Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Ode to Mediocrity

And so it goes for the cursed New Jersey Nets that the last game played in Jersey gets no pomp and no circumstance. No ABA banners lowered, no cigars lit by Joey Pants.

No goodbye swamp song by Bon Jovi followed by a hello canal song by Jay Z. No graceful wave to the fans by Buck, just sorry faithful, you’re shit out of luck.

No final salute to Drazen Petrovic’s passion. Just a promise of Rocawear fashion. No recollection of what could have been with Michael Ray. Just a glimmer of the future along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

No video highlights of Jason Kidd’s no-look passes. Just moving trucks driving past Fairleigh Dickinson classes. No nod to the men who grew up cheering for Chocolate Thunder. Just the flashy new billboards we’ll soon be walking under.

No standing ovation for the gravity defying leaps of Dr. J. Just Brook scraping Park Slope’s sky and waiting to say hey. No final complaint about the wasteland once known as Brendan Byrne. Just an architectural wonder that shouts it’s our turn.

No laughing at Derrick Coleman and Whoop De Damn Doo. Just Prokhorov swooping in and ending the zoo. No honest emotion from the voice of Ian Eagle. Just celebrity row with Rosie Perez and quite possibly, Jason Segal.

No Bill Raftery call of one more kiss off the glass. Just faded memories whizzing by of childhood’s past.

No final season at all and to all fans it’s good night. Just hope along the horizon that Dwight Howard just might.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I Took the Bait, Man.

This is my reply to a party invitation that I recently got on Facebook from people that I keep in touch with mostly because of Facebook.

August 19th.
Hmm, let me check my upcoming schedule for that week.

August 13th- I'll be attending a Jason Bateman look-alike-contest. This will be located somewhere near the Williamsburg Bridge on the Manhattan side that will make me feel old after I complain to a girl in an appropriately tight “Ithaca is Gorges” t-shirt that there’s a line to get into a bar that’s above a Burger King. This prompts a blank nod from her, which in turn piques my Bateman in “The Sweetest Thing” attempt at flirting with the line, “I think I once saw Grimace do a Jell-O shot at the Lansky Lounge.” She then will turn around and let out a wispy “cool,” while the kid behind me in a t-shirt and shorts who is eating a Bacon Double Cheeseburger asks me “What’s the Lansky Lounge?”

I’ll soon be pondering the fact that not only am I surrounded by 24 year olds who don’t remember a popular 90's bar that I went to in the early 2000's but I will have a realization that my participation in this whole Bateman Bonanza was an attempt to act like a spontaneous youth while dressing up like someone who is actually my age and would never be waiting on line to get into a dive bar with a rooftop view that only two people and Kate Moss can access at one time.

A cute 20-something girl with short brown hair and a small hoop earring in the middle of her lobe that levitates parallel to the ground like a halo will glance at me at the bar and flash me an Alicia Silverstone smile. “Alright, Hogan Family,” she'll say to me and we'll begin to chat for a while about things I won’t remember later as our eyes and smiles connect. We’ll start talking about music and she’ll tell me that Kings of Leon are better than U2 and I’ll laugh and say “I'm not sure that they're as cool as Arcade Fire but neither band could compare to U2 or the Police.” “The Police, huh. My dad used to sing Roxanne to me when I was a kid,” she’ll say while she pokes me in the chest and laughs in a mocking, yet adorable way that will make me want to make out with her more.

“Really, your dad sounds pretty cool. Is he Eddie Murphy?,” I’ll say as I inch closer to her and gently rub circles into her lower back before she closes her eyes and grabs my hand. “Who’s Eddie Murphy?” she asks with a quizzical look on her face.” “Wait, really. You know the Hogan Family but you don’t know who Eddie Murphy is,” I’ll say while shaking my head. She’ll then smile and say “Of course I know who Eddie Murphy is. My older brother had “Raw” on DVD and we used to get Hogan Family reruns on channel 5 where I grew up. It’s no Family Ties but I did have a brief crush on Jason Bateman as a girl. You know before my Pacey phase.” We both laugh and I’ll say “Alright, we can go on.”

"Pictures of You" by the Cure will then start to play in the bar as if my own iPod was being used to facilitate our affection. Her eyes will light up to the song, (which reminds everyone of being a teenager, even if you are still a teen when you first hear it) and we will make out briefly but passionately until she receives a text from a friend in Brooklyn and her attention spans another borough as she apologizes and tells me she has to go.

Before leaving, she’ll stick her hand in my pocket and grab my license out of my wallet and say “Holy Fuck Hogan Family. I thought you were 30 tops.” “I know. I am 40. I can’t even say 40 yet. I still feel 32ish. Consider me 38 and 24 months. ” “32ish. Aww. That’s cuteish,” she‘ll say while pouting naturally with her lips and eyebrows and rubbing my hand. I will take her number in my phone and then blow her a kiss with my eyes as if I’m saying goodbye to my twenties along with her. Then I will make a pledge to avoid the Lower East Side for a while and realize that she didn't pick up on the fact that I was clearly dressed as if I was in Arrested Development.

For a moment, I’ll worry if being single at 40 has put me in my own state of arrested development. My youthful appearance can be a passport to blend in to the young, single post-college New York bar scene that I no longer belong to or have the patience to be in (without a couch to sit on.) Then, a few guys in my age range who look like they came out of their mother’s womb with a conservative side part and a pair of khakis will pass me and make me wonder if they even had to try to capture Bateman’s uptight, stick-up-the-ass character in Couples Retreat. I won’t stand a chance in the Jason Bateman contest but will head out the bar and back towards Houston St. while wearing a confident grin as I whistle Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks” and quickly untuck my polo shirt from my pants.

August 14th- I'll be lamenting my loss at said contest while going about my day but I will stop suddenly while crossing the street to sigh when I see two buses go by that have billboards on them for Bateman’s latest films Horrible Bosses and The Change-Up.

August 15th- I will be over my poor showing as Jason Bateman and will sit with my laptop at Starbucks and notice that the man sitting in front of me is actually French Director Roman Polanski. Apparently, he too appreciates the sweet goodness of the mocha frappucino, except he will voraciously devour his frosty beverage and try and lick the whipped cream mustache off the corners of his mouth with his tongue, which makes me push my drink to the side in disgust.

I’ll want to tell the young Asian girl sitting across from him to grab her smoothie and run and I’ll attempt to motion to her as she turns around with not so subtle head jerks to the left. This will prompt her to stare at me and then pick up her drink and leave. She won’t know it but I might have saved her from a painful night of Quaalude-induced anal sex with a creepy old French auteur. I’ll have my Polanski spotting confirmed when I see him using a pay phone on the street (I mean who uses a pay phone anymore besides international fugitives and crazy people who talk to cheese.)

August 16th- 17th - I'll be depressed due to the rainy weather and the general monotony of life and sleep most of the daylight away before emerging from my apartment cocoon to perform my duties as the dog's chauffer around the block. For dinner. we'll both eat what is left of the slightly soggy Corn Pops I bought on the 12th in anticipation of my victory at the Jason Bateman look-a-like contest.

August 18th- I'll wake up to a beautiful day and a narrow glimpse of the blue sky through my bathroom window will put a skip in my showering and I’ll sing a medley of Bryan Adams' 80s hits that I have continued to sing on occasion since junior high. I will mangle the lines seamlessly from “It Cuts like a Knife” to “Somebody” to “Summer of ‘69” as my dog pays no attention. I will later compliment random women in the street on their smile or hair style as I walk with a strut to my step. I will bump into a 40-something divorced woman in the hallway of my building who always seems over-stressed but still manages to look good in a sun dress.

I’ll spontaneously avoid my natural spider sense to not get involved in a neighbor’s life and offer to take her ten year old son (that I nod what’s up to whenever I pass by him) to a movie at the theater across the street sometime. I’ll be surprised when she hands me twenty dollars and shouts his name. We’ll watch Mr. Popper's Penguins in a theater filled with divorced dads and stroller moms where we will laugh together every time the penguins slip away from Jim Carrey's grasp. Then I will take him for ice cream and home to his appreciative mother where she will thank me and smile at me sheepishly.

She’ll show up at my door an hour later with a bottle of wine and proceed to tell me her whole girl from the Midwest-meets NYC guy who becomes lawyer and proceeds to spend more time with clients than with her as she spends more time as an emergency room nurse with doctors who she hates and patients that she loves- and they both end up screwing other people and fucking up their marriage- life story. Inevitably, we end up finishing the bottle and having sexually frustrated single mom Monster's Ball style sex for the next few hours until we both crash curled up together like a Rubix snake.

August 19th- I will awake to find a Post-It note stuck to my ass telling me that she had fun and that I’m sweet but it would complicate her life too much right now to see someone who lives in her building. I’ll think she’s right and admire her penmanship before noticing a belly ring on my floor and a hickey on my neck and stomach. I'll then brush my teeth and go back to sleep for the next 6 hours or so before taking a long shower and going to the local diner to get an egg sandwich.

At this point I’ll be feeling unusually relaxed for a 40 year old man with the neck of a teenager. I'll remember that I have this party to go to and will text my friend that I’ll be there around 9. At home, I’ll turn on the TV and notice that The Sweetest Thing is on, which not only marked the comedic film comeback of Jason Bateman but Christina Applegate as well. “Now she is the sweetest thing,” I will think to myself, as I realize that instead of texting my friend, I texted the girl from the bar. I’m too relaxed to ponder her response and feel a well-deserved nap coming on, so I set my alarm for an hour. As I lean back on my pillow and thank the god of late afternoon weekend naps, I’ll notice Jason Bateman doing a damn fine cover of The Bangles’ Eternal Flame. As the credits begin to roll and my eyelids try to close, I’m as comfortable as I can be.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lazy things are afoot at the 7-11

Most crack heads love two things, smoking crack and finding more crack to smoke. But I have noticed in my limited travels on my nightly dog walks within a few blocks from my apartment that a crack enthusiast will always take time out from his busy crack scavenger hunts to stop whatever he is doing (i.e. muttering to the woman behind the counter at the bodega while she has her back turned that she should stock up on Dr Pepper and string cheese) and point out to you how cute your dog is with childlike innocence. I guess sometimes crack isn't always whack.

Sometimes, for a brief moment it can aid in reaffirming your belief in humanity and remind you of the love you have for a pet that gives you unconditional affection. This is the kind of drug that Huey Lewis sang about, the kind that makes a man without a home find momentary solace in the cuteness of a Daschund’s seemingly soulful eyes.

Of course after such an encounter with a crack head you’ll want to wait at least three minutes after he leaves the store you're in before you exit it, because he'll probably toss a dead pigeon at you and steal your wallet and your cute ass dog so he can trade them for more crack.

Tonight I ventured into a 7-11 near me and even though there has been 7-11s in Manhattan for around six years or so, I had my first 7-11 suburban/ college town moment. As I waited on line to buy my late night essentials (paper towels, contact lens solution and a Naked Green Machine smoothie) I noticed a college age Asian stoner with long hair and a tie-die shirt (looked like he was an extra in the movie PCU) behind me who offered to give my dog a bite of the half-eaten breaded chicken cutlet that he was holding in his hand.

He wasn’t on line behind me. He was just standing behind me eating a breaded chicken cutlet with a wrapper nowhere in sight that I could only hope he bought at the store (only a college stoner would bring his own food to a 7-11 just to use their microwave.) After I kindly explained to the dude (if you’re a member of the male gender hanging out in a 7-11 at 3 am eating a chicken cutlet that looks like it came from a vending machine in your dorm, dude is the only term that can be used to describe you; as opposed to man or gentleman or aristocrat) that my dog is on a low protein-high kibble diet. I nodded to the dude and then to the dog and rushed home to satisfy my own smoothie addiction( or as close as you can get to rushing while walking a dog that needs to stop every five feet to check its mental Blackberry to decide if the spot needs to be peed on or not.)

Now that close encounter of the idiotic kind would never happen at my local bodega, as the Koreans who run the place would not stand for a stoner loitering in their store. I respect that though. Those men work so many hours, I’m sure they sleep standing up at the register. They always recognize me and other regulars in the neighborhood and are nowhere near cold or constantly leery of being robbed like they are portrayed in black gangster movies of the 90s. On the flip side, a homeless crack head would never linger in a 7-11 too long.

The ridiculously bright florescent lighting that’s about as aesthetically pleasing as the inside of a high school class room bothers their eyes much the same way it would affect a vampire or a magwai (When was the last time you saw a vampire in a movie or a TV show eating beef jerky?) When it comes to awkward interactions with the general public that I can’t avoid while walking the dog, I’ll take a homeless crack head any day of the week over an NYU college stoner. It is dudes like that who give the majority of the civilized, occasional marijuana smoking population a bad name. I can’t think of anything more whack than eating a chicken cutlet out of a 7-11 microwave. For Christ’s sake those microwaves only have one setting. Hot Pocket.

If you had told me in 1994, that I would one day pay $3.99 for a beverage that contained blended fruit, broccoli, spinach and blue green algae, I would ask you to pack the pipe with more green algae so we could smoke the rest of it. You know you’re over 35, if you’re only addiction in life is a smoothie. To put this in perspective, the only reason I might watch porn more often than I drink these Green Machine smoothies is that porn is free and the Green Machine Smoothies are $3.99 for a 15 ounce bottle. I don’t know what kind of hidden ingredient (probably sugar and caramel) they add to the Green Machine smoothies to make them so good and I don’t care. It’s also an added bonus that they are named after the greatest present I have ever or will ever receive.

The Green machines were to Big Wheels in the late 70s what BMW’s were to Buicks. Sure they both had a seat that you sat on and two big wheels that you manipulated by peddling, but there was something cooler about the Green Machine. You felt like you knew what it was like to be the Six Million Dollar Man on a Green Machine. On a Big Wheel, you felt like you were Richie Cunningham.

For most of my childhood and into my adult life I have been more of the Richie Cunningham /Herman’s Head/Chandler/Whiny Doctor on Scrubs who amazingly found the time from working in a hospital, pining over a cute but neurotic doctor and seeking the approval of his boss and cool, black best friend to date beautiful women /Ted from How I Met your Mother type. But when I was on my Green Machine, I was the Steve Austin/Fonzie/Jim Rockford/Burt Reynolds type, even though I was 7 and ran home for dinner whenever my mom shouted my name out the front door. As I made sharp turns with my friends on the cul-de-sac and I gripped the handles, I could imagine myself moving in slow-motion while wearing a red jump suit as Jamie Summers waited for me on my driveway with lemonade and a frozen Charleston Chew. As Archie Bunker used to sing on TV when I was a kid “Those were the days.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mounds has a heap of issues

Mounds is Almond Joy's red-headed step child. Mounds was never picked to play in any candy bar reindeer games. If Mounds was an elf, it would be the one who wanted to be a dentist. Even the Clark Bar gets more action at a bowling alley candy machine than Mounds. Parents who put Mounds in trick-or-treat bags usually wind up having their house egged.

Mounds has struggled its entire life to break away from its co-dependent relationship from Almond Joy. Mounds shows up to work with bruises on its ridges and tells a co-worker that it fell down the stairs. Mounds hears Almond Joy coming home drunk late at night angrily fidgeting with the keys at the door and begins to shake.

Mounds grew its hair long and died it blacker in high school and would lay in bed listening to The Smiths' “How Soon is Now” and shout the line “I am human and I need to be loved” in an overly dramatic way to get attention, even though no one was home. Then it would cut its side very precisely until its inner coconut bled out slightly and it could finally feel like a nut.

As children, Almond Joy got an indoor car racing track set for Christmas one year and all Mounds got was some Tinker Toys. In gym class, Almond Joy would team up with the Twix twins to run near Mounds and toss the ball as many times as they could to it in “Kill the Carrier.”It even got teased for being too dark by tootsie rolls which prompted Almond Joy to give it the nickname "Dikembe," which stuck through all of 8th grade.

Almond Joy lost its virginity freshman year of high school to a Blondie in the backseat of her white Volkswagen Cabriolet Convertible after getting her drunk on Bartles and James wine coolers; while Mounds was tricked into playing seven minutes in heaven in a closet with Twizzler black licorice who laughed at it for not knowing how to French kiss.

Don’t judge Mounds too harshly for its lack of a spine(or hard candy shell). If you were told you would never accomplish anything over and over again for 40 years, you too might wind up in a dead-end job with a girlfriend who is 30 pounds of nougat overweight and takes you for granted while she's cheating on you with a Watchamacallit. When it comes right down to it, Almond Joy's got almonds. What does Mounds got? Mounds got “Don't.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Captain Kirk boldly goes where every man has gone before

Canadian genius (holds status at all Toronto Apple stores) /actor/producer theologist/ all-around swell guy and former neighbor to a friend he called "Boner," Kirk Cameron, held a press conference on the steps of his palatial estate to refute the statements of quantum physicist (and some my say also a genius) Stephen Hawking. Cameron deemed Heaven to actually, physically exist in the sky. To show what Heaven might look like, he displayed to the lone reporter a diorama that includes a pearly gate made of toothpicks glued on cotton balls placed in front of a Papa Smurf action figure. When asked why he thinks he knows more about the universe than Hawking, Cameron just pointed at his Canadian Oscars on the mantle behind him and smiled.

Cameron also added that legendary scientist Isaac Newton was addicted to a hallucanagenic chemical found in a rare fig tree and that gravity is indeed “hogwash.” To prove it he plans on dropping his Alan Thicke vinyl albums off the roof of his house at the same time as a stack of Teen Beat magazines with him on the cover. Cameron is sure that God will aid in lowering the music of his friend and former TV father Alan Thicke (legitimate Canadian genius) down to the ground first. “God has already lifted my career up to make it light as air and I’m sure he’ll drop Alan’s music like a stone, or should I say stabone.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


A few weeks back I was leaving my apartment on a Saturday night to take the dog for a walk and this young college-age guy approaches me from out of the shadows of the scaffolding next to my building and gets right up in my face. If you have lived in New York City for any period of time, your mind develops a Terminator robot way of immediately assessing all interactions with strangers or more appropriately “the strange.”

In this city, strange can cover everyone from the always out-of-breath woman in your building that asks you to help her lift her work suitcase every time she sees you on the stairs and whose cats are desperately trying to escape her apartment whenever the door opens a crack (which makes me want to distract her somehow in order to aid in their liberation, combined with this car wreck human desire to fight the urge to glance at the horrors that must exist behind the door as it thankfully slams shut); or of course, the man or woman you happen to be currently dating.

It was not hard to quickly assess the situation and downgrade it from menacing to amusing. Even though the kid appeared drunk and slightly glossy eyed, he did not exactly strike the fear into me as he was about 5’7" with thick black-rimmed glasses that I find incredibly cute on girls in a sort of a retro 80s Square Pegs look, a messed-up Bieberish flop of hair that hung down to connect to his eyebrows and shouted “I may have some bald friends with shaved heads but I still can’t conceive of male-pattern baldness in my future.”

What did catch me for a loop is how after appearing out of nowhere and getting right up in my face, he brashly says to me “Hey, where's the cock bar?” (As if it was around the corner) This is Murray Hill where the post college crowd hangs out. There are 5 different frozen yogurt shops but, alas, no gay bars. If there was a gay bar here, it wouldn’t have a blunt and direct name like “Cock Bar.” It would have a cheesy yogurt shop pun name like “16 Handles,” except it would be something akin to “Franks ‘n’ Jeans.”

The Terminator response part to my brain would normally print out possible answers in my head for me to retort with when approached randomly in the street, starting with the obvious “Fuck you Eishole,” but I was definitely flummoxed. I then noticed that he had two companions who were standing a little behind him; another short but heavier guy and a slightly chubby, but cute girl with the same glasses as the guy that approached me initially. She was wearing a Boston College t-shirt and I could tell they were not from NYC as the girl seemed to be looking at MapQuest on her phone to find directions to the bar. She told me they were in town visiting without lifting her head from the screen as the first kid asks me again to tell him where the cock bar was.

I had lived in the city long enough that I knew it was somewhere in the east village (bars with neon roosters signs on them tend to stick out,) but the guy was drunk enough that he had no force field up for possible homophobic assholes and seemed to enjoy fucking with me. He started whining “Come on, where is it?” possibly thinking in the back of his boldly soused mind that I'll say "Forget the bar- the cock is right here buddy." I made the face of a man in great ponder as it turned red and I rubbed my chin and gazed upwards trying to recall the exact address. He seemed to take great glee in my embarrassment and actually rubbed my arm for a second as I was trying to think of the right street(quite the cocky move, or should I say "very ballsy" of him.)

Even though I am 40 and have been properly beaten down by life in the work force I have managed to retain my youthful appearance and no matter where I am in the city, tourists come up to me and ask me for directions. I guess wearing my tight-fitting Express for Men zip down waist-length gray jacket with the black lion logo on the chest, being led on a walk by a dachshund-mix dog with an adorably cute face did not exactly scream “gay basher."

As a straight man being asked for the Cock Bar, I can't just blurt out the street off the top of my head as if I go there for brunch and blow jobs every Sunday." Oh the Cock Bar, why that's on 1st and 1st. Just look for the rooster sign above the line of guys wearing low hanging v-neck t-shirts and tell Steve the doorman you know me."

Surprisingly enough, as a single man with a lesbian roommate, I did not know the exact street of the Cock Bar off hand but knew it was near Houston on First Ave. or Second Ave. and was able to point it out to the girl as she held up her cell. At this point the original kid that asked me was finishing up peeing against the wall under the scaffolding and after wishing them well on their quest for drinks and most likely cock, I followed my dog around the corner and wondered why two hot women in matching tank tops never come up to me and ask me to take them to the Clit Club.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Chip off the Young Block

Me: Hey, Happy Anniversary. I always forget that you guys got married on January 30th and not New Years Eve.

Dad: Well, we were rich and stupid then and should have made it a different
night, but we thought it would give people a day to make plans.

Dad: So, what's new with you? Are you still seeing the hickey girl?

Me: She faded away. I might have a date with a girl I used to work with.

Dad: You know after seeing my genes passed on in such a cute way with your sister’s baby, I'd like to see it again some day while I can still see.

Me: What if I end up with a buck-toothed blonde or a cock-eyed fat girl?

Dad: Don't worry, the Finkle genes are strong and the family cuteness will shine through.

(After a few moments of uninteresting talk about me looking for work, I change the subject back to my sister’s baby. In a Jewish family you can be arrested for shoplifting a sex toy but if your sister has a baby that week, it’s all good with new grandparents. Although, the statute of limitations on idiocy or laziness runs out after the bris)

Me: Do you consider it a Hanukah miracle that one of your offspring was finally able to spring out a baby?

Dad: I don’t want to consider it a miracle that would make its reccurrence unlikely.

Me: So, it’s not as impressive as the oil lasting 6 days.

Dad: It was 8 days and actually a rabbi told me a few years ago that that was all made up.

Me: I know. You told me already.

Dad: They didn't come up with the Temple miracle until 800 years later.
Hanukah was originally just a celebration of a battle victory. Even David leaving Israel was because Saul wanted him out.

Me: Was there even a Goliath?

Dad: Yes there was a Goliath, but he definitely wasn’t Jewish. You don’t see too many Goliaths walking around now.

Me: That’s because he lost. If he had beaten David, maybe you would have named my brother Goliath Finkle.

Dad: That does have a ring to it. There was a Goliath but he wasn’t a giant.

Me: What was he 5’9’’?

Dad: More like 5’6.’’

Me: It’s like when you watch movies from the 40s. Everyone was 5'6’’ back then.
James Cagney was like 5'4.’’

Dad: I used to be 5'9.’’

Betsy: (my stepmother can be heard faintly in the background ): When were you 5'9?

Dad: Ok, 5'8 1/2. Now, I'm 5'8. Grandpa shrunk almost 2 inches. I hope that
doesn't happen to me. See what you have to look forward to when you get old. So,
is this your Happy Anniversary call and your Happy New Years call?

Me: This is my belated Happy Anniversary call and I'll call you tomorrow
for New Years.

Dad: Gotcha my boy. I will speak to you later. I can't really talk now. We're at
the gym. Love you.

Me: OK. I'll speak to you later, bye.

My favorite thing about the conversation is that my Dad ended it with “I can't really talk, we're at the gym" and I only imagine him sweating on a stationary bike while holding the cell phone. He is in his early 70s and he is in much better shape than most people over the age of 35 due to an isometric routine that he has been doing for over 40 years. I started doing his routine ten years ago and I fantasize about doing an infomercial with him, but I’d be the one who would have to get in better shape to do it.

I do the timed workout routine along to quick rock/punk songs on Pandora and for every The Ramones-to-Rancid -to-Tom Petty song runs, there’s always that fourth Pandora out-of-the-blue song that cuts to Johnny Cash and songs of that tempo for the next few minutes to take me out of my rhythm.

Nothing against the man in black, as he is the guy you want on the radio when you’re a production assistant on an extremely low budget action movie and you’re being driven back to the city from upstate NY by the cool DP in his car on a summer night and you’re in the back seat next to the laid back prop girl with the sly smile who was born to wear a tank top and jeans (and you’re 95% sure is not a lesbian) while you’re both vaguely stoned but more comfortably tired after a 15-hour shoot; but try doing squat thrusts in your bedroom to “Delia’s Gone.” It’s not ideal.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Blow

I was walking Ty the dog through the falling snow late at night last week and when I got halfway through what I assumed to be the sidewalk, I noticed a well made snow angel. I stopped to admire it as it cut an impressive image in the middle of the virgin snow fall. All of a sudden it started to move, which shocked me as I realized there might be a frostbitten homeless man being buried in his own tomb by falling white grave dirt (of course my initial, less eloquent thought was really more like “holy shit”.)

I started removing the snow that had enveloped him and turned him over. His face was covered in dirty snow and I leaned him up against a nearby mail box. When a huge snow bank begins to dissipate from a Manhattan street, what’s left behind is the remnants of the discarded cigarette butts, random pieces of trash and dog crap bags that were tossed into it as the snow developed and formed various layers of crud between the snow. It’s a New York City version of an uncovered igneous rock formation.

As I began to wipe the groggy, but surprisingly alive man’s face clean, I lifted up his slumped-over head. I imagined myself on the cover of the Post with a headline: “Hero Stays Cool, Saves Freezing Man,” or better yet “Snow Angel of Life.” My dog was starting to join in on the excitement at the prospect of witnessing the visage of Murray Hill’s mystery man and began to prance back and forth like he was a daschund mixed with horse instead of terrier. Of course it could have been because he was discombobulated due to the lack of scent from any other dogs in the snow and didn’t know where to unleash his paint brush on the pure white canvas.

The man began to cough or possibly snore as I dried his face with some Kleenex that I always keep in my jacket pocket to prevent the awkward one-hand-over-the-face walk into the grocery store after a sudden sneeze attack that would momentarily reduce any man to Timmy Lupus status. I leaned in to ask him if he could talk and his hair looked like he had tiny brown dreadlocks from the caked-in snow. I noticed he was a white guy, probably in his mid-40s and that he didn’t smell like a homeless person.

He gave off a distinct odor I had smelled before and tried to pinpoint as I waited for his labored response. And then it hit me, it smelled like the Glade Angel Whispers candle my roommate bought (OK, I bought it, but only because I noticed in the store that it captured the essence of a stripper without the feigned interest and avoidance of eye contact) and then it really hit me.

This guy reeked of stripper perfume. I mean, it was coming out of his pores and was seeped into what looked like a silk shirt he was wearing under his coat. As I glanced at Ty, I noticed him staring silently at the man with his head turned and what appeared to be a quizzical look on his face. Suddenly, the disheveled, but well dressed man shook his head violently (kind of like what a cartoon character or Pauly Shore in one of his early 90s films might do after being hit in the head with a frying pan) and kicked me in the shin as he opened his eyes wide momentarily and his besotted brain regained semi-consciousness.

There are a few things an adult can pretty much count on not having to deal with after graduating from the childhood world of purple nurples, noogies and wedgies and getting kicked in the shins is one of them. When your wife finds a condom wrapper in your coat pocket, she doesn’t kick you in the shins; she calls you a scumbag, checks your blackberry for female names she doesn’t recognize, and then whips it at your 42-inch HDTV screen while shouting at you to get the fuck out as you try to explain that someone at work put it there as a joke. That would be one of many expected outcomes to a situation that an adult might get into. Having an inebriated stranger with a likely penchant for women named Amber kick you in the shins, is unexpected.

Getting kicked in the shins, for those of you who also had forgotten the painful stinging feeling is somewhat akin to when you would get snow under your gloves as a kid while out playing. The sudden rush of pure, unadulterated cold against your wrist would spur that quick hsssssss sound as your mouth closed and grinned simultaneously in pain. Except, I let out a quick high-pitched shriek that was somewhere between Michael Jackson on top of the car at the end of the “Black or White” video and a 10 year old girl bumping into Justin Bieber on her way to homeroom.

As I clenched my fist and the pain began to subside, I realized that this guy was wearing black Ferragamos that cost more than everything I possessed in the tiny bedroom of my walk-up apartment. I figured he was some banker type who pissed off a stripper he had paid to go home with him and was kicked out of a cab for being too much of an aggressive shitfaced A-hole to waste a night on. I felt like punching the ungrateful bastard but had another image of a Post cover act as my conscience, except this one was titled “Jerk punches drunk.”

I had wiped most of the snow off his 6 o’clock shadow but it still looked like he had a thin white goatee. He came to life again, this time slower and almost in a cute way like a baby awakening from a nap as he stretched his arms out slowly in front of his face. I watched him lick the white stuff surrounding his lips and he smiled widely, and spoke clearly when he said “Hey man, this sure is pure snow.” That’s when I realized it wasn’t a banker, it was Charlie Sheen. It all made sense now, the smell of stripper, the silk shirt, the $500 shoes; the ability to sleep off a high on a sidewalk as snow blankets your limp body. I guess I didn’t expect to see a celebrity in a snow storm on my block, but hey, this is Manhattan.

“Having a rough night,” I say. “Oh my head,” he says, while shaking the icicles out of his hair.” Where am I? Where’s Candi,” Charlie mumbled. “I don’t know any Candi. It’s 1 in the morning and I found you passed out in the snow on my street in Murray Hill,” I replied calmly. “Who the fuck are you and who's Murray? What happened to Candi”, he growled while checking his pockets.”

I clenched Ty’s leash a little tighter and say “I’m Jeff Finkle. I live on this street. We are in the section of mid-town called Murray Hill. I don’t know who Murray is. I’m guessing he doesn’t live here anymore since nobody under the age of 60 is named Murray and no one under 30 lives in Murray Hill. I’m actually 40 and I didn’t move here until I was 32. I’m a writer and I’m kind of a late bloomer but it’s a long story and you probably want to get back to your hotel Mr. Sheen." He then loudly blurts out “Jafinkle” repeatedly as if it was one word for about five seconds and starts to laugh as his saliva parachutes out of the whiskey-stained ashtray that is his mouth and lands onto my jacket sleeve.

I lift him up and he leans back against the mail box to prevent himself from falling over. I tell him I’m going to hail a cab and to stay where he is and he points at Ty. “He’s got a white line on his chest, just like Candi did.” He was referring to the white stripe of hair on Ty’s chest that stands out like a tie in his surrounding black fur. Ty is still staring at him in silent judgment, except now he tilted his head to the other side. A tear begins to slide down his cheek and he pulls me close. “I really do miss Candi. Get me out of here please,” he whispers in my ear.

I hold him up with one arm and with the other loosen the leash on Ty (apparently, I can only multi-task in times of need) and walk him to the street. I have my arm raised as snow is falling on my head, Charlie Sheen is leaning on my shoulder like I’m his date and it’s after midnight on New Year’s Eve; and Ty is behind us trying to find a garbage bag under the snow. I see an on-duty cab at the light and wave frantically, even though it is the only vehicle on the road and we are the only people on the street.

“Thanks a lot kid, Charlie says.” “Actually, you know you’re only about 6 years older than me," I say. He turns his head and grins. “Really. Dude, you don’t look a day over 28. What’s your secret?” “I have been using facial moisturizer since I was 18,” I say with a smile.” “Me too”, he quickly retorts. “And, I’ve never been married,” I say as I open the taxi door and help him inside. “Well, you got me there,” he says with perfect timing.

As I turn my head to tell the driver to take him to the Plaza hotel, the driver’s eyes light up. He wags his finger at us and says “Two and a Half Men” in an Indian accent, as if he just guessed an answer on a game show. I realize he thinks I’m Jon Cryer and I have a sudden flashback to being called Ducky for a week in high school by an unusually short wrestler on steroids with a Napoleon complex (he forgot about me once he discovered a freshman who had a stronger resemblance to Lucas.) This prompted me to imagine another Post headline. One that read “Sheen and Cryer caught with two and a half ounces.”

I shook Charlie’s hand and told him to take care. He nodded his head and said “Good night Alan,” before slumping over in the seat. After some pleading, I signed one of the driver’s receipts “To Salil: Stay Safe. Watch out for bumps in the road. Your pal, Jon Cryer.”

As the cab headed uptown through the winter wonderland that was a perfectly angelic New York City snowfall, I let Ty off the leash and watched him jump through the fresh snow back to our apartment. He enjoyed the soft mounds of white powder like a kid in a candy store.

(Instead of showing you a blitzed photo of Charlie Sheen, I figured I'd end this story with the image of a young Jon Cryer in the forgotten 80s film "Hiding Out." I couldn't grow a beard like that if I stopped shaving for 20 years.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

40 is the New 23.

Being out of work I can handle. Being out of work at 40 and writing freelance articles about high school bowlers I can handle. Being a freelance writer who rediscovered his talent for writing in his 30s and is trying to break into advertising while simultaneously getting people to read my blog, I can handle. Being 40 without so-called true love in my life or a cute little newborn son who relatives I barely know, say has my ears, I can handle.

Being a freelance writer and sitting at a coffee shop while a woman sitting behind me asks an acquaintance with an obvious stutter and minor palsy to keep repeating himself while telling a story, I can handle. Being a freelance writer at a coffee shop and being constantly distracted by the barista who looks like a 21 year old college guy and sounds eerily like celebrity Chef Paula Dean while chit chatting with customers about the weather and recommending the yummy Pumpkin Pie Chai tea, I can handle (he was right about the tea.)

Being 40 while living in a 5th floor walk-up in New York City, I can handle. Being recently laid off with everyone else in my office that was shutdown and realizing that the job had already stopped challenging me  and now trying to get work as a freelance writer and having to read on Facebook about people who only post about the good things in life and seem to have jobs that allow them to vacation constantly and do things like go to wine tasting events in the Napa Valley, in March, I can handle.

But (come on, you knew there would be a but), although I can handle being a recently-laid-off-and-currently-single freelance writer at 40, living in a 5th floor walk-up next to a depressingly old shut-in neighbor whose very existence is like a scary Ghost of Christmas Future, what I could not handle was noticing the dog pee for what seemed like two minutes in the living room as I stood in the kitchen watching my take-out lasagna rotate in the microwave.

I stood there helpless and too stunned to react as he relieved himself on the floor like an old Jewish man at the movie theater urinal after 3 hours of Schindler’s List and a mini keg of Diet Pepsi. As he was releasing onto my floor, I was filling up with rage. I shouted an incoherent curse word that sounded like “Faaargh” and I felt like Charlie Brown if Lucy had pulled the football away from him and then proceeded to kick him in the balls. As I cleaned up the mess on the floor and the dog rolled around on my bed without a care in the world, I broke a piece of the mop off as the frustration level rose in me like the steam in my bedroom heat pole that keeps my room a Tucson-like 90 degrees and dry in the Winter time.

I was a moment away from putting a hole in my closet with my foot and muttering to myself for an hour while rocking back and forth on the floor, when I imagined Rob Lowe bursting through my door to calm me down with the story of St. Elmo guiding sailors with flashes of light, before revealing to me that it was a made-up tale to get them through tough times. In order to get the image of the young Rob Lowe in a half shirt, playing the saxophone out of my head, I briefly imagined myself as Kevin (Andrew McCarthy’s character in the film St. Elmo's Fire) finally getting to have sex with Ally Sheedy in the shower. As I pictured myself ravishing Ally Sheedy while trying not to knock her pearl necklace off her neck and down the drain, I began to smell the lasagna from the microwave.

I had forgotten about the lasagna that I had started re-heating as I watched the dog do his outside business inside. You don’t have high hopes for lasagna at a bagel cafĂ©. I walked in looking for my usual chicken or baked salmon salad and was intrigued by the lasagna behind the glass counter looking freshly made, as if it was prepared by a guy named Sal, instead of a mensch named Saul.

The aroma of the lasagna reached my nose as I sat on my bed and I followed it into the kitchen. As I began to devour my comfort food, I noticed that it did just that. All the stresses of being a 40 year old freelance writer, who wasn’t satisfied with his life in its current state, began to melt away. You try not to let the little things in life drive you nuts but it can be hard when the little things seem to blend into one big thing. Sometimes, a little thing like ricotta cheese blending perfectly with meat sauce in layers of ribbon pasta, can pull you back from the edge.

In the post-post-college coming-of-age film that is my life I know there’s a happier ending than lamenting my lost 30's while mopping up piss on the fifth floor of my walk-up apartment building at age 40, I just haven’t finished the script yet.

Cue John Parr.

Ok,I kind of wish that was me singing. I thought that was kind of awesome. For you John Parr fans, here's the real John Parr in action.