Will McKinley lives in New York City. He thinks you might be interested in what he has to say.
HOW MUCH DO I WEIGH?
Admit it. You've been dying to know.
Okay maybe not dying, but curious, right? Particularly after I described myself in a previous post as fat, disgusting and pregnant.
Well, I was dying to know too. So I weighed myself at the gym last night.
Before I tell you the results, you should know that I have been 5'10" and 175 lbs for pretty much my whole adult life. I've also been a 33" waist since college. I have always been proud of that fact.
But something happened when I turned 35. It became harder to keep the weight off and my appetite increased. That is a bad combination.
I don't know why I got hungrier in my mid 30s. It might have had something to do with all the pot I was smoking. There was a while there where I was getting high every night of the week and chasing bong hits with homemade peanut butter 'smores. Yum.
Even though I used low-fat, organic peanut butter, that kind of behavior will definitely take its toll on your waistline. And it certainly took its toll on mine.
But now, as I get serious and focused in the shadow of my 40th birthday, I have a new rule: no weed on work nights. This is a challenge, considering that Maggie smokes all night, every night, from the minute she gets home to the minute she goes to sleep. I'm sure that the cats and I are getting some sort of a contact high. But there's not much I can do about that, short of throwing Maggie out of the apartment that she owns.
The other rules I've been trying to follow: work out more, eat more salad and limit my intake of Diet Coke. You might think that diet soda is good for weight loss, but you would be wrong.
If you don't believe me, read this.
So back to the $64,000 question: How Much Do I Weigh?
Last night I got to the gym, put on my shorts, t-shirt and sneakers and stood on the fancy, expensive scale.
I was 185 lbs. I almost slit my wrists right there.
Instead, I ran upstairs and worked out my life depended on it. I did more than a hour of cardio training, drenching my shirt with sweat and self hate. Then I went back to the locker room, took a shower and stood on the scale again wearing nothing but a towel.
180 lbs. So I dropped the towel, and adjusted the scale.
179 3/4 lbs. Who knew that towels weighed a quarter of a pound? I thought that was hamburgers.
Either I managed to lose 5 lbs in a hour of working out, or I have the heaviest sneakers ever manufactured by New Balance.
But it doesn't really matter if I'm 185, or 179.75. I'm still fat. Maybe I'm not fat compared to the average obese American, but I'm fat compared to how I want to look. That's what matters.
So I now have one more new rule: sit-ups every day. And no more weighing myself with clothes on.
I need all the help I can get.
I AM TOO CUTE
There's good news and bad news to tell you. What do you want first?
Okay, bad news first. A story I submitted to an on-line publication was rejected today.
The good news? I got a personal rejection letter from the editor -- not a generic form letter like the one I got when I submitted a story to the Modern Love column in The Sunday New York Times. And the content of the letter indicated that he had actually read my story himself.
Okay, technically I didn't get a letter. I got an email. But it still is personal and, while it is not by its very nature a positive thing to receive a rejection, it is definitely better than a form letter or no response at all.
For the record, here is the email:
Thank you for submitting. This is a really endearing, enjoyable read, but I don't think quite a match for us. It felt maybe a little too "cute" at times and could probably just be tightened overall. Also, you have the slight misfortune of the issue already being more full than we normally strive for.
Thanks again for submitting and sorry we weren't a match for this one.
- (name and publication redacted)
Too "cute," huh? That's a first. But he could be right. I just went back and re-read teh story and it is littered with cutesy exclamation marks. I thought it worked, but maybe not.
"Could probably be tightened?" I see his point. I expanded it from 1,400 words to nearly 2,000 over the last few weeks and it probably lost a bit of its zing.
Here's the upside, though. He did say "sorry we weren't a match for this one." Saying "this one" leaves pen the possibility of a "next one." He could have said, "Drop dead and never submit again."
So it's not a total loss. At least, that's what I am telling myself.
I LOVE LUCILLE (ROBERTS)
After work today I went gym-shopping with Maggie.
This was not my idea. I'm not one of those guys who emotionally blackmails his girlfriend or wife into staying in shape. You know what I mean: the subtle comments about her appearance or eating habits; the long lingering looks at younger, thinner women when he knows she is watching.
Yes, fear is the best way to keep your woman under control. Fear of rejection. Fear of being alone, of being cast aside. If she's scared that you will leave her (or cheat on her) if she puts on weight, then she won't put on weight.
We, on the other hand, will put on all the weight we want. Because we are men. And men like to drink beer, and eat steaks and smoke cigars wrapped in bacon.
That is bullshit.
Honestly, I am completely disgusted by the size of my stomach right now. I don't fit into any of my pants anymore. I even went back into my closet in my old apartment to find my old, loose, around-the-house pants from a few years ago. And I barely fit into those.
And yet I refuse to buy new, larger pants. I absolutely refuse to go above a 34" waist. That's it. I'm not doing it. I have drawn the imaginary line in the sand. Actually, that's not a line, that's an indentation in my belly from the waistband of my too-tight pants.
As for Maggie, I'm not saying that she has gained weight, or that she hasn't gained weight. I have absolutely no opinion on this matter, positive or negative.
However, if she has gained weight, I have no right to say anything at all about it. As long as I am walking around New York City with this pregnancy gut of mine, I need to shut the fuck up and get to the gym.
I also need to stop eating Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and drinking Dr. Pepper. But that's another story.
Anyway, Maggie asked me if I would go with her after work today to look at the Lucille Roberts Gym on 14th Street and 5th Avenue. I had never been in a Lucille Roberts because it's ladies only.
And I am not a lady, even if I do look like I'm expecting any day now. I've already prepared my response for the inevitable day when someone asks me the gender of the unborn child living in my stomach.
Yes, it's a girl. We are so happy, thanks for asking! We're going to call her Reese. No, we're not naming her after the actress from Legally Blonde. We're naming her after the delicious chocolate/peanut butter candy that I eat every day like a big fat fucking disgusting pig with no self control.
That's right. My baby's name is going to be Reese Pepper McKinley. I hope someday that she will grow up to be a Doctor, just like her middle-name-sake.
Anyway, enough about how fat I am. I think you get the point. Back to Lucille Roberts.
Here's the thing I noticed about Lucille Roberts. They don't call it the Lucille Roberts Gym, or Fitness Center, or Health Club or any of that. It's just Lucille Roberts. That's it. It sounds like you're working out inside an old lady named Lucille.
"Come on in, darling, there's always room in Lucille Roberts. Just watch out for my gall bladder. It's been acting up lately. Oy!"
And what makes it even weirder is that it's so cheap. I'm not bragging but, I pay $171 per month for my gym. Sure, I'm an idiot. Actually I'm an idiot for a lot of reasons. That's just one.
But the deal that they offered Maggie at Lucille Roberts was $20 per month. How can you charge $20 per month for a gym in New York City - on 5th Avenue, no less? I don't get it.
But more importantly, why can't I join? I'm effeminate. I like to get pedicures and drink tea and watch soap operas. I'm very in touch with my feminine side.
And just think about all the Dr. Pepper I could buy with an extra $151 per month!
So anyway, Maggie joined up. Maggie joined a $20 per month gym named after a little old Jewish lady who died of lung cancer when she was in her 60s.
But I think she made the right decision. If Maggie is feeling bad about the size of her stomach right now, she will not feel embarrassed at Lucille Roberts.
Based on what --and who-- I saw in the few minutes I was there today, she may wonder if she even needs to work out at all.
Oh, and yes, I did pay Maggie's membership fee and her first month fee -- a total of $42 and change. Which means I'm paying for both our gym memberships, to the tune of $213 this month.
Because it's okay for me to be a typical guy, in the sense that I pay for everything. It's just not okay for me to be a typical guy in any other way.
And they say women have to deal with a double standard.
TODAY'S EBAY PURCHASE
FOR HE ON HONEY DEW HAS FED
I'm a very streaky person.
I don't mean streaky, as in I like to jog around the Quad with no clothes on. Trust me, nobody wants to see my body naked right now. Not until I break my current addictions to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Dr. Pepper.
No, I just mean that I tend to go in streaks in my life. I won't do something for a long time and then I'll do it a lot until I completely wear it out. I think it has something to do with being bi-polar, or manic-depressive or obsessive-compulsive. Or all of the above.
For example, on Friday night Maggie and I went with our friends Jenny and Dave to see Xanadu on Broadway. That's not big news, in and of itself. But it's the third Broadway show I've seen in a month -- after not seeing any for a few years.
And now, I'm scanning the discount ticket offers, trying to figure out how I can afford to see every single play on Broadway RIGHT NOW. I feel this need, this urge, more than just, "You want to get tickets to Wicked? That might be fun."
And that's how it starts. I'll do something, or eat something, or go somewhere, enjoy it and then decide that I want to do it, eat it or go to it AS OFTEN AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE.
That is not healthy behavior. That is a disorder or some sort. Maybe we should call it McKinley Syndrome.
I'm not suggesting that it's unhealthy to go to see a bunch of Broadway shows. It may be fiscally unhealthy, but it's not physically unhealthy. What is unhealthy, though, is the underlying instinct behind the obsessive behavior.
It's mania -- maybe not to the degree that psychotics experience it, but it's still manic behavior. But more important than the behavior is the mindset - the way that the need to do something over and over again takes control of your brain. That's how people get addicted to things, far worse things than The Lion King.
Thankfully, I have never been a victim of addiction. Don't get me wrong, I've been addicted to plenty of things, for sure. But I never felt trapped or powerless, like I had lost control of myself or my actions. I did those things that I was addicted to to the extent that I wanted to do them. And then I stopped.
Okay, I haven't stopped everything. But I have cut down enough to be considered clean-ish.
There's nothing like engaging in manic behavior. It gives me a sense of power, of purpose, and of comfort. The comfort comes from the feeling that I have truly discovered something I enjoy, or that makes me feel good, or that I excel at. I don't often feel that way, but when I do, I am loathe to let the feeling go.
It can, however briefly, serve to identify me.
The downside of course is that nothing - person, place or thing - can sustain a manic level of interest for very long. Eventually that enthusiasm will fade, and often (at least for me) it fades out completely. It's like a fire that burns out of control until it is out. And once it's out, it's out.
Okay, this post was supposed to be about Xanadu. And it turned into a feature story for Psychology Today.
WILL McKINLEY & THE QUEST FOR WII
The Wii (rhymes with "pee") is the amazing new videogame system from Nintendo that everyone is talking about! Maggie played it at a friend's house a few months ago and she came home looking like she had been brainwashed by a cult.
"We have got to get a Wii! We have got to get a Wii!" she said, demonstrating a level of enthusiasm that she usually reserves for her cats or marijuana. She then described the Wii sports game that allows you to actually pantomime your actions in front of the TV and see them performed live in the game by an "avatar" representing you.
It all sounded pretty cool, even though I am not what you would call the target demographic for video games. The last video game system I bought was ColecoVision back in 1982. It's still in the box, if you want to buy it from me. I'll give you an insider price.
I decided to get Maggie a Wii for Valentine's Day, but there was one big problem. You can't find them anywhere. Even though the product was released in December, 2006, Nintendo still has not been able to figure out how to manufacture enough of them to meet the demand in the United States.
That has created a burgeoning black market for the Wii. On sites like eBay and Craigslist, sellers routinely offer game consoles for twice the $249 suggested retail price. But I wasn't about to pay $500 for a video game, even one that allows me to swing a virtual bat and pitch a virtual ball in the comfort of my very real living room.
So I called all over town - every Toys 'R Us, every Game Stop, Circuit City, Best Buy. Nobody had a Wii for sale. One guy answering the phone at Game Stop actually laughed at me.
"Wii? Nah, man. We ain't got no Wiis," he laughed. "You want a Wii. That's funny. "
I didn't think it was funny, really. How hard can it be to make enough video games to serve all the people who want to buy them? If the factory isn't big enough, build another factory. It seems pretty simple to me.
But no. No Wi for me. That is, until I got the inside scoop from my friends (and Wii owners) Jenny and Dave.
"I''ll tell you the secret to getting a Wii," Dave told me over dinner in the East Village. "But you didn't hear it from me."
I pulled my chair in closer to the table, and looked around to make sure nobody was listening.
"There's a store called Nintendo World in Rockefeller Center," Dave said, sotto voce. "Every morning they sell 200 Wii consoles -- no more, no less. People start lining up at like 6 AM. You can only buy one and you have to use a credit card. They won't take cash. And you gotta show a picture ID, so they know if you are re-selling them illegally."
Apparently, only the cool people know about this. Every other idiot (like me) is calling every Game Stop in a fifty-mile radius and getting laughed at on the phone by jaded sales clerks. But now, I was in the club. I had the secret to the Holy Grail of the Wii.
And I intended to use it.
On Thursday I stopped by the Nintendo World on my lunch break to see if Dave's secret was true. It was.
"We're sold out today, but you can try again tomorrow," the female salesclerk said.
"Do I have to show up at 6 AM?" I asked.
"No. If you show up by 11 you should be get one," she said.
The next morning -- Friday -- I decided to commence my Wii mission with extreme prejudice. Just to be safe I arrived at the Nintendo World store at 10 AM, a full hour earlier than the salesclerk had suggested.
I walked into the store and saw no Wiis, no line, no nothing. I asked a guard what was up.
"Oh, the Wii line is upstairs," he said. "You better hurry up. It's long."
He wasn't kidding.
I got up there and a line of over-heated yet hopeful WIi buyers circled the entire perimeter of the store. A few moments later a store employee made his way along the line, counting the number of customers.
"Everybody who wants a Wii raise your hand, so I can get a count," he yelled.
Not surprisingly, everyone on line raised their hands (excluding the infant in the baby carriage behind me). Did he think that there were people waiting in line just for fun? No. This Wii acquisition process was serious business. It was now 10 AM, and rumor had it, the line had formed well before 8, before the store was even open.
"That explains the police barricades outside," I thought to myself.
The whole thing seemed insane to me. It's a video game, not the letters of transit from Casablanca.
There's something that happens when people line up to buy or experience something that they have waiting a long time to buy or experience: they get excited. And when people get excited, they start talking.
"I came in all the way from New Rochelle," a large Hispanic woman in a satin Yankees jacket said to me. "It took me three hours to get here."
"Wow," I said. "You must really like video games."
"I do and my kids do and my Mom does," she said. "My mom is sick, though. She just had back surgery and she came home on Monday, so I'm not sure she can move around with the controller and whatnot, you know?"
I shook my head, silently acknowledging that yes, I knew. And then I put on my iPod headphones. It's not that I'm unfriendly, I just don't have room in my brain for the life stories
of people who travel three hours to buy a video game.
But luckily for my large friend, other people on line did have time for her life story. Within minutes she had formed a conversation group with three other linemates: a young Asian women with bad skin; a middle aged white guy wearing a woolen cap while indoors and an overweight African American gentleman who looked like he might benefit from the physical activity of a Wii game.
I heard snippets of their conversation, in between my news podcasts.
"The Wii is a very family orientatal game," the African American guy said, as everyone else looked at the Asian girl. "I don't mean it's orientatal like Japanese. I mean family orientatal, like everyone in the family likes to play it."
That was pretty much the level of discourse for the next two hours, as the line slowly wove through racks of over-priced t-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with the likeness of Mario the plumber.
As we approached the register, I stepped out of line and looked at the stack of Wii consoles on the counter. It had shrunk to an alarming degree. There were definitely more buyers than Wii's.
My heart grew sick, on account of the dampness of the catacombs. (Opps, sorry. Wrong story.)
Can you imagine, waiting on line for three hours for a video game -- and then not even getting it. I was prepared to be pissed. But then my moment in the Wii sun arrived.
"Can I help you?" the sweaty sales clerk with the pencil-thin moustache said.
What I didn't say: "Can you help me? Well, yeah. You can tell me why the fuck the Nintendo store has only two registers open when you know 200 people are going to show up here every single day to buy this stupid video game that you can't figure how to make enough of. And, on top of that, why you gotta waste even more of my time with bullshit like "Can I help you?"
What I did say: "I'll take a Wii please."
I looked at the stack behind him. There were 11 Wii's left. As regular readers of previously owned know, eleven is my lucky number. It was not, however, the lucky number for the twenty or so people who were still on line behind me.
But I got my own problems, and that's not one of them. Because I am now the proud owner of a Wii!
Actually I'm not. Maggie is.
But she's sharing it with me, which is nice. Considering what I went through to get it.
THE CIRCLE OF NEW YORK CITY LIFE
As we walked out of Gotham Comedy Club on Saturday afternoon, we all agreed that lunch would be a good idea.
Here I was, with a first-ever opportunity to expose my young nieces to a memorable Manhattan culinary experience. Where should we begin -- sushi, Thai, Indian?
Every ethnic cuisine is available within a 2 block walk of just about anywhere in Downtown New York City. But, unless you're buying homemade empanadas from the van outside the church on 14th between 8th & 9th Avenues, ethnic cuisine in Manhattan is also expensive.
And, when you add to the equation kids whose idea of "ethnic food" is Outback Steakhouse (G'day mate!), it becomes an even dicier. It's bad enough to pay New York prices for food. It's even worse when that food goes uneaten.
So the compromise was reached - a diner. Not just a diner, the Eros Diner on 7th Avenue.
Yes, my nieces traveled 2,000 miles from Florida to the foodie capital of America -- and they ate grilled cheese. Oh well, there's plenty of time to turn them in gourmands.
After a lovely brunch (made even lovelier by the fact that my father paid for it, in absentia), we headed over to Dylan's Candy Bar on the Upper East Side.
Have you been there? No? Well, try to keep it that way.
I'm sure it's fun for the kids, but for me -- not a big candy eater -- it was what I imagine Purgatory to be like. If you're not Catholic, Purgatory is the way station between your earthly existence and the after-life.
You hang out there, awaiting judgment, as countless others pass by you in both directions. Of course, if you're Catholic, the only direction you want to go in is Up.
I always understood Purgatory to be a little bit Heavenly and a little bit Hellish, sort of like Donny & Marie. It's not too nice, of course, or people would just sin all their lives and be quite content with ending up in Purgatory.
But it's also not too bad, so people who committed minor infractions in life don't end up with a pitchfork up their ass.
In a word, Purgatory is mildly Hellish. (Sorry, that's two words.) And yes, I found Dylan's Candy Bar to be mildly Hellish.
Imagine, 100 tourists jammed into a studio apartment filled with bowls of really expensive candy. Then imagine one cashier for every 35 people who want to pay for something. Then imagine no air conditioning. Then imagine screaming babies. Then imagine forlorn looking fathers (and uncles) loitering around the perimeter, holding the coats.
That is the Hell-Lite experience of Dylan's Candy Bar.
I don't know who "Dylan" is, but she should make her candy store bigger. Or let fewer people in at one time. And people should fucking relax. It's candy, okay? There's plenty to go around.
But the kids had a good time. And that makes it okay, right? Not really. But whatever.
I stood outside and ate a genuine New York City pretzel, while the European dads/uncles exhaled cigarette smoke in my face. My coat now smells like Marlboros. Thanks Hans.
Then we went to Maggie's apartment. Yes, I live there. Yes, I pay half the rent. And most of the cable bill. And the phone bill. But, as far as my family is concerned, it's still Maggie's apartment.
I thought the vampire movie posters all over the wall might disabuse my kin of that notion, but no such luck. All it did was inspire one of my family members to suggest that I had "hung vampire posters all over Maggie's apartment." Oh well.
My neices were hoping to meet Maggie's famous cats, Reggie and Lizzie. But somebody must have tipped off the cats that kids were coming to the apartment, because they were nowhere to be found. We finally discovered them under the bed, cowering in the most genuine display of fear I have seen since I looked in the mirror at Dylan's Candy Bar.
Sadly, the tiny hands of children have been forever ruined for Reggie and Lizzie by a particularly aggressive visit from Maggie's niece Abby.
But, really, can you blame her? If I were four, I'd probably dive head first at a cat and squeeze them. I'm almost 40 and I have to fight the urge to do that.
After a short break, the two older kids got all gussied up in their finery and we all ventured out for another trip on the subway. We dropped my sister off at Penn Station, where she headed back to Long Island with Baby Kate.
And then Maggie and I (along with my brother-in-law) took Emily and Laura to their very first Broadway show -- The Lion King!
My mother brought me to Broadway for the first time in 1977, to see The Magic Show, a musical starring a buck-toothed, satin-clad magician named Doug Henning. That show was set in a seedy lounge in Passaic, New Jersey. And, from what I can remember, they did a good job of making me feel like I had been in a seedy lounge in Passaic.
But The Lion King is another thing entirely. No better introduction to Broadway for a kid under 10 exists, or has ever existed. The story is familiar to kids, but the staging is pure genius.
And the entire experience is unforgettable. Or at least I hope it is.
As you probably know, The Lion King is all about a kid who loses a parent, loses his way, and then finds himself drawn back to his true path by the strong spiritual presence of his departed father.
I feel sort of the same way right now. My mother's death has reminded me that life is finite. And the impending arrival of an age that begins with the number FOUR has only compounded that.
As I sat there, watching Emily and Laura, I remembered how my mother fostered a love and appreciation for the creative arts in me, when I was a kid. I watched her do something creative every day of her life, and it inspired me to do the same.
Now, I can't imagine a life without creativity. It gives me hope and meaning and a sense of purpose.
Did I plant that seed in Emily and Laura and Saturday? I guess I'll find out somewhere around 2038.
"Hey remember that time Maggie and I took you guys to see The Lion King the day after Bubbe's memorial mass?" the seventy-year-old me will ask them.
I hope the answer is yes.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
Less than 24 hours after delivering the eulogy at my my mother's memorial mass, I hosted a stand-up comedy show.
Talk about going from one extreme to the other.
On Friday after the mas, and the equally well-attended reception at my Aunt Margaret and Uncle George's house, Maggie and I grabbed a train back to the city. Maggie went home, but I went to my office. And I started writing jokes.
I wasn't in a particularly funny mood but, the show must go on.
The show in question was the graduation performance for my kids stand-up class. After months of hard work with these budding young comics, I couldn't miss their recital. Nor would my mother have wanted me to miss it.
My mother was a performer at heart. Most good teachers are. But she took it one step further. During her long tenure as a Girl Scout leader in the 1960s and '70s, my mom was also a member of the comedy team of Josie & Verna.
Notice that she got top billing. Of course.
My mom and her friend Verna Heinbinder would write musical comedy skits and perform them at Girl Scout functions all across the Tri-State area. When I started doing stand-up, Verna dusted off some of their old bits and sent me a book of scripts. And some of the stuff was pretty funny.
Verna was at the reception after my Mom's memorial, and we talked about their show biz days. I didn't mention my gig the next day, because I didn't want to sound insensitive. But I think she would have understood and agreed with my decision to do the show.
But the best thing about doing the show on Saturday was that my nieces got to see me do stand-up for the first time. All three of them were there - Emily (9), Laura (6) and Kate (1) along with my sister, brother-in-law and Maggie.
My nieces have always heard about my other life as a performer, but I'm not sure they ever believed it. Until now.
It was a good show, too. The kids did a great job, the audience was very enthusiastic and I was brilliant. Of course.
After the show, my niece Laura tugged on my sleeve and said, "Will, you're the famous one in this family!"
And with that, the mantle was passed.
A week or so ago, Maggie and I went out to Long Island to visit my mother's sister and her husband.
My Aunt Margaret pulled out boxes of old photos, albums and scrapbooks and Maggie scanned dozens of pictures. It took hours and hours, but we left with a hard drive filled with great memories.
Over the next few days, Maggie created a collage of my mother and her family. We had the collage printed and mounted, and we placed it on the altar during my mother's memorial.
After the mass, people lined up to look at the pictures, and to remember my mother.
That was Maggie's gift.
A MEMORABLE MEMORIAL
I have to say, giving the eulogy at my mother's memorial mass was surprisingly easy.
I don't mean easy, like no big deal, like a piece of cake. I mean easy, like not nerve-wracking.
On paper, it certainly should have been an anxiety-producing experience: talking into a microphone in front of a church filled with people is nervous-making enough, but the concept of giving a eulogy for your mother is fraught with pressure.
You can't stop in the middle and start again. There is no second take. There is no do-over. You have one chance to pay verbal tribute to a person who is very important to you. It's up to you and only you. If you screw it up, it can't be unscrewed.
Like I said, a lot of pressure.
But my first foray in eulogy-giving went just fine. Better than fine, if you believe the comments I got afterwards.
So why was it easier than I thought it would be? A big part of that is where it happened.
The mass was at the church that I grew up in. My sister and I went to the parish school there for eight years, and I was an altar boy for seven years. I had been on that altar many, many times - most of them with people staring at me. And while I had never spoken from the pulpit during a mass, I had certainly practiced when the church was empty many times.
When I was a kid I used to stand up there and practice my sermons in front of empty pews all the time -- the sermons that morphed into stand-up comedy bits two decades later.
The other reason it was easy: the topic. It's not like I had to make things up to say about my mother. In fact, I had to work hard to shorten my speech. There was so much I could have said about her. But at a certain point I decided not to focus on everything, but rather to talk about one thing: the fact that she was a teacher.
And yes, I used plenty of words that originated here on the blog (even though my mom was not a previously owned fan). Sorry Mom!
I spent Thursday night writing and rehearsing (I know you don't rehearse a eulogy, but you know what I mean) and then I read over it a few more times in the car on the way to Long Island on Friday.
Then Maggie and I got to the church at about 11:30 AM (after a pit stop next door at Starbucks) and the whirlwind started -- so many memories, so many people coming up to me and either crying or smiling. Or both. I didn't really have time to get nervous. There was too much going on.
I did get a little anxious when I found the bathroom door locked. So I went into the sacristy (it's like the priest's locker room) and I asked an older priest for the key.
"I'm William McKinley," I said, reaching out my hand, "Josie's son."
"I'm Father Frank," the elderly priest replied. "I married your parents back in 1956."
It was that kind of day.
There were actually three priests on the altar: the one who did my parents' wedding, an Indian priest that my Mom had befriended (one of many), and my mom's best priest buddy ever, Fr. Fink.
He was pastor of our church for almost 20 years and he and my mom and a few other ladies from the parish used to vacation together out in East Hampton.
I am not kidding about this. My mother used to go to the Hamptons with our pastor.
But there was no more appropriate person in the world to officiate at her memorial. And, in fact, everyone who participated had some deep connection to my mother: my cousin George did the first Bible reading, her friend Mrs. Tobin did the second and her other friend Mrs. Singer sang the hymns. My sister Missy and my niece Emily brought up the gifts before communion and, of course, I did my bit after communion.
But it almost didn't happen.
The members of the congregation had sat back down after receiving the Body of Christ (I did too, even though I'm not technically supposed to, because I'm not technically a practicing Catholic. Whatever.) Then the priest asked everyone to stand for the final prayer. I got worried.
"Is he forgetting about me?" I wondered.
After all, it's not like I could stop the mass and interrupt him. And once it's over, it was over. You can't un-end a mass.
So I stood up and slowly began to creep toward the altar, into his field of vision. And when he saw me, he asked everyone to sit back down again. And then he invited me up to the pulpit.
"Josie's son William would like to say a few words," he announced.
I had decided to keep it light. I knew a lot of people were going to be sad and I didn't want to write something that would make people cry any more than they would be inclined to already.
I wanted to make them smile, and think about the very full life that my mother had.
I started with some witty banter with the priest (thank God for that stand-up comedy training) and then just went into my speech. When it was over people clapped. I wondered if that would happen. It never did when I was a kid. The idea of people clapping in church was a completely sacreligious concept, somewhat akin to burping, or other unmentionable bodily utterances.
But people clapped, which was nice. And I kept it 100% together, which I sort of knew I would. I'm not big on crying in full view of others. I like to do that alone in the dark, or during the final moments of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, when the family sees their newly refurbished house and the whole town is there.
That show destroys me.
Anyway, after the mass so many people came up and said nice things -- many people I had never met, who knew my mother before I came around, or after I had left. And there were plenty of parents of my old school friends, most of whom looked exactly the same 30 years later.
To that extent, I see why the church means so much to so many people. It truly is a community. Those people know you for your entire life and they actually care when you die. It's a nice thing.
I guess the thing that made me happiest was the turnout. After all, it was a week day. It was chilly out. There was a threat of rain. And yet, the church was packed with people. The crowd was as big as a Sunday mass.
Everything went exactly as my mother would have wanted. Hopefully she got a chance to check it out.
MY GIG ON FRIDAY
Friday is my mother's memorial mass on Long Island.
I'm not calling it a funeral, because she already had a funeral. And nobody gets two funerals, not even Josie McKinley.
But this is a big event. The popular former pastor of our church is making a special return engagement to celebrate the mass, which is somewhat like George Clooney doing a guest spot on ER.
He and my mom were good friends. He used to come to our house all the time. Actually we had many priests at our house over the years, sometimes two or three at a time. It was like living in a monastery, only with lots of talking.
Speaking of talking, one of my mom's good friends will be singing hymns at the mass. Coincidentally, her name is Mrs. Singer. That's right, Mrs. Singer the singer will be singing. Another good friend will be doing a reading. Her name is Mrs. Tobin.
It would be funnier if her name was Mrs. Reader, but alas, such is not the case.
I emailed Mrs. Tobin this week to ask her for suggestions for the readings. She wrote back with her favorites. But she didn't send the text of the passages from Scripture, she just sent their numbered locations in the bible.
For example: Paul's Letter to the Romans Ch.8:31b-35,37-39
This is like Catholic code. And you need the book to decode it. So I bought the Book.
That's right, I bought a bible, at Barnes & Noble in Union Square. Right in the middle of the heathen capitol of America - New York City. Somewhere, my mother is smiling.
And by somewhere, I mean up in Heaven, of course.
But there are two readings at every mass, so that leaves one more for someone else to read. And it appears that someone else will be me. This will be a return engagement of sorts for me. I was an altar boy at my church for eight years, from 1975 until I retired in 1983.
I would have kept going, but I outgrew the cassock.
But this is not the only role I will be playing in my mother's memorial mass. The consensus seems to be that I should do the eulogy as well. Why? I'm a stand-up comic. I don't follow communion. I follow dirty jokes.
This is a lot of pressure. I've performed in front of a lot of crowds, but never before a congregation. You can't really start with, "So where's everybody from?" You're not supposed to do crowd work at church.
In all seriousness, this is officially freaking me out. I have never been on a pulpit before, let alone speaking, with a room full of people staring at me, waiting for me to say something profound.
But before I can say something profound, I have to write it.
Some people have suggested that I read something I wrote for the blog, but I don't want to do that. My mom hated the blog. She always got mad at me when I wrote something that she deemed to personal to share with the world. She probably would be mad that I wrote all that personal stuff about her after she died. Or maybe not. Maybe she would be flattered.
I hope so.
Regardless, I have to sum up 72 eventful years of my mother's life in a tight five-minute set. What's going to happen if I go over my time? Will Mrs. Singer sing me off -- like they do on the Oscars?
This is all too much.
IT TAKES TWO TO TANGLE
So it turns out that merging two apartments into one is more complicated than I had originally thought.
Actually, this is not so much of a merger. It's more of an acquisition.
I can see the headline now:
Maggie acquires financially troubled Will McKinley in a hostile takeover. Assets include an extensive collection of baseball cards, Dark Shadows collectibles and Richie Rich comics.
The hardest part of combining two apartments is that neither person wants to get rid of all of their stuff. So now we have two of everything - two TVs, two garbage pails, two sets of silverware and dishes and pots and pans.
It's like living on Noah's Ark, without the overwhelming smell of animal pooh. Actually, Maggie has two cats, too. So there is plenty of smell of animal pooh (everywhere except in the litter box).
I fully expect to open up the kitchen cabinet one morning and find that Maggie's Emeril Lagasse Collection pots and pans have mated with my non-stick, Martha Stewart Collection pots and pans and given birth to a George Foreman Grill.
We also have enough dishes to host a dinner party for two dozen people. All we need now is two dozen friends. And a table. Neither one of us had one of those.
We also have a TV in the bedroom for the very first time in either of our lives -- not just a TV, a complete home entertainment system with a stereo receiver, speakers, a TiVo and a DVD player.
We have done this for two reasons:
1) I didn't want to sell off all of my equipment on Craigslist and
2) We think that the cats would really enjoy watching Animal Planet in Surround Sound. And maybe HBO En Espanol.
Like in all mergers, it will take some time for the two cultures to fully integrate.
For example, I'm neat and Maggie likes to live like a crack head. I'm sorry, that's not fair to crack heads. Maggie likes to live like a homeless crack head.
I have noticed that Maggie will leave food and drink containers on the coffee table until the remnants turn into science experiments. I think we may find a cure for something soon. Maybe Typhus.
Or maybe I'll get Typhus. It's really a toss-up at this point.
So, in summation, things are going pretty well. And we haven't broken up yet. So we have that going for us, which is nice.
SPRING AHEAD? ONLY IF YOU'RE A SUCKER.
Why do I have to lose an hour on Sunday?
Of all days of the week, why Sunday? Sunday is the day that I can least afford to lose an hour. Because Sunday is the most stressful day of my week.
Say what you will about Monday. At least you know what you're getting. You have to wake up, go to work and do what you're told. Sunday, however, is all loosey-goosey.
Sunday has way too many variables for my taste.
What time do you have to get up? Whenever. What do you have to do? Whatever. Where do you have to go? Wherever.
I don't like so many unanswered questions in my day. I like structure. I like certainty. I like knowing what has to get done, when it has to get done and where it has to get done. I like firm deadlines. Uncertainty makes me anxious.
I mean more anxious.
Lots of people love Sunday. For example, whoever it was that sang the song Groovin' on a Sunday Afternoon. He seemed to enjoy his Sundays. Football fans like Sundays. Catholics like Sundays.
But I'm not much for groovin', I'm not ready for some football and I haven't been to church (by choice) since the Carter administration.
So for me, Sunday is just my weekly opportunity to not live up to my potential.
Every week I think, "I should really read The Sunday New York Times cover to cover. It's important to be well-informed!" Maybe I get to skim two or three stories. And the unread sections sit on my desk for a week, until the next edition shows up.
Then I think, "I should really be writing now." Maybe I bang out a blog post, which means that my unwritten book remains unwritten for another day. Yay me.
Then I think, I should do a lengthy work out at the gym. By the time get there I get in 20 minutes on the cross trainer before they close. In an effort to combat this, last week I went on Sunday morning. The place was so jam packed with annoying, entitled, well-off New York City assholes, I just couldn't stay.I hate everybody at my gym. They do nothing but annoy me, and it makes me disinclined to go.
Which is part of the reason why I'm turning into a fat pig. The other part is the free Reese's Peanut Butter Cups at work. Yum!
But the problem for me really begins on Saturday night. I refuse to go to sleep before 3 AM, whatever I'm doing. It's not because I'm out at a club or partying or getting drunk. I just like hanging out at home on Saturday night, watching a movie. I am never more relaxed than I am on Saturday night. But then, finally, I fall asleep late and I wake up late, and the Sunday treadmill begins to whirrrr.
Whatever time I wake up, I'm already behind schedule. On top of that, my girlfriend Maggie likes to sleep in on Sundays. And by "sleep in" I mean "sleep in complete darkness until the middle of the afternoon." So I have to tip-toe around, and get dressed in the pitch black, so I don't disturb her beauty sleep.
One of the drawbacks of getting dressed in the dark is, you're never exactly sure what you just put on. They may feel like your jeans, but you never know. It's an adventure.
Once I have double-checked myself in the bathroom mirror, I scoop up the ten lbs of The Times and head for the subway.
But it's Sunday, so I don't go to work. I go to my writing office, where I compose many of the brilliant essays you have enjoyed right here on previously owned. Once I get there, The Times goes back in my back pack (For later? Ha. Never happens.) and the work begins.
But it's already 1:30. The day is almost over! What am I going to get done now?!
And those types of thoughts plague me as I struggle to accomplish things that will make me feel better about myself. And then, maybe, I get to the gym around 8:30 PM, while the rest of the city is settling in for some quality relaxation time in advance of the new work week.
And today, to make matters worse, I lost an hour of productivity. On a Sunday. Just when I needed it. Why not on Tuesday, when I wouldn't even miss it? After all, Tuesday is the least important day of the week. Nothing good ever happens on Tuesday (with the possible exception of new episodes of One Tree Hill on The CW.)
I really think we should protest this Losing-an-Hour-on-Sunday thing-- not for us, but for future generations. As the work force continues to become more nontraditional, both in terms of what we do and when we do it, Sunday becomes more important than ever to the overall productivity of our nation.
And that's why I'm keeping my clocks right where they were. I'll be goddamned if I'm going to give up 1/48th of my weekend, just because kids want to play outside until 9 PM in July. Not my problem.
I'll be setting my clocks forward on Tuesday, thank you. Until then, I suggest you plan accordingly.
MY CRAIGSLIST SUCCESS STORY
Well, the final totals are in. And the news is good.
I made $650 selling stuff from my apartment on Ebay and Craigslist in the last two weeks. I don't know about you, but an extra $650 makes a big difference in my life.
But it's not about the money. Okay, it is about the money. But it's not just about the money.
It makes me feel good knowing that my stuff has been recycled back into the ecosystem of New York City, into the hands (and apartments/houses/lives) of people who will actually appreciate it.
And on top of all of that, there's the human component to these sales that make them so memorable.
Usually when you sell stuff on eBay, you post it somewhat anonymously (using a handle, or screen name) and somebody buys it anonymously. The closest thing you get to human interaction is writing the buyer's name on the package when you mail it.
Craigslist is different. It's all about human interaction.
You post your stuff (for free, by the way -- unlike Ebay), often with your email address or even your phone number. Somebody searches the site, and finds something of yours that fills a need for them. Then they email you or call you. You talk to them. They come over to your place. And -- assuming that they don't kill you -- you have a genuine, face-to-face meeting
If things go well, they take your stuff and give you money. And if things don't go well, they take your stuff AND your money. And then they kill you, chop you into little pieces, and stuff you in your freezer.
I'm kidding, of course. Although so many people did warn me about doing business on Craigslist, I began to get a little paranoid.
"Have fun with all those crazies in your apartment," my crabby co-worker Doug said to me.
Why do people have to be so cynical? Come to think of it, maybe I'm the wrong person to ask a question like that. But I generally have faith in the fundamental goodness of people -- particularly people in New York. There's a camaraderie here. We all know that we're in this together.
And why should I assume that anyone who is on Craigslist is nuts? I'm on Craigslist. And I'm not nuts. I mean, not since I started taking my meds again.
For all of you who doubt Craigslist, here is a summary of the successful deals that I completed in the last week or so -- for free:
1) My Antique Seaman's Trunk - $100
My first sale didn't start out so well. I posted the trunk on Ebay and nobody bid on it. So I asked my friend June to place a bid, just to get things going. She reluctantly agreed. She also ended up being the only bidder. Opps.
The day after the Ebay debacle came to a close, I posted it on Craigslist. I got a ton of responses and ended up selling to a very nice girl named Kelly, who lives in my neighborhood. She came over with her roommate last Sunday, offered me $100 (I had posted it at $125) and walked out with a trunk.
Ka-ching! Total so far: $100
2) My This End Up Coat Rack - $60
I bought this horizontal wood coat rack about 15 years ago from a store called This End Up. It's a beautiful, sturdy piece but I think it spent a total of six months on my wall over the course of the last decade and a half.
Here's my problem: I have tons of old movie posters that I like to hang up and, when you're in a small studio apartment, wall space is at a premium. So the first thing to go is a coat rack, particularly when you don't do a lot of entertaining (or any entertaining).
I posted the coat rack on Craigslist for $60 and some very tall Nordic gent named Lehho stopped by at lunchtime on Tuesday and fell in love. He walked out with "exactly what he had been looking for" (his quote) and I walked out with $60.
But here's the best part - I'm not even sure I paid $60 for that thing when I bought it back in 1993!
Total so far: $160
3) My This End Up Recliner and Couch - $92
This was perhaps my least successful sale in financial terms, but my most fulfilling in people terms.
I posted the two pieces together on Ebay, thinking that there would be some kind of bidding frenzy for my genuine, This End Up wood furniture, c. 1993. That turned out to be an incorrect assumption. Only one guy bid and he won both pieces for a total of $92.
Could I have gotten more for these two well-preserved, if not stylish pieces of furniture? Sure. But on Friday when the guy showed up with at 4:58 PM -- two minutes early -- with a lift-gate van and two young helpers, I felt much better.
Peter was actually the buyer, but the furniture was going to the apartment of his two helpers, who appeared to be related to him in some way.I don't know for sure. You can't really ask too many questions in situations like this. People tend to get nervous.
But these two young guys were so excited when they saw my old furniture. One of them said, "Sweet!" I assume that means something good. But the point is, they were happy. And they are actually going to use my beloved chair and sofa -- not bury it away in an attic or garage or something.
Total so far: $252.
4) My Pottery Barn Bar Table and Stools - $150
This one was a hard sell. I posted the set on Ebay with a "Buy it Now" price of $599, and somebody bid 99 cents. And that was the only bid. So much for my career as a appraiser!
I reposted on Craigslist at $300. Then $250. Then $200. And finally, at $150, I hit the sweet spot. There was a bidding war, people racing to get to my apartment before other potential buyers. The winner was a girl named Kristen who came over and picked the stuff up with her boyfriend from New Jersey.
Actually, I'm not really sure he was her boyfriend. I noticed that a lot of the girls I talked to about buying stuff would somehow make reference their boyfriends. Like, "My boyfriend is going to love this." or something like that. That's Craigslist code for, "Even though I'm coming to your apartment, I don't plan on having sex with you."
Honestly, I would never have sex with someone I met on Craigslist. I mean, not anymore.
Total so far: $402
5) My SpringMaster OrthoRest Mattress - $50
Yes, somebody bought my mattress. Is that gross? I don't think so.
I mean, I'm a guy. It's not like I'm going to have an accident and get blood on my sheets -- except for that time I accidentally mutilated that girl I met on Craigslist.
Psyche! Just kidding. Maybe.
Actually I didn't even do this deal. I was teaching my kids stand-up comedy class at Gotham Comedy Club and my girlfriend Maggie sold the mattress to some heavily-accented girl named Donna.
She was so sweet. She sent me a thank you text message when she got home.
Total so far: $452
6) My Antique Wood Bed - $100
This one actually came after the buzzer. But, unlike in basketball, it still counts.
I sold my beautiful old bed on Monday afternoon to a very stylishly dressed young man named A.J. who claimed to work on an "estate" on the Upper East Side.
Upon further questioning I learned that the estate was actually a gigantic apartment with a large staff of servants. Can you imagine --a staff, living with you in your apartment? Where do they put them all? On the fire escape?
A.J. was perfectly nice, but somehow I managed to lock us out of the apartment while I was helping him carry the disassembled bed down to his van. After he had given me the money.
"You're not gonna kill me, are you?" A.J. asked with a nervous laugh, as I fiddled with the lock.
"Ha!" I laughed. "I was about to ask you the same thing!"
Total so far: $552
7) My framed original Little Rascals poster (circa 1950s) - $100
I know. This isn't a piece of furniture. And I sold it on Thursday, at which point I was already officially living with Maggie. But I'm including it anyway.
As I mentioned I have a lot of posters. And Maggie has a lot of wall space, which is great. But I can't hang everything up. So a few things have to go. And this was the first choice.
Why? Two reasons.
First, it's framed, which makes it next-to-impossible to sell on Ebay. I'm not going to ship a framed poster to someone and have it show up at their house in a million pieces. The I would have to have them mail it back to me to prove it was really broken, which would only cost me more money. And how do I know that they didn't break it themselves - just to get a refund?
But secondly, and perhaps most importantly, this poster was given to me by my ex-girlfriend Mary.
Mary and I spent ten years together which, in retrospect was a pretty bad idea. There were positives though. I formed a great relationship with her son Ian, which continues today. So it wasn't totally a write-off.
My parents treated Mary like a daughter-in-law, and Ian like their grandson. They were an integral part of my extended family, for almost a decade. When my mother died, Mary sent a card to my father and to my sister, which was completely appropriate.
But she sent nothing to me. No phone call. No card. No nothing. She didn't even mention me in the letters she sent to my father and my sister
That was a petty slight that has forced me to re-asses my previous opinions about the nature of Mary's character. The re-assessment? I would like to divest myself of anything and everything associated with her (excluding her very cool son).
The poster was the first to go.
The buyer was a retired cop from Hoboken who was building a den for his kids in his basement, and furnishing it with movie posters. He came over to Maggie's (I mean, our) place and handed me a $100 bill. Then he told me that he would soon have four kids in college -- at the same time. I thought about handing him back the $100, just out of sympathy. But I'm not that nice.
Final total: $652
Even if you factor in the money I spent on two separate U-Haul rentals, I still walked out of this move with a $500 profit. Who makes money on moving? I mean, besides professional movers?
I'll tell you who? I do!
And not only that, two girls in the West Village have a nice trunk. And some Danish skier has a place to hang his ski jacket. And two young guys in their first New York City apartment have a sofa and a recliner -- the same ones i had in my first apartment. And a girl from Upstate New York has an $875 bar set for the low low price of $150. And some outer-borough Mom has an affordable mattress for her kid. And some family in Jersey is going to hang my beloved old poster in their TV room.
And, most importantly, I have $652 in my pocket!
It's a win-win-win-win-win-win-win-win situation. Thanks Craigslist!