Friday, September 25, 2009

Don’t Cut Down the Nyets Just Yet.

I just read that Mikhail Prokhov, the Russian billionaire has just reached an agreement with Brett Ratner and the ownership of the New Jersey Nets basketball team to help fund their Brooklyn arena and take over controlling ownership ship of the team. As one of six Nets fans who live in New York City, I am excited about the team getting an owner who is a passionate sports fan and has the money to spend to make the team better. That said, the first thing that came to mind after hearing this is what Russian comic Yakov Smirnoff would think of this news.

Yakov Smirnoff ,whose popularity is as connected to the 80s as Steve Guttenberg, Mr. Belvedere and that #5 robot from “Short Circuit”, owed his career to Mikhail Gorbachev’s mid 80s Glasnost era of openness and Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire” rhetoric which helped eventually bring down the Berlin Wall. It also ended the need for Smirnoff’s social commentary on Soviet society in the form of 1950's style “Borscht Belt” jokes. Smirnoff’s popularity may seem ridiculous and his material may appear to be outdated now, but back in the 80s , we couldn’t get enough of him and some other WTF performers of the day, like Howie Mandell(back when he had the jew-fro and the hospital glove on his head), Boy George(back when he looked like a woman and not Darth Vader after the unmasking in Jedi) and Jim J. Bullock( back when obviously gay actors had to play asexual neighbors on sit-coms that would rather hang out with a father who draws cartoons while wearing a hand puppet than his two beautiful twin daughters who wear nothing but short shorts.)

So, in honor of Yakov Smirnoff, ThinkFink hails the end of the ineffective Ratner regime and welcomes the new era of Glasnost in Brooklyn. I’m sure in 3 years, Smirnoff might be persuaded to dust his old act out of moth balls and do a tour of NBA arenas around the country. I can see him at the Staples Center performing before a Nets-Lakers game and it might go something like this:

“Thank you Los Angeles, you’re a wonderful crowd. Let me be the first person to say, Let's Go Nyets. What a country we live in! In America, you watch basketball players on TV. In Brooklyn, the basketball players watch you on TV. What a country you have in America! Back in Brooklyn, it takes four hours to wait on line for the bathroom at a Nyet game. In America, you eat hot dogs. In Brooklyn, dogs eat you. I was so thrilled to meet the starting point guard for the Brooklyn Nyets: Devon Denisovitch. I think this season the Nyets have the teamwork to make the collective unit complete its government assigned task.”

I had planned on ending this essay with the previous line and then I figured I would google Yakov Smirnoff just to see what he was doing with his life now. I’d like to picture him living with Paul Hogan and Mr. T in a large house in Miami where they argue over whose turn it is to do the dishes. Paul Hogan would hold up a piece of cutlery and go” You call that a clean knife.” Mr. T would grunt and go “Hmmm. That’s not a knife. That’s my salmon slicer. I use it to slice my smoked salmon. You know I love my nova and cream cheese on a bagel every morning. I pity the fool who can’t appreciate a good nosh. Mmmm.” Then Yakov would smile and say “ In Russia, salmon does not swim up stream. You swim up stream to cross the Bering Strait. How do you think I came to America.” And then they would all laugh and Paul Hogan would point out that they have a washing machine as they continue to laugh. I assumed that they would occasionally hop in their van or maybe a boat and solve mysteries or maybe go back in time and “put right what once went wrong”.

As crazy as my “Dream-On” like sit-com saturated thoughts may have been, Yakov Smirnoff has actually been in Branson,MO since 1992. He opened up a theatre and has been performing to a packed house ever since. Yakov Smirnoff went from Red Square to being a red-neck and I think that’s unbelievably perfect. He wouldn’t even have had to to change his material that much. “I love the country out here in Branson. If a giant rat scurries across your property you can shoot it. In New York City, giant rat shoot you.”

I hope the Nets get the funding for their stadium in Brooklyn and the deal with Mikhail Prokhov is finalized or else I might actually get to see Yakov Smirnoff perform before their game when they start the 2011 season as the Branson Nats.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Night is Shifty or Happy Trees Done Dirt Cheap

I went to a birthday party for my friend’s two year old twins last Sunday. It made me momentarily re-evaluate the course my life has taken thus far(I do this a few times a day) when my friend who is my age has a birthday party for his kids and when I got the e-vite the first thought that came into my head was how it’s going to be hard to wake up before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

In defense of my apparent laziness and seemingly twenty-five year old guy lifestyle(I’m in my 30’s), even though I do still go out drinking on the weekends , it is my night job that has altered my body clock. It’s gotten to the point that even on nights where I don’t work or when I get home before 12 a.m., I have become programmed to race the moon to sleep when I get home as I am wired and no one in my social universe is up to hang out or talk to after work. It’s a bizarro-world way to live your life that usually only emergency room nurses, people who work from home, astronauts and adult, out-of-work,daytime stoners usually experience.

Sometimes I’ll go on facebook at like 3 a.m. and I’ll actually see that I currently have no friends that are online and available to chat(including West Coast friends) and I’ll hear a whirling breeze against my window and look over my shoulder for a tumble weed to go tumbling by me in my fifth floor walk-up bedroom. So, instead of getting home and going to sleep by two in the morning, I end up doing non-productive things like reading about the Mets’ woes online, skimming through personal ads on Craigslist and watching the final hour of The Perfect Storm at 4 a.m. just because I’ve never seen the whole movie(it was kind of like Titanic, except without the happy ending.)

I realize that by extending my nights all I’m doing is shortening my days, which isn’t a good way to find another job. The only positive to getting out of of work after midnight, besides the short lines at Duane Reade is the people watching on my walk home. Every once in a while besides the various random drunk people that always seem to be staggering alone on third avenue in Murray Hill on a Sunday night, I will have the random encounter with the prostitutes that seem to occasionally leave their forbidden zone (which stretches from Broadway to Lexington Ave. in the upper twenties) and enter the suburban stretch that is third avenue.

They look kind of like lost puppies without their pimps as they realize that most twenty-somethings who live off of that avenue can meet someone at the Joshua Tree or other not-so-cleverly named bars in the area as it is not as deserted as Lexington Avenue is at night and therefore not ideal for their line of sales. I have had a few brief interactions with hookers in my area before and I was surprised and impressed that some of them now have business cards that they hand out to potential clients. I recall one industrious lady of the night used the Helvetica font and had a cool logo of a hotdog sliding into a bun.

One night a street walker told me to walk on the other side of the street after she realized I wasn't going to rent her for the hour and she thought I was hurting her business by walking near her. I obliged her request but it seemed odd considering A. she wasn't getting any business anyway on a residential sidestreet filled with people sleeping in their brownstone apartments, and B. I was walking my dog at the time.

You can’t really tell a prostitute nowadays from how they dress due to the fact that most 24 year old girls pretty much dress the same way. The difference is if you suddenly slow down while walking on a street late at night on the weekends a hooker will approach you and smile and a regular girl with a short skirt and heels will bump into you while crying into their cell phone. God, I wish it was the other way around.

I do seem to have occasional eureka moments of creativity at night, whether they stem from me staring at the way my dog is sleeping next to me on the bed and coming up with a perfect ad for for my portfolio or switching channels from a Showtime soft porn to become momentarily engrossed in something like Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and realizing that the line “We seem to have a nervous slinky” is as brilliant a line and a concept as there can be in a movie that is set in a toy store that comes to life(actually, that would work in most soft porns as well). (1)

I have recently finished my copywriting portfolio and am ready to take on the world of advertising. I can’t wait to get paid for coming up with ideas and work as part of a team to create advertising campaigns that will lead to me winning awards, getting a promotion, crafting a life, meeting my wife, working too late, buying a home, worrying about bills, sleeping with pills, getting burnt out of the city and moving to L.A. , working even later hours before calling it a day, going on on my first book tour and having an affair, coming home to find my wife is no longer there, feeling down and feeling blue, feeling like a waste of a jew, bumping into my one true soul mate, having a second chance at fate, doing an exercise informercial with my dad, unexpectedly starting the next big fad, looking young at forty-five, and loving every minute of being alive. Or, I could try writing for an online magazine, but really, who knows where a job in that unstable industry will take you.

It could take a while to start my career with this whole recession thing going on, so taking any other day job would definitely help end my nighttime addiction. The only good thing about being single and living paycheck-to-paycheck in a recession is that you don’t really have to change your lifestyle that much. It’s not like I now need to cut back from two vacations a year to one, or sell my villa in France for a share at the Jersey shore. In fact, most people have actually begun living more like me. Sure doing your own laundry in the city sucks, but it saves you around forty bucks(sorry, I had one more rhyme left in me.)

At the birthday party for my friend’s kids, they had a singer whose job it was to sing to a room filled with two-year olds and their parents, who after a year and a half of watching Dora the Explorer cartoons, were numb to all things goofy and Disney. The singer was dancing back and forth with a guitar and swinging his hips violently as if he had just drank six red bulls and experienced seven flags of fun before showing up. He performed with a constant Joker-like smile that only overly-medicated schizophrenics and people who entertain toddlers possess.

As I stood in the back of the room of the party with my friends, talking sports and checking for any cute moms, I observed the man singing with glee to the kids and gained a momentary sense of glee myself in thinking there was a guy with a worse job than my night one. Until I saw the cute mom slip him her number at the end of the party, which broke the illusion that he was gay , but made me think he must either be a serial killer or a severe alcoholic.

While watching him perform I was able to somewhat decipher what he was singing about. I believe he was singing “Happy Trees, Happy Trees, Happy, Happy ,Happy Trees . Who wants to climb a happy tree? Have you ever seen a happy bee? They make really sweet honey.” The two year olds were dancing and bopping their heads like those flowers with sunglasses that were popular in the early 90's that shook back and forth when put next to a speaker. As he was singing I realized that this guy doesn't need to be singing about "Happy Trees". He could easily be singing “Crack. It’s whack. It’s whack, it’s whack, it’s whack. I sold the TV for more smack and my wife’s not coming back." Or, even better, “Beat on the brat with a baseball bat, Oh yeah, Oh yeah Uh, oh."

Well, I guess I’m not the only one in this economy who is doing a job that is more 5-to-9 than 9-to-5, and I’m sure the toddler party singer also aspires to be maximizing his skill set on a grander scale. To become a star in his chosen industry. I’m sure just like I will one day soon be creating ads for an advertising agency, he will be working the really big arenas. I’m talking the Woodcliff Lake Hilton or if he has the right connections, Tavern on the Green. I’m talking the Bar Mitzvah circuit.

The Bar Mitzvah circuit has to be the dream job of child party entertainers. Forget performing in dive bars, you can make more cash in one day singing in front of Grandma Sylvia than in a month of playing clubs in the east village. You just have to keep 13 year old Seth Weinstein and his friends dancing and happy and you can ride the wave of good parent reviews all the way to a new condo in the Upper West Side. I’m sure he could put himself on the path to success with some new business cards. I happen to think a sharp font and an photoshopped image of a rabbi breakdancing would really stand out. But what do I know? It’s 4 a.m. and I’m awake, the dog is asleep and the moon is right on my tail.

1. True story. When I used to work as a set production assistant on independent films in New York during the golden era of NY independent films, otherwise known as the late '90s, I somehow ended up working for two weeks on a film with Marilyn Chambers called “Marilyn Chambers’ Desire”. This was a soft porn, but the sex was simulated and it was basically made to end up on Skinemax. Now for those of you who do not remember the late, great Marilyn Chambers, she became famous because she starred in “Behind the Green Door”, which was to the porn industry in the 70‘s what “The Wizard of Oz” was to colorized films. It is quite bizarre to hang out at the craft service table eating chips and dip with top-less stripper/actresses. The movie was only memorable because it had the greatest line of porn dialogue ever written down (I somehow doubt Marilyn improvised it).
A man complains to Marilyn ”I have a case of acute angina” and Marilyn says ”You should see mine.” Although Marilyn delivered the line in perfect May West form, it took the male actor around four takes to pronounce angina properly. It was a surreal, Living in Oblivion/indie film moment in a movie that did not warrant the description of "indie" or even "film."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wrong Turn Clyde

I once climbed into a giant barrel of monkeys on a college dare and was instantly frozen in fear. If it wasn't for my accidental discovery that monkeys love the taste of CornNuts (apparently even more than skinny Jews), I would have been torn apart faster than a Wonka Bar by Augustus Gloop.

Now the reason there was a barrel of monkeys on a college campus is that I went to the University of Arizona and they had a large carnival every year known as the Spring Fling. The carnival seemed to get bigger each year, as did the campus, which is why they started adding animal acts. I guess someone thought college students would appreciate the irony of monkeys coming out of a barrel. This is probably the same person who thought Zima would become a lasting alternative to beer, forgetting the all too important fact that men like the taste of beer and Zima tasted like flat Mountain Dew. But, I was not your typical college male in that I hadn't yet developed an appreciation for beer, so I took to Zima like freshman girls took to tanning. I drank them mostly in my apartment before I went out for the night to get drunk early and then held a cup of beer at parties to keep up the illusion.

But, this was the night before Spring Fling and I had one too many Zimas along with a few jell-o shots, the perfect combination to give a man the false confidence to climb into a barrel of monkeys (and in most cases, a woman to take home a guy with simian features). Needless to say I was easily convinced by a few of my friends to climb up the ladder on the barrel and get a photo of the sleeping monkeys. As I climbed down from the top of the barrel, they seemed so peaceful I relaxed my hand a little and began to lose my grip on the ladder. Even though I landed on my feet, I let out a high-pitched shriek that had the same effect as Chevy Chase’s shout of “collld!” in the movie “Vacation” that woke up the motel and his wife (the incredibly sexy Beverly D’Angelo, whose character epitomized the phrase MILF to all young teenage boys in an innocent way, years before Craigslist made the word seem creepy.)

Suddenly, the monkeys woke up and began to hop up and down, so I began to do the same, frantically trying to remember the movie “Tarzan: The Legend of Greystoke” hoping Christopher Lambert’s acting would jar some hidden monkey whisperer ability that was genetically embedded somewhere in my highly evolved animal brain (but probably lost after filling it with one too many Brady Brunch reruns as a kid.) They looked at me and one of them threw a half-eaten banana at my feet. For some strange reason, probably due to my foggy-headed state of inebriation, I took that as somewhat of a sign and I grabbed my packet of CornNuts that I had bought at the Circle K earlier and threw it in the direction of the monkeys.

As the CornNuts floated out from the package and landed at the monkeys’ feet, they pounced at the CornNuts and sniffed before devouring each nut (I’m not sure if a CornNut belongs in either the corn or the nut family), creating loud chomping sounds as their teeth clamped down on the ultra hard snack. This was my clue to hop on the ladder and climb to the top. It wasn’t until then that I noticed that I had dropped my camera upon falling into the barrel and would not be able to capture the moment for posterity.

Of course, my friends had run off and I was left to ponder my actions alone. I mostly came to the conclusion that jell-o shots should never be mixed with malt liquor. When I told my story to a cute girl later at a party in my apartment complex she didn’t believe me, but she did laugh and say “that story’s about as funny as a barrel of monkeys." “They’re not that funny, but you do want to let sleeping monkeys lie. Now sleeping dogs, you can mess with. They’ll just roll over, shake their legs and look cute," I replied. As I made a panting sound and stuck out my tongue, she smiled and then kissed me. I looked into her playful eyes and almost forgot about my close encounter of the monkey kind earlier that night, until we both began to realize that I smelled like the inside of a bird cage. She suddenly began to believe my story and gave me her number, but the only clothes my opposable thumbs removed that night were my own.

The Survivor: A brief, short story

They say it's the little things that get you, well I once killed a man for snoring. We were the only two survivors of a plane crash over the Andes Mountains. We had been there for over two months, living in the one small section of the jumbo jet that was not destroyed in the crash. Ironically, it was the First Class section, which I only caught a brief glimpse of during the actual flight as the blissfully ignorant flight attendants pointed me towards my seat in the back of the plane. I imagine the experience of being in First Class must have been quite different during the flight than it was for us after the crash. For one thing, the seats no longer reclined, and secondly, the body temperature dropping, appendage-numbing winds that swept through the now open-air feel to the cabin, could not be stopped at the press of a button.

After two months, my fellow survivor and I had consumed all the bags of peanuts and cheese and crackers from the plane. I soon entered a downward spiral and started to become delusional from the cold. The lack of any real sustenance had begun to make me crave meat of any kind. I debated my future action in my head for a few more weeks, but after living on a diet of maggots and condiments, I eventually let my survival instinct take over. I lunged at him in the cold, dark night and suffocated him with one of the little pillows that we kept from the plane's wrecked overhead compartments.

Luckily for me, there was a group of extreme skiers who happened to be heli-skiing in the area and they saw the small fire I had made in order to barbecue his ribs. I told the skiers who found me that I did what I had to do to survive, that I had developed a bond with this man who had shared the same horrific experience with me up until the day before; when I munched on his charbroiled thighs like they were the Colonel's original recipe. But, I swear he had the most annoying goddamn snore I have ever heard. It was this loud, honking Felix Unger type snore.

To tell you the truth, I wanted to kill him during the flight. Not only was he snoring loudly, but he fell asleep with his fat, dandruff filled head against my shoulder, forcing me to press my body up against the window the whole flight. He didn't respond to any of my subtle nudges and even drooled on my shirt. Luckily for me, the oxygen masks fell down over our heads, and the screaming of the terrified passengers knocked this disgusting sloth out of dreamland and off of my shoulder. Finally, as the plane started falling out of the sky, I felt like I could breathe again.

The End.