5.11.2010


An Open Letter to the people at my gym:

To The Grunter: As you lift, you fill the gym with your groans, moans, and barbaric yawps. Some of your sounds defy description. After particularly heightened cries you’ll smash your free weights to the floor as an added exclamation. Yes, we all know you are working out really hard and we know you like the attention, but every person in the gym wants you to shut up. By the way… lose the ponytail and the “No Fear” t-shirt. I wonder what you sound like during sex? Yikes.

To Shower Honker: What you do in your own shower is your own business. Sure, I occasionally like to clear the nasal passages in the heat of my own shower… But when you share the shower room with 5 other people, we would appreciate you NOT covering the floor with your snot. Thanks.

To Nude Guy: Yes you have a nice body. But you’re making everyone uncomfortable. Why do you need to talk on your cell phone in the middle of the locker room completely naked? Why does it take you 20 minutes to generously apply lotion to every crack and crevice you possess? Why do you have to blow-dry your skin instead of using a towel? And why do you have to (oh so lovingly) blow-dry your pubes in front of the mirror while inspecting your abs? Please stop.

To Creepy Rowing Machine Guy: We all know why you choose the rowing machines; because they’re positioned right behind the Stairmasters. Every other night, like clockwork, this is where you position your pear-shaped 46-year-old body so you can stare at women’s asses. The fact that you wear a headband and listen to a 1987 Walkman only adds to your creepiness. I bet you drive a white, windowless van. Also, you could at least pretend to work out… a new born hamster on a wheel generates more power than your so-called “rowing.”

To Walking Pharmacy: I've never seen anyone carry that many juices, powders and pills around with them. You have more plastic baggies then a crack dealer. You're like a walking GNC. Apparently they work because you're built like Stallone (circa 1985). The side effect is a ton of back acne. That’s a real conundrum now isn’t it? You have great muscles but they’re covered in festering pimples. Swing by my locker for some Proactiv Solution.

To Ipod Guy on The Treadmill In The Corner:
When you sing those Mariah Carey and Justin Timberlake songs… We can all hear you. I notice you get more bold with each minute you spend running… by the end of your 30 minute jog you’re hitting high notes with emotion. It’s sad. You sound horrible.
Go for a run in the desert… you can sing all you want there.

To Skinny Old Guy: You're pretty cool. I like you. That's why I'm going to recommend that you try lifting less weight. You're strong for your size, but I'm surprised you're still alive. I’ve taken CPR class specifically for you… pray I’m around when you go down.
Thank you for making every evening at the gym more interesting and entertaining. I wouldn't change any of you. Except for you, Mr. Shower Honker. That's just sick.

3.23.2010

GREATEST arena rock singer of all time. Apologies to Bono, Freddy Mercury and Roger Daltry.

9.11.2008

Cat Calling



On the way to work this morning I was walking behind a young, pretty girl. We passed a group of construction workers and noticing her, one guy said "you have beautiful eyes." I was about 8 feet behind her and when I passed I said to him "hey, what about me?" He laughed and laughed.


*I've noticed that construction workers' cat calls have taken a more gentile tone. Gone are the calls of nice ass... nice tits, etc. of the 70's and 80's. These guys are more sensitive. Two weeks ago I heard a guy say "thats a lovely dress." This country is going soft.

5.07.2008

9/11: We Will Never Forget



Sunday May 4, 10:15am.

An Italian tourist is at the 23rd street subway booth:

Tourist: "Yes, hello, um, how do I get to the Twin Towers."

Station Agent: "What?"

Tourist: "What stop for the Twin Towers."

Station Agent: "What? towers? What towers?"

*MTA Station agent leaves the booth in a huff and comes around to talk to the tourist face to face.

Station Agent: "Where do you want to go?"

Tourist: "Twin Towers"

Station Agent: "I don't know what that is."

SILENCE. The two stare at each other for a few seconds.

Tourist: (again) "Twin Towers"

Station Agent: "TWIN towers? Twin Towers? TWIN? TWIN?"

Tourist: "Yes."

Station Agent: "Hmmmm. I don't know."

*This is when I decided to butt in.

Me: "She's talking about ground zero. The TWIN Towers. Remember those TWO BUILDINGS THAT WERE HIT BY THE PLANES. Remember? I think it was on the news."

4.23.2008

Office Porn


My friend Brad and I were strolling around Soho 3 years ago and we decided to go into the "Toys in Babeland" adult bookstore. Its a "classy" vibrator, dildo shop with a few locations around the city. Brad bought an erotic stories CD that he wanted to play for his new girlfriend while he had sex with her. When we got back to my apartment I loaded it into iTunes and dumped it onto his iPod. The tracks also eventually landed on my iPod the next time I did an automatic update. I'm not going to play innocent and pretend I didn't know they were on there. I did. I even listened to a few of the stories; they were your basic penthouse forum letters read by girls with sexy raspy voices. Dirty but not filthy.

Fast forward to 3 hours ago. I started a new job in a small office filled with 15 women. We have a nice little stereo and everyday somebody takes a turn and plugs in their iPod and hits shuffle. Today they asked me to plug in my iPod. (Gee I wonder what happened?) Of course after I go out for lunch... one of the stories starts playing. It was about this girl getting screwed on the side of the road by a tow truck driver (very realistic, there are a lot of hot tow truck drivers out there). Not only am I the only guy in the office - I'm now known as a total perv. Great.
Recent overheard subway conversations


Downtown 1

Dad: "Oh no. We're on the wrong train. I think we're going downtown."

Daughter: "This is the worst day ever."

Manhattan bound F

Kid A: "I've been watching VH-1, they have all these old videos and shit. They got this band called the B-52's"

Kid B: "They named a band after a bus line?"

1.06.2008

Journey

I was listening to "Don't Stop Believing" recently and I wondered about the below lines.

Dont stop believin'
Hold on to the feelin'
Streetlight people

Its not streetlight, (comma) people. Its Streetlight People. These poor souls are the people that live beneath the shadows of the streelights, searching for some kind of emotion in the night. Its like a Hopper painting, but its a song. Its poetic.

FYI: Steve Perry is the greatest singer in the world.

10.26.2007

Halloween Costume Update: Sexy Mental Patient



Nothing says sexy better than mental illness.

*Yes, that's a straight jacket and the hat says "Belleview".

9.25.2007

Lambada: the forbidden dance


A co-worker mentioned this movie. I remembered it from the early 90's. I decided to look it up on IMDB. Actual plot summary: Kevin Laird is a Beverly Hills school teacher by day and a mystery man by night. Using his lambada dance moves to first earn the kid's respect and acceptance, Kevin then teaches them academics. But when a jealous student exposes Kevin's double life, his two worlds collide, threatening his job and reputation.

Oh no. Kevin may lose both his high paying job as a high school teacher AND his reputation -because he dances at night. Yes he DANCES. Oh the shame.
Pinky.


It takes a certain type of guy to wear a pink suit.

8.20.2007

Scotland = rain



I just returned from 3 weeks in Scotland. If you're curious about Scottish weather - here's a report from the local newspaper. Note the top right part of the country - maybe you can go up there and have a picnic.

6.11.2007

In line at the grocery store.


Sometimes when I see an old person buying an Entenmann's Raspberry Danish at the grocery store I get sad. They usually have the danish, a couple of cans of pet food, milk, and then something weird, like a jar of gherkins or pickled herring. I picture them going home and having a piece of the Entenmann's (on a plate) with a glass of milk. Then they put the plate and glass in the sink. Then they read the paper or listen to the radio.
Cold Cuts


A friend mentioned heading to the Jersey Shore to hang out at the beach sometime this summer. Nothing captures my feelings and thoughts about summer in New Jersy quite like... cold cuts. Picture the rented bungalow. Cheap drug-store beach chairs on the front porch. A cooler full of beer cans. Your bathing suit full with sand. Wet towels drying on a clothesline. And in the fridge various pound-and-a-half packages of cold cuts wrappd in white butcher paper. Someone in New Jersey is either eating cold cuts, buying cold cuts or thinking about cold cuts. Always. Cold Cuts.

6.03.2007

Banksy

Banksy is a graffiti artist from the UK. Nobody knows what he looks like. Check out some of his work here.

5.31.2007

Summer Baseball -- Mets vs. Giants

Went out to Shea last night to catch my Giants in a night game against the Mets. 20 minute subway ride to Shea and a $9 dollar ticket for the upper deck. Cheaper than a movie.

The guy sitting in front of me.
My ketchup packet for my hot dog.

The field in the 8th inning after the sun had set.
One of the 40 jets that fly overhead during the game. Not sure if they are leaving LaGuardia or landing at JFK. Shea is infamous for it's overhead jet traffic. After awhile you don't notice the roar.
My seat. #15
2 smokers taking a few puffs on the outer walkway. The sun is going down to the west over Manhattan. And the Giants won 3 to 0.

5.22.2007

144th and Convent Ave.


I'd like to visit the Royal Tenenbaum house next time my friend Dave comes to New York (maybe walk around for awhile, grab a sandwich.) He's a big Wes Anderson fan.
*I'm laughing at myself because I've been making this out in my head to be some crazy long journey but the reality is that its a 20 minute train ride. Sometimes New Yorkers view even the slightest travel from their "home" neighborhood as an epic Frodo-like haul. I have a friend on 22nd street on the westside. Another friend invited him up to a bar on 78th and Broadway. I googled the distance - 3.8 miles - his response "I don't know if I want to come ALL THE WAY UP THERE." The idea of distance is skewed in NY. Everything is closer. We live closer together in smaller apartments. We rub up against each other in packed subway cars. We even stand closer to each other in line at the deli. I guess distance is relative. Thanks Einstein.
I just don't want to look too obvious when visiting the house. I hate looking like a tourist. I'm weird that way. Certain people have no problem at all with looking like a tourist. I hate it. If there are a bunch of nerds with cameras taking pictures of the Tenenbaum house I'm going back downtown. Sorry Dave.
Eff you Robert Smith.




I found this when I was moving. I wrote it a few months ago at Dempsey's Pub. Not sure what moved me to write it. The Cure was indeed playing on the jukebox. I know people have strong feelings about The Cure. I happen to like The Smiths. I also happen to believe that you can't like both bands. I'm a purist. So pick one.
Art Purchased.


I just bought these prints from an artist named Rod Hunting. I'm pretty excited.
I have now bought 2 pieces of art in my adult life. I don't count crappy dorm room Monet posters as art. The other thing I bought was from a guy named Ed Rosko in Brooklyn.
Solid Gold.


This is my co-worker Rachael. Last week she wore a solid gold outfit to work. She's very fashion forward.
Pork Butt.



I roasted a pork shoulder. It's also known as a pork butt, but it doesn't come from the butt area at all. For most of my life I thought a pork butt was just that... a pork's butt. But again, it's not. This cut is about 5 or 6 bucks. You can feed about 8 people with this. Buy it, rub it with salt and pepper and brown sugar and garlic. Toss in some potatoes and rosemary and maybe some onion. I poured a beer over mine (and a little Kentucky bourbon too). Shove it in the oven for about 5 or 6 hours until the internal temp reaches about 180.


let it cool then cut it up.



Toss all the pork in a bowl with the potatoes and the onions and some gravy you made with the pork fat. Then get a fork. You can't really go wrong with a large bowl of pork.

5.21.2007

Speedwagon?
In the 5th grade I moved to a new neighborhood. During my first week I was kicking a ball in the street with some of the local kids, trying to make friends. Two older guys said they were going to see "R.E.O." on Friday. I asked "what's R.E.O? " I had never heard of it. One of the older guys looked at me and shook his head, then with a loud voice said, "Hey everybody. This retard doesn't know who R.E.O. Speedwagon is!" They all laughed at me.

I just heard some R.E.O on the radio. Many people probably associate their music with good times and partying. I associate R.E.O Speedwagon with shame and public humiliation.

3.14.2007

I found this piece of paper at the bank last friday. It was laying there near the deposit slips. I guess somebody had to do some quick math before making a withdrawal. Pretty sad.

1.06.2007















Hookers

The first time I picked up a prostitute – it was a mistake… but more on this later.

I have only been SOLICITED by a prostitute once… I was late for an awful temp job at an insurance company on the upper east side and as I rounded the corner I nearly collided with someone. She was a normal looking black woman - maybe in her early 40’s – wearing a purple track suit. I was in my early 20s at the time but in my pleated khakis and green LL bean backpack I probably looked 14. She was leaning against the building, one leg propped up against it James Dean style. Very cool and relaxed. She caught my eyes and held my gaze. She had a toothpick or lollipop stick in her mouth. Without hesitation she asked me a clear and steady voice:

“How’d you like to start your morning off with a blowjob?”

"Uh, no thanks" I said. My voice wavering.

“Okay, suit yourself,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders as if I was refusing the extra insurance on a rental car. It was weirdly casual - I felt like I was saying no to a second helping of blueberry cobbler.

I went upstairs and stared at my cube wall and processed our brief exchange. I admired her moxie. I sometimes get nervous simply asking someone for directions. But she just asked a complete stranger if she could put her mouth on his penis and she didn’t even blink an eye. Impressive.

And where was she going to blow me at 8:15am - On the corner of Lexington and 86th? In between 2 parked cars? In a deli? In the starbucks bathroom. I’m still not sure how she thought she was going to pull it off. Maybe she doesn’t think that far ahead – her first goal is to get someone who’s interested – then she moves onto the logistics from there. not a very good planner – probably a Sagittarius.

I walked on the other side of the street the next day. I looked for her on the corner but she wasn’t there.

- The first time I picked up a prostitute was the only time I picked up a prostitute.

I was driving at night to Midway airport in Chicago. A blizzard erupted that morning and all flights were canceled - a friend was stranded there and instead of letting him spend the night on a cot – I decided to take my chances on the treacherous road and pick him up.

I could barely see out the front window of my ex girlfriends grey 1987 Camry. This was a real Chicago blizzard – where the gusts of wind are so strong it moves your car. It was also about 10 degrees. Completely MISERABLE. Old timers in Chicago call the winter wind The Hawk – because it swoops down from the sky and rips your face off. So there I am driving on the main avenue towards the airport. It was just plowed so I was moving semi-fast. As I pass a bus stop on my right I catch a glimpse of someone huddled and waiting for the bus. I looked back in my mirror and see that this person is wearing a light jacket and either shorts or a miniskirt.

I was shocked. This was the worst storm I had ever been in… who would be out in this weather dressed like that!!!!

I drove along and began to feel horrible for this person.

I did a u-turn and came back around. I slowly pulled up to the bus stop and rolled down the window – I yelled “get in here!!” she did.

She was a 20 something year old girl with dirty blond hair wearing a miniskirt, boots and a jean jacket.

“What are you doing out there” I said – my voice a mix of anger, confusion and bewilderment. “are you crazy?” a car started honking behind me.

“Where are you going?” I asked as I pulled back into traffic. I aimed the heater directionals at her legs.

She was looking out the window. Not looking at me. I couldn’t see her face.

“I’m going wherever you’re going” she said.

“What?!” I said. “I’m going to the airport. I’ll drop you off somewhere…. Somewhere along the bus route. I’m heading the same way.

Her shoulders slumped down. And her voice lowered.

“Just take me back there.”

"Where?"

To the bus stop… back there.

"What? Take you back to the bus stop? But I can drop you off somewhere. Just tell me…"

"No. just take me back to the bus stop."

"Ok" I said. I moved over to the left lane to take my second illegal u-turn of the evening.

We sat in silence at the red light. The snow falling all around us. The heater blowing on high.

“You don’t get it do you” she said.

"No I guess don’t," I said.

I started driving back to the bus stop.

We were stopped at another light about a block from the bus stop when she let out a sigh.

I looked over at her – at the boots, the jacket, the skirt and went “Ohhhhhhhhh”

She shook her head up and down and said “Yeah.”

I stopped at the bus stop.

"Are you sure I can’t take you anywhere."

"No I’m fine" she said.

"I don’t have any money or I’d give you something."

"Its ok" she said. She looked at me one more time her look said "so you’re sure you're not interested?

I just stared back with a half smile.

She opened the door stepped out into the wind and the freezing cold.

I stayed for a moment watching her through the window. She wouldn’t look at me – just kept staring into the lights of the oncoming traffic.

I drove off - picked up my friend at the airport – and when I drove back past the bus stop she was gone.

10.20.2006


Roasting Pans and Maturity

I'm not sure what's happening to me... but I really want to buy a roasting pan. Not a flat screen tv or a motorcycle or a subscription to Playboy, but a roasting pan. I'm 100% comfortable with this idea. And yes, I still like women. Recipes to follow.

10.19.2006

Toasted then Roasted


The last time I flew, I found a copy of Real Simple in my seat pocket. I was flying back, hung over, from a friend's wedding in Chicago. The happy couple is Irish and the dancing and drinking didn't stop until 6 am. Reeking of lager, a mere shell of a human being, I boarded an early flight with a throbbing head. In this frail and vulnerable state, too queasy to contemplate the wonders of the Sky Mall catalog, I was idly flipping through the magazine when I saw a recipe for roasted chicken.

I liked the picture: pieces of golden, crispy-skinned chicken surrounded by red potatoes and sprigs of rosemary, resting in deliciously fat-speckled juices. It looked beautiful and, um, real simple. I've looked at thousands of recipes in thousands of magazines and never been moved to cook any of them. But this picture and this recipe spoke to me. It said Home. Mother. Sunday dinner. Safety. Warmth. Love. Comfort. (Though, for the record, my mother has never roasted a chicken that I know of.)

I stared at the picture for a long time. I read the recipe, slowly, at least fifteen, maybe twenty times, drinking it in, lingering over it, savoring it. This was the thing that was obviously missing from my life. I needed to start cooking REAL food. Food cooked IN the oven, not ON TOP of the oven. Food that takes hours to cook, not minutes. I needed to make food with substance. Then, if my figures were correct, I would have substance! "I'm going to cook a chicken," I said to myself. It felt good, like an oath, a vow, a prayer. I said it again with a little more volume, "I'm going to cook a chicken!" The man in the aisle seat nodded, smiled politely and returned to reading his Wall Street Journal.

The ingredient list was simple and straightforward:
a whole chicken (cut up)
saltpepper
olive oil
small red potatoes
rosemary
* as an variation they suggested adding mushrooms and a pint of grape tomatoes

When I have an idea I like to do it immediately, so I dropped off my luggage, went directly to the corner market and bought all the ingredients, including the mushrooms and tomatoes. I didn't have a proper roasting pan so I used a huge stainless steel stock pan, the only oven-safe dish in the house large enough to contain my bounty. I put the chicken in and covered it with oil, salt and pepper. Then I tossed the rest of the ingredients in a bowl with more oil, salt and pepper and poured those ingredients on top of the chicken — all within 20 minutes of getting home from the airport.

I know roasting a chicken is supposed to be pretty basic stuff but it was breaking new ground for me. Up until this point the only thing I had cooked in an oven was frozen pizza. I pre-heated the oven to 400, took a deep breath, tossed the pan inside and shut the door to wait out the 45 minutes of cooking time. After 20 minutes the most amazing smell filled the apartment. I was really happy. This was going to be great. At 45 minutes I stabbed a meat thermometer into a thicker part of a breast: 160 degrees. Hmmm. The recipe said it should read 180 (so did the booklet that came with the meat thermometer) so I stuck it back in for another 15 minutes until the breast registered 180.

It looked good and smelled great, but there were some problems. A) The chicken was too salty. I just used too much sea salt. Later I realized I used tablespoons instead of teaspoons: a rookie mistake I won't repeat. B) Some of the larger potatoes were not completely done. Obviously size was a factor but I also noticed that the potatoes in the center of the pan were not as well-done as those around the edges (especially the potatoes touching the edges). The center potatoes were also on top of the chicken so they weren't touching any juices or parts of the hot pan. C) Some of the mushrooms and tomatoes looked shriveled and dry. These were also on top of the chicken pieces and not down low in the pan with all the juices. I also realized I may not have tossed them so well with the oil before placing them in the pan.

On the positive side, the chicken tasted great and was perfectly cooked - very moist and juicy. The sprigs of rosemary scented the whole dish nicely. I was satisfied with my first efforts but knew I could do better. Two weeks later I was ready for Round 2. It went much smoother. I purchased a real Le Creuset roasting pan (ooh la la). I cleaned the chicken and patted it dry with paper towels, rubbed each piece with olive oil and sprinkled it with salt and pepper. I tried to get smallish potatoes and if I couldn't I just cut them in half (same with the mushrooms). This time I tossed everything more evenly in the oil. I didn't use more oil, just took more time in tossing and coating. I placed everything in the bottom of the pan, then put the chicken on top.
I made sure that all the potatoes were touching the pan and all the mushrooms and tomatoes would be swimming in the juices. I also dropped four cloves of garlic in the pan. After 45 minutes at 400 I pulled it out and the thigh registered 195. I guess the new roasting pan might've helped speed up the cooking time. All the potatoes were cooked through and the mushrooms and tomatoes were soaked in juice and very, very delicious. The chicken itself was again very moist, flavorful and tender. I was pleased. This Sunday I'm going to add some different autumn veggies and see how those turn out. I know you'll be dying to see what happens.

10.02.2006














Not Dum.
The classic Dum Dum "mystery" pop. Who knows what flavors it may contain. No one knows.

7.26.2006

WPTV- News Channel 5

My old girlfriend is now a newscaster in Tampa. Why do all newscasters have newscaster hair?
Thunder over Louisville

I flew into Louisville from New York around 8:30 pm on July 4th. Dave picked me up curbside at baggage claim and drove madly in the direction of downtown. He barely said hello. The sun was dipping low and god damn it if we weren't going to see the fireworks show. Besides being a patriot and a fierce traditionist, Dave needed things to go according to plan. If we missed the fireworks (or even late for them) my itinerary would derail and we'd never get it back on track. He was speeding and cursing, weaving through the traffic on I-64, nervously looking over his shoulder every 5 seconds at the setting sun. Whenever traffic slowed he'd pound his fist on the wheel and curse, "f*ck!" This was a race - man against sun. man against the roation of the earth,man against time. He was not going to lose. In the distance Dave nodded toward our destination - The Galt House Hotel.

We screeched up to the valet, Dave tossed the keys to a bored looking guy in a red vest, and we raced through the grand lobby of Louisville's oldest hotel. The fireworks were to be launched from barges achored in the Ohio River. The bar on the top floor of the Galt House would provide the best view in the city - practically eye level with the exploding rockets.

We headed toward the elevators. As we waited Dave pushed the "up" button several hundred times. Straring up at the illuminted floor numbers I was hit in the back of the heel by a metal cane. I turned to see a blind man in his late forties on the other end of the stick. "Sorry," he said with a practiced tone that made me think that he'd said "sorry " a lot in his life. "No problem," I said. He was wearing a denim shirt, a denim jacket, blue jeans, and generic white tennis shoes. His name tag said Ron. "Denim on denim" I thought. Its a tough combination but I guess he's blind and he really doesn't care if he's wearing a denim suit. Looking to my left I noticed another blind person. A woman in her mid thirties. Also unstylishly dressed in a slick purple track suit. How odd - 2 blind people in one hotel lobby. As the elevator doors opened another blind person popped up behind her, a black guy in a Carolina Panthers jersey, and next to him 2 blind people pushing a baby stroller. A quick scan of the lobby revealed - holy shit - everyone in the hotel was blind.

Dave and I entered the car, followed by Ron and purple track suit. Black blind guy followed, along with the blind parents and the stroller. I pressed everyone's requested buttons and we all stood waiting for the doors to close. It turned out to be one of those elevators with an exceptionally long delay before the doors close. As Dave and I stood there, packed rib to rib with blind people, we were frozen with both fear and delight. We stood in silence as more and more blind people began packing onto the elevator. Everytime the doors were about to close a cane would stab into the door, triggering the laser eye and the doors with drag open. As a person with sight - I take for granted the fact that when i see a packed elevator I simply wait for the next one. This is where I realized that being blind could be a real nuisnace. Blind people can't tell that an elevator is full. They note that the doors are open and they charge forward into the car. So for the next 2 minutes I wistneesed blind people piling into the elevator like a clown car.

We managed to get the doors closed. After several akward stops we reached the bar on the top floor. It was loaded with blind people getting drunk. Dave ordered some bourbons - the state drink. We kicked back to watch the fireworks. They exploded all around us for 30 minutes. It was an incredible show. The blind people went on talking to each other.

6.03.2006

Skinny ties are going to be big. You heard it here first.


2.16.2005


I Need Your Vote

Hello. My name is Dick Donner and I’m running for a seat in the House of Representatives of the United States Congress. Would you please take five minutes to listen to me? It’s important to your future, the future of your children, the future of America, and the future of America’s children.

Fellow Americans, I need your immediate assistance. This Tuesday, I, Dick Donner, would be grateful if you could take some time out of your busy day (unless you’re a senior citizen or a waiter) and vote for me, Dick Donner.

Although I have no record of community service, lack any real leadership experience, and hold no opinions of relative importance - you can trust me to represent your interests in Washington.

Why will I be a good congressman?

I am a 39 year-old white male of average weight and height. I have lots of money and my friends have lots of money. I have always had money. I have a safe, boring last name of Anglo descent that looks great on a poster. I went to college in New England and graduated in four years without an embarrassing incident. I am heterosexual. My parents are happily married. I drive an American car. I part my hair to the side. My home is tastefully decorated. I have never done illegal drugs. I have never had relations with a prostitute. I am married to an attractive yet sensibly dressed woman who saved her virginity for the wedding night.

I have never been arrested. I have two normal children whose hair is parted to the side. I have a well-behaved chocolate Lab named Stewart. I enjoy tennis, squash and golf. I speak without accent or impediment. I prefer dark, classically cut suits and I belong to the local Lutheran church. I am considered good-looking, but not overtly sexual. I can read and write. I have a black friend. I like potatoes and chicken. I never served in the military but I have always supported the troops. In general, I’m a good guy.

I know. My qualifications are perfect. But before casting your ballot I need to come clean - I have no intention of helping you.

I know its fairly typical for politicians to make promises about all the stuff they’re going to do for the citizenry, but let me be completely honest here - I’m not going to promise jack squat. I’m not going to improve education, I’m not going to cut taxes, I’m not going to push for tougher gun laws, I’m not going to create more jobs, and I’m not going to work for a better tomorrow for our children. I don’t even know your children, and frankly I don’t give a crap about them.

In fact, I’m not really into the whole public service thing. I fancy the job for my own reasons. I want my parents to be able to call their friends and say, Danny got elected to Congress. I also have my twenty-year high school reunion coming up and Congressman sounds a lot cooler than Regional Sales Rep. And how awesome would it be to meet a woman at a dinner party and be able to say, Im a Congressman. Those Arthur Anderson guys can kiss my ass.

My promise to you is simple: I’m going to work on keeping everything exactly the same. If elected, I’ll do my best to not do my best. My goal is to complete a four-year term and still be unrecognized by the people in my own district. My dream is that someday high school students everywhere will be unable to recall my name, just like other illustrious Congressmen before me.

My course of action is clear- dodge anything immediate, pass on everything important, avoid controversy and disregard all valuable opportunities for change.

Ill work to create legislation that assists special interests, but has little effect on the general population. I wont fight big-money corporations or challenge unfair government practices( that may lead to somebody getting upset with me. Rather, Ill hang low and avoid newspapers and TV cameras at all costs.

Who wants to be responsible for a major overhaul of cultural and societal practices anyway? Who wants to lead a re-organization of government policy? Yikes! Not me! I just want to keep the paychecks a-comin. Just look what happened to the Kennedy clan( true public service will only get you killed.) Ill stick to mediocrity and keep my skull intact thank-you-very-much. I’m no moron.

2.25.2004


Welcome to The World of Porn

My friend Susan is a porn director. We’ve been friends for two years and in that time I never once asked her about her work. Naturally I was curious, but I figured she was tired of answering the same stupid questions over and over so I decided to keep my mouth shut and be a cool friend. While I kept my distance from her career, I secretly hoped a “porn emergency” would arise and she would ask me to help out on the set.

About a month ago, it happened. Porn emergency! I was desperately needed on the set. Susan asked me to assist with the lights on an upcoming shoot (sorry to disappoint you, I wasn’t actually going to be in the movie). The plan was to film two adult features in a single three-day shoot (sort of like the way Peter Jackson simultaneously shot all three Lord of The Rings movies), and she needed help. I was more than ready. I agreed to volunteer without pay, but before leaving she gave me an ominous warning about the days ahead.

“Every guy friend I have ever asked to help on a shoot quits after one day.”

I was surprised. “These guys were obvious pussies,” I thought to myself, “what red-blooded, tit-loving, heterosexual wouldn’t give his right leg to work on a porn shoot?” This was going to be awesome. I was going to be watching people have sex! It was going to be hot! How could it possibly be bad?

It didn’t take long for me to learn why all those other guys quit.

The cast and crew gathered at 10am in Susan’s two-bedroom apartment. The actors were strangers to each other and they cordially shook hands as if they were a group of people gathered to learn about 401k’s or Microsoft Excel. There was a tense vibe in the air, probably from the fact that in a short while these strangers would be intimately banging the hell out of each other.

One of the most underestimated things about a porn shoot is the amount of time it takes. The first scene we did, for example, involved a girl performing oral sex on a guy. This went on for a one full hour. I have one word to describe this ….Boring! My initial excitement began to fade after 15 seconds. Can you imagine watching somebody get blown for an hour? It’s not stimulating in the least. And this went on all day… people having robotic, fake sex for 2 hours while the crew fought to stay awake.

Another horrifying thing about a porn shoot is the crying. I wasn’t ready for the crying. One guy cried after he got fired because he couldn’t stay erect. And the girls were crying all the time because they hated themselves. Sure they get $1000 bucks each time they have anal sex, but you can’t buy self-esteem.

At the end of the day I quit. I went home and took a long cleansing shower like the victim in a Lifetime movie after she is sexually violated. My porn collection is on the curb waiting for the truck to haul it to the dump.

Follow up fan letter from a guy named Jim


Hi Mr.Balutanski my name is Jim, I read your article on " UR CHICAGO " March 11 -->April 7 issue on page #7.I was really suprised to learn that so many guys quit after the 1st day of helping shooting an adult movie.It cant be that bad,I mean it's not like your performing any work thats involves a lot of hard work and sweat for an 8-hour shift.And if I was given an oppurtunity to work or assist in a movie I would be excited to do it.And if it was possible I would like to work for a movie and even volunteer the first day of work without pay(as long as its not too much work).And I bet I would last longer on the job than most people have.So if your friend Susan the porn director is still looking for help,or has any positions open and available PLEASE e-mail me back at: mr_good_guy25@hotmail.com THANKS!

My response to Jim

Jim - thanks for responding to my column...

a couple of problems here....

Susan doesn't work with strangers. So that hurts you right off the bat. Plus I'm not in Chicago but New York City... and even if Susan knew you, she never pays for the extra help at the porn shoots. It's a big financial mistake also... if you are actually interested in paying your own way to New York and paying for a hotel room so you can work for free for three days - go right ahead. It sounds like a bad idea to me.

Susan would also want to meet you etc.. to make sure you were cool. My suggestion is that you find some local people making porn and volunteer with them. Maybe you could even take out an ad on Craigslist's or something.

On another note, did you not "get" the message in my column... I thought the idea that porn is kinda dirty and sad and pathetic was made pretty clear... and while a guy may think it's cool working in porn at the end of the day he'd probably be ready to shoot himself.

-Bang

Reply from the guy named Jim

Hi Bang, thanks for responding back.After finding out that you dont get paid for the kind of stuff you did I definitely wouldn't do it knowing that now.Though I am looking through "craigslist" for oppurtunities that can lead to a paying position.THANKS J I M

1.27.2004

Earth School

Earth is a school for the soul. I believe that each soul chooses to adopt the temporary physical manifestation of a “body” solely for the purpose of development and growth through the illusion of pain, resistance and suffering. There is no recess in “Earth School” my friend. We are constantly “in class,” learning the important lessons that life hands us moment through moment. By acknowledging this sacred consciousness we make a solemn obligation to see each hurdle, obstacle or setback as a precious gift – a wondrous chance to take a closer step toward being a more exceptional human being.

To succeed in “Earth School” one must look deep inside and ask the tough questions. Through my years of practice I’ve realized that it’s not for everyone. Most people close the door on introspection and they run from the faintest hint of conflict. I feel for these “lost souls,” for they are missing a chance at climbing the ladder toward the light.

But let’s take this out of the hypothetical and bring it a little closer to the real world with some examples from my life. Two weeks ago I lost my job. But instead of complaining to co-workers and friends about how “unfair” the boss is, or how “ridiculous” the system is, I decided to step back and take an inventory. I missed 12 days of work while on a vodka/cocaine binge with my brother-in-law Carl. Around day 4 we decided to drive his Chevy Impala 600 miles to New Orleans to see the Allman Brothers. Coming back wasn’t an option because around Day 7 we traded the car for whiskey, mescaline and menthol cigarettes. According to some documentation I found in my wallet, I also spent 2 nights confined to the New Orleans City jail for organizing a cock fighting tournament. Apparently I was fired around this time for not informing my “superiors” at SoftwareWerks of my absence. But instead of getting angry and wasting a lot of energy I decided to work with the situation. Where was the “grow” here? Where was the lesson? By taking a deeper look at myself I realized that I was never happy at that job. I was miserable sitting there day after day creating software which helped children with disabilities learn to read. My boss Steve gave me a gift when he left that voicemail on my mobile phone telling me never to come back and that my personal belongings would be stacked in the parking garage. Thank you Steve. Many less-evolved souls would see the loss of a job as a major problem, but I refuse to see it. In fact there are no problems in my world – only life lessons. Are you starting to get it? I knew you would.

The funny thing about “Earth School” is that after you handle one challenge, a bigger one will always come down the pipe. With so much free time on my hands I decided to make some new acquaintances on the Internet. Tina and Cynthia were two attractive teens I met on a super cool web site that helps people like me meet fun, new friends. I had them over one night for a hot tub with some wine coolers and cocaine when my wife came home early from her operation at the hospital. I hate to be negative, but it was not a pretty picture. She was angry, upset and threatening divorce all while seated in her new wheelchair. I was upset too. She called me some pretty bad names, but I took the hurt and I turned it around. Instead of yelling back and playing the “blame game” I decided to take a breath and look deep inside. I wasn’t going to get all caught up in her drama – I had to let go and find the “grow.” With some soul searching I saw a man who was trapped by the constraints of a suffocating relationship. I saw a person with incredible potential to love. I saw a person who had a lot to offer to the teenage girls of the world. I thank my wife for the wonderful gift she gave me on that day. Instead of being sad and bitter about this situation I decided to learn from it and move forward. Beautiful lessons like these surround us each day. Can you see the gifts in your life? I, personally, can’t help but feel blessed.

11.05.2003

Dear Office of Admissions:

I am writing today in hopes of persuading you to allow my nephew Craig entrance into your fine educational institution. Admittedly, Craig has had his troubles in high school, his grades were poor and he didn’t participate in many extracurricular activities, but I really believe he will blossom at a large and diverse university such as yours if only given the proper chance, and after you read about what a special person Craig is, I believe you will indeed want to give him that chance.

On paper, Craig doesn’t seem like the best candidate for college. Craig was never the “popular” kid in school. He wasn’t the star athlete, the class clown or the academic whiz. Craig was just a regular kid who tried his best to “fit in” with the regular crowd. I think we can all remember how difficult and awkward it was to be a teenager, so I hope you’ll be gentle when reviewing Craig’s application.

One part of the admission application I feel needs special attention is the section concerning the background check. Although you may have already heard about certain incidents through the media, I would like to expand on these reports as a sort of countermeasure to some of the more one-sided “news” you may have heard concerning my nephew.

Yes, in 2001, his sophomore year, Craig tried to shoot some of his classmates with a high-powered assault rifle. You may have heard through certain media outlets the story of Craig and the kids he attempted to “kill” in the cafeteria. Combined with the struggles he had in Algebra, I know this must look pretty bad, but I ask for your patience and understanding. I want you to please remember that Craig only intended to scare a small group of kids who were bullying him. Personally, I think it was fairly innocent. What teenager didn’t pull a knife or Chinese Throwing Star in a misguided attempt to scare off some local playground thugs? I hope you won’t hold this against him as a prospective freshman for the class of 2005. He is actually a really sweet and generous kid.

While the newspapers managed to only report the negatives, I’d like to highlight some of the positives. While it is true that Craig fired over 700 rounds of ammunition and tossed several illegal Russian hand grenades, he never actually killed anyone. I think this shows a tremendous amount of self-control and skill – rare for any 17-year-old boy. Also I would like to note that Craig never once pointed his rifle at any teachers or school workers. This is a fine example of Craig’s respect for the adults in his life – again rare for a young man growing up in a culture that commonly dismisses the feelings and opinions of those over 40. And finally, as the police SWAT team closed in on Craig, he surrendered quickly and calmly – again highlighting an advanced sense of civic duty and a mature and profound respect for authority.

Ultimately Craig would love a chance to start things over. I’m hoping you will open your hearts and be generous enough to provide that opportunity. Thank you for your time.

7.16.2003

White People In The News

The following are two segments from the Rueters and Associated Press coverage of a porch collapse in Chicago that killed 13 people:

“The accident occurred behind an apartment building in the upscale North Side neighborhood.”

“The collapse occurred about 12:30 a.m. Sunday during a party at the apartment building in an affluent neighborhood popular with recent college graduates”

Now re-read the above but substitute “all-white” for the words “upscale” and “affluent.”

Both reports could have easily been written with those words omitted. They don’t serve to further clarify the facts of this terrible accident nor do they add any vital or necessary information. ABC news online, for example, simply reported, “the accident occurred on Chicago’s North Side.” But there is a good reason “upscale” and “affluent” are used here. The respective reporters (oh so delicately) need to inform their national readership of the true magnitude of this disaster. You see, this tragedy is even more tragic because the accident occurred in a nice white neighborhood. This wasn’t a horrible event in just any neighborhood, this horrible event occurred in an upscale and affluent neighborhood! The mere presence of these words is an indictment in itself.

When the dead and injured are white college graduates (not filthy migrant workers or worthless black teens) the story takes on immediate gravity. The plot naturally becomes more compelling, the deaths more horrible, and the loss more heartbreaking. White America childishly holds onto the belief that money and class can keep death from wrecking the big party – so when something bad happens in Pleasantville it makes for delicious drama. Covering the tragic deaths of niggers and spics has obviously grown tedious for the media. It’s completely understandable why these weary reporters jump when a fresh tragedy occurs in the white man’s world. Similar stories from low-income, minority neighborhoods happen too frequently to be deemed “news.” What’s so “new” about some crack head being raped or a kid taking a stray bullet? Boring. I don’t blame the reporters individually – they have to find the most popular stories to impress their bosses – besides would their editors really give a damn if a bunch of lazy malt liquor drinking niggers die in a backyard accident in some Detroit slum?

A white girl being kidnapped from an affluent suburb of Salt Lake City is a lead story… a little white beauty queen strangled in her Colorado Mansion spawns a global media circus…a murder in a “sleepy” town gets a 20/20 investigation… but a black child kidnapped from a tenement? Or a black toddler abused, tortured and killed in a foster home? Ho Hum. Yawn. It just doesn’t scare white America enough to pump up the heart rate or the ratings.
From The Trenches of The TriBeCa Film Festival

“As of this moment Mr. DeNiro is confirmed to arrive in the Main Tent sometime tonight between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m. (Cheers and Applause). I have been told that Mr. DeNiro will enter through the south gate sometime during this 6-hour window. I must stress that this is merely a “soft” confirmation. Please understand that Mr. DeNiro’s arrival can only be considered tentative at best. Because of the unpredictable nature of both his business affairs and artistic endeavors, Mr. DeNiro’s schedule does not afford him the common luxury of making “concrete” plans. Men who have risen to Mr. DeNiro’s level simply cannot make promises – it is next to impossible. Prepare yourselves now and you will not be disappointed when Mr. DeNiro does not show up to this meaningless party.

Moving forward. I know there is a great deal of “buzz” and “hype” surrounding this event but it is my sincere hope that everyone will remain composed while in the presence of Mr. DeNiro. I implore you to take a few minutes to brush up on the behavioral guidelines defined for you in the Celebrity Interaction Handbook. If you do not have the latest copy in your possession, please leave the premises. No sharing.

To those who have arrived late, my name is Cooper and I am a 2nd tier assistant, assisting Gwen, Mr. DeNiro’s personal assistant’s assistant. It is my primary duty to ensure that the critical boundary between celebrity and regular person is maintained. I must ensure Mr. DeNiro’s comfort during the entire event. Tedious as it may seem my supervisor has asked me to verbally review the guidelines once again.

1. Do not, under any circumstance or condition, speak to Mr. DeNiro.
2. Do not look at Mr. DeNiro. If, by some miracle of God, Mr. DeNiro happens to casually glance in your direction immediately divert your eyes to the floor. Do not attempt to communicate a “How’s it going?” or a “Gee, nice party huh?” with some of your pathetically grotesque eye-gesturing.
3. Do not curse in Mr. DeNiro’s presence. Although many of the characters Mr. DeNiro has portrayed in film have frequently used profanity, Mr. DeNiro finds the practice crass and disgusting.
4. Do not use your mobile phone within 30 yards of Mr. DeNiro. Use it and it will be smashed.
5. Do not attempt to photograph Mr. DeNiro, Do not take any pictures of any person until 3 hours after Mr. DeNiro’s safe departure from the premises.
6. Do not touch Mr. DeNiro. Do not shake his hand. He does NOT want to touch your filthy working-class hand.
7. Do NOT under any circumstance say the line, “You talkin’ to me?”
8. Do not ask Mr. DeNiro about gaining weight for The Untouchables and Raging Bull or losing weight for Cape Fear.
9. Do not offer Mr. DeNiro food or drink. If Mr. DeNiro desires something he will speak directly through his assistant, at which point one of Mr. DeNiro’s food testers - Lucas, Santiago or Vince- will retrieve the desired item.
10. Do not make any sudden movements.
11. Do not call him “Bobby”

Thank you and enjoy yourselves.”

7.11.2003

You vs. Iron Mike

Mike Tyson cried before his first big fight. He was scared. According to his handlers he was afraid of failing and terrified of being hurt. He sat in the locker room with his head under a towel and sobbed while his manager calmly watched with fatherly patience. After wiping the tears from his cheeks he stepped into the ring and sent his opponent to the mat with a ferocious upper cut. Knock Out. The fight lasted less than 30 seconds.

Tyson’s legend began to grow and his fears quickly faded with each opposing eye socket he shattered. He wasn’t shedding any more tears. His punches were lightning quick blurs of iron that hypnotized the boxing community with jaw-dropping awe. He became the most exciting boxer since Ali. I saw him at the LaGuardia airport baggage claim – a wide, powerful, rock-like specimen of a man with arms and shoulders as solid as marble. A crowd gathered around him, sucked in by his energy. He was The Champ and he was both loved and feared.

There was, however, one problem with his dominance – his opponents routinely fell in the first round. This was great for spectacle but bad for sport. People paid big money to see his fights, but the hyped-up show rarely lasted even a few minutes. People began to complain. They wanted to see a fight, not a single punch. Tyson’s opponents were publicly ridiculed. These chumps were handed million dollar paychecks for mere seconds of “work.” Americans didn’t like this. We respect hard work and easy money mocks our most fundamental beliefs. The press wanted Tyson’s opponents to at least thrash about for a few rounds, instead of gingerly stepping into the ring like sacrificial lambs. Sitting in a pub during the Tyson years you’d frequently hear men proclaim, “Hell… for a million dollars I’d get in the ring with him!”

Now that Tyson’s career has devolved into a cheap circus act I would like to finally give the public their chance. My idea is simple: take the huge money that would normally go to Tyson’s third rate opponent and give it to any average American willing to be savagely punched in the face by the former Champ. I hope to turn my vision into a new Reality Special on Fox called “Knock Out.” It could provide new life to Tyson’s career while also allowing him to get out aggression in a controlled environment.

The main feature of my show is entitled “Fast Money.” The show opens with a sweaty, muscular Tyson growling in the middle of the ring. Outside the ring is a gutsy but terror-stricken line of average folks: plumbers, students, housewives, telemarketers, daycare workers, cab drivers, fry cooks. Though different, these people have one thing in common, they each want $50,000 dollars in Fast Money. To get the money the contestant must stand in the ring, helpless, while The Champ levels a fierce, brain shattering two-ton, punch to his or her face. America will tune in every week to see the carnage. While waiting in line the host will interview each participant giving my show the necessary human-interest angle. Marlene, wants the money for her dream wedding. Ted, needs a down payment for a home, Gary wants to save the family business. Shirley wants to spend a year in Europe. “Knock Out” utilizes slow motion replays, “where are they now?” updates of past contestants and special bonus prizes for those that remain conscious. Blood, pain, danger, risk, money, and love. This would make great television. And don’t forget the crying, there will be lots of crying.
Affirmation

Each and every morning I plan my day in an efficient and productive manner to maximize the hours. I rise with the sun – refreshed, reborn, renewed. I thank Mother Earth and Father Sky for the gift of life. Rolling quickly from bed to floor I launch into 1000 push-ups and 1000 sit-ups. I do not stop. I will not stop. My body grows stronger, faster, bigger, better. Toned and glistening, I take 100 deep breaths while reviewing my life goals. In for ten seconds out for ten, slowly in for ten…. I stand naked in front of my bedroom mirror admiring the beauty of my own body. I feel my heart beating inside my chest. It is precious. Each beat a gift. The body is my temple, my vessel, my home. My lean waistline is an indication of my attitude. I will not accept fat; I strive to live an exceptional life.

I shower in ice cold waters, scrubbing my body clean. My skin tingles with life, I am truly an alive being, I am here, I am now, I am forever. I stand on the veranda to dry. There is no rush; there is no hurry, only the present moment. The morning air is a kiss of a child. The seasonal winds are my only towels. Summer is my cousin. Spring is a gypsy. Fall is a puppy. Winter is a lover; my erect nipples respond to her crisp greeting. My neighbors welcome me with warm smiles. I have no shame, I am a man-child, I am Adam, I am Eve, I am a mountain, I am a pebble. I raise my face to sun. Hello sun.

I consume live food to maximize life force. I eat fruit pulled from the trees in the garden. I eat vegetables harvested from the rich earth. I am careful that my food is dead for a maximum of 30 seconds. I thank the earth for her bounty - each bite is a blessing, I praise each swallow. The fruit gives up its life so that I may live. Thank you fruit. After defecating, I thank my colon for its responsiveness, I thank my poo. My body is free of toxins. My spirit is without poison.

I dress in white cotton. My shoes are Hush Puppies - simple but practical, like a folding chair or a wooden spoon.

I meditate for 2 hours. I empty my mind and I am filled with the wisdom of eternal Nothingness. I repeat my 12 daily affirmations. I read from the ancient text of the elders, I paint, I sculpt, I write poetry, I sing three songs out loud.

Mentally I place myself in my workspace. I prepare myself to be an excellent worker. Work is prayer, meditation, and communion with God. I get on the number 36 bus and go to the place of work. I have exact change. I am thankful for the bus, I am thankful for change. I am thankful for Curtis, my bus driver.

At work I am attentive. I tear each ticket down the middle with precision; I thank each customer with a tender smile and a warm heart. I direct him or her to the proper theater with compassion. I collect candy boxes and popcorn from the floor with precision and vigor. I am alive. I am present. Thank you, enjoy the show.

Great Day For Football

“Great day for football. Great day to be alive,” says coach. It is 1982 and a group of eleven and twelve year old boys are running 30 yard wind sprints across an uneven, dusty patch of dry, brown grass in 105 degree heat. The air is dead. The wind is lifeless. The humidity mocks all living creatures. The heat has adopted a personality of it’s own. It insults them, taunts them. Coach adjusts his visor, takes a swig of water and spits. “We are just getting started ladies,” he says. The humidity squats down from the sky, smiles, and gives the boys the finger.

The ground is hot. The sky is hot. Every god-damn thing is hot. Small leaves ignite. Grass withers. Rocks silently weep. There are no bugs because the bugs are all dead. Children get burned from playground equipment broiled for hours in the sun. Trees and bushes slip into a coma like dormancy. Creek beds crack and crumble. Dogs refuse to move. Old people die. Cats implode. But the running continues, the practice continues. Some of the boys think they are going to die. One or two whisper dramatically to the boy next to them, “I think… I’m going… to die.”

Ill-fitting shoulder pads are their burden. Large blue helmets bob awkwardly on their sunburned pencil necks. Each helmet has a decal on the right side that reads “Buccaneers.” The “Bucs” are the St. Barnabas 5th and 6th grade football team. The squad lost all eight games last year – and was generally considered by all to be a total group of worthless losers. In this second week of summer practice, however, the new coach has decided these young men are going to be winners. In the spare seconds between sprints they fight for air as if drowning in sand. Most are doubled over with sharp pain in their abdomens. Their legs morph into aching rubber slabs coated in concrete. They run in dull-gray football pants, overstuffed with thigh, knee and butt pads. These pants reek of rotting sweat, dirt, blood and snot.

They are little boys struggling on a demon field. They are innocents. They still play “Kick the Can” after supper, they watch cartoons, climb trees, and ride dirt bikes. In a rational, loving world these boys would be at home eating Popsicles or leaping through the sprinkler on the front lawn. But they are far from the comforts of mother and home; they are on a god-forsaken chunk of miserable dirt running wind sprints – death sprints. Some feel that they are being tortured, but in the back of their minds they know they are not victims. They have volunteered themselves to be punished in the name of glory and honor and manhood. They have given up their bodies for pride and love and God and country. They are martyrs to the greatest team sport in the history of humankind. Football.

“This is how you become a champion,” says coach, “this is where it all begins.” He is the grade school football coach and he controls them and they are powerless. The boys hate him. They hate him because he is making them run. They hate him because he is fat, red-faced, and lazy. They hate him because he has a mustache and he smokes menthols on the sideline. He stands under a tree popping off shorts snaps of his whistle in a blue golf shirt and tight gray “coaches” shorts. The brand is “BIKE” and they are the same tight-ass, two-button polyester shorts that fat 42-year-old coaches have been wearing for centuries. They hate him because he is not running.

Around wind sprint number forty-two Dung begins crying. Dung is left offensive guard Chris Langford. He is a soft, chubby kid who picks his nose and doesn’t know how to comb his hair. Like most nicknames his handle evolved over a period of years; Langford – Lungford – Lungfish – Dungfish – Dung. Today Dung has been broken. Some boys have puked but they keep running. Everyone is spitting and grunting. Dung chooses to cry. The majority of the boys are too worn down to care. To them Dung is a pathetic baby in “Huggies” – a mama’s boy. He is running and crying. Running and sobbing. His arms and legs are dead meat. Some sympathetic boys challenge him to keep going. But most hope Dung’s breakdown will lead coach to stop practice out of pity. Dung stumbles to the chalk line used to mark the finish. He turns around and prepares for the next sprint. He moves as if he were being marched toward his own execution. He takes a sloppy three-point stance, waits for the coaches whistle and lunges forward in a whining froth of sweat, tears and fat. Bobby Lockhart starts to cry too. Dung collapses on the dirt. Another kid starts crying. Jesus help us.

“Come on girls” says coach. They analyze his tone for the slightest clue. Was that a “Come on girls,” as in “its over,” or a “Come on girls,” as in “we’ve got a long way to go?” They do one more sprint and stop - 60 sprints on the hottest day of the year. “The most ever,” coach tells them, “take a knee.” It’s over. The boys drink water, and more water; they drink brown water with grass floating in it. They drink water loaded with each others spit. They don’t care. Some realize for an instant, “this is how a team comes together.” Dung is smiling. He’s alive. They are all alive and faintly smiling. They are men. They are The Champions, and in the coming season they played hard. But they still lost every game.


Rules To Live By

Keep your hands, legs, feet, arms and head inside the compartment at all times. Do not enter - this area is restricted. This album may contain Explicit Lyrics. You must be this tall to ride this attraction. Do not under any circumstances open a window or door without expressed written consent from the management. In the event of a water landing please remain seated until you receive specific and direct instructions from a member of the crew. This is not suitable for children. Keep your tray table locked and in an upright position. Maximum capacity for this area is 15 people. Please no pets in the shower. No campfires. Warning: May contain nudity, adult situations and sexual content. Do not operate heavy machinery. No rollerblades in the waiting room. No explosives, firearms, knives, corrosive chemicals, combustible liquids or ignitable compounds inside the building. Please provide exact change. No outside food or drinks allowed. No children under the age of 12 permitted. If pain persists contact your doctor. Fines will be doubled. The staff highly encourages the elderly, men with heart conditions, pregnant women, and those suffering from seizures to avoid any participation in this event. May cause drowsiness. No skateboarding. Wear goggles. No pennies please. Will not accept bills larger than $20. Players are encouraged to bring their own towel. 6 items maximum. No more than 15 items. No more than 12 items. No black soled shoes on the gym floor. Could lead to blindness. This area may contain radioactive material. If swallowed or ingested immediately call 911 Emergency Service, local Poison Control Center, your general practitioner. No one permitted inside without a legal guardian. Please sign below this line. Please initial. Please stay behind the white line. Do not cross the yellow line. Do not block drive; do not stop for any reason whatsoever. No vehicles over 20,000 pounds. For emergency use only. Mind the gap. Use stairs in case of fire. Adults without a child are not permitted in the playground area. Ring this bell for help. Do not pull. Do not enter. Push here and turn. In case of flood, call this number. Pull here. May lead to dizziness and nausea. Keep off the grass. Keep out. Keep back. Keep in a cool dry place. Keep away from children. Keep moving until otherwise directed. Keep all personal possessions inside your personal locker. Report abnormal activity to the proper authorities. Tear here. Open here. Look. Stay back. Stay Away. May cause permanent eye damage. Apply liberally and massage gently. Management, crew and staff are not responsible for items missing from your car. Take as directed. Take no more than 16 pills daily. If the oxygen masks do drop, place the mask on yourself before assisting children. You must be 18. You must have a valid driver’s license and 2 forms of ID. No running, no fireworks, no spitting, no gum chewing, please bring 2 number 2 pencils. Do not mix with water. Initial below if you have read the above and understand it to the best of your knowledge.
Dale

Dale examined my prostate yesterday. He’s a PA (physicians assistant) over at the Drexel University Health System in Philadelphia and a buddy from college. We met in the dorms freshman year where he taught me about bongs, the French Horn and why the Smiths were as good as Led Zeppelin. He played in the marching band and was proud of it. Sometimes, in his dorm room, after a few Cuervo shots, he would play The Smiths on the French Horn. We sure had good times back then.

I bumped into Dale at Tucks wedding in Corpus Christi and we made the typical drunken, empty promises to get together and hang out.

Seriously, I said, lets hang out soon.

I’ve noticed how drunk people say seriously or I’m serious. As in: Seriously dude, you’re one of my best friends, or we should start a band - I’m serious, and I’m seriously in love with you Karen, I mean Kathy.

Two years later Dale e-mailed me saying he was coming to town for a seminar. I told him he must stay with me for the weekend. I sounded like a Martha Stewart clone, we summer in the Vineyard, you must do a weekend.

Dale flew in Friday afternoon on Jet Blue. I hid a key for him under a lawn gnome in my front yard because Friday was my day to clean out the tanks at the bait shop. I have several lawn gnomes and was worried that Dale might have some trouble finding the right key. The front door key was under the gnome operating a jackhammer. I hid my extra key to the backdoor under the gnome dressed as a chef. The key to the basement was under a gnome tossing a javelin. I guess hed figure it out.

I dont like to drink early in the evening. I feel bad about myself if Im buzzing and the sun is shining. Im a traditionalist. You might even say Im from the old school. While the sun is above the horizon a man should be active earning a wage or repairing his home. Leisure has its place only after the sky darkens. On a typical night I head out to the pubs around midnight, pound six or seven Buds, and sack out around three. But with Dale in town I felt the pressure to entertain. Dale suggested beef, so we hopped in my Escort GT and cruised over to the Old Stampede for some steaks. Typically Id stay home and eat a box of cous cous, but what kind of host would offer that? Since Im a vegan I ended up double fisting beer and bourbon while he ate his Kansas City strip. Later we went to a few of the quality titty bars and watched some televised professional lacrosse on ESPN2.

Our last stop was Micks Pub. Dale was buying White Russians four at a time. We reminisced about college and started sharing stories about our families. Sadly, I learned that Dales mother died two years ago from a stroke and his father died only months later of prostate cancer. Raw deal. As a medical professional Dale couldnt say enough about the dangers of prostate cancer. Early detection and frequent checkups were the keys to beating this horrible affliction, but, men wont see a doctor unless theyre on their freakin deathbed, he said shaking his fist in the air.

Dale asked me if I had ever had my prostate examined. No I said, trying to imagine what a prostate even looked like. He was shocked. How could I neglect my health and well-being for so long? A real shame, he said. Chewing the creamy ice from a sixth White Russian, he insisted my prostate be checked. I promised to set an appointment with Doc Patterson first thing next week. He insisted that I be checked immediately. On our way home he asked me to stop at the 24 hour Walgreens. Lean on me was playing over the speakers as I wandered the bright aisles. Lean on me, when you’re not strong and Ill help you, help you to carry on. I bought a Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie, a pint of Southern Comfort and a Red Bull. Dale bought a tube of KY Jelly.

I was drunk in my own living room trying to find some music on the radio when Dale exited the bathroom and asked me if I was ready for my exam.
Cant this wait until tomorrow, I asked.
Jesus H. Christ. Tomorrow may be too late! Dale said, again shaking his fist in the air to punctuate his statement, but this time his fist held the tube of KY Jelly.

With Dales careful instruction, I slowly dropped my pants and underwear to the floor and lay on my side on the coffee table. Dale was behind me sliding his right hand into a rubber glove. He had covered the coffee table with my Pac Man beach towel. I was looking out the living room windows into the front yard, scanning for something to concentrate on as Dale expertly spread some cold jelly onto my anus.

Take a deep breath and hold it, Dale said.

As his fingers entered me, it was like a small electric shock. My sight fell to a lawn gnome shining in the moonlight the little guy was wearing a pointy red hat, holding a jackhammer and winking at me.
Star F**ckers

I see Tony Danza on 8th Avenue. It’s 5 a.m. on a Tuesday, and the sun is just starting to light the edges of the Park. I’m walking North toward home and bed, as he stumbles past going south, his eyes on the ground. I turn and instinctively begin to follow him. Drawn to him. I trail him for a block or two, my eyes on his beautifully trimmed hair. I watch as he crosses the street and enters LaFamiglia for a slice. I stay on my side of the dirty avenue, put my foot up on a leaky hydrant and light a square.

He eats the slice slowly, staring into space and chewing methodically. He’s clearly drunk. Halfway through the slice he adds more Parmesan. In the red neon of the “Open” sign I can see that he still keeps in great shape. He’s lean and tan; but it’s not a touristy tan. This is a slow luxurious tan; a bronzing one only receives through weeks of leisure at an exclusive tropical resort tucked away on a private island owned by the eccentric heiress to an oil and hotel fortune.

Tony Danza finishes his slice, wipes his mouth and walks out onto the quiet street. In two hours these sidewalks will be teeming with life. But now there was only Tony Danza and me. He left his greasy paper plate and the crumpled napkin on the counter. He could have thrown them in the trash 4 feet to his left, but he chose not to. He left it for the Mexicans to clean up. In this city the Mexican do everything. They cook the city’s food; Mexican as well as Chinese, Thai, Italian, and Greek. They also clean everything and deliver everything. Good people, but short. I’ve seen entire Mexican families all under 5 feet tall huddled together on the bus. It’s beautiful.

Tony Danza didn’t notice the Mexicans. They didn’t recognize him either. I guess you don’t catch a lot of Situation Comedy when you’re working 16-hour days in a meat packing plant in Brownsville, Texas.

A janitor for one of the big old pre-war buildings sprays the sidewalk with a high-powered nozzle. The mist cools the air and fills me with the promise of a new day. Tony Danza crosses the street diagonally back to my side. If I’m going to take him, now is the time. In a fair fight, he’d hurt me (he was former Golden Gloves) but with the element of surprise and his inebriation, I could stun him, and nail him with three or four clean blows.

This man made love to my former girlfriend. Five years ago she went to L.A. to audition for part on “Felicity.” While drinking late night with friends at some swank club, Danza chatted her up, got her drunk and charmed his way into her hotel room. She told me about it a year later. Her excuse: his celebrity and the novelty.

I was in love with her and devastated. Infidelity is difficult, but worse when the seducer is in the public eye. Because his face is so familiar, it wasn’t hard to create painfully vivid images of my lovely girlfriend and Tony Danza in all manner of heated scenarios. Now, the entertainer who starred in so many of my personal nightmares is weaving down the sidewalk 10 feet away.

He’s on his cell phone -perfect- I’ll come from behind; pop him in the side of the head with a bottle and run like hell. It would probably make all the newspapers: “Tony Danza Hit In Face.” I’d cut the article out and send it anonymously to my ex and her new husband. He’d surely question it and she’d reveal to him her liaison of years before. Then he, like me, would never, ever, ever, be able to watch “Who’s the Boss?” again.
Best Buddies

Red was his name. His real name was probably Edward or Charles or John, but everyone called him Red. I never called him Red. I was 18 and he was my girlfriend’s father so I called him Mr. Conner. We had a typical Father/Boyfriend relationship - 75% polite friendliness, 25% constant under current of mild hostility. I was a freshman in college and Megan was a senior in high school living at home. I’m sure most of that mild hostility came from the fact that I was having sex with his baby daughter.

His wife told me he got the name “Red” as a teenager because he had red hair. Red had a very imaginative group of friends. I generally feel sorry for Redheads; they’re always getting called “Red.” I wonder if there is a guy out there whose buddies call him “Brown” because he has brown hair. “What’s up Brown! Where ya been old Brownie?” Probably not.

When I met Red his hair wasn’t really red anymore, it had advanced into a brittle mass of yellowish gray. It sat on top of his head like an abandoned bird’s nest. It was also the same exact color of Tramp’s coat, the family’s ancient and sweetly tempered Golden Retriever. It was heartwarming to see the two of them asleep, Red in a recliner with a belly full of fine Scotch, Tramp on the floor with a belly full of Alpo.

The queer thing about dating in high school is how often you deal with The Family, especially The Father. Today, I would never meet a girl’s parents unless we we’re ultra serious – but in high school you meet the whole goddamn family on the first date. It’s horrible.

I always wanted to impress Red. I always wanted him to like me. Sitting down to dinner with the Conner family I always wanted to say the right thing at the right time. I wanted to be funny and charming and respectful. I failed often. I constantly felt that I would never get his approval.

Megan’s older brother decided one day to get married, and I, practically being a member of the family, was invited to the out-of–town wedding. The night before the ceremony I hit the bars with the groomsmen and proceeded to get really drunk. They were all about ten to fifteen years older than me - and I thought I could keep up with them. I drank like a Viking at the Mead Hall. Hungover, in a cozy, air-conditioned, pitch-black hotel room, I slept through the entire wedding. I finally slithered in as they were cutting the cake. No one in the Conner family would speak to me. Shamed, I thought of just buying a bus ticket and taking the 12-hour trip home. I sucked it up and stayed.

The next day our flight was delayed. Red went to the airport bar alone. He just spent $30,000 on a wedding (that I missed) so he was going to get drunk. Two hours later he asked me to join him. He lectured me and called me a “little shit.” He was angry that I embarrassed his daughter and his family. His face was turning more and more red as he ordered a fresh Scotch. Between words he took a mighty swig and froze. He breathed in sharply and dug his fingers into the bar. His face was panicked. “Stroke,” he said, “I think I’m having a stroke.” He bent down to take another drink to calm himself but as his lips hit the glass he winced again even more dramatically. “Stroke!” He wheeled himself around and gripped my shoulder. Looking into his face I saw the tip of something red coming out of his nose. It was the cocktail straw. While drinking from his tumbler he managed in one motion to jam it far into his own nose. The pain in his brain was only the straw, not a blood clot. His eyes were tearing up as I slowly pulled it out. The airport bar drunks applauded and cheered with mock adulation. “Not a word,” he said, “Not a word to anyone.”

“No problem Red,” I said, and we became the best of pals (Until I broke up with his daughter and moved to a new city.)

7.06.2003

One To Grow On

Earth is a school for the soul. I believe that each soul chooses to adopt the temporary physical manifestation of a “body” solely for the purpose of development and growth through the illusion of pain, resistance and suffering. There is no recess in “Earth School” my friend. We are constantly “in class,” learning the important lessons that life hands us moment through moment. By acknowledging this sacred consciousness we make a solemn obligation to see each hurdle, obstacle or setback as a precious gift – a wondrous chance to take a closer step toward being a more exceptional human being.

To succeed in “Earth School” one must look deep inside and ask the tough questions. Through my years of practice I’ve realized that it’s not for everyone. Most people close the door on introspection and they run from the faintest hint of conflict. I feel for these “lost souls,” for they are missing a chance at climbing the ladder toward the light.

But let’s take this out of the hypothetical and bring it a little closer to the real world with some examples from my life. Two weeks ago I lost my job. But instead of complaining to co-workers and friends about how “unfair” the boss is, or how “ridiculous” the system is, I decided to step back and take an inventory. I missed 12 days of work while on a vodka/cocaine binge with my brother-in-law Carl. Around day 4 we decided to drive his Chevy Impala 600 miles to New Orleans to see the Allman Brothers. Coming back wasn’t an option because around Day 7 we traded the car for whiskey, mescaline and menthol cigarettes. According to some documentation I found in my wallet, I also spent 2 nights confined to the New Orleans City jail for organizing a cock fighting tournament. Apparently I was fired around this time for not informing my “superiors” at SoftwareWerks of my absence. But instead of getting angry and wasting a lot of energy I decided to work with the situation. Where was the “grow” here? Where was the lesson? By taking a deeper look at myself I realized that I was never happy at that job. I was miserable sitting there day after day creating software which helped children with disabilities learn to read. My boss Steve gave me a gift when he left that voicemail on my mobile phone telling me never to come back and that my personal belongings would be stacked in the parking garage. Thank you Steve. Many less-evolved souls would see the loss of a job as a major problem, but I refuse to see it. In fact there are no problems in my world – only life lessons. Are you starting to get it? I knew you would.

The funny thing about “Earth School” is that after you handle one challenge, a bigger one will always come down the pipe. With so much free time on my hands I decided to make some new acquaintances on the Internet. Tina and Cynthia were two attractive teens I met on a super cool web site that helps people like me meet fun, new friends. I had them over one night for a hot tub with some wine coolers and cocaine when my wife came home early from her operation at the hospital. I hate to be negative, but it was not a pretty picture. She was angry, upset and threatening divorce all while seated in her new wheelchair. I was upset too. She called me some pretty bad names, but I took the hurt and I turned it around. Instead of yelling back and playing the “blame game” I decided to take a breath and look deep inside. I wasn’t going to get all caught up in her drama – I had to let go and find the “grow.” With some soul searching I saw a man who was trapped by the constraints of a suffocating relationship. I saw a person with incredible potential to love. I saw a person who had a lot to offer to the teenage girls of the world. I thank my wife for the wonderful gift she gave me on that day. Instead of being sad and bitter about this situation I decided to learn from it and move forward. Beautiful lessons like these surround us each day. Can you see the gifts in your life? I, personally, can’t help but feel blessed.

6.30.2003

Remember: The Stripper Does Not Like You

I always thought I was above such cliché behavior. I ridiculed the slobs who acted like this. Ridiculous. Embarrassing. I would never say or do anything like this... I’m ironic, witty and smart. I’m an artist. I’m self-aware. But come last Friday, I was not only saying these words, I was truly believing them.

“This stripper really likes me.”

Ouch.

The drunken argument with my friends followed close behind.

“No. I swear she really does. I mean it. We’ve got this amazing connection. I know it sounds crazy, but she really really likes me. She’s been looking at me all night.”

It had been 7 years since I had been in a strip club. Admittedly my strip club gland was a little rusty. I had forgotten the Golden Rule of strip clubs: The Strippers do not like you. They do not care about you. They only want your money.

Strip clubs are very bad places. It’s generally smart to stay clear of any combination of alcohol, thongs and ATM machines.

Jessica was my stripper du jour. She had this exotic-mysterious-Eastern-European- James-Bond-girl thing going on. My wallet had no chance. I tipped her, tipped her and tipped her some more. Stuffing dollar bills into silk panties is unfortunately the only way to let a stripper know you like her. Flowers, chocolates or tickets to Broadway musicals are cumbersome and often go unappreciated.

While receiving my money, Jessica would touch my arm and shoulder and run her hands through my hair. She gazed into my eyes as she unhooked her bra. She smiled in my direction as she playfully slid a finger into her pouty mouth. I was hypnotized.

Between her “performances” she would come down from the stage and sit next to me. I was shy but she made me feel comfortable. We talked about our hopes and dreams and plans. She had moved to the city from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Down on money and luck she turned to the stripping game. She was now making $2,000 a week. I asked her where I could sign up. We talked more about family and religion and success and love. I fell for her. She was a nice girl…a nice girl who just happened to rub her ass in stranger’s faces for cold cash. I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to let her job get in the way of our relationship. I was bigger than that. Strippers need boyfriends too. Right?

I decided to ask for her number. I never pictured myself dating a stripper. Honestly I didn’t really fit the mold - I was not a drug dealer, I didn’t own a pager and I didn’t drive a tricked-out Camaro. At the time I was actually wearing a Brooks Brothers oxford and a pair of sensible pants from Banana Republic.

Jessica was not able to give me her number in the club because of club rules. I was to meet her outside when the doors closed at 4am. She kissed me on the cheek before taking the stage for the last dance. She went back stage and I headed for the doors.

I huddled on the cold sidewalk questioning my pathetic existence with each passing minute, but I resolved to make it work. I had waited for about twenty minutes when I realized that there were about six other guys waiting in different locations around the door trying to keep warm with cigarettes. A bouncer came out to lower the security gate and I witnessed the following conversation:

Bouncer: “The girls have left through a private exit in the back Gentleman”
Drunk 25 year old: “What?”
“The ladies have exited the building.”
“But…”
”But what?”
“But that stripper really liked me”
“Yes. I’m sure she did.”