Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Fragments of My Mind are a Terrible Thing to Waste

I'd like to congratulate my kid sister (who now has a child, which kind of makes me feel like the kid brother) for actually making the world a slightly smarter place with her charity that helps keep financially-strapped students in college. She helps deserving students who are already receiving Financial Aid and teetering on the brink of dropping out, stay in school. While she keeps people on their feet, I tend to become fixated on the guy walking past me wearing a winter coat and flip flops.

 I occasionally try to point out the ridiculousness of life to those bored in cubicles. I'd like to imagine them  enjoying my blog around 3:30ish, before they're IMing their coworkers about the stupidity of their clients, taking their 5 hour energy shots and/or posting on Facebook that they have gotten coffee for the umpteenth time that day (I believe the umpteenth amount of repeating any activity falls at a number between 3 and right before needing to switch from whiskey to Adderall and whiskey)  before heading to Starbucks for a break (while I’m inside with my laptop wishing I could have a cubicle break from Starbucks.) And exhale… (Time to limit my daily coffee type beverage intake to 1ish)

This gives them the chance to one day have a job they actually like and are good at, and in turn get paid accordingly, which will enable them to build a life in which their children will not be financially disadvantaged. Thus breaking a vicious circle (is there any other kind of circle that warrants breaking?) and the proverbial glass ceiling to a better life. A college education hopefully prevents them from getting stuck in dead end jobs (or worse being out of work hoping to land dead end jobs) that suck the marrow from their soul with each punch of the time clock. 

Now these future happy, fulfilled Americans may no longer feel the need to devour as much Coors Light and Taco Bell as well as celebrity gossip and fantasy football stats. They may be too busy being productive members of society and shopping for duvet covers and loofas in Bed, Bath & Beyond to take time out to read my random thoughts strewn together haphazardly like a toddler trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle of an actual jigsaw. Oh well, there’s always room for jell-o, a day dream involving young Phoebe Cates stepping out of a swimming pool in slow-motion and a little Think Fink.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Brotherly Shove

“This is my life. My life, my life,” sang the Starbucks employee in a calm tone as he carried a box into the back room. In the current economy, Starbucks might be the only place in New York City where the people being served feel the same as the people doing the serving.

It’s Monday and I find myself in Starbucks, writing about being in Starbucks which if I were to dwell on it is even more depressing than spending an afternoon in Starbucks looking online for jobs.  It’s one of those days where the conversations I hear and the people watching I’m addicted to much more than caffeine, seep into my thoughts and spew out as observations about the world inside Starbucks as opposed to the world inside my own head or the world outside. 

If I tried to write a short story right now it would probably be an updated version of the classic tale “The  Lottery.”  It's the only short story from junior high anyone remembers reading as adults. You might not recall your 6th grade English teacher's name who assigned it to you but the story got embedded inside your imaginative 12-year old brain like Hubba Bubba gum might have stuck to your braces and left an indelible impression that is probably one of the only things you remember about school at that time that was actual school work.

The Lottery has always been an eye-opening, sly introduction to the wonderful world of allegories and one of the first things you read that gets you thinking about life, as opposed to your own everyday life in the wonderfully, anxious, awkward world that revolves around your school and extends as far as your bike can ride or your mom can drive.

My version of The Lottery would revolve around a town where every year the residents meet outside the local Starbucks while the group of chosen elders play the part of baristas and write everyone’s name down on cups.  The people hang around outside the store with their families and are lounging around on a warm summer day as if they’re having a picnic in a park. They talk about the light winter they had and how it’s a beautiful day for the lottery before an elderly man named Leopold Millstone, with bifocals, white hair and whose holding a cane, says to a woman and her child in a voice that resembles the guy from the old “Pepperidge Farm Remembers” commercials, “Lottery in June, jobs be coming soon.” 

A man, let’s call him Jeff, pulls up to the parking lot with a half eaten bagel in his hand. Jeff has the kind of short, slightly messed up brown hair that gives off his casual nature without looking like he spends time creating a casual look.   He walks over to his family and gives a nod to his relatives and neighbors milling about next to them. “What was there a line at the bagel store?  Every person in town is here by noon. How are you late on Lottery Day?” says his brother, Brad, while wiping the frames of his designer glasses (that put the cherry on top of his anal-retentive lawyer persona) and fixing his tie.

 “You have some cream cheese on your cheek,” his mother Ruth says as she wipes it off with a napkin from her bag. You look good though.”  “Lottery in June, get here by noon,” sings a cute seven year-old girl, while smiling at Jeff and shaking her head.  (She is with the family standing next to Jeff’s.) “I’m only ten minutes late. How about a donut, young but wise Kate?” Jeff sings to her before grabbing a donut from his bag.  “Thanks Jeff. You may be a dork who’s late but donuts are always great,” Kate says, while biting a huge chunk of glazed goodness and laughing.

“And why may I ask are you wearing a suit my brother?,” Jeff asks Brad as he leans into him while smiling at Mrs. Johnson as she’s methodically wiping the crumbs off of Kate’s cherub-like face and trying to no avail to get her to stand still as she giggles, squirms and dances.  “People haven’t had to wear suits on Lottery Day for twenty years, ever since blue shirts and khaki pants became an option. You know, “Lottery Casual.” Look around,” says Jeff.”  “Look, you ask me this every year. The lottery is as old as the hills. It’s been around in one form or another since the first settlers reached our state. There’s been a Lottery since before our family ever came to this country. The tradition may have been slightly relaxed but I have a hard time relaxing,” Brad whispers. 

“No shit Cameron. Let my people go,” Jeff sings in a deep voice. “Look at most of these people,” Brad says quietly while gazing out at the crowd. “They’re slobs. They wear Lottery Casual because they can’t pull off this look or any look for that matter.  “And you, you’re wearing a black Ramones t-shirt under your button-down short-sleeve shirt.  What do you think people can’t see that?  They’re already chattering on about you showing up 15 minutes late, which is 30 minutes late for most and an hour late for the elders. And, why were you late again? How does one get stuck in traffic when you’re the only dumbass on the road?” Brad says while smiling as Mrs. Johnson looks back at them with a wide, gum commercial like grin affixed to her face.” 

“Hey, let’s just say I had a good night last night and knocked my cell phone off the bed after the first couple of snoozes, said Jeff.” Brad looks at him with a quizzical look. “Who would hook up with you the night before the Lottery? Where is this mystery woman if the entire town was already here before you? “Actually, Jeff replies, while leaning in to Brad’s ear, I don’t know. I met her last night at the bar.  She just moved to town and I think she said she was staying with her sister. When I woke up all I found was a scribbled note that took me a while to decipher.  It said, “Lottery at noon. Gotta run. Last night was fun.”

“What does this say, Donna or Dora?” Jeff shows Brad the note, prompting Brad to laugh out loud before lowering his head and coughing as his mother and Mrs. Johnson turned their heads towards him. “Dora? Brad mutters out of the corner of his mouth to Jeff. What did you fuck a cartoon? Hey, can you say Cunnilingus, boys and girls? C-u-n-n-i-l-i-n-g-u-s, Brad repeats slowly before shaking his head, sticking out his tongue and cackling to himself. Jeff stares at Brad’s hair weave that borders the line of actually merging with his eyebrows, giving the 30-year old the hairline of a 15-year old. 

“Can you say a-s-s-h-o-l-e?” Jeff replies while smirking.  “Hey, didn’t you used to have curly hair?” “Didn’t you used to have a job?” Brad retorts without missing a beat.  “Hey, I have a job now. Sure, they don’t give me benefits and I’m technically considered an independent contractor which makes me sound a lot more professional then what I actually do,” Jeff said. “You mean using your graphic design school skills to put dog faces over celebrity’s bodies for a Web site that will probably be made obsolete by a Facebook app.”  “Exactly,” Jeff mumbles out of the side of his mouth. They smile while gazing around at their former neighbors having their own conversations with friends and mini family reunions of their own taking place in anticipation of the Lottery.  

“Hey, it takes a true artist to re-imagine “The Last Supper” with the Kardashians, especially if they have Shih Tzu bodies. The hard part was picking a Jesus.” “Who did you choose? Brad asked.”  “Oh, Bruce Jenner; with the 70s do which blends into Shih Tzu hair nicely.  You’d be surprised at how many people waste precious seconds of their day looking at,” Jeff says as he reaches into his pocket.

 “Oh Shit Tzu. Jeff says as he smiles while pulling out a small white sock and holding it up to his blue eyes. This sock belongs to the cutest foot I’ve ever seen, which just happens to be connected to the cutest leg I have ever seen, which leads to up to the cutest hazel eyes I have ever seen.” “That’s not all it leads to,” Brad said, while raising his eyebrows. 

“Hey, you’re talking about possibly the future Mrs. Burke. This wasn’t just me winning the hook-up lottery and smiling at the right drunk girl who’s had the right amount of tequila shots and vodka and cranberry juice and has spent the right amount of months without getting laid. Thus, enabling me to separate her from her friends at the bar and almost separate her from her clothes as she ends up grinding her not quite-naked body against my jeans for an hour before she falls asleep diagonally on my bed and I lay teetering on the edge like a horizontal tight rope walker for two hours before I’m forced to wake her up, tell her I forgot I have to go into work early on Sunday and call her a cab before she sobers up. No, this was different.  We clicked from the second our eyes met. Hell, our eyes had a whole first date before we ever started talking.”

“Whoa.” Brad snaps at Jeff under his breath.  Don’t even joke about a hook-up lottery where you end up chafed with ruined jeans, right before The Lottery is about to start.  Show some respect for the institution of The Lottery. If Dad heard you talking like this he’d shit, Brad said while shaking his head.” “First of all, I wasn’t disrespecting the Lottery and second of all, Dad isn’t nearly as uptight as you.   It sucks that he and Julie aren’t here for the Lottery but I’m sure they’re enjoying themselves with their friends at the Lottery in Springfield. Remember when we were little kids and Dad would wake us up on Lottery Day and he’d hold us up over the bed and he’d say “Lottery Day, what do you say?”

“Oh yeah, and then we’d shout “Burke family all the way,” and he’d have a pillow fight with us.” As Brad recalled his early childhood memory fondly standing next to his brother he lifts his head and unknowingly scratches his left eyebrow with his index finger while simultaneously scratching the dangling thick, black bang of hair weave with his pinky.  “Yep,” Jeff says while watching Brad and smiling goofily. “Jeez. It must suck being single, man, Brad says while putting his hand on Jeff’s shoulder. “Having to bullshit with chicks at bars or worse, scour through dating profiles from crazy bitches on online dating sites. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Jeff says while looking around to make sure his mother or anyone else isn’t listening to him. “In what way does boning a married partner in your law firm put you “in a relationship?” Jeff makes air quotes while emphasizing his point and looking at his brother incredulously. “I hate to break this to you brother but if your partner has a partner, and a home and a child and a dog that she shares with that partner, you’re still single.”

“Hey, you know what.” Brad says out of the corner of his mouth while smiling and waving at his mother and Mrs. Johnson. “We do have a relationship. We see each other every day. We spend quality time together.  We fuck routinely at the end of a work week. We take away each others stress and occasionally we even comfort each other. I call that a relationship.” “Yeah, I get it,” replies Jeff. “It’s demented and sad but social.” “What can I say, Jeffie? Life is complicated. The Lottery isn’t.”  

“You know what? I don’t even care that you called me that because today is a beautiful day, Donna is here somewhere and I’m going to find her before the elders start the Lottery. Life isn’t always so complicated.  It’s random as hell, that’s for sure. Last night, I get three drinks spilled on my arm simultaneously as I’m leaning against the bar. As I turn around to see who did it, I see a group of girls in short skirts and heels that look like they were raised on nothing but Sex and the City episodes and Whora The Explorer. They were like clones of each other and were oblivious to the fact they had all spilled their drinks, one after the other, on my arm.”

My buddy Jack of course saw this as a perfect in to approach them and demand they buy me a drink before accepting their apology on my behalf and grabbing me to join the conversation. But, as I was about to reluctantly join him, I heard laughing coming from a girl sitting to my left. I turn around and see this girl with dirty blonde, wildly wavy hair who looked like she was born to wear a tank top laughing at me. She offered me a handful of napkins and as I wiped my arm and grinned,  I remember our eyes locked and I said something like “the sad thing is I came with those girls. Then she replied back with “well, you just don’t have much luck with women, now do you? When I volleyed back with “not yet”, she came back with “you’re lucky I have a thing for semi-cute, slacker nerds.” I said, "I’ll take that as a compliment" and she hit me back with “You should.”

 We both smiled and I sensed the sweetness in her mischievous eyes that I figured she doesn’t reveal often. When “Jane Says” came on the jukebox, our eyes lit up and we both started air steel drumming at the same time. When I told her it was my favorite song she hit me back with “Oh yeah, I once kissed a girl in college  while Jane Says was playing because she told me her name was Jane.  I volleyed back with “Hi, my name is Jane.”  She laughed in this adorably uncontrollable way that prompted her beer to spill on my other arm. She had me at her laugh and her “aww” face which lead to our night of talking, flirting and fooling and rolling around on the bed.

“I hope that wasn’t the only “ing” you were doing to warrant you oversleeping for The Lottery,” Brad said while shaking his head and gazing out among the crowd of townspeople, wondering where his partner in more ways than one and her family were standing. “Oh and I’m amazed at your ability to retell your flirtation from the night before so precisely and yet not remember your future wife’s first name.” Yeah, I have always been bad at that, Jeff said. “I once dated a girl for two months before finding out her last name wasn’t “From Pink Berry.” 

Jeff’s pants then begin to vibrate and he checks his cell to see a message that reads “Late to the Lottery. What am I going to do with you?” He turns around to see Donna nodding to him from about ten feet away looking surprisingly refreshed on two hours of sleep. Jeff pulls her sock out of his pocket and holds it up over his head.  Jeff receives another text that reads “Thanks. Don’t expect me to call you Prince Charming.” As their eyes connect again from a distance and have a brief interlude, Brad begins to tell Jeff to put his phone away when the bell goes off and the selected five elders step up to the platform in front of the Starbucks. 

The eldest of the elders, Leopold Millstone welcomes the townspeople to the Lottery and expresses his joy at seeing all his friends and neighbors coming together to share in the festivities on such a beautiful day. After the second eldest elder bangs a ceremonial drum, the third eldest elder reaches his hand into a barrel filled with coffee cups and hands it to the fourth eldest elder who looks at the cup and hands it to the fifth eldest elder who gives it to Leopold Millstone.

This act is repeated five times until Mr.Millstone has five cups on a table with the names facing his body.  Leopold taps his cane against the table before placing it on the floor and standing up straight. He takes a drink of water and begins to hold up the first cup as the crowd silently awaits his pursed lips to separate. He begins to bellow each name and turn the cup around to show the crowd. Barry Most. Hank Schweitzer. Mary Huggins. Jamie McElroy. Geoff Burke.

The crowd stays silent as each Lottery winner is escorted by their immediate family and friends to the front door of the Starbucks. As Brad Burke, Ruth Burke and Mr. and Mrs. Johnson take hold of Jeff’s arms, the word “wait” struggles to emerge from his mouth. “Wait,"  he shouts. "Geoff with a G. Do I look like a talking giraffe? I’m Jeff with a J. Are you kidding me? There’s been a mistake." “Hey bro, the Lottery is as old as the hills, there are no mistakes. Suck it up.” Brad says while dragging his brother, by the arm as a few large men nearby take hold of his other arm and force him towards the front door of the Starbucks. Young Kate is skipping and holding on to Jeff’s shirt. “Jeff Burke is a stupid jerk. Jeff Burke is a stupid jerk." She sings gleefully.

As the other winners are brought into the Starbucks before him, a song begins to play and Jeff can hear the music as his family forces him through the doors like a shy kid being pushed on the bus for the first day of sleep-away camp by his parents or a shy white collar criminal being dropped off at Riker's Island by his parents. “ I Ain’t got no home. Ain't got no home. A-no place to roam. Ain't got no home. A-no place to roam. I'm a lonely boy. I ain't got a home.”

 As Clarence “Frogmen” Henry’s voice is heard, high tech collars are put on the necks of each of the five winners as instructions by the eldest elder is given to them. (On each collar, there is a black and white image that appears to be a mermaid with wavy, long hair.) They are told that they can’t walk more than five feet out of the Starbucks without high voltage shocks being inflicted on them and that they are to sit in these assigned seats and sleep in cots provided in the back section near the bathrooms. Leopold Millstone tells them that they will be given a Netbook PC laptop to use and Jeff moans “Oh man” under his breath.

 “You will fulfill your duty for one year’s time, from this date, June 5th 2012, to June 5th 2013.”Then Mr. Millstone smiles and says, “Lottery in June, jobs be coming soon. Just, not for you, yet.”

 “I ain't got a home. Ooo-ooo ooo-ooo ooo-ooo ooo-ooo ooo. Ooo-ooo ooo-ooo ooo-ooo ooo-ooo ooo.”

The rest of the town slowly starts to mingle in and wait on line as reality sets in for Jeff and his fellow winners as they repeatedly attempt to get the att wi-fi to connect.”Oooh, it’s caramel macchiato happy hour,” Mrs. Johnson says to her husband while fixing the hair of her daughter Kate, whose bouncing up and down on the line next to her. Brad and Ruth Burke walk up to Jeff and Ruth lovingly kisses him on the cheek. “Mocha Frappuccino. Right. I’ll get this one, Brad says, before motioning his fingers like a gun at Jeff and making a clicking sound out of the side of his mouth. As the color begins to slowly return to his face, Jeff notices the sweat build up on the bangs of Brad’s weave and Jeff raises his eyebrows and cradles his own chin with his hand.

Donna taps Jeff’s shoulder as he’s gazing out the window at the perfectly clear sky and takes out a pen from her bag. She begins to write her email address on his forearm. “Hey G-e-o-f-f,” Donna whispers in his ear. “You can reach me here,” as she points to his newly decorated arm. “If you’re good and lucky, in a year, you can reach me here. She leans further into him, takes his hand and brushes it softly and quickly against her left breast. She smiles at Jeff and life comes back to his eyes.

 Donna turns around and waits with the rest of the townspeople for her morning iced coffee. Jeff sighs and wipes the burgeoning moisture from his eyes. Next to him, Jeff overhears another winner, Barry Most; calmly say to himself, “This is my life, my life, my life.” The blue and white glow of Facebook lights up his screen and Jeff Burke awaits the present. He can’t yet think about the future.

  “Shooby Doo Wop ba baa (hey hey. ) Shooby Doo Wop ba baa (hey hey). Shooby Doo Wop ba baa (hey hey.) My heart is cryin',cryin'. Lonely teardrops. My pillows never dry of, lonely teardrops.”

As Jackie Wilson’s sweet voice fills the Starbucks, Jeff Burke can’t help but bop his head and now heavier neck in a Pavlovian response and hum along to the lyrics. “Just say you will, say you will.”

 Brad sits down next to Jeff and hands him his Mocha Frappuccino and the two stare at each other in awkward silence as Donna walks by holding her cup. She turns her head and sticks her tongue out and the two brothers smile. As she leaves the store, she points at Jeff and kisses the glass. They both watch her walk away into the sunlight, until Jeff nudges Brad to stop watching.

"Half a mile from the county fair.
And the rain came pourin' down.
Me and Billy standin' there
With a silver half a crown.
Hands are full of a fishin' rod
And the tackle on our backs
We just stood there gettin' wet
With our backs against the fence

Oh, the water
Oh, the water
Oh, the water
Hope it don't rain all day."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Fly Who Mugged Me

It’s 3 a.m. and I’m being held captive in my own bedroom by these B-movie villain mosquitoes that are attacking me with laser like precision. I feel like I'm sleeping in a hornets nest and that’s only a slight neurotic exaggeration. Why are there mosquitoes in my bedroom harassing me like I’m a beautiful Dominican girl with an amazing, gravity defying Puerto Rican ass in too-tight sweats that say Juicy on the back and a low-hanging U-neck t-shirt, walking through an entire city of construction workers? (I wonder if Puerto Rican men ever say “Damn, that girl’s got a fine Jewish ass. I mean there are plenty of Jewish women that I can personally attest to having gawker worthy booties but I don’t think Jewish women’s asses have ever been used as an adjective. I’m also not sure if there is a proper plural form of booty. I don’t have the Sir-Mix-A-lot-to English dictionary with me, but I digress.) 

 There is no reason for my exposed arms to be tortured like I'm a character on Breaking Bad and I have threatened to destroy the meth lab. I grew up in the suburbs, with a front and back lawn and trees and bluebirds and fresh air and I never got bit up by mosquitoes. I’m currently cowering under my covers in the fifth floor of my apartment that is facing the brick wall of the Verizon building. I don't live in a bunk on top of a hill off the lake at a Jewish sleep-away camp where British counselors take out their indentured servitude frustrations by giving kids wedgies; and boys eagerly discover their boners for the first time under the soft caress of the peaceful moonlight; before waking up in their stiffly made, hospital cornered bed and being forced to jump in a cold lake.

I live in New York City where the only wildlife consists of drunken guys on the prowl in plaid shirts chasing lionesses in short skirts and heels. (I think it was some time in 2011 when Mayor Bloomberg instituted the men of a certain young age must wear plaid shirts rule, but I digress again to take my mind off the merciless attack that is underway.) What the hell is going on and why is the dog lying peacefully next to me not suffering the same slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as I? Hath he not skin? Hath he not blood? If you bite him, hath he not swell up? 

 I do everything for this so-called man’s best friend and the one time I need him, he’s literally curled up in a ball looking at me with the same heavy eyes I once had while listening to a professor lecture me about geology at an  8 a.m. class. This is actually worse than water boarding. I feel like I should have Sally Struthers next to my bed filming an infomercial as I lay twitching and flinching awaiting the next attack on my exposed skin, as Sarah McLaughlin’s haunting music is playing.  These predatory mosquitoes, or what seems like one tiny super mosquito, are acting like my own private shark from Jaws.  Except I’m not at the beach where I can just take one step backwards, I'm floating in the water trying to sleep. 

After turning on the lights to type, I realize it’s just biding its time, hovering high above me in my room. It’s gazing down at my CD collection that has gathered dust over the past few years and is probably judging me for purchasing the 80s Time Life Collection. It’s just waiting for me to turn off the lights again and try and sleep so it can make a dive bomb for my arms like a World War 2 Kamikaze pilot with a nagging wife at home, student loans, a defaulted mortgage and a VHS copy of the film Gung Ho (with the prescient knowledge that the VHS won’t be invented for another 40 years but still angered by the depiction on the box.)

Tomorrow, if I can lift my swollen arms, I’m going to have to go on Craigslist and put an ad out for a crotchety, old mosquito killer who spent time in Africa and was probably a consultant on the Harrison Ford film, The Mosquito Coast.  I assume he’ll show up and scratch his nails on my wall to announce his seeking the reward.  He’ll probably kill a bug and dissect it only to find out it’s not the mosquito we are searching for. As we reluctantly begin to bond while camped out on my comforter, he’ll show me the bite scars that have ravaged his knees and turned him away from society to seek solace in the bottle.

As my unlikely bond develops with  this hate-filled, crusty, world weary, swamp shanty singing wackadoodle, he will eventually and unintentionally,  force me to face my fears and ultimately become the man I was meant to be. (Either that or he'll want me to step on his nuts or flog him while he wears a Catholic school girl skirt. I mean I did meet him on Craigslist.)   If I survive tonight, I’m sure he would want me to stock up on netting, traps and some explosives; or at least a can of Off.  As I lay here sweating in sweats with the sheet pulled over my head I can make out the feint sound of buzzing beginning to build up again and my eyes dart frantically across the battlefield that has become my room trying to locate it. This flying thing, this perfect stinging machine, simply refuses to die, or at least fly into the hall for fucks sake. Looks like I'm gonna need a bigger bed.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Oy God!

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. I vow to no longer long for yesterday. From now on, I will long for today, or at least today, tomorrow, since it's already 4:30 p.m. today and there's not much of the day left to long for. Besides, yesterday wasn't so great. It was raining outside as well as inside my apartment, which is only acceptable if you shout “Oh my God” and George Burns appears as my super and says “Oh my me,” before making the leak in the ceiling disappear.

The most amazing thing about the movie Oh God! that came out in the late 1970's, was not the concept of God taking the form of an elderly Borscht Belt comedian in George Burns, or speaking to a man in his shower; or even the fact that the one man God chose to speak to had a milk toast personality like John Denver. The most unbelievable part of the film Oh God! is that John Denver's character, an assistant produce manager at a supermarket, had a wife that was a stay-at-home mom and was able to buy a house on his salary and raise two kids in the suburbs. Today an assistant produce manager at a super market would only live that classic middle class lifestyle if his wife stayed at home and pleasured herself with pickles on a Web site called Porn Grub.

Part of Denver’s likeability was that his image was that of a flesh and blood Kermit the Frog, except John Denver swore less and lacked Kermit’s innate sexual magnetism. Both Debbie Harry and Kylie Minogue once overtly felt up Kermit’s felt while singing the Rainbow Connection with him. The closest John Denver ever got to having sexual chemistry with a female performer on stage was when he asked Dolly Parton if she had ever seen the Rocky Mountains up close and she said “Every time I look in the mirror.”

After watching the movie Oh God! the night the storm caused the leak in my ceiling, I had what could be considered a vision or to the less romantically inclined, it could be perceived as just a day dream. God appeared to me in my apartment in the form of George Burns, except he was wearing a hard hat and holding a plunger. My super wears a hard hat 24/7, which makes me wonder if he knows something about my walk-up apartment building that I don’t know, like should I be looking up at the ceiling while walking up it.

I offered him a glass of water since he sort of resembled my 90-year old neighbor. This man spends ten minutes walking up the steps every day and reminds me that I don’t want to become the old guy who lives in the walk-up building who reminds everyone that this can be the best city to be young in and the worst to be old in.

He asked me if I had any Sanka and then told me how he used to love Sanka and that he did not understand the rise of Starbucks. “Why would so many people spend hours sitting in a coffee shop staring at laptops? I wouldn't leave those things on your lap too long. It can’t be good for you. You might need your lap one day to make little Finkles,” said God.

“Wait a minute, do these things lead to tumors, “I said frantically. What about cell phones? I knew it! I knew it!” I say as I bopped my head back and forth and gave an unintentional Seinfeld “Newman” face. “Smart phones my ass. “ Oh shit, sorry God. Oh sorry. Shit.”

“Tumors, I don’t know from” God said, while chuckling.” Relax. I think you’ll be alright. I was joking. You more than anyone should know not to take things so seriously all the time. It’s one of your best qualities. That’s why I’m here.” “Thanks God,” I replied in my best Leave it to Beaver voice, smiling like the boy in Animal House as the scantily clad woman landed through his window. “Look, he said with a serene grin, I created the world and everything that lives on it. I’m God, not Steve Jobs; he quipped in a Bob Hope cadence.”

“Of course” I said, still smiling. “So, how’s he doing anyway?” A cigar appeared in his hand and he took a puff, blowing out a perfect ring of smoke that quickly dissipated and said “He’s a little frustrated. You see there’s no “i” in Heaven.” But, I can’t really get into the whole afterlife thing. Your brain can’t comprehend it.” “Gotcha,” I said. So, we’re not supposed to dwell on life after death.” “That’s right. The afterlife and algebra are two things you don’t need to worry about in life, said God with perfect timing.“

“You know God, unfortunately, I’m one of those poor schlubs staring at a screen at coffee shops. I go there to get out of the apartment and write. Of course this is In between looking for writing jobs, reading articles on sports and posting my random observations on Facebook to people I have randomly known throughout my life.” I fidgeted nervously as I talked and sounded like I was doing a bad Woody Allen impression.

“Facebook,” God said, while tisking like my grandmother used to. If you’re going to waste time during the day, at least do it outside. People need to take their face, grab a book and check out some of the beautiful land left in the world. I believe you call them parks. I gave you the Earth in all of its splendor as a blank canvas. Then you built cities, buildings, homes, strip malls, cemeteries and golf courses and left some of the land as parks. Fine, that’s you developing your civilization. I get that. At least get out of the cities every once in a while and walk barefoot on a beach or gaze up at a mountain.  How often do you go to Central Park?” God asked me. “Not ah, not often enough,” I responded while shrugging my shoulders and looking down. I mean I live in the East 30's and you know I have to take the 6 train up and I try and avoid the subway on the weekends.”

“I don’t know if you know this, but it’s sort of centrally located in Manhattan, hence the name.” That’s why I gave you feet instead of an extra set of hands attached to your legs. You should branch out of your comfort zone once in a while. Don’t be such a putz. Moses had to wander the desert for forty years you know,” God said casually while making a cup of Sanka appear.

He then sat in one of my Chinese restaurant chairs in the living room as it turned into a comfy looking old-fashioned chair closely resembling the one Archie Bunker used to sit in. My apartment suddenly had this familiar childhood smell that I quickly recognized as the hallway on the floor of my grandparent’s old apartment in Fort Lee. This put me more at ease with the fact that this holy creator, this mensch of an all-mighty, just called me a schmuck.

“True. But, Moses never had to deal with being crammed into a subway car filled with stressed-out looking people. And then there are the guys who occasionally sing out random lyrics from songs because they think wearing ear buds gives them the right to share their musical taste with the general public while riding beneath the surface of the city. It’s like, I can hear your iPhone, you don’t have to sing out loud. You’re not in the shower buddy. We’re riding in the subway after a long day of talking to, emailing and collaborating with people who are for the most part idiots. And don’t get me started on the senior citizens arguing with the driver on the bus because they don’t like or understand the new express buses even though they were instituted like a year ago. This actually might be the best thing that ever happened to this city. I never understood why a bus would have to stop every other street, when a subway doesn’t. I mean people can walk a few blocks to their office or apartment if a bus goes ten blocks without a stop. It saves so much time, and ooh you know what I do like; when I see people who are talented singers singing in the subway platform because it’s usually something mellow like Motown and it always puts a smile on my face. And I’m totally rambling and you’re God and I should stop talking now because I sound like a moron and I’m using words like totally when talking to you as if I’m a teenager in the 80's.”

God laughed, which I noticed had an amazing, soothing effect on me. “You see, that is exactly what I’m talking about and this is why I chose you. Not because you’re a politician or a talk show host or are running a social networking site, waiting for it to go public.” “So, you think there should be more express buses and guys singing 70's soul music in subway platforms?, I said.” “No, I like how you get excited over little things. I’m not asking you to cure the sick or home the homeless, that’s for men much smarter than you, God quipped.” “Thanks,” I say while chuckling. “You know, I kind of like that you’re messing with me.”

“Well, only a little bit. Look, humans need humor in the world to deal with the pain and the disappointments that happens in between all the joy. I just want people to take in the beauty of life more. Not just the serenity of a forest or the ocean, or the sublime calm in the middle of the storm of the city, that is Central Park. But, the little things in life; like the way the right song at the right time of day can fit your mood perfectly and work like humor to make you forgot whatever it was you were stressing about at that moment."

"I gave you senses for a reason and some respond more to the taste of chocolate cake; for others it’s the feeling after an exercise workout that gives them pleasure. For you, I’d say it’s the sight of the curve of a woman’s hip as she’s lying in bed that has made you thank me more than anything else,” God said.
“That’s some of your best work, by the way, I said while grinning (I want to high five him but wisely decide not to. You don’t want to be left hanging by God.)

“I know, the hip bone was a thing of beauty, God boasted. It’s subtle, yet sublime. Men really seem to love it. It’s one of the main reasons why there’s so many of you. And I highly recommend the sight of seeing your child learn something, anything for the first time. Between me and you, it’s the only thing that can give you a minuscule glimpse of what it is like to be me.” All of these things can be appreciated more but let’s start with appreciating nature. I want you to write about that in your blog.”

“See that’s the thing. I’m not a parent. I’m not even in a relationship with someone. I’m forty (long pause) one and I’m currently a freelance writer, which really means I’m not employed full time anywhere. My guy friends are all married and I live with a cool lesbian and a dog and it’s her dog by the way. I have woken up more mornings in bed lying next to that dog than I ever have with a woman. And my blog, I have nine followers, three of which are the same friend of mine using different names and four of which are people who stumbled upon it because they thought it was a Jews-for-Jesus site. These are not the things that appeal to the average Jewish woman in today’s society.”(I paused to catch my breath.) What’s the deal with the Jews-for-Jesus people anyway?”

“I have no clue. They’re much more off-track in life than you, but that’s a whole other conversation. Look, I’m God; I’m not your therapist. So, you've taken the long way to get where you want to be and your journey obviously isn't over. Your present doesn't have to be your future. You have the face of a kid for My sake and you’re in great shape. Stop worrying and keep doing what you do best. And I got your "Some Kind of Wonderful” movie reference by the way and I agree that it was better than “Pretty in Pink.” So, to put it in a way that you can relate to, if you write it, they will come.”

As he says this all of a sudden God morphed into a Jamaican man of indeterminate age with a mustache and a hard hat on and the Archie Bunker chair turned back into my old Chinese restaurant chair. “Jeff, Hello. Hello. I said, I’m going to come back tomorrow morning and fix the ceiling, so someone has to be here to let me in.” “Ok God,” I mutter.” “What, it’s Ahmad. Lay off the crack buddy," he says before laughing.

Ahmad, the super, got up to leave and as he walked out the door I noticed him bending down to pick up a bottle someone in the building had left on a step. The sight of him scratching his own crack made me hold in a laugh that I let out as soon as I closed the door. We can find humor in the ugliest places and sometimes you can find God inside your own head. My God happens to enjoy pointing out how much room there is in there but that’s because he doesn't want mine getting bigger than his. What can I say, he’s a funny guy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When The Kid was the Champ

They called Gary Carter the "Kid" for the enthusiasm that he brought to every game, that was as apparent as his curly hair and his movie star smile. But really, he was “The Man.” When he arrived in 1985, he was the final piece to a future championship team filled with shall we say a group of immensely talented, rambunctious young ballplayers (and a few assorted nut balls, delinquents and future convicts.)

He fit the team and New York like a catcher’s mitt fit his hand and his arrival gave the team a needed jolt like when the Big Man joined the band. I remember when Carter hit a home run during the first game he played for the Mets and will never forget the single he got that ignited the comeback in Game 6. This had me running up and down the steps in my house shouting “Oh My God,” "Holy Shit" and other nonsensical words repeatedly with unhinged exuberance, as the ball rolled slowly past Buckner and into history. It was a feeling that should never be condensed into an OMG text.

I also remember during that time back in the mid ‘80s, The Right Stuff had come out a few years earlier and it pitted John Glenn’s “Mr. Clean Marine” character against Alan Shepard and the other astronauts. I remember thinking that Gary Carter seemed to be the John Glenn of the Mets and Alan Shepard was akin to Keith Hernandez(although I'm pretty sure I never used the word akin in junior high, it was probably more "he's totally like Shepard.")

Even though Glenn didn’t approve of the extracurricular fun the other guys were having with the local Cape Canaveral space groupies, they knew when to pull together in order to achieve their mission of beating the Russians (and a chimp) into space. (1) That Met team pulled together in similar fashion to dominate the National League, before winning thrilling playoff victories over the Astros, the Red Sox and the mighty Joe Piscopo.

Carter’s swing was a compact force that propelled line drives to left field. He seemed to rely only on the strength of his arms, which made him appear imposing at the plate. That was during an era when ballplayers looked like regular guys and not muscle bound giants. I wouldn't trade being a Mets fan during the '80s as a teenager(even though they won just once) for all the Yankee championships that took place when I was a man in my 20s.

I should probably now resent the fact that I chose the Mets way back in 1984. Let's just say, I have gotten mad at women I have dated but I never shouted at them for wasting my F'in time the way I do while watching Mets games in recent years. But, the fact is the Mets weren't just good back then, they were fun and there's one thing you can always say about the Mets, when they win, it’s never routine, it’s always amazing. Billy Joel once sang “Only the Good Die Young” (2) but Gary Carter made sure that the bad guys won.

1) The Soviets did beat the Mercury astronauts into space but "Ham" the chimp beat both Shepard and the Soviet astronauts. Glenn, Shepard and the other Mercury astronauts came together like a team. They turned their capsule into a ship they could pilot instead of just ride in and Glenn did become the first human to orbit the Earth.
Of course, neither John Glenn nor Alan Shepherd ever had to deal with Mike Scott’s scuffed split-fingered balls (that sounds disgusting.) I’m not positive, but I’m also pretty sure that Scott Carpenter never almost blew Gus Grissom’s head off with a shotgun (Google Kevin Mitchell and crazy.)

I didn’t analyze the Mercury 7/ Mets comparison further and compare the more obscure astronauts in the film like Wally Schirra and Deke Slayton to Danny Heep and Tim Teufel. I mean, I was 14 and the only deep analysis I was doing was comparing Heather Locklear to Heather Thomas and Fast Times at Ridgemont High to Valley Girl (whole other post.)

Of course, this was before Billy Joel slept with Christie Brinkley and lost his morose, darkly poetic, yet pop sensibility. After getting himself “in deep” in her swimming pool of beauty, he went from writing songs like "Capt. Jack" and "Pressure" to “Tell Her About it” and “Uptown Girl," which can only be listened to by 13 years olds, drunk 23 year olds and anyone drooling under heavy Novacaine in the dentist's office.