4.29.2008

SOMEBODY PLEASE STEAL MY IDENTITY

One of my credit cards is suing me for non-payment.

That's right, Capital One Bank is taking me to court because I owe them $2,300 and I show no intention of paying it.


Frankly, I'm surprised that they're doing this. If they even bothered to check my credit report they would see that a $2,300 bill is the least of my troubles. Suing me for two grand is like complaining about the food on the Titanic.

They're threatening to garnish my salary. I'm not employed. They're threatening to deduct money from my child support payments. I don't have kids. And they're threatening to withhold my tax refund. Well guess what? I owe the IRS money too. And they're not gonna see it any time soon, either.

So, Capital One Bank, if you want your money, get in line.

Or you can feel free to come to my place and confiscate my Richie Rich comic books. I'm sure Maggie would be thrilled to see them go.

4.28.2008

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLPARK(S)

On Saturday I attended my first baseball game of the 2008 season, the final season the Mets will play at Shea Stadium.

Citi Field, The Mets new home as of April, 2009, is rapidly taking shape right next door.

During the off-season, the City of New York demolished the famous circular subway exit upon which many generations of baseball fans got their first view of the stadium. Now, when you exit the subway (and Long Island Railroad) station, the first thing you see is the the brick facade of Citi Field.

I'm trying not to focus on the new stadium, to enjoy the last days of a stadium I have considered my second home for more than three decades. Although Citi Field sure does look spiffy.

Hopefully the Mets will leave Shea with some great memories of a championship season. They're off to a decent start, with an exciting 4-3 victory against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday.

Either way, Maggie and I will be there to cheer them on.

4.27.2008

FROM "SOUP" TO NUTS

On Friday night Maggie and I once again ventured across the Hudson (actually under it) to the Loew's Jersey Theater.

The occasion was a rare screening of the Marx Bros. 1933 classic Duck Soup, selected by the American Film Institute as #60 on the list of the 100 most important American films of all time.

I've seen Duck Soup dozens of times in the last 30 years, but never before on the big screen -- and to call the Loew's screen big is an understatement. They had a good quality, 35 mm print of the film, and they also ran two vintage Three Stooges shorts to round out the bill.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many people showed up for the screening. I expect there to be good crowds when they run more recent classics like All About Eve, but it's great to see that the Marx Bros. still draw good crowds 75 years later.

And here's the best part: there were lots of little kids there, including one adorable kid volunteer wearing Groucho glasses. (Everyone who works at the Loew's is a unpaid volunteer.)

I've written about this before, but it always makes me happy when kids get turned on to these great old movies that I first discovered when I was a child.

I saw my first Marx Bros film (A Night at the Opera) when I was a 9-year-old smart ass, and I felt like it had been made specifically for me. The artful mix of witty writing and silly antics was perfect for a kid on the cusp of the 'tween years, with one foot still in childhood and the other in impending adolescence.


As always with classic film screenings, there was a good number of strange characters at the Loew's. One toothless man chatted Maggie's ear off when I went to get popcorn, and then proceeded to loudly crinkle a plastic bag throughout the entire screening.

But the high point of the evening occurred when an older gentleman sitting behind me -- alone, of course -- emitted a belch that was so forceful it practically knocked me forward in my seat.

I am not kidding. I felt the power of this man's burp on the back of my head. It was like the wolf in the story of the Three Pigs, the guy who tries to blow the house down with the pigs still inside. Except this guy tried to burp the house down. It was so strong it tickled my ear lobes.

"Wow," I said, loud enough for the guy behind me to hear. 'That tickled my ear lobes."

Of course there was no response from him. But Maggie couldn't stop laughing.

I considered offering the guy a Tums, but I thought better of it. With my luck he'd just spend the whole movie loudly unwrapping the package.


This is what you get when you go to a place like the Loew's. You can't love it because it's off-the-beaten path (or PATH, as in the train you take to get there), and then be surprised when the strange characters show up.

The eclectic audiences at these screenings are a big part of the fun, even if they occasionally burp on the back of your head.


To read my feature story on the Loew's Jersey Theater in Downtown Express, click here.

4.24.2008

SWEATIN' FOR THE TOURISTS

So my new gym is working out fine, if you'll pardon the pun.

I've been off from my regular job for the last few weeks, and spending most of my time at my writer's co-op on 14th Street. The office is right across the street from the New York Sports Club, and I can see people exercising in the gym windows whenever I walk outside.

Being across the street from my health club really makes it hard to excuse myself from working out. I see those people up there, getting in shape, building their endurance and staving off the grim reaper. And I imagine them having better sex than me.

Or is it better sex than I? I never get that right.

So I guilt myself into crossing the street, walking up one flight of stairs and doing some sweatin' of my own.

I think every gym should have big picture windows. It's like a living commercial - and it's totally free. Come to think of it, maybe I should start charging the New York Sports Club every tine I work out in the window. Why I should I bust my ass advertising for them?


Who knows how many people have walked in and said, "I saw that total hottie working out in the window, and it really inspired me to join -- just so I can meet him!"

Actually they would be more likely to say, "I saw that fat, sweaty, middle-aged, bald guy working out in the window and it really inspired me to join -- just so I won't end up like him!"

As you know if you live Downtown, 14th Street is a popular route for the double-decker tour buses that pick up foreign tourists in Times Square. I don't know why they like 14th Street so much. Maybe it has something to do with all of the discount electronics and porn DVDs you can buy here.

Anyway, last night I was cross trainin' away on the cross trainer, right there on display for all to see, and four different buses passed by within a ninety minute period. Each time the tourists would look in the gym window, point and start taking pictures.

I imagine the German tourists returning home and looking at their vacation photos.

"See the stupid American!" says Hans, with a Teutonic snicker. "He eats salad every day and wastes all his time exercising at the Sports Club of New York, yet he is as fat as me! Or is it as fat as I? I never get that right when I speak English!"

And then he lights up a cigarette,
pours himself a glass of warm butter and has amazing sex with his gorgeous blond wife.


4.23.2008

KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH THE PAST

I just signed up for classmates.com.

I'm not totally sure why. Maybe it has something to do with my mother's death, or the sense of impending doom I feel as my 40th birthday looms.

The fact is, a few former classmates have reached out from the past recently, entirely without the help of classmates.com. Karen, the sister of my best friend in grammar school, sent me an email a few weeks ago, entirely out of the blue. She had Googled her brother's name, and it brought her to me.

I enjoyed emailing back and forth with her, catching up on the last quarter century.

My mother, on the other hand, kept in touch with tons of people from her school days, all the way back to grade school. I met a few of them when I was down in Florida, after she passed away.

One childhood friend of her's, Mary, told me about the day my Mom met my Dad. Mary had been dating Joe, a high school buddy of my Dad's, and the two of them plotted to set my parents up. Joe brought my Dad over to the park during a baseball game, and Mary raced to my Mom's house to get her.

When she got there, my mother was dead asleep.

"Get up!" Mary said to her. "He's tall!"

She did get up. And my tall mother met my equally tall father that day, back in 1954. Two years later they were married. And they stayed that way for 52 years.

At my mother's memorial I saw Joe, who I always called Uncle Joe when I was a kid. Uncle Joe was also my Dad's best man, my godfather and my first baseball coach. And he was just one of the many people at the memorial who had known both of my parents for more than sixty years.

It's amazing to me really, when I think about it. It's so much easier to keep in touch now, with email, cell phones, text messages. But I have remained friendly with no one I ever went to school with.

It just never occurred to me. You graduate, close that chapter and move on.
But there was something about flipping through my Mom's old scrapbook, with her 70-something high school best friend by my side, that made me question that approach.

My mother kept in touch with so many friends from so many stages of her life. And they all came out to say goodbye when she left. I think maybe I'd like the same thing to happen to me.

My parents, early 1960s.

4.22.2008

I LOVE AN UNHAPPY ENDING

Last night Maggie and I watched The Stepford Wives, the 1975 thriller based on the best-selling Ira Levin novel of the same name.

I love this film, although it's highly flawed. Katharine Ross and Paula Prentiss are perfect as the new female residents of the creepy New England village of Stepford, but just about every other actor in the film plays it like a soap opera.

The worst offender is Peter Masterson (father of Mary Stuart Masterson, who also appears in the film) as Walter, the dopey husband who eventually sells out his wife -- the heart-breakingly beautiful Katharine Ross -- to the sexist cabal that controls the town.

Masterson is so awful one wonders if Katharine Ross had to stifle her chuckles when acting with him. According to Wikipedia, Masterson has essentially retired from acting, spending the last two decades focusing on producing and directing. This is good news for the acting profession.

"Honey, I am a terrible actor."

Compare Masterson's one-note performance to that of John Cassavetes, in Roman Polanski's film adaptation of Rosemary's Baby, also based upon a novel by Levin. Both characters do essentially the same thing: they betray their wives for personal gain. But Cassavetes's performance is so much more nuanced and multi-faceted.

"I shoulda gotten an Oscar for this, don't you think Ro?"

Cassavetes nervously flits around the apartment he shares with his young wife, chain smoking cigarettes and barely making eye contact with Mia Farrow for half the film. Only at the end do we figure out why. He has rented out her womb to a cult of devil worshippers (led by the adorable Ruth Gordon) in return for the guarantee of a successful acting career.

Masterson however, lumbers through every scene, telegraphing his actions and motivations, knocking back the booze and self consciously slurring his speech, like a hiccuping wino in an old 1930s comedy. Even if you know nothing about the story of The Stepford Wives, Masterson essentially gives away the plot with his terrible acting.

Of course comparing the film versions Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives is like comparing The New Yorker with Highlights Magazine. Each has its own unique charms. And they both end the same way - unhappily.

And this is why so many of my favorite films come from the decade between 1967 and 1977. So many of the great films of that daring era eschew the traditional Hollywood ending:
The Graduate (seemingly happy, but not), The Planet of the Apes (damn you all to hell!), Rosemary's Baby (he has his father's eyes), Easy Rider (two shotgun blasts), Midnight Cowboy (dead on the bus), Soylent Green (It's people!), Deliverance (Squeal like a pig!), Taxi Diver (psycho as hero), The Godfather (murderer as hero), Annie Hall (La-di-da), Manhattan (that look on Woody's face at the end), Race with the Devil, Jaws, Network, Bonnie and Clyde. I could go on and on.

What do all these movies have in common? The Unhappy Ending.

I love the Hollywood Production Code-enforced happy endings of the mid-30s through the mid-60's. I always tear up at the end of Miracle on 34th Street and It's A Wonderful Life. But real life rarely has the neatly wrapped happy ending. And for a while, it looked like the major studios were going to play up to their audiences, to challenge them.

And then Star Wars came along. And it's been downhill over since.

Special effects + happy endings = big bucks.

Oddly enough, Star Wars has always been one of my favorite movies. But the older I get, and the more of life I experience, the less of a favorite it becomes.

4.20.2008

MY BRILLIANT CAREER

Longtime readers may have noticed that I have not been publishing a lot of stories recently.

For a little more than a year, my arts-related feature stories, reviews and interviews were appearing on a regular basis in three New York City weeklies: The Villager, Downtown Express and Chelsea Now.

Including re-prints, my byline appeared in print 59 times in 59 weeks, sometimes twice a week. And, on a few occasions, three times in three different papers in the same week.

I had two front page features (one in The Villager and one in Downtown Express), got to met and/or interview a number of people whose work I greatly admire, got slimed on stage at a Nickelodeon event and made the connection with the KIds Comedy group that later hired me as a stand-up teacher.

Not bad for a year of work (in addition to my day job).You can read most of my stories by clicking on the links on the right of this page.

Then, in January, the company that owns the three papers cut back their arts coverage. Where there had previously been three or four neighborhood-specific arts stories per paper, now there were three or four across all three papers. My editor quit and a new arts editor replaced her.

I emailed the new editor in a feverish attempt to keep my "job," and I immediately pitched her a story, which I wrote and submitted a few weeks later. That story will run sometime in the next few weeks and then I think that may be it, at least for now.

The further away I get from the grind of weekly deadlines, the less I want to get back to it. But that's not uncommon for me. I'll do something obsessively for a while, master it and move on.

I did that with stand-up. I took a class on a dare back in 2001 and then turned it into a fulltime pursuit, for four long years. I'm still paying for the debts I incurred while pursuing that particular dream.

I've been thinking about this a lot recently, particularly since my last interview with a memoir writer who started out here in New York as a comedian. I'm tired of writing about other people's artistic accomplishments. I want to make a few of my own, and have someone write about me.

When I started previously owned three years ago, my goal was to get published. I did that, more than sixty times over. Now it's time for new goals.

I've started a new writing group with a few talented colleagues, and with a very specific strategy in mind: editing, refining and selling the many personal essays that got their start on the blog. I don't care where they run, or how much I get paid. I just want to get these stories out there into the world.

I've already sold three pieces that started out as blog posts, and I know I have plenty more that are just as good, if not better.

I think my renewed resolve to work on personal material started when my mother died. Thinking about her, my family, our lives - it reminded me how many great stories there are left to tell. And it also reminded me that life is finite. If you keep talking about what you're going to do someday, you may never get a chance to do it.

I know that someday I want to write a book, a memoir, most likely. I think this is the next step on that path, so that someday it might actually happen.

4.18.2008

THE QUILTING COLLAGE


That's my sister Missy with the pillow in the lower right, and me sitting on the chair in the bottom center. All the black & white pictures are from 1976.

Special thanks to Maggie for making this for the quilt show.

4.17.2008

MEMORIES OF MY MOTHER

This week there have been two more memorials for my mother. That's five so far, if you're keeping track.

Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday my mother was remembered at the bi-annual Long Island Quilter's Society show in Freeport, New York. My mom was active in the group for almost 30 years, and won many awards for her quilts and handcrafts.

Maggie made a nice collage of old photos of my Mom: demonstrating her work, quilting in period costume at the Old Bethpage Restoration in 1976, in her studio with her business partner Leona, etc. I even made an appearance in the collage, along with my sister.

The Society displayed two of my of my mother's favorite quilts.

The Birds (as I used to call it) was one of her more intricate pieces - a faux window with robins, blue jays and assorted flowers against a blue sky.

I like this quilt, but I wish my mother had gone a bit more Hitchcockian with it. She could have added Tippi Hedren in the phone booth, or Suzanne Pleshette getting attacked or maybe even just some bloody hand prints on the glass. But that would have changed the nature of the work, I guess.

After years of hanging in our hallway on Singleton Avenue in Woodmere, New York, this quilt is now on loan to my Aunt Margaret and Uncle George. I'm in no hurry to get back because I currently do not have any wall space, what with all the movie posters I've been buying on eBay. Sorry Mom!

As I watched the attendees file past my Mom's quilts, I saw a little girl stop with her mom in front of The Birds.

"I like this one," she said. "It's pretty." It was nice to see my mom's work appreciated, even though she is not here anymore to enjoy the accolades.

The other quilt they chose to display was a later work, which I will call Irises, with apologies to Mr. Van Gogh. My mom loved irises and surrounded herself with them - both the real things and various artistic representations, like quilts, wall hangings, stained glass windows etc.

When she liked something, she liked something.

I got a chance to visit with a number of ladies who had taken classes with my mother and became friendly with her over her many years of quilting, like her good friend Mrs. Cohen.

I also ran into the mother of the guy who took my sister to her high school prom. I told her how much of a crush Missy had on her son back in the day and she pulled out a picture of her son and his wife. And the wife is Asian, just like his prom date.

Coincidence? I think not.

This afternoon I visited the campus of Molloy College on Long Island, where my mother was honored at a bereavement mass for deceased family members of the college staff (my aunt works there, as a graphic designer).

The last time I was at Molloy was thirteen years ago, on the occasion of my mother's 60th birthday party. Josie's Tea Party (yes, the party had a name -- she may have even trademarked it) was held steps away from the chapel where today's mass was served.

Both my mother and grandmother were there that day, and I felt their presence again today.


After the service, friends and family gathered for lunch. And once again, a woman came up to us and shared fond memories of my mother. It's amazing to me how many people knew my mother, how many she touched, how many considered her a friend or teacher or mentor.

However imperfect my relationship with her may have been -- and imperfect is something of an understatement -- my mother made a lasting impact on the many different communities of which she was a part.

It's an impact that will be remembered by my family and me until it's our time to see her again.

4.16.2008

FUCK YOU EQUINOX FITNESS CLUB

I just quit my gym.

This may sound like an odd decision coming from a guy who thinks he's fat. But I didn't say that I was going to quit working out. I said that I was quitting my gym. Big difference

I first started working out about ten years ago, as I approached my 30th birthday. I had just recovered from a serious illness and I decided to come back bigger and better than ever. I joined the New York Sports Club and began working out with a trainer, and soon the results began to show.

I had always been thin and slight of build, but after a year or two of weight training at NYSC my upper body had become markedly broader. I liked the way I looked, and I kept at it.

The NYSC location where I worked out was small, often crowded and not particularly fancy. But who cares, right? I was there to get sweaty and get out. And that's what I did. Every day.

But then, the siren call of Equinox beckoned. A fancy new Equinox Fitness Club opened near my apartment. It was four floors tall, built from the ground up on the site of an old movie theater.

The sales people at New York Sports Club knew that they were powerless to stop the migration to the gleaming new facility. After all, it had a pool, cafe, boutique, spa, coat check, computer stations to check your email and hundreds of pieces of new equipment.

And even though I vowed to fight Equinox's gravitational pull, eventually I too fell victim to it. I joined and spent five years there working out.

And then I moved, and yet I kept working out at the same Equinox location. "It's not so out of the way," I said to myself.

And then my iPod got stolen from the locker room as I dressed. "It's okay," I said. "I've lived in New York City for 15 years and this is the first time I've been the victim of a crime!"

And then they raised the price -- to $170 per month. No, that is not a typo. Membership at the Equinox Fitness Clubs (at least in New York City) costs $170 per month, more than twice the cost of their nearest competitor.

I don't mind paying for luxury. It's my money, I work hard for it and I will spend it however I see fit.

But -- hear this clearly -- EQUINOX IS NOT WORTH THE MONEY. PERIOD.

And here's why:

1) The Greenwich Avenue Equinox location in the West Village is over-sold.

Peak hours are way too crowded. If I pay a premium price for gym membership, I expect to be able to work out when I want to, on the machines that I want to.

2) People steal things, and the club does nothing about it.

After my iPod was stolen from the bench in the locker room while I dressed, I spoke with the manager, a jolly, slightly overweight fellow named Matthew. He apologized but told me there was nothing he could do about it.

"We have people who join this club just to steal things," Manager Matthew said with a sigh.

Um, is that supposed to make me feel better? Because not only did someone steal my iPod, they also called me on my cellphone to thank me for it (I had my number in the address book, along with the numbers and emails of EVERYONE I KNOW) and to tell me how hot my girlfriend was (I had her picture as the background image).

These are the kind of people who are wandering around the Equinox location on Greenwich Avenue: thieves who will steal your shit and call you and leave scary messages on your voicemail.


At the very least the manager should have offered me a free month of membership, or a free training session or a free massage for my trouble. Again, for $170 you expect a certain level of customer service, and Equinox does not provide it.

Let me repeat that, the customer service at Equinox is awful.


3) My trainer was consistently late. And too expensive.

When I started working out with a trainer, sessions cost about $80 per hour. Within a year or so, they had jumped up to $125. Why? Because the trainer had apparently amassed more hours of work and was now at a "higher tier." The trick of course is that they encourage you to sign up with a new trainer, build a relationship and then raise the price by 50%, which is, how can I put this, oh yeah. It's complete bullshit.

But worse than that, my trainer was routinely late. Often ten minutes late, for a 60-minute session that was costing me $125. When you're paying $2 per minute for someone, you expect them to show up on time, or give you a refund.

On top of that, there were many occasions where our sessions ended early, because I had finished the routine that she planned for me. So, I get penalized for working hard and efficiently?

Perhaps she could spend the time helping me to stretch, since I had often complained of muscular tightness and pain. No. For $125 per session, my trainer did not help me to stretch afterwards, even after I had requested it. This is odd considering that many trainers regard training sessions as half-workout, half massage -- particularly the young muscular trainers with the hot female clients.

"Don't forget to stretch!" my trainer would say, as she headed off to her next session. Nice.


Yesterday I called Equinox and told them I wanted to quit. The gentleman answering the phone informed me that I had to come in to see a manager, so I walked over and explained the nature of my visit.

My old friend Matthew came out and asked me why I was quitting. I reeled off my litany of complaints.


"Wow," he said, with wide eyes. "That's a lotta reasons!" And then he proceeded to tell me that there was nothing he could do about any of my complaints.

Wrong. The club can cap membership if it's too crowded. They can give people free stuff if their possessions get stolen on gym property. And they can make sure their trainers show up on time and are not exhausted because they're working from 6 AM until 10 PM, in order to get more hours to raise their "tier" and thus, their price.


This is basic customer service.

After all this, the manager filled out my cancellation report. Next to "reason for cancellation" he wrote "Too Expensive." No Matthew, that was just part of the reason. Why not be honest, and tell the whole story?

To add insult to injury, even though I cancelled my membership with more than two weeks left in the month of April, Equinox is still going to charge me $170 for the month of May. Why?

Because the people who run Equinox Fitness Club are a bunch of crooks.

Have I left anything out? Oh yeah, the gay sex.

Rumored sexual activity has been taking place in the locker rooms and bathrooms at Equinox clubs all across the city, causing maintenance workers to quit because they were tired of cleaning up after it. Equinox management vehemently denied it, but they also hung up a sign outside the steam room at Greenwich Avenue that says: "Equinox has zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior."

If there's no "inappropriate behavior" then why do you need a sign?

So, in summation, if you want a gym:

1) that is way too crowded at peak hours;
2) where your stuff will get stolen and scary people will harass you;
3) where you will be over-charged for everything, from membership to trainer's fees to $2 for a 12 oz can of Diet Coke at the poser cafe;
4) and where you might have to avoid "unidentified liquids"

Then join the Equinox Fitness Club on Greenwich Avenue in the West Village for only $170 per month!

If not, go back to New York Sports Club for $74.99 per month. That's what I did.

4.15.2008

OLD MOVIES - NOT JUST FOR MIDDLE AGED WEIRDOS ANYMORE

Last night I went to Film Forum to see the 1922 silent film version of Robin Hood, part of the theater's month-long celebration of the films of United Artists (The series continues through May 1).

Pianist Steve Sterner accompanied a beautiful print of the film with his own original score, as he often does at Film Forum. (Sterner will also be playing this Sunday and Monday at screenings of Buster Keaton's The General (1927) and Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928), and next Thursday 4/24 at a screening of 1920's The Mark of Zorro.

The opportunity to do stuff like this is a big part of why I love New York. I've been to the movies three times in the last week. On none of those occasions have I gone to a multiplex, paid $12 to sit through commercials for Moviefone, Fandango and Diet Coke or endured rude patrons, ringing cellphone, crying babies or any of the other annoyances that are part of the modern movie-going experience.

Of the three movies I have gone to see in the last few days, Midnight Cowboy was the most recent. And that film was released almost forty years ago.

From 1969's Midnight Cowboy to 1950's All About Eve at the Loew's Jersey (with an appearance by star Celeste Holm), to Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood last night, the greater New York City area is clearly the place to be for a classic movie fan. But it's also perhaps the best place in the world to create a classic film fan.

I've been going to Film Forum for more than two decades, often by myself, to see an obscure or arcane film. There are lots of other weirdos like me there, on any given night: odd-looking, aging, single guys, sitting by themselves, watching old movies and almost always carrying a large bag or backpack stuffed with newspapers or other reading material.

As I said, just like me.

But last night a particular audience member struck me. It was a little Asian girl, who looked like she was no older than 10 or 11. She was there with her Caucasian father, who was clearly dragging her to see an 86-year-old silent movie. Or so I thought.

I kept an eye on her throughout the screening. She was engaged, responsive and appeared to enjoy every minute. Her high-pitched giggle would ring out during silly moments (you can't help but crack up at Douglas Fairbanks prancing around in tights) and it filled the room with a youthful energy.

After the movie was over, she and her dad filled out, chatting about the picture. I wanted to stop him, to ask him how he did it. How did he get a kid who was seemingly born in the late '90s to come to a screening of a silent film from the early '20?

And, perhaps more importantly, how did he get her to enjoy it? He wasn't sitting there, whispering in her ear, pitching her on the historical significance of the film, like, "See honey, isn't this great? Those are real sets, not computer generated!"

She just dug the movie. And he dug sharing it with her.

I've always thought about having kids. As I get older it becomes less likely, of course. But if I knew that my kid would share my affection for old movies, I just might consider it.

Sure, having someone to go to the movies with may not be the best reason to have a kid. But it's a better reason than having one to save a failing marriage, don't you think?

4.14.2008

MY BAND-AID CRUSADE

Why does a Band-Aid on your arm give people the right to pry into your personal life?

I went for a blood test during my lunch break today. Don't worry. It's nothing serious. I need periodic blood tests because I take Coumadin (a blood thinner) every day because I have two artificial heart valves that were put in in 1997.

I don't like to say "installed in 1997" because it makes me sound like an elevator, or an air conditioner or some kind of Union job site.

Anyway, I have to take the Coumadin (actually, it's generic Warfarin) to make sure that the blood does not clot around the fake valves, which are made of carbon. Blood is designed to clot around foreign elements in the body, which could lead to heart failure, stroke, aneuyrism or any number of other things that would most certainly ruin one's day.

On the other hand, if my blood is too thin, I can spontaneously hemmorhage at inopportune times. Not that there's a good time to bleed, of course. Unless you're a sexually active teenage girl and you're late for your period.

But I am neither teenaged, nor am I a girl. And to describe me as sexually "active" would be something of an exaggeration (unless you factor in solo efforts).

But I am getting off topic here.
The point is, I go for periodic blood tests. And when people see the resultant Band-Aid on my arm they will inevitably ask me about it.

And this is how it usually goes down:

"Blood test?" a co-worker will ask me, as they stare at the slightly brownish cotton ball affixed to my arm by one (or more) adhesive strips.

"Yeah," I reply.

"Everything okay?" she (it's usually a she) will ask, in a genuine, concerned voice.

"Yup," I reply curtly. And then I change the subject.

But what if it everything wasn't okay? What if there was something wrong, maybe horribly wrong? How would I respond?


SCENARIO #1:

CO-WORKER: "Blood test?"

ME: "No. I'm a heroin addict. But the veins between my toes are shot!"


SCENARIO #2:

CO-WORKER: "Blood test?"

ME: "No. Suicide attempt. I'm a cutter from way back!"


SCENARIO #3:
CO-WORKER: "Blood test?"

ME: "Yeah. And it turns out that I'm HIV Positive, which totally sucks! Hey you want a sip of my latte? It's really good!"


Thankfully, none of these situations are the reality, but they could be. And that would be awkward.

So remember, a Band-Aid on the arm of a co-worker is not a conversation piece. It's not like a cast. You can't sign it, and the story behind it may not be a good one, or one that the Band-Aid-wearer particular cares to share.

So why not just keep your Band-Aid-related questions to yourself?

You'll save everyone a lot of trouble. And you might just appreciate it, if you ever start shooting up, try to kill yourself or get AIDS.

4.13.2008

MEETING A LEGEND

Last night I went to a screening of All About Eve at the landmark Loew's Jersey Theater in Jersey City.

Prior to the screening I met Celeste Holm, the 90-year-old actress who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the classic 1950 film.

Ms. Holm also played the role of Ado Annie (the girl who "cain't say no") in the original 1943 production of Oklahoma on Broadway. And she continues to act today.

Ms. Holm spent nearly two hours tirelessly greeting fans, shaking hands and signing autographs. By the way, did I mention that she's 90? Where does she get the energy?

It was an honor to meet a true living legend, the last surviving cast member from one of the greatest films of all time.

My great thanks to Celeste Holm, the Loew's Jersey for sponsoring the event and to Maggie for the amazing pictures!

4.10.2008

I AM F*CKING SICK OF EATING SALAD

I just went to Quiznos and the employees were all eating Popeye's fried chicken.

This is not a joke. The employees at the Quiznos franchise on 14th Street between 5th & 6th Avenue in New York City were eating take out fried chicken, biscuits and mashed potatoes from the Popeye's Fried Chicken franchise next door.

It's not like they had the boxes hidden either. At least two Quiznos employees -- in full uniform -- were sitting right next to the counter, on a high bar table, with numerous Popeye's boxes.

Have you ever eaten Popeye's Fried Chicken? It is dee-lish-ush. I'm not kidding. It's so good it's almost supernatural. And when you add the biscuits and the potatoes? Holy motherfucking shit. It's unreal.

And I'm not the only person who knows it either. Have you ever seen the people who eat at Popeye's? They're gigantic. And isn't that the best endorsement you can make for a food product? I love it so much I will alter the shape of my body just so I can consume it all the time.

Wow. That's love.

I would eat Popeye's every day if I didn't have an irrational fear of adult-onset diabetes. Seriously, I know myself well enough to know that I can't go near Popeye's. If I have it just one day I will want it every day. And then I will need to go on some sort of TV reality show where I have to stand on a giant scale and bloggers will write snarky posts about my ample man boobs.

I have kind of the same feeling about cocaine. I know this is not politically correct to admit, but I enjoy cocaine. And therein lies the problem. Some people can eat Popeye's once in a while and go about their lives. Not me. If I eat it once I will eat it every day until I turn into a gigantic fat pig with a chronic disease.

And it's the same thing with coke. I've only done it a very few times, but each time I'm like, "HOLY SHIT! THIS IS GRRREAT! I SHOULD DO THIS EVERY FUCKING DAY! WHO WANTS TO CLEAN THE KITCHEN?!"

And, while it's nice to have a clean kitchen, it is inconvenient to have a drug addiction.

So I avoid cocaine. And Popeye's Fried Chicken. Unlike the staff of Quiznos on 14th Street.

I ask you, if you are coming into Quiznos for some boring sandwich and you see an employee devouring a fried chicken breast, and chasing it with a biscuit dipped in gravy and mashed potatoes, how the fuck do you not turn around and go next door to Popeye's?

It's crazy. I don't care how much they toast the sandwiches at Quiznos. Unless they're toasting them in the deep fryer, Quiznos cannot compete with Popeye's.

So Quiznos management, if you are reading this, send a memo to all your franchised stores reminding your employees that's its bad for business to consume the competition's product in full view of your customers. Particularly when the competition's product is substantially yummier than yours.

And while you're at it, how about developing a fried chicken, mashed potato and gravy sub? Toasted, of course.

Oh my God I am so hungry right now.

4.07.2008

THE PHONE'S IN THE CRADLE

As you may or may not know, I moved in with my girlfriend recently.

Living with her is not a new thing for me. I've been sleeping at her place every single night for two years. But living with her without my own tiny little studio apartment as a $1,225 per month life raft -- that is a new thing.

I know my father is opposed to this move. It's not because he's devoutly Catholic and doesn't believe in shacking up. Well actually, that is probably part of it. But it's not the bigger part.

And it's not because of opposition to the person I moved in with. Everybody in my family loves Maggie. If Maggie and I ever break up, and my family has to chose who stays and who goes, I'll be the one looking for a new family.

And that's why I think my father is concerned.

"What if things don't work out?" he asked me recently.

"Then I'll find another place," I replied. "There are plenty of apartments in New York City."

Most people would look at moving in with someone as settling down, deepening a commitment, establishing roots. I think my father looks at it from the opposite perspective.

He looks at me moving in to someone else's place -- someone to whom I am not legally connected -- as one gigantic risk. And when you're 78-years-old, risk is not a concept you embrace.

It's not that he thinks Maggie will come to her senses and break up with me. I think it's just the opposite. He thinks I will break up with her, because I did the same thing with Mary.

I dated Mary for ten years, from when I was 18 until I was 28. She was ten years older and she had a kid from a previous relationship.

Mary and her son Ian were part of my family for a decade. But when it came down to crunch time, I bailed. Mary gave me The Ultimatum. Get Married or Get Out. I chose Get Out, thank you very much.


I know all the self-help books tell women that you have to do this -- you have to force the guy's hand, because if you don't, he'll never settle down on his own accord. But would you really want to marry someone who was forced to marry you? That's kind of sad, don't you think?

I always got the sense with Mary that, at a certain point, she just wanted to be married. It wasn't so much about me, it was more about her. And that theory was proven accurate when she ended up marrying someone else a year and a half after we broke up. So much for me being her soul mate.

So I made the right decision, after all. And now I'm not married to a woman who is about to turn 50. Thank you Jesus.

Because if I had given in to Mary's coercion, if I had acquiesced to her demands, I would have never met Maggie. Or worse yet, I would have met Maggie and been unavailable to do anything about it. Or even worse, I would have done something about it.

But all of this is part of life. Not for people of my father's generation, of course. He met my mom when she was 19 and married her when she was 21. And I'm sure it never occurred to him to leave at any time in their 54 years together, even when she treated him like her personal valet.

Yes, they worked as a couple. Sort of. But were they made for each other? No. They complimented each other -- as opposites do -- but they were far from a perfect couple.

Right after my mother died, he said "We were like one person." That's true, in that they were together for so long and shared a life, and a home and a family.

But I don't think he ever really understood her, and I don't think she ever really felt satisfied with him. Don't get me wrong. I know that they loved each other. But I wonder what greatness my mother would have achieved if she had married her intellectual equal, someone who might have put her through college or encouraged her to channel her energy into a career.

I never thought particularly highly of my parents' marriage, and I still don't. Honestly, I can't think of one marriage that I think highly of.

But maybe that's the point. Maybe there is no such thing as the perfect marriage, or the "one" person that you are destined to be with. Maybe it's just about picking someone and making it work.

That doesn't sound particularly romantic to me. But what do I know.

Today I received a piece of mail from my father. He sent it about a week ago to my old address and it was forwarded to the new one.

"Dad you gotta mail stuff to Maggie's place now," I said.

"Yeah?" he said, like he hoped I had been kidding about this whole "moving in" thing.

"Yeah," I replied. "Write down the address."

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," he said impatiently. "Let me get a pen. Okay."

"The address is 17 North End Avenue," I said.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," he said. "One...seven...north...end...avenue..."

"Apartment PH1L," I continued.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," he said. "Slow down. Apartment P as in Peter. What's the rest?"

"H1L," I answered.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," he said. "That's H as in Henry."

"And the number one as in "we're number one," I added. "And then the letter L."

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," he said. "P...H...1...what's the rest?"

"L," I yelled. "L. The letter L."

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," he said. "PH1L. Okay, what city?"

"What do you mean, 'what city?'" I asked. "It's New York City."

"I know that," he said. "But where in New York City?"

"It doesn't matter," I said, exasperated. "Just put New York City."

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," he said. "New...York...City. Okay, how about the zip code?"

"10281," I answered.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," he said. "Slow down. One...zero...two...eight..."

"One," I said. "One!"

"Okay," he answered. "Let me read that back."

"Do you have to?" I asked.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," he said. "Let me just make sure I got this right."

And then he read the address back to me. To my surprise, he had gotten it right.

"Now make sure you send me mail at that address, not at the other one," I said.

"What other one?" he asked.

"My old one, " I said. "40 Horatio Street."

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," he said. "Four...zero...How do you spell Horatio? Hello? William? Hello?"

4.06.2008

CHARLTON HESTON (1923-2008)

I may have disagreed with his politics in recent years, but you can't beat the he-man heroics of Charlton Heston in some of the most memorable films of the 20th Century.

Here are images from my three favorite Heston films:

Soylent Green (1973)
Rockin' the ascot with Edward G. Robinson (in his final role)


Touch of Evil (1958)
Rockin' the Mexican moustache with director and co-star Orson Welles

Planet of the Apes (1968)
Rockin' the seaweed skirt with the "damn, dirty apes"


Also: The Ten Commandments (1956), Ben Hur (1959), Airport (1975) and so many other scenery chewing classics. Add them to your Netflix queue today!

Bon Voyage, Moses. I hope they let you carry your guns into Heaven.

4.05.2008

ANOTHER MEMORIAL FOR MY MOTHER

A few days ago I spoke with a representative from the Long Island Quilter's Association.

They're doing a memorial display for my mother at their quilt show next weekend. This would mean a lot to my mother, who was an active member of the group for many years.


My sister sent some pieces of my mother's quilting projecs for the exhibit, and I've been reviewing old pictures to find shots of her at work.

Here's a picture I found of my sister Missy and me from the mid-1970s.

We did a lot of this when we were little - hanging out at crafts shows on weekends while my mother did quilting demonstrations and sold her wares. My sister was usually wearing something my mother had made, and I was usually wearing some kind of super hero t-shirt, like this one.

Yes, I still have that shirt. And no, it doesn't still fit me.

4.03.2008

WHO'S IN THE PICTURE

Every day for the last week or so I have been posting a new picture of someone or something fat to my Blogger profile. 

This is primarily to remind myself that I have turned into a fat disgusting pig that nobody will ever want to have sex with. Literally no one. I don't even want to masturbate anymore. I can't even turn myself on.

Do you recogize today's picture? No? Okay I'll give you a hint:

Old movie buffs will recognize the character of Signor Ferrari, the very large man who buys Rick's Cafe from Bogart's character near the end of the film. Ferrari is played by one of my favorite character actors of the 1940s, Sydney Greenstreet.

Greenstreet also appeared in one of my favorite movies of all time, The Maltese Falcon (1941). And his character, Kasper Gutman, is frequently referred to as The Fat Man.

TODAY'S EBAY PURCHASE

Proving that I have diverse tastes, today's Ebay purchase is a set of two original lobby cards from the 1941 MGM Marx Bros. comedy The Big Store.

Lobby cards are 11"x14" cards that were used in the lobby of theaters to promote a current or upcoming release. This is exciting for me because I have never owned an original poster of any sort from a Marx Bros movie.

Reprints, yes. But originals, no.

I got these both for the surprisingly low price of $88 (for both cards). Part of the reason that the price was so low is that one of the cards doesn't feature the any of the three Marx Bros. (Groucho, Chico and Harpo).

The top card features handsome crooner Tony Martin and and Gold Diggers of 1935 star Virgina Grey, the young romantic leads of The Big Store.

Believe it or not, Tony Martin is still alive and still performing. He just did a gig at a club here in New York City -- at the age of 95. Martin has been married to entertainer Cyd Charisse since 1948, seven years after he appeared in The Big Store.

Anyway, I think that's the end of the movie posters for now. Maggie has suggested that I should return to my original plan of selling things on Ebay, rather than buying. And her point is well taken.

Plus, we're out of wall space.

4.02.2008

MY UNDERWEAR ADVENTURE

I have no underwear that fits me right. 

That's not entirely true. I do have one pair of white Hanes briefs that I got back in the '90s that fits, but they're kind of falling apart. The seat has become detached from the waistband in two places, so when I bend over it looks like I'm wearing a thong.

But other than that, I have an underwear crisis.

I've tried to buy underwear, but it never seems to work out for me. With briefs, the medium is too small. The large is too big.  Boxers are not a possibility. And I briefly experimented with boxer briefs from the GAP, but they bunched up in my tush and chafed me.

So today I visited the American Apparel store to check out their offerings.

I must admit that I find everything about American Apparel to be profoundly annoying. Except for that fact that their clothes are made in America. That is a big plus. So, with that in mind I decided to go underwear shopping.

"Where is your underwear," I asked the disinterested sales clerk at the front register.

"Upstairs," she said. So I walked upstairs. And everything was pink. I know that the metrosexual thing is in, but pink undies is a little too much, even for me.

"Is this for guys?" I asked the girl who was hanging up bras.

"Oh no," she replied. "Guys underwear is downstairs."

So I went back downstairs, and there it was. I looked at the packaging and saw the good news. While most guys briefs are small, medium or large, American Apparel's mens undergarments actually comes in sizes. 

I picked out a royal blue pair (the Mets color, of course) in waist size 34-36. I tried to focus more on the 34 than the 36. And then I took it up to the register.

"Um, these are final sale," the same salesclerk who had misdirected me said.

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"It means you can't return them," she said.

"What if they don't fit?" I asked. "That always happens to me."

"You still have to keep them," she replied flatly. 

"Okay," I said. Then I handed her my $12 in cash, took the underwear and began to walk out.

"Wait," she yelled. "Don't you want your receipt?"

"Why?" I asked. "I can't return them. So all that receipt is going to do is remind me that I paid $12 for underwear that doesn't fit me."

"I see your point," she said. "Good luck."

"Thanks," I said. "I'm going to need it."

4.01.2008

TODAY'S EBAY PURCHASE

Yes, it's another foreign poster for a vampire movie: Dan Curtis's  House of Dark Shadows, a 1970 MGM film starring Jonathan Frid.

But here's the best part: it's 55x79! I'm not even 79" tall! 

I am 79" long, but that's another story.

RUNNING FROM OFFICE

I'm almost 40 years old and I don't have an office.

I work in an office, but I don't have an office of my own. I don't even really have a cubicle. I just have a desk. That's it. A desk, right next to two other desks. No walls in between, no dividers, no nothing. 

Some people might be embarrassed by that. Not me. I love it.

It's a lot of pressure, having an office. People walk by, look in and think to themselves, "I don't know what he's doing in there, but it must be important. He needs an entire room all his own to do it."

When you have an office, you have to actually do something. You have to show the people in charge that you're worthy. You have to justify the cost of your four walls and a door. 

But when you just have a desk, people don't expect as much. People who don't know you walk past and think, "Oh, he must not be very important. He doesn't even have an office." 

And I say, "Great! Ignore me and keep ignoring me. Leave me alone and let me do my work, collect my money and go home. Don't start analyzing my productivity. Just let me be!"

There have been a lot of layoffs at my job recently. And guess who was the first to go? The people with offices. And many of those offices remain vacant and forlorn, as sad, empty memorials to unmet expectations.

But I'm not going near those haunted offices.  I'm still sitting at my desk, the same desk I've been sitting at for years. 

And guess what? I'm not even on staff. I'm not even employed. I'm freelance, and I always have been. But I still have my own desk! There were people who worked hard for my company for years, and yet they lost not only their desks but their jobs.

Why? Because they had offices. I've never had an office. And I've never been laid off. Sure I've never actually been employed, but that is a minor technicality. You can put me anywhere and I'll be perfectly happy.

And that 's the secret to my success. No office. No 401(k). No medical benefits. No nothing. I'm cheap to keep.

So here's my advice to you: Get rid of that office! The job you save may be your own.