7.30.2006

AUGUST GOETH BEFORE THE FALL

August depresses me. It did when I was a kid and it still does now.

When I was a student at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic School during the 1970s and early '80s, the summer was the centerpiece of my life. To a kid thoroughly brainwashed by the superstitious dogma of parochial school, the summer seemed to be a personal gift from God: a brief burst of sun, water and recreation smack dab in the middle of the cold, monotonous year.

Summer was both an end and a beginning; a reward for hard work completed and a time to prepare for harder work that was yet to come.


Back then, the entity known as The Summer began in mid-June. There was something about those first two weeks off that took some getting used to, particularly as I got older and intense final exams preceded the vacation. The remaining days of June were spent decompressing, debriefing and detoxing from pencils, books, dirty looks etc.

"What will I do with all this free time?" I always wondered, as the summer stretched before me like the all-you-can-eat salad bar at Beefsteak Charlie's. Of course, I always figured it out and, by July 1st, I had eased into the relaxation and recreation of summertime like an icy pool on a scorchy day.

July was (and still is) the most perfect month of the year: not too hot, but not too cool; never too busy, but never boring; not too early in the season, but far from too late. July is summer's first act. The days are long and there are plenty of them (31!) to enjoy. In July, school seemed as far away as Albuquerque, unless you actually lived in Albuquerque, which thankfully, I did not. (Not that there's anything wrong with Albuquerque. It's just far away, and hard to spell.)

Back then, everyone referred to the time when school would resume as The Fall. For a kid in Catholic school, the Biblical significance of this was hard to miss. The Fall felt vaguely Apocalyptic, like something that would result in weeping and gnashing of teeth. The Fall was something to dread and avoid at all costs. But July was The anti-Fall: an endless orgy of pools and beaches, of picnics and bar-b-ques, of baseball games and bike riding and tag you're it!

Then came August, like a dark raincloud somewhere in the distance, threatening the picnic. Hide the potato salad! Here comes the panic!

You know that clichéd story, where somebody drives drunk, almost hits a kid and then resolves to change their ways for good? That's what used to happen to me on August 1 of every year.

The beginning of Act Two of summer was a signal that I needed to kick the fun into high gear, because it wasn't going to last forever. August is to summer as Sunday is to the weekend. I began to hear the clock tick. The trick, of course, was to acknowledge the mortality of my summer vacation, while still enjoying its remaining days of life.

But isn't that what summer is all about? Summer is a terminal patient from the day it is born. Summer is Dead Season Walking. It's a doomed, yet somehow eternally optimistic season.

On August 1st I would begin waking up earlier each morning in an effort to expand the space-time continuum. Sleep is vacation's willing accomplice, but also its mortal enemy. Too much sleep can cause you to lose a summer faster than Ray Milland can lose a weekend. Excessive summertime sleep is like a bottle of cheap hooch. It seems like a good idea at the time, but you regret it later.

"Summer is meant to be fun," I would tell myself on August 1. "And there's nothing fun about being in bed!" (Thankfully my perspective on that has changed.)

So I would make my peace with August and do my best to enjoy it. Then, sometime around the middle of the month, I would be watching Bugs Bunny cartoons on Channel 5 when my peaceful bliss would be shattered.

"It's the J.C. Penney Back to School Sale!" the commercial would proclaim, accompanied by relentlessly cheerful stock music. How could they put a commercial that mentioned going back to school on a cartoon show in the middle of August? It was like screaming "fire!" in a crowded movie theater. All the relaxation in my body immediately ran for the exits. I clenched up with visions of early morning bus rides, math quizzes and hair-pulling nuns.

And that was the worst part. These commercials that invaded my consciousness and destroyed my fun weren't even meant for me. I wore a uniform to school every day: bright yellow dress shirt, forest green pants and green plaid tie. I looked like a bottle of Mountain Dew for eight years. But it was okay because, so did everyone else. We all looked equally stupid, courtesy of the fine folks at The Greene Uniform Company of Hackensack, New Jersey. (Yet another reason to dislike the Garden State.)

I never went Back to School shopping in my life. And, if I ever had, it certainly wouldn't have been at J.C. Penney's! Not with those freshly scrubbed cherubs in the commercials who seemed to think that buying school clothes with Mom on a sunny summer day was an absolute blast. I had no need for those dream crushers at J.C. Penney and their discount corduroy slacks or misses separates.

I'm 37 years old. I haven't been a student of any type for more than fifteen years, yet the impending arrival of August still has an effect on my mood. And it only seems to be getting worse because, what used to happen in mid-August is now happening earlier and earlier each year.

This year I noticed Back to School sales at Staples, Best Buy and Bed Bath & Beyond weeks before the end of July. Why would they do this? Who in their right mind would shop for school supplies in July? I am completely baffled by this. But I know one thing: I'm not supporting any retailer that depresses today's kids with inappropriately early Back to School sales.

I spoke with my sister about this recently. She's a teacher living in south Florida with two young daughters, one of whom is about to begin third grade. We reminisced about those lazy, hazy days of summer past, but then she put a new spin on my annual seasonal affective disorder.

"The school year starts for me on July 31st," my sister said matter-of-factly.

"How is that possible?" I exclaimed. "We're still in the middle of the summer!" I immediately began composing my letter to Governor Jeb Bush, in which I would complain about him ruining the summer for millions of Florida kids, while doing my best to avoid topics like Terri Schiavo, my dislike for his brother and my inappropriate lust for his niece, Jenna.

Then my sister interrupted my righteous indignation.

"Keep in mind that August in south Florida is dangerously hot," she reminded me. “There are a lot of poor kids in my school who can't afford air conditioning, so it's actually safer for them to be in the classroom than it is to be at home."

"Oh. Well. When you put it that way." I said, as I tore up my letter to Gov. Bush.

"And that's why you see those ads starting earlier at national retailers," she said. "For people who shop at the Staples around here, Back to School has been going on for weeks."

Nothing dispels righteous indignation like cold, hard fact.

I'm just happy I didn't grow up in Florida. At least, here in New York, I can still enjoy one month out of the year.


See you next year, July. I'll miss you.

7.28.2006

I WANT A GIRL IN A BASEBALL CAP

I want a girl in a baseball cap.

I'm not talking about one of those ironic trucker hats with the mesh backs. When I see a girl wearing a hot pink Von Dutch cap I instinctually move in the opposite direction. I don't know where those girls come from, but I want no part of them.

No, I'm talking about a girl in an actual baseball cap: the kind of soft, slightly faded hat that looks like it's been worn. A lot.

The girl should have long hair; long enough so it can be pulled back into a ponytail of decent length. The ponytail can then be threaded through the sizing clasp on the back of the hat, or the hair can hang neatly with the brim of the cap pulled low, just above the eyes. Hair color is unimportant. What matters is that the hair is long and straight as a pin so it appears to cascade from the cap like a waterfall.


Now here is where it gets complicated. The girl in the baseball cap needs to be a girl. She must be feminine. This is key. She needs to be just as home in a pair of lowrider jeans or a cute miniskirt as she is in her baseball hat or Chuck Taylor hightops. And, while she must love baseball (or at least her team of choice), she should not be a year-round sports enthusiast. I have no interest in a female sports nut. Once the World Series is over, that's it. I want a girl in a baseball cap, not a WNBA jersey.

She also should not be an athlete, at least not currently. It's okay if she was an athlete at one time, such as in youth sports, or high school or even college. But she should not be participating in any organized, team sports at present. I'm not looking for a girl who spends her Saturday afternoons playing field hockey in Prospect Park. A girl who works out a lot at the gym is fine, actually it's preferred. A girl with a firm, tight body who used to be a tomboy when she was younger, but is now a cute, funky, feminine, young woman is perfect. And by young I mean younger than me, by at least two years (preferably more).

It doesn't even matter to me what team logo is on the hat. The only condition is that the girl must actually like the team. Not just like it, she has to love it. She has to root for it. She has to enjoy watching the games on TV. Not every single night, but now and then. She has to love going out to the ballpark, where she will cheer loudly while she enjoys a hot dog and a beer. However she must limit her intake of both hot dogs and beer so as to maintain the firm, tight body requirement mentioned previously. And she must never get drunk at the ballpark. That is non-negotiable. A slight buzz that contributes to her enjoyment of the game is totally fine. But sloppy, embarrassing, stumbling, slurring drunkenness will not be tolerated, particularly if it impedes her ability to properly keep score in her souvenir program.

This year marks a number of important milestones for me. Thirty years ago I went to my first New York Mets game at Shea Stadium. And twenty years ago I went on my first date. Both of these interests have remained obsessions for me over the years, but never have I managed to enjoy both with the same woman. Mary, my first girlfriend, accompanied me to many Mets games throughout the 1990's, but I enjoyed the company of her young son a lot more. Ian was seven when I took him to his first Mets game, the same age I was when my Dad introduced me to the loveable losers from Queens. Ian and I still enjoy going to games together, long after his Mom and I parted ways.

I began dating Mary soon after the Mets World Series victory in 1986. Unfortunately that team quickly faded back into mediocrity. My relationship with Maggie, my next long-term girlfriend, began during the Mets resurgence of the late 1990's. Maggie was an amazingly good sport, accompanying me to many exciting games, including a rain-soaked, 16-inning affair during the 1999 playoffs that was (at the time) the longest post-season game in baseball history.

But the women in my life never went to a baseball game because they wanted to. They went because I wanted them to. And they never wore a cap. Carmen, an aspiring comedian I dated for a time, would wear my Mets cap with dark sunglasses while she handed out fliers in Times Square in return for stage time at a comedy club. But wearing a cap to conceal your identity doesn't count.

So still, I held on to my dream of a girl in a baseball cap.


I thought that I had found her in 2000. That was the year that the Mets made it to the World Series for the first time in fourteen years. I had season tickets in the loge section, on the third base side of Shea Stadium. Three rows ahead of me and to the right sat a young woman whom I affectionately dubbed Cap Girl.

Cap Girl was everything that I had ever dreamed of. She was tall, thin and pretty, with long, shiny, dark hair that flowed from beneath a Mets cap. Not just one cap, either. Cap Girl carried two caps with her to every game. She wore a royal blue cap with the traditional orange NY logo while the Mets were up at bat and would then switch to a royal blue cap with a white NY while the opposing team was at the plate. On rare occasions she would wear both simultaneously, with the brims pointing in opposite directions. This was Cap Girl's version of the late-inning baseball tradition known as the "rally cap."

Cap Girl was not much of an eater, because her hands were usually occupied with meticulous score keeping in her souvenir program. Strike One! She was enthusiastic, but not overly loud or ill mannered and never drunk. Strike Two! And, most importantly, she wore (a) cap(s)! Strike Three! She is OUT! of my dreams and into my very real life.

I watched Cap Girl with great dedication through both rounds of the 2000 National League playoffs and eventually the World Series. At times I spent more time observing Cap Girl than I did the action on the field. But I never spoke with her. Steve, the gray-haired, fifty-something, fellow Mets fan who accompanied me to many games that year, suggested that I break the fourth wall and ask Cap Girl for her number. To an old married guy, it was a no-brainer.

But I couldn't do that. I didn't want to destroy the fantasy of our life together, cheering for our favorite team and then making mad, passionate love to each other with Cap Girl's cap(s) thrown to the floor with reckless abandon. I have learned in my life that the reality is never, ever as good as the dream.

So I kept admiring Cap Girl from afar, until the fifth and final game of that exciting Subway Series between the Mets and our hated cross-town rivals, the Yankees. George Steinbrenner's high-priced whores from the Bronx had just defeated Bobby Valentine's scrappy Mets for the world championship - in our house - and many fans remained in their seats after the game in stunned silence. I was one of them.

"It's okay," I heard a female voice say from a few rows away. "We'll get 'em next year." It was Cap Girl. She walked over to me and put her hand on my shoulder. A moment earlier I was dejected. Now I was elated.

"I guess you're right," I said, feigning misery to hide my excitement.

"I'm Traci. What's your name?" she asked.

I wanted to say "You're not Traci, you're Cap Girl!" but I thought she might think it was odd that I had a nickname for her, considering this was our first official meeting.

"I'm Will," I answered.

"Here's my email address," Cap Girl said, handing me a piece of paper that she had torn off her souvenier program. "We'll write to each other and talk about the Mets." I decided that she really must like me if she would completely destroy the resale value of a collectible Subway Series souvenir program. No eBay for that program!

And I did email her, and she emailed me back. She told me about all the medication that she was on, and the therapist that she was seeing three times a week and the abusive boyfriend who didn't understand her and could maybe I help her with a small loan? I promise I'll give it all back as soon as I get settled in a new place....

And that's why I never asked her for her number. Cap Girl could have remained a beautiful unrequited memory of that magical, near-Championship Season for my beloved New York Mets. Instead she just became a crazy chick in a baseball cap. Actually two baseball caps.

I want a girl in a baseball cap, not a straight jacket.

7.27.2006

WATCH YOUR BACKS

Wednesday 7/26/06. 11:51 p.m.

Witness McKinley exits #1 train at Rector Street. Also exiting are the accused and the victim. Witness McKinley observes accused making a video recording (with his camera phone) of the victim: blonde female, early 20's, prominent chest, low-cut black halter top, sheer white mini-skirt and lower-back tattoo that says "Rebel" in elaborate script.

Victim is four-to-six feet in front of accused, walking north on platform toward exit. Accused appears to be recording victim walking (from behind), without prior consent of victim

Witness McKinley then looks at the accused and exclaims, "Tilt down! You can't see enough of her ass. I'm talking about the blonde chick in front of you...the one that you're videotaping with your camera phone! You're missing her whole ass! What is wrong with you? Tilt down!"

Victim turns and acknowledges accused, who lowers his camera phone, disables it and returns it to his pocket. He then increases his pace and exits the station.

Accused is described as an average guy with an inexpensive camera phone and some video editing software on his laptop. He may be of any age, nationality or body type. He is considered armed and extremely horny.

Be on the lookout. That is all. Over and out.

7.25.2006

PRAY FOR RAIN

Have you ever noticed that when some guy at work tells you about the outdoor concert he went to over the weekend it's always the same story?

Here's a conversation that I had a while back with a co-worker:

CO-WORKER:
Dude. So I went to the James Taylor concert at Jones Beach on Saturday, right? And he starts singing that song Fire and Rain? You know that song right? Anyway he sings that line, (bad James Taylor imitation, strumming an acoustic air guitar) "I've seen fire and I've seen rain..." And all of a sudden it starts to totally pour down rain, right on cue! And everybody starts screaming, and clapping and cheering. And nobody minds that it's totally raining because it's so fucking cool. We were soaked but we had an awesome time. Man, you had to be there. It rained right on cue."

ME:
Okay. In order for it to rain right on cue, somebody (or something) needs to make it rain at a particular moment in a particular song. Let's assume for a moment that James Taylor isn't traveling with some sort of weather-control device, or an Indian shaman who does a rain dance during the encore. That means that, in order for your theory to be correct, God is spending His Saturday night at a James Taylor concert on Long Island.

Don't you think that God has better things to do with His time than go to a James Taylor concert? The guy hasn't had a hit since the '70s! If God is going to go to a concert don't you think he'd pick the Bon Jovi show at Giants Stadium? Jones Beach seats what, 10,000 people? But Giants Stadium holds like 70,000. That is a much more efficient use of God's time. God doesn't even get out of bed for 10,000 people. That's a rounding error for Him. It's statistically insignificant.

Look, I'm sure that God likes that James Taylor song Handyman because Jesus was a carpenter, but all the guys in Bon Jovi are Italian. Everybody knows that God is Italian, that's why the Pope lives in Rome. The Vatican is God's house right? The Vatican is in Italy. That means that God is Italian. End of story.

Anyway, if God was gonna make it rain on cue at a concert on a Saturday night it's not gonna be at a James Taylor show with a bunch of senior citizens in damp Dockers. It's gonna be during the encore of Slippery When Wet at the Bon Jovi show with a bunch of hot Italian chicks from Jersey. God wants to make people happy. That's why he invented wet t-shirts.

So I hope you had fun getting wet with Grandma at the James Taylor concert. Because God was chilling in the V.I.P. room at Giants Stadium with Nicole and Danielle from Jersey City.

He may like to rest on the 7th day. But on Saturday night God likes to PAR-TAY!

7.24.2006

BUSH IN '06

The following post is intended for mature audiences. Reader discretion is advised.

I need to have a serious talk with all the women out there.


We are all adults, so I'm going to use adult language. If you don't want to hear it, you can find another rest stop on the Information Superhighway. Or you can actually do your job instead of reading blogs, Googling ex's and seeing where your friends rank you on MySpace. I'm sure your boss would appreciate that.

A while ago I hooked up with a girl for the first time. We're getting hot and heavy and the clothes are coming off and everything's good so far. But then I notice something: this girl's pubic hair is creeping outside of her panties, in multiple directions. I'm not talking about a tiny thong. I'm talking about granny panties. Not only that, but the panties were sort-of puffed out, like there was something between the fabric and her body. It looked as if she had stuffed her underwear with balled-up tissue paper, or poured half a box of Cheerios down there for late-night snacking.

At this moment I had to make a decision: do I push on, or call it a night?

Here's the way I look at it: If I've gotten this far, how am I gonna stop now? I have no idea what kind of alchemy gets a girl to strip down to her panties for some bald-headed idiot she hardly knows. I'm not gonna throw her out of bed for eating crackers. You know what Shakespeare said: a pussy is a pussy is a pussy. Or maybe that was Larry Flynt? Same difference.


So we keep making out and she takes off my tightie whities and she's conducting her business like a seasoned professional (which she wasn't, by the way). But the whole time, when I should be lying back and feeling good, I'm wracked with worry. What am I gonna find when I take off this chick's underwear? What kind of nightmare awaits me?

Who gets a girl into bed and spends the whole time worrying about it? I'll give you a hint: me.

After awhile she stops working on me and lies back on the bed. You know what that means. My turn. There's this whole unspoken quid pro quo in the bedroom. Whatever she does to you, you have to do back to her. It's like the Mirror Game. That whole thing about "it is better to give than to receive" is not applicable in the bedroom. Sex is like a "favored nations" contract. Everybody's supposed to get paid the same amount.

So she's lying there like a cat waiting for a belly rub, only it's not her belly that she wants rubbed. So she gently grabs my hand and leads it to her underpants. This is it. This is the moment that every single guy dreams of, but not me. I'm dreading it like a 9th grade math quiz.

But I'm an adult man. I've been having sex for two decades. I've seen plenty of pubic hair in my life. How bad can it be?

The answer is bad. It can be bad. Very very very bad.

When the panties came off her hair popped out, sort of like a jack-in-the box. It was thick, luxuriant and puffy and it extended skyward into something of a mushroom cloud. Her pussy looked like a Jiffy Pop. This girl was white, but she had an Afro in her pants. All she needed was one of those pick combs and it would have been like 1976 all over again. I looked at her crotch and I was like, "What's up, soul sista?!"

This girl's hair extended in all directions: north, south, east, west; up her belly, down her thighs. It had no beginning and no end. And it was fluffy, like downy cotton. It felt like she had conditioned it. Pubic hair is not supposed to be fluffy like downy cotton. It's supposed to be course and short. Actually, it's supposed to be almost non-existent. But that's just my opinion. I know some older guys like a little 70's porn star bush, but this looked more like African Kalahari bush. I kept waiting for a guy with a painted face and a bone through his nose to pop out of her snatch.

Next thing I know she grabs my head and begins to slowly push it down into her crotch. I felt like I was I was falling headfirst onto the floor of a barber shop.

Here are the hard facts: human hair holds smells. That's why your hair stinks after you go to a smoky bar. (Not that you can smoke in bars anymore, but you get the point). The nether regions of the body tend to smell somehat funky, particularly in the hot, sweaty summer months. If you want somebody to put his (or her) face, mouth and NOSE down there you better make sure it's going to be a pleasant experience for everyone involved. And this was not.

So I whipped my head out of her vice grip and slowly moved my mouth to higher ground. Then I began the manual stimulation.

I have a pretty good sense of female anatomy, but this girl's Fellini-esque bush was throwing off my system. I didn't know where anything was. It was like camouflage. So I guessed and approximated and hoped for the best. At one point I glanced over and it looked like my hand was being eaten by a possum.


Thankfully she was easily pleased, so that portion of the experience concluded pretty quickly. I decide to end it there, even though it had not (technically) ended for me. But sometimes it really is better to give than to receive.

In summation: It's 2006 girls. Even guys keep it neat and trim down there now. Sure it itches. But you know what's worse than a little itching? Sleeping alone with your gigantic hairy bush.

Let's not have this conversation again.

7.23.2006

SIGN SIGN EVERYWHERE A SIGN

On Friday afternoon I saw a guy standing at the corner of 8th Avenue and 58th Street holding a sign for Subway Sandwich Shop.

He wasn't handing out fliers. He wasn't barking at people about the all-new (and entirely non-alcoholic) Bourbon Chicken Sub! He wasn't calling attention to himself in any way what so ever. He was just standing there, holding a metal pole with a yellow sign.

I assume there are rules and regulations about planting a sign in the middle of a crowded New York City sidewalk. But apparently there are no rules or regulations about planting a guy on a crowded New York City sidewalk. I guess our city planners think a 175 lb human being is less of a disruption to pedestrian traffic than a six-inch thick pole. I'm no Isaac Newton, but I think there may be some flawed science in that theory.

I wonder if this guy grew up dreaming that some day he would be a human sign.

Maybe he got bitten by the sign-holding bug when he joined the Safety Patrol in 7th grade. Holding the bright red STOP sign while kindergarteners crossed the street, he longed for the day when he would leave his small hometown and head for the big city.

He practiced all through high school and went to a special summer camp to refine his technique. All day long there were drills and scrimmages and practices. (Plant your feet! Maintain your grip! Hold your ground, kid! You've got a sign to hold!)

He went off to college and pursued a dual major in Urban Planning/Sign Holding, occasionally competing in amateur tournaments. After college he began his sign-holding career in New Haven, Connecticut, fine-tuning his craft like a Broadway show with an out-of-town tryout. Then, on his 25th birthday, our sign-holding hero got on the bus with big dreams of making it in the sign-holding capital of the world - New York City!

But once he got to the Big Apple he realized that he was not the only one who wanted to be a human sign. All the best human signs from across the country (and the world) had come here to live the dream. The competition was fierce and the opportunities were scarce. To make ends meet, he was forced to take a job wearing a sandwich board for Flashdancers Gentleman's Club. He never dared mention to his parents that his first sign in New York City said All Nude Showgirls! Sometimes you have to make certain compromises on your way to the top, all the while keeping your eyes on the prize.

He was broke, desperate and considering throwing in the towel when the sign-holding Gods smiled upon him. He saw an ad in Sign-Holder's Weekly, the Backstage of the professional sign-holding industry. It read:

Sandwich shop franchise seeks human sign. Flexible hours, excellent benefits, free all-new (non-alcoholic) Bourbon Chicken Subs. Only experienced candidates need apply.

There were more than 100 sign-holders from all over the world competing for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but our hero kept his wits about him. This was the break he had been waiting for. And he made it! He got the gig. He was living the dream. And finally, all the naysayers would believe that one man, holding one sign, really can make a difference in this mixed up world!

You might think that holding a sign is easy. All you have to do is stand there and hold it, right? Wrong! You try parking yourself outside the exit for the Columbus Circle subway station with thousands of frantic commuters bearing down on you. It's not for the faint of heart! It takes courage, quick wits and self-discipline.

But as I stood there watching the human sign hold his sign I realized something: he wasn't doing a very good job.

He was leaning up against the wall of the building, casually holding the metal pole with one hand and clicking through his cell phone with the other. This general sense of distraction led his sign to be canted somewhat to the east, resulting in a directional arrow that appeared to be pointed toward the sky. It appeared that the the all-new (non-alcoholic) Bourbon Chicken Sub was available in Heaven. For a limited time only!

I looked at him and I began to silently cry. He was clearly afraid of his success. I see this all the time. People get an opportunity to live their dreams, but they throw it away, because deep down they think they are not worthy of success.

So I marched up to the human sign, grabbed him by the shoulders and slapped him across the face.

"Look at yourself!" I yelled, as I wiped my tears with my sleeve. "This is your big shot and you're about to blow it! Stand up straight! Hold that sign level! And for God's sake, put away that cell phone!"

For a moment the human sign looked at me with confusion. Then he too began to cry. I held his sign for him as he wept on my shoulder.

"I'm just so scared," he whimpered. "What if I'm not good enough? What if I blow it? How will I ever look my parents in the face and tell them I failed?"

"Look at this sign," I said to him. "This is your sign. You've been practicing all your life. You can do this. And don't let anybody tell you different. You are gonna be the best damn human sign this city has ever seen!"

The human sign blew his nose, took back his sign and shook my hand.

"Thanks mister," he said. "I won't let you down again. And that's a promise."

"You better not!" I said. "I'll be watching. Just remember if you believe, you can achieve."

Then I disappeared into the rush hour crowd, off to pursue dreams of my own.

7.21.2006

MATRIMONEY

I was talking with my Dad on the phone last night, and he mentioned that he was helping my sister and brother-in-law out with the down payment on their new house in South Florida.

"Mommy and I gave Missy $13,000 for the house," my father said. "And we'll give you the same once you get married."

Is he trying to bribe me? Is that legal? Can a parent offer you a $13,000 cash payout to get married?

This conversation with my father brought up many questions:

1) Do I have to get married in a church?
2) Do I get more if the girl is Catholic and/or Republican?
3) Do I get less if she's Jewish and/or rich?
4) What if I get a girl pregnant before we get married? (That's what happened to my sister and she had to wait seven years for the cash!)
5) What about gay marriage? (offer valid only in Vermont and Massachusetts)
6) Is there a cost-of-living increase for each year I remain single?
7) Can I consider the $13,000 to be equity against which I can borrow?
8) When does the offer expire?
9) If my father dies first will my mother honor the verbal agreement I have with him? Or should I get it in writing?
10) Can I double my money if I become a Mormon and marry two women at the same time?

Last summer my parents sold their house on Long Island, also known as my inheritance, for $465,000. Since then my Mom and Dad have bought a new house in Florida, new furniture, a new plasma TV and who knows what else this week.

You know what I got for spending most of last summer helping them pack up forty years of crap? A root canal. My Dad paid for some emergency dental work I needed at a time when I was broke. (Is there any other time?) That was it. Not even a thank you card (with a couple of C-Notes)! And my apartment is still full of all the stuff I salvaged from the house. I'm serious. It looks like the set from Sanford and Son. From now on you can call me Lamont.

I always expected that, some day, after my parents had shuffled off their respective mortal coils, I would be forced to dismantle the family home and put it up for sale. I imagined going through all of my parents' possessions and depositing everything in one of those gigantic metal dumpsters. (Tearfully, of course.)

But that's already been done. (No dumpster. Just a garage sale, from which I also saw no profit.) My father is 77 and my Mom is 71. They have no income, no investments, no stocks, no bonds. Nothing but the ever-shrinking pile of cash that used to be a house, that used to be my birthright. Or my adoptright. Pretty soon, that $13,000 may end up being all that's left.

So...If you are a cute female reader of previously owned and you're not doing anything this weekend, why not send me an email at will@willmckinley.com? All you just have to show up at the wedding, act like you like me and hang out until the check clears (five business days).

I'll give you $500 for your trouble and you don't even have to have sex with me, unless you want to (But I'm not paying for that. Anymore.)

Let's do this now girls. I'm out of unemployment insurance, and the rent is due in a week.

7.20.2006

MIRROR MIRROR ON THE WALL, WHO'S THE FATTEST ONE OF ALL?

I'm on a low-carb diet. Because I recently had sex in front of a mirror.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. In retrospect it probably was not. I think there have been some permanent psychological damage.


During the act, I looked in the mirror and thought to myself, "Who is that pale fat bald guy? And why am I watching him have sex?"

So I became self-conscious and started to suck in my gut while I thrust my pelvis, which is exactly what I do in my aerobics class. The only difference is, during sex I don't wear my red leg warmers. And I'm not usually naked at the gym. Except that one time, during naked yoga, or what I thought was naked yoga.

Question: What do you call naked yoga when you're the only one who's naked?
Answer
: A good reason to change gyms.


I learned something valuable by watching myself have sex: I don't turn me on. Thankfully, women occasionally disagree with me. But I don't find watching myself to be sexy. Maybe I would feel differently if I got a body double, like they do in the movies.

Would that be weird? Like, if I was making out with a girl on the couch and then we head into the bedroom and I call in some other dude?


In most parts of this country I am considered thin. But I don't live in most parts. I live on a coast. People on the coasts have to be thinner than people inland, because of global warming. Sometime, in the not-too-distant future, the water from the melting polar ice caps with flood the coastal cities of America, and we thin, godless liberals will have to swim for dear life.

That's why the Bush administration is in no hurry to fight "climate change." They would like nothing better than for all the blue states to fall into the sea.

7.19.2006

SUPERMAN RETURNS, IMPERFECTLY

Last summer, my parents sold the house in which I grew up. I spent weeks pouring through boxes of my childhood memorabilia, meticulously archived in the attic and basement.

One interesting memento I discovered was a souvenir program for the 1978 film version of Superman.

It seems odd to think of a time when a movie was such a big event that the theater would sell programs. But
Superman was that big. Even the pre-release title of the film was an exercise in hyperbole.

Superman: The Movie the posters screamed, as if this would be the only one. Ever! This is it!

I remember the day in 1978 when I saw Superman at the RKO Twin in Rockville Centre. My school was on Christmas break and just about everyone in my family was in attendance: my mother, father, my sister, cousin, aunt, other aunt, uncle. Even my grandmother came. Never before, or since, have I watched a movie - anywhere - with so many family members. We took up an entire row.

The late 1970s and early 1980s was a great time to be a little boy who loved movies. The hot streak began with the original Star Wars in May of 1977 and continued until the release of Return of the Jedi in May of 1983. During that six-year period there were three Star Wars movies (all great), three Superman movies (two great ones, one lame one) and two Star Trek movies (one great one and one that was impossible to follow).

Released a year and a half after Star Wars, Superman felt almost like an unofficial sequel, sort of like Star Wars, Episode 4 1/2. It was an oasis of movie-going adventure, smack dab in the middle of the three-year desert between the original and it's first (and best) sequel, The Empire Strikes Back.

Superman: The Movie was produced during the height of the Star Wars phenomenon, and the similarities are clearly intentional. Superman begins in outer space, on the planet Krypton, with Marlon Brando's Jor-El rocketing his son to safety in a funky spaceship. It continues on Earth, with the teenaged Clark Kent fulfilling his destiny after the death of his adopted father, just as Luke Skywalker had done after his aunt and uncle were killed. Even the music is similar, probably because they used the same composer.

John Williams' title theme for
Superman is so reminiscent to his signature score for Star Wars that, even today, humming one tune inevitably leads me to the other.

When my family got our first VCR for Christmas in 1980 I made a decision: even though I would now be able to watch the movies I had loved so much on tape, I wouldn't watch the "special ones." I avoided them even when they were eventually broadcast on TV. I wanted them always to remain sacred, theatrical experiences that I would never forget, and could some day enjoy again.

This decision allowed me to enjoy each subsequent theatrical re-release of the original Star Wars films in a unique and special way. But the Christopher Reeve Superman films never got a theatrical re-release. They remained fond, hazy memories of a bygone time.

So it was with great anticipation that I went to see the new film Superman Returns.

I looked forward to a fresh perspective on the character of Superman, and the story that I had loved so much. And I didn't just love the movies. I grew up watching reruns of the 1950s TV version. I loved it, and not just because George Reeves as Superman was the spitting image of my father. I was even a fan of the Saturday matinee serial version and the radio shows of the 1940s. And, or course, every animated version. And the comic books. And..you get the idea.

I like Superman.

Each version, in each media, told the story of the origin of Superman. There was a precedent for this, and that is what I expected from Superman Returns. But that's not what I got. I guess I should have paid more attention to the title of the film, particularly the second word. (SPOILER ALERT: If you don't want to know the plot of this film, stop reading now!)

Superman Returns opens with a title screen, explaining that Superman has gone to search the newly discovered remains of the home planet of Krypton for signs of life. Then the music begins. And it's John Williams's thirty-year old score. Even the type treatment of the title and the credits looks just like the old movies.

"Why are they doing this?" I wondered. My confusion continued when it became obvious that this movie - Superman Returns - was actually a sequel to 1981's Superman II. Sort of.

This struck me as odd, considering that there already was a sequel to Superman II. It was called Superman III. And then there was a sequel to that movie, called Superman IV. Why would they make a sequel to a movie that already had a sequel, and a sequel to its sequel?

As the film progressed, it became obvious that they weren't kidding about this. Marlon Brando (who demanded too much money and was cut from Superman II by the producers) makes a triumphant return (from the dead) and features prominently in this film. And Lex Luthor (formerly played by Gene Hackman and now played by Kevin Spacey) is once again plotting to alter the continent of North America for financial gain, just as he did (unsuccessfully) by causing a California earthquake in the 1978 original.

I tried to give director Bryan Singer and the folks at Warner Bros. the benefit of the doubt. I really did. But I couldn't help but feel the whole enterprise was just a jumbled rehash of stuff I had already seen three decades ago, without the one thing that made those movies so perfect - Christopher Reeve.

But as the movie continued, I began to notice inconsistencies.

Clark Kent is said to be 30 years old when he joins the Daily Planet in Superman. If three years pass between I and II, and then he disappears for another five years, that should make him 38. I know what you're thinking. Superman doesn't age. So we'll ignore the fact that 26 year-old Brandon Routh looks more like Superboy than Superman. But what about Lois Lane?

Margo Kidder played Lois in Superman I and II (also III and IV, but we're supposed to forget those films existed). I loved Kidder's chain-smoking, lonely, neurotic Lois. But there was no doubt that Kidder's Lois was older than Reeve's Superman. In fact, Kidder was 33 at the time Superman II was released in 1981.

And, with all due respect to the brilliant but troubled Margot Kidder, she looked it.

That would have made the character of Lois Lane - a mortal woman - 38 years old, when this otherwise-faithful sequel is supposed to occur. Sure, you can argue a margin of error of a few years. But Kate Bosworth, the actress who plays Lois in Superman Returns, is 23 years old. And she looks it. That makes her too young for this role by a decade and a half.

She doesn't look like Lois Lane, she looks like Lois Lane's intern.

You can't have it both ways. If you're going to make a movie that takes place after the events of Superman II, the characters have to be older than they were in that film. You can't cast it like a new version, or an alternate version of Smallville.

The big surprise of this film is that Lois's one-night dalliance with Superman in II has resulted in a bouncing baby Superman (I warned you about the spoilers). Superman Jr. is now four years old. Kate Bosworth does not look like the mother of a four year old.

And while we're at it, Superman erased Lois's memory at the end of II so she would not remember their romantic liaison. It was arguably the most important moment of the film. There's no way she would know that Superman is this boy's father, regardless of how many pianos the kid throws at the bad guys.

But she knows. Of course. And she whispers it in Superman's ear when he's in the hospital. (What is the alien Superman doing in a human hospital? Don't ask me.)

Continuing: Lex Luthor has a moll, who is just like his female companion in I and II, Miss Teschmacher (played by the sexy Valerie Perrine who was 38! when II was released). But this character is not called Miss Teschmacher. She (as played by Parker Posey) is called Kitty. Why?

And where is Otis, Lex Luthor's right-hand man and comic relief? Many comic book diehards don't like this character but, as played by the hysterical Ned Beatty, Otis is one of the most memorable characters in I and II. He even has his own signature theme. But he's not in this movie. Luthor's bland assistant is played by one of the guys from Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. (I don't know if it's Harold or Kumar.)

Why treat Superman I and II as gospel in some ways, and ignore it wholesale in others? And why cast a guy who looks so much like Christopher Reeve that you spend the whole movie thinking about Christopher Reeve? And why make Superman a deadbeat dad? And why make the movie so long? And why make it so plot-driven that it lacked what (my friend and fellow Superman fan) Benari Poulten called the F*ck-Yeah! moments that abound in I and II?

Why why why? 1000 times why?

I have to admit that, at a certain point, I checked out. I didn't walk out, but I emotionally disconnected from Superman Returns. And then it was over.

On the way home I stopped at the video store. The young clerk was talking with a fifty-ish man about, coincidentally, Superman Returns. I mentioned to both of them that I had just seen it.

"What'd you think?" the graybeard asked.

"I hated it," I answered. "Every single creative decision they made was wrong. It was badly cast and badly written and boring. "

And then I added the following, for effect: "They should burn the negative."

"Really?" the fiftyish guy gasped. "I loved it! I loved the story, the way they tied everything in to the earlier films. It was a perfect tribute to those movies."

"But those movies are thirty years old!" I replied. "Kids today don't know those movies."

"I disagree," the college-aged clerk added. "We grew up on those movies, on video and DVD."

I continued the debate for a while, but I was outnumbered.

"Rent I and II and go see it again," the clerk said.

"And lighten up," Grandpa admonished me. "It's Superman! It's a movie and life is too short!

So I broke my thirty-year-old rule and watched Superman and Superman II for the first time in a very long time. But this time I watched with someone who had never seen either film, my ex-girlfriend Maggie.

I forgot just how good those first two movies actually were, how ionic Christopher Reeve's portrayal was. Maybe they were right. Maybe that was THE Movie. Maybe any movie that comes after has to be a Return, even if it's an inconsistent one.

Then I went to see Superman Returns again. But this time I saw it on the IMAX screen, with lots of kids, and Maggie.

And it seemed like a different movie. I saw the reverence. I appreciated the subtle touches. I loved sharing it with my friend and a roomful of excited kids. And i could see past the inconsistencies, even if they were occasionally frustrating.

I'm not saying it's a perfect movie, or even a great one. But I understand what they did, and why they did it. And if you squint, you can imagine that it's really Christopher Reeve up there on the screen.

So here's my advice. If you haven't seen Superman Returns, watch Superman I and II first. Then go see if, preferably on a steamy summer day, preferably on a gigantic screen and preferably with someone with fresh eyes.

And why not invite your family? I bet your grandmother would enjoy a night out. And she can tell you all about how handsome George Reeves was back in the 1950s, and how he'll always be the real Superman.

Sometimes you need to lighten up and have a good time, even if it's an imperfect one.

7.18.2006

LOVE MEANS NEVER HAVING TO PAY A TEN-CENT FINE

Have you ever fallen in love at a library? I did.

I was 17 years old. I had just begun my freshman year at NYU, commuting to New York City from my childhood home on Long Island. Nights and weekends I worked as a page at the Hewlett Woodmere Public Library. I was a page in a building filled with pages! It seemed oddly redundant, but what did I know?

My job at the library was to shelve the books, based upon the complex organizational algorithm known as the Dewey Decimal System. It was a perfect job for a budding obsessive compulsive who craved order, structure and wanton excitement!

Occasionally, when I was feeling reckless, I would mis-shelve a book on Jesus (Dewey Decimal number 232) in the Judaism section (296). It was my way of spreading Christ’s love to a predominantly Jewish community. I believed myself to be a missionary, of sorts.

If you were looking for me at the library, you could usually find me in Performing Arts-Movies (791) or Biography (920). I imagined that someday there would be a book about me in one of those sections, or maybe even both!

Big things were in store for me at the library. I could feel it.

I met Mary on a sunny Sunday in early September. The library opened at 1 p.m. on Sundays, and there was always a line of patrons waiting for Jim, the crotchety Irish custodian, to unlock the door with his tangled mass of keys.

At 12:59 p.m. a young woman I had never seen before raced to her post behind the Circulation Desk. Her long, brown hair was slightly damp and her big, chunky glasses were slightly out-of-style. Okay, more than slightly.

She wore skin-colored stockings with red high-top boots, which she was in the process of removing, awkwardly, as she walked/hopped to her post. She pulled a pair of high heels out of a colorful Guatemalan handbag and changed her shoes right there, in front of me and the steady stream of patrons now pouring through the front door - much to the bug-eyed consternation of her supervisor, Mrs. Fitzgerald.


“I’m Mary,” she said breathlessly, as I loaded up a cart (we called them “trucks”) with books to be shelved.

“I’m Billy,” I said, slightly embarrassed that I was still calling myself that. “Nice boots.”

And that’s how it began.

You know how, when you like someone you work with, you manufacture reasons to interact with them? You just happen to take your break at the same time they do, or you just happen to sign up for work on the same weekend days? That’s what I did with Mary over the next few months. Day-by-day, we got to know each other a little bit better.

Was it completely organic? Not really. Was it completely exciting? Yes. Really.

Mary was 27 years old, but she looked not much older than me. She lived with her mother in a working class neighborhood near the Queens border. She was one of two girls in a typically large, Irish-Catholic family of eight children. Her father had died when she was a little girl.
And she had a four year-old son, named Ian.

Ian had just enrolled in kindergarten at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic School, my alma mater. I didn’t see a ring on Mary’s finger, and there was no mention of a husband. I wanted to ask questions, but it seemed inappropriate to pry.

Mary and I started spending our lunch break together every Saturday at a nearby diner. She had a huge appetite for someone so thin, and the lunch counter guy would always give her an extra helping of rice pudding, on the house. It was there, at that diner, that Mary told me the story.

She had gotten pregnant during her senior year of college, courtesy of her musician boyfriend. She told the boyfriend about it, and he suggested termination of the pregnancy. When Mary refused, he left town.

“He deserted me,” she said, with a complete lack of anger or hostility that I understand better now than I did then.


For four years, Mary had lived with her mother and raised her son, in the house in which she had been raised. During that time, Ian’s father had returned from his self-imposed exile and developed a relationship with Ian. But Mary had not been on a date since he left her.

I listed intently to Mary as she alternated her story with bites of a cheeseburger deluxe. Then I asked her if she had ever considered giving Ian up for adoption.

“Why do you ask?” she said

“Because I’m adopted,” I answered. “Actually I prefer previously owned.”

I explained to Mary that my birth mother had given me up not long after I was born, and that I had lived with a foster family for the first four months of my life. Then my parents had adopted me and renamed me William McKinley Jr., later adopting a baby girl from Korea who would become my sister.

Mary asked me if I knew anything about my birth mother.

“Well, I know she wasn’t an expert on family planning,” I said, realizing the impropriety after it was already too late. “But I don’t know much more.”

That wasn’t entirely true. Here’s what I knew, but didn’t tell Mary: My birth mother was an Irish-Catholic girl from Long Island. She got pregnant while she was in college. And her boyfriend (my father) was a musician.

I grew up watching soap operas. And this was a story I had seen many times. Younger guy falls in love with older woman and finds out she’s his mother. Dum dum dum! Fade to black.

Of course, Mary was far too young to be my mother. She was not, however, too old to be my girlfriend.

Fall turned to winter and I learned that Mary liked to go ice-skating. She even carried her ice skates to work with her, like a character in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. I teased her about this strange, antiquated hobby, calling her Little Mary on the Prairie.

When Mary enrolled her son at St. Joseph’s Catholic School, she became a member of the church that I had been attending for my entire life. Knowing that Mary might be there inspired me to start going to mass again. My parents didn’t ask why I had suddenly rediscovered Jesus. They just were happy that I wasn’t going to Hell. I couldn’t tell them I was only going so that I could hook up with the unwed mother. It would have broken their little Catholic hearts.

In early January, our church sponsored a ice-skating party and Mary invited me to go – with her. This freaked me out. Was she inviting me on a date? Was her son going to be there? Were my parents going to be there? I had no idea what to do with a girl on a date! What was I going to do with a girl and her kid? And with my parents watching?

The whole thing overwhelmed me, resulting in a debilitating, stress-induced backache. Conveniently, I was confined to bed and unable to attend the St. Joseph’s Church Skating Party.


A week later, Mary invited me again to go skating. This time, it was just going to be the two of us – no church, no kid, no parents. The temperature was only 8 degrees that night, but I couldn’t think of anywhere I wanted to be more than on the freezing cold ice, skating around in circles with a woman who was ten years older than me.

Mary picked me up at my parents’ house. I would have picked her up, but I didn’t have my driver’s license yet. This may explain why I was now 18 years old and still had never gone on a date. Unfortunately nobody told me that chicks dig the guy with the car a lot more than the guy who needs to be picked up at his parents’ house.

Mary and I had agreed that she wouldn’t come to the door. She just pulled up in front and honked the horn of the beat-up, blue Plymouth Reliant that I had nicknamed Old Ker-blooey because of its tendency to break down at inopportune moments.

We both did our best to keep this outside-of-work liaison a secret from our families, our friends and, most importantly, from our gossipy co-workers. We didn’t want to give anybody the wrong idea. Or the right one.

There was something so comforting about every moment I spent with Mary. She was nurturing, and kind, and loving, and gentle in a way that touched my soul, and made me feel safer than I had ever felt before. Growing up as an adopted kid, I had always felt like an outsider, different from everyone else. By age 18 I was angry, bitter, sarcastic, mistrusting and afraid. And, shockingly, single.

Being with Mary made me feel different, as if a missing piece had been found. I felt accepted in a way I had never felt. Every time we saw each other the air was electric with potential.

“Is it possible to find your soul mate at 18?” I wondered.

I never did or said anything about how I felt. I couldn’t believe that a single mother with a child to support would be interested in dating an 18 year-old college freshman who made $3.35 an hour. And Mary’s mother agreed, offering her unsolicited advice to Mary when she learned that we had been “keeping company.”

I had no issue with the fact that Mary was ten years older. Or that she had a kid. But if anything was going to happen with this extended, chaste courtship, Mary was going to have to be the one to do it

And she did, on a Tuesday morning in late April.

The phone rang. “I think I’m falling in love with you,” she confessed, holding back tears. I was silent. “Well aren’t you going to say anything?” she asked.

“I reciprocate your feelings,” I said matter-of-factly, in hushed tones. That was the best that I could do with my Mom in the next room.

That events of that day - April 22, 1987 – came to be known as The Great Revelation. It was the beginning of a decade that I would spend with Mary and her son. For ten years we were a family; not mother-father-son, more like mother-son-son. Except one of the sons was sleeping with Mom.

File this story in Psychology-Freud (Dewey Decimal number 150).

7.16.2006

THE TWO Rs

"You can't be a writer until you're a reader."

Did somebody actually say that to me? I can't remember. Maybe it was that punitive inner voice, that deafening commentary that accompanies everything I do and say and think, like a baseball play-by-play announcer.

I used to be a reader, when I was a kid. I loved biographies, particularly of historical figures. I guess that makes sense when you're named after a president. Clarification: I wasn't really named after a president. I was named after the Dad who adopted me, but he had the same name as a president and now so do I, even though I didn't before. (But "before" is the old me, and that's not what this story is about.)

The Hewlett Woodmere Public Library had no books on William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States. Why not? Isn't that what libraries are for? They are supposed to have books on everything, just like Amazon.com (only it's free and you don't need a computer).

So I decided to write one. A book, I mean. It was called William McKinley: The Forgotten President. I was in the sixth grade at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic School. It never occurred to me that an eleven year-old kid couldn't write a historical biography. The voices were not quite so deafening back then. (What made them worse?)

File that book away under "unfinished works" because I never finished it. Maybe I was distracted by playing baseball with my friends (I had real ones back then), or terrorizing my little sister (also adopted) or watching soap operas with my mother (against the wishes of the Sister Dorothy, whom I didn't like).

We had gotten our first VCR for Christmas in 1980 and my Mom (then called Mommy) and I would watch The Guiding Light, Another World and The Edge of Night every evening after dinner. It's really a miracle that I'm not gay. I mean, not gay in the sex way. But in just about every other way I am. (But that is neither here not there.)


So 25 years ago I was both a reader and a writer. What am I now? A writer? Maybe you think so, because right now you are reading something that I wrote. (Are you enjoying it? I hope so.)

So, yes, in that sense I am a writer. But so is the Korean lady at the nail shop on South End Avenue who printed "BATHROOMS FOR CUSTOMERS ONLY" in neat, block letters on the back of an envelope and taped it to the door. I read that sign every day. She wrote it. That makes her a writer.


I write every day. (Okay, almost every day. Get off my back.) But does that make me a writer? I tell people I write every day and they are very impressed, as if I had just mentioned that I feed all the stray cats in Battery Park every night, like that guy I used to work with. (His name was Rich, and probably still is.)

They ask me what I am writing, these people that I tell. "My blog" I say, as I watch them grow nervous, as if I might ask them to read it. Maybe it's because every idiot with internet access and free time has a blog about how cute their cat is. But me writing every day and posting it to my blog is considered, by some, to be in the same category as the collected works of the nail salon lady (Korean, like my sister).

They don't care (these people) that I write about deep things, or that I work very hard or that I take it very seriously. They only care that it's a blog and that is all they need to know. Many people (including "friends") will not read this story, even though it's right there on their computer. But if this story were published in The New York Times, they would go out and buy a copy and send me a congratulatory email:

"Congrats on all your success! Keep in touch! (Not stated: so you can help me out some day. But implied.)

Let me get to what I originally wanted to say: I read.

I am not one of those people who proudly announce I don't read books! like it's something to brag about. True, I don't read books. But I'm not going to advertise it to the world.

I love the idea of books. I love the fact that books exist. I just don't read them. And it's not because I don't want to. I do want to. I just can't. Or won't. (Is there a difference?)

I own many books that I have not read. But they are all in good condition and they look nice on my shelves (currently dusty). Why would somebody buy a book and not read it? That is a good question. But just because I haven't read it doesn't mean I'm not going to, some day, when the time is right.

If you buy a head of lettuce and you don't eat it, eventually it will become rotten and you will have to throw it away (wasteful). The same cannot be said for books. I have books that I bought in 1981 that are just as fresh as the one I might buy today at Barnes & Noble. And some day I will read those books, if I ever get locked in a room, or sent to jail or stop drinking so much Diet Coke (caffeine makes it hard for me to focus, but so does depression and the medicine I take makes me tired, so that explains all the Diet Coke).

Last Wednesday I started a new writing class. I submitted a piece that I had worked on in a previous class and the teacher was critiquing it.

"Have you ever read anything by Lorri Moore?" the teacher (Victoria) asked.

"No," I confessed. I had hoped that this topic would not come up.

"Oh, I love her writing!" a classmate (Nicole) chimed in. "She wrote a story about her baby getting cancer that was hilarious, but in a completely tragic way."

Teacher and classmate bonded over their affection for this particular writer, as I sat there smiling politely. I was only a few feet away, but I felt completely separate from them. There was a wall between us, but not of bricks and mortar, or adobe, or that textured fabric they use for cubicles (what's it called?). It was a wall of books, and magazines, and poetry, and anthologies and scholarly journals and I don't even know what else.

But I do know this: the wall was impenetrable.

I have this weird problem where I can only read while I am doing something else. Here's where I can read: the subway; the bus; the train, the plane;
the toilet. Here's where I can't read: everywhere else.

I'm 37. I have never sat in my apartment on a rainy day (or any day) reading. Again, I am not bragging about this. I am just sharing, so lighten up with the judgment, okay? I have enough of that for both of us.

I do try to read The New York Times every day. Notice I said "I try to read." I didn't say "I read." Somewhere along the line I got the idea that everybody in New York City had to read The Times each and every day or they would get deported back to Long Island, or New Jersey or wherever it was they came from with a dollar and a dream (on the bus?).

Here's the problem: if you read The New York Times cover to cover each day you will do nothing else with your life. And don't even get me started on the Sunday Times. That is a cruel joke for people like me. (Don't drop it on your foot. Ouch!)

Did I mention that I love Barnes & Noble?
Barnes & Noble is the biggest store that exists for something that not everybody does. Is that confusing? I mean, not everybody reads books, yet Barnes & Noble is bigger than a thing that everybody does do, like shop at a supermarket (maybe for lettuce, as previously analogized).

I like people that hang out in bookstores. They are my people, even though I am not one of them (yet). Sometimes I look in the window at Barnes & Noble, just watching people read. They seem to be in another world (not the soap opera). I wish I could go where they go.

"Those people in there are buying books that they will actually read!" I think to myself as I suck the ice cold Diet Coke through the straw of the large cup I bought at Subway (the sandwich shop, not the mass transportation system).

But today was different. Today I got off the subway (the transportation system, not the sandwich shop) and I walked past Barnes & Noble. But this time I went in.

The door swung open and my damp torso was immediately embraced by a wall of refreshingly cool air. It felt like an icy hug by a giant polar bear (only with huge walls of books, not ice).

I walked up to the counter that said "Customer Service." I was a customer and I needed some service so it seemed like the right place to be.

There was a young, blonde-haired man behind the counter and he was wearing glasses. I liked the fact that he was wearing glasses. I imagined that he loved reading so much as a child that he wore out his eyes, and thus the glasses. His parents were probably mad at him, but his brain wasn't! (because it was smart)

"I need a book!" I declared to the man with the worn-out eyes.

"Well, you've certainly come to the right place," he answered (a bit like Oscar Wilde, but how would I know).

"It's called Birds of America and it's written by..."

"Lorri Moore," he interrupted.

See, this guy knew his stuff! I knew he would. There was just something about him. It wasn't just the glasses. It was his general sense of being at home in a four-story temple to the art of writing.

How do you get a job at Barnes & Noble, anyway? Do they give you a pop quiz? (Sample question: Who wrote Birds of America? Answer: Lorri Moore. You're hired!)

The sales clerk walked me over to a table with a sign that read Staff Suggestions. Apparently he had selected this particular book and placed it on this particular table, right next to that particular checkout counter (subliminal message).

"It's a great book," the bespectacled blond boy said to me.

"Yes, I have heard that from many fellow writers," I answered, with my nose pushed ever-so-slightly into the air. "I love to read great books, as all great writers do!"

I waited on the checkout line next to a sweaty bald guy holding a copy of Pregnancy for Dummies. I wondered if he was the Dummy (because he certainly wasn't the Pregnancy). Then I got to the cashier.

"I'd like to buy this book please!" I said. "I've heard it's very good."

"I didn't read it," the cashier said with disinterest. (I guess she got that one wrong on the quiz!)

I paid my $14.95 (plus tax) and the cashier asked me if I needed a bag.

"No thanks," I said. "I'll just carry it."

Even though I am wearing a backpack (as always), I have walked around New York City all day today proudly carrying my copy of Birds of America. I imagine people looking at me (holding my book) thinking to themselves, "He's a reader! I knew it just by looking at him, even though he doesn't wear glasses!"

As of this writing, I have not yet read any of the book I bought today. But I am writing about it. Does that make me a writer? Or a reader? Or both? Or neither?

I'd like to keep talking about this, but the baseball game is about to start. I don't play any more, but I do like to watch (with the sound turned all the way down).

7.14.2006

BEST COMMENT EVER!

I just liked the title of this post...it 's also an alright anctecdote... but I love the title...
--Posted by tracifish to previously owned at 7/13/2006 09:47:06 PM
Thanks Traci! From now on I'm going save all the time I waste on writing
my little anctecdotes and just come up a bunch of titles for you!

Here's one to start with:

YOU AIN'T HAFTA BE SMART TOO GIT INTINET AXCESS!

It's the story of...well, who cares?

If you can't say something good, say it on the internet!

7.13.2006

A CONVERSATION I HAD IN 1985

WM: "I mean she drinks human blood."

JA: "And where exactly does she get human blood? Does she turn into a bat and fly around and bite people on the neck?"

WM: "No. She has donors. People donate blood to her."

JA: "You mean, like a Blood Bank?"

WM: "Yup. Except she makes all the withdrawals."

JA: "How does she get the blood from their bodies?"

WM: "Well that part I'm not entirely clear on. She has fangs, like real, working fangs. You've probably seem them. Her dentist made them for her. He carved her canine teeth down so they look like fangs. And it was covered by her dental insurance. Can you believe that? But I don't think she actually bites people."

JA: "So how does she get the blood from them?"

WM: "I don't know! When you're alone in somebody's apartment and they tell you they're a vampire, and they drink human blood, you don't start asking a bunch of personal questions."

JA: "Good point."

WM: "She said something else that was interesting. Her cravings for blood are affected by the phases of the moon, like the tides. And if she has a craving for blood, but no blood to drink, she eats nuts."

JA: "Nuts?"

WM: "Yes. Nuts or carrots or celery. She said it has to be something crunchy. It helps the cravings."

JA: "So what are you going to do?"

WM: "About what?"

JA: "I told you. They're going to try to turn you into a vampire too, when you're in Los Angeles. That's where Scarlett lives. And she's going to do to you what she did to her."

WM: "They've already tried to kill me. And we both know how that turned out."

JA: "That was only because I warned you that the drink was poisoned."

WM: "Yes. Thanks. And now you're warning me that they are going to try to turn me into a vampire. So I'll be ready with the garlic and the cross."

JA: "Very funny. Look, her exact words were, 'I can't wait to see his face when he realizes what is happening to him.' Remember one thing. You're 16 years old. These people are adults and they aren't kidding."

WM: "Neither am I. I'm going to Los Angeles. And, if all goes according to plan, I won't come back with a craving for blood."