3.31.2006

REALITY VS. FICTION

Before I left Denver I visited historic Union Station.


An old-fashioned Pullman train idled on the track. It looked like something from the 1940's, my favorite decade ever.


Nobody was around. So I briefly considered sneaking on the train and stowing away to wherever it was going. Then I remembered something.


I don't know how to ski.


So I flew home on a plane.

THE END

3.30.2006

SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO PAINT A PICTURE

I finished work early on Wednesday, so I decided to walk around and take some pictures of downtown Denver.

I stepped out of the hotel and found my first shot: the late afternoon sun shining on the skycrapers.

"What kind of camera is that?" I heard a voice say, as I looked away from the eyepiece.

I was kneeling to get a low angle. I looked up and I saw nerdy looking guy in his 20s.

"That's a digital SLR, right?" he continued.

"Yeah. It's a Canon," I paused, checking the model name on the camera. "Digital Rebel XT."

As far as I was concerned, that would have been a fine place for the conversation to end. But unfortunately he did not agree. His name was Jack. He was a photographer from Minnesota. He just spent $6,000 on a new camera. I should get a better lens. And a tripod. And maybe a different camera.

On and on, as the sun began to sink.

I'm not big on talking to strangers. My parents told me not to, and it's kind of stuck. So I did a fair amount of head shaking, said "wow" a lot and made three failed attempts to wrap up the conversation.

"All right," I said with very clear finality. "Good talking to you."

It wasn't particularly good, but I didn't want to hurt his feelings. He seemed so excited to have somebody to rap with about cameras. He reminded me of the guys I used to talk to at Star Trek conventions.

But he didn't stop talking. So now I had to make a call. If I attempted to walk away, and inadvertently walked in the direction in which he was headed, I was now in a photography club. I imagined myself strolling around the city, getting tips on exposure and framing from Jack the Dweeby Minesotan.

I was not really in the mood for that. And by not really I meant not even a little bit.

So I turned in the direction from which Jack had come, headed back to my hotel.

"Good talking to you!" I repeated, having run out of exit lines. "I'm headed this way."

"Remember," Jack yelled after me as I made a hasty exit. "Stay away from those EFS lenses!"

If Jack's name had been Jill, this story might have had a very different ending.

3.29.2006

MY HOTEL IN DENVER

CAN YOU TELL I'M BORED AT WORK TODAY?

So far today we've had two guest speakers addressing our audience of 1,700 pharmaceutical reps in Denver.

Both of the speakers have been doctors, and both are impossibly handsome. That's not fair. Handsome doctors fuck up the curve for the rest of us single guys.

How am I supposed to compete with a good-looking, mountain-climbing, Colorado cardiologist with a full head of hair? Or a handsome, muscular, Indian cardiologist with a deep tan and a salt-and-pepper mane?

Doctors work crazy hours. Where do these guys find the time to work out? I live three minutes from the gym and I'm lucky if I get there twice a week.

All the single women working on the meeting are swooning over the sexy South Asian, and the rugged Mountain Man. Luckily I'm not attracted to any of the women working on the meeting, so it doesn't really affect me.

After all, I'm a good catch too. And here's why: I'm 37 years old and I'm $75,000 in debt, yet I own absolutely nothing.

Maybe you're thinking, "Hmm. Not a positive." But here's why it's a positive: I am willing to spend money recklessly, with absolutely no regard for my long-term financial health.


That makes me a good catch - in the short term. Long term, you don't have to worry about, ladies, because you're going to be long-gone.

Hurry up! Bankruptcy laws are about to change. This is a limited-time offer!

BEAN THERE, DONE THAT

Here's some good advice:

If you are producing a meeting for 1,700 pharamceutical sales reps, all of whom will be sitting together for hours on end in a stuffy hotel ballroom, don't serve refried beans for lunch.

In case you didn't know, there are certain physiological things that happen when one consumes beans. Now multiply that 1,700 times.

If we could harness the methane about to be generated by this meeting, we could provide alternative energy for a small nation.

SHORT & SWEET

My parents took me to the Grand Canyon when I was a year old. It took awhile, but I eventually found my way back.

You learn one thing when you are adopted: always carry bus fare. Because you never know. People sometimes have second thoughts.

3.28.2006

SLEEPLESS IN DENVER

As previously reported, I am in Denver this week working on the production of a large pharmaceutical sales meeting.

I don't really enjoy what I do for a living. I don't hate it, but I know that it's not what I should be doing with my life. I've been frustrated by this general sense of dissatisfaction for years, but I can't bring myself to make that change, to break away from what is comfortable and familiar. Working in corporate communications pays very well and, even though the hours can be long, the work is not hard.

My father worked in a bus garage from age 18 until his retirement a decade ago. That was hard work. Coordinating the production of PowerPoint slides is not hard work. Every night, for 44 years, my father came home with dirty hands. The only time my hands get dirty is when the copy machine is leaking toner.

Most of these pharmaceutical meetings have huge budgets, and they are only one of many shows that we will produce for a particular client each year. That means the company for whom I work will tend to over-staff the production, insuring that a large and very lucrative account is not jeopardized by shortsighted cost cutting.

And that means more people, doing less work, for a lot of money.

One of the perks of this job is that I get to stay in fancy hotels around the world, all expenses paid. I've been doing this for so many years I don't even notice it anymore. I have just come to expect that I will be staying in beautiful room in a lavish hotel.

But this job is different. This time I'm staying at the Comfort Inn in downtown Denver, Colorado.

I think they were being ironic when they came up with the name. Those of us on the crew have taken to calling it The
Discomfort Inn. Some of my co-workers almost revolted when they found out we were staying here, particularly when they learned that the more senior members of our team were staying in a much nicer hotel.

I don't particularly care. It's nice to stay in an elegant hotel but if you're working 14-hour days what's the point? All I'm going to do in the room is sleep. And if I'm sleeping I won't notice if it's nice or not.

But back to The Discomfort Inn.

On Saturday I checked in and noticed that my room had a view of a dark alleyway. So what? Then I noticed that the bottom drawer of the bureau was broken. But there were two other drawers, so no matter. Then I noticed that the bathroom had no little bottle of conditioner.

That was a problem.


Yes, I'm bald, but somehow I still get dandruff if I don't use conditioner. It's a cruel joke. And it's even worse in a dry climate like Denver. I thought when I shaved my head I would be immune to these considerations, but no such luck.

So I bought some Suave (the cheapest conditioner at the local Walgreen's) and settled in a for a good night's sleep, in advance of a long week.

At about 2 AM the radiator started making noises.

It wasn't a banging sound, it was more like a constant whirring. It sounded like the radiator was trying really hard to radiate, but it just wasn't working out. I turned the temperature down. Didn't work. I turned it up. No luck. I even covered it with a blanket, but then I worried about the blanket catching fire and me dying tragically in a Comfort Inn in Denver. That is not the way I want to shuffle off this mortal coil.

So I put toilet paper in my ears and tried my best to sleep

Sunday morning I asked the front desk attendant to have an engineer fix the radiator. I returned to my room late Sunday night after a hard day of work, and the first thing I heard was whirrr...

I called the front desk. They promised to send somebody up to fix it. Again. An hour later, no engineer had come. It was just me and my loud radiator. I called back the front desk, and demanded that they move me to another room.

Fighting back exhaustion I packed up all my belongings and moved to another room on the same floor. I unpackaged again and settled in for the night. Finally. I would get some sleep.

A few hours later I was awakened by a persistent crinkling sound. I turned on the lights and looked over at the desk, where I had left a half-eaten bag of Lays potato chips.

A tiny brown mouse crawled out of the bag of chips. I screamed like a little girl, and the mouse disappeared behind the desk. I grabbed the phone and called the front desk.

"Th...th...there's a m...m...mouse in my room," I stuttered into the phone. I didn't want to talk too loud for fear that my uninvited guest would hear me, get angry and attack.

I've seen those shows on FOX. I know what's up.

"I'm sorry sir," the attendant said. "But there are no other rooms available."

"Are you sure?" I cried. "There has to be at least one."

"Well, there is the one you just moved out of," the attendant replied.

I think somebody's trying to tell me something.

3.27.2006

DEALING WITH THE HOMELESS CRISIS IN DENVER

Yesterday I mentioned that I had seen a surprising number of homeless people upon my arrival in Denver. Well, it seems like I'm not the only person who noticed. Take a look at this article from Sunday's edition of The Denver Post:

A ROCKY ROAD TO HOME
by Molly Blair Sanchez


Homelessness is a growing problem in many U.S. metropolitan areas, but officials in Denver have devised a plan that they believe will effectively end the homeless crisis in the Mile High City.


Eugene Khuntlik, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Denver International Coalition for Homeless Understanding and Care (DICFHUC), announced the organization’s new initiative today. Dubbed “Take the Homeless Home,” the program is designed to solve the homeless problem in Denver through a controversial strategy of enforced adoption.

The plan calls for 10,000 randomly selected residents of Denver County to be legally bound to adopt a homeless person of their choosing for a period of twelve months. During that time, they will be responsible for the homeless person, or “guest,” as Khuntlik refers to them, and all of their living expenses.

At the conclusion of the year, the “guest” will be returned to their original street corner location, and become eligible for placement with a new host family.


“It’s based upon the mentoring model of Big Brothers/Big Sisters,” Khuntlik says. “The fact that these homeless people are often desperate and emotionally unstable makes them likely to be lively roommates and compelling conversation partners.

Residents who successfully complete the program will be the guests of the city at a picnic in City Hall Park. Residents who are killed by their homeless guest will be exempt from future participation in the program.

(c) 2006 The Denver Post

3.26.2006

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HI

Greetings from Denver, Colorado where I am working on the production of yet another pharmaceutical sales meeting.

I learned a few things today that I'd like to share with you:

1) You can't read The New York Times while sitting in the middle seat on an airplane. I spent the first half hour of the flight inadvertently punching the two women on either side of me, as I attempted to turn the pages. I then wasted the next two hours attempting to read the paper by folding it in every conceivable direction, like I was practicing my origami. I didn't get much reading done, but I did end up with a very large Cootie Catcher. And it turns out I have a crush on you-know-who!

2) If you want an entire can of Diet Coke during beverage service, you must ask the flight attendant for "a can of Diet Coke." If you just say "Diet Coke" you will be given only a tiny plastic cup filled with soda, and you will be finished consuming your beverage before the attendant has served the passenger sitting next to you. I know the airlines are losing money faster than I'm losing my hair, but come on! Is this Continental Airline's master plan for regaining solvency? Making passengers share cans of Diet Coke? Maybe they should install pay toilets on airplanes. Then I wouldn't mind drinking less soda.

3) There are a lot of homeless people in Denver. That came as a surprise to me. I thought it would be mostly skiers. But I guess it makes sense. I've always heard that people in Colorado are "outdoorsy." I didn't know that they meant that literally.

I'd love to write some more but I just ordered a movie called Slam It In and it's starting to get interesting.

3.25.2006

WHY BUY WHEN YOU CAN RENT?

I just found out that my sister is pregnant with her third child.

This is a perfect arrangement for me. My sister makes the babies and I get to play with them. She does all the work. I have all the fun. And I get to give them back when I’m done.

I love little kids, but only in small doses. I’m not sure I could maintain the same level of enthusiasm if it was a 24/7 proposition.

I’m afraid that, if I had a kid of my own, I would eventually get tired of him. And that would be awkward.

The conversation might go something like this:

Billy, you’ve done a really great job as our son, but unfortunately we're going to have to let you go.

It’s nothing personal. We just need to go in a different direction with the family right now. We’re thinking about getting a cat.

Don’t worry, we’re sending you off with an excellent severance package - two months allowance and a bag of Skittles. Plus you get to keep your favorite toy! Just one, though. The rest are headed for Ebay.

And here’s some more great news! H.R. has already arranged for placement with another family. Your new parents are offering excellent benefits, a corner bedroom and a brand new Big Wheel! And they're Jewish, which means you can look forward to a very lucrative bar mitzvah in a few years.

So, we’re going to need you to pack up your stuff and be out by the close of business today. Of course we’ll be glad to help out with a letter of recommendation if you need one.

Good luck and please don't keep in touch. That would be awkward for everyone.

Strangely enough, something similar happened to me when I was a kid. Except for the part about going to live with a Jewish parents.

Unfortunately, there's no cash prize for getting adopted by a Catholic family. They tell me that the reward comes in the afterlife, but that's not going to help me pay off my credit cards.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, but none of those ways pay off your Visa bill.


3.24.2006

WHAT YOU DO KNOW CAN HURT YOU

My sister Missy lives in South Florida with her husband and their two daughters.

Last night she left a message on my voicemail:


I have a surprise to tell you. But you've probably heard all about it already. Anyway, I hope you're doing okay, going off your medication cocktail and all.

Well at least I know she reads my blog. But that's about all I knew. So I called my parents. It was late, but I figured there were extenuating circumstances.

My Dad picked up and I heard laughter in the background, surprising because my parents are not what I'd call big laughers. Turns out they were entertaining some new friends from the retirement community down in Port St. Lucie, Florida where they moved last summer after living their whole lives on Long Island.

It was nearly 11 PM, and they sounded like they were having a great time. Usually when my parents are having a great time there are Black Russians involved. (EDITOR'S NOTE: A Black Russian is an alcoholic drink, not a dark-skinned person from the former Soviet Union. That would be called an African Russian.)

Apparently my parents were getting their drink on with a couple buddies, late at night on a Thursday.
My father is 76 and my Mom is 71. And they have a more active social life than I do.

But that is not the point.

My Mom got on the phone and told me all about her recent angioplasty, how she now has a couple stents inside of her, propping open her arteries. Or something like that. I wasn't really paying attention.

"What's going on with Missy?" I asked.

"I don't know, " my mother lied.

Here's something you should know about my mother. If she claims to "not know" about anything, she is most definitely lying. She knows everything that is going on, in her life and everybody else's, and if she doesn't, she'll find out.

"Of course you know," I said.

"Well I may know, but I'm not at liberty to say," she replied.

I waited three seconds. One. Two. Three.

"She's pregnant," my Mom blurted. My mom keeps secrets like Paris Hilton keeps her dignity.

I hung up and called my sister. My brother-in-law answered. I couldn't say anything to him, because to do so would be blowing my sister's surprise. So I had to feign ignorance.

"Missy left me a message, about how she needed to tell me something," I said.

My brother-in-law told me that she was on the phone and would call me back. But she never did.

Now I know that I know that she's pregnant, but she doesn't know that I know. Unless she reads this. Then she'll know that I know, but I won't know that she knows that I know. Unless she leaves a comment. Then I'll know that she knows that I know that she knows.

I do know one thing for sure. I need a Black Russian.

3.23.2006

MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND

I'm reporting this morning from the historic Essex House Hotel in New York City.

The production ofice for the pharamceutical meeting I'm working on is a beautiful suite overlooking Central Park. I'm enjoying the view because it's not one that I will be able to afford on my own in the near future.

Built in 1931, the Essex House is one of the best-known upscale hotel properties in New York City. When I worked on this same meeting last year, the Essex House was managed by the Starwood Corporation, the owner of the Sheraton, Westin and W Hotel chains.

But this year, the Essex House - a New York City landmark for 75 years - has been acquired by the Jumierah Group, a corporation based in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

Apparently we can't trust those people to manage our ports, but running our hotels is no problem!

Well guess what? Last night I slept in a hotel owned by a Dubai-based corporation and nobody kidnapped me, raped me or chopped off my head with a golden saber.

Many Americans (and some Democratic politicians, I'm sorry to say) have suggested that the DP World deal to operate U.S. ports was really just a ruse for a terrorist-friendly regime to gain control of vital points of entry to our country. They point to the UAE's recognition of the Taliban, the nation's questionable anti-terrorism record and their refusal to recognize the state of Israel.

There is one fact that is indisputable: Jumierah - like DP World - is in business to make money. This is the same mission of every company, in every country in the world. Americans have money. Dubai-based corporations want that money. That's why they are not going to kill us in our sleep at the Essex House.

Because if we're dead, we can't pay the bill.

The DP World ports deal may be dead, but this issue is not. And thankfully, neither am I.

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DO NOT DISTURB

Today I worked on the production of a pharamceutical meeting at a very fancy New York City hotel on Central Park. It's a two day event, so the client is paying for a hotel room for me for tonight.

How much are they paying? $599 - for one night! That's steep, even by New York City standards.

I finished work at 10 PM and my day begins tomorrow at 6 AM. That means I have eight hours in this room, which works out to about $75 an hour.

So I thought to myself, "What could I possibly do in this beautiful, expensive suite that would be worth $75 an hour?"

So I called my ex-girlfriend Maggie and invited her to stop by for some free mini-bar snacks - courtesy of the pharmaceutical industry.

I'd love to write more, but Maggie just got here and I'm suddenly feeling very hungry.

3.22.2006

THE DARKNESS OF FUTURES PASSED

It's been two weeks since I stopped taking my cocktail of anti-depressant and mood-stabilizing medications, cold turkey.

And what a two weeks it's been.

I feel like the person I've been for the last four years is slowly disappearing, and the old me is coming back. And the old me is
pissed.

For four years I dulled the pain, smoothed over the jagged edges and lulled myself into a state of bland acceptance. That's not who I am. I'm a good person, but I'm an angry person. I have a great deal of hostility within me, and it's always manifested itself in a general level of aggressiveness toward the rest of the world.

After years of telling people off at inopportune times, getting fired from jobs and ruining friendships, I decided to shut myself up. After feeling nervous and anxious for my whole life, I decided to calm myself down. And after a lifetime of feeling angry, I decided to put on a happy face. All with the help of a few pills

Not any more. I'm coming back, and I don't have time for this shit. I learned a lot, but the lesson is over. I'm not scared any more of who I used to be.

When I was in my early 30's I looked at what was ahead of me in my life and I decided to ask for pharmacological assistance. It's hard to ask for help, to acknowledge that you can't do it on your own. It's also one of the strongest things a person can do. So many people suffer in silence and accept a life that they don't love. I didn't love my life, and I decided to do something about it.

And now I want what I used to have. But I will never again have exactly what I used to have, because I've seen a different reality. I've experienced a different state of mind. Finally I can make an informed decision about who I want to be.

I don't regret going to that other place. The peacefulness and clarity I felt allowed me to tap into a creativity that always eluded me; creativity that was muzzled by paralyzing anger and fear.

Now I'm swimming right in the middle of that creative pool, and it's time to take off the protective goggles and dive deeper. I hope where I'm going is dark and scary and, most importantly, real. I hope that I feel anger and sadness and regret.

This time I will control those feelings. They won't control me. I will harness the dark power of those negative emotions and use them to propel me to a better, stronger, happier place.

I'm not back yet, but I will be soon. I can feel it.

3.21.2006

IT'S ALIVE! IT'S ALIVE!

Today I told a co-worker that I was adopted, and she asked me if I knew anything about my biological parents.

Who came up with this term biological parents? It makes me sound like a science experiment.

I wasn't created by a mad scientist in a laboratory. It was probably two drunk teenagers in the back seat of a Chevy. But that's just my romantic fantasy. I don't really know for sure.

I do know one thing.
If my biological parents had actually paid attention in Biology class, I probably wouldn’t be here right now. Maybe I should call them my Failed Biology parents.

If you get knocked up while enrolled in any biology or health class, you should immediately get an F. Because obviously you are not doing your homework - or you are doing your homework, but you're doing it without a case for your pencil, if you know what I mean.


I prefer the term birth parents to biological parents, even though it's probably not entirely accurate. My birth father was probably long gone by the time I came along. I can't say for sure, because I don't really remember my birth. (It was a long time ago!) I'm pretty sure my mother was there for most of it, but Dad I think may have had other plans.

Maybe I should call him my conception father. Or my sperm donor. Or the guy who impregnated my birth mother. Good luck finding a Hallmark card for that!

I don't mind being adopted. I actually kind of like it. I think it's cool that, for the first four months of my life, I was a baby mama's baby. I think it ups my street cred with the "urban" audiences.

Don't be a hater! Or I'm gonna have to get all biological on your ass.

Peace.

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3.19.2006

GETTING THE CLAP

I've noticed a disturbing trend in movie theaters recently.

I'm not talking about comedies that aren't funny. That's been going on for years.

Thank you, Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller. I hope Ben's parents (comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara) beat the crap out of him every time one of his comedic travesties is foisted upon young, unsuspecting moviegoers - a generation who wouldn't know
witty repartee if it bit them on their Dodgeball-loving asses.

Nor am I talking about the inconsiderate idiots who talk on their cellphones before, during and after movies. This disturbing trend is hardly limited to movie theaters.

What's worse, listening to a twentysomething moron in a movie theater mumble ghetto-speak into his Sidekick (i.e. I'ma holla at the playa) or a fortysomething moron on a commuter train mumble corporate-speak into his Blackberry (i.e. I'm going to reach out to the vendor)?

That is a rhetorical question. Both of them are worse.


No, I'm not talking about shitty movies, inconsiderate movie-goers or over-priced popcorn at the concession stands.


The most disturbing trend in movie theaters today is
clapping.

Recently I have noticed that moviegoers are clapping at the end of movies. Why is this happening? Applause at the end of a performance is the audience's way of communicating their appreciation to the performers. This is a time-honored tradition that dates back to the live theater of ancient Greece.


But unlike the mask-wearing stars of wacky Greek comedies like Agamemnon, the performers in a movie cannot hear you when you clap, because they are not really there. It might look like they are there, but they are not. You have to trust me on this.

Maybe you got all teary-eyed when you saw Brokeback Mountain (easily the funniest film of the year so far). Maybe you would like to show your appreciation to the filmmakers for finally making it safe for dudes in cowboy hats to make out in the woods.

Then write a letter. Send a telegram. Buy a full-page ad in Daily Variety.

But don't clap. Because they cannot fucking hear you.


There are certain times when it's okay to clap at the end of a movie. For instance:
In the unlikely event that you were invited to the premiere screening of Brokeback Mountain, and Ang Lee and the entire cast were seated in the theater with you, then you could have clapped. That would be totally appropriate.

But if you're at the 5:30 PM Sunday showing of
Brokeback Mountain at the AMC Times Square - don't clap.

Save your energy for something useful, like yelling at the taxicab that will almost run you over on your way home.

If you really want to show your appreciation for the movie, why not tip one of minimum-wage workers who have to clean up your half-eaten popcorn? Or better yet, why not clean up your own half-eaten popcorn, you big fat pig? Or even better yet, why spend $7 on popcorn that you're not even going to finish, you wastrel?!

But don't clap at the movies.

Because when you clap, you make it awkward for me. Plenty of times I will enjoy a movie, and then when the credits roll I will be forced into an uncomfortable situation. Do I clap like the other idiots in the theater, or do I not clap, thus suggesting that I did not enjoy the film as much as the idiots who are clapping.

I don't need to worry about this type of thing when I go to the movies. I'm there to enjoy myself, not to be faced with moral dilemmas.

I will admit that I have clapped at movies in my life. I have applauded the opening credits of every one of the six Star Wars films released since 1977 - including every single re-release. But that's different. I didn't notice anybody at the 5:30 PM showing of Brokeback Mountain dressed up as Darth Vader, or carrying a light saber. (insert erection joke here)

In summation, when you go to the movies shut the fuck up.

Unless you're seeing Medea's Family Reunion.

Then you can talk on your cell phone, yell at the screen and clap until your hands fall off. If you don't, the rest of the people in the theater might think you're weird.

Remember, the exception proves every rule.


3.18.2006

I'M NOT LOVIN' IT

Today I saw two teenagers on the subway eating McDonald's hamburgers.

A group of three thirtysomething people standing near them muttered something about "the disgusting smell" and moved to another section of the car.

They were concerned about a very real, yet tragically under-reported problem in our society today - Second-hand McDonald's Hamburger Smell.

And I completely agree with them. I don't care if you want to eat McDonald's hamburgers. If you want to poison your body with that evil, unhealthy, corporate filth, that's your business. But when I have to smell your filthy hamburgers, then it becomes my business.

Studies show that Secondhand McDonald's Hamburger Smell can raise blood pressure, increase levels of dangerous LDL Cholesterol and generally create cravings for delicious food devoid of any nutritional content.

Sure, maybe those teenagers were just social McDonald's Hamburger eaters. Maybe they just eat one every now and then, in order to fit in with their peer group. But isn't that how all addictions start? Nobody decides one day to become a crackhead. It starts with a free sample on the playground, then all of a sudden you're cruising for tricks on Craigslist and sleeping in your own filth in a park in the East Village. At least that's the way it happened to me.

Do you want to be on a subway train with a crackhead? Of course you don't. Then why is it okay to be on the train with a Mc-Head?

It's not! Right-thinking, health-conscious New Yorkers must band together and stand up for our rights.

Call your congressman today and demand action on the very real problem of Secondhand McDonald's Hamburger Smell!


I'd love to keep talking about this, but I gotta run out and pick up a pack of smokes.

3.17.2006

'TIS A HACKY JOKE, BUT I LIKE IT TOO

I was officially adopted on March 17, 1969. It was St. Patrick's Day.

Apparently, my parents found me in a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I was hard to miss with that golden harp and the green bowler hat.

My parents bringing me home on St. Patrick's Day makes perfect sense. There's a long tradition of Irish Catholic families getting bigger on March 17 - although it's not usually due to adoption. When it comes to unplanned babies, Irish Catholics are far more often on the supply side. And nothing helps grease the skids like all-day consumption of green beer.

My Dad likes to tell this cute story about that first day I came to live with them. Apparently he and my Mom went to the parade and they had a little too much to drink. Then we came home and we all threw up together, as a family.

I think that’s sweet. It almost makes me wish I was really was Irish. Almost.

3.16.2006

THERE'S SOME CROW IN MY SALAD

On February 28th I wrote a story about how I paid $7.32 for a bowl of salad at a restaurant called Chop't here in New York City.

Wrote it. Posted it. End of story. Or so I thought.

Tuesday night I received the following email from Tony Shure, the founder of Chop't Creative Salad Company:

Will -- A buddy of mine sent me your blog. Nice friend huh? It's very funny and I got a good laugh out of it. Even read some other entries. Nice work scanning in the receipt.

On behalf of our team & restaurant I do have to have to say we work hard to put out a great product and produce costs are so high that we barely eek out a profit at those charges that were high for you. Down the road maybe we'll have an $8 drink together and laugh about all this. Until then, keep up the funny stuff. -- Tony.

After I received Tony's email I went back and re-read my original post. It was a pretty harsh condemnation. In my defense, I was going off my Lithium that week and paying $7 for salad bothered me a little bit more than it normally would have. That day, I also got into what I would call "a minor incident" with both a rude cab driver and the surly checkout girl at the Food Emporium.

Yes, I was chemically unbalanced when I accused Tony and the Chop't team of "scamming" New Yorkers out of their hard-earned money, and laughing all the way to the bank.

That's not an excuse. It's an explanation.

I write these stories and I forget that they exist in a public forum. And now I felt kind of bad about it, considering how nice Tony was in his reply.

So on Wednesday morning, I wrote back to Tony:

Hey Tony -- Thanks for checking out the blog, and for your very gracious reply to my rant. In the interest of equal time, I would be glad to print a rebuttal from Chop't - a few sentences, a paragraph, whetever you like. From my perspective, $7 for salad seems like a lot of money, but I'd love to hear your side of the story. -- Will

A scant twelve minutes later, Tony replied:

Will -- Just some facts: (We sell) a 48 oz bowl filled with food we buy, clean, & prep. We make everything from scratch including all 30 dressings. We spend a ton of time sourcing the best produce we can. I promise we make less than $2 per salad after product cost/labor/rent/insurance/tax/electric/phones & water charges. Trust me that a 10 dollar Cosmopolitan is way bigger rip-off.

Chop't, Chipotle, Better Burger - we are all part of movement to take over the fast food world with healthier and better tasting food, whether it be caloric or straight up dietetic. McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, while all tasty and cheap, contribute negatively to the lives of our youth . I also promise that if their were only two McDonalds they would need to charge $8 for their burger. Take Care --Tony


A few nights ago I watched Supersize Me, Morgan Spurlock's excellent documetary about the evils of fast food. If you haven't seen this movie, you should. These fast food companies are destroying a generation of Americans. After Supersize Me - if you have any sense - you'll never want to eat another Big Mac again.

Tony Shure and the rest of the team - no, the heroes - at Chop't Creative Salad Company are trying to fight the forces of evil, and save the lives of my fellow New Yorkers. Are they making money in the process. Of course they are. Do they have every right to? Of course they do.

I walked past Chop't at lunchtime on Wednesday. By strange coincidence, they had been forced to close down for the lunchtime rush, due to what appeared to be a collapsing construction scaffold on the sidewalk in front.

A handful of salad lovers stood a few feet from the barricade, staring wistfully at the shuttered doors, begging the construction workers to let them in for their daily salad fix. But to no avail.

"What am I going to do without my Chop't salad?" a young NYU student asked her friend.

"There's another one uptown," the friend replied. "Let's go!"

And they did. They walked around the corner, crossed Brodway and ducked into the Union Square subway station. They passed a McDonald's on the way, but they didn't seem to notice

Let me take this opportunity to say "thanks" to Tony Shure and the gang at Chop't Creative Salad Company for setting me straight, and explaining why $7 salad is a good thing for me, for America, and maybe even for the world.

Of course, if anyone at Chop't would like to discuss sponsorship opportunities here at previously owned, I'd be glad to do lunch.

Come to think of it, I'm kind of in the mood for some salad - some Chop't salad!

3.15.2006

MANY HAPPY RETURNS

I almost forgot that yesterday was my Mom's 71st birthday.

I say
almost because I remembered at 11:16 PM. There were 44 minutes left in my Mom's birthday. And I was presented with a dilemma.

My parents are old. They live in a retirement community in Port St. Lucie, Florida. There's not a lot going on there to keep them up at night. Do I call at 11:16 PM to wish my Mom a happy birthday, and run the risk of waking up both of my parents? Or do I wait until tomorrow, when my birthday wishes would be tainted by the word
belated.

I know what you're thinking.

"Will, you're adopted. What do you care? It's not like she's your real Mom!"

But that's where you're wrong, cynical reader! Any woman can get herself pregnant and have a baby. That kind of thing happens all the time. But adopting a kid takes work.

My parents had to fill out all kinds of paperwork and sit through countless interviews and inspections by social workers before they became my proud new owners.

And why did they do this? So they would have someone to call them on their 71st birthday!


It's not really that much to ask. They took me in, fed me, clothed me, paid for me to go to private school and a good college and continue to lend me money as I approach the age of 40. And I'm not even related to them! That's a pretty sweet deal for me.

And all they ask for in return is a phone call on their birthdays.

So I decided to call, and thankfully they were both still awake.

"I just got out of work," I lied to my Mom when she answered the phone. "Sorry I couldn't call earlier."

After not working for much of the last four years, I thought that blaming the lateness of my call on gainful employment was a good strategy. Me working means me not borrowing money from my parents, and that is good news any way you look at it.

I wished my Mom a happy birthday and asked her what she was doing to celebrate.

"Talking to you," she said.

3.14.2006

I WANT A NEW DRUG

The funny thing is, I started taking anti-depressants because I wanted to make people laugh.

Five years ago, my girlfriend Maggie introduced me to a co-worker named Kusko, a free-spirited woman from Texas who had come to New York City to pursue her dream of a career in standup comedy.

One night in June of 2001, Maggie, Kusko and I went to see comedian Janeane Garofalo at Caroline's on Broadway, the most prestigious comedy venue New York City. After the show - and a few Bud Light's - I confessed to Kusko that I, too, harbored a long-standing dream of telling jokes in front of a roomfull of strangers.

"Well I just signed up for a standup class at Gotham Comedy Club," Kusko said with a toothy smirk. "Why don't you take it with me?"

Her question threw me. I had no idea how people became comedians. I looked at comedians the same way I looked at astronauts: cool job, no idea how they got it. It never occurred to me that becoming a standup comedian could be as simple as signing up for a class.

There's something safe about allowing your dreams to remain just that. So, I came up with a list of reasons why now was not the right time:

"I'm too old to start doing this," I said. Kusko reminded me that she and I were both around the same age, and that 32 was hardly old.

"The class is too expensive," I added. Kusko reminded me that the eight-week course was $250, less than half of my day rate as a freelance video producer.

"I would be too nervous," I finally confessed. Kusko reminded me that everyone was nervous the first time they did anything new.

"I dare you to take this class with me," Kusko said. "Life is a journey, and this is a path you need to follow."

For the next few weeks, Kusko's dare lingered in my psyche. The next time I saw her was on a Sunday afternoon at Gotham Comedy Club, the day of our first standup class. Kusko was surprised to see me there, but not as surprised as I was to see me there.

Our teacher was a middle-aged, former standup comic named Don. It appeared that Don's pursuit of his own particular dream had turned him into an overweight, recovering alcoholic on various forms of public assistance. Everything about Don screamed get as far away from this as you possibly can, but I tried my best to curtail my natural tendency toward judgment.

The first thing Don asked me to do was to get on stage and "just talk." I knew that I would have to do this at some point, but the first class? I thought we'd spend a few weeks learning how to write jokes, then a few weeks more analyzing various styles of performance and THEN we would get on stage.

I was wrong.

"Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for the comedy stylings of Will McKinley!' Dan announced, as I awkwardly made my way to the stage. I stood in front of a microphone for the first time in my life, and I stared at it for a long time.

"Just talk!" Don barked from his chair in the back of the room.

But I couldn't talk. I was so profoundly nervous that I had lost the ability to speak. At that moment I thought about pursuing a career in mime. Then I remembered that I hated mimes.

Finally, I began to speak...but only in short phrases...because I was so nervous...that I couldn't breathe.

This was hard. I had open heart surgery when I was 29 years old. That was easier than standup.

I'd like to tell you it got easier, but it didn't. I've always been a nervous, neurotic person, but something about getting up in front of an audience made it 100 times worse. It didn't matter if that audience was just twelve aspiring comedians on a Sunday afternoon, my panic was debilitating.

I somehow managed to get through our graduation performance, and a few more "bringer" shows where beginning comedians force their friends to watch them perform. Then my standup career came to a screetching halt, defeated by the cold sweat, throat-clutching panic that made every performance a hellish nightmare.

I imagine that this constant fear and anxiety contributes to the high level of alcoholism and substance abuse among comedians. But all they are doing when they drink or do drugs is medicating themselves to fight the fear and panic.

"Isn't that what anti-depressants are supposed to do?" I wondered to myself. "Medicate you against fear and panic?"

I decided that I had a condition called Standup Comedy Anxiety Disorder. And who better to treat an anxiety disorder than a psychiatrist?

For the next six months I worked with a psycho-pharmacologist to treat the fear, anxiety and panic that I had experienced so acutely on stage, but had been dealing with for my entire adult life.

We tried more than dozen combinations of anti-depressants, mood stabilizers and anti-psychotic medication. I felt like an emotional guinea pig, every few weeks trying a different combination of meds, often with unpleasant, and sometimes scary results. Luckily I had Maggie, my patient and understanding girlfriend to help me through.

Finally, we hit upon a cocktail of medications that seemed to work: a heaping helping of Celexa, an anti-depressant; a dash of Zyprexa, a mood stabilizer; and a sprinkle of Lithium, for a mild case of bipolar disorder.

For the first time I felt like a secure, balanced person. Soon after, I got back on stage. The nervousness was still there, but it was no longer paralyzing. I felt like I was in control now.

For the next four years I pursued standup comedy like a crackhead in desperate pursuit of his next hit. I performed five nights a week, in every bar and basement
New York City. I was drawn to the standup spotlight like a moth. I stopped freelancing and applied for as many credit cards as the banks would give me. For the first time in my life I filed for unemployment, and I developed a daily pot habit.

Apparently my standup teacher had taught me well.

I charged up every credit card, and stopped paying the bills. I borrowed money from my parents, blaming my lack of work the post-9/11 economy. There were times when money was so tight that eating became a luxury. But there was always enough money for the entry fee to the open mic.

I was taking drugs so I could do standup, but standup was the real drug.

Last summer something changed. I felt like I had finally gotten competent at standup, that I had figured out how to be a comedian. And that desperate desire to learn how to do what I loved was fulfilled. I took the dare, and I ran with it.

And now it was time for another challenge. That's when I started previously owned, an outlet for my creativity that I found to be infinitely more satifying than my five minutes on stage each night.

I still love standup, but I realize it's never going to be my only career. I don't want it to be. When I started this blog I made a promise to myself: I was going to pursue my writing with the same passion that I had pursued my standup. But I was going to pursue this dream in a more responsible fashion.

I started working again, and began to pull myself out of the financial abyss. And each night I wrote, and on occcasion, did some standup.

Then, last week, something occured to me. It was now four years that my mood had been controlled by this medication. Maybe I didn't need it anymore. Perhaps the medication had served it's purpose, and it was time for me to explore the feelings that had been medically supressed for so long.

So I stopped tasking my meds. It's been almost a week now, and I feel okay. I feel a sense of clarity that I have not felt in a long time.

I acknowledge the tragedy of mental illness, and I strongly believe in the value of anti-depressants. But maybe I don't need them anymore. Maybe I can do this on my own.

Sunday night I hosted a standup show in New York City and I felt more comfortable, relaxed and in in control than I ever have on stage. That felt good, considering it was the first time I had been on stage since getting clean.

I look at standup differently now. It's no longer my dream, or my passion. Now it's just part of the mix. Oddly enough, being less interested in it makes me a better comedian, because the pressure is off.

Maybe I will go back on the medication, maybe I won't. I don't know.
For now, I'm flying without the parachute, looking forward to seeing what happens in the freefall.

Thankfully, I still have Maggie around to help me through the turbulent times.


After all, she's the one that got me into this mess in the first place.

3.13.2006

WHAT'S THE 311

Here in New York City we have a special phone number called 311. This is the number to call if you need to register a complaint about something.

So last night I called 311 and I said, "I have a complaint. I have this lingering sense of self-doubt."

And the operator said, "Will? How many times do I have to tell you? Stop calling this number! Just take your Lithium and go to sleep."

And that's what I did. Thanks 311! You're 3-1-wonderful.

3.12.2006

I JUST LISTEN TO IT FOR THE PICTURES


Sirius Satellite Radio is starting a new Playboy Channel this week.

I know what you're thinking. It's about time!

How many times have you been sitting in the barbershop, staring at Miss April, thinking to yourself, "Pictures are great but, I wish I could listen to this on the radio!"


Soon, your (wet) dream will come true.

I hope the new Playboy Radio channel on Sirius has a weekly roundtable show, where playmates discuss and debate the issues of the day. It would be like The McLauglin Group with tits.

Everyone knows that Playboy playmates are very eloquent young woman. All you have to do is look at them to know that they have a lot on their minds.

I, for one, have not heard both sides of the silicone vs. saline debate. I'm uninformed on that topic, and who better to inform me than Playboy playmates? That's like going straight to the horse's mouth, or chest, as the case may be!

Of course they have to give Playboy founder Hugh Hefner his own show. Hef should do a program where he councils troubled young couples, like Dr. Phil. Think of the valuable, relationship-saving advice Dr. Hef could offer!

Worried that your boyfriend is cheating on you? Then why not try a threesome? Your boyfriend gets to have sex with another girl, but it's not cheating, because you're there. And you get to explore bisexuality. Everybody's happy!

The Playboy Channel on cable TV shows pornographic films, so why not the radio channel? The hottest trend in porn today is reality, everyday people having sex. So why not real, live phone sex on the radio?

Each week a different couple has sex over the phone, with color commentary by adult film stars. Who better to analyze phone sex performance than a porn star? It's just like Brian Boitano hosting Olympic figure skating, only less gay.

Playboy Radio premieres on Sirius channel 198 this Tuesday, March 14. Get your tissues now!

3.11.2006

NOT EVERYBODY HAS HBO

You've been reading about it in the papers. You've been hearing about it on the news. You've been talking about it around the watercooler.

This Sunday, the show America has been waiting for is finally here!

3.09.2006

WHAT WOULD JESUS MASSAGE?

I have experienced my first blog-related injury.

I wrote Wednesday night's post at my ex-girlfriend Maggie's apartment. I was seated on the couch. My laptop sat on the table next to the couch. This awkward positioning required my back to twist to the left for a period of more than one hour.

I clicked the "publish post" button and stood up. I immediately fell to the floor with a sharp pain in my lower back.

Maggie ran out of the bedroom and found me on the carpet in a heap, howling in pain.

"Why!" I cried. "I was only trying to bring a few moments of joy into the lives of my loyal readers!"

I had been stricken in the prime of my blogging life. As Maggie helped me into bed I shed a tear. Would I ever be able to blog again?

Thursday morning I woke up and hobbled off to work, my pain dulled by a cocktail of Tylenol and cheap gin.

After work I called the Nickel Men's Spa in Chelsea and scheduled a Sports Massage. Yes, I know that my injury was not sports-related. But there was no mention of a Blog Massage anywhere on their website.

I arrived at Nickel at 7:30 and was introduced to my masseur, Jesus. The first thing I noticed about Jesus was that he was a guy. There was no doubt about that. He was a young, muscular, Latino man. The only problem with that was pretty sure that I had requested a female massage therapist.

Jesus was a lot of things, but female was not one of them.

I considered complaining, but decided against it. I'm a modern, forward-thinking man, completely confidant in my sexuality. I have no problem with a pretty Latin boy named Jesus giving me a massage in the middle of the gayest neighborhood in New York City. I'm not some kind of ignorant homophobic idiot who thinks that there's something wrong with a muscular gay man touching me all over, in a darkened room. I'm enlightened.

Jesus led me to my therapy suite and instructed me to take off my clothes.

"All your clothes," Jesus reminded me, as he left me alone to disrobe in privacy.

"This is all perfectly normal," I reassured myself, as my underwear fell to my ankles.

I lifted my aching body onto the massage table and covered myself with a supple, brown bath towel. Moments later Jesus returned and turned on some soft, relaxing music. I could have done without the soft music, but I didn't want to hurt Jesus' feelings.

I explained my injury to Jesus, closed my eyes and hoped for the best.

His hands were thick and manly, yet strangely soft. I guess that's what happens when you lather up with massage oil all day long.

Jesus began to work the oil into my aching back, and the pain began to dissipate.


Then he stopped rubbing my back. Faster than you can say "is it getting drafty in here," Jesus folded my courtesy towel in half, revealing the right side of my body. The entire right side.

It's not every straight guy that can get a butt massage from a dude in Chelsea and be okay with it. But I'm not every straight guy. I'm a modern, enlighted man in a large comopolitan city. And, as I mentioned earlier, I am completely confidant in my sexuality.

After massaging the right side, Jesus moved to the left. His touch was firm, yet gentle. Oh, so gentle.

Jesus told me to turn over. He lifted the courtesy towel, and I did. Then he did the same thing, folding the towel over to reveal the left side. Thankfully, my business tends to curve to the right. So there was no awkwardness, even when Jesus began massaging the left side of my pelvic region, mere inches from certain things that no man has ever touched.

Jesus completed the left side, replaced the towel, and began unfurling the right side.

"One second," I said, as I made certain necessary adjustments.

It occurred to me that I had never before manipulated my genitalia in the presence of another man. But Jesus was a professional, so I'm sure he averted his gaze.


Jesus completed my right side, but this time he did not re-cover me with the towel. Instead, he turned me over on to my side and he began to twist my frame into a chiropractic-style adjustment.

And now I was pretty much naked on the table, getting twisted around by a dude. At that point, a less mature man might have registered a complaint. But I am mature, and confident in my sexuality.

Jesus repeated the adjustment on my left side. Again, the towel was something of a casualty of the proceedings.

And then, it was over. Jesus covered me with the towel and made a few suggestions.

"Make sure you stretch before you work out," he said. I had not mentioned how I had gotten injured, and now didn't seem like the right time to bring it up. "You have good muscle tone," Jesus complemented me.

Then he instructed me to get dressed and he left the room.
I put on my clothes and exited the tiny darkened cell where a muscular, Latino man had touched me all over my body.

Jesus thanked me as I walked out, and I shook his hand.

"Great job," I said. And I wasn't kidding.

Jesus had given me a great massage, but he also gave me a great gift. He taught me that I can have my nearly naked body massaged by a good-looking dude in the gayest neighborhood in New York City, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

And I learned something else. From now on, I'm going to stretch before every post.

FALL INTO THE GAP

The other day I bought myself a pair of lowrider jeans.

This was not my intention. I have no desire to wear lowrider jeans. I am quite content to let my jeans ride exactly where they've been riding for the last 37 years. I have no complaints, and neither do my jeans.

Yet, I find myself - at this moment - wearing a pair of lowrider jeans. And it's driving me up the wall. I feel a persistent draft that I am unable to shake.

I'm not much of a shopper. Shopping for clothes makes me very anxious. All those aggressive consumers, grabbing at things, desperate to pump their hard-earned money back into the system - it's all too much for me. If people enjoy it, that's their business. Some people enjoy nipple clamps. I pretty sure I wouldn't like those either.

On the rare occasions when I shop for clothes it will usually be at the GAP or Banana Republic. I'm not proud of this. But here's my perspective on it: I don't pay any attention to what's in style, but I also don't want to look like a dork. If I go to GAP or Banana Republic I can pretty much trust that I'm going to get something that's in style.

Am I selling out? Yes. Do I care that I'm selling out? Not particularly.


On Friday I stopped by the GAP after work. My favorite pair of jeans had just sprung a hole that made me look as if I had been shot in the left butt cheek. I dislike shopping so much that I wait until my clothes disintegrate, and I am forced by societal mores to replace them.

I was only at the GAP because I thought the process of jeans-buying would be quick and easy. It was neither.

I walked to the back of the store and found a wall filled with what seemed like a hundred different varieties of jeans, stacked on top of each other in recessed cubbie holes. I began to feel sick to my stomach. I was not in the mood for exploration. I just wanted pants.

I grabbed the first 33 waist, 32 length jeans I could find and I headed to the dressing room.

I tried on the jeans and immediately noticed something different about them - something less. I stepped out of my dressing cubicle and looked for one of those nice sales people who promised to help me if I needed anything.

"These pants feel a little low," I said to a twenty-something Asian girl who was busily re-folding rejected try-ons.

"That's the style," the GAP team member told me. "Those are actually one of the higher ones we have."

I'm not going to lie. I'm a big fan of the lowrider jeans on women. Lowriders are one of the great pleasures of life in a big city filled with stylish young women. But I am not stylish, young, or a woman.

I'm an average-looking 37 year-old guy who just wants a pair of pants. I don't want to be put in the position where I have to make a decision about being in or out. I don't want drama. I want pants.

"You'll get used to them!" the cheery employee assured me, as she hiked up her jeans.

Turns out she was wrong. And now, because I washed them before I wore them, I am the less-than-proud owner of a pair of lowrider jeans; a pair of lowrider jeans that reveals a side of me I have no desire to reveal.

Each day I gain a greater appreciation for the lengths women go to to please men.

3.07.2006

WHAT'S IN A NAME

If I ever have a son, I am going to choose his name very carefully.

When my parents adopted me they chose to name me William Jr. My father was known as Bill, so I became Billy. Growing up, everything was Billy. I had Billy stickers, Billy license plates on my bike, t-shirts with Billy on them, books about boys named Billy. I was brainwashed. I was Billy.

Then I got to high school and I became Bill. Nobody consulted me on this change, it just sort of happened.

It was August of 1982, my first day at Chaminade, an all-boys Catholic prep school on Long Island. My homeroom teacher, Brother Richard Edwards, announced my name in the very first roll call of the year.

"Bill McKinley!" he called.

"Here?" I said, wondering if he had me confused with someone else.

But he had not. Soon, Bill was spreading like a cancer. Everybody was calling me Bill, and I was powerless to stop it. You really can't go up to another thirteen year-old boy and say, "Please don't call me Bill. I prefer Billy!"

That kind of thing can get rumors started about you. And I'm not talking about good rumors.

I fought the change for four years. From 8:10 until 2:40 PM each day I was Bill. But for the rest of the day, to my family and friends, I was Billy. I hated every minute I spent within the walls of the prison to which my parents had consigned me against my will; this minimum-security lock-up called Chaminade High School. Bill McKinley graduated in 1986, and has not been heard from since.

When I started college at NYU that Fall I experimented with a new identity. I was now William. That's number three, if you're scoring at home.

William seemed like a good name for a student at an artsy film school in the heart of Greenwich Village. But William commuted to classes each day from his parents' house, where he was still known as Billy. So the word went out to all family members: William was the only name to which I would answer.

It was a bit like a corporate re-branding, and it took some getting used to for the family. I felt like pasting a sign on my chest that said "Different name, same great taste!"

By the following Spring William had started to catch on. Then I met Mary.

Mary was a 27 year-old single mother with a four year-old son. I was an 18 year-old college freshman who secretly dreameed of finding his birth mother. Faster than you can say Oedipus, Mary and I were in love.

It's a funny thing about little kids. They have problems pronouncing long names, like William. They tend to shorten them, like Mary's son did when he started calling me Will.

And it stuck. It felt right. Will McKinley was born.

It was a bit awkward, launching two new identities in a year. But, after all, college is a time of self-discovery. It could have been worse. I could have been experimenting with sexual orientation.

Your name is sacred. It defines you. It's who you are. All of this name changing has left me feeling like disjointed, like my life is a series of disconnected chapters. Every few years, I kill myself off and invent a new character. That's what I get for watching all those soap operas when I was a kid.

And being previously owned only makes it worse. After all, before all this Billy-Bill-William-Will nonsense, I had an entirely different name. For the first four months of my life I was Christian Beaton.

I've had more names than a mobster in the Witness Protection Program. Who knows, maybe I wacked some baby when I was four months old.

I want to have kids some day, in the distant future. But if I have a son, I'm going to name him something strong and stable, a name that is set in stone.

Stone McKinley. I like the sound of that.

3.06.2006

A PAGE RIGHT OUT OF DATING HISTORY

Dating hasn’t changed that much over the years.

Back in the Prehistoric Day, single guys and girls would gather around the fire on a Saturday night, grunt at each other and dance. The same thing happens every Saturday night in modern day New Jersey. The only difference is, guys from Jersey are a bit less evolved than your average Homo Habilis. And they wear track suits, not animal pelts.

But other than that, dating is pretty much the same.

Back then, if a handsome young caveguy liked a pretty young cavegirl, he’d walk up to her, take her by the hand and hit her over the head with a piece of wood. A lot of people don’t know this, but that’s where they got the term “Dance Club.” Girls would dance and get clubbed - just like they still do in modern day New Jersey.

But then, about 6,000 years ago, everything changed. The wheel was discovered, and it completely transformed dating.

Historians will tell you that early man used the wheel for gathering food. Wrong. He used it for gathering pussy.

The day after the wheel was discovered, some horny young cave dude put together a couple wheels, some wood and a pair of fuzzy dice and BAM! Cruising was born. And you know it worked, because chicks always go for the dude with the sweet ride.

So this enterprising young man invites the babe in the fur bikini out for a "drive" and one of his wheels “breaks” and all of a sudden they’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, where it’s dark and scary. You don't need to be an evolutionary biologist to guess what happened next. That's right, Prehistoric Hook Up!

That’s actually how The Flintstones got together. Do you think Fred got with Wilma because of his rugged good looks? Of course not! It was his foot-powered car. And I'll bet you Pebbles was conceived in the back seat.

"Are you sure it's mine?"

So guys, the next time you’re making out with a girl in the back seat of your car, give thanks to the inventor of the wheel - a man who has gotten more guys laid than anybody else - with the possible exception of Mr. Jack Daniels.


ACADEMY AWARD WEEKEND

So how'd you spend your weekend? I spent mine watching movies. You might call it cramming.

On Friday, while filling out the ballot for the Oscar(TM) Pool at work, I realized that I had not seen most of the movies nominated for awards this year. Of course, that minor point was not going to prevent me from another opportunity to gamble!

So, after I plunked down my $3 and made my educated guesses about the nominees, I decided to play a little catch-up before the big show.

First, I ran to my local video store to rent
Hustle and Flow, which received two Oscar(TM) nods, for Best Actor and Best Song.

Hustle and Flow is a particularly uneven film. It starts out as a gritty urban drama about a pimp and the various baby mamas (or is it babies mama?) in his stable. But somewhere in the middle, Hustle and Flow morphs into a silly Cinderella fantasy, where a hustler who can barely utter a coherent English sentence develops the ability to write densely constructed rhymes about the difficulties of pimping. Assisted on vocals by his pregnant prostitute/girlfriend, our Pimp Hero lays down a phat track and achieves his dream of rap stardom.

Turns out, Terrence Howard did not win the Oscar(TM) for Best Actor. But Hustle and Flow did win a coveted Will McKinley(TM) Award, for First Ever English Language Film That I Had To Watch With Subtitles.

I don't know who Terrence Howard's acting coach was, but I could not understand a word he was saying. As the song says, It's Hard Out Here for A Pimp, but it's even harder to understand what the fuck that pimp is saying.

On Saturday I went to the theater to catch Transamerica, the heartwarming family film about a pre-operative transsexual and her gay hustler son. And you thought your family was fucked up?!

Felicty Huffman received her first-ever nomination for her role of Bree, a man in the process of becoming a woman. Unfortunately, she didn't win. But I will certainly never forget the scene where the Desperate Housewives star urinates out of a rather realistic-looking penis.

Why couldn't the Academy have added a special award for Best Artificial Dick?

On Sunday afternoon I finally forced myself to sit through Brokeback Mountain. Yes I know everybody and their grandmother is raving about this groundbreaking story of gay cowboy love. I consider myself a very progressive person, but I was really afraid that I was going to bust out with awkward laughter at inappropriate times.

Don't start calling me homophobic, okay? I just think two manly cowboys making out by the campfire is the stuff of comedy sketches, not epic motion pictures. Turns out I was wrong. I tip my rainbow cowboy hat to Academy Award winning director Ang Lee. Brokeback Mountain is an understated, lyrical tragedy that hits (almost) all the right notes.

And it would have won the Oscar(TM) for Best Picture, if not for Crash.

As my TiVo was dutifully recording the beginning of the Oscar(TM) telecast, I ran out to rent the movie that would end up being the big winner of the night. All I can say is, the Academy got this one right. Crash is easily the best film I've seen in the last year, if not more.

In a year where director Robert Altman was presented with an award for Lifetime Achievement, the Best Picture was clearly influenced by the work of this pioneering director. Like the great Altman films, Crash is a realistic narrative with a large cast and a dizzying number of interweaving stories, all of which connect at the end.

If you have not seen this movie yet, go out and rent it tonight. It's a challenging, provocative, brilliantly constructed puzzle of a film.

As for the Oscar(TM) telecast, I thought it was pretty good. John Stewart seemed much more at ease than Chris Rock, last year's unfortunate choice. And the entire broadcast was infused with the hip comedic sensibility of The Daily Show.

From the opening montage of former Oscar(TM) hosts, to the funny "attack ads" for Best Actress and Sound Editing (featuring Stephen Colbert) to the award-specific comedy of Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell and Tom Hanks, this year's Oscar(TM) show was the most entertaining in recent memory.


And how can you not like an Oscar(TM) show where a song called It's Hard Out Here for A Pimp wins an Academy Award for Best Song? Sure, they cleaned up the chorus for network television ("bitches" became "witches"), but millions of people now understand the unique difficulties of pimping.

That's the power of film - to educate and enlighten, as well as entertain. Thanks to this year's crop of Oscar(TM) nominees, I now have a new appreciation for the struggles of pimps, pre-op transsexuals and gay cowboys.

And I am a better man for it.

As for me, I picked the winner in nine of the 24 major awards(!) Not too shabby for a guy who did all his cramming after he took the test.