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[This is something I wrote for the last How to Kick People. [check the site for this month's nice lineup.] I'm not entirely sure where this piece will enjoy a second-life so I've decided it will hang out on tremble for a little while.]


I am tired of saying "Just Don't It." This is the year for me to say just do it! When opportunities come knocking, from this minute forward I will say to those opportunities, "Hey there, opportunities, I hear you knocking so just give me a second while I put on a robe, OK?" instead of saying, "Hey, bitches, I have an authentic samurai sword and the constitutional right to defend my home and property. So who's knocking now, huh, motherfuckers? Survey says: DEATH!"

This year I'm finally ready to be sucks-YESful and seize on to the day and stop paddling my rowboat of undeveloped self-actualization down Denial River. But, mostly, more than anything, this is definitely the year I stop running around in a catcher's uniform while boardwalk tourists pay five dollars to shoot at me with a paintball gun.

People always tell me: hey man, don't let your job define you. "Buddy boy," they'll say, "I bust my ass all day, just like you, and just like everyone else. But as soon as I cruise out those saloon-style doors and take off that Red Lobster apron, I'm my own person. And if anyone wants to chit-chat about shrimp when I'm off-duty, I just tell them they can talk to the hand – the one that still smells faintly of tartar sauce and scrod pee." And I hear that and all, but man, is that ever easy for you to say because your customers are just asking for extra moist hand wipes instead of shooting at you all day long and throwing their cups of beer at your head. And your boss doesn't call you a freak through a giant megaphone, and that little "memo" area on your paycheck doesn't say, "FOR SERVICES RENDERED IN THE AREA OF FREAKING." And you don't leave work each night covered in welts, and head out to the strip clubs with paint in your ears.

There's a lot that's gonna change this year. First and foremost, I got one of those George Foreman Grills and I'm gonna learn to cook. Ray got himself one and he says it cooks up a steak just perfect. Ray works at the dunking booth. Most people don't want to dunk a perfect stranger, particularly an African-American stranger because maybe it seems racial in a way you can't exactly put your finger on. So, to encourage business and develop a rapport, Ray spends his days insulting people on the boardwalk, razzing on their bald heads and fat legs and handicapped kids and stuff so they'll get egged on enough that they'll want to pay a couple dollars to chuck baseballs and maybe dunk Ray in some brown water. People have called Ray a buffoon and much worse but the way I see it, it must be nice just to have a voice, you know. Yup, Ray's got it pretty much figured out.

So I'm getting a George Foreman Grill and I'm going to stop ordering take-away from that Oriental Place near the Pick-n-Save effective immediately. And if I do break down and get some Oriental food because maybe one night I'm too tired to fire up the old Foreman or I'm in an emotional state that requires I keep myself far away from heat-flames or grill plates, I'll make sure I order up something healthful, with broccolis in it, instead of Sweet and Sour Hot Dogs like I always get. That's a promise to me, and that's a promise to everyone.

I'm going to finish writing my untitled movie project this year. I got most of it done – well, not properly written out on paper, but I have the outline near-perfect in my head so in that sense all the heavy lifting is taken care of, you know? It's part thriller, part suspense, and part comedy. In fact, I even made up a new genre for it to generate excitement and buzz within the top brass of HOLLYWOOD; I call it a THRILLSPENSEDY.

And it's about this guy who works for a living getting shot at with ink pellets. (not paint pellets: important distinction for legal protective purposes) and one day this pellet hits him in a special brain area that unlocks his hidden rage factor which causes this guys to go totally REVENGE-O, and start wearing a Mad Max outfit and riding a flaming motorcycle and hunting down all the people who shot him with inkballs. It's loosely based on a true story.

Here's a sneak preview I have worked out in my head. There's this one scene where the hero's just hunted down this guy who works as a construction person and the construction person fell asleep on his couch, watching dirty movies. We can establish he's a construction person through subtleties like maybe he's sleeping in his hard hat because he was too drunk and stoned and horny to take it off before he passed out. Things like that. Hints.

Oh! So the movie's hero wakes up the construction guy and now he's got a nail gun – which we establish is in the construction guy's house by way of a flashback where the construction guy's leaving work like, "Man, I'm gonna bring this nail gun home and clean it out and empty out all the dangerous nails later, but maybe some porno-watching first ok." And we see from the nail gun's perspective that it is now pointed at the construction guy's face or maybe nutsack – I can't decide – and the construction guy is all, "HOLY CRAP NO PLEASE NO I'M GOING TO PEE AND CRAP ALL OVER THE PLACE I'M SO SCARED JUST LET ME LIVE UH OH I JUST PEED AND DAMN HERE COMES THE CRAP," and he's crying like crazy.

Then our guy goes, "Remember this?" and pulls up his sleeve to reveal a tiny round pink scar tissue. And the construction guy doesn't remember because he's so stupid, so our guy goes, "you totally nailed me with a inkball pellet, asshole. But guess what? Now I'm totally nailing you." And then – BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! – he nail-guns the construction guy to death. But no one can trace it back because he's wearing leather gloves and besides the construction guy had enemies in the mafia and Colombian Drug Syndicate so everyone just guesses it's them and the cops throw up their hands at the crime scene and go, "open and shut case." I'm gonna finish that movie this year, for sure, and then start sending it out to Hollywood. I just need to get a computer.

I bought a chin-up bar. I'm just saying, is all.

This is the year I stop trying to pick up women by telling them I was responsible for the bombings at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. I know they haven't solved that crime but it's just not cool to take credit for it anymore, particularly given the sensitive nature of these times we live in. Wow, that felt really good to say. I'm making progress. I can feel it in my bones.

Plus, I'm getting my tattoo lasered. No, I'm not talking about the full-back tattoo of Mortal Kombat's Sub-Zero performing a "BABALITY" finishing move on his alter-ego, Scorpion. I believe the symbolism of that tableau is both personal and timeless.

I am talking about my other tattoo, of course. The one I'm always feeling embarrassed about whenever I take my shirt off to ride the mechanical bull over at Shooter's Bar and Grill. I have this tattoo on my right chest area, of Michaelangelo, who at a certain reckless and particularly unsituated time during my youth, was my favorite Ninja Turtle. God help me, it's true. If you don't believe me, ask anyone. That's all I'd ever talk about. I even made my own nunchuks out of a couple of mop handles and a piece of shoelace. I never did really figure out how to make those things work but I used to carry them around with my intentions in the right place.

But that was then. Now I am a person of thirty and five years and a different man entirely. As such, I decree that I am going to have my Michaelangelo Ninja Turtle tattoo changed into a Leonardo Ninja Turtle, because Leonardo's philosophy and character are most in tune with my life right now, and that's the space I need to be in so I can make the changes I need to make. I think the fix is not so difficult; the hard part will be making the nunchuks look like a pair of Katana Blades but I hear they can do very sophisticated things these days in the field of tattoo removal and modification. And yes, it will be much more difficult and time-consuming to change the caption beneath my Ninja Turtle tattoo from "DANCIN' WITH MR. BROWNSTONE" to "9/11: NEVER FORGET" but, as I see it, life is a journey and a journey starts with the first step.

All I'm saying is, we all make stupid mistakes, like eating a turkey sandwich you found in a gas station bathroom or winning a bunch of money from the city because a cop choked your pit bull, and then spending all that settlement cash on your own state-of-the-art backyard wrestling ring, or applying for a job where the Want Ad said, "FREAK WANTED – MUST KNOW EXCEL." Someone could make any one of those mistakes or, in my case, all of them. And a few more.

But this book on tape I'm reading gave me some good advice about that, and a lot of other life-changing things. The book on tape's called SUCCESS STORM!: UNLOCKING THE CATEGORY FIVE HURRICANE WITHIN YOU. It was written by that guy on TV who comes on after the Carson Daly Show and he's always so totally amped, you know? He's amped about his life in a way I have not been since I was a little kid and he keeps saying it, too. "I'm amped! I'm amped!" And, when he's not reading from the book on tape, he's throwing wadded-up twenty-dollar bills at the screen like it was nothing, and running around a fancy yacht marina in an expensive suit that's covered with all sorts of inspirational ironed-on words like, "WINNING IT!" and "TOP-NOTCH!" and "140%" " and his trademark thing that he always says on TV—"PLUS IT UP." – and you almost want to shout "PLUS IT UP!" right back at him, even though you're on a couch, under a bunch of TWIX brand granola bar wrappers, and he's on the TV set. It seems silly to shout at the TV like that but this guy's just so amped it's almost like you believe maybe he'll hear you.

Anyway, in his book he says mistakes are just life's rehearsals for a successful opening night. And I like that a lot, so I'm thinking, yeah, tomorrow is gonna be my opening night, which is a metaphor for 2:30pm when I'm supposed to show up for work.

I'm gonna walk down to the boardwalk and I'm gonna find my boss at the bar, and I'm gonna say, "Ralphie, put on a shirt, because I have something important to say and if it's all the same to you I think it would be more professional-sounding if I had this particular conversation with someone who wasn't bare-chested and all. I promise I'll be finished talking before your hot wings get a chance to cool, so if you'd please drop those, too, I'd appreciate it.
"Here's the situation, Ralphie. Let me lay it out for you. You're going to have to find yourself a new freak because, guess what? I have some self-respect and my new self-respecting self says it's time to plus it up i.e. no more playing the freak. Four years is enough. This is the first day of the rest of my life."

And then I'll hand him a crumpled-up piece of paper and say, "check it." And he'll uncrumple it and look at it, then look at me funny, then look at the paper again and he'll say, "What's this? A 'K?' There's a letter 'k' on this paper" And I'll throw my head back and laugh a crazy laugh and when I'm done laughing I'll say, "I know, Ralphie. I'm giving you the "K" from "freak" because guess what? Now I'm F-R-E-A "frea." And then I'll turn away all dramatic and that's it goodbye. My successful opening night.

And anyway, I heard Ray caught pneumonia last week, so maybe there's work at the dunking booth.

WE FIRST MET ON 10.13.2005

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