In June of 2004, You Learned:
HOW TO ENCOURAGE ME.
Fresh Yarn is a self-attributed online salon for personal essays, and it's very good. Most of the contributors are LA-based TV writers, actors and humorists – aliens to me, mostly. For the latest installment, they were nice enough to publish a piece of mine, "My Racist Aunt," which previously appeared in a rougher, less nuanced form on this very site. (It was a prelude to another piece first published here, then elsewhere – "The United States According to My Racist Aunt.")
It is nice to be included alongside the likes of Sarah Thyre, who was one of the first people in New York to nurture my sophormoric side by publishing some of my absolute dumbest writing in her zine, Thyrezine. (my first contribution, titled, "How to Fuck Your Pets", included a diagram of a horsefly with a thought bubble above its head, containing the words "FRIG MY FUCKHOLE." class.)
It is also nice that I've finally realized a long-standing dream of mine, to be published in the same space as Taylor Negron.
HOW TO ADMIT YOU'RE ONE IN A BILLION.
Today I received an email with the following subject line: "You want rock hard abs and better defined muscle." I was 100% positive it was just a junk mail advertisement for nothing I would ever throw money at in a million years. However, I opened it anyway because I was thinking, "I do want rock hard abs and better defined muscle."
I guess by opening it I was just trying to say, "yeah, you got me."
p.s. While I was struggling with ideas for tomorrow night's HOW TO KICK PEOPLE (I hope to see you there) I wrote this joke: "I was home-schooled, and I think being taught alone, at home, made it easier to concentrate on my education. In fact, I graduated salutatorian." sigh. (what's the emoticon for "swallowing strychnine"?)
HOW TO UPSET POPULAR CONSENSUS.
It's nice when people take time out to send me email stating agreement over some opinion I've expressed on this web site. (the emails usually read, "Yes, you are gay. Now stop fruiting around and write something new.") It feels good to strike a chord, even unwittingly, and learn there are others out there--total strangers--who fully concur with my personal set of beliefs. Well, that's all about to change with this entry.
Here's the deal: I don't think it makes you gay just because you beat off to images of Brad Pitt.
I usually don't like to set sentences off by themselves, naked and defenseless like that, but I think this one needed a little air around it so readers like you could take a pause for better retention. Now let me explain. Is beating off to images of shirtless men a little, for lack of a better word, gay? Sure. And is Brad Pitt a gay icon? Yes, but what serious-eyed, muscular man or quick-witted overweight Asian woman isn't a gay icon? In truth, I believe Brad Pitt is much, much more and I sort of resent the idea that he's been cordoned off as a gay icon, to be enjoyed only by the gayest of eyes. I think his appeal transverses the already flimsy (but pretty clearly defined) borders of sexual orientation. He was put on this planet for all of us to marvel at, each in our own way.
Brad Pitt is good looking. Fuck that--Brad Pitt is a some kind of weird, sculpted masterpiece. It is still hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that he sometimes wears sweatpants and opens mail and performs oral sex on Jennifer Aniston. The actual sex act seems, like those other items I just listed, a bit beneath Brad Pitt. It means being charitable and leaking things and possibly putting scratches in his body, which is made of marble dipped in some kind of expensive foundation make-up you can only buy in Okinawa, made from the tears of grateful orphans on their birthdays. That's just it. I don't think Brad is even on the top of most women's lists of "men I want to grab me in the dark." He's a purely aesthetic creation. Therefore, Brad Pitt should not be allowed to have sex, nor should he be expected to participate in interviews where he has to talk about what kind of underwear he wears and what cheap, domestic beer he drinks to try to understand what "normal" (i.e. fallible) people are like. I attest that Brad Pitt learned to fart from books on tape. Brad Pitt has his eyes cleaned in a gem tumbler. The guy is so objectively attractive that I can even beat off to Meet Joe Black without the slightest tinge of remorse. NOT A TINGE.
I don't care whether you're straight, gay, or still waiting for the test results from the Princeton Center--Brad Pitt is a good looking man. And he's not good looking in that way that makes straight guys want to punch him in the mouth. (sorry, jimmy fallon.) I have plenty of straight friends who will admit to being shocked and amazed by Brad Pitt's physique to the point of great admiration, which then gives way to envy and self-doubt. That's because when Brad Pitt first marched out shirtless in Thelma & Louise, with a blower dryer tucked into his jeans, we all knew the bar had been raised on women's baseline expectations of us. And when my friends are witness to Brad Pitt's unswaying power over all humans, I don't think it means they want to kiss Brad Pitt. I just think they have the decency of taste and honesty of heart to acknowledge that which is scientifically true: that guy is very fuckable. And admitting that does not come with gay intentions. In fact, I would go as far as saying if you're a man who can't or won't recognize how attractive Brad Pitt is to all sexual orientations, it makes you stupid. Yes, stupid. A very stupid person. Because that's like being afraid to say David is a great statue and a perfect example of male physique just because Michaelangelo chose to include a flaccid cock in the sculpture. Stop being so scared of the truth, and start beating off to images of Brad Pitt, heterosexual male. And while you're at it, you are permitted to beat off to images of Michaelangelo's David statue. Go wild. Consider it a bonus package.
But the real reason I can confidently make the leap from recognizing Brad Pitt's magnetism to promoting the idea that beating off to images of Brad Pitt does not make you gay is that Brad Pitt, to me, is purely wish fulfillment. Beating off to images of Brad Pitt does not (necessarily) indicate an object of sexual desire; it is merely a celebration of what you'd--what we'd all--like to be. It would be like beating off to an image of a Ferrari--something we've all done, I'm sure. I look at Brad Pitt and I don't think, "Man, I need that guy inside me." I think, "Man, I need to be that guy!"
It's similar to watching a pornographic film. Yes, you are usually thinking about how there are pretty girls with breasts and vagina parts and they're all excited and shrieking and bunching up their hair and they forgot to take their shoes off and this is hot and you want to salute that hotness by beating off on your butterfly chair from Urban Outfitters and then hopping to your dresser with your pants around one ankle and wiping the salute-juice off you with a Puffs Plus and yes maybe this makes you feel like what you just did a few seconds ago was not as awesome as it was perhaps embarrassing and slightly soul-killing but at least you'll sleep soundly tonight. Right? BUT...there's this other part of beating off to pornographic films where you're watching two giant black studs have sex with a Peace Corps volunteer and you're sort of thinking, "I want to be those guys." You're projecting your wishes through the remarkable example the black studs have set. You're not beating off to those guys, necessarily. You're just sort of saying, "Hey, fellas, tag me in!" It's no different than how Donald Trump beats off on a stack of his best-selling book, The Art of the Deal or the way Fonzie would beat off in the mirror and, through gritted teeth, he'd growl, "I'm so fucking cool I'm so fucking cool. Who's the coolest? Answer: ME. Exactamundo!"
Beating off to images of Brad Pitt is more like a step in the right direction toward self-improvement, and any girlfriend worth her salt would be proud of your efforts. I cannot stress this enough. This should be a rule from now on. Beating off to images of Brad Pitt is absolutely not gay, unless you beat off into a Joey Fatone coffee mug. That, I'm afraid, is as gay as the day is long.
[By the way, after today I will be well on my way to edging out The O'Reilly Factor Online to become the #1 search result for the phrase, "beating off to images of Brad Pitt." Sorry, Bill. Looks like your fans need to work harder.]
HOW TO BE THE BEST.
Were you a high school valedictorian? Do you live in New York City? If so, I NEED YOU. Not in that way, but in an equally urgent, desperate, and potentially awkward way.
If you were your high school's valedictorian and you've got a couple of free hours next Wednesday night, June 30th, please get in touch with me immediately. Let me know what year you were valedictorian, and where, and I will email you back detailing the very small, harmless, and potentially fun things that would be demanded of you on the 30th.
HOW TO PRAY FOR ALL SENTIENT BEINGS, OF WHICH YOU ARE ONE, WHILE PERFORMING A SUBWAY SANDWICH SALUTATION.
People might get the wrong impression about me. If you see me walking down the street and you smile in my direction, you might get no reaction from me until I'm practically upon you. In fact, you might interpret this lack of reaction as genuine hostility because I think my "business casual" everyday expression is one of great consternation, with the corners of my mouth turned down and a little thought-crease wiggling between my eyebrows.
I want you to know your smile is appreciated, and you should never discontinue that policy. By not immediately returning the smile I assure you I am not snubbing you, nor have I suddenly failed to remember what you look like. It's just that I never wear my glasses in public, and contacts seem a tremendous burden to me, so I spend a lot of my time in public viewing the world through a haze of dented ocular cone cells. By the way, you all look very attractive to me. (from a distance.)
Today I had that last-minute recognition experience with my yoga instructor. (shut up!) It's premature to call her my yoga instructor, because I've paid for only one class, and that was yesterday. After the class, she pulled me aside and told me my "downward dog" had improved marvelously over the course of the 90 minute class. (Is that a come-on? Please say yes.) So yes, yoga. I'm dealing with all the things that trouble me about yoga and yoga instructors, trying to repress them very deeply, while keeping all of the things that please me about the discipline. It's nice to stand up straight, truthfully. It's an under-rated skill.
Back to the thesis statement in that last paragraph, which I completely ignored. (Web publishing is for amateurs! Thank god.) I was walking home and my yoga instructor was, I suppose, presenting me with a giant sun salutation of a smile. The combination of my poor vision and the effect of seeing her out of context, without a yoga mat beneath her bare feet, threw me and I think in exchange for her warmth she received only a sullen grimace. Then, as we got very close, I lightened up considerably to compensate for what I feared she'd interpret as a terrible blockage of yellow light in my pelvic bowl. I smiled, said hello, and continued walking. I honestly think she expected some small talk to transpire at this moment but there was absolutely no chance of that happening. First of all, about what? Sit bones? The stink of a rented yoga mat? (Now I know why everyone buys their own.) Second, and more importantly, I was trying very hard to hide the bag I was carrying, which contained a SUBWAY 6-inch turkey sandwich on (stale) whole wheat bread. For some reason I decided she would frown upon this, as she might have frowned upon the cheeseburger, french fries and chicken wing dinner I enjoyed with my optometrist last night.
HOW TO SEE YOUR PLACE ON THE EVOLUTIONARY CHART.
Lately, my social plans have been thankfully restricted to the kinds of establishments patronized predominately by other people just like me. Divey bars with salted snacks and homey restaurants with mix-and-match cutlery, 3/4 filled with other 20 and 30-somethings who share my lack of muscle tone and taste in eyewear, are of average height and natural beauty, possess mid-priced haircuts, limited edition sneakers, and a belief that jukebox music should also have lyrics. Throw in a few oddballs here and there for texture, and it makes for a nice place to spend your time. I like my kind, and I don't feel as though my lack of desire to drink and dine and view and hear outside of my immediate demographic speaks to a lacking sense of adventure; it's just that I value my time on this planet.
So, when I'm thrust into an alien environment I sometimes regress. To be more specific, when I am thrust into an environment that, to me, seems above my station on the social evolutionary chart, I become awkward and helpless. (I needed to be clear about this because a dinner club in Harlem is definitely an alien environment, but I would consider that a lateral social move.) The meat-packing district has become that alien landscape, for me. I always thought this area was kind of happening, but it was never happening like this. I could relax at Florent, and even Pastis. The Hog Pit - no problem, as long as it wasn't too crowded in the back. All those crack whores along 11th Avenue? My people.
But Vento? My God. And what about Pop Burger? The only White Castle-type fast food burger place with a private VIP room in the back. How many more ways are people required to remain painfully aware of their social status?
At night, the meat-packing district has become lousy with products of a superior (or cosmetically-abetted superior) gene pool. Women with buffed skin with golden highlights along their calf muscles. Expensive hand bags. Microscopically small cell phones. Men who, on average, tower over me by three to four inches minimum. Thick wrists with coarse hair and precious metal timepieces, compared to my balsa-wood wrist-twigs encircled by a Keith Haring Swatch and gummy bracelets.
Do these people go to the movies, I wonder. I never see them there, eating from buckets of cumin-foam-drizzled popcorn and drinking 64 ounce cups of electrolyte water. Do they laugh at things other than their own friends' personal humiliations? My initial response to the lovely and wealthy is derision, but I must confess that what I really feel, more than anything, is a deep fascination. I get the same way when I'm at my gym, surrounded by heavily muscled men. I never see them anywhere else, even though it's a neighborhood gym and as such I should be seeing these guys all over the neighborhood. And, in their company, and likewise in the company of the exotic birds of the meat-packing district, I can't help but think: "How can we be the same species?" It sounds silly, I know, but it really is puzzling to me. Here I am, small-boned, stoop-shouldered, kinky-haired, sallow-complexioned, still prone to acne breakouts. How can I even be the same kind of animal as these well-toned, well-poised people with strong hairlines, who are never self-conscious about the location and/or activity of their hands? I don't understand it. As I munched greedily at my Pop Burgers while sitting on the curb in front of Vento, and feeling very much like a Jewish Gollum, I decided, "Maybe God just isn't finished making me yet."
HOW TO TASTE THE D-DOUBLE-OH,
The Beastie Boys were an early love. I remember first listening to them on SUNY Albany's hip-hop radio show in 1986. (brag? i don't even know anymore.) This was a weird time for rap music, because the radio waves were dominated by early novelty songs like "Roxanne's Revenge" and "Do the Pee-Wee Herman" and "The Rappin' Duke", but I still preferred it to the classic rock radio which dominated Albany's airwaves. The first Beasties song I can remember hearing was "Hold It Now, Hit It." I'd probably heard "She's On It" before that, but "Hold It Now..." was the first rap song that cut through all the simple, pushbutton beats of hip-hop radio programming. It was chaotic, and fresh. Not fresh in the quickly-appropriated Beat Street argot – though it was that, too – but fresh as in fresh-mouthed and petulant. It kind of dodged this way and that, refusing to stand still, and it was loaded with cut-and-pasted samples. This track, more than any of the other songs that would later be released on License to Ill, was like an unofficial bridge to their next album, Paul's Boutique. (The first time I heard that album – and there was an insane amount of anticipation over it amongst my group of friends – I am sure I said I never saw it coming. But if I'd really thought about it, "Hold It Now, Hit It" was kind of lighting the way.) "Hold It Now" is still my favorite song on the first album, though I'm sure I played everything else through and through, endlessly. (Except "Slow and Low". Too downtempo. It sounded like a boring outtake from RUN DMC's King of Rock, and it probably was, since they wrote the track themselves.)
The Beastie Boys were also one of my first concerts, at the RPI Field House. Most of the hooligan bullshit I'd been reading with greedy eyes in the pages of SPIN magazine were present: exploding beer cans, 20-foot pneumatic cock, cursing. The only thing changed was the DJ stand which, on previous shows, was designed to look like a Budweiser can. Reacting to complaints about promoting underage drinking, the stand was now designed to look like a Jolt Cola can. "Fascists!" I screamed, bursting several pimples with my strained facial muscles. The show was fun. Murphy's Law, a hardcore band that has never stopped touring, opened. So did Public Enemy, whose first album had not yet been released. They were black, blacker than black. Air raid sirens, fake rifles, military uniforms. What the fuck? We came here for rhymes about how parents are squares. Why is this guy yelling at me to "bum rush the show?" And what's with all the crosshairs? Public Enemy scared the shit out of me so bad I had to wait two more years before purchasing one of their albums. I'm sure someone much cooler, someone much older, or someone who is a much bigger liar than me would say they saw Public Enemy opening up for the Beasties in 1986, not knowing who they were, and instantly fell in love. But that's another story.
I loved the shit out of the Beastie Boys after that, and even though I doubt I'd put them in my top 100 list of greatest hip-hop artists, at least two of their albums are among my all-time favorites. So, even as they get older and hip-hop has lapped them a thousand times over, I still anticipate their newest releases with candy-smelling excitement. So, when I heard they had a new album on its way, and a new single, I was still game.
I've already written about the single, and I must confess it has grown on me. The beats are bouncy, and have that pied piper effect where, for reasons unknown even to you, you want to reach for the "repeat" button as soon as the song is through. (I'm still boggled by Adam Yauch, though. I can't get my head around what he's doing on that song. It seems to come to a screeching halt beneath his rhymes.) And I'd heard some not-so-good advanced notice on the full-length, but I didn't care. People shit on Hello Nasty and I still think it has several greatest hits tracks on it. ("Intergalactic", "Body Movin'", "The Negotiation Limerick File" and "Unite" are all strongety-strong and sing-along.) So, when To the 5 Boroughs arrived yesterday from Sandbox, here's how it went down:
[This just occurred to me. It might help to imagine me wearing a powder blue Kangol cap with a propellor on top, and Mork from Ork suspenders while I'm doing all of this.]
ME (fumbling with the shrinkwrap, and then feeling the pristine, white textured cardboard packaging): AW SHIT!! NO SLEEP TIL BROOKLYN, Y'ALL!!!!
2 minutes later...
MIKE D: ...'freshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
15 minutes and several tracks later...
The beats are still hot, on occasion, but man...The album is like a rough draft. Like they all met and said, "Hey, we should write a song about how NYC is great. How it's got black people and subways and stuff. Let's try to think really hard about all the reasons we like NYC." And then they all went to Whole Foods or some shit to buy quinoa and tempeh and when they came back they just wrote a song that's all, "NYC is the greatest town/The Bronx is up and Brooklyn's down!/Here's what I like about NYC/Black people, White people, Burger King." It's just not there this time around. Maybe they've finally developed a true outsider perspective of the city they're saluting this album, or maybe they've entered a serious navel-gazing period – in the last six years they haven't even really appeared on other people's tracks – but this album seems like it was recorded inside a fake, prop subway car in Mike D's expansive Santa Monica living room, and not in a good way. I hope someone frees Tibet, and soon, so these guys can finally get busy again.
HOW TO SELL YOUR WARES.
I've lived in Park Slope for almost 9 years now, and I've seen more than my share of Stoop Sales, and their supporting advertisements. It's time for a moratorium. The following words and phrases can no longer be used to advertise your stoop sale:
- STOOP RIGHT UP
- STOOP IN THE NAME OF LOVE
- STOOP...THERE IT IS! (Or its occasional, sell-heavy variant, STOOP...HERE IT IS!)
- STOOP TO CONQUER (Frankly, I'm not even sure what this means, and neither are you. So please stop it.)
- STOOPID SALE (You want to make them like you, Roger.)
- CD Tower (Too bourgeois)
- IKEA [ANYTHING] (As a general rule, you should never sell anything by IKEA second-hand. The only advantage to owning second-hand IKEA furniture is saving the hours of frustration and pain in which you, armed only with an Allen wrench and a dilettante's understanding of home improvement, try to assemble a six-foot cubbyhole unit in a three foot by four foot clearing of unevenly laid apartment flooring. This single advantage, however, is greatly outweighed by the many disadvantages of owning used IKEA furniture, chiefly – the furniture is practically garbage right out of the box. So imagine its value after five years of casual use. Throw your VLÖÖRT out, and let the hobos at it.)
- knick-knacks (This might as well say, "fish around in a cardboard box filled with unmatched single baby shoes & Christmas ornaments from Pizza Hut.)
Additionally, you should be legally forced to specify the titles of the books available at your stoop sale if your collection contains any of the following items:
- outdated computer training manuals that are more than five years old
- outdated "do it yourself" books on filing your taxes, if the book is more than ten years old
- Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar - and only because everyone in Brooklyn already owns a used paperback copy of this. In fact, I don't think any new copies of The Bell Jar even exist any longer. The book is now distributed exclusively through stoop sales, used book stores, and police evidence files from recent teenage girl suicides.)
- 'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy
- anything by R.L. Stine, Louis L'Amour, Donald Trump, or William Shatner
Finally, lest you think these instructions are all prohibitive, I would like to add that any of the following words and phrases can officially be introduced into stoop sale advertising, effective immediately:
- WHO MADE A STOOPIE?
- YOU GOT STOOPED, BITCH
- STOOP THERAPY
- IN A GADDA DA STOOPA
- AIN'T NO HALF-STOOPIN'
- SPERM BATH - 2 DAYS ONLY!
- "MY BABY BROKE" CRIB & CLOTHING SALE
- USED BIBLE FOR SALE (DOESN'T WORK)
- I FUCKED ETHAN HAWKE
- BITTER CHILD CUSTODY BATTLE SALE
- FREE SIPS
And a hundred thousand way funnier things!!!!
HOW TO MAKE SOMETHING OUT OF WHAT IS CLEARLY AND INCONTROVERTIBLY NOTHING.
OK. I've been reading your blog (and yours, too.) and I have a question. Am I to understand that people are name-dropping Gmail addresses – Gmail is, I believe, a free web-based email service sponsored by Google??? – as if they're symbols of status? Seriously, let's look at that again. Are people really publicly bragging about owning a Google-sponsored free web-based email account? And, further, are people actually requesting favors and goods from total strangers in exchange for free web-based email addresses? I just read my own paragraph, written by myself, and had to punch my own dick in just to snap out of my incredible state of disbelief.
Have you people learned nothing from Mardis Gras beads? Or Beenz? Or the fabled purchase of Manhattan Island from the Lenape Indians? Or the Dutch tulip craze of 1624? Or from anything you learned in second grade? I just don't even know what to think anymore. The sadness is choking me like a fistful of Beenz. My gut reaction to all of this can be summed up as such:
HOW TO SHOOT YOUR MOUTH OFF.
It's Friday! And Friday is "don't keep your opinions and feeling to yourself, particularly if those opinions are trivial and are in no risk of hurting anyone's feelings" day. (Yes, you deserve so much more. But you won't be getting it from me. Not today, anyway. Stop shaking your head in disapproval, and go read about some blogger's crush on the dude from The O.C. or something. You can be so judgey sometimes...GOD!)
- I had a great time doing a show last night, and I think I officially unjinxed my venue curse. The last time I performed at RIFIFI I had one of my worst sets ever, which really bugged me because I was in serious Desperate for the Approval of My Peers® mode during that show. I'm sure it's that motivation that undid me, actually. So, last night was the first time I'd been back at this venue since the Sweaty Disaster of 2003, and it was a refreshingly good time. I told a new story, one that's been in my memory for years but had never been committed to a formal presentation. I had to drink (cheap drink ticket) whisky very fast to calm my nerves but I remembered 95% of the story's beats. Plus, while I was onstage I only barely peed on myself. Not enough to see in the back rows of the audience, anyway.
- The Decemberists need a hug. I saw them last night at Bowery Ballroom and they were just excellent. Uncompromisingly excellent. It's nice to see a band that cares less about trying to make everyone in the audience want to fuck them and, instead, just have an obviously fun time performing together. The sheer volume of antiquated instruments, each played joyfully by the band, makes their stage set look like the showroom of Professor McWoodenwagon's Olde Fashioned Emporium of Mellifluous Melody-Making Devices and Contrivances. Colin Meloy encored with a Joanna Newsom cover, making me love him and his band-mates ever so much more, and then the everyone joined him a few minutes later for a Smiths cover. They're playing again tonight, with the Long Winters, who have possibly the greatest in-between song banter this side of Shellac. I really believe you would be a fool to not get in on this show.
- As I was walking to this show last night, I passed several East Village restaurants with really lewd sandwich board specials displayed on the sidewalk. I have to say I'm kind of disgusted by restaurants' good-humored attempts to wrap their food in sexual innuendo. One of the signs said, "EAT THIS!" Another, further up, said, "SUSHI - EAT IT RAW, BITCH!" I keep seeing stuff like this, everywhere. "YOU CAN'T BEAT OUR MEAT." "LADIES LOVE OUR TUBE STEAKS." "HEY THERE! SEE THAT HOT DOG YOU'RE EATING. THAT KIND OF LOOKS LIKE A DUDE'S COCK, DOESN'T IT? CHECK IT OUT!! IT'S LIKE YOU'RE ABOUT TO EAT A COCK, COVERED IN ONIONS. AWESOME!!" (I saw that, verbatim, written on a napkin at Gray's Papaya) Do people need to be made to feel like filthy whores just because they want a snack? The last time I ate at Crif Dogs, after reading all the catchy, nasty signs posted around the restaurant, I called my dad from a payphone, in tears. I wasn't going to tell him where I was, just that I wanted him to know I loved him and missed him and not to worry about me. But when I heard him answer, I went silent. I heard him on the other end, pleading, "Todd? Todd, is that you? Todd, you don't have to say anything. Just listen. Your mother and I love you very much and we want you to be safe. Please come home, Todd. Todd?" I slowly replaced the phone receiver, my hand shaking. Then I went around the corner and let some dude fuck me for a cheese steak. (I told him he couldn't beat my meat, though, and I winked when I said it. He choked me.)
- Fucking Edy's! Edy's ice cream, which generally isn't worth the waxed cardboard bucket it's packed into, has preyed upon my weakness for mint and chocolate by releasing an officially sanctioned Girl Scouts Thin Mints flavored ice cream. It's almost never available, though I press my fat face against my supermarket's freezer to check with alarming frequency. There's nothing worse than a greedy man walking away from an ice cream freezer with a sad expression on his face. But today! Today it was back, gloriously. I bought 17 buckets. Four down, bitch. What? Say something!
- I'm doing stand-up at a yoga studio tonight. I have made it.
- Does anyone know where I can get a cheap/used tiger costume? You might think I'm kidding, but you'd be mistaken. Seriously, let me know, please.
- Aw shit. Thank me, and thank Sean "The Storm" Grant for copying this album for me so I can share its fruits with you.
HOW TO BLOG THE BLOGGY THING THAT MANY WILL BLOG AGAIN.
So...I attended a screening of Napoleon Dynamite this evening. Like a Michael Moore film or a Wilco album or the newest version of iTunes, Napoleon Dynamite is the kind of cultural event that people living in the cyber shire anticipate with wild excitement, often to the point of pre-approving it without evaluation. It's kind of like when Ronald Reagan died. (An event that affected many americans, but perhaps none more than Rappin' Ronny.) The obituary was already written long ago, the half-hour History Channel retrospective was already in the can. They were just waiting for the call. With Napoleon Dynamite, the posts containing exultant reviews were already pre-written in the heads of many bloggers. (I think that recent "rally" where photographers jumped on a subway train and snapped pictures of people snapping pictures to protest the photo ban on subways had a similar fate. It was like bloggers decided to protest a slow blogging day by fashioning an event they could successfully link up. POST-MODERN!)
I am somewhat guilty of the crime of which I speak. I saw the trailer for Napoleon Dynamite a while back and thought to myself, "Finally...a movie for ME." And when the lights dimmed in the theater this evening, it was with great excitement that I clutched the stranger sitting next to me and stage-whispered in his ear, "I'm totally blogging the sperms out of this, dude!" Similarly, a lot of people in the screening seemed to laugh at moments before they actually happened, as they were savvy enough to expect a great joke right around the corner.
The movie was fun. It was, at many moments, funny. (which some would say is all that matters in a comedy, and that's fine for them.) It's also inventive and I would even say it's quotable if the funniest lines weren't already a string of extremely dumb things every angry 15 year-old dork hasn't already said, verbatim. It also has no shortage of style. (the opening titles sequence is pretty excellent.) But, ultimately, I found it sort of unsatisfying. The movie never gets into the "why" of any of the characters, which kept me from really loving the film. I don't think it's is the most eloquent way of expressing what bothered me, but it's late at night and I'm a little drunk, so I'm just going to use this analogy. You know how some people are really good at collecting cool things, whether they're actual objects – like a neat record collection or a vintage wind-up racist toy – or bits of information – like knowing the name of the guy who directed Rat Pfink a Boo Boo right off the top of their heads – or just sort of personal connections – like being on the guest list for a party thrown by Mass Appeal magazine or knowing some guy who runs a Chicago Noise record label or the bass player from Interpol? And, surrounded by all of that neat stuff, you might actually be fooled for a second into believing the person in possession of all of it is actually cool? But, really, that person is just a collector and that stuff is just a constantly unspooling list – a distraction from an otherwise obvious lack of substance?
Well, that's how Napoleon Dynamite felt after my initial flush wore off. It gets a lot of fun details right – like the timber wolf decal on his t-shirt and his uncle's mustache, or the mention of nunchuks and the presence of a sai dagger. (Which really isn't so cool anyway, since they're common knowledge to any kid who grew up playing with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys. But, in the end, the movie sort of cheats reaching for emotional depth by substituting it with clever, well-composed visuals. Maybe it's a sign of the director's youth, but the movie might be the first film I've seen that's "in the style of Wes Anderson." And just like the films that were in the style of Quentin Tarantino, it's still pretty entertaining but it feels sort of like a pale imitation of the original. Blog that.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR SENSES WORKING OVERTIME.
A sure sign that I've lost my mind: I've started taking "constitutionals." When I woke up this morning I got the idea into my head that I would ride my bike to this bagel place that's pretty far from my apartment, rather than walking the two blocks to a closer, perfectly serviceable bagel place in my neighborhood.
Then, after checking my email and laboring over all of the subtextual messages and how they alluded to other people's disappointment in me, I realized it was getting pretty late. I started going over the logistics of my sojourn to The Bagel Hole. With my bike, it would be difficult to manage an iced coffee beverage and a bagel. I might have to get the bagel, ride my bike home, then walk out and get an iced coffee beverage separately. And by then it would be too late to consider this meal my breakfast, as it would be inching toward 10:30am. Also, the trip would mean locking up my bike, and I always feel like I do this wrong. I don't know where to place the U-lock. Do I throw it around the horizontal brace and another brace before locking it to parking sign? Or do I run it through the front wheel, which can otherwise be easily unbolted and stolen, and then through one of the aluminum braces? And what about the saddle? Anyone could make off with that. Do I have to unclip that and bring it into The Bagel Hole with me? If so, I'd better make note of the saddle's height because I always forget how to set that.
Now it was 10:15am and I still hadn't left my apartment, so I decided to forget the bike completely and walk. But, wanting to be faithful to my original plan in which my bagel run became a mind-clearing form of exercise, I thought I would make a wide circuit. I'd get an iced coffee beverage from Gorilla and then continue on to Bergen Bagel, where the bagels have amazing "mouth-feel." This would be an amazing economical solution, too, as I had a free coffee beverage coming to me from Gorilla, according to the holes punched in my Gorilla Coffee Card. (Truthfully, I have TWO free coffee beverages coming to me. I filled two full cards and never redeemed my free drink on either of them, because I was too embarrassed to demand for something for free. I thought it made me seem like a beggar. I never knew the proper protocol for requesting a drink and knowing it was going to be free. Do you mention its gratis status at the top of your order, or spring on them later? Should you order as you usually would, or over-order to max out on your freedom? Or, conversely, should you get a pauper's drink in case the store's policy does not cover specialty drinks? The only thing more embarrassing than having a coffee beverage placed in front of you, and smugly declaring, "THAT WILL BE ON THE HOUSE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!" is having the person behind the counter say, "Actually, no. Our free coffee beverage offer does not include large iced caramel-o-ccinos with brownie bit fudgelings and butter rum drizzles. Now pay my ass." I consulted with a few friends, however, and was made to feel confident that my typical iced coffee drink order would be honored under the bylaws of Gorilla's "free" policy.) So began my morning constitutional.
Along the way, I had two amazing sensory moments. First, on Park Place (where I own two hotels, incidentally), as I was passing an elementary school my nostrils did espy the aromatic mix of bulk oregano and rubberized, toasted cheese. This bouquet could mean only one thing for the school children within: PIZZA DAY. My blood turned green. (I remember pizza day/hot dog day very well, because it was the only time I didn't have to suffer my mom's demeaning one-slice-of-bologna-stuck-to-white-bread sandwich and under-ripe plum in a brown bag. I also remember trying to make my classmates laugh on pizza day – as if the notion of in-school pizza wouldn't make us all giddy with laughter in the first place – by hitting myself in the face with a sicilian slice of pizza. I was classy.)
Then, on Seventh Avenue, my constitutional was briefly interrupted by a gentleman unloading cargo from a delivery truck, to drop off at a local diner. As he passed in front of me I saw that his dolly contained four tremendous white plastic buckets filled with briney New Pickles. (New pickles are the brightest and greenest of all pickles and, in my opinion, also the least delicious, unless you count those filthy bread-n-butter pickles. [but I hope you have enough self-respect not to count those.]) I looked streetside, and saw the pickles had all been birthed by a red truck with the words "MR. PICKLE" on it. (This is the very sophisticated Mr. Pickle; and this is the openly gay, but no less sophisticated Mr. Pickle.) As my eyes met the eyes of Mr. Pickle, I thought to myself, That pickle truck is filled with pickles. PICKLES. I would take that job and shove it...IN MY MOUTH-HOLE.
[After skimming over this entry, I have come to the conclusion that it is not my mind-clearing morning constitutional that indicates the onset of my insanity; it is the incessant, mind-bogglingly self-conscious planning that was required before setting foot out of my house for a bagel and iced coffee beverage. I did, however, redeem my free drink from Gorilla. I must remember to call my analyst and report this breakthrough.]
HOW TO FALL IN AND FALL OUT.
I imagine nearly everyone – and by "everyone" I mean everyone under the age of 40 – has a favorite moment from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That Chaz Kaufman penned post-millennial statement of romance or anxiety that resonates perfectly, and very personally, like a tuning fork on your spine. Here's mine: Joel Barrish is seated alone in a diner, on a bleak winter's Valentine's day, and a strange at another table raises her coffee mug to him in a friendly salute. In voiceover we hear Joel ask himself, "Why do I fall in love with every woman I see that shows me the least bit of attention?"
I share this affliction, embarrassingly. The simplest gesture can send me into paroxysms of aw-shucks love – an upward flit of lady eyeballs in passing; momentarily glancing up at me from a book she's reading that I've read before – or a book I've pretended I've read before to help pad my online dating profile – with her toes pointed toward each other; a smile from a waitress that's no different than the smile she reserves for every paying customer with a boner in his dirty, filthy pants. And, not surprisingly, as quickly as I fall in love, an equally trivial event can upset my perfect heartspin and send me plummeting out of love, ten times faster and three hundred times harder than I fell in.
Recently, I found myself stuck waiting for a connecting flight at Dallas International Airport. (brag) I had already finished reading Don't Do Us Like That: The Unauthorized Biography of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers so, with little else to occupy my attention, I decided to fall in love with a woman at my departure gate. It was easy. She was seated across from me, several rows away. Her cute bangs and round, smooth shoulders were all the bait I required. Then I noticed she was drinking an iced coffee beverage from Timothy's Coffee and since I was also drinking an iced coffee beverage from Timothy's Coffee I knew it was meant to be i.e. we were totally going to "do it" i.e. penis-vagina i.e. my penis inside her vagina and then outside it again, briefly, before going back inside it again i.e. she was about to get very disappointed very quickly.
I spent the next several minutes alternating between pretending to write in my moleskine notebook and taking long, pronounced sips from my iced coffee beverage while staring at the latest object of my unparalleled love. I hoped, just once, Miss Dallas Bangsworth (she needed a name) would look up from her iced coffee beverage at the same time and our eyes would lock, and marry.
The courtship was very satisfying and I slowly let my fantasies take over, making do with what little information I possessed. There I was, rubbing moisturizer into Dallas' shoulders. There we were, ordering iced coffee beverages at the exact same time, and laughing at both our overlapping dialogue and the perfect dovetailing of our desires. Here we were, at the coffee service station, knocking the plastic stirrers and Sugar in the Raw to the floor with a great crash, and making furious love on a bed of refined sugar and cooled-over decaf espresso spill.
I had just made it to the requisite section of my fantasy in which I disappoint Dallas by choosing to check my email while she is naked in my shower, when her flight was called. Until this point, my viewing area of the woman I planned to marry was extremely limited. Because Dallas was seated so far from me, I could only see her tank-topped torso, bare neck and head; the rest was hidden behind rows of plastic chairs and obese Texans. As she stood, and I was afforded my first completely unobstructed view, my concrete fantasy instantly disintegrated, where it rested at the bottom of my broken heart like sediment from a cup of French press. While Dallas was unadorned and perfectly lovable from the waist up, her lower portions committed a series of affronts so horrible they felt like an act of betrayal in our beautiful relationship. Drab Old Navy cargo pants cinched with a braided rainbow belt in the style of "appropriated Navajo." (no doubt purchased at "Shop Therapy" or its kin.) Grateful Dead dancing bears embroidered into the face of her rolling carry-on luggage. Performance sandals over woolen socks. And, amazingly – as if she knew exactly how to hurt me – a straw cowboy hat hanging from her luggage handle.
I felt as if I'd been kicked in the stomach. Controlled by nothing by the moment, I stood up, letting my moleskine drop to the floor. With caffeinated tears streaming down my face in twin ribbons, I screamed to her across the terminal: "You really fucked me, Dallas. You reallllly fucked me here!!" I took a long drag on the straw in my iced coffee beverage, and nearly choked on its contents.
Now, this may sound extremely unfair so let me qualify it a bit. By no means do I have a tremendous problem with women who choose to present themselves this way. In fact, I'm sure many men would find those additional accessories acceptable, even desirable. Men like Stephen Stills and these guys. For me, the love in/love out cycle was determined exclusively by expectations and the feeling of being cheated out of those expectations. For instance, if this scenario took place on the Burning Man playa – for instance, if I were banished there for bad behavior in a previous life – and I saw this same woman, head to toe, her visage blurred through the kerosene vapors of twirling, flaming devil sticks, I might have fallen in love with her, woolen socks and sandals and all. Then, if she put down her devil sticks for a second to photograph an art car with her $400 cell phone camera, I would have fallen out of love with her just like that. Context matters.
If these very visual examples strikes you as uniquely and unfairly male, here is an equivalent scenario created just for the ladies. Imagine sitting at a bar. Somewhere along the bar is a young man with messy hair and an expertly held bottle of inexpensive-yet-not-pretentiously-working-class beer, which he occasionally raises to his lips with absolutely no self-consciousness, when he is not distracted by the copy of Love in a Time of Cholera, which he's reading under bar light. His jeans are just dark enough, and beaten-in without the benefit of stonewashing or chemical rinsing. And his boots are NOT Doc Martens. Every now and again, his long fingers drum against the bar, beating out the rhythm of a song that lives exclusively in his own head. What's that? He just took out a pen and underlined a passage in his book! You love him.
Suddenly and wordlessly, he communicates with the bartender, indicating that he would like quarters for the jukebox. As the bartender smacks down four quarters in front of him, he slides them gracefully from the bar to his palm, and gives the bartender a quick nod and a smile. He has one dimple! And the single dimple is darkened by the tiny bit of stubble that falls in light patches on the unessential areas of his face. He swings around on his barstool, and ambles over to the jukebox. Standing, you realize he's taller than he appeared from his seated position. He seems to have unfolded like a paper throwing star. The light from the jukebox warms and softens his features, and you decide to walk past him now, to glance at his jukebox selection and perhaps to let the heat from his body mingle with yours. As you pass behind him – he smells exactly like your father's old Army jacket – you see him punch in the last digits of his selection: "3702." Your legs are so weak you feel someone might have to carry you back to your bar stool. That's when you hear it. The bar, which just a moment ago was a quarter filled with the low volume loose groupings of small talk, suddenly swells. The song – Nickelback's "How You Remind Me." You look at your man. His eyes are closed and he is nodding reverently.
You hate him.
[p.s. for more on instant love – the kind before the fall – go buy a mini-zine from jami.]
HOW TO SAVE YOURSELF.
(I will never type long entries directly into Movable Type again. I just began what might have been my greatest site entry – filled with erotic secrets, universal truths, shame, regret, and a good anecdote about farting – and my stupid fingers closed the browser down, crushing all of my words with it. Aw, crap. Well, you can always go here instead. At least Cloud knows how to be consistently good.)
[And yes, by writing a post today that serves no other purpose than to publicly apologize for not writing a post today, I realize I have turned the corner from "online content producer" to "pathological, self-delusional online journal-keeper." I've jumped the shark here. Ted McGinley is going to co-author my posts from now on.]
HOW TO WAKE YOUR NEIGHBORS.
The only negative fallout of my all-star Beverly Hills luxury apartment remodeling job has been the unfortunate relocation of my bed. Prior to my celebrity urban glamorization program of Taj Mahal proportions, my Queen-sized bed was banked up against a wall, in the corner of my front room. The feng shui was miserable; the bed's chi was deficient; it's chakras were on lockdown. But at least it was anchored, in a very Western way.
Now, as a direct result of the high priority placed on my desk's location, my bed has been relegated to the middle of the room, where one long side aligns with a wall, while the headboard is supported by nothing more than the loosely-packed molecular vapors emanating from the stench of my own failures.
It doesn't look terrible in this location, necessarily (yes it does), but it has immediately presented an unforeseen problem. Each time I climb into bed – no, each time I touch my bed or approach it, readying myself for entry – it emits a loud creak. If I lived in a haunted house or dracula's castle, this creak would no doubt add character and perhaps resale value, but since I live in a pre-war apartment building with a thin adjoining wall between my bedroom and my next door neighbor's bedroom, the creak only means that I'm giving off the false impression that I'm fucking very hard, and constantly.
I've always been very self-conscious about the amount of noise I cause while having sex. I've been with a couple of very loud partners, and I always suspected the amount of noise they made was wildly disproportionate to the amount of actual pleasure I was providing. And when I'm not preoccupied with being ashamed of my partner and myself for actually truly enjoying ourselves, I am afraid of being admonished by my neighbors for being a dirty fornicator. Sometimes, in the middle of sex, and always the next morning following it, my thoughts turn to the Sunni Muslim mother of four living directly below me, her head and body concealed beneath heavy, slattern wraps. She is passing judgement, I think. She is covering her ears with a prayer rug right now. By simply passing her in the hallway, freshly fornicated, I'm sure I'm committing a terrible offense against her religion. At times like these I wish my sexual partners could shout their excitement into a paper bag and empty the contents of that bag somewhere distant, with looser moral fiber – like Las Vegas or Whoreville.
Given my anxiety over experiencing actual pleasure, imagine how awful I feel when I'm producing the same bed-shaking soundtrack of light fornication night after night, in total absence of sexual activity. Upon my initial discovery of the loud creaking, and after learning that this problem could not be resolved by tightening a few bolts, I actually tried to imagine a way I could explain the noise to my neighbors through perfectly innocence means. I thought about inviting them over, under the pretense of showing them the Gold Standard of Class and Sophistication renovation I've done to my apartment and then, casually, as a footnote, lead them into the bedroom and say, "Oh yeah, here's the only problem – this bed!" Then I could lean into it, producing the simulated-sex-creaks, and just regard my neighbors with a "can you believe this craziness" expression, hoping they'd connect all the dots themselves. And if they didn't, I could leap atop my bed, jam a pillow betwixt my knees and begin slowly screwing my pelvis into it as the bed plays its song. And while I'm pillow-fucking on my bed, I thought I would turn to my neighbors (if they haven't left by now) and ask them, "have you ever seen such a thing? I mean, honestly! This bed!!"
I would never do that. Regrettably, I've actually done something much worse. When I climb into bed, it starts creaking. As I get settled beneath the sheets, the creaking continues, for a total of 15-20 seconds. At some point it occurred to me that if my neighbors did associate those bed sounds with getting sexed over, then they must think I come very fast. And they'd be right, but I don't want them thinking that. So now, every time I get into bed, if I can't do it carefully enough to avoid creaks, I have to make sure to roll around for at least 10 or 15 minutes before resting to sleep. I usually start by bouncing from side to side. Then I turn over on my stomach and bounce my face into the pillows for a few minutes, and roll out of that into reverse cowboy position. Finally, when I'm confident that my neighbors are both disgusted and impressed by the noises they've heard, I pull out quickly and ejaculate on my bed's ass.