sure that I'm not a woman, because I just played with myself recently and I came very quickly, and we all know that only happens to men.  (Sensitive ones, especially.)  Now, the more complicated question-- am I a minority?-- gives me a slight pause, and rightfully so.  After all, my father was born in Iraq, then emigrated (read: fled) to Israel, the emigrated (read: ran away from his religion and his parents) to America, and married my mother, a half-Ukranian/half-Hungarian euro mutt.  But, ask anyone who's ever seen me dance, and then tell you without hesitation that I'm white.

White male.









White space.









White.

Am I, though?  Maybe, maybe not.  I don't know.  Guess it depends on who's seen me cut a rug at a Bar Mitzvah recently.  One thing I know for sure is that I'm a Jewish husband (and father, but let's stick with husband for right now.) and while I don't know if the number of Jewish husbands who came out in support of Obama is statistically significant, one thing I do know is that there are some stereotypes about Jewish husbands.

The one with which I'm most familiar is that "Jewish husbands don't beat their wives".  A bigoted follow-up to that is "they just hide their Macy's cards", and that was all good fun, and we all had a jolly good laugh.

I realized this weekend that there is also a stereotype about Jewish husbands relating to their inclination to engage in household repairs/improvements, but that, according to which Jewish husband you're talking to/about, the stereotype is radically different.

Take my father-in-law.  He's seventy, doddering, bewildered, hyper-intelligent, super disorganized, mechanically inclined, and attentionally defective.  Nothing makes him prouder than to install something, or create something, or refine something, or correct something around his house, or ours.  As he mentioned to me this weekend, one of the reasons he's so hell-bent on fixing things himself is that he's cheap, and no matter how much sawdust you get everywhere (EV.  ERY.  WHERE.) or how many times you have to drive to Home Depot (three in one day) because you forgot to buy something (that you already owned) it's a damn sight cheaper than picking up the phone and hiring a professional to do it for you.

Which is where this Jewish husband comes in.

Last week, our plumber installed a new kitchen faucet and repaired two toilets in our house.  Total cost: $350.  Could I have done any or all of these repairs myself?  Um, why spend energy, time, and many hot, furious tears to find out?  Are we well-off?  Absolutely not, but my wife and I are both employed, and we make enough money to know that we can call a plumber or an electrician every now and then and it's not going to give us Hoover pockets.

There are things I can do, and there are things I can't do, and there are things that I maybe could do but probably shouldn't do, and I strongly believe that, if I look at a project and my gut says "back away" then that is what I should do.  My wife's dresser drawer came off its track.  A strategically-placed screw solved the issue.  Gut said, "you can do that", so I did that.  Am I going to spend hours fucking around and potentially irreparably damaging the porcelain device that hauls away my family's feces?

Not this Jewish husband.

And not this Jewish husband's father, either.

When I was a boy, and I'm sure for a long time before I existed, my father mowed the lawn of our family home.  He trimmed all the hedges and he painted the outside and inside of the house when it needed it, he cleaned the gutters and unclogged drains and did things to the hot water boiler that I don't understand and he built a big wooden ramp for me to drive my pedal car on and he fixed and he maintained and he used his rough, careworn paws like they were tools themselves.  And one day, much much later, while we were watching out the dining room window together as Frank the gardener mowed our lawn for us, he turned to me and said,

"And I always said, 'as soon as I can afford to pay some motherfucker to do all this fuckin' sheet for me, dat's exactly what dee fuck I'm gonna do'."

I suppose, after all those years, there was nothing he felt he had to prove anymore, and it must feel pretty liberating to send a plumber a check instead of being on your hands and knees on a bathroom floor underneath a sink for five hours, if you don't have to.  My father-in-law and his son have just spent two days trying to install a clothes dryer for my mother-in-law.  They're connecting a pipe using brass wire meant to be used for a bassoon.  And, wonder of wonders: they did it, and they're happier than pigs in shit about it.  And you know-- that's fine, for them.  That's just fine.  

Sometimes I feel guilty or incompetent or like I'm not measuring up somehow to the challenge of being a homeowner, being a husband, being a father.  There are things I should be doing that I don't do, effort not being applied, energy wasted, money flying out the doors and the windows and wallets and pockets.  Then I remember bringing my father glass after glass of 7-Up as he perspired through his shirt, his bald spot glistening in the July sun and his hands bleeding as he manically tore out foot after foot after foot of hedges that lined my family's house.  He just couldn't take it anymore.  Trimming them made him physically ill, or mentally ill-- or both.  And he wasn't quite at the stage where he had embraced the idea of paying someone else to trim them for him.  He hadn't made that psychological leap yet, he wasn't ready to move from one stereotype of the Jewish husband to the other.  He was still in that mindset that it had to be all him, all the time, at every moment, doing every thing: fixing, making, doing, being, providing, surviving, maintaining and straining, all for his family, all for an ideal.  All for love.

And finally, one day, he let go.  He let go of all of that.  Not the love, of course, never that, but of the idea that it always had to be him.  He's able to exist now, in a world of handymen and plumbers and electricians and contractors and gardeners.  And I think he's happier now, and I love that.  A few months ago, we told him that we were going to finally attack the insidiously weeded over flower beds in front of our house, to make the place look less like Boo Radley's residence and more like a place that isn't the scourge of the neighborhood.  His brow furrowed with momentary concern as he asked,

"Mummy-- you're not going to do that fuckin' shit yourself, are you?"

"No," I said to him, privately smiling at the memory of him ripping out hedges with his hands in 1988, "no fucking way."      

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Just In Case

My wife reminded me this morning about Our Last Shopping Trip.  You know, before she popped out Twins A & B.  She had read in numerous (really, there were numerous) pregnancy books that, prior to opening up the bomb bay doors, please, Hal, one should go on a shit-crazy shopping spree, purchasing seven dozen rolls of toilet paper and sixteen tubes of Mango/Orange Tom's of Maine Mint is the Antichrist toothpaste, just in case the creation of twins results in a chaotic situation that does not enable one or one's psychotic spouse to ever go to the supermarket ever again.

So, we did that.

And it's a good thing, too, because, while we were eventually with it enough to venture out of doors (it took us approximately two months or so) on an errand or two, you don't want to be brushing your teeth with a twig covered with old shoe polish or wiping your ass with the Anthropologie skirt you got your wife for her 24th birthday.

As hurricane or tropical storm or nor'easter or federal pound-me-in-the-ass storm Sandy approaches my 'hood, which is thoroughly unaccustomed to bracing for meteorological events any more fierce than a couple days of swamp-ass inducing humidity, I felt the need to write.  Just in case the power goes out for a week.  Just in case a tree limb falls on my head as I go out to check the storm drains and I incur a traumatic brain injury that turns whatever remains of my writing prowess into apple sauce.

Just in case.

Facebook wants me to confirm my phone number.

The computer wants me to restart so the latest version of Norton can self-install.

Richie Havens wants me to come downstairs and listen to him sing to the babies on my wife's iPad.

"Don't mind me, 'cuz I ain't nothin' but a dream."

Everybody wants something, don't they?  Narcissists must have it real easy-- the only thing they're concerned with is what they want.

(I'm jealous.)

I want my family and I to make it through this storm okay.  I want my supervisor at the hospital to text me and say, "Don't be crazy-- don't come in tomorrow", but she's not going to.  She said, "If you can make it in, great, but if not, I'll be here, so no worries."  But that's not explicit enough.  She's basically saying, get here, but, if you can't, don't sit at home fretting and worrying and brooding.

Which is, you know, what I do besides eat, digest, breath, and excrete.

On Saturday, we went to Longwood Gardens to celebrate six years of marriage together.  The babies stayed with my father, but we weren't completely untethered-- my wife had to pump in the Longwood parking lot, and then driving home on Route 1, which must have been quite a sight for anyone pulled up in the lane next to us.  Autumn puts on one hell of a show, as does my wife at a red light, and being out in the crisp air surrounded by amber and gold was just right.

Just like our wedding-- just right.

Today, we shut ourselves in with the babies.  During still moments of naps, I watched some old interviews on YouTube, because I'm weird.  I enjoyed William F. Buckley telling Noam Chomsky he was going to "sock you in your goddamned mouth".  I wish he'd done it.  I guess people talk a lot more shit than they actually sling-- especially people in neckties.

I've been looking for jobs, for around half-a-year, and I spent some time doing that last night.  This non-profit and that non-profit.  Time to be a desk-jockey again.  I'm done getting assaulted and slammed up against walls and fighting for my life for no reason, and a pittance of pay.  I wish someone would pay me to write-- I think that's really what it all boils down to, in the end.  Every wish takes a route, however circuitous, back to that.  Back to where I feel most at home.  Behind a monitor, hitting keys, making them dance for me.

Dance, you qwerty motherfuckers.  Dance.

Either it'll happen or it won't, and I expect I'll be alright either way, really.  The winds are kicking up out there and the rain is coming down.  A storm comes and then it goes.  People try to outwit each other on Facebook-- where everyone is Oscar Wilde-- and my trashcans are tucked away inside the garage.  I'm rambling, of course, but you knew that.



Don't mind me.    

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Getting On With It

I was talking to my therapist last week about acting, which I sort of do, and he and I were exploring the possibility of it one day (far, far away) becoming more than just an amateur, "sometimes" pursuit, and making it a professional, bread-and-butter pursuit, since it's really the only thing I'm reasonably sure I do well, and it's definitely the only thing for which I'm qualified.

"How do you reconcile, though, what I think is your core belief about acting," he asked me, astutely crossing his legs and cocking his head slightly in the manner of an inquisitive Border Collie, "that it's vainglorious and indulgent?"

"Well," I said, "it is.  But, I suppose, if one is going to make the decision to pursue it professionally, you kind of have to just get over that and get on with it."

I feel that way about writing, too.  It can be purported to be done for the writer's own demon-wrestling purposes, but I think we all know I'm after the comments.

(Gimme.)

While the twins are napping, there are other things I could be doing.  I could be dusting the... thing in the dining room.  I could do dishes, wash bottles, clean the high chair trays, prepare lunch, organize... things.  But here I am, at the computer, writing.  Writing for the first time since we put our sad old dog to sleep.  That pain and that loss has subsided some over the weeks-- has it been months?  I don't even know.  But, after I'd dressed the babies this morning, and we were playing around with toys on the bed, as I was tickling my daughter's foot, I caught myself thinking about Finley.  My wife gets triggered when she sees a dog, who maybe looks like him, or maybe doesn't, around the neighborhood, or when she sees a "Science Diet" commercial on TV.  That stuff doesn't strike me in quite the same way.  Finley comes to me at random, quiet moments, times where his rough panting would have been the background noise, times where I wish that the babies, who are far more interactive, could have spent more time with him.

There's a lot of things I wish for, and most of those things center around time, and wishing I had more of it.  More time to spend with my wife and children.  More time away from work.  More time for writing.  I've been working every other weekend, that's Saturday and Sunday from 7am-3pm, friends, for more than two years now, and I'm so tired of having my weekend family time halved like a grapefruit.  I'm so sick of cramming things into my weekends "off" (you don't really have time "off" anymore when you have children, for those of you who don't and consequently don't know) and I'm fed up with disappointing my wife, who, good fortune be praised, actually likes it when I'm home.

That fact is part of what's stopped me, incidentally, from writing more-- either on this blog or as part of something else.  When I'm home, and the babies have gone to bed at 7:00 and I know we have to be in bed by 10ish or I'll be a drooling idiot at work the next day, and there are lunches and bottles and wash to prepare for the next day, how can I reasonably justify excusing myself from my love's presence while I shutter myself away in the office for an hour clacking away at the keyboard?  To be honest, I know that, if she really believed it was important to me, she wouldn't mind, but I can't justify it to myself.  I guess it's too vainglorious and indulgent after all.  I even feel guilty doing it while the babies are napping and there's no dog to walk anymore.  If I close my eyes for a moment, though, I can visualize all the dishes and bottles in the sink, and they're calling to me.

The babies are probably going to wake up soon.  There's so much in my head that I want to talk about-- no, write about.  I hate talking.  My voice is flat and heady and boring, and my words come out in a jumble of sleep-deprived fits and starts and half-cocked ideas and trailing off sentiments.  I want to write about politics (sort of) and George Takei Facebook bullshit and memories and dreams and my family but I don't really think I know them anymore so what would I say anyway and the mess in the basement and the crawling and the teething and the changing and the graying and the rolling and the tolling of the bells bells bells and I want to connect-- with you, I suppose-- and that's what we all want, isn't it?  Your time, your thoughts, your attention.  If you give me your attention, I will tell you what I am:

I am the very model of a modern major-general.

I am the monarch of the sea.

I have a song to sing, O!

I am a writer, I suppose.  One who writes.  I string words and thoughts and phrases and ideas together and I give you paragraphs and periods and you make of it what you will, and I like that.  I think I do.  I really think I like that.  If you give me two numbers and ask me to put them together, I will give you a fucking mess in return.  But words I can cope with.  I'll take words for eight hundred, Alex.

No, a thousand.

Give me a thousand: I have twins to feed.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fortunately, It's Just Something Else

When I was writing on this blog every single day for, um, for a very long time, it was inconceivable that there would come a time when I would write perhaps once a month.  Now that this time has arrived, it is inconceivable to me, now, that there was a time-- a very long time-- in my life where I wrote on this blog every single day.

Life; you're a real croquet mallet to the taint, aren't you?

I've been getting a lot of croquet mallets to the taint lately which, of course, doesn't make me special or martyred, it just makes me like everyone else.  I got rejected from a prospective job, my car that I bought three weeks ago started bucking like a horse and needed a repair that, if it hadn't been covered under warranty, would have cost $4,000-$5,000 to fix.  My dog died.  Work sucks.  And I haven't slept in approximately two years.  Yes, I know the twins are only 8 months old, but I count the time my wife was pregnant and thrashed around in bed in discomfort night after night, keeping me awake, and tack on another year of anxiety-ridden nightmares and evenings spent staring at the ceiling fan.

I tell people that I haven't slept since 1984, which was the year I finally understood that my mommy and daddy weren't going to live forever.  They say there's truth in every joke, and, if you look at pictures of me at around that age, there are black rings under my youthful, sparkly little eyes.

I'm emotionally drained and physically exhausted.  The heat around here has barely let up in two months and I struggle to keep my eyes open during the day-- they're all dried out from the excessive dependence on decades old window air conditioning units that struggle and wheeze like a COPD patient huffing and puffing to walk ten feet.  I need oxygen.  I need... something.

My dog needed something, too.  He needed something more than pills, something more than Glucosamine-rich food.  He needed something more than time and care and love.  He needed a miracle, and you can just ask the Catholic Church how short they are on those these days.  We kept him going longer than we should have, longer than was humane.  Did you know your vet can put your dog on the canine equivalent of hospice care?  Well, they can, if you're cowardly enough to go along with it.

We were.  For a couple long, sad weeks at any rate.

I knelt down on the floor of that tiny little room-- no bigger than our twins' nursery-- and I held him and stroked his thick, gray fur and I thought to myself, this is the most I've touched you in months.  And I felt sick.  I just kept rubbing his head and all the way down his back, as clumps of his fur came off in my hand and fluttered to the floor.  I was fine at reception.  I was fine talking to the vet tech.  I was fine when they brought him back in, the catheter inserted in his arm, like a condemned green mile prisoner deposited into the chamber.  When the vet came in and asked if I had any questions, my throat became thick and I shut my eyes and tears sprayed onto my glasses.

"How long will it take?" I asked.  I was surprised he understood the question, because what I heard was utterly unintelligible, but I guess a lot of people must ask that.

"Not very long at all, maybe a minute or two."

"Jesus," I said.

The Propofol went in first.  Goodnight, Finley.  His breathing had become so loud and harsh and raspy, cagey, throaty, labored, awful in the past year-- it was everywhere I walked.  When we would be upstairs and the baby monitor would be on downstairs, all it would pick up was his breathing-- like a lumberjack sawing through a stubborn oak.  I close my eyes and I can still hear it.  His head thunked on the blanket covering the floor in seconds and his tongue fell out lazily.  I stared at it, and I was shocked at how repulsed I was by the sight of it-- undignified, disorganized, vulgar.  I wanted to push it back into his mouth, like the doctor who put the coins over Lincoln's eyes, but I couldn't move.  The phenobarbital came next and fast-- the overdose.  The end.  Dr. Peters put the Littmann on Finley's chest and said,

"His heart's stopped."

His heart.  My heart.  I still could hear the relentless clatter of his breath.  Only I could hear it, I guess.

I'm so tired and run down these days I haven't had time to grieve or process or anything-- I suppose that's what this is.  This blog used to be the place I would come to and sort out life's idiocies and its beauties, where I could make fun of the world and myself, where I could come to identify with that part of me that still clung desperately to the notion that I was a writer in some way.  Now, I don't know what it is, or why it is.

I still can't get over how fast it happened.  He was fourteen-- eighty-eight in people years.  He was my first dog ever and, at 32, I come downstairs in the morning and I don't know what to do.  Make coffee, I suppose.  The English make tea-- the half-Israelis make coffee.  We have hairy arms and hot tempers and we drink coffee and we get on with it.  While taking a walk today with my father's sister who is visiting from Australia, I lost one of the baby's hats.  It's somewhere, on some street in our neighborhood somewhere-- some sidewalk.  I pushed them in the stroller while they slept and my 70-year-old aunt with her squeaky voice and her artsy glasses followed diligently a half-step behind us.  She casually mentioned that, in the early 70s, she fell in love with a cousin of hers and, when he was arranged-married off to someone else, she overdosed on pills to try to kill herself.  I wanted to stop pushing the stroller and turn to her and scream,

"WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN YOU TRIED TO KILL YOURSELF?!  ALL DAY LONG I WORK WITH ASSHOLES LIKE THAT-- WHAT ARE YOU TELLING ME?"

But I just said, "uh-huh-- wow" and kept pushing the stroller along, petrified that, if I stopped and thought about it, it would become real.  Something to deal with, a thing to confront.  Fortunately, it's just something else to write about.

That's all.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Floored

Trying to force himself to remember a moment from his childhood, Tommy Fawkes squints at Katie Parker.

"I had a little red car..."

"Yes," Katie says, in her charming, French accent as she smiles in the slightest sympathy at Tommy, "and you drove it into everything!"

"Funny Bones" is my favorite (non-Wes Anderson) movie, because it is as funny as it is painful as it is charming as it is dark as it is passionate as it is flawed.  It's everything life is-- or should be.  And I knew, when I first saw it, almost half my life ago, that I wouldn't see a film that touched me the way this one did, that filled me with fun and hope and despair like this one did.

And I haven't.  But I still go to the movies when I can anyway.

I still go to my parents' house when I can anyway, too, although, with twins, it's hard to go pretty much anywhere.  "Oh, yeah," parents of one muse gently, "I guess it would be harder with two..."

Yeah.  Only twice as hard there, duck-shoes.

I went to my parents' house yesterday because they'd just gotten new flooring put in, throughout the entire first floor.

"It's beautiful," my mother said on the phone earlier in the week, "there's shades of green and purple and it looks just like stone-- it's going to feel like we're eating outside on some patio."

My father, speaking to me on the phone later in the week, had something slightly different to say.

"It's fuckin' floor-- I put my fuckin' feet on it and walk around-- what?  I'm supposed to care about it or something?!  Who gives a shit?!"

My nearly three-year-old nephew, a clear moderate, said, "I like this floor" as he ran his fingers over it when I came by yesterday to see it.

I mean, it's sheet linoleum made to look like stone.  They did a good job with it, it almost looks like real grouting in between the large square "tiles", but it's all one flat sheet of linoleum.  It's ugly.  Unless the people who buy my parents' home when they die are in their seventies already, the floor will be the first thing they'll replace when they move in.  Sure, it's nicer than the linoleum it replaced, but it's still ass-ugly.

If I'm honest with myself-- and, by turn, with you-- it's not so much that I don't like the floor, it's that I'm always kind of insulted when a change is made to the home in which I was raised.  I remember being ten or eleven and putting up quite a protest when the time came to replace the sofa and chairs in the living room, which, admittedly, looked as if they'd been through a hurricane and a pogrom.

"They're FINE!" I'd insist, "and so COMFORTABLE!" as I'd do a head-first dive into the warped sofa cushions that had virtually no filling left in them.  The next thing on their agenda, after the floor is finished, is to replace all the carpeting in the living room, and the staircase, and, of course, all the furniture in the living room.

Again.

Every time I go there, it seems, it's less and less, um, mine.

Not that it ever was mine-- it's not-- and not like I have any right to it, because they offered to will the fucking house to me and I said no, but it's mine in memory.  And the memories are still there, but the reality is changing.  It would be easier if some random family were living in there now, gutting it, making additions and deletions, trashing it and rebuilding it to greater glory.  But that my parents are there doing it themselves, it's like they're trying to erase the past we'd all built together that, in my head at least, was so happy.  Most of the time.

That old, peeling, yellowed, disgusting linoleum floor was mine.  And I had a little red car.  And I drove it into everything.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

My Kingdom



*Ahem*

(They all turn around in their chairs and look at him.)

"What kind of bird are you?"

(Pause.)

"I'm a sparrow.  She's a dove--"

"No-- what kind of bird (beat) are you?"

----------------------------

I've seen the trailer maybe twenty or so times.  Maybe I have Aspergers-- maybe I'm just in love.  I don't know.  In any case, I've been waiting for a long, long time.  I had plans to drive up to New York City to see it two weeks ago, but it just didn't happen.  I'm not as impetuous, or as quixotic, or as liberated as I used to be.

Twins'll do that to a guy, you know.

Because I wasn't alive in the late 19th century, I'll never know the thrill of hearing that "a new operetta by Gilbert & Sullivan" is premiering at the Savoy, or is coming to New York.  I'll never get to hear the scuttlebutt or the gossip about the costumes or the sets, and I'll never get to see the sheet music for "The Law is the True Embodiment" when it was brand new.  That would have been it for me.

So, because I live in this place and this time and in this century, the release of a new Wes Anderson movie is, I suppose, as close as I'll ever get to that feeling.  And now, at long last, "Moonrise Kingdom" is rising at a theatre near me.

Which is good, because I'm damn tired of waiting.

When I read a little review of "Rushmore" all those years ago, one reviewer called it "A love letter to the misfits of the world."  I didn't need to read any more of that review to know that I needed to see this film.  I couldn't have known that, as Max Fisher danced with Miss Cross to the clanking chords of The Faces' "Ooh La La" that I'd be in tears. I couldn't have known that I would have a fight with my allergist about the ending of that movie, that he argued that the film shouldn't have ended happily for Max-- that, because the movie ended how he wanted, he never learned anything, he never grew as a character.  I argued that Max did learn and Max did grow, but that the film ended how he would have ended it if he'd written it.

What kind of bird is he?

It's funny, being drawn to films about people whose family dynamics are completely fucked up.  You'd think it's how I must have grown up-- surrounded by eccentric people who possessed an uncanny inability to communicate anything resembling affection-- but I didn't.  My upbringing was mundane and regular and safe and surrounded by love.  We were not without our problems, but we weren't Tenenbaums, and we never wanted to be.

Wes Anderson films are more than the sum of the camera angles, the flat presentation of the characters, the shirt and tie combos (in "Rushmore", Herman Blume wore monochromatic shirt-and-tie combinations-- all yellow, all blue, etc, and in "Royal Tenenbaums", Royal favored hues of purples and green stripes-- effeminate choices for such a, well, bastard) or the chic, carefully selected eyeglasses or the indie-cool, carefully selected soundtracks.  It's not the charming, pizzicato tinklings of Mark Mothersbaugh or, now, Alexander Desplat.  It's not the many, many details.

I think it's the sad sincerity of even the most insincere characters.  It's their unabashed presentation, it's the way in which they plod through life, saying awful things with a great innocence.  They're telling the truth even when they're lying through their teeth.

And I guess I like that.  I guess I'm like that, too.  Even though I wish I wasn't.

I suppose I keep coming back to these films because they're some kind of mirror, albeit a distorted one, with cooler clothes, of who I am and I think that, if I watch enough times, if I step aboard the Darjeeling, Ltd one more time, if I close my eyes and listen to the words and the music and the pauses, maybe one day I'll figure out what kind of bird am I.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Notes from the Anglo File

The bumper-sticker (custom made, mind you) says it all:

"WARNING: Gilbert & Sullivan Freak Behind Wheel"

You know, even if you're just some random schmoebert driving behind me, that I'm a little, well, off.  I'm a little, well, smitten with all things Britain.  I'm a little looney.

Just a li'l.

(To be said with a traditional Cockney glottal stop.  Of course.)

Anglophiles are a unique breed, and we're all a bit muddled, a bit befuddled, because, see there's the whole identification issue-- identifying with your oppressor.  After all, Good King George did try to fuck our shit up for daring to take flight, lest we forget.  But for an American who is, after all, half-Israeli and 100% Jewish to boot, that whole dynamic seems almost a bit irrelevant.

I fell in love with English culture years and years ago.  Too much "Monty Python's Flying Circus" exposure at a time when the brain was extremely soft, malleable, and porous.  It's settled some now, but the damage has been done.  And it was done unto others.

Our elementary school had a program where 5th graders were paired up with 2nd graders.  The purpose of this was that the 5th graders would get together with their 2nd grade "book buddies" in the library once a week and read the 2nd graders stories.  Mentoring at a very young age.  It worked-- my book buddy and I are Facebook friends.  And she's fucking hot as balls now, but I digress.  Anyway, I can still vaguely remember reading young Carly "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs."  It was a swell time.

Anyway, the culminating event of the Book Buddy program was that we 5th graders were to write a book specifically for our 2nd grade book buddy.  Every page of the book would be laminated (in case, I guess, our book buddy became violently ill while reading it) and spiral bound by the school librarian, and entered into the permanent school library collection, for future impressionable youths to enjoy.  Some 5th graders wrote their takes on traditional fairy tales, some wrote stories where vegetables came to life and some wrote about things that had happened to them in their own lives, like breaking bones or getting puppies.

My story concerned Queen Elizabeth II getting kidnapped by members of the IRA and being hidden away inside the clock tower of Big Ben, and then rescued by members of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guard, assisted by Detective Inspectors from the London Metropolitan Police Department.  That Carly is Facebook friends with me today, and that, to my knowledge, she has never been the recipient of inpatient psychiatric treatment, is nothing short of miraculous.

I'm the kind of Anglophile who believes that everything coming from the British Isles is better than things in America.  Hobnobs taste better than Chips Ahoy.  The English Ford Focus is cooler than the American one-- at least it was for years, until the latest American restyle.  G&S is better than American musical theatre.  The monarchy is cooler than the presidency.  British comedy is funnier than American comedy.  British men's clothing is sharper than American men's clothing.  The British are more refined, more tasteful, more... correct than Americans.

That last point, however, gave me a moment's pause today as I looked through a slideshow from the Queen's Jubilee celebration.

Observe:


Mm-hm.  And let's not ignore...


And that, my friends, is how an American Anglophile gets bloody well humbled.

God Save the Queen.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Protest Schmotest

On a very rare outing today (outings are rare when you're the father of twins, in case you didn't know) I noticed some protesters holding up signs and chanting some shit outside one of our local hospitals.  The heat was sweltering, and there were some elderly, knobby-kneed fuckers out there with sign-boards yelling at traffic in that ornery, old protester way, and I thought to myself,

Man-- those people are really angry at whatever it is that hospital is doing.  But I'll bet, if one of them collapsed from an aneurysm or heat stroke or an exploding varicose vein, they probably wouldn't put up much of a fuss if they were picked up and dragged into the emergency room of that hospital.  I doubt they'd do anything to prevent the doctors and nurses inside that villainous institution from cutting them open and knocking around their hearts till they restarted.  I'll bet they wouldn't mind.

That's the thing about being pissed off at a hospital, or at the police-- it's all well and good until you're frothing at the mouth or being beat up by a gang of roving Vikings.

I've never protested anything, and I got to thinking about this when all the Occupy Whatever protests were going on at full tilt.  I had thought that my apathy had really set in once I became a father, but that's not entirely true-- I didn't give a shit about things way before that.  Not even as a college student, when I fancied myself an activist of some sort.  When every asshole considers himself an activist of some sort.  Looking back on it, I probably would have gotten more head in college had I went to Washington or New York to protest something.  I'm sure protests are great places to meet idealistic chicks.  Women aren't crazy about giving head at Lutheran schools in Allentown.  At least not to me.

It was nice to get out of the house today, even though I was running a regrettable errand.  See, for approximately ten years, I was a 30-inch waist.  This made buying trousers uneventful, and I liked that.  If I liked my life to be eventful, chances are I'd have gone to a protest or two in my twenties.  Due to a combination of slowed metabolism, middle-aged spread, and experiencing the suddenly sedentary lifestyle of suburban twin fatherhood, I noticed recently that I was gasping for air every time I would put on a pair of pants.  This simply was not going to do-- not for long at any rate.  Crushed guts aren't good for a person, you know.

So I finally ventured out today while Mrs. Apron looked after the children and I bought pants.  Eight pair of pants.  Blue, black, gray, olive, brown, khaki.  I don't know what else-- there were two other colors.  Gray? Who cares?  The point of this story isn't the trousers, it's that I was outside, and I was noticing things again.  Like the sweaty bastard in the wife-beater mowing his lawn, like the two children who were standing by the curb and should have been being more closely monitored by their dick-brained parent.  Like the stupid new Fiat that looks like a hemorrhoid. Like hot jogging chicks with ponytails who don't give head in Allentown.  Like protesters outside of the hospital.  I liked noticing things again.

I wanted to go up to one of those protesters and talk to them, to see what they were about.  To see if they were really as annoying as I thought they were.  To see if they were protesting abortion.  Or if they didn't like the new GE ultrasound machines for some reason.  But instead I just got out of my car and stared at them, like they were animals in the zoo.  One of the animals tipped his head to me, acknowledging me.  I didn't like that.  I felt like kicking him, but I didn't.  I'm not a violent person, you know.  Like F. Murray Abraham's Salieri, I just have "really... violent thoughts".  Like you do.

I got punched in the face last week at work by a patient.  That's never happened to me before-- not just at work, but anywhere.  In elementary school, I was hit in the stomach once on the playground, probably for saying something smart.  On the #30 bus, a blonde 5th grader named Russell hit me in the chest with his hockey stick as he was getting off the bus.  I don't remember provoking that incident, but it's likely that I did.  I'm not violent, but I did a lot in those days to incite conflict.  These days, I do my best to avoid it.  I guess that's why I don't protest, or walk up to protesters.

When I got hit in the face-- it wasn't that hard-- I saw little specks for a quick second or two.  The screen went black and there were these little white specks, little bitty flecks that kind of sparkled.  It was, I don't know, weird.  Nice Jewish boys from the suburbs aren't supposed to get punched in the face at psych hospitals.

"That's for some other mother's son," my mother said to me years ago when I tried to join the police academy.

So, I guess, is protesting.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Remember when this blog used to be funny?

Neither do I.

But, you know who does?  

DEAR APRON:

My niece, "Amy," got her driver's license last November. Since then she has been stopped six times for violations. Unfortunately, she wasn't ticketed for any of them -- just given warnings. Who knows how many other times she should have been ticketed?

When Amy told me about it, she acted like it was a joke and something she was proud of. Her parents are divorced and her father spoils her beyond reason. He gives her whatever she wants, including buying her a new car. Her mother has little control over her.

My niece doesn't seem to understand the possible consequences or what serious damage a car can do to her or to someone else. How should I handle this? I have no contact with her father. Any ideas? -- CONCERNED AUNT IN MASSACHUSETTS

DEAR CONCERNED AUNT:

Why, it just so happens I DO have some ideas-- thanks for asking!

Spoiled whorelettes like Amy need consequences-- any bald, mustachioed, jack-off T.V. therapist will tell you that-- so clearly, Amy needs to be taught that an automobile is a very heavy, potentially dangerous killing machine.  The first thing you want to do is take away the illusion of safety.  See, modern cars are stuffed to the gills with supplemental restraint systems, airbags, anti-lock brakes, collapsible steering wheels, traction control, doors-- you're going to want to get rid of all that shit.  Strip the car down so that it resembles a mail Jeep from the 1970s-- basically a hand-grenade on wheels.  Then, duct-tape the bitch into the driver's seat and put a cinder-block on the accelerator.  Make sure that it's rush-hour and the streets are filled with passively suicidal desk-jockeys heading home to their wives and children that they can't stand.  I have a funny feeling that Amy will be less likely to take driving as some kind of joke after this little motoring excursion. 

Kids... sheesh, right?!

DEAR APRON: 

My 60-year-old sister is being married for the third time. She's planning to wear a long, white wedding gown and will be having a maid of honor, bridesmaids, a rehearsal dinner and reception. We are encouraging her to have a small, quiet ceremony with only family and close friends. Who is correct? -- REALISTIC SISTER, PORT ORANGE, FLA.

DEAR REALISTIC SISTER:

That's a great pseudonym, R.S., I have to tell you-- it really does a lot to eschew any possible ambiguity regarding the relationship you gals have together.  Kudos to you!

As far as Unrealistic Sister's third wedding is concerned, all I can say is that, as long as she's marrying someone of the opposite gender, she can wear nothing but a pair of water wings and have the 32nd Precinct of the New York City Police Department as her bridesmaids for all I care, because marriage is a union between a man and a woman and no one else should have the right to make a longstanding commitment to anybody of the same gender in this country.  So help me God.

DEAR APRON: 

My sister-in-law is demanding to know why I won't accept her friend request on Facebook. Personally, I don't consider her a friend and prefer not to allow her access to my Facebook page. How can I politely and honestly answer her questioning? -- PREFER TO DECLINE 

DEAR PREFER TO DECLINE:

Tell her it's because you don't want her to see those pictures of you doing all that stuff to those homeless guys' assholes with the Nutella-covered bendie straws.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Looking For My Mother

She's in there-- somewhere, I guess.  She's got to be.  On outward appearance, it's the same bespectacled face, the same careworn hands, the same short, salt-and-pepper hair.  It's got to be my mother.

Lately, though, I'm not so sure.

The wry smile is gone.  I don't know that it's gone for good necessarily, but I haven't seen it-- not since December or thereabouts.  That's when my brother-in-law was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic cancer.  That's when the reality set in that her first grandson was going to grow up having never known his father.  "Buddy," my wife asked me tentatively last night during a rare, quiet moment in our house, "will your mother be sad for a very long time?"

"Yeah," I said, not looking at anything in particular, "I think so."

Tragedy doesn't visit our family.  Death does, as it drops in on every family, but tragedy?  Not so much.  I went to my first funeral at age 9, but it was for Dr. Porter, our next door neighbor, who died at a ripe old age-- an irascible, bent over, shriveled up raisin in suspenders and tatty old Florsheims.  People we know and people we love tend to die late in life, when they should.  The only person who exited the world out-of-order was my mother's mother, who was felled by lymphoma-- but that was years before I was born.  So I was not scarred.

But my mother was.

And maybe that's part of the reason why the death of her son-in-law at the age of 34, from cancer, no less, hit her so hard.  Because she'd been there.  She knew.  She'd watched the woman she loved more than anything get eaten up, eaten alive, become barely recognizable.  A shell.  A shame.

Now that I have children, I see my mother more.  For a while, while my brother-in-law was dying, I never saw my mother, because she was caring full-time for his son, while my sister was caring for her husband.  Now that my brother-in-law is dead, my mother comes by to help me with the babies when I'm home with them alone.  Part of it, I think, is because she feels guilty about missing their first few months.  Part of it is because she's from the generation that is absolutely sure a father will kill his children through sheer incompetence and absent-minded negligence by putting them in the dishwasher when their diapers get dirty or something.  Part of it, maybe, is because watching me be a father is one of the few small pleasures she gets to experience anymore.

Maybe.  I don't know.

When she's with me at the house with the babies, conversation is quiet, and the content is either superficial, or it's sad.  I can't manage to get us anywhere in between, and the fault is mine as much as it's hers.  Sometimes, I find myself trying to keep it light, because I can't bear it when it's heavy-- sometimes I say deliberately inappropriate things just to get her to smile-- and, sometimes, it works.  That's what I used to do at the dinner table when we were all young together.  I'd make a cutting remark about a distant relative or someone from the neighborhood just to see my mother smile.  I never thought then that the corners of her mouth turning up would ever mean so much to me.

Or happen so infrequently.

She's in there somewhere, I know, just like we're all in there somewhere-- who we were before cancer and before twins and before mortgages and cars we paid for ourselves and colleges we shouldn't have gone to and majors we shouldn't have chosen and girlfriends we shouldn't have slept with and friends we shouldn't have made.  But did.  We're all in there somewhere.  My daughter is cooing downstairs and my son is sleeping in the next room and my wife, a mother, who's also in there, just finished pumping.  And I'm wearing red and pink argyle socks, because, somewhere, I think I'm in there, too. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Where I Came From

I bought myself a birthday gift today.


I don't know much about it, but that doesn't bother me.  The seat is covered in a coral-hued fabric, there's wicker underneath the cloth.  The back is punched leather, and there's wicker behind that, too.  The little sticker from the antique mall just said, "Swivel Chair - Oak.  $85".  I offered to pay cash, so they gave it to me for $70.  Life is good, you know.

I saw it a week ago, and I wanted it then, but my wife and the babies and I left the antique mall last weekend and I let myself think about it for a couple days.  See, I'm a pretty impulsive guy, so I thought I'd see if I still wanted the chair come, Wednesday, say.  I did.  Ten years ago, I bought a wooden swivel chair from K-mart and, well, it's just not the same.  There's no character, no history.  No one's ever farted in that K-mart chair besides me.  I like things that have been farted in, apparently.  You should see my trouser collection.

So, today, I put the babies in the car and, on a whim, I picked up the phone and called my father.

"Hey, want to take a ride with me and the babies?  We're going to an antiques mart to pick something up."

"Where?" he asked, "you mean, like across the street, or like, New York?"

"Well," I hedged, pulling up to their house, "it's somewhere in between."

The antiques mart is 23 miles away from where we live, and is around a 45 minute drive.  The babies were blissfully quiet in the back, and my father did what he does best-- which is keeping conversation going.  He asked me questions about the babies he already knew the answers to, or had forgotten, he chatted about a conference for entrepreneurs he attended where he met the mayor and inadvertently put his foot in his mouth-- this happens a lot.  He talked about successfully suing a local radio station, for what I have no idea, and his thoughts about possibly suing his web design contractor.  My father also wants to sue the hospital where my brother-in-law was diagnosed with and treated for the cancer that quickly killed him, but thankfully that subject didn't come up on this leisurely drive down Route 1.

"I hope this thing actually fits in the car," I said during a silence, "I didn't take any measurements."  I never do.

"What are we picking up?" he asked.

"Oh-- it's an office chair, an antique office chair with a cloth seat and a leather back."

He looked at me.  I looked at the road.

"Where did you come from?" he asked, shaking his head, "I mean, seriously-- an antique fucking chair?  Where did you come from anyway?"

I shrugged.

"You know, I ask myself that question a lot, too."

"I mean, I know I have family on my side that liked music and things-- and my cousin, you know, the one that was in love with my brother, she had an antique show in South Africa a while ago.  But you?  I just don't know what it's all about."

And he never did.  But one thing that was always understood was that, however bizarre and off-the-wall my latest interest was, he would be there to indulge it.  During the late eighties, when the Olympics were held in Seoul, I decided, at age 8, that I was going to grow up to marry a Korean girl.  The language fascinated me, so I would have my father drive me to Darby-- 69th Street-- where there was a small Korean enclave, and I would look at all the strange neon signs on storefronts and windows, and I would make him buy me Korean language newspapers that I would take home and study, and copy onto lined paper.  My lust for antique VW Beetles raged unquenchable for years and, when I was fourteen, a 1966 Beetle-- Bahama Blue-- somehow ended up in our driveway.  I sometimes went off to summer camp dressed in a dark blue, heavy wool three-piece suit in 100-degree weather.

No one ever said "no" to me.  But they probably always wondered "why".

I don't know who they would have asked.

"Look," he said to me as I piloted my wife's Honda Fit towards through the towns leading to the antique mart, "just be who you are-- you always were who you are.  The minute you start to change, you can't live in your own skin.  I never changed for anybody."

"Yes," I said, "you did.  You changed a lot."

It was quiet for a second.

"Yeah-- okay, yeah, I did.  But I knew if I was going to stay in this country, I'd have to change-- otherwise it wouldn't be fair to anybody."

I've changed, too.  I'm a husband, and I'm a father, two times over.  I'm no longer chasing dreams of policing the streets as a genteel beat cop, and I'm satisfied with the humble life of the occasional community theatre performer.  I'm no writer, I'm a blogger, and that's okay with me.  When my wife was pregnant, she was worried that the babies would change us into some unrecognizable entity, that they would supplant our identities.  It happens, you know.  Just look at the Facebook profile pictures of the people you went to school with-- many of their profile pictures have been replaced with pictures of their offspring.

But that's supposed to be you.  There's still a you in there-- isn't there?  That's what identity is, I think; who we are and what we love and what piques our interest.  My identity is comprised of my preferences and my proclivities and my habits and my collections.  My sillies.  And I suppose I'm glad I'm still bringing back silly things from antique malls.  And I think, in his way, my father's glad, too.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Timeline

I get it now.

I get it.

Facebook wants you.

It wants you so, so bad.

Zuckerberg is lying on his bed of money, rubbing money all over his money-- he's rolling around, flicking his taint (whoa-- money!) and he's just dreaming about... well...

Y.O.U.

He wants you, and your youness.

Facebook is his baby and his daddy and his bitch, and now he wants you to be his daddy and his baby and his bitch.

Oh, dirty little baby bitch.

ZUCKERBERG WANTS ALL THE BABY BITCHES!!!!

No, seriously.  He does.

At first, I didn't get it.  I didn't understand what it was all about.  I mean, Facebook changes interfaces as frequently as I change pants.  That is to say, about twice a week.  Gross, I know, but who has the time to take the belt off and take the wallet out and the Burt's Bees and put it all on another pair of pants every day?  I mean, come on-- it's not like I'm shitting in them.

So, right-- Timeline.  I didn't understand what the big deal was.  Until today.  I happened to look at my Timeline-- well, my Timeline preview, because I'm way too antidisestablishmentarianwhateverthecum to change it over myself, so I'm just going to wait until they MAKE ME DO IT.

(They're making me do it.  It's like rape.  Zuckerberg's raping me with his money cock.)

So, I scrolled all the way down to my birthday-- May 12, 1980-- where my Timeline begins.  And there's nothing there because, well, obvs-- Facebook didn't exist in 1980.  And then it hit me.

My kids.

My kids were born on December 15, 2011.  FACEBOOK EXISTED WHEN MY KIDS WERE BORN.  My wife and I (because we're STUPID NARCISSISTS) put up pictures from the hospital bed, pictures of our children in their little incubator pod weird thing.  The first picture ever taken of them, something that should be private, to our family, got a hundred fucking thumbs ups-- many of them from people who haven't spoken to me out loud since middle school-- and I guarantee you the last thing they said to me probably wasn't nice.

People who are born to adults of the Facebook generation are going to have their whole lives on Facebook.  From the first minute.  Their first spit up, their first shitty diaper, their first breastfeed, their first roll over, the first time they bring their goddamned little grubby hands to midline.  We're constantly clicking away at our babies' lives, as Emily Webb says, "every, every minute".  And it's all there, on Facebook.

Timeline is gonna MOTHERFUCKING OWN US.

When my kids become fourteen, (apparently, that's the age you need to be to get a Facebook account) they're going to get access to all the pictures of them, from the very first one at the hospital, and they're going to put them all up on their Timeline and every moment of their live will be chronicled, cataloged, categorized.

And... I don't exactly know what that means.  I'm not smart enough to know what that means.  I'm not paranoid enough to know what that means.  I don't know if it's the end of something, or the beginning of something.  Is it the end of privacy, or is it the beginning of oneness?

All I know is this-- Facebook doesn't need to see my Middle School Years, and I don't think it needs to see anybody's Middle School Years.  What does it want with every moment of our lives?  Does Facebook want to fuck us or own us or drop us or eat us or what?  It's beginning to seem like a Maurice Sendak character, only without the charm.

Timeline: you need to be stopped, and I think I'm just the man to do it.  I'm after you, Zuckerberg.  Just as soon as I change my status.