Saturday, November 6, 2010

Oh Yi of Little Faith or Tally Ho!

I have a friend who is a crazy basketball fan. The kind of fan who would convince his fiancé to plan their wedding so that it would not conflict with the NBA's regular season. He is the world's biggest Nets fan (the guy went to Las Vegas just to see summer league practice.) Let me repeat this statement. He is the world’s biggest New Jersey Nets fan. Being the world’s biggest New Jersey Nets fan historically, would have been like saying you are the world’s best Pachinko player or the world’s most functional crack head. It’s not something you would be boasting about while eating fondue at a party. (I have never been to a party with fondue. I just assume that there are some people who still have fondue parties, where they presumably eat melted cheese with tiny forks, play Jenga and swap wives.)

The Nets although a laughingstock last year, are primed for future success due to an influx of new talent, a new coach and a new Russian billionaire owner whose so cool strippers toss money at him. I actually am also a Nets fan and have recently re-connected with my friend over this fact. His name is Wally Ho.

Wally Ho grew up with me in my suburban NJ town, where he was one of about six Asian kids, but he was not “off-the-boat.” He and his family are Chinese but he was “off-the-cul-de-sac” like the rest of us.

So, about two years ago, the Nets traded for this 7 ft Chinese basketball player named Yi Jianlian. He is skilled but has not developed his game and plays soft for a “power” forward. Yi was traded to Washington after last season (where you need to be a quick shot on and off the court.) If you think LeBron James is (or was) popular here, Yi's fame not only supercedes sports in China but he's probably the third most well known person in a country of over a billion. In America, Yi blends in with all the other 7ft Asian guys, but in China, Yi is so popular he probably has his face on everything from water bottles to condoms (would give a whole new meaning to the saying “Haven’t I seen your face before?)

Anyway, Ho knew someone who was connected to the Nets and told him they were looking for an interpreter for Yi. Wally urged him to tell the Nets’ front office people that he speaks fluent Chinese, when he really spoke about as much Chinese as I do Hebrew (Like most Reform Jews my age, I can recite the Hanukkah prayer, but can no longer tell you what it means.) So, Ho got a meeting with executives of the Nets. They met him, saw that he was Chinese and basically said “You’re hired”

After getting the job of being Yi’s interpreter, which would enable Wally to live out a dream and travel with the Nets, he had two weeks to prepare. He spent that time immersing himself in the language of his ancestors. Ho hired a tutor and studied Chinese phonics tapes. He managed to pull it off too. For four months, he went to press conferences with Yi and acted as the link between him and the media. He basically made up half of Yi’s answers when he spoke to the Nets beat writers and knew enough about basketball that it sounded right to them.

He was walking a constant tight rope as he didn't want to get too close to Yi or else he'd figure out he barely could speak the language. The guy probably thought he was an idiot after about a week. Wally had to do assistant-type things for him as well, like help him look for an apartment. Yi eventually learned how to speak more fluent English and they didn't need him anymore, plus he was always injured. The beat reporters didn’t need to interview him after games to hear him say "I should be back in two weeks".

Wally did say one time he had to call up his mother right before meeting reporters to interpret something and his mom told him a mom version of what she would say if she were Yi, like "Well, I really do think the boys played swell tonight and I hope I didn't hurt that boy's arm trying to grab that ball away from him." After he told this to Yi in Chinese, Yi looked at Ho as if he was a four year old scribbling his name in crayon for him to read.

There is definitely a sit-com or bad buddy film in the Ho-Yi relationship. I imagine Wally helping Yi pick out his jumbo-sized condoms at Rite Aid (without his face on the box of every product, Yi would not be able to buy things as easily as he did in China.) I’d like to think they went to amusement parks where Yi would hold his hand over Wally’s head, wave his long, ET like finger and tell him he was too short. I’d like to believe at one point they rode down a casino elevator in the same suit as “Iko Iko” played over the speaker system. Or, they were at Yi’s home watching Lost, while Wally tried to explain who the smoke monster is in broken Chinese.

I can see there being a night when Yi insisted that Wally accompany him to see Twilight. Yi whispers to him halfway through that he really associates with Jacob, because he too had to put on a lot of muscle in order to perform on the court and that he also has pined for a girl who he felt invisible to. Wally then admits that he is definitely in Camp Edward and that he knows what it's like to not be able to get too close to someone. He then begins to reveal to Yi that he used to have a crush on a girl named Lynn in high school who broke his heart when he caught her making out with J.T. Liebowitz behind the soccer field in gym class. "I was heart broken. I swore off tall black girls and soccer forever and have not been able to give myself emotionally to a woman since."

The duo look at each other and Yi says “It's ok, Joe. It's ok.” They give each other a man hug and Wally says "Wait a minute. You know my name is Wally right." Yi says "I call all American guys Joe because you all look alike. Then he pauses, smiles and says "Gotcha." Their friendship is sealed as they both laugh spontaneously.

At this point a guy with a goatee sitting behind them with a barrel of popcorn in his lap and a date that looks like she was rejected from the Real Housewives of NJ, kicks Wally's seat hard and shouts at them to "shut the hell up." He tells Yi to move his giant head, so he could see the damn screen, and a kernel flies out of his mouth on to Yi's shirt.

Wally and Yi, give each other a quick nod and then hop over the seat and proceed to give this guy a pummeling the likes of which have not been seen in a Paramus multiplex since a showing of “Booty Call” broke down in the final reel just before its comedic climax was revealed. A riot ensued and the projectionist was pelted with goobers and ju-jubees. (I'm not sure if ju-ju-bees are spelled ju-ju-bees or joo-joobees, but I'm 98% sure they're not spelled jew-jewbees- at least not in New York)

The new pals then leave behind a few hundred dollars with the guidette girlfriend as she tosses popcorn at her obnoxious boyfriend, to get him to wake up. They proceed to put on sunglasses and strut out of the theater in unison as they exuded coolness as if it was the ending to Pulp Fiction. Young men in the theater looked on in awe as their girlfriends were transfixed on Bella and Edward gazing longingly into each others eyes.

This story has the makings of a typical Hollywood buddy comedy. Of course in the film, Yi would be played by LeBron James and Wally Ho would be played by Joseph Gordon Leavitt, whose almond-shaped Caucasian eyes are sure to bring in the coveted teen girl Twilight crowd.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Bride of Frank N. Stein

The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the oblivious.

I had what can only be described as a close encounter with the yenta kind the other day. It was so bizarre and so scary that I expected to have nightmares where I would frantically mush together matzah ball dough to replicate a mountain in Boca Raton that I had never been to; and that I would have an uncontrollable urge to travel to, in order to meet the alien yenta ship.

I was on line at my local Murray Hill pizza place waiting to order my usual margherita slices ( I convinced myself it’s less greasy that a regular slice, but who am I kidding, it’s still pizza for lunch.) This woman behind me as I'm paying for my food interrupts me and says “Is that the wallet you use?" I look at my wallet (which is a standard black wallet but a few years old), look back at her and cautiously reply “yes.” She then begins to explain to me how a shabby wallet is representative of a guy who doesn’t have his shit together and how too many guys make the mistakes of not caring about the little things that women notice.

At this point I realize that this woman is every man’s nightmare. She might possibly be cute, but her mannerisms and her in-your-face, jap-next-door personality make her seem like a 60 year old in the body of a 30 year old. I found her kind of curious at first and responded back to her brash interruption of my lunch by admitting that maybe I should get a new wallet, thinking that would end our interaction. So I sat down ready to read my Post and enjoy my slices at my usual table by the window and she moved from the counter area to stand directly in front of me,ensuring that I was her captive audience.

She continued her self-indulgent diatribe and started blabbering on a mile a minute. She began to lecture me on men and appearances and at this point (my pizza is getting cold) I begin to get more upset than amused and I ask her if she's single. She tells me she has a lot of male friends and she seems to be the person that guys date before they meet the woman they marry. I made the face that Ferris Bueller made when his sister (Jeannie/Shauna) stuck up for him in front of Principal Rooney, trying to hold back his feelings. Hoping that would imply “well, that should say something to you now, doesn't it” without having to tell her directly that she inadvertently turns men off.)

I asked her if she was Jewish (knowing she would say yes). She goes on to tell me that she is from NJ, but when I tell her the town I’m from, she went on to say how her town is “real Jersey” in that it is filled with more trashy people and that she grew up with Italian girls that you see at the Shore who have sparkly nail polish (which she then pointed out on her own nails.)

The whole time she's talking I'm looking at her and I felt like Grammy Hall in the film Annie Hall. I literally pictured her with big, curly hair, an ankle length skirt and an even larger nose than Barbara Streisand, singing songs from “Yentl”( I combined multiple images of Streisand into an uber yenta jap in my head that made me tolerate her clueless yammering.) She reminded me of the way Barbara Streisand talked in the film "What’s Up Doc," except when you watched that movie you definitely wanted to have sex with Barbara Streisand. I have never encountered a relatively attractive single woman in my life that I couldn’t imagine sleeping with. The more she talked the more my penis was crying out “I’m melting, I’m melting” as it protected itself by shrinking as much as it could.

Now I had grown up with jappy girls in camp, but this was a whole new level. This girl thought she was the millionaire matchmaker and felt the need to point out to a random stranger everything abut herself that she thought made her unique and guys clueless(ironic, considering she was socially clueless.)

She starts rambling on about how she doesn't listen to music and is stuck in the 80s, so I see an opening for a quick jab and say “Your jean jacket looks like you might have worn it in the 80s but it’s a style that has come back.” She replied "really, I don’t think so. I just bought this the other day at the Gap."

My attempt at insulting her style to combat her original dig at my hobo-like wallet went over her head like the strong smell of garlic in the air. She continued her self-induced rant on herself, by telling me that most people in this city are morons and that she is an “educated Jew." Again, when I told her that her own statement of being an educated Jew is actually an oxymoron and that all Jewish parents stress education(doesn't mean we don't have dumb asses like any other group, it just means they most likely attended college. Although ASU really shouldn't count,) she doesn't listen. After making the mistake of telling her I'm a writer, she gets even more excited and starts telling me she's a writer too. She has a blog and wants to blog about her organizational business (which depressed me at the thought that more people will probably end up reading her blog for advice on how to live, than might read my stories.)

Finally, after splattering verbal diarrhea all over my lap for ten minutes, she hands me her card which indeed states that she's a life organizer. All I can think is how could someone who doesn't get basic social norms or realize the boundaries in human interaction,organize other people's lives? I guess if Charlie Sheen can star in his own family sit-com, while enjoying coke-fueled nights with porn stars, anything’s possible. On that subject, you know you're a public menace if you are scaring porn stars. He is real closing to killing a hooker and I know there has to be laws against that, right.

After she left the restaurant, I looked at the card she gave me and it said her name was Traci with an "i" Tackowitz. To my non-Jewish, non-New York readers, this is about as stereotypical Long Island jappy a name as Sherri Schwartz. It makes my obviously Jewish name look as Waspy as Trevor Stone.

I looked up to realize that everyone in the pizza place was staring at me. This laid back, slightly older man with a graying, well groomed beard breaks the silence by saying " Now there's someone who is deep in serious therapy. She must be on something. I have never heard anyone talk that fast (obviously, he wasn't Jewish)" I agreed with him about her being in therapy. We developed a brief bond that can occasionally occur when people share an “only in New York” moment. He asked what kind of writing I do. I told him essays and copywriting and he said, "well, there's a character for you."

I nodded my head, we shared a laugh and I finished my margherita slice. Then I wished him a good day. He said "you too" and I walked out into the warmth of the Fall Day with a smile on my face, knowing that I just had a normal conversation with a fellow New Yorker.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Late Night Shownanigans

The other night I happened to be watching a few minutes of a George Lopez interview with the young, cute, adorable, bubbly, zaftig, black actress from Glee. I looked on the cable guide to check out the guests for the other shows and it said that Jimmy Kimmel had on Gabourey Sidibe. Gabourey Sidibe. God I love saying her name. I put it right up there with Nikolai Khabibulin, the goaltender for the Edmonton Oilers, as two of my all-time favorite names to say out loud. “Hello sir. I am Nikolai Khabibulin and I am here to escort your lovely daughter to the Ball. Maybe I can be of some assistance Madame, I am Nikolai Khabibulin, and I once delivered a baby in a Moscow Sizzler with some napkins, a wet nap and salad tongues.” I’m telling you the name just rolls off the tongue, like Gabourey Sidibe.

After I was done pondering the sound of Gabourey Sidibe’s name, I realized she is the young, cute, adorable, bubbly, zaftig black actress from Precious. I could be wrong, but it just doesn’t seem like it’s a coincidence that they would both be on competing talk shows at the same time. It's not like there's 20 young, cute, adorable, bubbly, zaftig, black actresses that are currently famous to choose from. They are the only two.

I'd like to believe a scenario occurred in which the talent booker for Kimmel found out the girl from Glee (Amber Riley) was on Lopez and shouted to her assistant to get the agent on the phone for another Glee cast member. She pointed to her chart of “Celebrities of Equal Importance” or “C.E.I.” that she made up on Excel to ensure that the other talk shows would never one-up her with a booking. It’s a pretty simple formula. If Leno books one member of an ensemble show than she would book another member of that show or an equivalent show. For example, if Leno booked Mathew Fox from Lost, than she would try and book the actor who played Sawyer from Lost and if they couldn’t get him, they would possibly book Simon Baker from The Mentalist, who has equal sex appeal and TV show status.

Sometimes, they can go with someone who has an equal audience attraction but to the opposite sex. So, if Letterman had Simon Baker, Leno had Mathew Fox and Kimmel had David Boreanz from Bones, she might go with Jennifer Love Hewitt, who has the same appeal to men that Mathew Fox does to women(and was also his co-star on Party of Five which would add symmetry.) Now, Michael J. Fox would not be considered as a match for Mathew Fox, but he is one of the few matches for Muhammad Ali. It’s a delicate system of checks and balances, not unlike our own United States Congress, she once told her assistant.

The creation of the C.E.I. chart is what got Amy Fuller, Jimmy Kimmel’s talent booker, her promotion. After paying her dues in the industry; spending six months as the craft service person for Leno, where she had to keep the fridge in his office stocked with Mallomars and root beer and then two years as his assistant talent booker, she had perfected her system before taking the job with Jimmy Kimmel. There was only one famous person in Hollywood who had no C.E.I. match. David Caruso.

David Caruso's overt belief in his own perceived greatness and his continued insistence on talking like Adam West’s more serious asshole brother in roles, is quite apparent in interviews. Since this persona can not be duplicated by other crime show actors and can only be compared to agents, producers and British oil company CEO’s, he is usually booked against animal trainers and country singers.

Amy Fuller, the senior talent booker on The Jimmy Kimmel Show looked at her C.E.I. chart and realized that Glee’s Amber Reilly had not been added to it. “Either the gay guy, the dumb jock, the cheerleader, the Asian girl, the Jewish dude in the wheel chair, the Jewish hot guy, the teacher that gets way too involved in his students lives, or Jane Lynch will do”, she told Becky Slater, her protégé/assistant. When Becky told her that the rest of the cast of Glee were busy in rehearsals for “Glee On Ice” Amy thought out loud "Ok, who can we get that will compete with this young, cute, adorable, bubbly, zaftig, black actress. Then they both turned to each other and said “Gabourey Sidibe.” Amy called Gabourey’s agent and booked the appearance on the show.

They relaxed for a moment and Amy Fuller, a 32 year old woman with Tina Feyish glasses, tells Becky how Harrison Ford talked to her for a half hour before a show the other night thinking she was S.E. Cupp. (1) Becky Slater, a 25 year old dead ringer for every 25 year old blonde girl in LA whose face is prematurely thinned out, pursed her lips and said “weird.” Amy replied “Yeah, that’s the second time this week. My friend who works at Bill Maher says she’s not really the uptight conservative bitch she seems to be. I mean she’s uptight and conservative. She’s just not a bitch.” Well that’s cool, Becky said in between sips of her mocha frappucino. “Plus, guys really want to do her.” When I was 13, I looked like Fiona Apple. You know what it’s like to have 8th grade boys tease you about being a bad, bad girl? It’s no fun having a doppelganger whose bat shit.”

I did notice a day later that there were two movies on at the same time that used the Kiss song Beth as a plot point. The first was the appropriately titled “I Love You Beth Cooper,” the other was Role Models (which I consider to be the slightly less funny Paul Rudd vehicle than I Love You Man) I’ll give Kiss some credit. It’s not easy for a rock band to have a romantic ballad sung by a man with cat whiskers painted on his cheeks and still look cool. If you were magically transported to a Kiss concert in 1978 and had never heard of Kiss before and Peter Criss came out from behind his drum kit and sat down and crooned Beth, you’d expect Rum Tum Tigger to dance on to the stage and lick his face.

(1) I recently saw S.E. Cupp on Bill Maher and although she is a conservative capitalizing on Republican men who seem to love having sexy, snooty women represent them, I actually was taken aback by her hotness. She reminds me somewhat of what Grammar Girl might look like in real life. I have a huge crush on Grammar Girl, the Web site and her sexy librarian cartoon representation. Mignon Fogarty, the woman who created the Grammar Girl site comes off on her pod cast as not only cute, but genuinely sweet. She would probably approve of my dorkiness but disapprove of my overuse of parenthesis. I can picture her pointing out to me the fact that S.E. Cupp was not actually physically on Bill Maher. At that point, I would probably imagine myself physically getting off of her.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Manny being Manny sounds cooler than Fink being Fink or The Windy City just got some more Hot Air

The following is a statement read by Manny Ramirez in Spanish at his press conference to the Chicago media, following his trade to the White Sox:

Manny es Manny. No hay otro Manny, que yo sepa. Si hay otro Manny, que hable ahora o calle para siempre su paz.
Te lo dije.

Manny No necesito que me cortara el pelo. Tengo que ir a cortar la hiedra fuera de la pared del outfield como estoy terriblemente asustado de las orugas. Cachorros son los osos bebé y yo no soy un bebé. En el Bronx llegamos a las ratas gigantes con palos que es como yo aprendí a batear como un bebé. Puede ser que también se conoce como las ratas de Chicago. (Oficial de equipo le susurra al oído) Oh, espera un minuto, este es el equipo blanco Calcetines. Bueno, no me gustan los calcetines blancos. Ellos se ensucian cuando estoy de pie en los jardines. Yo no me gustan en la hierba. No me gustan como una muchacha. Me gusta el color naranja. A partir de ahora, somos los calcetines de naranja.

Harry Caray está muerto. Llévenme al partido de béisbol será reemplazado por Rico Suave. Mike Ditka puede besar el culo. Tengo que ir a fijar en mi bañera de oro de nuevo en mi habitación de hotel y el resto de mi dolor en la ingle. Creo que hay un diferencial de queso blanco y las galletas en mi vestíbulo del hotel y algunas botellas de mi bebida favorita, el Sr. Pibb. Por favor, disfrute ya que hay mucho para todos.

English Translation:

Manny is Manny. There is no other Manny that I know of. If there is another Manny, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.
I told you so.

I don’t need to cut my hair. I need to go cut the ivy off of the outfield wall as I am terribly scared of caterpillars.
Cubs are baby bears and I am not a baby. In the Bronx we hit giant rats with sticks, which is how I learned to swing a bat as a baby. We might as well be known as the Chicago Rats. (Team official whispers in his ear) Oh, wait a minute, this is the White Sox team. Well, I do not like white socks. They get dirty when I stand in the outfield. I do not like them on the grass. I did not like them as a lass. I like the color orange. From now on, we are the Orange Sox.

Harry Caray is dead. Take Me Out to the Ball Game will now be replaced by Rico Suave. Mike Ditka can kiss my ass. I have to go lay down in my golden bathtub back in my hotel room and rest my sore groin. I believe there is a spread of white cheese and crackers in my hotel lobby and some bottles of my favorite drink, Mr. Pibb. Please enjoy as there is plenty for everyone.

English Translation has been provided by ESPN Deportes.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

He Ain't Crazy, He's My Brother.

Some people go about their lives and don't appreciate what they have. Some people go about their lives and wish they had more. Some of us dream big but struggle to do what comes naturally to others due to human frailties that can weigh them down like an anchor. I lost a friend and a brother yesterday. He had more personality than most people and a youthful energy for the wonders of life. Alot of people can't help falling into the traps of going about their days routinely like drones in a bee hive. That was never his problem. He took pleasure in all the little things that life and people have to offer. He disliked no man who wasn't named George Bush or Dick Cheney. He would stop a homeless guy in the street and talk to him for an hour. Some might call that crazy. And maybe it was, but it’s what made Brian Holtzman "Brian" to his family and “Holtz” to his friends. It’s what made him somebody everybody remembered. He sought out those that the rest of the city avoids and challenged them to get help for themselves.

He wanted me to live the life I was meant to live and I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to do that and to avoid being average. He was never ordinary. He was a one-of- a-kind-guy that made every one who knew him glad that he was in their life. When he was healthy, he would always be there for you no matter what kind of emotional state you were in. As he would joke "misery loves company". And he was only miserable when his illness clouded his thoughts and altered his ability to think clearly.

He was a friend who became a brother and struggled to just be himself, something most people can’t even comprehend. That's all he ever wanted to do; to live a life that let him devour everything that was interesting about the world. And he did that in only a short time. He didn’t just meet people. He digested everything they had to say and absorbed the information in order to understand everything about what made them tick. You couldn’t lie to him, because he would call you on your bullshit in a second. If you were truly in his life than he knew you as well as you knew yourself.

Holtz could be a walking contradiction sometimes. He hated the trappings of wealth but spent $40 on hand lotion at Kiehl’s. He would spend his days working at homeless shelters but loved being in a Vegas casino with his friends. He resembled a young Tim Robbins and had the thickest hair of anyone of my friends, yet he started taking Propecia, as a precautionary measure. He leaned towards the darker subjects in books and movies. He might be the only man who could watch a double feature of Ordinary People and Schindler’s List. Yet you have never seen anyone laugh harder at something as goofy as the Ali G show or as funny as Eddie Murphy Raw. He didn’t like being called crazy and would debate me over who was crazier, which made me feel nuts for arguing with someone who was mentally ill. He would joke about his condition but never joke about others who had mental illness. He was an excellent social worker but due to his illness he had trouble in certain social situations. He hated racists but loved the Redskins.

I happened to have lived with Brian at his happiest and at some of his worst times. He kept me on my toes sometimes, not knowing how he would react to things when he was in a highly paranoid state. He loved everything about the energy of New York City, but the stimulus of all the people could occasionally get overwhelming for him(which is not uncommon.) I always felt like I could bring him back from getting too close to the edge, until the part of his mind that was sick took over the rest and pushed him over.

One day I came home from work and I heard a shuffling noise from his room. I knew he wasn’t home yet and when I entered his room, there was a pigeon perched on top of his book case and papers strewn about on the floor. After slamming the door closed and saying “holy shit” out loud about three times fast, I grabbed a broom, went back in and proceeded to poke at the bird from a way-too-safe distance. I shouted in a high-pitched yelp that must have woken up every sleeping dog in Murray Hill. After getting the pigeon out the window, I cleaned up his room and tried to relax on the couch wishing I had a drink harder than Pepsi.

When Brian came home I told him the story and because of the paranoia that his illness bestowed upon him (he would be very impressed with me that I used words like bestowed, by the way) he thought that I purposely let the pigeon into his room in order to mess up his stuff. Eventually, he realized it was an incredibly unlikely occurrence and we would eventually joke about it. This is just one story of how his mind would alter the way he would perceive things occasionally. Holtz knew me so well that I know if he read this, he would point out that I included a story showcasing my own dorkiness in a eulogy for him.

If you’re lucky in this life, you might have a handful of people that come into yours and truly impact you. Truly make you a better person for knowing them. The people you can call up after ten years without any communication and go right into a conversation that you had when you were every day friends. My friend Brian Holtzman was one of those people. We all need people like that in order to get through this crazy thing we call life. Shit, every day would be a hell of a lot more boring without them.

He once wrote a screenplay called “Could you be loved?” which he never showed me, partly due to the fact that he did not want me to judge it negatively and partly because of his dyslexia (it would have been like deciphering the scribbling of a fifth grader) It’s funny that he chose that Bob Marley title. With a title like that it could actually be sold and probably pitched to Leonardo DiCaprio, even if it had been just a one sentence outline of an idea and 100 blank pages. It was also ironic because he was so easily loveable to anyone who knew him.

Nothing relaxed Holtz like Jazz and we both were big fans of The Allman Brothers. One day I came home and he had the Lucinda Williams “Sweet Side” song playing on a continuous loop to take his mind off whatever his mind was focusing on.

“You run yourself ragged tryin' to be strong .You feel bad when you done nothin' wrong” The lyrics, the perfect bluesy hook and the pain in Lucinda Willams’ voice resonated with him.

I am breathing heavy right now and my chest is pounding (as I sit at the end of my bed and type) at the thought of his family’s loss and not having him in my life, even though he had not been a part of it for years now. I hope I will have a family of my own to tell stories of my friend Holtz to keep his spirit alive. My friend Brian Holtzman always showed his sweet side.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reading is Fun and I am Mental

It was a sunny Fall Saturday and I figured I’d take advantage of the beautiful weather by taking a walk to the Borders book store in my area. Some people on a day like this like to drive up state to go apple picking (don’t have a car and don’t like apples), others like to go to the park to watch the splendor of the foliage as the autumnal leaves change from green to red (color blind with shades of green) but I love going to the book store where I can wonder the aisles seemingly aimlessly until the right book quietly calls out to me, like a drug dealer in a park, except instead of weed or Klonopin, it pushes the wholesome thrill that won’t leave you with bags under your eyes and a hangover during a Wednesday morning conference call. It’s the thrill that is consumed by pre-pubescent children as imagination and adults 27 and over (this number may vary by a year or two) as a way of taking their mind off the monotony of their daily lives.

Reading is fundamental. They weren’t lying to us as kids in those corny 1970s-‘80s TV ads of my childhood. As a child it is fundamental to get lost in the world of books. It builds your imagination, develops the way you think and can also help you forget the fact that the pre-Ritalin, hyper kid in your school impulsively pushed you into a garbage can because he found out the lunch lady was serving meatloaf instead of Stromboli that day. A good book is also an excellent companion piece for the 30-year-old single woman who has to fly to be in the wedding party of the overly-dramatic girl she roomed with in college, but hasn’t seen since. Although for that specific occasion, I recommend also purchasing about four or five mini-bottles of vodka on the flight.

As I stroll through my local Borders looking for a new book, I tend to people-watch like I do when I walk down the street. I have always wanted to meet a woman in a book store and sometimes while I’m walking around I’ll notice an attractive woman and I’ll have the urge to recommend a book. I have often envisioned myself standing near a cross between Kate Winslet in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and Pam from “The Office”. While she glances at the back of David Sedaris’ “Holidays on Ice” I ask her if she’s read “Me Talk Pretty One Day” and she says “of course”, as her eyes light up.

We begin to chat and the conversation switches to John Irving books and I ask her what her favorite novel by him is and before she can answer I say “let me guess, “ A Prayer for Owen Meany.” She then looks me up and down and responds by saying “Yeah, I cried reading that in college.” I tell her that for some reason, women seem to love Owen Meany. She then brushes away a long strand of her auburn hair that is dangling ever so cutely on her eyebrow and says “So, you think you know a lot about women.” To which I quickly respond “Oh, I don’t know anything about women. That’s why I’m at a book store alone on a Saturday afternoon instead of finishing a brunch in the West Village with my girlfriend/fiancé/wife.” We then end up taking a walk where we point out a couple walking awkwardly together while holding hands in the street and laugh at them.

Before we know it, we’re enjoying a lovely brunch somewhere west of Park Avenue, when she tells me how she loves waffles but hates pancakes and I reveal to her that I eat my Cocoa Puffs without milk. “That’s a damn shame. You’re missing out on fully capturing the chocolaty goodness experience, she says before suddenly shouting out “Fuck. Blossom! I totally forgot about her!” To which I reply “Whoa!” in my best Joey Lawrence voice.

As she breaks into an unabashed, adorable giggle that makes me wish I knew more Joey Lawrence sayings she holds up a cell phone photo of her two-year old puggle. She then asks for my number and tells me she has to run because she forgot she has to take Blossom out and doesn’t want to return home to find her sneakers peed on. After I give her my number, she immediately sends me a text back saying “We forgot to exchange names”. “Christopher Moore”, I type in. “You suck. You’re lucky I like dorks,” she types back. She gets up to leave and I sit there and finish my waffle with a goofy grin on my face.

As you can see I have a vivid imagination that tends to over take me when I am alone with my thoughts, but alas my life is not a Nora Ephron movie. I have never been on a date at Katz’ Deli with a woman who showed me how she fakes an orgasm, although I did once get a momentary erection while eating their pastrami sandwich, but that’s because I was drunk and it was damn good pastrami. I have never had an encounter at a book store either, except for today. Today I saw what I can safely assume is the most interesting man in my neighborhood.

He walked through the doors with an elegance rarely seen in an area predominantly known for its abundance of frozen yogurt shops. The man had (I shit you not) white-blond curly hair, a top hat with yellow feathers protruding proudly out, a red velvet coat, black boots and of course he was holding a cane. For a split second, I thought he was either Colonel Sanders’ cooler younger brother or maybe Dan Akroyd from Doctor Detroit. I was looking at the inside flap of “The Life of Pi”, before putting it back like I always do (it’s one of those books that I have almost bought a dozen times), and thinking that no book would call out to me that day. I caught a glimpse of him strutting through the doors and I literally froze with my mouth open.

His face was weathered like he had spent his life working the winters as a deckhand on an Alaskan fishing boat. As he walked by I spun my body around without thought and as amazed as I was at this pimp out of Savannah’s water, I was more amazed that nobody else turned around and looked. I mean the store wasn’t packed and I know New Yorkers are conditioned to walk by homeless schizophrenics cursing at their imaginary enemies, but we were not in the street, we were in a book store and this man was no ordinary New York freak. He was unique.

The man was a living, breathing Foghorn Leghorn and I immediately felt like I had stepped into the pages of one of the many novels that adorned the shelves of the store. I just had to play Harriet the Spy (I probably shouldn’t know that reference, but it fits) and glimpse at someone who was so good at standing out in a city where standing out is hard to do. I imagined him going to a Starbucks and tapping his cane on the counter while asking for a mint julep, until the girl behind the counter turns around and in a routine manner offers him the choice of their seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte.

“You sure are a pretty young thang. Missy, Why I do believe you have the most exquisite set of ta-ta’s I’ve seen in all my years of purchasing percolated potions from pleasant young princesses. Well, north of Kentucky that is.” “I’m in the pleasing business myself” he boasts as he touches the brim of his hat. She then looks him up and down and then up and down again and asks him if he would like some whip cream, before motioning to the barista. “The whip cream is on me, she says, while proudly sticking out her chin and adjusting her cleavage.” “Much obliged. I believe in rewarding kindness but I don’t believe in giving anything away for free. Here’s my card, in case you are looking for work with a little more perks,” he says, before leaving his card on the counter, taking his Pumpkin Spice Latte in one hand and his pimp cane in the other. While smiling the smile of the mostly innocent she thanks him for the offer and tells him “I actually get pretty good benefits here.” As he uses his cane to push the door open she looks at the card which reads:
Phinneus J. Whoopee. Purveyor of Poonani
                                 Connoisseur of Cunnilingus
                             917-You Cumm (917- 908-2866)

He strutted down the aisles like a determined predator, slowly and confidently, as if his presence alone might scare his prey into giving up its location. Unlike my haphazard way of letting my new soft-covered friend find me, he looked like he didn’t want to be friends with his book. He looked like he wanted to own it; to take it back to his home, handcuff it to the bed and dominate it. I tried to be inconspicuous while following a man who obviously didn’t know the meaning of the word. So I stopped by the $8.99 CD section and skimmed through the lonely selection of CD’s by random artists that are no longer culturally relevant and pretended to look at one as I saw him tap his cane gently on the shelves as he walked with his chest, on the hunt for the object of his desire.

I admired his sense of purpose in knowing exactly what he wanted, although I do enjoy my process of wandering around the store in a carefree manner, gazing at the book shelves, until a book hones in on me. It's like the surrounding books are blurry and this one is perfectly clear, prompting me to pick up a story that I’m going to get lost in. Possibly, it might revolve around the mind of a unique child like in “A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” or exist in the world of Christopher Moore, where fuckups can become heroes and where an emperor can rule a city and eat out of the trash.

I could not help but stare at him as he discarded each aisle in the store with each tap of his cane and I only looked down to notice I was holding a CD titled Mama’s Big Ones: The Best of Mama Cass, which made me think that Borders should just leave these island of misfit CD’s in a bin upon exiting the store, kind of like when my childhood dentist would have a box of random trinkets for the kids to grab after an exam.

He stopped as confidently as he seemed to be moving and I could tell he had honed in on his plunder. I walked over to the New Non-Fiction section to get a peek at the booty he seemed to be taking for his own. He was standing in the adjacent Fiction section and I imagined him regaling his bitches as he tucked them into bed at the end of a long night of whoring with passages from “In Cold Blood” or “Tropic of Cancer”. I looked over to see what he had chosen and my mouth was once again left open as I gripped a book that was in front of me and processed the fact that he was skimming through “The Secret Life of Bees”.

The jar of honey sat on a windowsill on the cover of “The Secret Life of Bees” and an image of his wife gazing out the window as he read the heartbreaking story of sisterhood to his daughters on a porch swing filled my head as my perception of this man’s lascivious life shattered like Dakota Fanning’s heart after her daddy told her she was broken (saw the film, but never could bring myself to buy the book.) In my head, I actually said to myself the clichéd phrase "I guess you can’t tell a book by its cover."

The most interesting man in my neighborhood then awoke from the spell the book had over him and noticed me. He looked me up and down, checked out my Gap sweater and jeans, my Costco jacket, my awkward grin and then looked me up and down again and gazed at the book I was gripping tightly. I glanced down and realized I was holding Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue”. He shook his head at me as if I was Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh’s preppy love child and walked up to pay for his book. As I put the book back where it belonged, alongside “Eat This, Not That!”, I noticed the most interesting man in my neighborhood approach the cute, young redhead cashier. He placed his regal cane against the checkout counter, tipped his top hat with the yellow feathers proudly protruding out and took out his card.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Greatest American Zero (Celsius)

Believe it or not, I was asked a few weeks back by my roommate, who is a woman who likes women, whether or not men ever have a cold penis. I actually had to think about it. I mean her reasoning was that men always complain about freezing their balls off, but never about having a cold cock. I literally paused for a while and realized I have never complained to my buddies “man, my snake is shivering”, or said “I’ve got an icy icicle”, or even nervously told my doctor “my bishop is turning blue.” I mean you would have thought I would have at one time told a girl I was dating, on a cold winter day, “God, my little Fink is frigid”.

After a while of deep thought, I couldn’t really come up with specific memories of when my penis was cold. I mean, my fingers get cold every time I touch a drink at a bar. My feet are cold during the winter time in bed and it usually takes a couple of minutes of canoodling, massaging, spooning, caressing, undressing, and probably any other fun thing that you can do with a woman that ends in “ing” for my body to really warm up. The fact that my ears are painfully cold in the winter time is the only reason I wear a hat (I look like a 12 year old in a hat due to youthful face and tiny ears). I guess you can chalk it up to the male body, like any other dumb animal’s body, having built in defense mechanisms. When we are outside in freezing conditions (or if we are thrown into a lake in the summertime as an eleven year old by counselors at a Jewish sleep-away camp who are drunk with power and boredom) the dreaded shrinkage occurs.

Ah yes, shrinkage, the act of the penis shouting “help me, I’m melting” during drastic changes in temperature or when surrounded by water for long periods of time. I’m sure shrinkage exists to protect the penis from the elements and not just because there is a God and he does indeed smoke weed. Ah shrinkage- the physical act that inspired a popular toy in the late ‘70s and ‘80s- the Shrinky Dink. Even the name sounds like shrink dick.

Shrinky Dinks were these plastic sheets that you and your mom would put in the oven and they would shrink down to hard plastic, but retain its original shape. This might be a nurture reason for boys growing up not naturally inclined for cooking. Watching the plastic shrink like that in the oven might have subconsciously reminded us of our already tiny penises getting smaller when we took our forced baths. The Shrinky Dinks (great name for a band) came in images of popular characters of the time like Superman, E.T. or possibly “The Fonze”. Actually, Fonzie is the only man in history to have never experienced shrinkage. That’s how he was able to satisfy the Polaskey twins, Pinky Tuscadaro and thwart the “Malachi Crunch” (another great name for a band) all in one night. Not only did his dick never shrink but it could probably start a ‘57 Chevy and switch the song on the jukebox to “Blueberry Hill” with one quick pelvic thrust.

I remembered the conversation between me and my roommate this past week as I walked home from work in 17 degree weather. I felt the sensation of not only being smacked in the face by the frigid air, but my tallywacker felt like it had been wacked by a popsicle. Anyone in the northeast knows that it’s been unusually cold this past week. I have a ten minute walk home, and it felt so cold that I was literally muttering ”Oh my god. Are you fucking kidding me” out loud while walking through the wind. New York is a walking city, and you know its freezing when you take momentary refuge in the a supermarket on the way home just to warm up your ears and you end up grabbing a pack of gum and a box of Cracklin’ Oat Bran.

On the walk, all I could think about was the fact that my penis was indeed cold and that cold penises mean frostbitten toes. Luckily I have a heat pole in my room which spews out steam that makes my room dry, but on nights like this, it was exactly what I needed to raise my body temperature. The next morning, before I layered up like the little brother in “A Christmas Story”, I was taking a shower and thinking. I get some of my most random thoughts in the shower, usually when I’m singing bad ‘80s songs. Now, I know that I sing horribly out of tune as I’ve been told by my roommate on many an occasion, but to me the acoustics of the shower turn my voice into Bryan Adams, the year into 1985 and a need to express my memories of the summer of '69.

This morning, after almost a week of freezing my ass, balls, feet, ears, Adam’s apple, and finally my penis off, a song came to me. It was the theme song to “The Greatest American Hero” and new lyrics spoke through my mouth as if they had been given to me by the same aliens who gave William Katt his suit. I toweled off quickly and went on Youtube with the song fresh in my head and played the video while matching up my own lyrics to the song. Unfortunately, unlike the fleeting cold sensation in my penis that day, the theme song to the Greatest American Hero is stuck in my head like a bad cold that I can’t quite shake.

Here is my version of the Greatest American Hero theme song. For those of you old enough to remember the show, this should bring back some fine memories of a time when a superhero could have a dorky suit and a blond afro and still be cool.

The Greatest American Zero (Celsius)
Lyrics by Think Fink.

Look at what’s happened to my balls
I can hardly feel them myself
Suddenly I’m starting to look like a girl
It should’ve been somebody else

Believe it or not I have a cold penis
It does not want to hang so freee
It’s shrinking fast in the frigid, cold air
It’s inside of meeee
Believe it or not it’s in meeee

Looks like the chill of a cold day
Hit me and made my balls blue
Breaking me out of the mood I was in,
Making me one freezing sterile Jew.

Believe it or not I have a cold penis
It does not want to hang so freee
It’s shrinking fast in the frigid, cold air
It’s inside of meeee
Believe it or not it’s in meeee

Why can’t I peee?
Believe it or not it’s in meeeee.