In October of 2005, You Learned:
HOW TO PLAN YOUR COSTUME.
I am thinking of attending a Halloween party this evening, but I'm a little frustrated by its Draconian standards for entry. Being required to attend any party in costume is a bit of an imposition, but not at the cost of having fun. (Particularly on Halloween; if you're angered by a costume dress code at a Halloween party, you probably deserve to have your opinions toilet-papered, shaving creamed and egged. I'll bet you're handing out Oral-B Brush-Ups to Trick-or-Treaters.) However, this party requires an additional clause for costuming: everyone must dress as "URBAN ROYALTY." It's confoundingly vague.
I've been spending the afternoon divided between being angered that I can't dress as Bizarro Superman for Halloween this year, and being perplexed by what URBAN ROYALTY might mean. Here are some ideas I came up with, and I'm sure I'll enjoy reading this list back to myself tonight, while I sit in my apartment in the dark, with the shades drawn, hiding from children:
URBAN ROYALTY COSTUMES
The King of Queens
Mr. Gay 2004
The Heterosexual Ambassador to Park Slope Lesbians
The Minister of Mole People
The Earl of Pee
Lord ShittyPants of the Bowery
Lord Bridge & Lady Tunnel
The Hunan Dynasty (Express)
Martin Luther King Boulevard
Sigh. Just read this essay on Halloween instead, and consider this an I.O.U.
HOW TO SIT ON THE FENCE.
Guys, I have a question – like, a for-serious one? I've been thinking about it all night and, man, I just don't know. Tell me – should I add "SAW II" to my MySpace friends?
I mean, he seems smart, you know? He likes puzzles, and I like puzzles. And all of his MySpace friends are saying the nicest stuff about him in the comments section, like:
"sawwwwwwwww is FucKEN SICKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK. Damn WHoever IS da ProDUcer OF thiS mOvies IS craZZZY. saw is a sick movieeeeeeeee."
I AM PRAYING TO GOD THERE WILL BE A SAW III!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"i didnt get to go cuzz im to yung, so i got to see crapy 'THE FOG' that sucked so much!!!!"
"Happy Halloween from MadMark."
And so many more nice things about how "sick" and "badazzzz" and "frikken genious" he is but I wonder: is all this positive feedback going to make him stuck-up? Like The Louis XIV Album, or that black doll from the Sprite commercials? [P.S. black doll – um, you owe me a kudos after I gave you a kudos. It's, like, kind of how it works, protocol-wise.]
And do I really want to be friends with someone who already has, like, last time I counted, 14,104 friends? Seriously, how much time will Saw II have to comment on my photos [new onez up, btw!!] or read my blog entries, or forward around my quizzes?
Also, and I don't mean to sound derogatorian or anything, but it's kind of a little messed up that Saw II's MySpace profile name is "OH YES...THERE WILL BE BLOOD." I'm just saying, it's kind of focusing on the negative stuff, you know?
OH GOD FORGET IT I'M TOTALLY ADDING YOU AS MY MYSPACE FRIEND, SAW II!!! I hope you get along with The Cast From Rent. [FYI - from what I can tell by their songs, they mostly have AIDS. So hugs are OK, but maybe don't get more involved?]
HOW TO TURN BRAGGING INTO AN ART FORM.
Last night's How to Kick People was a strange but ultimately pretty wonderful affair. We had a technical difficulty that prohibited us from presenting the excellent work of Miss Emily Flake (I've really become kinda smitten with her comic strip and we're going to have her back in the next couple of months, for sure.) and that was all very frustrating, but we also had one of those really nice moments I will kind of remember for the rest of my life, and one of those reasons I wanna do this show forever and think that anyone who doesn't attend the show because of TiVO or something might be kind of a dick. Seriously, think about that.
OK, so last night's musical guest was Peter Fitzpatrick, a swell singer who can also play nearly every musical instrument you've heard of and a few million more you haven't heard of, and plays a bunch of those instruments and sings with the band Clem Snide. He also performs with another band, The Pee Wee Fist, and under several different names as a solo artist.
Last night, he performed as NO ONE LISTENED TO OUR TALES OF MONSTERS, a name chosen at my suggestion. (Other names that were considered but ultimately rejected: The Lady Apples; Creaky; The Fireproof Students; Books, Bugs, Bubblegum & Bells – all of those are still available to aspiring musicians, providing credit is provided where due.) For one of his songs, he explained he was going to perform a duet with his wife. His wife, however, was in Napa, California. So, with his mobile phone on speakerphone, and resting on a tom drum with a mic in front of it, Peter and his wife sang together, live and scratchy, together and apart, onstage and (according to her) in the middle of a vineyard, watching the sunset turn the whole world pink. It was a love song about the two of them, and it was perfect, even with its occasional mess-ups and false starts included. Puppy-with-a-chewed ear precious. A handwritten-note-you-found-in-your-shirt-pocket left there ten years ago precious. A pretty girl in scuffed shoes precious. You don't get many like that, and it felt nice to host it.
And in between then, I made someone from the audience hold up a large drawing of my penis as I pointed out all of its physical flaws to the room. The bartender at Mo's hopped up onstage, unannounced, to show me (and everyone else) a large can of glass cleaner that states, directly on the can, "KILLS HIV-1 VIRUS." Bob talked about a deformed twin brother, active pus, and millipedes crawling into loincloths. And Rena warned all of us about tramps and hoboes who sneak into delis and spray their own piss and shit on steam table entrées. I guess what I'm trying to say is, it can't all be magic. But it was some damn fun.
HOW TO KICK PEOPLE SLEEPS WITH THE LIGHTS ON - TONIGHT @ 7:30PM.
I'm excited about tonight's How to Kick People. One of my new favorite cartoonists, one of my favorite comedians, and a musician from one of my favorite bands. I can't believe I get to have all that stuff at once. You can, too.
HOW TO KICK PEOPLE SLEEPS WITH THE LIGHTS ON
Tales of irrational fears, phobias, and being scared of stuff that isn't really scary.
Wednesday, October 26th at 7:30pm
at Mo Pitkin's House of Satisfaction
34 Avenue A, between 2nd and 3rd Streets
Here is a video of Bob and I preparing for another great show:
HOW TO SEE YOURSELF A BIT DIFFERENTLY.
This was pretty strange to see: my "comedian" page on the Comedy Central web site. (Not much else there to see, unless you click on that link to "EXTRAS" on the left. I was supposed to submit a bio, but I don't have a manager and I'm no good at writing things about myself like, "Todd brings a freshness and energy that lights up audiences from Branson, Missouri to Kalamazoo. He has literally redefined 'Naughty Hypnotism' as a comedy form.")
What's weird about that picture, besides it being featured on the web site alongside people like Woody Allen and Sinbad, is that it puts me in a context that I've sort of been denying for a long time. It makes no sense, but it used to really frustrate me when people described me – either to myself or to others (most often as a way to set a link to a post on this site) – as a "comedian." When people asked me what I did, it took me such a long time to have the confidence to answer, "I'm a writer." But when I started to do that, I didn't feel pretentious or phony, as I feared I would. I felt pretty good. Cool, even. Fresh and also def. I felt all those things. And gnarly and wicked awesome. But not grody.
I still tell people I'm a writer, and sometimes I'll add, "and I also do comedy." I do it. I'm still too nervous to say, "and I'm a comedian," because I'm dealing with all those phony/pretentious feelings all over again. Plus, it's much worse with comedy. It's a much more petty, jealous group. It's easy to claim yourself as a writer, with just a couple of published piece. But if you tell people you're a comedian, there's always a few hundred struggling comics who will refute that status. Talk to a few comics, and you'll find out they have an amazing set of personal guidelines that dictate whether someone can truly call himself (or herself) a Comedian. You're not a comedian until you've played this room. You're not a comedian until you've worked the clubs. You're not a comedian until you've worked the road. For five years. Or ten. Or until you've been on television. Fuck that, NETWORK television. You're not a comedian until you've gone down on Mitzi Shore. Or featured for Chris Rock. Or played a black club. Or performed in front of the Klan. Or been heckled, or threatened with violence. Everyone has a different rule, and the debate is held in the backs of clubs, along bars, or anytime a new comic starts getting any kind of attention.
But check that picture out. It's telling me I'm a comic. Man, I even look like a comic in that picture, shrugging my shoulders, grooming my hair, and letting a slight smile leak out. I'm not wearing glasses, though, which I should admit was a totally conscious decision. I was worried that when I walked out onstage that night, looking the way I do, the audience would see me in glasses and instantly think, "Oh, he's one of those comics." The Glasses Kind. It sounds dumb, but I think there's truth to it. Glasses really set expectations – and that's fine – but I was worried about telegraphing myself as a "character" too clearly so I thought it would be better to lose the spectacles, even if it meant being unable to read my set list off the giant teleprompter facing the stage.
I keep saying it, because I don't have another word for it: it's strange. The goofy smile and all of that. I keep coming back to that goofy smile, which is self-deprecating speak for, "holy cow, I actually look really happy." Now, whatever I decide to answer when asked what I do, I'll know, at least on comedycentral.com, I'm a Comedian under the letter "L." Just like Larry the Cable Guy.
HOW TO PLACE A STAKE IN THE GROUND.
There are only two things I'm sure of. One of them is, if you can't decide on what to make for dinner, you can't go wrong with a coffee mug filled with melted monterey jack cheese. Hard to fuck that one up.
The other thing is, if you are under 55 years old and living in a major U.S. city, and you smoke a pipe, there is a 100% chance the decision to take up that particular habit was a totally conscious affectation that had nothing to do with a love for pipe tobacco. Sorry, 25 Year-Old Guy With Tweed Blazer who still cites Catcher in the Rye as his favorite book in his MySpace profile.
HOW TO DISTANCE YOURSELF FROM TRADITION.
This afternoon I saw an Orthodox Jewish man standing hear the subway station. He was dressed head to toe, in classic Jewish Penitent Black. Smiling, and carrying a lulav (a green, rigid palm branch) in one hand and, in the other, an etrog. (a citron or, according to Jewish holiday tradition, "the fruit of the goodly tree")
So, here he was, standing around in broad daylight, dressed in black, smiling a giant Jewish guy smile, holding a palm branch giant lemon. And, for perhaps the first time since I was circumcised, I thought to myself, "Man, my religion is just plain nuts."
HOW TO APPRECIATE THE MEDIUM.
When I began writing tremble in 1998 (veteran status brag), I used to update the site maybe once every two or three weeks instead of today's more feverish pace, once every 10 days. Back then I would write longer, self-contained pieces, often without any reference to the immediate here and now, or any link to a quick cultural moment or the rest of the Internet.
Now, I'm constantly torn between long, slightly considered (and sometimes even proofread) entries that I suspect only eight people will care about, and quick little stabs about Nanny 911 or Diet Coke with Splenda or the new Noah Baumbach movie (which should be called The Squid and the First Truly Excellent Noah Baumbach Movie That Doesn't Rip Off Whit Stillman) that I think only eight people should care about.
At the same time, my improved attention to this site might depreciate my voice a little bit, but it also gives me enough room to get long-winded and sentimental (see: previous post) and also inform readers of this very important piece of information: Brach's Autumn Mix needs to take it easy on those little pumpkins. Biting into one of those makes you realize why many people hate candy corn. For people who hate candy corn, and haven't built up a tolerance for it, each single sliver of it probably gives them the same thick and sickening sugar grenade feeling I get when I bite into one of those morbidly plump candy pumpkins. I wish Brach's made a bag containing only pumpkins, so I could walk into a drug store and, when no one's looking, crush each bag in my fists. That intense sense of touch would be far superior to the sense of taste Brach's Halloween pumpkins produce.
HOW TO SHOP LIKE YOU CARE.
I read something today in The Independent about a gentleman who purchased a pair of leather pants at the urging of a woman he wanted very desperately to French, and later sold them on eBay to great critical and public acclaim. Honestly, the outpouring of affection for his eBay ad struck me as a little disproportionate, but many things that wildly spread across the web – including things of my own invention – feel much smaller than the reactions they garner.
But the story reminded me of the ridiculously stupid things I've done to casually earn the attention of some woman or another when I was younger. The earliest example I can remember is when I, in the summer between my junior and senior years in high school, had a tremendous crush on an outgoing senior who was headed off to college in the fall. She worked in a book/greeting card/Gund®/delicate ceramic animal store that failed on pretty much every one of those fronts. (And, not surprisingly, no longer exists. I'm sure there's a mobile phone store in its place now.) I sometimes popped in on my way back from purchasing Cinnamon Softees at the drug store next door. My visits generally lasted for about five minutes, during which I'd thumb through the latest humor books, like Generation Ecch or Son of Sniglets, or one of the many Bloom County anthologies. I wasn't much for reading.
But at the time I was very much for trying to make out with tiny, withdrawn, cynical, slightly older women, and one of those women worked the register during a few weekdays. My crush on her brought me into the store more and more, and significantly changed my browsing habits. Instead of reaching for Billy and the Boingers, I started blankly staring at the three or four rows of "important" fiction classics, desperately hoping she'd notice.
One day I decided the only way I'd summon enough nerve to speak with this girl would be through a completely transactional relationship; I was going to buy something in order to break the ice. (In hindsight, it has occurred to me there were several easier, more honest, and less costly ways to start a conversation with a girl from my high school working behind the counter of a lousy shop. It gets boring back there, and most people welcome interesting small talk, providing the person initiating that small talk isn't fumbling around lustfully in his front jeans pocket.) However, if I were going to do this, I wanted to make sure I dazzled her with a purchase that was not only solid in its literary merit, but also telegraphed itself as slightly offbeat and uncommon. A classic, but not necessarily one we'd had pounded into our skulls in high school. In other words, A Brave New World and Hammer of the Gods were both out of the question, even though each contained many interesting discussion points. ("Do you think that's a comment on the post-Freudian self-prescription of our society?" "Do you think that stuff about the baby shark is true?" etc.) A Clockwork Orange was out as well – nicely masculine but, for the purposes of courtship, the novel might come across as a little too "rapey."
There was also my budget to think about. On the salary of a part-time public library employee, anthologies and hardcovers were strictly out of the question. Finally, I didn't want to seem braggy by dropping an 800-page tome on the counter. That meant my first choice – and a genius one, as far as I was concerned – of The Tin Drum did not make the cut. Nor did The Unbearable Lightness of Being because that would sort of be like passing a note that read, "DO YOU LIKE TO MAKE FUCK?" Plus, I'd never heard of that book. Like I said, I wasn't a big reader.
I settled on Sir Thomas More's Utopia, for reasons that still remain completely unknown to me. I guess it just seemed pretentious enough (SIR Thomas!), short enough (about 112 pages or so), and upbeat enough (Not dystopia – UTOPIA!) to impress upon this woman that A) I enjoy reading and B) I am in pursuit of high ideals, that may include but are not limited to creating an ideal society, and touching you over your bra. The truth was, I knew nothing about this book. I'd heard it lumped into a general discussion about dystopian/utopian texts, and I thought it would be an interesting choice.
I brought the book to the counter, a little too proud of myself. Here is the conversation that followed:
ME: "Y-y-you know this book?"
HER: "That's six twenty three..."
ME: "Oh! I don't n-need a bag." (POINTS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM!) HER: "Got it. Out of seven...thanks."
ME: "OK. Oh, um...bye. Thanks. Bye."
We really connected.
[Full disclosure: After growing unnecessarily obsessive about my crush, I made a power-move a few weeks later. Drove to her house and left some flowers for her. Can't say why, exactly. I left my phone number and name, too, and she called me back. Soon after, we spent a long evening of late-night conversation on her living room couch. I kissed her goodbye, quickly, and then she left for college. My senior year started, I met someone just as all people meet someone in their senior year. I never kissed that book/greeting card/Gund/delicate ceramic animal store clerk again, a fact that did not come without a bit of disappointment and backpedaling. Also, I never got past page 14 of Thomas More's Utopia. I hope Utopia turned out well.]
That wasn't the last wasted expenditure I made in the name of crushdom. Just ask my copy of David Gray's "A Century Ends" CD. (Purchased at the polite insistence of the record store clerk I was moon-eyed for and listened to exactly almost once. Doesn't matter; I would have agreed to buy anything, even an album by Stone Temple Pilots or Toad the Wet Sprocket, for that woman.) I still have More's Utopia and, despite many better albums that have ended up in used record bins or on stoop sale blankets, I think I might still have that David Gray album. You can't throw that kind of stuff away; it would be like burning a love letter, written by yourself.
HOW TO TURN UP THE KNOB ON THE ADORABLE-METER.
If I thought it were within reason to use this photograph (taken by miss lisa whiteman) for every personal promotional image, and piece of photo identification including my driver's license and employee security badge, I absolutely would.
I put this to you: how could acts of unspeakable evil (e.g. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno) exist in the same world as this photograph? It's a true conundrum.
(Shortly after this photo was taken, I got to second base.)
HOW TO GET YOUR LIFE BACK ON TRACK.
[This is something I wrote for the last How to Kick People. [check the site for this month's nice lineup.] I'm not entirely sure where this piece will enjoy a second-life so I've decided it will hang out on tremble for a little while.]
"THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF MY LIFE"
I am tired of saying "Just Don't It." This is the year for me to say just do it! When opportunities come knocking, from this minute forward I will say to those opportunities, "Hey there, opportunities, I hear you knocking so just give me a second while I put on a robe, OK?" instead of saying, "Hey, bitches, I have an authentic samurai sword and the constitutional right to defend my home and property. So who's knocking now, huh, motherfuckers? Survey says: DEATH!"
This year I'm finally ready to be sucks-YESful and seize on to the day and stop paddling my rowboat of undeveloped self-actualization down Denial River. But, mostly, more than anything, this is definitely the year I stop running around in a catcher's uniform while boardwalk tourists pay five dollars to shoot at me with a paintball gun.
People always tell me: hey man, don't let your job define you. "Buddy boy," they'll say, "I bust my ass all day, just like you, and just like everyone else. But as soon as I cruise out those saloon-style doors and take off that Red Lobster apron, I'm my own person. And if anyone wants to chit-chat about shrimp when I'm off-duty, I just tell them they can talk to the hand – the one that still smells faintly of tartar sauce and scrod pee." And I hear that and all, but man, is that ever easy for you to say because your customers are just asking for extra moist hand wipes instead of shooting at you all day long and throwing their cups of beer at your head. And your boss doesn't call you a freak through a giant megaphone, and that little "memo" area on your paycheck doesn't say, "FOR SERVICES RENDERED IN THE AREA OF FREAKING." And you don't leave work each night covered in welts, and head out to the strip clubs with paint in your ears.
There's a lot that's gonna change this year. First and foremost, I got one of those George Foreman Grills and I'm gonna learn to cook. Ray got himself one and he says it cooks up a steak just perfect. Ray works at the dunking booth. Most people don't want to dunk a perfect stranger, particularly an African-American stranger because maybe it seems racial in a way you can't exactly put your finger on. So, to encourage business and develop a rapport, Ray spends his days insulting people on the boardwalk, razzing on their bald heads and fat legs and handicapped kids and stuff so they'll get egged on enough that they'll want to pay a couple dollars to chuck baseballs and maybe dunk Ray in some brown water. People have called Ray a buffoon and much worse but the way I see it, it must be nice just to have a voice, you know. Yup, Ray's got it pretty much figured out.
So I'm getting a George Foreman Grill and I'm going to stop ordering take-away from that Oriental Place near the Pick-n-Save effective immediately. And if I do break down and get some Oriental food because maybe one night I'm too tired to fire up the old Foreman or I'm in an emotional state that requires I keep myself far away from heat-flames or grill plates, I'll make sure I order up something healthful, with broccolis in it, instead of Sweet and Sour Hot Dogs like I always get. That's a promise to me, and that's a promise to everyone.
I'm going to finish writing my untitled movie project this year. I got most of it done – well, not properly written out on paper, but I have the outline near-perfect in my head so in that sense all the heavy lifting is taken care of, you know? It's part thriller, part suspense, and part comedy. In fact, I even made up a new genre for it to generate excitement and buzz within the top brass of HOLLYWOOD; I call it a THRILLSPENSEDY.
And it's about this guy who works for a living getting shot at with ink pellets. (not paint pellets: important distinction for legal protective purposes) and one day this pellet hits him in a special brain area that unlocks his hidden rage factor which causes this guys to go totally REVENGE-O, and start wearing a Mad Max outfit and riding a flaming motorcycle and hunting down all the people who shot him with inkballs. It's loosely based on a true story.
Here's a sneak preview I have worked out in my head. There's this one scene where the hero's just hunted down this guy who works as a construction person and the construction person fell asleep on his couch, watching dirty movies. We can establish he's a construction person through subtleties like maybe he's sleeping in his hard hat because he was too drunk and stoned and horny to take it off before he passed out. Things like that. Hints.
Oh! So the movie's hero wakes up the construction guy and now he's got a nail gun – which we establish is in the construction guy's house by way of a flashback where the construction guy's leaving work like, "Man, I'm gonna bring this nail gun home and clean it out and empty out all the dangerous nails later, but maybe some porno-watching first ok." And we see from the nail gun's perspective that it is now pointed at the construction guy's face or maybe nutsack – I can't decide – and the construction guy is all, "HOLY CRAP NO PLEASE NO I'M GOING TO PEE AND CRAP ALL OVER THE PLACE I'M SO SCARED JUST LET ME LIVE UH OH I JUST PEED AND DAMN HERE COMES THE CRAP," and he's crying like crazy.
Then our guy goes, "Remember this?" and pulls up his sleeve to reveal a tiny round pink scar tissue. And the construction guy doesn't remember because he's so stupid, so our guy goes, "you totally nailed me with a inkball pellet, asshole. But guess what? Now I'm totally nailing you." And then – BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! – he nail-guns the construction guy to death. But no one can trace it back because he's wearing leather gloves and besides the construction guy had enemies in the mafia and Colombian Drug Syndicate so everyone just guesses it's them and the cops throw up their hands at the crime scene and go, "open and shut case." I'm gonna finish that movie this year, for sure, and then start sending it out to Hollywood. I just need to get a computer.
I bought a chin-up bar. I'm just saying, is all.
This is the year I stop trying to pick up women by telling them I was responsible for the bombings at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. I know they haven't solved that crime but it's just not cool to take credit for it anymore, particularly given the sensitive nature of these times we live in. Wow, that felt really good to say. I'm making progress. I can feel it in my bones.
Plus, I'm getting my tattoo lasered. No, I'm not talking about the full-back tattoo of Mortal Kombat's Sub-Zero performing a "BABALITY" finishing move on his alter-ego, Scorpion. I believe the symbolism of that tableau is both personal and timeless.
I am talking about my other tattoo, of course. The one I'm always feeling embarrassed about whenever I take my shirt off to ride the mechanical bull over at Shooter's Bar and Grill. I have this tattoo on my right chest area, of Michaelangelo, who at a certain reckless and particularly unsituated time during my youth, was my favorite Ninja Turtle. God help me, it's true. If you don't believe me, ask anyone. That's all I'd ever talk about. I even made my own nunchuks out of a couple of mop handles and a piece of shoelace. I never did really figure out how to make those things work but I used to carry them around with my intentions in the right place.
But that was then. Now I am a person of thirty and five years and a different man entirely. As such, I decree that I am going to have my Michaelangelo Ninja Turtle tattoo changed into a Leonardo Ninja Turtle, because Leonardo's philosophy and character are most in tune with my life right now, and that's the space I need to be in so I can make the changes I need to make. I think the fix is not so difficult; the hard part will be making the nunchuks look like a pair of Katana Blades but I hear they can do very sophisticated things these days in the field of tattoo removal and modification. And yes, it will be much more difficult and time-consuming to change the caption beneath my Ninja Turtle tattoo from "DANCIN' WITH MR. BROWNSTONE" to "9/11: NEVER FORGET" but, as I see it, life is a journey and a journey starts with the first step.
All I'm saying is, we all make stupid mistakes, like eating a turkey sandwich you found in a gas station bathroom or winning a bunch of money from the city because a cop choked your pit bull, and then spending all that settlement cash on your own state-of-the-art backyard wrestling ring, or applying for a job where the Want Ad said, "FREAK WANTED – MUST KNOW EXCEL." Someone could make any one of those mistakes or, in my case, all of them. And a few more.
But this book on tape I'm reading gave me some good advice about that, and a lot of other life-changing things. The book on tape's called SUCCESS STORM!: UNLOCKING THE CATEGORY FIVE HURRICANE WITHIN YOU. It was written by that guy on TV who comes on after the Carson Daly Show and he's always so totally amped, you know? He's amped about his life in a way I have not been since I was a little kid and he keeps saying it, too. "I'm amped! I'm amped!" And, when he's not reading from the book on tape, he's throwing wadded-up twenty-dollar bills at the screen like it was nothing, and running around a fancy yacht marina in an expensive suit that's covered with all sorts of inspirational ironed-on words like, "WINNING IT!" and "TOP-NOTCH!" and "140%" " and his trademark thing that he always says on TV—"PLUS IT UP." – and you almost want to shout "PLUS IT UP!" right back at him, even though you're on a couch, under a bunch of TWIX brand granola bar wrappers, and he's on the TV set. It seems silly to shout at the TV like that but this guy's just so amped it's almost like you believe maybe he'll hear you.
Anyway, in his book he says mistakes are just life's rehearsals for a successful opening night. And I like that a lot, so I'm thinking, yeah, tomorrow is gonna be my opening night, which is a metaphor for 2:30pm when I'm supposed to show up for work.
I'm gonna walk down to the boardwalk and I'm gonna find my boss at the bar, and I'm gonna say, "Ralphie, put on a shirt, because I have something important to say and if it's all the same to you I think it would be more professional-sounding if I had this particular conversation with someone who wasn't bare-chested and all. I promise I'll be finished talking before your hot wings get a chance to cool, so if you'd please drop those, too, I'd appreciate it.
"Here's the situation, Ralphie. Let me lay it out for you. You're going to have to find yourself a new freak because, guess what? I have some self-respect and my new self-respecting self says it's time to plus it up i.e. no more playing the freak. Four years is enough. This is the first day of the rest of my life."
And then I'll hand him a crumpled-up piece of paper and say, "check it." And he'll uncrumple it and look at it, then look at me funny, then look at the paper again and he'll say, "What's this? A 'K?' There's a letter 'k' on this paper" And I'll throw my head back and laugh a crazy laugh and when I'm done laughing I'll say, "I know, Ralphie. I'm giving you the "K" from "freak" because guess what? Now I'm F-R-E-A "frea." And then I'll turn away all dramatic and that's it goodbye. My successful opening night.
And anyway, I heard Ray caught pneumonia last week, so maybe there's work at the dunking booth.
HOW TO SEE STARS.
I love/hate the postings to Gawker Stalker. These totally superfluous, anti-experiential oglings have developed kind of a life – and editorial style – of their own. In Gawker's infancy, I think the "stalker" posts were pretty much just that – quickly noted sightings, the text equivalent of café rubbernecking, and an act one step of intimacy removed from fumbling with one's camera phone to catch Lili Taylor bagging her dog's excrement in front of Do Hwa.
But now, Gawker Stalker sightings read like the "stalker" has some kind of obligation to fulfill a specific agenda with the dual goals of A) launching a totally unprovoked and unnecessary attack on the subject of the sighting, and B) making the ogler seem somehow too cool for even the coolest celebrities, even though they're engaged in an act that is inherently uncool. (i.e. running to their laptops like a giggly TigerBeat Magazine lifetime subscriber just as soon as they catch sight of someone remotely famous.) Gawker Stalker's proprietary version of the traditional journalistic "Five Ws" plays out like this:
- Who did you see?
- Where did this sighting occur? (This is noted as either a smug name-drop or a nasty dig based not on the author's opinion of the spot, but on his/her subjective and fluctuating understanding of how that particular spot is perceived by others.)
- What can you speculate about the subject's appearance/behavior that could possibly develop into an unfounded and unflattering rumor for which you can ultimately take credit (on your blog, at your next "Apprentice" viewing get-together, etc.)?
- When did you "almost think about considering to" approach this celebrity with A Very Sassy And Perfectly Worded Put-Down about his or her career/personal life (printed in your post, in hindsight), but then decide better?
- Why are you better than this celebrity, and above all of the "losers" who were "totally staring in slack-jawed awe" at the celebrity? And more importantly, Why would or wouldn't you give this celebrity the pleasure of coitus, regardless of his or her implicitly stated desire of you?
Gawker Stalker posts often try very consciously to exude an air of easy and removed Capote-esque sneer yet, in this almost crippling self-consciousness, still manage to reveal (often unwittingly) the author's complete social awkwardness.
Even as the scene is set with our author as the hero, drawing all attention in the room to himself (I'm making him a him because I'm growing physically tired of all this "he or she" business. If you'd like, every time you read the word "him", you can picture a plain-looking girl.), you can still somehow imagine him (she's wearing an H&M blazer around her wide shoulders and has Fructis conditioner in her hair!) pink and sweaty behind a laptop screen in Starbucks, or interrupting a conversation about last week's Breaking Bonaduce to SMS his dinner date with a message such as, "omg, look! willow from buffy @ 3 o'clock. STARGASM! LOL."
As I read them, I mentally add the following epilogue to all Gawker Stalker posts: "…and then I ordered my Venti latte and noticed they had used whole milk instead of soy. I'm lactose-intolerant, but I decided to just drink it anyway because the line was really long and I didn't want to be 'that guy.' (GIRL!)"
All of this is, of course, backstory to talk about the celebrities I saw in Los Angeles. I usually see sort of halfway famous people while I'm visiting LA, because everyone who lives there is or was sort of halfway famous, but this trip was loaded with some marquee sightings. (The best sighting was, in my opinion, Mark Mothersbaugh's pugs. This might be because they were the only ones with which I actually interacted. And it might be because those dogs were fat and crazy looking and snorty and, therefore, the best kind of dog in the world.)
Instead of just rattling my fabulous sightings off one by one, I thought I'd present them, as a kind of content value-add, in the editorial manner of Gawker Stalker:
Saturday, 10/1. Over a plate of tempeh Chilquiles at Swingers Diner (they're not on the menu, but you can order them if you're in the know!) who should I see but Bill "Ghostbustin' Ass" Murray, not five feet from moi. Murray was wearing a pink polo shirt – gay? – and accompanied by a short, tan ponytailed dude with tapered jeans whom I suspect was either a sycophantic journalist or Antonio Banderas' developmentally-disabled younger brother. It's nice to see the Ghostbuster doing charity work with ethnic minorities and the retarded, all at once. Bill was looking mighty trim – AIDS? – but his hair was "styled" like he'd been sleeping on it since the Caddyshack wrap party. Hey, Bill – loved in you Groundhog Day but that was just a movie. In the real world, when you go three weeks without a shampoo or a comb it's not called "de ja vu" – it's called, "Category Five Bedhead." After sniffing around the restaurant (for rough trade?), Steve Zissou and his Mex-tarded lover made an exit for more discreet surroundings. But, just before his departure, Murray turned his AIDS-ravaged face to scan the room full of starstruck losers, before momentarily locking eyes with me in a look that said, "yes, you're the coolest one here." In your dreams, Mary! I'd sooner appear in Larger Than Life 2. WHATEVS!
Monday, 10/3. Jessica Alba spotted in the green room at the Jimmy Kimmel Show – I know he's gross, but a friend dragged me, I swear!! Alba ordered a glass of Merlot, no doubt hoping to drown her depression over the sorry box office profits of Fantastic Bore. Four words of warning for the Invisible Girl (whose cold sore was anything but invisible, regarding her Malibu Barbie tan: it's called "skin cancer." Get your pretty head out of the blue, and into a clinic! And no, you cannot fuck me. I'm saving myself for Bjork.
Monday, 10/3. Saw Topher Grace at the Jason Mraz concert – yes, Mraz is so lame but a friend had passes to the after-party at Spark so whatevs, all-night free mojitos are still all-night free mojitos. Hey T-Rock, it's called "That 70s Show," and not "That I Want to Totally Make Out with Todd Levin and beg him to give me 'The Shocker' Show" so stop staring toward me!
Tuesday, 10/4. Umm…Scott Caan? WHO ARE YOU? ARE YOU EVEN FAMOUS ENOUGH FOR ME TO LOOK AT? So don't even think about kissing me with your beestung lips.
HOW TO USE YOUR WIRELESS MINUTES SPARINGLY.
This is my last evening on the West Coast, and I'm a little conflicted. I'm having a really nice time being away but a series of important New York-related things have presented themselves in the last couple of days, working in concert to drag my mind back home even while my body is prancing along the coastline with sea spray and vanilla hemp granola crumbs in my beard. As John Steinbeck wrote in Grapes of Wrath, "DOUBLE BUMMER." (By the way, Steinbeck would be very proud of present-day Monterey, California. I know his desire for a day when he'd be just a stone's throw from shops like Count Fudgula's Castle and As Seen On TV was the subject of much of his writing, and it's nice to know someone on the board of tourism was listening.)
Today, in San Francisco, I was stopped by two different police officers. First, at the Fisherman's Wharf (More edible soup bowls, please!) I was given a citation by The Joke Police (he even had an ID badge). Later, while trying to take an illegal left turn off Fillmore, I was stopped by another police officer who was considerably less "jokey." (He raped me.)
Also, unrelated, something I wrote is available for reading online, at Fresh Yarn. It's called "The Annual Birthday Revue" and it is about my mother. Have fun.