In February of 2005, You Learned:
HOW TO FIND A PATTERN FOR YOUR MALE PATTERN BALDNESS.
Tonight, on the D train, I think I saw the future of my hairline – and it chilled me to the scalp. I've been on baldness alert since I was nineteen, and I became convinced I was losing all my hair. I would sometimes drop whatever it was I was doing, and run into the dorm bathroom to check my hairline for recession progress.
To pre-emptively answer your question, no, I wasn't going bald at all. I had a head of thick, luxurious, mink-quality hair. And I know my incessant discussion of the matter generated a tremendous amount of resentment from some of my more obviously bald peers – I was the male equivalent of the skinny girl complaining to a room full of heavyset women that, no, she won't have any cream in her coffee because she recently discovered she no longer fits into her size 2 jeans. But all I could think about was losing it. I would beg people to examine my forehead for signs of exposure. In fact, after my senior year of college I started wearing my hair cropped extremely short, so I wouldn't touch it and endanger my hairline by weakening the roots with each nervous tug. (Ever since I started growing out my hair again, that nervous habit has re-established itself and my old concerns have been stoked and their vigorous flame renewed.)
I always expected that if I were to go bald it would not be in a cool twin-peaks of recession manner befitting of royalty. No, I would go full-on Jew Bald™. A straight hairline retreating from my brow, like Art Garfunkel. A receding tide of curls that cannot even be covered up with a buzz cut, for a buzz cut requires some semblance of hairline with patches of male pattern baldness.. A curse upon a curse
Tonight, I realized for the first time in a long time, that I am actually, REALISTICALLY in danger of having this happen. I was in a men's bathroom at a movie theater and saw that my forehead is enjoying a greater prominence than ever before. I felt a sick panic set in. There's not much I can do except wait it out, I suppose, but that doesn't mean I didn't spend the rest of my evening catching peripheral glimpses of my bald bald bald fat bald bald head.
Then, on the subway, I was distracted by the loud chatter of a nerdy male voice behind me. I turned to look and it was a man in his early 40s, dressed in a frumpy suit, chatting amiably with a woman. His hair, which was rust with silver, was like a great pubic wig, casually tipped back on his head. "This is what I'm going to look like in six weeks," I thought. I wonder, if I had killed him, would that have cut the bloodline and broken the curse? Are vampire rules applicable to baldness? Surely there is a web site devoted to this.
HOW TO APPRECIATE PEOPLE.
Thanks to everyone who came to February's How to Kick People. [i removed a much longer post about this show, for reasons of my own incredible discomfort with its self-congratulatory tone. apologies for not being a big enough dirty whore.] We were pretty overwhelmed by the audience presence and production details this month, but only in a nice way.
Here is 1/99th of what you might have seen, or missed, depending on where you were that night:
HOW TO DIE LIKE A MAN.
Last weekend, while scrutinizing the corners of Florida's Everglades National Park for signs of alligators, Florida panthers, scorpions, rattlers, and unclassified poison-fanged fish, my friend Rob reminded me of how, as children, we lived in constant and real (to us, anyway) fear of death by quicksand.
I wonder if today’s generation of children thinks about quicksand as much as I used to. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was positive I would some day encounter quicksand – I thought I came close a few times, in fact, but the 100% reliable Tree Branch Dip Test™ proved otherwise – and, more so, I knew exactly what to do if I ever did find myself in a quicksand fix. The secret to surviving quicksand, as all boys of a certain age knew, was to lie perfectly still. Any sign of struggle would just make the quicksand work faster; flail your arms or try to pull yourself out, and pretty soon you’d be nothing but a Little Slugger hat ominously balanced on the surface of some bubbly mud.
In my imagination, quicksand was not limited to exotic locales like Marrakesh and The Mummy’s Tomb. One could find it, for example, in the wooded lot behind your elementary school. In fact, when I was eight years old, a rumor persisted that three or four children disappeared in quicksand behind our school. I stayed as far away as possible. And nothing could allay my fears, least of all the (possibly) true story about a neighborhood kid who wandered a little too close to a local park’s construction area, and silently drowned in a hot pit of tar that had been allocated for asphalting a new basketball court. (Hot tar and wet concrete were the quicksand of the urban dweller.) That park became cursed, and I never did visit once the new courts had been paved over. No one wants to have his basketball swiped by a ghost, unless that ghost can dunk.
The quicksand discussion got me to thinking about being a child, and all other the ways I imagined I would die. Here’s a partial list, to the best of my recollection:
- killer bees
- electric eel
- choking on a missile fired from a Battlestar Galactica Cylon Raider
- cobra bite
- python squeeze (I had a girlfriend in high school who loved snakes, and owned a python; that thing was my nemesis.)
- nuclear blast/fallout
- zombie bite
- serial killer
- shark attack
- sharktopuss attack (An animal of my own invention, and not to be trifled with.)
- cyanide in Tylenol
- razor blade in apple
- Tylenol in apple
- cyanide in razor blade
- apple doll (possessed, armed)
- left for dead (with success)
- poisoned soda
- buried alive
- karate'd to death
- crazy advanced aging disease
- bunk bed mishap
- exploding pancakes
- fatally mistaking switchblade knife for switchblade comb
- drinking delicious-looking Dawn dishwashing detergent
- jumped by tards
- butterfly flapping its wings in Malaysia
- uncomfortable shoes
- curb job
- balloon dick
- herky jerky
It’s an amazingly romantic list, especially when compared to the list of ways I now presume I’ll die:
This entry was a birthday gift to myself.
HOW TO IMPLORE PEOPLE.
It's so rare that I actually implore anyone, but today I must get to imploring. I implore you to attend this evening's performance of HOW TO KICK PEOPLE – it's our one-year anniversary, and we're celebrating it with a fancy tribute to people who make funny drawings. There will be live drawings, special performances, har hars, and some stuff that requires 3-D glasses.
Aw, fuck, you know what? Do what you want. I don't want to be a pain. But if what you want is to have your Pleasure Center exploded into a million pieces, maybe tonight's your night. Here are the insanely good details:
HOW TO PUNK IT UP.
Last night, I read at KGB with Legs McNeil. Ordinarily, this would be a statement that would require me to add the "brag" tag around it. However, despite being really honored and excited by the invitation, I'm not sure I've ever felt so confused and out of place in my entire life. Well, there was that time when Norman Mailer invited me to stand over his shoulder and watch him eat ravioli in front of his publicist and agent. (That was awkward.)
The pretense for the evening was this: Legs just co-authored a new oral history of the adult film industry. He is about to embark on a book tour, and just had his book release party on Monday night. (Blog that!!) He was booked to read passages from the book, as part of the KGB non-fiction reading series, curated by the affable and charming Felicia Sullivan. Felicia had seen me read an ass-oriented story [the initial seed of that story appears here] a few months prior, and thought I might make a good pairing with Legs at the KGB reading.
"Really?" I thought. A good pairing? Legs McNeil is the man who coined the term "punk" in the seventies, and was one of the founders of PUNK magazine. Legs McNeil has probably held Dee Dee Ramone's toes spread while Dee Dee shot heroin into the webbing in between. Legs is six feet-plus of craggly, paper-brittle East Village icon. He still wears sunglasses indoors and, amazingly, it's kind of forgivable on him. He was an editor at SPIN. He edited Please Kill Me! which, combined with the excellent and well-annotated Q Magazine history of British punk, is the most exhilarating record of that movement I've read.
I, on the other hand, am a Jew. A short, twitchy, fearful and nervous Jew. I was too young to live through the punk movement. I caught punk after it had been filtered through the power-pop mill by bands like The Feelies and The Undertones and Let's Active, and all the male artists stood pigeon-toed and adorably shy, styled in high-waters, sweater vests, long bangs, and tapered jeans. I was reared on floppy New Wave, soft-focus videos for songs dispensing New Romantic platitudes about yearning and aching. I watched all 15 minutes of MC Hammer's infamous multi-million dollar "haunted house" video. I was so removed from punk that, when I was a teenager, it seemed appropriate to costume myself like a punk for Halloween.
And I was asked to present a story about sex, or porn, or both, to complement Legs' presentation. Considering the content of this site, I had a surprisingly difficult time preparing a completely non-fictional piece on either of those subjects. It made me realize exactly how private I am about certain things.
It also made me realize how utterly casual my relationship with porn truly is. I've never even purchased a copy of Playboy. Most of the pornography I've seen has been either inherited – from someone's dad's collection, from a roommate, from my old boss or ex-girlfriends. I own a couple of videos, but they were primarily chosen for their historical value – and I have strict rules about asthetics that inform my limited purchases. For a man who owns 3 or 4 adult films total – and two of those were inherited from my optometrist – it makes no sense that my collection would feature the pasty, hair-covered flab and unsexy bathtub suicide of the original The Devil in Miss Jones XXX. The closest I've ever been to walking into a video store to rent pornography was when I spent a summer working as a clerk in a (mostly gay) adult video store. I had to get on the inside, to get inside.
And since Legs (and his very nice co-authors) and I were the only scheduled readers, I found myself in a strange position. I've been on line-ups where I felt seriously outgunned by the other performers, but at least then I could (at best) present myself as a pleasant surprise among four or five more well-known writers. But this time I was opening up for someone who drew 99.999% of the audience by himself. NO ONE, apart from a handful of incredibly nice friends, was there to see me. They were there to lick Legs' gritty aura, and rub their Dead Boys stories up against his. They were there to show off their pins and battered copies of "PUNK" and get things signed and be close to someone who has been close to all of their music idols. Or, in certain cases, they were there to wax nostalgic about Show World, Billy's Topless, and dollar-a-lick stage shows with Annie Sprinkle and Vanessa Del Rio. And one guy was just there to proselytize about the need for "better, smarter, New York-based porn!"
When it was all over, I had a good experience, probably even better than I was equipped to believe last night, thanks to a healthy mix of "brand new story"ness and "i am sure i fucked that up terribly"ness. The host was kind enough to introduce me as an "emerging author" – which is officially the nicest spin on "here's someone you've never heard of" I've ever received – and the audience was generous and appreciative. But I felt something, physically, that has been absent since my first open mic in NYC: on my way back from the podium to my seat at the rear of the room, my legs went missing. They were de-boned jelly, and it took all of my manufactured resolve to make that walk through the crowd without toppling over like a teenaged girl on her first night in heels.
HOW TO CAPTURE THE MAGNIFICENT BLOG-GEIST.
The Christo/Jeanne-Claude Gates in Central Park, unfurled on Saturday, were stunning – absolutely beyond my expectations for them. (I spent a lot of time repeating the phrase, "THEY'RE EVERYWHERE!!" ad stupidnitum.) Walking beneath the flapping orange curtains, and watching a procession of other New Yorkers and visitors doing the same, had a way of underlining a simple act – ambling – with a kind of quiet dignity of which I'd never before been conscious.
However, I do have a concern unrelated to the project itself, rooted purely in the behavior I witnessed leading up to this event and, again, over the weekend. I wonder if we're living in an age when information is transmitted so rapidly and desperately that these gates may represent the first phenomenon for which the webblog entries were written prior to the event about which people posted. (like the Bob Hope memorial special that A&E surely had sitting on a shelf since 1996, seven years prior to his very timely death.) It was as if NYC-based webloggers anticipated the opening day, not for the sheer rush of the new, but because it would enable them to tick off "things to to blog" for Saturday, February 12th, 2005. To put it in perspective, I would say the opening day of The Gates had a comparative weblog index of:
That pre-emptive sense was almost palpable, as everyone's cameras – including my own – rushed to line up the ideal shot; the one that will be linked most frequently, that flash of orange that perfectly captures the blog-geist. Not to pat myself on the back too hard, but I must confess I think I took that photo. Sorry, Flickr.
HOW TO DISPLAY YOUR FLASH ART.
While sketching on the subway – a sure way to draw unwanted attention to yourself, particularly when you're sketching a series of giant, dripping penises of all shapes and sizes, as practice studies for defacing cosmetics advertisements – I was asked if I "tattoo." The gentleman asking the question had just finished annoying the person to his left, and now, as I was seated to his right, it was my turn.
"Do you tattoo," he repeated, gesturing to my sketch – a large, black, uncircumcised number rendered in flawless 2-point perspective. He was exactly the kind of New Yorker people imagine, when their only sense of New York City is informed by cartoons and cinematic romantic comedies. Squat, wide and pudgy, like he'd been mashed on the top of his head by God. A big, rubbery round face, with eyes sloping off the sides, and a great, wet mouth decorated by a small group of well-spaced teeth. His head was shaved, which I would have guessed even if he hadn't removed the knit wool cap that was screwed down all the way to his eyebrow line. This was the kind of man you'd see cast as a blue collar extra in a superhero film, hanging off a steel girder on a construction site, and shouting, "T'anks a bunch, Spider-Man!"
I explained to Squishy (I never did get his name) that, no, I do not tattoo. He seemed taken aback, and leaned back on his bench seat and folded his arms, which were so truncated they barely met across his great middle. I put my head down to continue sketching, trying to get the ejaculate just so, and Squishy put his face close to mine.
"You should tattoo, you know? You could do them flash cards. You know, like the ones they got hanging up there?" He held his hands in a position that suggested a cinematographer framing some action. I knew what he meant, and told him so.
"Could be good money in it for you," he continued. "Maybe five hundred, thousand bucks a week. Stuff like that." I assured him that sounded excellent and went back to struggling over the shading on an uncircumcised Spanish member. I was not in the mood to talk, which is sort of unusual for me, particularly when the person I'm talking to is a little bit narcoticized or deranged.
A few seconds passed, then: "here. Look." Squishy removed his heavy winter coat and pulled up a shirt sleeve. His right arm was decorated with the worst tattoos I'd ever seen. A friend once told me her father, a reformed alcoholic, often gave himself tattoos during alcohol blackouts and, among his many horrible inking mistakes, he had a scraggly, wobbly handwriting tattoo beneath each nipple – one that spelled out "MILK" and the other, "BEER." Those were the worst tattoos I'd never seen, but Pudgy's were by far the worst I'd ever seen.
It wasn't just the execution; it was the volume of designs. It was as if, in numerous fits of loneliness, Squishy just wandered from Manhattan tattoo parlor to tattoo parlor, requesting flash art from the walls in a completely arbitrary fashion, with no attention to subject matter or visual cohesiveness. He just wanted to kill time and fill his arm up until there was no more free skin left. A samurai stood poised over a kick-line of Smurfs. An anime princess bled into a green-ink drawing of The Philadelphia Philly. The words, "THESE COLORS DON'T RUN," sat in the crook of a rainbow. It reminded me of when Cracker Jacks used to contain legitimate prizes inside – instead of the less exciting tabs of Prilosec, Jr. contain within boxes these days – and, if you were the luckiest person in the world, you could get temporary tattoos. (If you were terribly unlucky, you would get one of those kaleidoscope viewers, or tetanus.) Unable to control myself, as I was only a child, I would often place all of the tattoos on me at once. That impulse is supposed to disappear in middle age, isn't it?
After Squishy gave me the full arm tour, he moved on to his leg, wishing to show me a remarkable example of a technique he called "puttin' two colors next to each other and makin' it smoov'." On his leg, practically overlapping with a winding path leading from a poorly shaded black ink Brothers Grimm castle, was the head of a unicorn. The unicorn was pink and yellow, with some white ink, and it was perfectly precious. Beneath the unicorn, in a parchment banner, were these words: "I WILL SURVIVE." I saw them from my subway seat, but asked Squishy to read them to me, hoping that in reciting the words aloud he would realize – without being told – that he had accidentally gotten a tattoo for girls.
HOW TO PLAY TV EXECUTIVE.
Is TV too confusing for you? Channels and networks piling up like mildew, to the point where you can't tell what's what, when to watch, and flip dee floo? And who has time to read all those countless books (TV Guide, Dr. Telly's Guide to Magic Window Box Delights, etc.) dedicated to untangling the various television plotlines, premises, and puffersnatches? NOT YOU!
With that in mind, here's a list of some of this season's popular television serial play titles, along with a names that would be more appropriate, and less misleading, for each show. I call it: PREMATURELY-ABANDONED TV SHOW TITLE PREMISE.
TV show title: "Numb3rs"
More accurate TV show title: "I Thought Pitching This Premise to the Network Would Be a No-Brainer, Though I Had Absolutely No Intention of Following-Through on the Show, and Now I am Fucked"*
TV show title: "24"
More accurate TV show title: "The Jack Bauer Super-Power Hour of Dour"
TV show title: "Huff"
More accurate TV show title: "The Cable Ace Award Acting Showcase Hour"
TV show title: "Fear Factor"
More accurate TV show title: "Give It a Week or Two: Someone On This Show Will Eat an Abortion for $200"
TV show title: "Scrubs"
More accurate TV show title: "Herman's Head, M.D."
TV show title: "SuperNanny"
More accurate TV show title: "Nanny 911? FUCK!! You May Have Won This Time, FOX TV!!"
TV show title: "Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy"
More accurate TV show title: "Touché, ABC Television"
TV show title: "Committed"
More accurate TV show title: "The Sitcom About the Neurotic Guy Who is a Better-Looking Version of the Guy Who Created the Show, and the Carefree Woman After Whom the Guy Who Created the Show Has Been Pining Since Fourth Grade, and Self-Delusionally Thinks He's Fucking His Way Toward Through a Series of Initially Well-Meaning but Ultimately Unsatisfying Relationships with Women Who Believe He Might Actually Be Committed to Them, and Slowly Realize They're Chained to Someone Who is So Self-Absorbed There's Room for No One Else in the Relationship, But It's Usually Too Late Because He's Already Secretly Fucking Someone Else Who 'Might be the One' "
TV show title: "According to Jim"
More accurate TV show title: "Ever Wonder What Jim Belushi Thinks About All Day? Now You Know, Assholes"
TV show title: "VH-1's Awesomely Bad Hair"
More accurate TV show title: "VH-1's Extremely Unpaid On-Air Talent"
TV show title: "The O.C."
More accurate TV show title: "Sorry, Black People – There's Nothing to See Here"
TV show title: "CSI: NY"
More accurate TV show title: "CSI Don't Know Why Anyone Bothered"
TV show title: "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"
More accurate TV show title: "Mom's Dead – Can We Have a Swimming Pool Now?"
TV show title: "Blue Collar TV"
More accurate TV show title: "Four More Years!!"
TV show title: "Johnny Zero"
More accurate TV show title: "Four More Episodes!!"
TV show title: "Unscripted"
More accurate TV show title: "Unwatched"
TV show title: "One Tree Hill"
More accurate TV show title: "One Thirty-Nine Year-Old Man Masturbating in His Parents' Garage"
TV show title: "The Biggest Loser"
More accurate TV show title: "The Biggest Losers"
TV show title: "Pimp My Ride"
More accurate TV show title: "Greatest Television Show, EVER"
TV show title: "Celebrity Blackjack"
More accurate TV show title: "As Long As Your Old, Lame Dad Remains a Network Executive, Coolio Remains a Celebrity"
*Bonus Round: Interview question most likely to be asked of David Krumholz, who plays a crime-solving mathematician on the TV show, 'Numb3rs': "Were you good at math in school?"
HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL™ WAY.
I am currently enrolled in a Continuing Education course. This is the second CE course I've taken and, though the subjects couldn't have been more different – I'm taking a class on drawing comic strips now, and my last class was about how to control the weather with your mind – I find the group dynamic amazingly similar. If I'm to believe this pattern of two is really part of a larger, more universal phenomenon – and I wouldn't really be me if I didn't rush to judgment, would I? – then I would have to say that any group of CE students in a given class would make a great ensemble comedy.
And I don't mean it in that "my life would make such a funny episode of Seinfeld!!" sense; I mean the students' disparate and weird backstories map perfectly to one of those "rag-tag group of misfits make good" feel-good comedies, like Summer School or Sister Act and Sister Act 2: Back in the Act. It's pretty incredible. Continuing Education classes are very different than regular college classes. First of all, it's difficult to find a pencil sharpener anywhere. Additionally, in college the students are never really defined by their motivations. We all get tossed in with a vague sense that this is what we're supposed to be doing at this particular juncture, with regards to life's great plan, and unless you're extremely insightful or sickeningly ambitious, you're not entirely sure what you're going to make of the whole experience.
Continuing Ed is the complete opposite. Everyone has some crazy idea of why they "need" this class, and that need is usually mapped to a bizarre backstory, complete with endearing foibles. (See: "Sister Act 2") CE Students' motives are so clearly defined that they're almost caricatures. In my comic strip drawing class, this is what the caricatures would look like:
Ronnie - had artistic ambitions as a child, traded those in to become a tax lawyer. now he's rich and safe from poverty, so it's time to indulge those lost ambitions again. in his caricature, he would be wearing one of those accountant's visors, with sleeve garters, and he would be holding an old-fashionedy adding machine with its ticker tape spilling out wildly, and wrapping around him like tentacles or mummy bandages.
Leigh - a counselor who deals with troubled kids. her art is to be her power of healing. used to fuck gary panter. leigh's caricature would feature a third eye with white light coming out of it. also, she would be wearing a sarong. and, inexplicably, holding a squash racquet.
Wae-Lo - drawing to free her family from communist Chinatown. in wae-lo's drawing, although she is clearly korean, she would be wearing a traditional karate gi, and smashing a sketch book in half with her bare hands. caricature artists are not known for their racial sensitivity.
Eggbert - he is a scary nerd, and most of his comics feature dudes cutting off women's heads with swords and then fucking their neck-holes. in his caricature, he would be wearing taped glasses, a wizard's hat, and Nerd Bolts™ would be emanating from his fingertips. also, in one hand, he would be holding a glass of Nerd Soda. (patent pending)
Shane - shane is in high school, and often points out this fact. i like him a lot. for shane, comics class is a way for him to tell other, older people that he's in high school. this makes him feel both shy, and like a prodigy. shane's comic strips often feature a character named "Shame" being verbally abused by authority figures, simply because he chooses to spend a lot of time IM'ing with his pals instead of going to bed and acting like a man. i look forward to meeting shane's father, and then punching him in the scrote. in shane's caricature, he is wearing a graduation cap and has a mysterious black eye.
Chastity - chastity is stripping her way through continuing education, the poor thing. she's always falling asleep, and her sketch book smells like strawberry gum. soon, ronnie will make chastity his wife and take her away from all of this. then they'll open up an old fashioned ice cream parlor together, where ronnie will make his own sherbet and chastity will strip-dance. chastity's caricature will have a five dollar bill stuffed in its panties.