In October of 2004, You Learned:
HOW TO FLIP IT AND REVERSE IT.
I'm heading to the gym right now (brag) to take a shower (brag rescinded) because my apartment building has neither heat nor hot water. (depressing reality) Maybe I'll use this visit as an opportunity to lift weights. (lie) Either way, I need to shower as soon as possible because my spent semen is drying (truth) and it's making my face itch. (outrageous exaggeration and homoerotic suggestion designed to distract reader from previous embarrassingly truthful statement) Sigh. (sigh)
HOW TO PRESERVE YOUR TERRITORY.
[WARNING: this is the most pathetically passive-aggressive post i've written since the "i was going to break up with you anyway" disclaimer of April, 2003]
As soon as I walked into the coffee shop, before even ordering, I staked out a seat. This coffee shop is small, and crowded at all hours. When it first opened and mostly a quiet haven for recovering substance-abusers who enjoy a strong cup of coffee just as they enjoy a strong dose of everything, I had no difficulty finding a place to stretch out. However, since its introduction of free wi-fi service with the purchase of coffee, the shop has come to resemble something like N.O.R.A.D. with nice haircuts. Laptop screens are flipped up at the three long, modular tables – each table is actually composed of three smaller tables, with a chair on either side, pressed against each other; the arrangement in the shop is kind of like cafeteria seating, holding 18 proper seats – and, with the number of young, self-employed creative professionals migrating to my neighbohood, finding a comfortable seat can prove difficult these days.
Additionally, an unspoken etiquette requires that you obey men's room urinal rules for seating. Therefore, knowing that each picnic table is composed of three smaller units, the seating usually works like this:
F E D
_ _ _
A B C
[here, the dashes represent the tables and the letters represent the seats.]
If there someone is seated in the "A" position, and the rest of the seats are empty, you've two natural choices if you want to join the table: positions "C" or "E". That's it. If, however, A, C, and E are filled, "D" is the next natural choice because it is open to the aisle and allows more freedom of movement. Beyond this, it's up for grabs.
One guideline that exists for practical reasons, though not necessarily polite ones is this: if anyone in the "A" through "C" positions (or "D" through "F" positions) is using a laptop, you should avoid sitting opposite that person at all costs. Simply put, you don't want your laptops to kiss because that's kind of gay.
I like rules like this because they don't need to be written on the walls of an establishment. They're just common sense when you factor in a demographic with a shared cultural sense of personal space and civility. We naturally fall into these A+C+E patterns without being instructed to do so. It's nice. And that's why I was quietly horrified to walk into the coffee shop today and see the following arrangement at the only picnic table with available seating space:
_ _ _
That might seem like no big deal to you, but you have to understand something. "B" faces the street, which is nice, and all those empty seats on the opposing side? Well, they face the roaster and, beyond that, the bathroom. They are highly undesirable, as they mean you've got your back to everyone else in the entire coffee shop. Like an ogre, unfit to be viewed. It's a form of subjugation, really.
I thought it was pure balls for this guy to take up position "B" when positions "A" and "C" were clearly open. Slide down, citizen! Make this right.
But he had no intention of making it right, and showed no remorse for making it wrong. In fact, like salt in a wound and a wound in a glass of gin, he committed two other space-crimes. First, he had his laptop pushed far from the edge of the table and screen propped opened at an angle exceeding 95 degrees. Effectively, this rendered position "E" completely useless, unless the person seated there wished to hold his coffee in his lap.
Then, he was stretched out, subway-jerk style, with his right arm crooked at such an angle that it covered the entire southwest corner of position C. Please understand that position C was the only respectable seat open. I've made my case against positions D-F, and position A was against the wall – bascially, between a jerk and a hard place.
I sat down in C, depressed. I rustled my laptop out of my bag and made sure to bump his elbow with it. I –
OK, this is getting extremely sad, even for me. As I'm typing this, he's long gone. He never acknowledged my presence and I never had the nerve to make him, with even an "excuse me - your elbow." That's only because it seemed a ridiculous thing to do, since it's absolutely his right to have an errrant elbow and my displeasure with it is the irrational product of living in a cramped city, with people anonymously piled on top of your head everywhere you go. You try to control the most minute details because you are too overwhelmed to reverse the cogs of your larger environment. And sometimes you can't even control those details so, as your greatest and only revenge, you write about them. While they're sitting right next to you. Elbow asshole! (look! a real tear!)*
*This reminds me of a story my friend Dave once told me. He was on a subway, during rush hour, and at one stop this guy just sort of stood in the doorway of the car, talking to a friend of his on the platform. The conducter repeatedly made the announcement to let go of the doors but he ignored it. Everyone on the car was visibly – but not vocally – angry at this guy, especially since they were desperate to get home, or at least as far away from their day jobs as possible. Dave was angry, too, and decided he would take action and be declared a hero. So, without saying a word, Dave got up and shoved the guy out of the car. Just like that. A simple problem with a clear solution.
The doors closed, leaving the guy on the platform, bewildered then irate. Dave turned around to face the train full of commuters, expecting to be embraced as their savior. Instead, everyone looked at him like he was completely insane, and many people spent the rest of their train ride trying to avoid eye contact with him, or move their seats away from his. I love that story so very much.
HOW TO PLAN A PUNK ROCK HALLOWEEN.
[This is a piece I read at the October How to Kick People show. I can't reproduce the shaving cream demonstration I gave at the show, but I can give you the rest. Happy All Soul's Day, little pretties.]
In preparation for this evening, I spent some time researching Halloween customs. Initially, I’d assumed Halloween was an exclusively American tradition because Halloween, like America, is awesome. So I was surprised to discover it’s actually one of the world’s oldest holidays, dating all the way back to 5th century – that’s over 100 years ago, before Benjamin Franklin and Moses were born. And according to historians, the custom of trick-or-treating, or some semblance of it, first appeared a couple of years later, in the 9th century. The custom was originally called “souling,” because back then it was required that everything have a Christian name – for example, breakfast was called “The Resurrection, with Toast” and oral sex was called “Bobbing for Jesus.”
Today, Halloween is still celebrated around the world. In Mexico and many Latin American countries, October 31st is an occasion to honor the dead who, it is believed, return to their earthly homes on that evening. Instead of Halloween, the holiday is called “El Dia De Los Muertos,” which, in English, means “Zombie Christmas.” As a way of honoring the dead, homes are adorned with flowers and foods, as well as photographs of deceased relatives. In some homes, the family will even morbidly display the body of a recently deceased relative. To protect children from this ugly shock of mortality and decay, they are often given decorative blindfolds to wear. Then the blindfolded children are handed sticks and invited to beat the corpse of their dead relative until it bursts forth with candy, toys, and gold fillings.
In England, Halloween traditions officially ended with the spread of the Protestant Reformation. But don’t worry; Halloween-style mayhem occurs every November 5th, on Guy Fawkes Day. Fawkes was a Catholic extremist who was burned as a traitor in the 17th century for attempting to blow up Parliament. To commemorate this day, the British light small bonfires across the countryside and toss effigies of Guy Fawkes into the flames – not much different than the after-math of every Manchester United game, ever. Interestingly, the burning effigies were originally meant to symbolize the burning of the Pope, and not Guy Fawkes, until many years later when the Catholic Church said, effectively, “Hey, guys – come on. That’s not cool.”
In some parts of the country, the English have even preserved a form of trick-or-treating that is very close to the American tradition. Children carry around their own small effigies of Guy Fawkes, and go begging door to door, asking for “a penny for the guy.” If they come to your door and you tell them, “I haven’t got a penny,” the children traditionally reply, “then a hay-penny will do.” And if you explain further that you haven’t got a hay penny, the children throw acid in your face.
Some form of trick or treating exists in many other countries like Egypt, Ireland, and some of the smaller, crap nations. From region to region, the custom changes slightly – kids beg for cookies and fruit in some countries, for death to all infidels in others – but there remain pretty fundamental differences. However, in all the literature I combed through – well, in both of the literatures I combed through – I mean, not really “combed through” but sort of glanced at…OK, what I’m trying to say is the “Did You Know?” information bubble on the back of my package of Dr. Dracula Glow-in-the-Dark Fright Fangs contained a lot of information about Halloween customs but indicated nothing about whether there is an internationally recognized age limit on trick-or-treating. Even the Fright Fangs advertised themselves as being suitable for ages “8 and Up.” But how far up?
The last time I went trick-or-treating, I was fourteen years old. [READ THE REST OF 'A HALLOWEEN TOO FAR'...]
HOW TO REALIZE YOUR LOCAL PANHANDLER'S CAREER IS GOING MUCH BETTER THAN YOUR OWN.
I had an uncomfortable run-in with Tax this morning. I was exiting my apartment with a tremendous burlap sack filled with money; the "$" sign I'd painted on the sack was still fresh, and tacky to the touch. Tax was carrying a jar of urine – coincidentally, also with a "$" painted on it.
He was cordial, as always, but I was a little disoriented and not on my best behavior. Honestly, I didn't want Tax to know exactly where I lived. I realize how that sounds, but I have had trust issues with Tax ever since a neighbor told me he'd been arrested a few years back for attacking a woman in the lobby of her apartment building. And I'm sort of like a woman. No matter how kindly he treats me, or how many of the boring details of my life he seems to remember, that arrest story has always put a slightly dark edge to our interactions, and to his entreaties for cash.
Having him know where I live – and Tax told me he was already pretty intimate with my building, since he helped my neighbor, Jon, move a few months ago – also compromised my last bit of social remove. It meant that from this moment forward I would have to deal with Tax directly, and could no longer engage in the Coward's Walk. (The C.W. is a wending route from the Flatbush and 7th Avenue subway to my house. It's a series of out-of-the-way criss-crosses along 7th Avenue to avoid the regular presence of panhandlers at certain corners. I rarely use this walk, except on occasions when I'm feeling distracted, depressed, poor, misanthropic or selfish. When I'm in one of my chemically-unregulated "moods" I make sure to walk along the side of 7th Avenue that's across from Tax's perch, and across from my own apartment building. I've even been known to enter a corner market across the street from Tax, to indicate to him that I had business there, in case he might feel like I'm avoiding him with purpose – which, of course, I am. This means I've had occasion to spend $2.00 on a Gus' Grape Soda that I probably won't even drink just to avoid a prolonged, boredom and guilt-bloated transaction with Tax – and no, the idiocy of this is not lost on me, thanks.)
We talked for a while, about rent (weird), and about "motherfucker" landlords. I made a case for my landlord not being a motherfucker, as she raises my rent less than 4% each year, and Tax agreed that, yes, she was anything but a motherfucker for that. We exchanged goodbyes, and he didn't even ask me for "a little help" or, as he usually phrases it, "a little extra today." Maybe it's because I hadn't showered yet, and was covered in soot.
Ten minutes later, after depositing my fortune in The Gotham City Amalgamated Bank, I found myself in a coffee shop, drawn along through my day by rituals of which I'm no longer conscious. The new issue of STAY FREE!, a Brooklyln-based magazine, was resting in a pile on the coffee shop's floor, deposited beneath bulletins advertising creative non-fiction workshops ("an open and trusting environment!") and Bikram Yoga for Preemies. I picked up a copy of the magazine because its glossy surface reflected light and appeared shiny and, henceforth, compelled me to touch it. The cover read, "AMERICAN GENTRIFIER" and featured a photograph of a very white Brooklyn couple with their baby, and their baby's Baby Bjorn con-strapment. It was obviously a parody of white people living in Brooklyn, photographed by other white people living in Brooklyn, with editorial by even more white people living in Brooklyn. I immediately recognized the "father" in the photograph as someone I've met several times at bars, and every time I meet him I make him tell me the name of that plastic mouthpiece instrument with a tiny piano keyboard along its body. And each time he gives me a different, wrong answer. (Last time it was "Toonophone" or something equally inane.)
I thought it was interesting that I knew the model in the photo and, further, thought it was interesting that I knew one of the contributing photographers. And even further, thought it was interesting that one of the features contained pictures, taken by this photographer, of a comedian I know, and in the picture he was seated in a local bar I know maybe just a little too well. Then I flipped the magazine over, and saw that STAY FREE! has a second cover – there's a name for this in publishing (i think it's "toonophone") – and on that second cover, all by itself, was the giant, dentally incomplete grinning face of Tax. My Tax!
His name is Jake Greene, and he is a real man. Also, that arrest story was apparently true, but he did not commit the crime. He was basically profiled for being a consistent figure in the neighborhood and was never even placed in a police line-up. After three years in the can (yes, i said it), his sentence was reversed and on the heels of that symbolic apology came a big apology check from the city for over one hundred thousand dollars. Unfortunately, Tax spent the entire sum on taffy and root beer popsicles, and now he's back on the corner.
Tomorrow I'm going to ask him to autograph the magazine, and see if he's got any of that taffy left.
HOW TO PERFECT THE ANCIENT ART OF HUEVOS RANCHEROS.
"They'll knock your socks off and steal your money, too!" – Gramps
HOW TO BOIL AND REDUCE FOR 33 YEARS.
When I first started collecting my writing for a book, almost two years ago now, I was excited to finally equip myself with an excuse to expunge all of this old material that I'd just produced and released, scattershot. As the process played out over many months, I became less and less convinced that the material amounted to anything in aggregate. Separately, I was able to get behind my own stories, and saw them as photographs taken from weird angles. But together, they created another exercise in a wacky perspective on a fairly uneventful life. Something I would never want to read, although I'm probably underestimating other people's desire to pick up and enjoy that kind of thing.
The thing is, I have this insane future projection that leapfrogs right over the part where I'm finishing the book, editing it, and trying to get it published, and skips directly to the part where it's a complete package, on a shelf. And that's the (absolutely unkown and useless to entertain but nonetheless agonizing) part that always paralyzes my efforts. You know how you go to Barnes & Noble sometimes, and there's always this whole table littered with first-person essay collections with quirky names like "McDork: Adventures in Painful Employment" and "Girl, Crazy" and "Love Sick: A Smalltown Hypochondriac's True Tales of Neurotic Romance in the Big City?"
And, as you scan them, they start to merge and it becomes difficult to determine where one book ends and the next begins. It's a blur of pun-stricken titles; cover art dominated by crooked and mismatched type faces with irreverent and irrelevant images lifted from the "Portraits, Humor" and "Vintage, 1950s, Unusual" sections in stock photography catalogs; pull-quotes on the back attributed to People magazine and other writers on the same publishing imprint with similar memoirs they're trying to push. It's fairly transparent, is it not? And I see my book (again, unfinished and a million miles away from seeing its way on to a publisher's desk, which makes this dark thought and my quantification of my writing as a book, even in future-tense, feel like a thin cover for some kind of acute egomania) alongside the others, and it depresses me. It's like seeing a picture of the day the universe ends in your lifetime and then being asked what you want for dinner tonight. It freezes up your hands.
Sometimes I think it would be so much easier to pitch one of those high-concept books. You know – the ones with titles like "The Cynic's Guide to World Travel." They're always filled with ridiculous fake charts and figures that pay homage to an out-of-date style of graphic design. These books are basically like a huge volume of collected front-of-book charticles from Maxim Magazine and Spin. The kind of thing you flip through once or twice, chuckling occasionally. And then, months later, you slap a sticker on the book that says, "$1.00" and lug it down to your stoop sale.
That probably sounds like an undignified second life for a book, but at least the effort to create it matches the effort with which it was received by its readers. It's much less tragic than authors putting their lives between two trade paperback soft covers, and being met with an overwhelming sense of national indifference.
Admittedly, sometimes the authors are as culpable as the readers. It's not unusual for a humorous memoir to read like a rundown of familiar 20-to-30-something foibles – crazy families, work, summer camp, starbucks, trying to finish your book, etc. – littered with a generically-patterned collection of one-liners for extra zing. Kind of like a Cathy comic strip, with an occasional allusion to anal sex. (it's weird, ladies! and it makes us think we're going to poop, am i right?) But the fact is, not all of our lives are exceptional; some of us live in great fear of everything, and the greatest asset we have is a point of view or a really nice author photo. And I have to get it into my skull, I guess, that I'm not a tranny or a former sex industry worker. Or a guy who bit his own arm off to save American pride. Or a man in search of the Polish family who hid his grandmother during WWII. Or a woman with a working raccoon heart. I'm just a nervous wreck. Which is no excuse not to finish my book, "Uh Oh, Coward! A Neurotic's Misadventures in Summer Stock Theater."
HOW TO LET YOUR GUARD DOWN, SELECTIVELY.
I had a lovely time reading at the WYSIWYG Talent Show last night. (Curse them for making me type that name out, time and time again. The acronym gives me pause, because whenever I type it I end up moving my lips like an idiot and sounding it out.) I was glad to be in the company of some talented performers/writers/both. And man, do those bloggers love to attend bloggy-type shows! They blogged the shit out of that theater.
The piece I read was a little out of character for me, primarily because it was both true and personal and, if you've read this site more than three or four half-hearted entries deep, you'd know that specific personal matters are not something I usually care to share – and when I do, it's usually because I'm staving off a miniature nervous breakdown, which means I end up deleting them as soon as I experience my next moment of clarity.
Not be a tease, but I'm not going to reprint the entire story here. It seems silly when I look at it now. But here's the introduction, which is a start, isn't it?
[Addendum: video of this performance has been posted online, if watching is easier on your brain than reading. plus, you'll get to hear the whole thing; not just the parts i deemed ok for public consumption. See the video here.]
When I agreed to do this show, my choice was obviously motivated by a passionate, almost compulsive desire to have people look at me. But I also wanted to set the record straight with regards to this month’s theme. When I learned the show was called “Psychos I’ve Dated, Or Worked For, Or Both,” I was a little concerned about the title for a couple of reasons. First, I wasn’t really sure how to spell “psycho.” I know it’s is a short word, but it has that tricky silent “p” in it, as well as a silent “e.”
But also because “psycho” is one of those words I think is too liberally applied to individuals. It’s like the word “genius” in this way. Did you know that if you search for the phrase “...is a genius” on Google – you can find Google on one of the Internets – it produces over 124,000 results, applied to almost as many people, including:
- George Lucas
- Michael Moore
- Russell Crowe
- Jessica Simpson - attributed to her mother, who claims Jessica’s I.Q. is in the 160s
- Josh Whedon – I had to look him up, sadly.
- George W. Bush
- Rob Schneider (comic genius)
And, as shocking to me as it will be to you, one of the search results was actually my own name – again, attributed to Jessica Simpson’s mother. That woman has always been good to me.
I’m pretty sure no one on that list is a genius, with the exception of Voltaire and possibly Russell Crowe. I expect genius is frequently employed as a way to generate sound bites. Superlatives demand attention. But the thoughtless use of “psycho” has a different source. It can sometimes be attributed to maliciousness, sometimes to a need for closure in a soured relationship, but most often I find people mislabel former lovers PSYCHOS based on a lack of insight or an unwillingness to explore what was really wrong with their partner – and what role you might have played in his or her personal drama.
I personally don’t think it’s fair to call ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends psychos just because they acted bizarrely during or after a relationship. Love is delicate, and it does weird things to you. It makes you call someone against your better judgment, sometimes multiple times in one night. Love makes you throw things down the stairs. Love makes you push people off Jet Skis. It makes you enter a Popeye’s Chicken and take hostages, then use them as emotional bargaining chips, promising to release one hostage for every Air Supply song your ex-wife will dance to with you. Love makes you crazy, but it doesn’t necessarily make you psychotic.
That’s why I think there should be strict guidelines applied to words like psycho, in order to re-establish some much-needed objectivity. Here’s what I suggest: in the future, you can only say you dated a psycho if that person was clinically diagnosed psychotic, and institutionalized for a period exceeding three weeks; or if that person was or is currently assigned to a regimen of anti-psychotic drugs, such as Thorazine, Trilafon, Clozapine, or Haldol. Only if your ex-boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever met any or all of these conditions can you confidently and accurately claim to have dated a psycho.
So…I dated a psycho. And it was one of the best relationships I’ve ever had.
[photos from the reading have been posted on the WYSIWYG site. you may now enjoy me at full-length. yes, i wear jeans with fashionably bleached "whiskers."]
HOW TO GET YOUR POINT ACROSS.
Sometimes I wish I could shut my mouth. I have this thing, when I speak, where I become incredulous too quickly and the edges of my mouth curl upward, and I can't race to my point fast enough. My whole body looks like it's preparing to take off for flight and as I speak and speak and speak and gesticulate I keep seeing my point receding further into the distance, disappearing from my line of sight for long stretches of time, only to make fleeting appearances – just long enough to force me into maintaining pace.
I wish I could stop doing this. It's not thoughtful. It looks like I'm trying to sell a lie. I've always admired peole who choose their words carefully. Who drain out all of the "um"s and "uh"s and especially the "like"s. Who don't break down into nervous giggles in mid-sentence. Who, lacking a better ending for their stories, don't cop out by finishing every sentence by clapping their hands free of imaginary dust and proclaiming, "...and that's the end of that!"
There's something very sophisticated about people who take their time. Maybe this careful language is really a product of their own social anxiety, manifesting itself as shyness, but from the other side it's kind of cool.
I don't like the way I rush through monologues sometimes, but I am even worse when I consciously attempt to compose my words. I have a friend who used to think I was being patronizing to waitstaff because I would always try to choose my words very carefully around them, in order to appear very civilized. Unfortunately, a statement like, "excuse me, I think we're all done here," sounds sort of dismissive as a declaration. It's one of those statements that could probably benefit from a peppering of gesture and stammer. I've learned to soften my approach to waitstaff with lots of smiles and hugs, to insure the correct impression.
When I think about it, it's pretty incredible how much I labor to express myself well to the person who is in charge of handing me a plate of chicken fingers, while I fly off the idiot handle in peer-to-peer situations. I'm kind of like a person with poor drawing skills, where you see the picture drawn with perfect acuity in your mind but you have no means of transporting that image from your brain to a piece of paper without severely damaging it, almost beyond the point of recognition.
[last night i ran out of a bar and chased someone down on the sidewalk just to apologize for something i'd already apologized for via email many weeks ago. i just felt, on my own, with time to think about it, that an email apology only gets half the job done. i don't see how anyone can feel satisfied with resolving something over email, and never believe the issue has to be addressed again, in person. but i also don't see how that belief should inspire you to run out into the street and grab someone to apologize as i did. he couldn't have known about all the worms that were crawling through my brain for 10 full minutes prior to our coerced confrontation. he probably just saw a crazy man on the sidewalk, breathless and inappropriately dressed for the weather.
the only other time i've ever done this was a couple years ago, when i found myself charmed by a woman from across a music club, and the worms told me that if i didn't tell her so i was resigning myself to a life of social awkwardness and i would die a romantic reactionary, without a single risk taken. when there's that much at stake in your head, the conversation cannot go smoothly. and, after i saw her exit the bar and suddenly popped out of my seat to follow her on to the sideway, it did not. if i could remember her name now – shauna? something – i would probably owe her an apology as well. just as i owe you one now.]
HOW TO GETTING A STANDING OVATION AT 'THE FUNNY FARM AGRI-COMEDY FESTIVAL'.
"I grew up in a very small and backwards town. Our mayor was a burly produce farmer named Lefty Dupree. Lefty told everyone he lost his right hand after getting it caught in a piece of farm equipment. Rumor around town was that the piece of farm equipment was a mule. GOODNIGHT!"
[in the first draft of this joke, the piece of farm equipment was a rake. i spent several minutes wondering if one could actually lose their hand in a rake. while the very idea seemed impossible and therefore hilarious to me, i worried someone might be stupid enough to make it happen. i am pandering to farmers!]
HOW TO PUT YOUR FEET ON ANTI-DEPRESSANTS.
When I'm not wearing sneakers, I'm wearing boots. In particular, very heavy black leather boots. The kind of boots you might find on the feet of someone who peppers his conversation with exclamations like, "oi!" and "I'll be arsed!!" I like these boots because they provide me with an excellent gravitational base, and their steel toes and black, glossy leather, riddled with scars, make my feet look like they fucking mean business.
But, as noted above, they're really heavy. And I wear them almost exclusively. As a result, after many years, I finally decided to supplement them with a second pair of shoes – something that will fall between the Peter Pan complex look of my Nike Air Force hi-tops and the surly skinhead-for-hire look of my Gripfast combat boots. This task was more difficult than I'd imagined, because it turns out that most practically-designed men's shoes fall into one of four categories:
- For Squares - this is basically any black or brown leather shoe that's supposed to look metropolitan but, instead, looks like you're just wearing a poorly-rendered sketch of an oxford shoe. These shoes often look best with very light blue denim jeans, cut in a "relaxed fit" style.
- Slack Shoes - slack shoes are the kinds of shoes – usually with leather soles – that are fairly attractive but seem to require the accompaniment of slacks whenever you put them on. Here's a good example. I don't really own many pairs of slacks, so whenever I pick up a shoe that falls into this category I suddenly become filled with clammy dread. These shoes trigger all kinds of personal insecurities surrounding my inadequate degree of accomplishment, etc. A voice goes off in my head that tells me the purchase of these shoes would require an additional purchase of many dry-clean-only items of clothing fabricated from fine silk and merino wool. Then the voice adds that I am a grown man and I will probably never graduate past hoodie sweatshirts, Asics Tigers, and military-issue sweaters. As I'm replacing the Slack Shoe on its cherry-wood pedastal, the voice mumbles, "you're also short. And Jewey. I'm just saying, is all."
- The Adult Sneaker - possibly the worst criminal of all trends in men's shoes. I can understand their appeal – a little out-of-the-box in terms of design – but do not be fooled. The adult sneaker is an outcast, a bastard for men who are too ashamed of their misspent youth to still casually enjoy its gifts, yet too sissified to put a shoe of any substance on their feet. Worse still, the wearer of the Adult Sneaker believes he's "fun" and "casual" when he's usually really "non-confrontational" and "balding." You can't get into an argument in adult sneakers, and you can't run from the cops in them. It's frustrating.
- Skechers - there are lots of shoes that are like Skechers, but none so much as Skechers themselves. Still, I would use this name like "Kleenex," to describe a broad category of shoes that seem to look OK and rugged from a distance but, upon close inspection, seem to be made of cardboard, chewing gum, and sprinkles. Also, count on Skechers to include one inexplicably horrible detail that serves as the deal-breaker in an otherwise appealing design. For example, a large red brand tag that is stitched on to the outside of the shoe, or a giant embossed word or design pressed into the stiff area near the heel. Or yellow stitching. Or, sometimes, a gum sole that's fabricated from the rended bones of dead Apache Indians.
After trying on several pairs of shoes, and laughing at several others (thank you, Otto Tootsi Plohound!), I finally found a pair of shoes I thought might be able to wean me off sneakers and jackboots. I felt really great about them, and then I wore them for the first time and swore I'd never put them on my feet again.
Then, two weeks later, after casually passing a shoe store display on my way to a party, I found the perfect pair. I can't take them off, actually. I love them so much. They're so comfortable that I find myself staring down at my own feet as I walk, unable to believe I'm actually wearing shoes; I sometimes fool myself into thinking I'm wearing a pair of teddy bears instead.
I realize some people feel they should protect a new fashiony purchase, to protect themselves from being replicated incessantly, but I'm not one of those people. I want everyone to get these shoes, truly. I've even included a picture of me wearing them in a typical state of beautiful relaxation. Aren't they cool?
HOW TO IMPRESS YOUR ACADEMIC ADVISOR.
KCRW is a nice and very listenable radio station in Los Angeles. I wonder if they were even aware of what they were promoting last night at the Pussycat Lounge in Manhattan. The club, located south of the new site for our Freedom Towers (jesus), houses a pack of genetically modified naked ladies on its ground floor, and its remaining two floors are dedicated to live music performance, drinking, and nudity-optional reveling.
As part of a goodnight kiss to the College Music Journal Marathon, KCRW hosted (or at least hung banners in and spread stickers all over) a party in the Pussycat Lounge. It was loud, crowded, and late – three things for which I used to have an infinite amount of patience; a figure that has been on steady decline since I turned 26 years old – and from the moment I entered the room with Lucy my muscles ached with acute skepticism. The DJ was playing OK music – mostly Miami bass for the ass, including three Two Live Crew songs in a row (barely forgivable), all from the same album (absolutely unforgivable) – but broke a very important rule for party DJs: he spoke. And he spoke on a microphone that was amplified with more wattage than the music. This made his asides to the attendees sound like one of those rare terror-inducing, deafening subway announcements where the PA system has been jacked to an unusually high and always irreconcilable volume.
The volume of the DJ's voice wasn't the only thing alarming, either. He used his on-air time to berate the audience for acting "all junior high and shit" when they were supposed to be acting "all collegious and shit." He repeatedly interrupted songs to remind us that he was playing some X-rated type of shit while we, the audience, were behaving in a manner that could only be described as PG and shit. Shit. There's nothing more appealing than getting bullied into grinding.
And I think this is what really divided me and the mostly college-aged audience. (This, and my receding hairline and sagging scrotum, and sprawling $10 million estate.) They were perfectly willing to be coerced into dancing for this jackass DJ (His name was Disco D. Good one!) while I was perfectly willing to drink some vodka with club soda, and complain about the noise.
Were it not for the company I was keeping, the whole experience would have made me feel existentially glum, especially when the DJ started asking (screaming) who, in the audience, was fucked up and drunk. Satisfied with the percentage of respondents who were affirmative, Disco D proceeded to play a bunch of tracks that promised "women are ho's" and having sex with a woman who has fake tits is OK, as long as they feel all right. As DD dug deeper into his set, pausing only to assure us he had been provided with "the shittiest mixer in history," it seemed like his every musical cue had the following subtext: I AM NOT GOING TO LEAVE HERE UNTIL I TURN ONE OF YOU FELLAS INTO A RAPIST.
After I drained my drink and almost indulged a very passive and irrational moment of hostility where I wanted to pick a fight with a nice-seeming black guy because he was wearing a Terry Richardson t-shirt*, it seemed like it was time to go. As I left, I was thinking about how I'm at a point in my life where I'd honestly rather eat really delicious cheese and get drunk with a table of friends than order a watered-down cocktail from an attractive and aloof bartender. I don't miss college a bit, you know.
*I wondered this guy would be so supportive of a photographer whose non-commercial work is, at best, a cross between Larry Clark's least interesting work and something like Art School Girls Gone Wild and, at worst, just something like pictures of Terry Richardson jacking it into some girl's asymmetrical haircut. I thought, for a moment, maybe this kid posed for Terry at some point, and that would explain the t-shirt, until I remembered Terry doesn't get turned on by black people, or perhaps black people aren't as suggestible as white people when it comes to having a skinny ex-junkie with a disposable point-and-shoot ejaculate all over their faces in the name of art. To his credit, Terry's stuff sometimes demonstrates a sense of humor and, well, his dad left a decent artistic legacy, so that's covered.
HOW TO WAIT BY THE PHONE THAT NEVER RINGS.
Today was my last day working at a client's office for a freelance assignment. I spent it as I traditionally spend my last day in any office – by standing next to the snacks vending machine and whispering, "If you get those Teddy Grahams I'll crush your stupid head between my hands," to everyone who approached it.
Stupid Heads smashed today: 2.0. I mean business.
Later tonight, during the Bush/Kerry debate, John Kerry made a point to tell America that his mother's last three words to him, from her hospital bed, were, "integrity, integrity, integrity." Pretty crazy, especially considering this amazing coincidnece: my grandmother's last three words to me were, "integrity, integrity, morphine."
Actually, that statement reminded me of this game my friend, Allison, plays all the time. It never fails to make me laugh, mostly because it's insanely stupid. The idea is that you pretend you're on your deathbed and you're delivering your last words to an assembled audience (of loved ones, generally). Allison would come up with a really important line she was just about to finish but then drops dead just before completing the thought. My favorite examples of hers were, "The treasure is buried in the – ack!" and "The smelliest one of you is – ack!" If you're playing at home, some other good examples might be:
- "When none of you were looking, I peed in the ––"
- "The combination to the vault at Candy Manor is 33-21-f ––"
- "If you want the cure to cancer, you'll have to fuck a ––"
- "Don't forget to TiVo ––"
- "You'll find my legal will in a bank safety deposit box under the name 'Diarrhea Q. Faggotbot' ––"
- "Billie Jean is not my ––"
- "I'd rather be ––"
- "I know what gender Jamie Lee Curtis was born. Come closer. Closer still....(fart sound)"
- "(fart sound, pause, very long fart sound)"
HOW TO CALL IT QUITS WITHOUT SO MANY WORDS.
I have been very busy for the last couple of weeks. Busy enough to forget about the minutiae of my own life – things like keeping my apartment tidy, responding to emails, sleeping, eating meals that aren't served out of white paper sacks, cleaning my face, and taking plenty of fluids. (I apologize to anyone who has been caught in the crossfire, with regards to this.) As a result, I've been battling a pretty terrible cold for the last several days and I can't find my left shoe.
I've also not committed a single word to paper, really, that wasn't some kind of contribution to a very short comedy set. (It's amazing how reductive comedy is. I've been spending all this time massaging and crafting and chipping away at this ridiculously small piece of stand-up so that everyone – from Swarthmore graduates to fruit wine hobos – will find something funny in it. The first step in this process was removing all references to Anton Chekhov, and replacing them with a loud, continuous fart sound. Problem solved.) So, out of novelty and guilt, I sat down this afternoon and started writing something. Here's what came out first:
"I hate performing for cats."
Yeah, it's true. Sure, I wrote more. A lot more. Like this:
"You start playing to a cat audience and, if they’re not looking elsewhere – at a beetle, for instances, or the flickering of a light bulb – they’re still paying half-attention to you. Whereas other audiences will indicate boredom or disinterest by flagging down a waitress or whispering to their neighbor, a cat will just take a shit where it stands, and then spend the next five minutes covering it up with some napkins."
And then, a few paragraphs later, in mid-sentence, I got a hold of myself. I am a grown man, writing cat-centric humor. (OK, still writing cat-centric humor.) Nothing could telegraph my loneliness, restlessness, and sense of personal defeat more than a winky passage dedicated to the pitfalls of performing in front of cats. My point is, you deserve better. (That is sort of the mantra of this site, and the rest of my life.) And as soon as I find that fucking shoe, you'll get yours. We all will.
HOW TO MAKE IT TO THE CHALLENGE WAVE.
I've never said this before, or even thought it, but I suddenly wish I were right-handed. I'm freelancing at an office with a Galaga machine that lets employees blow off wild and creative steam with unlimited no-coin-required games. I've always been awful at Galaga and I'm trying to improve my game to make girls like me, but my left-handedness is emerging as a potentially insurmountable obstacle.
The way Galaga machines are set up displays and obvious favortism toward right-handed people. By placing the fire button – without a doubt the game's most essential action – on the right side, it leaves people like me on the sidelines. I CANNOT TAP THAT FAST WITH MY WEAK HAND. GALAGA, WHY DO YOU REQUIRE SO MUCH OF ME?
And I can't do that weird hand cross-over that was popular in arcades 23 years ago, because I can't think of a single girl I'll ever like enough to willfully look like that much of an asshole in public.
Meanwhile, I've been watching my partner – one of my top five favorite art directors in my freelance history – flick the fire button so quickly her hand looks like a hummingbird. She was producing alien kamikaze pilots of breeds I've never before seen. It was weird to find a warm feeling of admiration swell inside me when spaceships from Galaxian started raining down on her.
HOW TO STAY ON TOP OF HOBO MATTERS.
Homeless person updates!
Yesterday I saw the most vain homeless woman in all my years of living. She was dressed in that “hobosexual” style – tattered goose down jacket, suggestively unzipped to mid-torso; tight-ass jeans; paper bags on her feet, from Victoria’s Secret – and she was preening herself at a plate-glass storefront. Because the store had gone out of business, and its lights were out, the window’s surface really gave the homeless woman’s reflection a smoky allure. The homeless woman was squirting some kind of “found” hair product into her plentiful naps. With each application of the product, she carefully ironed the ends of her hair between her hands, forming her hairstyle into a stiff, cracked platter, like the crown of a Portobello mushroom. So stuck-up, right?
As I passed, she didn’t even take the time to turn around and face me. She just caught me in the background of her reflection and asked for some money. When I wondered out loud what she’d use the money for, the homeless woman rolled her eyes, lowered her lids, and said, “my baby needs microdermabrasion.” Baby, you’re so vain you probably think this entry is about you.
Less recently, I was in my neighborhood, talking to a panhandler I’ve nicknamed “Tax.” We exchanged a few pleasantries, and he pretended to promise that he’d attend one of my future stand-up shows, and I pretended I’d hold him to his promise. Then, he held on to me a little longer and said, “You know that guy, Mike, who’s always out here? The skinny one?”
I took a mental inventory of all the recurring homeless people in my neighborhood. “The one with the eye patch?”
“Nah, that’s Kyle?”
“The guy with the new sneakers?” No. “Black Popeye?” No, man. “Oh! That skinny guy who always looks like shit is just going to fall off him with every step he takes?”
“Yeah, man! That’s Mike! Well, he died.”
Mike was one of the most bedraggled characters in my neighborhood. I’ve previously referred to him as “Sometimes Dirty,” because you just never knew what kind of state you’d find him in from day to day. The last few months found him on a consistent low i.e. a consistent high. He was often too disassociated to even remember to ask for money, or to find a paper cup in which to collect it. I saw him nodding off on the benches at our subway stop. And now, according to Tax, Mike had given up his life on the tracks, beneath an oblivious Q Train.
“I heard he was pushed,” Tax added.
It was at this moment that I realized, while I know nothing of New York’s celebrated socialites, and Page Six reports and Gawker posts are usually just a fuzzy, confusing jumble of words to me, somehow I have gotten my ear very close to the ground with matters of rumor-mongering within transient circles. I feel terrible about Mike, but I found it interesting that Tax not only was certain I’d know him, but wanted to make sure I knew all the gossip circulating around Hobo Junction. Does Street News have an equivalent of Page Six? Does Street News even have six pages?
I thanked Tax sincerely for the information and then, as I was trying to push past him into a corner store, he grabbed me once more and asked, “Hey man, can you help me out with a little extra tonight? I gotta buy my lady some hair product. That woman is boughetto, man.”