Will McKinley lives in New York City. He thinks you might be interested in what he has to say.
I'M GOING TO ROME
Because they have all my favorite things in one place - and they're totally free.
From Yahoo News:
ROME (Reuters) - Scientists have discovered particles of cocaine and marijuana, as well as caffeine and tobacco, in the air of Italy's capital, they said on Thursday.
The concentration of drugs was heaviest in the air around Rome's Sapienza University, though the National Research Council's Dr. Angelo Cecinato warned against drawing conclusions about students' recreational habits.Calling their study "the first in the world to show the presence of particles of cocaine suspended in the atmosphere of the city," the researchers said they took samples in Rome, the southern city of Taranto and in Algiers in North Africa.
Nicotine and caffeine were detected in all three, "showing how widespread consumption of these substances is and how they remain in the atmosphere," state-funded CNR said in a statement.
The concentration of cocaine in Rome's atmosphere was only 0.1 nanogrammes (1 nanogramme is one billionth of a gramme) per cubic metre at its height during winter months, the researchers said. But the conclusions were worrying for public health."It is well documented that even small concentrations in the air of these pollutants can seriously damage health," said Dr. Ivo Allegrini of the CNR's Institute for Atmospheric Pollution
SWEATIN' TO THE POETS
Like most people, I can't work out without my iPod. Unlike most people, I don't use my iPod to listen to music.
I work out to podcasts. I subscribe to 26 different podcasts - everything from NPR's Story of the Day to Garrison Keeler's The Writer's Almanac, wherein the host of The Prairie Home Companion ends each five-minute program with a poem.
I am relatively sure that I am the only one at Equinox Fitness Club in the West Village who regularly works out to poetry.
Tonight after work I was at the gym using the arm cycle, and I noticed that my trainer Erica was watching me. That's not unusual, except for the fact that she was in the middle of a session with another client.
A few minutes later she came up to me.
"You were going too slow on the arm cycle," she reprimanded. "You need more energy!"
"Well I was listening to this really deep poem called Advice to Myself," I said. "It was all about how you should slow down and enjoy life more. So that's what I did."
She didn't really have a response for that.
If you'd like to read tonight's workout poem, click here.
HAPPY DAY AFTER MEMORIAL DAY
I hate three-day weekends.
On paper they're great - 33% more weekend than your average weekend. But in practice, at least for me, they're more trouble than they're worth.
I love weekends. I live for them, and probably will until I find a way to support myself by doing something I enjoy. But I particularly love Fridays. There's something so hopeful and optimistic about Friday night. Forty-eight hours of potential spread out before you.
Saturdays are great too. Because no matter how your Saturday goes, you still have Sunday to redeem it. Sunday is another matter entirely. Sunday is in many ways the worst day of the week for me. As each minute passes I fixate on how much closer I am to Monday morning, and the beginning of another endless work week.
And I can't shake those Sunday blahs on a three-day weekend. So what happens is I feel depressed on Sunday and then I feel even more depressed on the Monday holiday, because I'm mad at myself for wasting my Sunday being depressed.
But I can't help it. I've been depressed on Sundays for three decades. I can't snap out of it in time to enjoy the extra long weekend. I can't even enjoy a Sunday when I'm on vacation. Actually I don't enjoy anything when I'm vacation. I'm not happy if if I'm not working. And I'm not happy when I am working.
So welcome back to work. And just remember that Friday is coming one day sooner than normal this week.
I think I need one of those "hang in there" posters with the kitten in the tree.
NO APE, NO PROBLEM
When I was growing up in New York in the 1970s, Channel 9 used to run the 1933 movie version of "King Kong" every Thanksgiving Day. Back in the pre-DVD Dark Ages, those annual showings were a big event for me – the equivalent of a once-yearly visit with a beloved family member who just happened to be a gigantic ape. So it was with great excitement last night that I went to see a live-on-stage version of “King Kong” at the Red Room, an off-off-Broadway theater in a converted brownstone in the East Village.
As you may know, “King Kong” is the epic story of a gigantic ape that lives on a mysterious island in the Indian Ocean. He is very happy doing whatever gigantic apes do for fun, until a hot blond named Ann Darrow shows up and catches his gigantic ape eye. They have a troubled courtship, fall in love, travel to New York City and go on a hot date to the top of Empire State Building. Unfortunately for Kong, the date ends badly.
This strange love story has been told on screen three times, first in the original RKO classic starring a shrieking starlet named Fay Wray as Ann, then again in producer Dino De Laurentiis’s 1976 unintentional comedy version with Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges and most recently in director Peter Jackson’s bloated epic starring Naomi Watts and Jack Black as the slick producer Carl Denham. Each film is very different, but they all have one thing in common: the gigantic ape.
So, how do you take a movie about a gigantic ape and stage it in a tiny black box theater in New York City? For writer/director Dan Bianchi, the answer is simple: you use a combination of voice, technology and imagination.
Bianchi’s goal is to marry the lost art of old-fashioned audio drama with the shared experience of modern-day experimental theater. He adapts well-known literary and film classics into what he calls “Radio Theatre,” an engaging hybrid of live performance with brilliantly crafted soundscapes.
Bianchi takes a familiar story, retrofits it for a non-visual medium, casts it with talented actors and puts them all on a simple stage with a sound engineer. Bianchi and his cast set the scene for you, with the help of evocative sound effects and original music. Then it’s up to you to fill in the visual blanks.
Maybe in your version of "King Kong," the ape is purple, like in the 1970s Hanna Barbera cartoon rip-off “The Great Grape Ape.” Or maybe he’s a guy in a cheesy gorilla suit, like the version of Kong that tangles with Japan’s most famous fire-breather in the classically awful “King Kong vs. Godzilla.” Or maybe he’s the highly realistic anthropomorphic monster of the recent film. In Radio Theater’s “King Kong” you cast the gigantic ape as you see fit.
As for the rest of the casting, Bianchi populates the stage with a talented cast of vocal performers including the luminous Karyn Plonsky as Ann, tough-talking Mark Vance as leading man Jack Driscoll, comically whiny Tom Lacey as the low-rent impresario Carl Denham and the talented duo of Patrick Flynn and Cash Tilton as everybody else. The cast is uniformly strong, presenting the story in what might be called “active inaction," a static performance style that evokes a live radio performance from the 1930s and 40s.
Audio dramas were a radio staple for more than two decades, before television added pictures to popular serials like “Superman," cop shows such as “Dragnet” and Westerns like “Gunsmoke.” Radio was theater of the imagination for a generation that came of age during the troubled years of the Great Depression and the Second World War and Bianchi and his cast ably evoke the art form on stage. The only less-than-perfect performance is that of narrator Patrick O’Connor, whose vocal stylings bear such a distracting similarity to those of monologist Eric Bogosian that I found myself confusing “Radio Theatre” with “Talk Radio”
Bianchi’s “Kong” soars to sublime heights as the story unfolds in the spooky jungles of Skull Island, with a brilliantly constructed soundscape of bird squawks and ape roars. Sadly, it does not necessarily maintain this same level of brilliance for the Gotham-based climax, where the action of Kong's rampage through the city is reported by Flynn, as a newscaster on the scene. Flynn’s clipped, stylized delivery is appropriate to the era, but the end result feels more like play-by-play than engaging drama.
But these are minor quibbles. Bianchi’s “King Kong” is a ton of fun for people who believe that the best live entertainment is participatory. I’ll take Radio Theatre’s 75 minute ape-less “Kong” over Peter Jackson’s three-hour ape-filled version any day of the week.
"King Kong" is playing at the Red Room, 85 East 4th Street, now through June 10. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (no show on Sunday May 27). For more information visit www.radiotheatre.com
BREAKING IN THE NEW BASEBALL CAPS
I'M FALLING APART
On Sunday I worked out with my trainer for the first time since December.
I had gotten back into the habit of going to the gym at the end of last year, and I was feeling great. Then I hurt my left foot at Christmas roughhousing with my nieces. And when the left foot healed I sprained my right ankle on the stairs of a comedy club. I didn't used to be this fragile. It's kind of depressing.
It took about five months for everything to get back to normal, and for me to be able to even consider working out again. And it was cold out so I didn't really need an excuse to just go home and watch TV after work.
Last week I got a letter from my gym asking me where I had been. I thought that was nice. Apparently they missed me. Or maybe they missed the extra $80 per week I had been paying for my trainer, a cute little Japanese dancer named Erica.
Last Wednesday I was at the gym for only the second time this year and I ran into Erica. It was strangely awkward, like seeing an ex-girlfriend after breaking up. She gave me a hug and asked me if I wanted to re-start my training regimen.
"Okay" I said. "But we have to go slow. I'm out of shape."
She agreed, and we scheduled a session for Sunday afternoon. Then Erica told me that since my last session she had been promoted from a Tier 1 trainer to a Tier 2 trainer.
"Congratulations!" I said. "That's great news."
Erica explained to me that now that she was a Tier 2 trainer, her hourly rate had increased from $80 to $90. I know I'm supposed to be happy for her, but how exactly is this great news for me?
I'm glad my trainer is advancing in her career, but her success is costing me money. Unfortunately you can't take back a congratulations. Once you've said it, it's said. You can't strike it from the record.
On Sunday I showed up for my session and once again reminded Erica that I needed her to go slowly with me. Then she spent an hour almost killing me.
"How exactly is this 'going slowly' with me?" I asked, as I nearly crushed myself with on the weight bench.
"You did a heavier weight last time," Erica responded.
"Last time was five months ago!" I yelled. "I'm almost 40! I don't bounce back like I used to."
We didn't go slowly for the rest of the hour, nor did Erica do a stretching session with me at the end like she used to. I don't want to sound like a perv, but the stretching is really the primary reason I wanted to work out with her in the first place. I get to lie down on the mat and she straddles me for ten minutes, and it's a very beautiful thing.
Anyway, now I can barely walk. I'm hobbling around the city like an 80 year-old. For this I paid $90. That seems unnecessary to me. I can injure myself for free.
Yesterday I called Erica to tell her that I had to cancel our next session (scheduled for Wednesday night) because I couldn't move.
"Well next time we'll go more slowly," she said.
"Great idea," I replied.
THE OLD BALLGAME
Tonight I watched a Mets game from 1969.
Some people might think it's odd that I would want to watch a 38 year-old baseball game, in black and white. But to me it makes perfect sense. The 2007 Mets were off tonight, and I've really gotten into the habit of watching them on TV again this season. I haven't watched so many games since I was a kid back in the '70s.
The Mets started their own cable channel last season -- SportsNet NY -- co-owned by the team with Time Warner and Comcast. The channel is based on the model of the YES Network, the successful cable channel owned by the Yankees. Unfortunately, the Mets don't have quite the same storied history that the Yankees have. Whereas the Yankees have tons of content for triumphant retrospectives, the "classic" Mets programming in somewhat limited. Nobody is lining to up to watch the Metsography of portly 1970s slugger Ed Kranepool.
The Mets have only won the World Series two times in the last 46 seasons: the Amazin' year of 1969 and the the coked-up championship of 1986. Other than those two glory years there's not a lot to celebrate for Mets fans.
I don't think people would have much interest in re-living my most passionate days as a fan -- the years of 1977-1983. For seven long seasons the Mets came in last place, or second-to last and had a truly awful combined record of 434-641. The only advantage to being a Mets fan back then was that you could go to any game you wanted, and sit pretty much anywhere you wanted. There was really no such thing as a sell-out at Shea back in the late '70s.
But 1969 was the year of the Miracle Mets, the year that the Mets stopped being awful and started being a real baseball team. The "classic" that SNY aired tonight was Game 2 of the 1969 World Series against the Orioles at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.
The Mets won the game and went on to win the Series against the favored Orioles. Most people know that. But what they might not know is, forty years ago, Major League Baseball players were a bunch of scrawny white guys. It's amazing to look at the game today, where players are absurdly bulked-up steroidal monsters and mostly from other countries. The guys back in the '60s are built like ball boys.
It was fun to watch a bunch of guys who look like me win a World Series game. SNY should run these games more often. It makes this year's squad look like superheroes.
IT STILL COUNTS
The Mets were losing to the Yankees in the 8th inning tonight, so I decided to call my father to see if he was watching the game, and to commiserate.
"I gave up on it a few innings ago," he said
I told him about my trip out to Shea yesterday to watch the Mets beat the Yankees on Game 2 of the Subway Series, and how it rained. Then I asked him about the weather down there, which anyone with an elderly parent living in Florida is required to do, by law.
"It's 86 and sunny," my father answered. "Mommy and I sat out on the porch today."
"That's good," I said. "So what else is new?"
"Well, son," he replied. "It's my birthday toady. I'm 78 years old."
"Wait a minute," I said." What's the date today?"
"May 20th," he answered.
"Of course it is," I shot back. "And that's exactly why I'm calling! Happy birthday!"
I don't think he bought it, but he didn't seem to mind. After all, I did call my father on his birthday and I did wish him a happy birthday. Eventually.
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME
On Saturday Maggie and I went to see the Mets play the Yankees at Shea Stadium in the second game of the annual Subway Series.
The skies were gray as we made our way to the park, so Maggie bought a new cap to protect her glorious blond locks from the impending rain.
In the fifth inning the skies opened and the rain began. It was light but steady, creating an inconvenience for the players on the field and the fans in the stands who were trying to keep score in the programs.
But we all rose to the challenge of the elements, and the Mets emerged victorious.
They embarrassed the Yankees for the second game in a row, defeating them by a score of 10-7. Future Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer Tom Glavine notched his 295th win, and the Mets knocked the poor Yankees further into baseball oblivion.
On the way back to the subway I noticed a man with a sign that was clearly designed for all the Yankee fans who infiltrated Shea Stadium yesterday.
It's always nice to make the long ride back to the city on the #7 train after a win, particularly against the hated Yankees. The Mets fans were surprisingly nice to the dejected Yankee fans on the train.
When you're on top, you really don't need to gloat.
METS BEAT YANKEES
GAWKER.COM THINKS I'M UGLY
If you don't believe me, look here.
THE BIG SALE
Yesterday I sold a personal essay to an on-line magazine for $800. This is the biggest sale of my writing career (by far) and the first time a publication has bought one of my essays.
The piece is called A Blight on the Manscape and it’s a combination and rewrite of two blog stories I posted last year. The first piece -- Give an Inch Get a Smile -- was about the time I bought a “personal shaver for men” called the Philps Bodygroom. The second story, called Bush in ’06, was about a hook-up with a girl who did not share my strong opinions about issues of personal grooming.
I started the blog nearly two years ago with the goal of transitioning into a full time writing career. And that's been happening, slowly but surely. But a sale like this makes me feel like I might actually be able to support myself as a writer some day.
Plus, it felt really good to know that something that started right here (for fun) could be turned into money with not too much additional work. So last night I called my parents to share my good news with them.
“What’s the story about?” asked my mom.
For some reason I had not predicted that question. My parents are conservative and religious, but they never gave me a hard time when I talked about sex or drugs or other prurient topics in my stand-up act (with them in the audience). But still, I would rather that they not think that my first big sale as a writer is a dirty story - even though it (sort of) is.
“Well, it’s about body hair, and being hairy and how much I dislike it,” I answered, not lying. I think I did a pretty good job dancing around the truth.
“Well son I always knew you had a flair for writing,” my father said.
I’ve been writing all my life. I wrote for Dark Shadows fanzines when I was a teenager back in the 80s. I’ve written scripts for corporate videos that I’ve produced. I’ve written 600+ blog posts. And I’ve had 25 reviews, features or interviews published in four weekly papers here in New York over the last six months. But those articles only paid $50 each. For my Dad it took an $800 sale to validate my “flair” for writing.
I’m not saying that I’m bothered by his sudden interest in my nascent writing career, now that it’s starting to generate some cash. I think it's more of a generational thing. I don’t really write for the money. I already have a job that pays, and pays well. I write because I enjoy it and get satisfaction from the process. For me, it’s part of my personal and creative development.
But for my father – a child of the Depression, and someone who worked in a bus garage every single day for 44 years – it’s all about the Benjamins.
I’ve always known that I could write. But what’s so cool about this is the validation, that somebody thinks a story about me is interesting to a general readership.
And the money is nice too.
A MODEST (HAIR) PROPOSAL
Last Tuesday, before a game in San Francisco, just about every member of the New York Mets got his head shaved.
To date, 24 of the 25 men on the roster have lost their locks to the razor. Even a few coaches, the general manager and veteran P.R. guy Jay Horowitz got into the act of team solidarity.
When rookie Carlos Gomez joined the team a few days later it was made clear to him that a haircut was in his immediate future. And he had a great Mets debut, with a few hits, a run scored and a spectacular catch.
I think the mandatory head shaving should not just be limited to the Mets. It should extend to all men, beginning in infancy. If we are never permitted to grow hair, boys will not miss it if and when it begins to fall out some day.
To paraphrase John Lennon, imagine a world with no comb-overs, hairpieces, bad hair plugs or bald guy ponytails! Imagine a world where baldness is no longer a stigma – it’s the norm.
A nation of shaved heads would level the playing field in every aspect of life. No longer will the guy with a thick mane get the girls, the jobs, the acting gigs or the presidential nominations. If everyone is bald, bald is beautiful.
And there would be a huge cost savings involved with this initiative. American men spend $26.3 billion* annually on haircuts, shampoo, combs and grooming products. Not to mention the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels to drive to the salon. Bald heads are good for the environment!
Plus we avoid the stupid male hairstyling trends that distract us as a nation. With a country of bald men we wouldn’t have to deal with annoying hipsters with their poser-ish shaggy mops, or with the trendoid idiots who spike their hair into a faux-Mohawk ridge.
Maybe you think enforced haircutting is a form of Fascism. I disagree. The fact is that we have societal mores and norms that dictate issues of personal grooming, and 99% of guys follow them. All I’m suggesting is that we turn those norms into laws.
Sure, initially we may need a few hair inspectors out there insuring compliance. We may even require a few camps where hirsute dissidents can be sent to concentrate on why baldness is the right way to go for all men.
But after awhile, everybody will fall into line. If they know what's good for them
Enforced Baldness is an idea whose time has come. After all, the newly shorn Mets have won five out of seven games in the last week.
I'M A WHINY LITTLE BITCH
I've been back at my regular freelance job for a week now, and all I can say is, "Thank God for anti-depressants."
A couple months ago I celebrated my 17th anniversary in corporate communications. And when I say "celebrated" I actually mean "mourned." I wept for all the years I could have spent doing something different, something that I enjoyed, or that engaged me. Something that I didn't dread.
I'm not complaining. Okay, I am complaining, but that's only because I'm a big baby. Unlike a lot of film school graduates, I've supported myself in my chosen field every year since graduation. I've worked on some fun projects, met some interesting people and I've made good money.
Come to think of it, I've made more than $1 million dollars during my career. But somehow I can't afford to pay my rent this month. How is that possible? I've made $1,000,000 but I have absolutely nothing to show for it, other than my collection of mint-condition Richie Rich Comics (which doesn't count because I bought those when I was ten).
It would be one thing if I did a job I didn't like and had a great apartment (which I do, but it's my girlfriend's, so it doesn't really count). But somehow I've managed to work in a job that people only do for the money, and yet I don't ever have any money. I am a disgrace. If I were Donald Trump I would fire me. (Because honestly, I haven't been paying attention at work for years now.)
There is one good thing about being back at work. The girl who's sitting next to me is British. I love listening to her. Everything she says is entertaining.
This afternoon she offered to share her oat bagel with me, and I said yes.
"Would you like some butter or jam?" she asked, in the most incredible accent you have ever heard. The way she said "butter" was so amazing. I could listen to this girl talk all day long, which I do, since I sit about two inches from her.
So the British girl and the Celexa have got to get me through the next two months. Then I'll take August off and start writing previously owned - the book. Maybe. We'll see.
Blah blah blah. Honestly I'm getting sick of myself.
MOTHERS DAY MUSINGS
This morning I called my parents in Florida to wish my Mom a happy Mothers Day.
My sister Missy and her husband and three kids were visiting to celebrate the day. So I wished my sister a happy Mom's Day too and asked her how my niece Kate (six months old) was doing.
"She's so happy," my sister said. "She's always smiling. Each kid I have seems to get happier."
I think there may be something to that theory.
I was a smart kid, with a sharp sense of humor, but I wouldn't describe myself as a happy kid. I wasn't unhappy, but I wasn't light-hearted or particularly good-natured. My sister was then and she still is today. She was in good mood from the moment we picked her up at JFK on Halloween night in 1973.
I had been an only child for nearly five years, and I was not particularly looking forward to sharing the spotlight with another kid. So when my parents announced that they were adopting a little girl from South Korea, I hoped that it would be a temporary experiment. I was convinced that they would keep her for a while and then send her back where she came from.
I had a nice little deal going on before Missy showed up. All the toys were mine. All the snacks were mine. And all the attention was on me. I was the star. Then my sister flew in from a foreign land and everything changed. I may not have realized it as the time, but the change was for the better.
Having another kid around made me a happier kid, I think. Maybe not at first, but after I got used to her and realized that she was sticking around, things began to change. At first my sister was an inconvenience, but she soon became a playmate and a partner in crime. Of course, like all older brothers, I teased and tormented her. But just having Missy around gave me something to think about other than myself.
Only children tend to be very self-focused, and narcissistic kids grow into narcissistic adults.
Am I narcissistic today? Of course I am. I prove that every day just by writing this blog. But having a sibling has made me happier than I would have been. Back then it gave me a playmate -- and someone to laugh at all my jokes -- and now, my sister gives me a large extended family filled with kids and energy and life. Having three nieces to visit gives me a reason to look forward to holidays, as opposed to dreading them as a reminder that I am year older and still fundamentally unfulfilled in my life.
I find that the more I focus my attention on myself, the less happy I am. Being self-centered never did anybody any good, me included.
This theory is borne out with my sisters kids as well. Her oldest daughter Emily spent three years as an only child, and today (at the ripe old age of 8), she is a pretty serious kid. In a moment of annoyance I once described Emily (to my sister) as "not a particularly pleasant child." But I have watched her personality soften as my sister has continued to pop out other kids.
Emily's sister Laura (age 5), who has spent her entire life with an older sister, is a joyous kid who always has a big smile. Emily is not particularly physically affectionate, but Laura is just the opposite. She is always hugging and kissing and grinning. And odds are Kate will be even more so.
My mom is also the oldest, and least upbeat, of three children. And she spent much more time as an only child than Emily or I did.
A co-worker who is a mother of young children told me that there is a trend toward parents having more kids nowadays. She wasn't talking about religious fundamentalists in middle America being fruitful and multiplying, as the Good Book instructs. She was talking about liberal, well-educated, upper middle class parents having larger families, sometimes two, three or more kids.
Of course this is the way it used to be back in the old days. Everybody had a lot of kids.
And nobody needed anti-depressants.
MY REVIEW OF "THE APPLE SISTERS VARIETY SHOW"
It's in the current issue of Chelsea Now.
Just in case you don't feel like flying to New York City and finding one of the bright orange distribution boxes on the West side between 14th Street and 34th Street, you can click here to read it.
AU BON CRAZY
This afternoon I was walking back from getting lunch and I stopped by Au Bon Pain to buy a soda. I was stopped at the door by and employee who told me that they were closed - at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
"There's a medical emergency," he said.
I looked inside the large front window. The chairs and tables had all been moved, or pushed over, and a middle-aged black man was lying on the floor. Initially I couldn't tell if he was hurt or not. But then I noticed that he was writhing and flailing his arms when people would come near him. The only injury he seemed to have was mental, or drug-induced.
All the store employees were gathered around him in a semi-circle, clearly unsure of what to do next. On the sidewalk outside the store, customers were finishing their over-priced soups and sandwiches, having been displaced by the crazy dude, or drug addict of whatever he was.
One guy who looked Japanese pulled out his cell phone and started clicking pictures through the glass. It occurred to me that this might be something interesting to write about, so I pulled my camera out of my backpack.
I held it up to the window but before I could click a picture, a young male staff member blocked my view. Then he ran outside, right toward me.
"That's not a music player," he said, pointing to my camera.
"You're very observant," I replied.
"Don't take pictures of that," he said with contempt.
"Are you really going to try to tell me what I can and cannot take pictures of when I'm standing on Fifth Avenue," I said, like a dick.
"How would you feel if someone took a picture of you like that?" he asked.
"Flattered," I lied. Then he gave up on me and ran back inside.
Apparently it's okay to take a picture of a crazy guy on the floor of Au Bon Pain with your cellphone. But if you use a real camera, even a small digital one, you have stepped over the imaginary line of good taste.
A moment later an ambulance showed up. Two paramedics pulled out a stretcher and carried it into the store. They attempted to lift the guy off the floor, but he fought them off, knocking the yarmulke off the head of one of the EMTs.
I moved to the corner and took a picture of the front of the store.
"Don't take a picture of that," said a bald-headed guy, a sidewalk vendor selling homemade jewlery.
"What are you, the picture police?" I snapped, pissed off.
"Maybe he doesn't want you to take a picture of him," Jewlery Man said.
"I'm taking a picture of the store," I replied. "But I appreciate your input."
"You're a pretty crappy person," he said.
"Again, thanks for your perspective," I answered.
Have you ever had someone look at you like they wanted to kill you with their bare hands? That's how this guy was looking at me.
"Why don't you take a picture of me?" he said, spoiling for a fight.
"You're a very handsome man, but I really don't want to take a picture of you," I replied. "You're not my type."
I was pretty much ready for whatever was coming next -- until I saw my boss walking across the street. It occurred to me that, if I ended up in street fight with a sidewalk vendor, that might reflect negatively upon me in the workplace.
At that point the crazy guy came out in the stretcher and was loaded into the waiting ambulance. Jewlery Guy walked over to see if he was okay.
And I walked away.
I'm not saying that what I was trying to do was right. But I don't like to be told what I can and cannot do. As we used to say back in grammar school, it's a free country. I can do whatever I want, as long as it's not against the law. If I want to take pictures of a crazy dude rolling around on the floor of Au Bon Pain, I'm going to take the fucking picture.
I am not, however, going to post it. I'm not a complete asshole.
WHAT'S YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT?
Do you know what a carbon footprint is? Unlike what the name implies, it has nothing to do with shoes!
No, your carbon footprint is a measure of your personal effect on the environment. I just saw a story on the news about it."Carbon" is carbon dioxide (environmentally harmful CO2) and "footprint" refers to the amount of it that your lifestyle produces.
I rarely if ever drive a car, so I have always considered my carbon footprint to be very low. But then I started living at my girlfriend's place.
We are two people, living in a small apartment. Both of us are in good shape. We don't eat a lot, and we don't really even buy a lot. And yet, just about every day, we generate an absurd amount of trash.
Just this evening I gathered up all of our garbage and I filled up more than a dozen bags.
What is in all of these bags? I have no idea, but there is certainly a lot of it. I may not drive a car, but all this refuse has to go somewhere!
And we're just two people in a seven-story apartment building. How much trash is generated by our floor, or our building or the whole city? It boggles my mind.
So, starting today, I am going to do my bit to reduce my carbon footprint
From now on, I am going to walk all the way to the compactor room to deposit our garbage.
Trust me it's a long walk, all the way past the elevator.
I would just like to take a moment to thank Al Sharpton.
From his triumphantly tracksuited days back in the '80s as Tawana Brawley's mouthpiece, to his hilarious efforts to publicly prosecute the Duke lacrosse players, to his hysterical on-air debate with Don Imus and his recent, knee-slapping remarks about Mitt Romney and God -- Al Sharpton has provided me with more than two decades of entertainment.
Thanks Al! Keep the laughs coming!
CHOP UP YOUR MONEY AND THROW IT IN THE AIR
BLOGGER'S CHOICE AWARD!
Some kind soul nominated me for a Blogger's Choice Award. Thanks to whomever it was!
If you want to vote for me, here's a link to the site:
Yesterday I got a letter from American Express.
This is nothing unusual for me. As I have mentioned previously, I often get letters from credit card companies. But this letter was different. For a change, they weren’t asking me for money. They were giving it to me.
The letter came from the American Express Consumer Debt Management Plan, and it included a check for $577.78.
This struck me as odd. I’ve paid many thousands of dollars to credit card companies over the years, but I’ve never been paid by a credit card company before -- let alone for a credit card that I paid off IN FULL more than two years ago.
I wondered if this was a scam of some sort - a way to get my checking account number by depositing a bogus check. So I called the customer service phone number on the letter. They were a useless, third-party service bureau, but they gave me another number to call. I called that number and recognized it as the collection agency to whom I had paid off my Amex card. The rep was very helpful and explained the situation to me:
Apparently I had enrolled in some kind of incentive program, designed to encourage people to fully pay off their delinquent credit card debt. And when I fulfilled my obligations, and paid off the debt, the interest that had accrued after I enrolled (and that I had already paid) was due to be returned to me.
Obviously, I was unaware of this. Had I known, I would have asked for it a long time ago – like the day I paid of the account!
So now I have $577.78 that I never planned on having. The responsible thing to do would be to use it to pay down some of my many thousands of dollars of remaining credit card debt.
But if I were responsible person, I wouldn’t have gotten myself into this situation to begin with.
So, instead, I bought a new iPod.
Thanks American Express!
ROGER CLEMENS JOKE
Roger Clemens signed with the New York Yankees on Sunday. He'll join the team in June and make make approximately $1 million for every game his pitches.
That's really not a lot of money, considering how much he spends on steroids. Plus, there's all that hush money to keep his suppliers quiet. He'll be lucky if he makes enough to cover cab fare.
SATURDAY BIKE PARADE
I saw Spiderman 3 this morning at 12:01 a.m. at the Loews Imax Theater in New York City.
I'm not really sure why I chose to do that. I'm not a huge fan of the first two movies. I find Tobey Maguire to be a very bland, one-note performer. And I don't think that Kirsten Dunst has movie star teeth. She's cute and quirky, but she has tiny teeth in need of braces. Her teeth distract me.
I've been to plenty of opening night showings of huge blockbusters, and I enjoy that sense of being part of an event -- even if the event is not hugely significant for me. And this one was not significant for me.
Maggie and I got to the theater at 10:45 and it was already two-thirds full. Audience members were having trouble finding seats together. At one point a young guy in a Spiderman t-shirt got up and addressed the crowd.
"I drove all the way from Detroit to see this movie," he said. "And I'd really love to have two seats together!"
This request was met with a spontaneous "boo" from the 700+ people in the audience.
"Welcome to New York, asshole," a guy in front of me yelled, as the entire crowd turned on this poor, misguided fanboy. Eventually someone in the front moved over, opening two seats, and this charitable act was met with more strenuous booing.
As show time approached it became obvious that there were more people than seats. An usher announced over the public address system that each audience member was going to have to produce their tickets for inspection. Apparently the crack ticket-taking staff didn't bother to confirm that that each ticket was for the more-expensive Imax auditorium when they allowed people in.
Mortified staff members awkwardly snaked their way through the long rows, checking tickets, and politely ejecting the offenders. The whole thing was a bit creepy and secret police-ish. I kept waiting for one of them to say, "Vere are your papers!?"
Finally, the lights went down and the trailer for the new Harry Potter film, The Order of the Phoenix, began. People clapped for this, and most of those people weren't 12 years old.
If you've seen the posters you know that Spidey turns bad in Spiderman 3. It's kind of fun to watch Maguire play the hipster/tough guy version of Peter Parker, but the whole thing feels very familiar - a bit like a parody of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And because they (at times) play it for laughs, the dramatic impact of the good vs. evil dichotomy is lessened.
The movie seems like it was written by a shrink. All the villains have deep-rooted issues that have caused them to go bad, which prevents the audience from truly hating any of them, or wishing for their demise. And yes I did say "all the villains."
As is typical with these films, each time they make a new one they increase the Villain Quotient. Spiderman 3 features no less than three bad guys making trouble for Peter Parker and his alter ego. Add to this his constant memory of his uncle's death, and his disintegrating relationship with his girlfriend, and you have one dark Summer blockbuster.
I respect that fact that they didn't make a piece of cotton candy, but it was a bit heavy even for my taste.
Most importantly, I am not a fan of tag-team villains. I like one primary bad guy. In this movie you had Peter's old frenemy Harry aka Green Goblin Jr., and new tormentors Venom and Sandman. Time has to be taken to set up (or recap) each character's story and/or motivation, and it got to be a bit much at times. When you have one villain, you don't diffuse the impact.
I'm not going to review the film, other than to say it's well made -- perhaps a bit too well made. The effects are so cartoonishly perfect that they had a reduced impact on me. I never really felt any suspense or risk or threat. I had to fight the urge to nap in the middle, but that may have had something to do with the lateness of the hour and the weed I smoked in the theater bathroom. (Note to potheads: if you want to smoke at the Loews Imax Theater, use the smaller, less-crowded bathrooms at the top of the auditorium, behind the last row.)
Summary: If you love event movies, or the Spiderman films, or Toby Maguire, or Kirsten Dunst's tiny teeth then go see this one on the big screen.
If you can take it or leave it, wait a few months for the DVD.
MY WORK WAS ON THE TODAY SHOW
Last night I did another of my entertainment reporter gigs. I covered a charity event for the Liya Kebede Foundation, sponsored by Teen Vogue Magazine.
Unlike my regular red carpet jobs, last night we focused primarily on one person - The Today Show co-host Ann Curry. Ann's daughter was modeling a Donna Karan dress in the charity auction, and I interviewed her and Ann backstage before the show.
This morning they used a bunch of our footage on The Today Show. I am so famous.
MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED
I've been writing previously owned for nearly two years.
There have been 605 posts, more than 30,000 page views and who knows how many thousands of words. I'd like to think that readers consider this space to be a thoughtful, well-written repository for my wit and perspective on life.
But as far as Google is concerned, previously owned is all-sex, all the time. In the last 24 hours alone, the following Google search terms have led people right to this site:
why no cum shots on time warner cable
(Because they're hypocrites, that's why.)
Shanes World video 32 campus invasion fucking
(Yes I own it. And yes there's plenty of fucking.)
afternoon sex advice on playboy radio
(Yes it exists. But it's boring and annoying.)
starbucks bathroom sex astor place ny
(Never tried it. Public bathrooms don't turn me on)
Cosmopolitan causes erection
(It did when I was a kid.)
speedo briefs stimulating?
(I like this one because it sounds like a haiku.)
But my absolute favorite is one that isn't even dirty, unless you have a dirty mind (like me):
the truth about bagels
I would like to state, for the record, that I have never done anything dirty with a bagel. Although I'd be lying if I said that the thought never crossed my mind.
But here's the ironic thing about all this: take a look at my profile in the "About Me" section on the upper right hand side of this page. Under "Interests" I wrote "Raising the level of discourse."
I fear that I have failed in my mission. Maybe it's time to do drown my sorrows in a hot fresh sexy bagel.
DON'T LEND ME ANY MONEY
Six years ago, I decided that I wanted to be a stand-up comedian.
I stopped working, signed up for every credit card I could find, and starting spending my days writing and my nights telling jokes in bars and basements. After five years of this I had accrued more than $50,000 in high-interest credit card debt.
It's amazing that so many banks would give me credit, with no assets to my name (other than my collection of mint condition Richie Rich comics). But what's even more amazing is the banks' willingness to let me off the hook when I stopped paying the bills. I'm not saying they didn't try to get their money. I have stacks of late notices and threatening letters from bill collectors proving their determination to get paid.
But I discovered something interesting during my journey into the land of fiscal irresponsibility: If you ignore the bills, the phone calls, the collection letters and the overall strong-arming, you get a special deal.
Collection agencies will allow you to settle your debts for less than you actually owe. A lot less. I had a couple credit cards with a $10,000+ balance, but the collection agencies offered to accept less than half that to close the account. That means I get a $5,000+ gift, courtesy of my friends at Chase. Sweet!
Sure, this type of write-off lingers on your credit rating for years to come. But my credit rating is so shot to Hell that a few more black marks aren't really going to make it worse.
I compare it to being a serial killer. If you're convicted of killing someone you go to jail, maybe even for life. But if you're convicted of killing 100 people, you spend just as much time in jail. Sure, you may get 100 consecutive life-sentences, but as they say in the soaps, you only have one life to live.
If you get reincarnated, all bets are off. Your 100 life sentences are not transferable to the cat that you may become in your next life. Cats don't go to prison because they would just slip out through the bars. Plus they only have nine lives, so there would still be 90 more life sentences to keep track off. Too much paperwork.
A year ago I shut off my home phone and stopped opening my mail, to avoid the bill collectors. Since then the letters have been stacking up on my desk, like a oddly-shaped mole on your back that keeps growing bigger. Of course, the mole doesn't disappear because you ignore it. It only gets worse and eventually you have to deal with it.
That's what I did last night. I went to my apartment (where I haven't slept since last summer) and started opening a year's worth of mail. It was fascinating to read.
The letters start out nice and sweet, like, "We noticed you missed a payment! What can we do to help?" Then they get threatening like, "You are doing permanent damage to your credit rating!" Then finally they get desperate like, "Look. We'll take less. Just please call us. Please!"
Then they just stop. Not always, of course. But sometimes they give up. Sometimes they don't. I have a bill from MCI for $49.31 that I refused to pay three years ago, and I'm still getting notices. The most recent agency that contacted me offered a "generous settlement" of $12. Why are they wasting their time with this? I don't know.
So now I have to figure out exactly how much I can pay to erase all of my debt. Once I do that, I can finally move on to my new life as a writer and leave my little experiment with stand-up comedy in the past, where it belongs.
In the meantime, can anyone loan me $47,195.29 to clear all of this up? I promise to pay you back in full, or at least partially.