In August of 2005, You Learned:
HOW TO KICK PEOPLE: MISSED CONNECTIONS.
If you're in New York City, please come on out to our nation's greatest comedy reading series, How to Kick People, tonight. This month's theme is "Missed Connections" and performers will telling tales of unsent letters, drunk dials, awkwardly furtive glances and, in my case, I'll be reading a story about the horrible lengths I sometimes go to avoid any sort of emotional conflict whatsoever. Fun!
Plus, we'll be hosting an actual Craig's List Missed Connection meet-up live onstage this evening. Here are the show details:
How To Kick People: Missed Connections
with Bob Powers & Todd Levin
and featuring the talents of:
Jon Friedman (host/creator of The Rejection Show)
Ophira Eisenberg (comic, Comedy Central, VH-1)
Jonathan Ames (author, The Extra Man & Wake Up, Sir!)
and music from Jesse Hartman of LAPTOP
Tonight, August 31st, at 7:30pm
Location: Upstairs at Mo Pitkin's, 32 Avenue A, between 2nd and 3rd Sts.
[and yes, i promise i'll write some other junk that isn't all 'come to my show' stuff very soon. let a brother rest a minute, ok?]
HOW TO GET IT OVER WITH.
Thanks to anyone who was at the Premium Blend taping last night. In a word, it was CRAZY. In two words, it was CRAZY McCUCKOONUTS.
HOW TO PITCH A MOVIE.
My friend, Andres, first informed me of an upcoming Samuel Jackson film titled Snakes on a Plane. No, that's not a "working title"; it's the actual title of a film, and I'll give you exactly one guess to tell me what the movie is about.
Today, some photos from the production were released, and I believe they are in serious need of some captions:
"Excuse me, FBI. We had a report there were some snakes on a plane, and we suspect it might be this one."
"Really? You say your father was a snake handler in the zoo and you've learned how to communicate with all breeds of serpent, viper, and asp? What a fascinating and totally unsolicited piece of trivia."
"What the...? Are these snizzakes? On a plizzane?!? Oh, hell nizzo! I'm gonna dizzie"
"AS I STAND HERE, ONE DAY FROM RETIREMENT, I DO DECLARE THESE ARE SOME SNAKES...ON A GODDAMN PLANE!!!!"
"Now, I know I'm holding a taser gun to your penis but please, calm down, man. I'm gonna need you to remember some things for me. You said saw some snakes. Now where were they? ON A WHAT??!!????!!??"
HOW TO CHIP AWAY AT YOUR OWN CONFIDENCE.
As the Premium Blend taping inches closer, I've noticed things in my behavior have changed:
- I completely stopped drinking alcohol around August 1st. This was not a principled or righteous decision. I just realized that, as I was doing more and more shows, every single weeknight and weekend night was turning into an opportunity to drink. Every one of them. And I ordinarily like to drink (really, really like to drink, in fact) before a show, to quiet the demons, and then have a couple more drinks after a show, to release those very same demons in a boozy, Kahlua-scented walpurgisnacht. But I figured it would be nice to show up for my taping without the extra sheen of bloated, waxy, hollow-eyed alcoholism I figured would be inevitable if I followed my normal comedy show drinking patterns this month. Naturally, within 60 minutes of stepping off stage, I will be so itchy to get drunk that I'll burst on to the sidewalk and chug a half-gallon of unfiltered moonshine out of a hobo's thermos/latrine as the opportunity presents itself. And this being New York City, it will present itself, possibly before I even leave the theater.
- I've been watching old stand-up tapes with a clinical eye, and cringing at their content. I had hoped I'd be able to use this research to figure out what sorts of little details worked well, and how I looked to an audience. What it's turned into, however, is a nightly ritual of me fast-forwarding through the tapes to watch myself fidget with the mic stand at superhuman speeds. Even my closest friends and biggest supporters tell me I have an obsessive-compulsive disorder with regards to adjusting the height of the mic stand. In fact, my intimacy with the microphone stand is so great that there have been shows where, in a split second moment of self-consciousness, I've noticed that somehow I've gotten myself into this unusual position onstage where I'm actually standing on the base of the mic stand, with my feet planted on either side of the neck, and my arms are totally wrapped around the entire contraption while both hands grip the mic Bono-style. It looks like I'm making babies with the mic stand, and you know what? I AM.
- I've hired a hype man. Since I'm not a very high-energy comedian, he's going to join me onstage, shake up a bottle of MOET, and spray it on the audience before every one of my jokes. Then, after people laugh, he's going to taunt them by saying, "This ain't Six Feet Under, mothafuckas! Your asses ain't trapped in a closet with R. Kelly so I don't know why you gotta be all quiet like that and shit. Get live in here! I want to hear you mothafuckas laughin' all the way up across 110th Street. Now make some noise, you silly-ass bitches!!!" Then he'll fire blanks into the air and set his pit bulls loose on the crowd. I think it will make me seem more "professional."
- I've started exercising more frequently than I have in years. I don't know why, because I'm not really very good at it. I even worked out with a trainer for a little bit, so I could have an expert tell me how bad I am at exercising. Within five minutes of our first session, he put me through a humiliating battery of exercises, beginning with Varsity football-style suicide sprints, followed by a set of assisted-suicide sprints, non-consensual push-ups, puppetry of the penis, and gymkata. Then he just punched me in the stomach while I counted to thirty.
- I bought a cigarette boat. In hindsight, that might have been a premature decision. It goes really fast, and makes my ears go pop.
- I'm acting more gay, because I read that most celebrities are gay. I'm just hedging my bets right now.
- I've filed for a legal name change, from "Todd Levin" to "National Lampoon's Todd Levin."
HOW TO ATTEND A 'PREMIUM BLEND' TAPING.
I am taping my spot for Comedy Central's PREMIUM BLEND next Thursday, August 25th, and I finally received the full details from Comedy Central about how to get FREE tickets.
If you're in or near NYC, and you'd like to go, it's pretty easy. You have two options, basically:
If you're a phone person, call 888-258-0661
and tell them you'd like to get tickets for the Thursday, August 25th taping of Show #902. They'll give you all the venue details, and tell you what time to be there. (I believe it's a 6pm audience arrival time for my show)
If you're a web person (you must be, right?), click this link and fill out all the necessary information. Make sure when you click that link you see the Aug. 25th, 6pm taping highlighted. If you mess that part up, you might have to sit through an erotic ventriloquist act and a gay, racist comic who performs stand-up in a pink Klan uniform. (Actually, that sounds pretty good.)
HOW TO WRITE THE SONGS.
Mac McCaughan writes pretty wonderful lyrics. Even though he's better known as part of Superchunk, I've always been more attuned to his songwriting in Portastatic, possibly because the Superchunk songs were often too loud to pick out the lyrics. And now that Mac's writing Portastatic songs in English again (Seriously, man, what was going on with that De Mel, de Melao EP?) there are some new reasons to appreciate him.
I downloaded a new Portastatic song a couple weeks ago (From Catbirdseat? Don't remember, but always happy to link to that site, and I'd be even happier if he updated it more often.), and finally got around to listening today. Nice song – Mac's voice seem's less constricted than usual. Then, somewhere around the 4 minute mark I was taken by surprise with a lyric containing a Public Enemy reference: "Don’t think that you can lose me ‘cause love is like an UZI – it weighs a ton. Oh yeah, my love weighs a ton."
Besides being a clever double metaphor, I liked that Mac did this because he's basically borrowing a lyrical technique from hip-hop music. Nearly every hip-hop song I've ever liked, and a few of the ones I don't like, make great use of the "like [POP CULTURAL THING], I'm [QUALITY ASSOCIATED WITH POP CULTURAL THING]" rule of simile. I'm always amazed by the capacity for hip-hop artists to remember some of the things that make their way into their songs. Here are a few examples of that wordplay in hip-hop, off the top of my head:
"Like Mario Puzo, I'm The Don – W-W-I'M-THE-SHIT-DOT-COM"
- Chubb Rock, Mr. Large (on Prince Paul's 'Prince Among Thieves')
"Like Sam the butcher, bringing Alice the meat."
- Beastie Boys, Shake Your Rump
"I'm like young LL, cuz I'm hard as hell/Makin' niggaz blue-faced like Gargamel"
- Roots, The Web
"Like Jimmie Walker, I'm DYN-O-MITE!"
- Beastie Boys, Pass the Mic
"Like Common and Cube I see The Bitch In Yoo"
- Canibus, Second Round K.O.
"Close like Starsky & Hutch"
- Notorious B.I.G., Hypnotize
"Bust this, I'm kickin like Segall, Out for Justice"
- Wu Tang Clan, Bring Da Ruckus
"They call me Jaws / my hat is like a shark's fin"
- LL Cool J, Bad
(this song also contains two of the most innocuous lines meant as intimidation/bravado: "forget Oreos, eat Cool J cookies!" and "I'm notorious, I'll crush you like a jellybean!" Jay-Z wrote a better version of this second threat on '99 Problems': "you couldn't bust a grape in a fruit fight.")
(and one of my favorites)
"I'm fancy man I tickles LIKE the French / Not Johnny but like a Bench I Press-On like Lee / I Stan like Lee, while you Stagger like Lee"
- Common (Sense), Chapter 13
Hip-hop seems to have a ready willingness to explore universals (the same way most pop music, and even indie rock, does) while still remaining steadfastly anchored in details that are totally particular to a cultural moment. (Hip-hop artists are notorious for name-checking both themselves, and the year of their recording. In fact, on one of Missy Elliott's albums, she literally begins each and every track by announcing, "this is a Missy Elliott exclusive...")
Listening to hip-hop is like staring at that crazy poster where you have to identify all of the proverbs illustrated in its surreal scene. ("Ah! There's a clock with wings. Time flies! Now pay me one licorice whip!!") I like deciphering all of the references in hip-hop lyircs. It's the closest I've ever come to subscribing to GAMES magazine, or completing a New York Times crossword puzzle. (In fact, if there were a hip-hop equivalent of the Sunday Times crossword, it would be the Beastie Boys' album Paul's Boutique, possibly the most reference-heavy album of its time. Elaborate, almost scholarly documents have been created in an attempt to collect all the samples and references.)
By contrast, indie rock music tends to eschew self-referential tendencies, in favor of remaining timeless and precious. And when indie rock does actually acknowledge itself, it becomes both a novelty and source of mini-media attention. (Anyone remember how many interviewers grilled Pavement about "Range Life?" Me neither, but I'll bet it was A LOT.) I kind of wish indie rock were more like hip-hop in this respect. Here are some things I'd like to hear on some of my favorite bands' next albums:
The Magnetic Fields
"Like Lloyd Dobbler, I'd Say Anything to make you leave"
"You're salty sweet contradictions / a real Chubby Hubby / I Shamrock Shake my Milky ways while you a-Grimace in the kitchen"
"You're the streets, the sidewalks, you jumped the shark / You're Fonnnnnnzie"
(half-sung, half-spoken in a thick scottish accent) "What do ya do when the whisky un pills run oot, huh? When yoor face-doon in the shower, shagged more times than Austin Powers? / Like Bruce Willis, it's haaaard to die, inn'it? / Oh, but you try, lamb, you try / Yeah, like Revenge of the Nerds, you Tri Lam"
"In the Meadow, the Lark and the Lemon / The Basket and the Ball / I parachuted from your parapet, and Trotted across your Globes"
Belle & Sebastian
"There are people in the tubeways / fashionably clashing with their long bangs and new wave / I tried my best to keep up with the latest / but like Arch Hall, Jr., time is just a sadist"
The Fiery Furnaces
"Old Mister Granville, he hit his dog with Big Daddy's Kane / Rex was Asiatic royalty and nobody's equal / I prayed there wouldn't be a sequel / couldn't believe the pain I saw / Perched on a cooler, the dog and the ruler / Bark bark snap slap in the park, well before dark / It was a Sunday mid-July morning / all bleached-out like the King of Pop"
"You were an Incident and an Accident, a Hint and Allegation / spouting the gospel of Paul Simon / like a holy proclamation / You always called me Evel when I Jumped to those conclusions / You're a Daredevil to me / Yes, you're a dear rebel to me"
HOW TO TALK LIKE PAUL HARVEY.
[Fridays are lazy days at tremble!]
I received two separate injuries last night, as the result of a poorly timed stage fall. (the other result of my stage fall: tepid laughter.) Bruised my arm, near the elbow, and pulled a muscle in my chest. These two injuries, combined with the deep burn in my thighs and calves after being physically tortured by a personal trainer (brag), a one-time complimentary service accompanying my new gym membership (purposeffully diminished brag due to an immediate swelling of shame associated with the nature of the earlier brag), I am left nearly crippled from the waist up and groin down.
It's hard to have the detachment necessary to be write creatively about your life when all you can think about is how much your arms, legs, chest, shoulders, and wiener-bone hurt. (When will I be able to resist tagging things with "wiener-bone?" Answer: absolutely never wiener-bone.) So, as a salve, I'm going to remind myself of things I'm really excited about right now, for reasons both good and bad:
ITEM! Mark Ecko's "Getting Up Block Party"
I love the idea that Ecko is going to stick a train-sized canvas in the middle of a NYC block, and let graf artists bomb it (Yes, I own the Style Wars DVD.) I am excited enough about this event that I'm actually willing to look past the fact that it's really a tremendously expensive promotion for a $50 video game. Whatever, grandpa!!
ITEM! Donald Rumsfeld's 4th Anniversary of 9/11 Super-Party Crazyvaganza and Freedom Walk
I am not an openly political person; I mean, I don't even own an American Eagle Beanie Baby. Nonetheless, there are certain obvious truths even a shut-in like me can appreciate. So please allow me to say holy mother of thank you, this is possibly the single most wonderfully nutty idea to come out of the current administration since the war in Makebelieveterror-istan began. Soldiers in Iraq have been complaining the "Invisible Armor" our military provided isn't quite stopping the bullets, despite following its strict instructions to "wish as hard as you can upon the most magical, sparkly rainbow to activate your armor's invisible powers, because only the most pure of heart will survive a direct hit to it?" Our President's public approval ratings show him testing worse than Olive Garden's new Linguine in Ku Klux Klam Sauce. So, what do we do? How about a good old-fashioned hoe-down with internationally sensitive country-western recording artist Clint "I Raq and Roll" Black? Yes! Oh man, is there a more telling product of a completely insular administration than a giant party on the White House lawn on the anniversary of the greatest modern tragedy on American soil (well, second greatest, after Clint Black finishes his encore this 9/11) for all the people who AREN'T having exploding babies tossed at them from speeding trucks every single day in Iraq? I even love the military-penned, choke-on-all-the-words name they've given to the event's accompanying (footnoted) charity walk: THE AMERICA SUPPORTS YOU FREEDOM WALK. It already sounds like a tremendous typo. And, yes, it's sponsored by America's most freedom-loving corporation, Lockheed-Martin. Somewhere, a great satirist just got scooped by reality.
FUNNY ITEM! Andy Kindler
I saw him perform at Crash Test on Monday night, at the UCB Theater, and I was instantly reminded of why I love his stand-up comedy so much. He operates so well outside the entertainment industry, while still enjoying a modicum of its approval. The things he says about popular comedy are pretty undeniable, but are still rarely said, at least onstage and on the record. A couple of quick highlights from his set (apologies for paraphrasing):
[on the subject of the made-for-tv movie about Mork & Mindy]
"I kept thinking, if I were a fly on the wall during the making of Mork & Mindy, I probably would have gotten sleepy and fallen into a cup of coffee."
[on Will and Grace]
"Not only is Will & Grace not my cup of tea...it makes me HATE TEA."
PERHAPS UNNECESSARILY CRITICAL ITEM! Bloggers who keep talking about the new (NOT YET RELEASED!) Death Cab For Cutie album (a nice round-up can be found here.)
I don't know why, but I find this incredibly precious. And by precious I mean preciouszzzzzzzz. Rushing to your keyboard to post about having heard an album/read a book/seen a movie that isn't yet officially out is possibly my all-time favorite theme in the realm of Blogbraggery™. The setup to this kind of brag kind of falls along the same scale as Tex-Mex salsa:
MILD - a very subtle mention. It's usually someone merely stating a fact, without indicating that the book/record/film at the center of their discussion is not actually available for public consumption. Of course, the author is completely aware of this truth, but there's something sly in the decision to write about with an air of oblivion: "Oh wait. You mean not EVERYONE has a copy of the uncorrected proof for the new Jonathan Franzen book? But I do? Hmm...that's so weird." (Incidentally, this is probably the kind of brag I'm most personally susceptible to, as both a reader and writer.)
MEDIUM - here, the person explains, sometimes at great length, how he or she came into possession of the first-looks privilege. And yes, it's always an excellent, gripping story. This kind of brag usually includes links to many other people who shared the same experience, because what would an account of attending advance screening of Must Love Dogs be without a laundry list of links to A NEARLY IDENTICAL ACCOUNT of the exact same event, written by the people sitting directly to your left or right?
EL DIABLO! - this is where it gets tricky. In the ordinary world, an extra-intense brag would be accompanied by thousands of exclamation points and digital photographs. However, the collective voice of the online world is knowingly self-deprecating; kind of a little-man-against-the-big-world outsider. In other words, we're kind of through the looking glass, which means you have to apply inverse standards. El Diablo brags are those in which the author anticipates criticism (hi!) and pre-emptively apologizes for having access to whatever form of media is up for discussion. Here's a good example, and one I've seen quite often, "Of course, by now everyone with an AOL account and LimeWire has heard the new Beck track, so I'm sorry to bore you but...IT'S DECK!!!!!!!!! TOTES."
DELICIOUSLY SOUR ITEM! LifeSavers® Gummies® Sours
Man! I found these months ago, and couldn't remember where. Ever since then, it's been one depressing visit to Duane Reade or Rite-Aid after another. However, at a chance meeting with a Wal-Greens yesterday, I found another bag and grabbed at it with perverse lust. LifeSavers did these up so right. They're squishy and, unlike the coarse sugar of Sour Patch Kids or the powdered yuck of Skittles Sours, LifeSavers Gummies Sours are evenly coated in perfectly ground sour sugar. (They're a lot like the texture of a cat tongue, actually.) Plus, they didn't mess up the proposition with stomach-churning and obvious flavors like TRU BLU MARTIANBERRY. Instead, they stuck with the basics: strawberry, cherry, black raspberry, and tangerine. (All correctly spelled, as if to say, "here you go, adult candy lover and member of Mensa.") LifeSavers could have stopped there, but then they were all, "We love your ruddy ass, so here's a bonus: WATERMELON. Just don't tell your mother, because she'd kill us!" Watermelon! Totally unexpected, just like falling in love.
NO GROWTH HORMONES ITEM! The veggie burger at Tiny's Sandwich Shop
An unstoppable favorite that almost always accompanies me when there's drinking to be drunk at The Magician. Thick veggie patty, cheddar cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, and that crazy-weird Big Mac sauce that's basically just ketchup and mayo mixed up in a bucket. Big ups, Tiny.
MUSICAL ITEM! "Bailando" by Crazy Frog
Man, that Crazy Frog knows how to write the hits. Great ring tones, killer tunes – the little guy must never sleep. After I heard his screeching, jibberish cover of the Axel F Theme, I thought, "this is it." Then I smashed my entire CD collection with a hammer and replaced all 3,000+ albums with a single disc: the Crazy Frog Axel F single. Man, did I ever act too soon, because well before CF's AF Theme wore out its welcome on my stereo, bam! Another robotically manufactured club dance track straight from the soundtrack of Hedonism III, backed by the computerized retardo-stutter of an animated frog. Perfect for summer, or any time. Hey, Iraq – this is just a taste of the freedoms we enjoy in the West. This should be playing on tank-mounted speakers as our troops roll through Baghdad. BEST. SONG. EVER.
UNINTENTIONALLY HILARIOUS ITEM! Four Brothers
The film Four Brothers premieres today. I've no idea whether this movie will be good, bad, or just instantly forgotten. In fact, I don't really even know what this movie is about. All I know is, for the last two weeks I haven't been able to stop saying, "THEY SET MA UP! THEY SET HER UP!!" and then giggling like a tickled baby.
HOW TO DO YOUR THING.
It has come to my attention that I now have a "thing" I do. It is one of those things you did once – a gesture, a phrase, an end-zone dance – that made its first appearance in a beautiful moment, free of self-consciousness. Then, later, this very same thing became an annoying affect, its innocence and charm perverted through smug repetition.
Things most commonly find their way to the lips of middle-aged men, who use them to establish his role within a social circle dominated by men, or as a tool to flirt with bartenders, wait staff, or any other hourly-wage employee with whom the middle-aged man needs very desperately to make a connection. You see, this middle-aged man has somehow, over time, actively (though not necessarily consciously) stripped himself of both his masculinity and desirability. He's not even sure what those things look like anymore, but he knows they don't look like a doughy, nearly bald man dressed in hemmed denim shorts, white tennis shoes, Jansport fannypack, and a Greg Norman golf shirt with a pair of Oakleys hanging over it by way of a neon-yellow "Bud Light 2003 Bluegrass Festival" lycra neck strap. No, they don't look one bit like that.
So, to distract others from this tempting buffet of lifelong compromises, Things are developed and refined. Things like beginning smalltalk with, "How's it hanging?" (Or responding to the very same question with the puzzling and unnecessarily visceral, "Down and a little to the left, my friend!") Or announcing to the room, before going off to defecate, "I just need to drop some friends off at the pool," and then, if this is met with furrowed brows, "What I'm saying is, I need to go sink the Titanic!" And finally, if met with more confused stares, "I need to make poops come out of my fudgie tube and watch them fall into a toilet machine." Or, if you're my father (whom I love very much, both in spite of and because of his Things), you'll find yourself saying the following, ad infinitum: "Yeah, people say I'm a funny guy but, you know...looks aren't everything!"
As for my thing, it's something that was born at a great bar in Manhattan, Billy Mark's Tavern (thanks, Leslie), and came out effortlessly, and has since been used over and over again with mounting self-consciousness. But that night I was movie cool. I ordered a bottle of Budweiser and, when the bartender (Mark) asked if I'd like a glass with it, I rolled the bottle's neck between by thumb and forefinger and replied, "It's already in a glass." Then I took a long gulp from the bottle, until some beer escaped from the seal I'd created with my lips, and spilled out of the bottle and down my shirt.
Still, for those three brief seconds, I was Lee Marvin and Ed Kennedy and Robert Mitchum all in one. And ever since then, I've been The Guy Who Annoys Waitresses. The Guy With The Smug Smile That Makes Your Skin Crawl. And The Guy Who Still Orders Zima Gold Every Time He Steps To The Bar, And Then Looks Slightly Wounded When He Is Told Zima Gold Was Taken Out Of Production Years Ago Because It Causes Stomach Spores. That's my Thing.
HOW TO LEAVE IT ALONE.
I'm coming off three hours of sleep last night. I spent the evening alternately writing/editing a story I needed to send off before sunrise; pacing my apartment; touching the dry, hairless nosetips of my sleeping cats (my only Tourrettic tic, as far as I know); desperately checking email (why?); stealing glances at fleshbot.com's "best of babelogs"; and munching on baby carrots to keep myself from munching on a fudge log or something. All of this came to an abrupt end around 4:50 this morning and, as a result, today my eyeballs are burning like damp Altoids. I don't have the energy for much, so I've found solace in the words of others...
I have a co-worker whose speaking voice sounds so much like a teenaged Keanu Reeves or a "slacker" character in a commercial on FM radio that I suspect it might be a cultivated affect. (Once, at a friend's party, I met a guy whose speaking voice so closely mimicked the unusual cadence of singer Jonathan Richman that I actually said out loud to someone, "I think that guy stole his voice from Jonathan Richman." Later that night, the guy entertained all of the party guests by performing some songs with his Fender guitar. The second song he performed was a cover of Jonathan Richman. It made me dislike him so much, for consciously appropriating the persona of the least conscious performer in all the world.) Today, I overheard my Slackerish™ co-worker say the following: "Um, that's a negatory."
My friend, T.
In lamenting her recent break-up over instant-messaging, a friend claimed her ex-boyfriend felt insecure because he never really embraced the culture of New York City. Her supporting evidence: "he doesn't even know what a panini is."
HOW TO GET PUT IN YOUR PLACE.
Last night, thanks to the L train's sudden decision to stop running without a back-up plan (like the Williamsburg residents it carries home each night, the L train has an exaggerated sense of drama), I had to take a taxi to a show in Brooklyn.
[If I may take this brief aside, here's something interesting about the "alternative" comedy scene in NYC. People often ask me if I can support myself doing comedy. It's almost not worth it for me to even laugh at that question. Last night, for instance, was an unpaid set. That's not unusual at all; it's a reality all performers have grown accustomed to, and you can make what you will of that. Often, performers are granted drink tickets – doled out like Skee Ball winnings – entitling us to a couple of cocktails in lieu of compensation. However, I wasn't initially aware last night's show came with a free drink, so I purchased a sincerely-needed Stoli and soda on my own. Adding that cost to the unanticipated cost of the cab ride, I actually paid $22 to do a ten-minute set. If comedy is a profit game, I am losing, sorely. But if laughter were money, I'd still need to take a night job.]
By the time I found an available, on-duty taxi, I was wild-eyed and sweaty. I threw myself into the back seat, like a pile of unclaimed luggage, and hoarse-whispered my destination. The cab driver, seeing my predicament, reached behind his head, into the back seat, and slapped on the air conditioner. (A few years ago some legislation was passed in NYC, requiring all cabs install customer-controlled AC units in the back seat.) I had forgotten all about the AC, so I was extremely grateful. "Oh, man. Thank you so much, thank you thank you," I croaked, as if I'd just crawled across the desert and this gentleman had dabbed my tongue with some juice from the center of a piece of Freshen-Up gum.
Then, once my wits were about me again, I reached up and turned the AC from "lo" to "hi." As soon as I did this, without a word, the cab driver reached back again and smacked the air conditioner off. It was pretty stunning, actually.
I asked, "why did you do that?"
"You took advantage of me," he replied.
What made this guy so mean, I wondered. Then I looked at his driver's license and saw his name: FAROUK HITLER.
HOW TO REGRET YOUR LAST WORDS.
[Editorial Aside: today, my lunch was on High Stink Alert. An onion, and bacon sandwich, served in a diaper.]
Went on a bike ride over the weekend, across the treacherous Williamsburg Bridge, over Devil's Neck, around Machete With Tetanus Corner, through Lake Face Exploder, beneath Non-Consensual Intercourse Hollow, and up the west side of Manhattan. It was invigorating, except for the part where I got my head cut off.
I'm still very much a beginner cyclist, and I continue to make a lot of wobbly mistakes and dangerously short stops each time I take out my bike, as if I have some need to underscore my undeveloped set of bike skills. Considering some of the more deadly pedestrian and automobile traffic hazards offered by this city, the trip was mostly without incident. I'm pretty certain, to the observer, I did not look like I was having much fun as I tend to ride with a great grimace of dread jack-o-lantern-carved into my sweaty face, but anyone who knows me well would agree I wear that expression pretty much 24-7.
At one point, cruising south – yes, cruising – through Hudson River Park, my attention was temporarily distracted by something amazing: a dog. I really have a difficult time walking past any dog without making certain everyone around me has been made completely aware of the fact that we're in the presence of something hilarious and furry. (They have fur nearly everywhere, all the way up to their noses. It is ridiculous.) As much as I enjoy the company of my cats, dogs are much more readily capable of making me laugh. My joy, which has no polite boundaries, is inspired by dogs falling into one of the following categories (in descending order):
- very small and costumed
- very small and fat
- very small and bug-eyed
- large and fat with breathing difficulties
- large and fat and quiet
- sleeping and wearing a faded bandana (Dogs like these are greeted with a quick nod of the head, and a low-spoken, "hey, what's up?" because I think that's how dogs like this would prefer to be addressed.)
- any sized, with tongue hanging out
- unthinkably large and worthy of a saddle
- three-legged and happy
Basically, I don't like medium-sized dogs. They just don't make me laugh, though even this rule is more of a guideline because a medium-sized dog wearing a plastic leprechaun's hat and drinking beer is pretty funny. Also, any kind of animal in a monocle has my complete support. And a turtle with a crucifix strapped to its back is also pretty good. BUT THAT'S IT!*
So...dog. I was lagging behind when, suddenly, to my left, I saw a very classy French bulldog. French bulldog's are in my top three of dog breeds, and never fail to entertain me. This particular French bulldog was doing what it does best – waddling on short, muscular arms. It became very important that I let my girlfriend/cycling companion know about this bulldog, but she was pretty far ahead of me. So, instead of calling her name and thoughtfully describing what I'd seen, I simply shouted, "FRENCH BOODAWG! FRENCH BOODAWG!!" at screaming volume, like I was doing a cold reading for a stage production of Flowers for Algernon. And, just as the words "French Boodawg," escaped my giant, dumb mouth, I nearly collided with another cyclist.
I was absolutely not paying attention, and if he'd bothered to warn me with a requisite, "on your right!" the warning would like have been drowned out by my insane screaming. So there, in an instant, our front tires darted toward each other, breaking their parallel stride for just a single perilous moment, and were it not for his deft handling, we would have probably suffered a very serious collision.
Even in that quick flash of events, though, I had enough time to register that he, and not I, would help us safely avoid trouble. This was a conclusion I drew based solely on the fact that he was wearing lots of very tight-fitting cycling apparel, as well as those fancy bike shoes that latch into the pedals and make a terrific clackety-clack sound on the pavement. This man had clearly invested thousands of dollars in cycling, whereas my used, entry-level mountain bike has a horn shaped like a hippo's face, which squeaks when activated.
After regaining my balance, I thought a lot about how "French Boodawg," could have been the last words I'd ever spoken, or the last words this other cyclist ever heard, and I was a little disappointed that we both didn't die right there – just for the story.
*Also, I hate Corgies. They are an act of abomination against nature. End of discussion.