In November of 2003, You Learned:
HOW TO ENJOY WHAT YOU'VE GOT.
The Mother Said, "I hope everyone likes raisins."
The Father Said, "It's about time someone in this family did something."
The Mother Said, "I hardly recognize you with that beard."
The Brother Said, "I'm gonna finish this in the family room."
The Sister Thought, "alone."
The Mother Said, "Is that all you're going to eat?"
The Father Said, "You'd better not be gambling again."
The Brother Said, "..."
The Mother Said, "I have room for more grandchildren."
The Father Said, "I have room for more dinner rolls."
The Sister Said, "He said he just needed a little more space."
The Mother Said, "It's temporary."
The Father Agreed, "It's temporary."
The Brother Cried, "Motherfucking Deadleg!"
The Mother Said, "This is what I am thankful for."
The Father Said, "Too many raisins."
The Stuffing Agreed, "Too many raisins."
The Raisins Thought, "Either way, I guess we're fucked."
The Mother Asked, "Does anyone need more Pepsi?"
The Sister Said, "I'm empty."
The Father Said, "I'm empty."
The Brother Said, "I'm empty."
The Pepsi Said, "I can help you, but just for tonight."
HOW TO FIND OUT WHAT YOU'RE MADE OF.
In my neverending role as a plus-one to other people's more impressive lives, a friend endowed me with an extra free one-month pass to one of the city's more upscale (read: expensive [read: brag]) gyms. I had never heard of it, but that's not so unusual. I don't obsessively follow New York hotspots unless they sell ice cream, flapjacks, or ass. It's just too exhausting to catalog all the places that I'm not allowed to step inside, and I can't imagine feeling any sense of self-satisfaction were I granted entrance. I already know what assholes drink.
I should have known this gym would be an endurance test for my personality the moment I checked their web site. It devoted more space to a list of the celebrities who have showered there than a list of their workout facilities. It also read like a Page 6 of phsyical fitness: "Fresh off his swashbuckling role in Pirates of the Carribbean, we spotted Orlando Bloom buckling down with a bag of Pirate's Booty in our Fitness Café! S'wash happening, Orlando?"
After being treated with some measure of indignity by the gym's "hostess", we were given a tour, during which we discovered this sports club provides full uniforms - jockstraps included - for their members. I was glad to hear that, because this piece of trivia answered the question that was making elliptical revolutions in my brain: why does everyone look like extras from 1984 (the orwell novel, not the totally awesome calendar year that michael ian black skewers drolly on those delightful vh-1 specials.), fuelling the machines in their heather gray on heather gray running suits? (it was funny, because during my first day of training there i was also wearing a similar heather gray t-shirt, but mine was emblazoned with the word, "HEEB." i felt like i was being singled out at a prison camp.)
I also learned that members were permitted to rent small cubby lockers to hold their giant stacks of gold coins and slave ownership papers while they stretched-out. The hostess said, "you can rent one for only $55 a month," in a voice that was almost too surprised by the generosity of the offer it just issued. My old gym in Brooklyn cost nearly half that amount for human membership. That means, at this gym, my human life is less valuable than someone else's cell phone and Swatch. (as if i didn't already know this)
The gym is fairly full-featured. However, apart from being able to check your email from a treadmill or sign up for classes where, accompanied by a blazing hip-hop soundtrack, you can punch and kick homeless people aerobically, its true prize isn't even on the gym floor. It's two flights below, in the locker room. Great showers, great products, and a weird staff of below-the-equator nerds who actually, literally collect your used towels and jockstraps. This is a true delight for the regulars at the gym - a group of barely reformed collegiate date rapists with new corporate jobs where they earn plenty of great hush money. Writing a check for $5,000 is so much more dignified than dropping off a bottle of Kahlua at her sorority house with a note attached that reads, "You were special. No hard feelings?"
One of the locker room attendants, whose name I haven't gotten yet, is a character of nearly cinematic proportions. It's as if he's been studying American films from the 1940s and, in particular, the cadences and preoccupations of on-screen bellboys, valets, shoe shines, barbers, and ice block salesmen, in order to play his role at the gym more earnestly. I am not exaggerating when I say I overheard him discussing one member's upcoming business trip to Paris by remarking, "Ah, gay Paree! Wine, women, romance! (whistles) Ya got any room on that trip for me, boss? I sure could use some of them Parisian ladies." Root-toot-toot-a-doot.
The first time I met him, I was waiting my turn in line to exchange my locker key for my ID, and I studied him - skinny as a wick, hair smashed down in a greasy part that curled at the ends where the pomade forgot to reach, thick steel-frame glasses, and a moustache of the softest puberty. He was chatting with another member, talking about being exhausted, working seven jobs, etc. The member tried to slide him some money "for the holidays" and the locker room attendant made like he was bashful. Then the member pushed it harder, insisting, and said, "Come on. I gotta tell you, you're one of the nicest people I've ever known in my whole life." I was somewhat moved, and ashamed, because the entire time I was standing there, waiting my turn, all I was thinking was, "Hmm...I'll bet this guy has sex with prostitutes." I deserve a charlie horse.
HOW TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE DOGS ARE BARKING FOR YOU, AND ONLY YOU.
Tivo'd Martin Lawrence's concert film, RUNTELDAT, and finally sat down to watch it during a bout of insomnia last night. I will confess I am a huge fan of his old show, MARTIN, and will defend it to the death to any comers.
However, that Martin is no longer with us. He's been gone a while, in fact. I have a theory, previously stated on this web site, about the relationship between black comics' careers and the first time they agree to appear in a televised special wearing a 100% leather suit. Eddie did it and then lost his shit. Martin did it already (remember the leather baseball jersey in You So Crazy?) and we know what happened to him. Chris Rock even did it on his second HBO hour, and I dare you to name any good Chris Rock movies since.
Now I feel obligated to amend that theory. If your act includes a very obvious Messianic Complex, you are probably not going to be funny and you've most certainly gone 100% nuts. If you are a black comic* and step to the stage surrounded by dry ice smoke as hip-hop music explodes on the PA, and pose with your head down, arms extended and hands gripped at the wrists, before finally descending a set of smoke-enveloped stairs to the stage, I promise you have reached the point of no return as a professional comedian.
In RUNTELDAT Martin Lawrence not only exhibits all of these warning signs, but he does so in an oversized leather shirt-pant combo emblazoned with a specially-made "runteldat" logo. Plus, before the concert film even begins, we are subjected to a long video recounting all the various ways his star shined too brightly, and how the media vipers have been biting at his ankles, trying to poison his blood and desecrate his once mighty name. (this is interspersed with clips of him praying in his dressing room and shooting three-pointers in a fat-suit on the set of Big Momma's House.)
At first I thought this video was made expressly for the film but, once Martin has completed descending his smoky stairs and demanding the audience holler, he asks them if they enjoyed the video they'd just seen - the same one I, at home, had just seen. Martin could have only made this worse by walking onstage escorted by two members of the Fruit of Islam.
But take all those other mitigating factors and none of them compare to one's decision to identify with the music and lyrics of DMX. DMX is like the hip-hop Ian Curtis. He's not just an MC; he's half self-made martyr and half neighborhood crackhead. His vocal style is nonlinear, angry, like the unpredictable head bobs of a rabid St. Bernard. And to look at the entire canon of hip-hop, past Tribe Called Quest and Nas and Biggie and even King Sun and say to yourself, "I think the tourettic tics and amplified snarls and barks of DMX really speaks most directly to me as a comedian and entertainer," is to laugh directly into the abyss, and discover even the abyss refuses to laugh back.
Now, after all of that - - the leather, the dry ice, the logos, the media clips, the retrospective, the prayer, the dogs barking - guess what Martin's first joke was about? Fucking a woman in her throat cancer neck-hole. And, for a brief, shining moment, I thought, "our little Marty's back!" I have never been so wrong in my entire life.
*there is a altnernate version of this theory for white comics, which involves wearing a black leather jacket onstage while AC/DC or some other ancient "bad boy" band explodes on the PA, and insisting on jamming with a live rock band of unknown session musicians as the "finale" of your stand-up comedy concert.
HOW TO MAKE A CATERPILLAR OUT OF A MAN.
I'm sorry to air personal problems here, but something is driving me crazy right now. My roommate is in Mummenschanz. Great, fine. I am very happy he's involved in the arts. I support that. I don't understand it most of the time, but I support it.
However, Schulmann, I hope you realize there are TWO OF US living under this roof. Forget that I sometimes find you terribly uncommunicative or too oblique most of the time. That's possibly my issue. And I'm not going to get into how frustratingly sudden your mood changes can be. One minute you're as happy and simple as can be; then, in a flash, it's like you've torn off that face to reveal a totally different person - a brooding cynic beneath. Maybe these pendulous mood changes inform your art, but as your roommate I can hardly follow you anymore. Are you mad at me? Are you laughing at me? Are you just being passive-aggressive because I created the chore board while you were on tour? I feel like I'm walking on egg shells.
Like I said before, some of these concerns may be coming from and ending with me and, if they are, I apologize if I seem too sensitive. But there are other things that trouble me and I think it would benefit our relationship if I just cut to the quick: Is it too much to ask you to replace the toilet paper once in a while? JESUS, Schulmann!!
HOW TO GIVE REX REED AN ERECTION.
As my holiday gift to other upstart film critics, looking to shake things up with an oblique, pithy assessment of a film they probably haven't even seen, I submit the following public-domain reviews of Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World.
- See sick.
- Ship wreck.
- Naut good.
- More anchor, less stanker.
- Interminable naval gazing.
- Crowe's messed.
- Man over-bored.
- Shallow end.
- Ketch it on cable.
- Shit's ahoy!
- Too many buoys.
- Sea suck.
- Mizzenmast? More like Snoozin-fast!!
- Peter Weir should keel himself.
- You'll heave, ho.
- Headstay, mind wander.
- A hollow vessel full of bland seamen.
- Master & Commander teaches us we've been wrong all along. The world IS flat.
HOW TO SHOW AND PROVE.
It's been almost two full weeks since I've shoved a piece of candy down my greedy throat. This may not sound exactly noteworthy to most people, but most people do not keep a caramel lick bedside.
Losing candy (for now! at least until i learn to better control my urges.) has been hardest between the hours of 2pm and 6pm, when I'm working and would do anything to get out of my seat, travel 200 feet to Duane Reade, and purchase 12 full ounces of SUPER Hot Tamales. Attending movies has been no easy feat, either. I don't love popcorn, especially when accompanied by bottled water (i am trying to cool out on soft drinks, too, because, really, they're not much different than candy.), and the thought of becoming one of those movie theater weirdos with a satchel of Gorp is just too much to bear. I'd rather stay home and rent, or put out matches on my cornea.
I've actually been feeling slightly better since the candy strike. Lately, I'm finding I actually have more energy - sometimes enough to finish chewing my lunch. Also, because the god I worship is a cruel one, armed with the world's biggest joy buzzer, I have three new pimples to keep me company on my strike. They are possibly stress-related.
Last night, I tried to preview another dietary consideration I've been toying with. After the show, I joined some friends at a pub and ordered a turkey burger with NO BUN. I asked for it flinchingly, half-expecting the waitress to punch me in the teeth. I was also concerned because my friend, Andres, who was in attendance at the pub last night, has been on the Atkin's diet for the last month or two. Ordering burgers without buns has become a regular and mandatory humiliation for him. (though i expect he is more evolved than me, and sees it as a minor inconvenience rather than a major embarrassment.) I ordered my turkey burger Andres-style, taking a cue from his (so far successful) diet, and I feared he'd think I was making fun of him. This is, I realize, a perfectly insane thought. If nothing else, surely I could put my head together and come up with a better way to mock my friends. "Look at me! My delicate tummy hates bread-bread, too!! I'm a BABY. Maybe I should get my cheeseburger served in a diaper. Isn't that how you like it, huh, Andres?!"
Andres was not angry, or at least did not express his anger in front of our collected peers. (though i'd LOVE to have been a fly on the wall as he wrote in his diary last night. claws out!) That was a lucky break. I also woke up this morning feeling something I haven't felt in a long while: well.
Not wanting to ruin this amazing single-day winning streak, this afternoon I ignored my impulse for meat/cheese/bread, and ate sushi for lunch, at a restaurant recommended by a friend. As soon as I walked in, past the pre-prepared katsu don bowls and the Krispy Kreme doughnuts display case (which will forever remain a mystery to me), I knew I'd like this place. I have never been in a restaurant that felt so calming, all at once. The decor was simple, tasteful, clean - just like the way I'd imagine heaven must be appointed. As I waited for my chirashi, seated with a clay cup of complimentary tea, I couldn't help placing my hands flat on the blonde wood of the table. I did this repeatedly, spreading my fingers out occasionally, and thinking, "I belong here."
The sushi restaurant was a rare find in Manhattan, in that some of the staff were actually Japanese. I can usually tell when I'm in a Japanese-owned and staffed restaurant because, by the time I've exited, I've spoken to every single person in the establishment. Everyone greets you at Japanese restaurants, from the chefs to the busboys. It's nice, but overwhelming. I'm not sure whom to send holiday cards this year? Everyone at the restaurant, since they're all my new best friends? Or should I just send one addressed to "The whole gang at..."?
I'm glad I had sushi today. I have made up my mind that I don't want to get diabetes because of my love for refined sugar, and I don't want to get heart disease from all that meat/cheese/bread. However, I'm perfectly at ease with fish parasites.
(incidentally, the other way to tell you're in a Japanese-owned and staffed restaurant is more subtle. after the staff has greeted you, let your eyes drift from theirs and then, when they think you're not looking, strain to glance back out of the corner of your eye. do not move your head; just your eyeballs. now make sure you can see their faces. if, when they're positive you can't see them, their eyes glow bright red, they are japanese.)
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR BEAUTIFUL PETALS.
I don't need a therapist; I need a nutritionist. I spend about 60% of my couch-time worrying over my diet, wondering if it is reflective of a national norm or if it's some kind of aberrant program of self-abuse. Each week, I begin our sessions by running down a list of everything I'd eaten that day, and sometimes the previous day, making sure to withhold at least one dietary offense - bacon strips, scrapple, an entire box of Red Hot Dollars, etc. - because lying to one's brainfixer is my compensation for the judgment in which I'm surely being held. (is this the wrong approach?)
My brainfixer, who is as interested in the body as she is in the mind, will make suggestions and issue warnings. Yesterday she told me my diet seemed no worse than the average American diet, and applauded me for resisting fried foods. (it's true. i'd rather be punched in the stomach than chew through a handful of deep-fried batter, and deny myself the true flavor of good foods like chicken, shrimp, vegetables, and cheese. nonetheless, i don't take a self-righteous view on fried foods. dip the aforementioned items in a sugar-glaze or caramel sauce, however, and i'll attack the food greedily, and swallow without biting. we all gots our problems, ok, pal?) In the past, she has suggested I might have a wheat allergy, and recommended something called "spelt" as a bread substitute. Spelt, when it is formed into a loaf, looks, feels and tastes like a painting of bread. It is a crime against people who long for flour.
My adventure in spelt became just another therapy homework assignment I'd failed, with all the accompanying guilt and anxiety that comes along with disappointing one's brainfixer. It will be remembered alongside with the incomplete two-column list I was supposed to create, indicating reasons why I was ready for a loving relationship listed in column A, alongside reasons I was not ready. Column B was extensive, beginning with items like "easily distracted", "chlid of a narcissistic mother", and "uses relationships to ignore creative responsibilities, and uses failure in creative responsibilities as a means of escaping from 'smothering' relationships," to far more nit-picky complaints like "messy bed" and "doesn't own a hair dryer with diffuser attachment." Column A - or reasons I was ready for a loving relationship - was a disaster. After hours of deliberation all I could come up with was, "gives good hugs." And, frankly, it's not even true. I need to trim my nails.
One things my therapist cum nutritionist and I seem to agree upon is that I have a very unhealthy relationship with refined sugar. Can I help it if I like a little bit of refinement in my life? She seems to think I can, and she's probably right. My sugary prison has definitely been hell on my energy. I crash and burn early, and never take off again. My immune system is as delicate as one of those crazy African flowers Superman picks for Lois Lane in Superman II.
I'm ALWAYS under the weather, or at least in the process of crawling underneath the weather. I think my co-workers have decided I'm a terminal case, as I call in sick with enough frequency to earn a solid gold anti-bacterial bubble upon retirement. The president of the company will shake my hand through a great Vulcanized glove in my bubble and I will timidly shake it back, using my free hand to shove peanut brittle into my toothless mouth sac.
HOW TO CHART THE DRAMATIC WEIGHT GAIN OF LAURENCE FISHBURNE.
Saw The Matrix: Revolutions on a gigantic IMAX screen so I could guarantee my senses were overwhelmed with disgust. (see? i'm not so different than lots of people with an online presence. we're the same!) I actually ended up enjoying the film, far more than the previous chapter, which felt heavy, like a tumor filled with the Wachowski Brothers undergraduate philosophy class notebooks. (if i were an editor for MAD magazine, i would have called them "the watch-out-ski brothers" and i would have called their film "schmatrix: schmevolutions." i'm just saying, is all.) I got a little freaked in the beginning, when the Oracle started talking her crazy puzzle talk, but then a bunch of guys shot bullets at robots and I relaxed, stabbed my thumb into my mouth, and felt warm and placated.
Because the IMAX screen was just so tremendous, I actually gasped out loud when Monica Belluci's cleavage made a brief cameo. I felt like Gulliver in Brobdingnag, when he's being wet-nursed by a giant and is afforded a microscope's view of female anatomy. However, unlike Gulliver, I popped a boner. Sorry, Gulliver!
Also, and I hope to be credited for this some day, there is one scene, during the war against the machines in the all-night-rave city of Zion, about which I would like to make an important prediction. In the scene, two women - a sleek fighter with a shaved head and her African-American buddy with flawless skin - try to take out one of the machines with a couple of shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles. The anthropomorphized machine is essentially an enormous drill bit with spindly legs and no brain to speak of. These women want to knock it over, and curtail its relentless drive, and they want it BAD.
As the events in this sequence unfolded I could feel it inspiring a great tidal wave of term papers from first-year women's studies majors across America. And those papers will each receive a B-minus, except the one that uses the expression "Phallocracy." That paper will receive a D.