9.30.2006

MY PAYDAY PEDICURE

I am a straight man who likes to get a pedicure every now and then.

Before you start making all sorts of assumptions about my masculinity, or my sexual orientation, let me make a few things clear. First, I don't get pedicures every week, or even every month. And second, I have never gotten my toenails painted with any sort of polish - not even clear.

I know most American guys do not share my fondness for hanging out in nail salons. And that is their loss. A good pedicure can be just as relaxing and therapeutic as a massage and, with the right pedicurist, it can be a total turn-on!

A female colleague of mine recently complained about her husband's penchant for pedicures, and I was confused and dismayed by her protestations. Why is it okay for young women in this country to go to strip clubs, or smoke cigars but a guy getting a manicure or a pedicure is still looked upon as strange? This is all part of a sexual double standard that exists in this country, wherein woman are encouraged to push the boundaries of their sexuality, while men remain trapped in strict, dogmatic gender roles.

I've lived in New York City all of my adult life, and I really wouldn't want to live anywhere else. You can pretty much do whatever you want in New York, and nobody gives it a second thought, or gives you a second look. New Yorkers have seen it all -- and done it all -- so nothing is really too big of a deal.

I'm sure that if I lived somewhere in the deep South -- let's say Alabama -- and I walked into the local nail salon with my shaved head, people might look at me all funny-like. Not too long ago, Southerners used to invite guys like me to what was known as a "necktie party." That's why I don't live in Alabama. Actually there are many reasons I don't live in Alabama, but one big one is, I don't want to go in for a mani/pedi and come out with a noose around my neck, being dragged from the back of a pickup truck.

In certain parts of New York, there are just as many guys as there are girls at the nail salon. I live on the border of two Manhattan neighborhoods: the West Village and Chelsea. Outside of San Francisco, this part of New York is just about the gayest place in the country. The Stonewall Club - recognized as the birthplace of the struggle for gay civil rights - is just one of the many openly gay bars and clubs within walking distance of my apartment.

I have never been to any of these bars, but I like knowing that they are there. I enjoy living in a place where people of all orientations feel comfortable, safe and accepted. Yes, constantly getting hit on by gay men can sometimes be a burden. And yes, of course, I wish that straight women would hit on me as much as gay men do (or at all, for that matter). But hey, at least I know that somebody finds me attractive.

The fact is, you can't live in a predominatly gay neighborhood and not pick up some of what might be thought of as gay behavior. I'm not talking about sexual proclivities; it's more about issues of style and personal grooming. Remember the show is called Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, not Queer anything else.

The trend known as metrosexuality has nothing to do with sexual orientation. It's about vanity - plain and simple. Young men today understand that the better they look, the sharper they dress and the longer they retain their appearance of youth, the better their life will be - in the workplace and in the bedroom.

For me, getting a pedicure every month or so has nothing to do with sexual orientation, or metrosexuality or even vanity. I don't get pedicures because I want to feel girly, or look pretty. I get them because I have certain persistent, painful calluses that are easily and efficiently removed with the pedicurist's scalpel. And because I enjoy sitting on a throne and being pampered by a woman kneeling before me.

Now tell me, how is that anything other than 100% straight?

I got paid yesterday afternoon at 1 p.m.. I immediately deposited my check at Citibank and by 1:15 p.m. I was sitting in the vibrating chair at my favorite nail salon - Bobo's Nails & Spa on 6th Avenue.

The nail salon business in New York City has traditionally been dominated by Asian women, but as they have become ubiquitous they have also become a bit attitude-y. I prefer the staff at Bobo's because they are primarily Hispanic.

The young women who work at Bobo's seem genuinely happy just to be in this country, and extremely appreciative of the opportunity to make some money. The Korean ladies at the salon two blocks south of Bobo's - and at others I have visited -- seem very angry to me, almost contemptuous! I don't want to sit there and feel like I have to apologize for getting the pedicure that I am paying for! That's just poor customer service, in my book.

There's something very regal about getting a pedicure. You sit on this high, throne-like chair and dip your feet into a warm, swirling pool. You can even make the chair vibrate in all sorts of different ways - if you're into that sort of thing. I'm not.

My pedicurist was a very friendly Hispanic woman named Amada. I think she was Guatemalan. I tried to ask her where she was from, but she just smiled and shook her head.

First, Amada removed my shoes and my socks. Then she rolled up the legs of my jeans so that they were above my knees.

Then she trimmed my hard-to-clip toenails with a pair of industrial strength nail clippers. They made that high-pitched clipping sound -- ping! ping! - as pieces of my body shot high into the air. It was like watching a fireworks display!

I'm sort of spoiled when it comes to toenail grooming. My mom clipped my toenails well into high school, until my guidance counselor strongly suggested that she stop. I think that is part of why I like to pay women to give me pedicures more than 20 years later. To some extent, getting a pedicure makes me feel loved, and taken care of, just like I did when I was a kid.

Paging Dr. Freud!

I have a terrible callous on the right side of my right foot. It has something to do with the way I walk or stand, I'm not really sure. All I know is, it hurts! One of the great things about a pedicure is that they will scrape that callous right off with a special razor. It's just like a cheese grater. When it's all done there's a big pile of me on the floor.

I bet it would taste great on a pizza bagel! Yummy.

Of course, the best part of the pedicure is the foot and leg massage. I love that that menthol-y smelling white cream that they cover me with. It feels like a plaster cast. Sometimes I imagine that it will harden and my pedicurist with sign it with a sharpie marker.

Like, Will - Next time watch out for that banana peel! Seriously, get well soon! Love Amada and the gang from Bobo's Nail Salon.

My only complaint about Bobo's is the selection of reading material. It's all women's magazines! Cosmo, Lucky, People, US Weekly. How sexist is that! Where's Sports Illustrated, or Wired or Maxim?

Memo to anybody who owns a nail salon: if you make guys feel comfortable and at home, you will reach twice as many potential customers. So why not subscribe to some sports magazines! Maybe the girls might even pick one up.

Every time I visit Bobo's I leave behind my copy of the New York Times sports section, for any other straight guys who might stop by for their payday pedicure.

Amada gave me a great pedicure and soon I was back at work, feeling refreshed, pampered and glad that I live in a city where nobody really cares about gender roles.

So here's my advice to the guys: start going to your local nail salon!

It might feel weird at first but think about it this way: where else can you be the only guy in a room full of girls who can't run away.

Am I a genius or what?

9.28.2006

LIFESTYLES OF THE BROKE & DESPERATE

I am completely, 100% broke.

This is not a new thing for me. For my entire adult life I have been one paycheck away from living in a box under the 59th Street Bridge. For the most part, my troubled financial health has to do with pursuing my dreams rather than my job. When I work I make a good living. When I don't, I don't.

Five years ago I decided I was going to pursue my lifelong dream of doing standup comedy. I stopped working, lived off my credit cards and started spending every night at comedy clubs. It was amazing how credit card companies just kept giving me new cards. This went on for years. And none of them really seemed to mind too much when I stopped paying the bills.

Of course this eventually changed. The credit card companies started to get downright rude and the fun came to an end. In the summer of 2005 I started working again - freelance, but still full time. I worked every day for almost a year, and this past June I decided to take the summer off to focus on my next dream, becoming a professional writer.

I know most of you reading this are probably not impressed with the fact that I worked full time for a whole year. But I had never done that before, so how about you cut me some slack, okay?

I have never had a "job." I have never been on staff at any company since I graduated from NYU in 1990. Every year since then I have supported myself as a freelancer professional, working in corporate communications, public relations and television and film production.I have had long-term freelance gigs (in one case almost eight years) but I have never been employed by any company. I have always been essentially free to do what I want, when I want it. And that's what I did this summer.

After working for a solid year, and making more money than I ever had in any twelve-month period of my professional life, I had about $10,000 left over in the bank. Again, this may not sound like a big deal to you. But I have been living paycheck to paycheck for the last 15 years and having a $10k cushion is absolutely unheard of for me.

After two and half months of dream pursuing, my cushion deflated. Luckily, I started working again a little more than two weeks ago, but I don't get my first check until this Friday afternoon. I finally went flat broke yesterday, which is sort of like tripping on a pebble three feet from the finish line.

I wasn't completely broke, however. I did have a big bowl of loose change. Actually my ex-girlfriend Maggie had a bowl of change, but for the sake of this story it was mine. I don't want my loyal readers to think that I'm living on a bowl of pennies that I stole from my ex - even if that is sort of true (and by sort of true I really mean entirely true).

So this morning, on my way to work, I paid a visit to the Food Emporium near Union Square.

No, I was not there to shoplift my breakfast, or to apply for a night job as a cashier. I was there to use the Coinstar machine.

If you've never used a Coinstar machine you really are missing out on some fun.

Here's how Coinstar works: You bring in all the change you have lying around the house and Coinstar turns it into cash money! All you have to do is feed the coins into a contraption that looks sort of like a soda machine.

When you are all done loading in your change, the Coinstar machine tells you how much money you have accumulated and prints out a voucher to redeem at the register for cash! You have no idea how much fun this is. You sit there watching the total going up and up and then you cash out. It's almost like being in Vegas, except you actually get to keep your money. Coinstar does take about eight cents on every dollar, but that's a lot better than the 100 cents on every dollar that the MGM Grand Casino took from me on my last visit to Vegas.

I have visited this particular Coinstar machine numerous times in my financially irresponsible life and I have learned a few things. First, wealthy people do not hang out at the Coinstar machine. This is not Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous. It's more like Lifestyles of the Broke & Desperate.

So there I am this morning, feeding my coins in the machine, and my total gets up over $10 with plenty more coins to go.

"Yay!" I announce to all those within earshot. "I'll be able to eat lunch today!" Then the machine freezes. It stops dead. A screen appears that reads, "Your transaction cannot be completed."

I broke the Coinstar machine! How is this possible? And nearly all of the money I have in the world is trapped inside of it. I begin to madly press buttons, hoping to bring it back to life. Then a message appears on the screen:

"There has been a malfunction. Please alert an attendant.
Your change is safe."

"What a relief!" I thought to myself, as I went over to the customer service counter to alert an attendant (as instructed). Of course, I kept a watchful eye on the Coinstar machine that had eaten my $10.09 in pennies, nickles and dimes (I had been living on the quarters in the bowl for the past few days). I didn't want someone to show up and claim ownership of my Coinstar machine. One time in Vegas I pumped $200 into the Wheel of Fortune slot machine, ran out of money and watched the next player win back ALL of my money on their first spin! There is not going to be an encore of that performance.

The attendant came over, unlocked the machine, opened it up and began to sift through my change.

"Do you live in a home with an animal?" he asked.

"Um, my girlfriend has a cat." I answered tentatively.

"I thought she was your ex-girlfriend," he replied.

"Wait a minute," I said. "This is a true story. Stick to the script!"

"Okay," he said. "It just isn't a very funny story."

"I know, but not everything has to be funny!" I yelled. "I am not your monkey. Now give me my change! I'm hungry and I need to swallow something other than my pride."

So the nice, Latino man named Isolde cleaned Maggie's cats' hair out of the Coinstar machine, closed it up, printed out the voucher for $10.09 and gave me the cash.

Then I moved to the other machine to cash in my remaining change. As I was carefully loading it into the basket, a guy began adding his change to the machine I had problems with.

"Be careful of that one," I said. "It eats your change."

As I was saying this I realized I recognized the guy. He is a well-respected comedian and writer who's one-person show was recently the hit of an international comedy festival.

And there he was, at the Coinstar machine. Just like me!

I thought about saying something like, "I love your work." But it felt inappropriate. If you're pouring baggies of pocket change into Coinstar, that may not be the best time to get recognized.

So if you are ever in the Food Emporium in Union Square and you see me dumping bags of pennies into the Coinstar machine, just act like you don't know me.

But remember this, the Coinstar machine is merely a detour on the road to dreams.

9.27.2006

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WILFORD BRIMLEY!

Happy 72nd birthday to the beloved character actor and pitchman for Diabetes testing supplies.

Are you a Diabetic senior just like Wilford Brimley? Are you a Medicare recipient? Do you love big bushy moustaches? Would you like to get your testing supplies at a substantial discount? Then just click here.

It's the right thing to do!

9.26.2006

WHAT'S FOR LUNCH?

I had lunch at Quiznos today with a little boy from Bangladesh. I certainly didn't plan it that way. It just sort of happened.

Here's the background.

I took the summer off from my freelance corporate propaganda job and I joined a writer's workspace on 14th Street in Manhattan, where writers pay a monthly fee for 24/7 access to office space with private cubicles, a printer, wireless internet, a kitchen and a bathroom. I did a pretty good job of staying disciplined and showed up (at least) five days a week throughout July and August. Some of what I worked on appeared here on the blog -- you're welcome -- and some of it was for an intensive writing workshop that I was enrolled in.

Right next door to the workspace is a Quiznos sub shop.

As a rule, I go out of my way to not patronize chain restaurants, particularly in New York City, where there are hundreds of independently owned and operated restaurants, cafes, and delis run by hardworking New Yorkers. Soulless chain restaurants contribute to the homogenization of the American experience of dining out, resulting in a generation of tourists who visit New York City and eat dinner at the Olive Garden In Times Square.

But Quiznos is a franchised chain, which means that each restaurant is owned by a local business person. So you get the low prices of a national chain, while still supporting a local merchant. Well, maybe local merchant is not entirely accurate in this case. This particular Quiznos is owned by a guy from Bangladesh.

I've been working my whole life and I can barely afford to buy lunch at Quiznos, but some dude from a Third World country can afford to buy the whole restaurant? How did that happen? How is it that a guy who from Bangladesh is in better financial shape than me? I'm not saying the guy doesn't deserve it. I'm very happy for him. It's just frustrating. Perhaps he didn't take two months off from work so he could write his blog.

Sometime in early July I ventured into Quiznos and tried a sandwich called The Steakhouse Beef Dip and my life changed forever. The Beef Dip is a roast beef sandwich that comes with a cup of au jus gravy for dipping. Tell me this: Who doesn't like to dip something in gravy? It's so American. Or maybe it's not.

My Mom used to make the exact same sandwich when I was a kid, only she called it a French Dip. Maybe the French came up with the idea of dipping a sandwich in gravy, but it's ours now and we can call it whatever we want! Everybody knows that patriotic Americans don't like anything that has to do with France. And nobody wants to eat a sandwich called the Freedom Dip.

Honestly, I don't really care what they call this sandwich. I call it delicious.

I'm sort of a picky eater, so when I find something I like for lunch I usually eat it every single day until I get sick of it. Then I never eat it again. For a while all I ate were egg white sandwiches on whole-wheat toast with ketchup. I ate that every day for about a year. When I think of it now I get physically sick. The place I ordered from made my egg whites on the same grill with the hamburgers, so I usually had meat-flavored egg whites. What was I thinking? I have no idea, but I ate it every day for a whole year. Yuck!

After that I became obsessed with tuna fish. Then plain chicken breasts (Atkins, of course). Then sushi. Then soup. I ate soup every day for about a year, regardless of the temperature.

"It's never too hot for soup!" I would tell myself, as droplets of sweat mingled with my $6 cup of Pumpkin Corn Bisque. Yum!


People ask me why I eat the same thing every day. Mostly it has to do with anxiety. Eating the same thing from the same place every day takes all the risk out of lunch. There is no room for failure, or disappointment or frustration, which is a good thing for someone who is emotionally unstable. I want lunch, not a panic attack!

Which leads us to today.

I'm beginning my third week back at work, and I'm still stopping by Quiznos every day for my favorite sandwich. Today it was very busy at Quiznos. I paid for my sandwich and sat down at a table near the register. The poor cashier was overloaded and the line was backed up. Customers were beginning to express their disapproval. Then the owner stormed in from the back and opened the second, previously dormant, cash register. But he was not alone.

Trailing behind the owner was his son, a little boy no more than four years old.

After loading the drawer of cash into the register, the manager lifted the boy up and sat him down at my table, with me. That's right, the owner left his son alone with me - without so much as a word spoken.

Now, in a situation like this, it might occur to you to say something like, "Would you mind watching my kid for a minute?" or "Is it okay if my son sits here so I can watch him?" or "You're not a pedophile, are you?"

But none of these questions were asked.

The little boy sat down and stared at me while I ate my delicious beef dip. Then he reached over and began shaking my bowl of gravy, laughing while it overflowed. Then he started fondling my cup of Diet Pepsi.

At a certain point it became obvious to me that I was now babysitting the son of the owner of Quiznos. For free. And it's not like I could complain about it. If I piss off the owner of the only Quiznos in my neighborhood, it's no more delicious Beef Dip for me! Maybe, forever!

So I pulled out a notebook and a yellow highlighter from my backpack and the little boy from Bangladesh and I began to color. After I finished my lunch I tore a few pages out of my book and left them for him, along with the highlighter.

Before I left I snapped this picture.

The good news is my new friend and I have a playdate set up for Saturday. We're going to Chuck E. Cheese. I know, it's a chain restaurant, but I'm making an exception because I think we will have a really good time there.

Who knows? Maybe if I keep babysitting his son, the owner of Quiznos will give me free Beef Dips. And I can save my money and buy my very own Quiznos franchise!

I'll never have to worry about lunch again!

9.25.2006

CLINTON vs. WALLACE

By now you've probably heard about Bill Clinton's combative interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. If you haven't seen it, you can check it out on You Tube.

Both sides have already done more than their share of spinning, each claiming it as a victory. Chris Wallace, of course, feigned surprise that Clinton took issue with his accusatory line of questioning regarding the former president's efforts to deal with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. I almost expected the dumbfounded Wallace to say, "I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

Chris Wallace a.k.a. Casablanca's Capt. Renault

In his defense, President Clinton did a good job of defending himself against Wallace's subtle, calculated attack, but that is also where he lost the battle. And yes, he did lose. Wallace won. FOX won. The Republicans won. The bad guys won.

The former president played right into Wallace's hand by allowing himself to get visibly angry and defensive at the overt suggestions that the Clinton administration's inaction directly led to 9/11. Clinton's rebuttal was strong on facts, but also strong on indignation.

First rule of debate: If you allow your opponent to make you lose your cool, your opponent wins, regardless of the facts.

The average FOX News viewer doesn't know the facts, care about them or understand them. All they know is, President Clinton got defensive when Chris Wallace asked him about bin Laden. In their simplistic, red state world view that must mean Clinton did something wrong, which furthers the notion that the current, corrupt, incompetant administration was forced to clean up somebody else's (i.e. Clinton's) mess.


The typical viewer of FOX News is kind of like your dog. He doesn't really understand what you're saying, but he does attach meaning to how you say it. Coming from Bill Clinton -- the hero of the Democratic Party -- the words don't mean anything. But how he says them does.

President Clinton should have known better than to appear on the FOX News Channel. He is fully aware that they are the propaganda arm of the Republican Party, not a legitimate news organization. There was no way that an interview with Bill Clinton on FOX News Sunday was going to be anything other than part of an orchestrated attack on the terrorism record of the Democratic party, particularly with the midterm election a matter of weeks away.

I understand that Clinton was trying to spread the word about fundraising efforts for his charitable organization, the Clinton Global Initiative. But it's not like anyone who watches FOX News was going to sit down and write him a check. Because most people who watch FOX don't know how to write. And you can't cash a check signed with an "X." Anyway most FOX News viewers spend all their money on Twinkies and cheap liquor, so there's none left for charitable giving to human rights initiatives.

The only positive to this blunder is, an angry Bill Clinton is a passionate Bill Clinton. And a passionate Bill Clinton can energize the Democratic base in a way that nothing else can.

I hope that Clinton acts on his indignation, takes off the gloves and begins to lead the fight against Karl Rove and the Republicans, and their efforts to destroy this country and everything it has stood for more than two centuries. It's time for President Clinton to stop acting like an elder statesman and start acting like an attack dog.

It's time to bring in the big guns and blow these guys out of the water.

9.22.2006

MY NIGHT AS A BROADWAY STAR

Last night I did a reading of my story Energy Crisis as part of evening of storytelling from the Independent Project Workshop.

The show was in the basement of an Italian restaurant right in the heart of the Broadway Theater District!


This is the closest I have ever been to Italy.

(l to r) Nicole Bulloch, Nancy Hendley, Carolyn Carreno, Victoria Rowen, Penny Williams, me, Nicole Davis

I was the only guy on the show (and in the writing workshop) which was just fine with me. I love being surrounded by women, particularly when they start fighting over me.

All I can say is,"One at a time, ladies. One at a time!"


Thanks to everyone who came out to see the show!

9.21.2006

JUAN VALDEZ IS NO FRIEND OF MINE

I don't drink coffee.

I hate the way coffee tastes. I hate the way it smells. I even hate the way it looks, all muddy and brown, like a steaming cup of sewage. I hate everything about coffee. And don't even get me started on coffee ice cream. That's just wrong.

It's not a religious thing. I'm not ethically opposed to stimulants, like a fundamentalist Christian. Although I am opposed to fundamentalist Christians, but that's another story.

You probably drink coffee, I understand that. Most people do. But you probably didn't love it the first time you tried it. It takes awhile to train yourself to like coffee, and plenty of people don't ever really develop a taste for it, but they keep drinking because they need the energy boost that the caffeine provides.

In that sense coffee is like alcohol or cigarettes. People enjoy the effect these drugs have on their body more than they enjoy the consumption of the drugs themselves. Of course there are certain societal conventions that surround the use of these drugs, and that is part of how people develop the habit.

How many guys have asked a girl out for coffee, or for a drink or chatted up a co-worker on a cigarette break? These social experiences are no different than the Native Americans sitting around the fire, passing the peace pipe. (Although I'd rather smoke what was in those peace pipes than what's in a Marlboro Light.)

My father drank tons of coffee every day when I was growing up. The waitress in the diner next to the bus depot where he worked even called him Hot Lips because of his penchant for it. (At least that's what he told my mom.) Maybe I associated coffee with being old, like my dad. I tried it a few times and hated it each time. Uggh! Yuck! Gross! So that was that.

But here's my problem. I hate coffee, but I love caffeine. I need caffeine. Desperately.

For a non-coffee drinker, I am the most over-caffeinated person you will ever meet. I am a caffeine addict. I live in a constant state of jittery readiness. For many years I drank tea constantly, all day long, without a break. I drank so much tea that people thought I was British. I even had bad teeth, just like a real Brit. I used to walk around saying, "Pip pip!" and "Tally ho!" while drinking my extra large Earl Grey.

The problem with tea was that it always gave me a terrible case of dry mouth. This always struck me as odd. How can a liquid give you dry mouth? It seems contradictory. But tea always made my mouth feel pasty and dehydrated, like the morning after binge drinking. And once I started doing standup comedy this became a big problem. The combination of debilitating nervousness and too much tea made me sound like I had walked through the Sahara to get to the stage. A dry mouth is not a funny mouth.
This was a problem.

Most standup comedy takes place in a bar of some sort. So when I started doing standup I started spending a lot of time in basements of watering holes across New York City. As I watched my fellow aspiring comedians downing two or three Guinness's during every open mic, I made a decision. I was going to develop a taste for Diet Coke.

Regular Coke was not an option. If I had started drinking two or three regular Cokes every night I would have turned obese, just as quickly as my fellow newbie comics were turning into alcoholics. I was never much of a soda drinker growing up. My parents didn't keep soda in the house, and it was never sold in the Catholic schools I attended. But eventually I started to like the slightly chemically, fake-ly sweet taste of Diet Coke.

I was still drinking tea, but just for breakfast. Then I went to Atlanta (the birthplace of Coca-Cola) to work on the production of a pharmaceutical sales meeting. During an early morning breakfast for a few thousand pharmaceutical sales reps, I noticed that tons of people were drinking Diet Coke with their eggs and bacon. Diet Coke for breakfast?! What a great idea! Why didn't I think of that myself?

Ever since then I've been starting the day with a Diet Coke. This is somewhat common in the South, but here in New York people look at me like I'm a child molester. These same people who walk into work with their vente double caf mochachinos every morning simply cannot understand why someone would be drink 32 ounces of Diet Coke before 10 o'clock in the morning.

I'm not saying this is the best plan. I'm sure the gallons of Diet Coke I drink are slowly disintegrating the insides of my body and helping me to develop brain cancer. But I'm no diffferent from all of you coffee lovers out there. I'm an addict and I need my drug.

The only difference is, my drug is cold and carbonated and yours is steamy and brown. Wow. It sounds delicious.

9.19.2006

I WANNA MAKE YOU COME

...to see me, live and in-person, here in New York City.

This Thursday I will be doing a reading of my story Energy Crisis, which was originally written for previously owned. You love reading the blog, now you can see it come to life! And the show is totally free! And it's at a restaurant that has good food and plenty of liquor! And it's free! What more do you want from me? I'm sick of your shit already.

So if you're in town, come on by. If you're not, fly in. Jet Blue has some really cheap tickets right now. And they have those blue-colored potato chips, and animal crackers and TV sets on the backs of chairs. Sweet! Anyway, this show will certainly be more fun that that vacation you've been planning with your family. So DO IT!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
The Independent Project Workshop presents
An Evening of Stories
Thursday 9/21 at 8 PM (seating begins at 7:30 PM)
FREE!

at Trattoria Dopo Teatro
125 W 44th Street, (between 6th Ave and Broadway)
A/B/C/D/E/F/N/R/W/1/2/3/7 to 42nd Street
Food available
NO minimum!

FEATURING:
Nicole Bulloch reading The Pink Table
Carolyn Carreno reading Bad Haircut
Nicole Davis reading His and Her Turf
Nancy Hendley reading The Center
Carmen Lynch reading A Story About Doug
Will McKinley reading Energy Crisis
Penny Williams reading Power in the Blood

Hosted by Victoria Rowen
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

All of these folks (including me) have all been part of an intensive writing workshop for the last ten weeks. While you were lying on the beach we were holed up in dark rooms pounding on our laptops. This reading is a culmination of a summer's worth of hard work, so come out and show your love. Or you can stay home and watch Grey's Anatomy.

It's really not a big deal. We're just pursuing our dream.

2006 NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST CHAMPS

9.18.2006

SUNDAY IN THE HOTEL WITH BATGIRL

I am a dork and I always have been.

I don't try to hide it, and I don't apologize for it. I embrace my dorkiness. I revel in it. It defines me. No matter how cool an adult I may be (or like to think I am), there is always that dork inside of me, guiding me to the obscure, the weird and the left-of-center

This weekend my inner-dork led me to the Big Apple Convention,
a comic book and science fiction expo in New York City.

In my 37 years on this planet, I have been to just about every type of fan convention that has ever seen the fluorescent light of a hotel ballroom: comic book conventions, science fiction conventions, Dark Shadows festivals, Star Trek, Doctor Who, The X-Files. You name it. I've been there.

To paraphrase the Bible, "Whenever two or more are gathered in the name of dorkiness, there am I."

At fan conventions such as these, professional dealers sell valuable old comic books, videos and collectibles and minor celebrities of all types sign autographs and pose for pictures. Occasionally, the more fanatical of the fans will dress up in costume. And occasionally, that has been me. But that was a very long time ago.

With a few rare exceptions I stopped going to conventions nearly two decades ago. But something drew me back this weekend -- something in a cape and cowl.


One of my favorite TV shows of all time is the campy, 1960's TV version of Batman, featuring Adam West as the Caped Crusader, Burt Ward as Robin the Boy Wonder and Yvonne Craig as Batgirl.


Batman comic book purists hated the jokey tone of the 1966-68 ABC series, but I consider it to be just about the best TV show in the history of the medium. The scripts are sharp and hilarious in a subtle, deadpan style. The casting, featuring a who's who of classic film actors in wacky get-ups as Special Guest Villain, is a movie lover's dream. The music, the graphics (POW!), the cliffhanger pacing - everything about the show is pitch perfect.

And it's as fresh and watchable today as it was when it premiered forty years ago.


Batman was out of production before I was born, but it lived on in daily reruns throughout my childhood. Every day after school I would park myself in front of the TV and fight along with Batman and Robin as they battled evil villains like The Penguin and The Joker, accompanied by a frenzied jazz score.

When I was in first grade I got so involved in one of the fight scenes that I actually jumped on the TV set. Some part of me thought that, if I really, really believed it was possible, I would be able to dive head first into the action and fight alongside my heroes. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed as our gigantic TV set fell on top of me, nearly crushing my six year-old body under the weight of the massive,
early-1970's Zenith.

BAM!


Yes, Batman got me plenty worked up. But Batgirl did something entirely different to me.

In the third and final season of Batman, sexy young starlet Yvonne Craig joined the cast as the mysterious Batgirl (and her alter-ego, Barbara Gordon). Batgirl wore a metallic purple costume that appeared to be painted on to Yvonne Craig's shapely, athletic form. A trained dancer, Craig beat the crap out of the bad guys with dramatic ballet twirls and gymnast kicks, her gold-lined cape spinning behind her like a pinwheel.

Back then I didn't really understand my feelings for Batgirl. But I do now. Yvonne Craig's superhero was the perfect woman: sexy and seductive, but entirely self-sufficient. This girl was no Cling-on (even though Yvonne did appear on the original Star Trek). Batgirl could fight with the best of the guys, and rescued the Caped Crusaders from danger more than once.


The years passed, I grew older and Batman receded into television history, but I never forgot my first love - Batgirl, as played by the one-and-only Yvonne Craig.

Yesterday, after more than three decades of unrequited love, I finally got to meet her.

I saw the now 69-year-old (but still beautiful) actress sitting at a table, pleasantly signing autographs and posing for pictures with her fans. My heart raced. It was like seeing an old girlfriend after many, many years. I nervously made my way to her table, when I noticed the sign: Autographs $25.

Yes, a lot has changed since my days of going to fan conventions. The attendees are still the same weird, dorky, fringe members of society. But in this era of eBay, the celebritites have gotten wise and started charging for the pleasure of their company, or the commodity of their signatures.

Now, each and every celebrity charges a fee to sign a picture, or even if you just want to take their picture with you own camera. At the Big Apple Convention, a fourth-tier has-been like WWF wrestling hero Captain Lou Albano actually had a sign above his head, which read:

no free pictures! Every picture is $5! Even cellphone cameras!


I have no intention of paying to take a picture with an over-the-hill wrestler. But Batgirl is an entirely different matter. I walked up to the table and Yvonne extended her arm.

"Nice to meet you, " she said, like she really meant it.

"You were my first crush!" I blushed, as I held on to her hand at least twice as long as societal mores allow. But after all, I was paying for it. So I intended to get my money's worth.

We chatted for a few minutes about the show, and about how the now-grown fans bring their own children to meet her. Then she began to sign my picture, as I asked her why Batman was not yet available on DVD.

"I'll tell you after I sign this," she said. "If I don't pay attention I might misspell my name."

Yvonne explained that litigation was holding up the DVD release, and gave me the inside scoop on who was trying to get more money from whom. Then Yvonne invited me to sit with her behind her signing table, so that we could take a picture together.

I sat down next to Yvonne Craig and put my arm around her shoulder like we were old friends, which we kind of are. Then my ex-girlfriend Maggie took our picture.

I got up and shook her hand one more time.

"Thanks so much for coming," I said. "It was a great pleasure to meet you."

And then I walked away with my autographed picture and a memory that will last a lifetime.


In my professional life I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with many famous people, and I'm the one who gets paid. But this was different. This one was for my inner dork, and he's definitely worth spending $25 on.

On my way out of the hotel I ran into two comedians I know, a duo who call themselves The Rob and Mark Show.

"What are you guys doing here?" I asked.

"We're hosting a show for Spike TV," one of them answered (I can never remember which one is Rob and which is Mark.) "How about you?"

"I'm just here to meet Batgirl," I said, as I held my autographed picture close to my heart and headed for home.

HOLY CHILDHOOD CRUSH!

Yesterday I met Yvonne Craig, the actress who played Batgirl on the 1960's TV version of Batman!

Tune in later for details!

Same Bat-time...
Same Bat-blog!

9.17.2006

HAPPY BIRTHDAY "BEWITCHED"

On this day in 1964, the beloved sitcom Bewitched premiered on ABC.

Selected by the editors of TV Guide as one of the top 50 television programs of all time, Bewitched entertained American audiences for eight seasons and 252 episodes. Since then the show has been translated into numerous foreign languages and even remade in Japan, India, Argentina and Chile.

Bewitched
featured numerous memorable characters, including Elizabeth Montgomery's Samantha Stevens, Agnes Moorehead's Endora, Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur and Bernard Fox as the warlock physician Dr. Bombay.

Bewitched
is one of the only programs in American television history in which a lead character was recast and replaced with another actor playing the same role. After five seasons, actor Dick York had to leave his co-starring role as Darrin Stevens due to health problems, and was replaced by Dick Sargent.

True fans of the show prefer York's dithering, neurotic Darrin to Sargent's more sarcastic characterization. Ironically Sargent was reported to have been the first choice for the role.

Bewitched
plays an important role in TV history as the first live-action series to feature a husband and wife (not married to each other in real life) sleeping together in a double bed.

The character of Samantha and Darrin's daughter was revived in the 1977-78 ABC sitcom
Tabitha, featuring Lisa Hartman as a now-grown version of the little blond witch and Robert Urich as her love interest. On Bewitched, the character of Tabitha was born in 1966, which would have made her 11 years old in 1977.

Perhaps Tabitha used her magical powers to accelerate the aging process.
The show also featured the character of Adam, Tabitha's brother (who had been demoted to a mere mortal) and two minor characters from the original series, Dr. Bombay and Gladys Kravitz. Only 13 episodes were produced.

The first four seasons of
Bewitched (as well as the only season of Tabitha) are available on DVD. Seasons One and Two of the original series were originally produced in black & white, but are available both in b&w and colorized versions on DVD.

My advice: seek out the black and white versions, as originally aired. Colorization is a crime against TV and movie history. It's like drawing a smile on the Mona Lisa so that people will like her better.

Bewitched was "reimagined" in 2005 by writer/director Nora Ephron as a feature film, with Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell. In this version, a real witch (Kidman) is cast as Samantha in a remake of the original series. The only highlight of this uneven movie is Ferrell's performance as Jack Wyatt, the actor portraying the character of Darrin. Had he been born forty years earlier, Ferrell would have perfect for the part in the original series.

Most of the people involved with Bewitched have long since departed this plane of existence, but their work will live on at a testament to a time when TV sitcoms were original, inventive and truly memorable.

Tinka tinka tee!

9.15.2006

WHERE'S THE REST OF ME?

One of the great things about kids is that they will say whatever is on their mind. For example, recently I went swimming with my seven year-old niece. As we sat by the pool, she looked at my shoulder and her eyes widened.

"What's that thing on you back?" she asked with horror.

"It's a mole," I answered.

"Eww!" my adorable little niece replied. "That's disgusting!"

I didn't know what to say. My first instinct was to point out the gaps in her baby teeth, or to tell her how terrible her hair looks with bangs. But I'm the adult, so I can't say things like that. She can, and does. Often.

She was right, of course. In general, moles of all types are pretty disgusting. Unless you're Cindy Crawford, which I am not. But that's one of the exciting things about getting older. Stuff begins to randomly grow on your body for no particular reason, or with no particular purpose. It's sort of an adventure, a tribute to the human body's ability to remake itself. But it's also frustrating, because your body does not consult with you on the new additions.

I could really use an eleventh finger. It would just make things a lot easier. But when my body decided to generate a new mass of DNA, I didn't get a extra digit. I got a flesh-colored mole about the size of a pencil eraser.

It developed over a number of years, but ended up looking like a third nipple. I thought I might be pregnant, but I took and EPT and it turns out I'm just late. So, since I don't really have use for yet another non-functional nipple, I arranged an appointment with a dermatologist named Dr. Pak.

Dr. Pak did my Botox treatment a few years back and she did a heck of a job. Just two injections and I couldn't smile for months! It was great.

I arrived at her office this afternoon and was directed to sit in a very futuristic-looking chair.


"Warp factor five, Mr. Sulu!" I said to Dr. Pak as she entered the examination room. This may not have been the most tactful thing to say to an Asian woman, particularly one who was about to cut off a piece of my body with a pair of sharp scissors.

But the doctor was a good sport and mentioned something about how I looked like the bald captain from Star Trek: The Next Generation. We shared a laugh, and then she whipped out her cutting shears.

"You're going to feel a little prick," the doctor said.

"That's exactly what I told my girlfriend last night," I replied. "Thank you! Try the veal."

Then, before I even had time to say goodbye, it was done. My disgusting mole was gone. A piece of me that I hated, and that others hated too, was banished forever.

Actually it wasn't really gone. It just was moved from my shoulder to a little specimen bottle.


And guess what? The doctor let me take it home. After all, it is my flesh. It's not like she gets to keep it just because she cut it off. It's not a game of Finders Keepers/Losers Weepers.

This is my theory: if something grows on your body, you get to keep it. No questons asked.

Actually I'm not going to keep it. First thing tomorrow morning I'm going to package it up and mail it my niece. I think she'll really get a kick out of it. I know I will.


I'm glad that my disgusting mole is gone forever, but I also feel a little sad. It's like that World War II movie where the injured soldier looks down at where his leg used to be and yells, "What happened to the rest of me!" I feel like less of a man.

It will be a long road, but someday, with counseling, rehabilitation and prayer, I know I will feel whole again.

Now I just have to convince my niece to grow out her bangs.

9.14.2006

A RHETORICAL QUESTION

If a former governor of Texas had to die, why did it have to be her?


Why couldn't it have been him?


Can you imagine? President Ann Richards? That would have been so much fun.

WHY FIX IT WHEN YOU CAN BUY A NEW ONE?

My watch broke when I was on vacation in Orlando.

The face became detached from the band, and I could no longer wear it on my wrist. I asked the front desk clerk if there was a watch repair shop nearby. He did not know of one, so he suggested I visit Wal-mart.


As a rule I am opposed to Wal-mart and everything it represents. But I am also opposed to broken watches. So I got in my rental car and paid a visit to a Wal-mart Supercenter that can only be described as very very very very very very big.

This Wal-mart was so big that they had a stable of Jazzy brand electric wheelchairs for customers to use. I think that's very thoughtful. What's that? You say you love shopping, but you're just to lazy to walk those endless aisles? Go to Wal-mart - where wheelchairs are not just for cripples anymore!

The hotel clerk had suggested I visit the Watch and Jewelry Department. So I hopped on my Jazzy and buzzed on over. A very nice salesperson named Patti took a look at my watch and suggested that I could mail it back to Swatch and they would repair it for me.

"It's not really broken," I replied. "You just need to reattach it to the band. There's a special tool..."

"Oh, we don't do any actual repairs here," Patti said, interrupting me.

"But it's not broken. It's just.."

"You know, we sell Swatch watches," Patti said with a bright smile. "We have a very pretty one over here for $69.72."

"Well here's the thing Patti," I said. " I already have a watch, and it's working just great. So I'm not really in the market for a new one, even though it is very pretty. I just thought that, since you guys sell watches you might know how to attach a watch to a band. But I can see that that is not the case. So I shall wish you a fond good evening."

Then I got on my Jazzy and scooted toward the exit.

Total Elapsed Time: 56 minutes
Result: failure

Three days later I got back to New York. I took my "broken" Swatch to the Russian guy who repairs watches in a Korean dry cleaners on 14th Street. He reattached my watch to the band in a matter of seconds.

Total Elapsed time: under one minute
Result: Success

The total cost? $3. Who says New York City is expensive?

9.13.2006

MEMO TO THE YOUNG GUYS WITH HAIR

Guys -

Ease up on the hair gel, okay?

You know what I'm talking about. You young guys are putting way too much of that shit in your hair, and it needs to stop. Who told you to do this, anyway? Did it start with that Gotti reality show on cable? Do you really want to look like those guys?


I didn't think so!

The reason you want to look good is so that the girls will want to hook up with you, or so the bitches will want to get with you, or whatever is the cool way of saying it nowadays. This is not up for debate. And here's another thing that is not up for debate: girls do not want to run their fingers through a tangled mop of goopy hair.

It's unsanitary. And it's not sexy.

When a girl is hooking up with you, you don't want to her to be worrying about you staining her pillowcase. Remember guys, it's the girl who is supposed to leave the wet spot.

A full head of hair is a great gift and, like with all great gifts, it must be used wisely. Do not abuse your hair. Show it the respect it deserves, and it will serve you well.

Love your hair and it will love you back. And so will the girls.

9.12.2006

THE SPEECHWRITERS ARE WORKING OVERTIME

At the start of this young century, America looks to the day when the people of the Middle East leave the desert of despotism for the fertile gardens of liberty.

We will defeat our enemies. We will protect our people. And we will lead the 21st century into a shining age of human liberty.

--President George W. Bush, 9/11/06


9.11.2006

IMAGES FROM SEPTEMBER 11, 2006

A sign taped to a pole on Broadway.

"How much is the Ground Zero baseball cap?"

The bells that were used in the remembrance ceremony, to commemorate the police officers and firefighters who died.

Living in a post 9-11 world.

I SAW THE PRESIDENT (SORT OF)

On Sunday President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush visited the site of the World Trade Center. Later they attended an interfaith prayer service at St Paul's Chapel, a few blocks south.

Neighborhood residents lined up along Broadway gave the president and first lady a warm welcome.

Luckily for President Bush, New York's finest were out in force to keep him safe from the angry citizenry.

Not long after the conclusion of the prayer service, President and Mrs Bush sped off in their black sedan.

If you look very closely, you can see Mrs. Bush waving from the back seat.

I didn't wave back.

TRIBUTE IN LIGHT

Every year on September 11, the neighborhood once in the shadows of the World Trade Center is home to a touching remembrance called The Tribute in Light.

The Tribute in Light is a temporary art installation of 88 searchlights housed on the roof of a parking garage near the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.

The Tribute in Light shines for one night only, the night of September 11. But on Saturday night the lights were installed and tested.

For a few minutes the Tribute in Light looked as it has each year since 2003, and as it will tonight.

9.10.2006

TILES FOR AMERICA

In the West Village neighborhood of New York City there is an unofficial memorial to September 11.

Tiles for America is an installation of hand painted tiles mounted to the chain link fence around a small parking lot. Each tile pays tribute to those lost on September 11, and to those who loved them.

Tiles for America runs east on Greenwich Street and south on Seventh Avenue, between a Chinese restaurant and a pottery studio called Our Name is Mud. The memorial began on September 11, in part because of the pottery shop's location.

Right across the street is St. Vincent's Hospital, the closest major hospital to the World Trade Center. On September 11, St. Vincent's was prepped and staffed for treatment of the survivors who never arrived.

Lorri Veasey, the owner of the pottery shop, hung hand painted hearts and angels on the fence and soon the memorial grew to include submissions from around the country.


Today the installation includes more than 6,000 tiles. It is the city's most powerful memorial to the events of that day.


For more information about Tiles for America, click here.