Saturday, July 31, 2004

What the hell am I still doing here?

I don’t actually leave for my trip ‘til tomorrow, but thought I might be too busy to blog before I left. Since I haven’t packed at all yet, that’s definitely true, but here I am like a moth to the flamewars.

Had Ryan’s bachelor party last night. It was a dignified gathering of esteemed gentlemen, doing manly things like discussing the latest sporting events and drinking straight from the carton. Right-O, ol’ chap.

Apparently I had too much, uh, juice, from the carton. I had to skip my morning run to attend to the pressing task of wishing my pulsating skull would fall off my body and fetch me some aspirin. By noon, I dragged my dilapidated bag o’ bones out and took my mom out to lunch at the ‘50s Diner, but my queazy stomach was doing the Watusi to the Elvis tunes on the jukebox. Visited Grandma, who’s home but still sick. I’m a little worried about her, but she’s being well taken care of, and should recover soon.

Then I had to go the engagement party -- it’s Ryanpalooza Weekend -- way up in Canyon Country, Take the 405 to the 5 to the 14 and turn left at Damn-is-this-still-California?

Couldn’t have anything to drink but liter after liter of water, and started to come back to life. It was good to see his fiancee again, and some familiar faces and meet some new ones. Lotsa quirkily cute girls... & each turned out to be married.

One person told me repeatedly that I was cute and handsome and charming -- I was floored with flattery -- but unfortunately it was a dude. Homeboy didn’t seem to care that I was straight, kept flirting, and dropping not-so-subtle hints that he was hellbent on converting me. "How do you know you don't like something if you haven't tried it...?"

So who saved my breeder-wannabe self from this playah proselytizing my proclivity? Ryan’s friends’ five year old son, Carter.

The adorable kid remembered my name after a brief intro, among dozens of other adults, from hours ago. "Mike, let’s play baseball." Okay. "Mike, now let’s play basketball." Okay. "Mike, let’s play catch." Okay. Then his parents told us to stop playing ball in the house. Tsk, fiiiiiine....

We sulked our way outside, but then Carter was surprised to see it was nighttime. "It’s dark," he said. "There’s monsters out here."

No, there’s no monsters, I told him. But yes, he insisted there were. "Monsters..." The kid was really scared. He stared around the obscured backyard, convinced, and I realized I couldn’t tell him what to believe or not to believe. I needed a new approach.

"Well, I’m the Anti-Monster," I said.

Carter just gaped up at me. I repeated myself, but then it occurred to me he didn’t understand the prefix ‘Anti-‘.

"I scare the monsters away," I said. He just gaped again.

"I go, ‘RAAAAARRR!’ and the monsters go, ‘YIPEYIPEYIPE!’ and run away."

Okay, now everyone at the party was staring at me, including the kid. Still gaping up at me. C’mon Carter, gimme a break, I’m tryin’ here....

Then a huge grin spread across his face, lighting up the whole place. "HAHAHAHA!" He laughed with glee and scampered off.

That kid just made my whole weekend.

Friday, July 30, 2004

All points bulletin:

Internet search engines are on the alert for a wise-ass site-runner, known for inane anecdotes and graphitizing his blog with corny cartoons. He is expected to be missing in the very near future. Suspect goes by many aliases -- Michael, Mike, Big Papa, Daddy-O, Hey Schmuck... but is not wanted (repeat: NOT suspected) for blog identity theft, in his absence or otherwise, despite rumor tendencies.

Last known whereabouts: Coffee shops throughout Greater S. California, and the mundane dictatorship of Cubeskistan. Also seen running past the tattoo parlors at Venice Beach or sitting at freeway underpasses – when stuck in traffic and cursing out other drivers.

Subject is suspected to be fleeing the continental U.S. for the Virgin Islands. He may emerge from St. Croix eventually, or even sooner in Cyberspace. Besides caffeine, the perpetrator is known for his addiction to blogging.

If you come across this man, feel free to shake his hand, give him a warm hug, but under no circumstances give him any grief. Trying to apprehend him will only make him apprehensive. Suspect is armed with cynicism and dangerously in need of vacation.

Experts believe that as this 30s male Caucasian attempts to make his white self less white... he will be reading, relaxing, consuming massive amounts of mai-tais... and missing his blogger buddies.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

It's easy to like my buddy Ryan. Energetic, ebullient, and effervescent. Effin' A.

The only bad thing I can say about Ryan is that perhaps he's too friendly. There are times the guy just didn't need to be so damn talkative.

He's moved out of state, and the last time I saw him was my last trip to Vegas. He came to join me and some of my friends whom he hadn't met before. In no time, they all loved him, which didn’t surprise me at all. But by the end of the weekend, as we were saying our goodbyes to everyone, Ryan was being effusive (another e- word! how many can I do?) to each person. Holding me up. I was trying to catch a ride to the airport with a couple of people, and wanted to talk to Ryan real quick before I left. But because he couldn't end a conversation, my friends got impatient and took off. I wound up getting stranded at the casino. It was no big deal. I caught a cab by myself later.

But speaking of cabs, earlier in the weekend, Ryan's eloquent (that's five so far) nature got to me a little, too.

He didn't have a lot of money. By midnight, I had blown more at the craps table than Ryan did at the slots, yet it seemed to sting him worse. So, with his little bit of spending cash left over and no interest in gambling anymore... What could we do?

I've been to Vegas more than Ryan -- more times than I could count -- but I had only been to a strip joint there once, for a friend's bachelor party. I knew about that one club, but was there a better spot to go? No idea.

We asked some craps dealers who were off-duty. Armed with Ryan’s good-natured conversational skills, we chatted with these dudes, got the inside scoop and picked a place. Strip clubs all have those wild beast names -- Cheetah's, Spearmint Rhino, Palomino's, Crazy Horse... I can’t remember what we decided on -- Hungry Hungry Hippos?

When we got in the taxi and said where to go, Ryan decided to confirm our decision with the driver. "Is that a good place? What’s your favorite strip joint? Where do you take people most often?" The cabbie pulled over and started having a long friendly chat with Ryan about this. Meanwhile the meter was running. And running. It was cutting into our lapdance cash! If Ryan didn’t shut up and tighten his belt, there wouldn’t be any G-string divas brushing up against it. Finally I piped in with our original choice, whatever it was (Take Off Zebra?)

At the club, Ryan was verbalizing all his observations to me the second we walked in the door. Which was fine. In fact, it was amusing because he was echoing my first thoughts about strip joints.

"Wow, there’s a lot of fake breasts in here," and "I don’t think I’ve ever felt them," and "This is the one place it seems to be okay to stare at their boobs, and "Beats making eye contact anyway, ‘cause the second you do, they come over and you may not want a lapdance right then."

I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason these places are so popular is ‘cause it’s revenge for all those junior high school dances we guys went to. Now, the girls are coming up to us asking if we wanna dance. And let’s face it, these women are probably hotter than anyone we've ever been with, but suddenly we get picky. "Well, she’s got a nice ass, but she’s not as sexy as that one in the schoolgirl outfit..."

One of the cutest strippers was this little Polynesian girl – great smile, beautiful body, and even though her bustline was obviously manufactured, it fit her form to a T. Or T and A. I didn’t see many women prettier than her as she gave Ryan a dance, so I occasionally glanced at her ass as it writhed in front of him.

What struck me strange was that Ryan was having a conversation with her. Not a few comments along of the lines of "Wow, you’re gorgeous," or "ooh, I like that." I couldn’t hear it, but he was clearly having an all-out dialogue with the girl. Only Ryan.

Later on, the same stripper came over to me, and asked if I was an actor like my friend Ryan. Okay, so he told her his life story. I’d be happy to make chit-chat, but once she offered to undulate her Hawaiian hiney on me, I didn’t really have much to say beyond "Da-amn".

Now, I don’t know the etiquette with touching these girls. Other dancers have rubbed their body against my fingers or even taken my hand and put it on the small of their back. I would never grab or grope anything, but as Tahitian Tina’s thighs touched the back of my hand, I slightly turned them to allow myself to feel the smoothness of her skin. That’s when she stopped, put my wrists down on the arms of the chair and glared at me.

"Do you want to go in the VIP room?" Not so much an offer as an admonishment.

I didn’t wanna spend more money, especially on some chick who seemed to be pissed off at me. "No thanks, this is cool."

Well, then, she told me to keep my hands at the side. I understand her concern, but really, I hadn’t done anything tremendously inappropriate. Still, I felt kinda bad. It was hard to stay, well, hard, under those circumstances, but, yeah, I managed to enjoy the rest of the dance okay.

Later, after we left, Ryan and I were recapping the evening. For sure the Polynesian girl was adorable, but I mentioned that she kinda copped some attitude because she thought I was trying to cop a feel, and that made the experience a little less tittilating...

Ryan said, "Yeah, when she was giving me a lapdance, I had said to her, ‘I don’t know if this is an inappropriate question but –‘"

I’m gonna stop here for a moment. Here’s a tip: If you have to start with "I don’t know if this is an inapppropriate question" it probably is. So don’t ask in the first place.

But Ryan did. He said, "...I’ve never felt fake breasts before. I was wondering what it would take to, y’know, really hold ‘em." (I can’t remember his exact words, but you get the idea.)

I wouldn’t profess to understand women for a second, but I’m pretty sure this is further good advice: Not all women with implants want you remarking that their casabas are counterfeit, no matter how obvious it is, or how much they may flaunt ‘em.

And as far as the decorum on asking to give 'em a squeeze... well, don’t ask me.

But the stripper set Ryan straight. She had told him that that was inappropriate, that she couldn’t do anything like that, that any paid contact beyond a lapdance would be considered prostitution.

No wonder she was so indignant with me for just running my finger along the upholstery. My buddy had wanted to honk her horns. Polish her headlights.

That’s Ryan for ya. Great guy, but just sometimes too verbose.

He’s getting married soon, and he’s back in town to see his LA friends and have his bachelor party. I can’t say what festivities are in store, if it’ll entail a little tail-chasing. If it does involve strippers, I just hope Ryan thinks before he speaks this time...and isn’t so extemporaneous. (Yes! A half-dozen e-words!)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Back in the beatnik era, my mom was working as a journalist for The Australian Times, which was owned by Rupert Murdoch (when he was filthy rich, just not yet stinkin' filthy rich). She wasn't quite a star reporter, but she did get to interview a few famous people. She also met my dad, a civil engineer who spent his free time playing devil's advocate, arguing against whatever political movement was prevalent that month. Guess it beat his childhood days in the Bronx jerking sodas for extra change.

My parents lived in the same building with a lot of gay men, who worked as longshoremen and construction workers all day, but once back on 11th Street and Avenue C, these tough guys were comfortable enough to be surprisingly effeminate -- the original Village People.

Maybe the music was better in that time, but I just think my parents were glorifying their youth, saying there's been a decline in the quality of television, movies and comedy. Then again, what did I know? I thought Lenny Bruce looked like Dustin Hoffman in Lenny.

I think what made those the good ol' days was that they didn't have us kids yet. No worrying about Mikey playing too much craps, or family fights over stupid things like who finished off the gourmet cheese.

(Click on the cartoons to enlarge them.)

Sunday, July 25, 2004

An extra little post for today: Last night at a party I met Walter Goggins, who stars on "The Shield", a cop drama I really enjoy. I was hanging with him and a bunch of others who discovered they were all from the South. So they were playfully poking fun of me, the lone Yankee in the group. I knew he had won an Oscar for a short film he had done, which was better to say than some mundane mentioning of being a fan of his show. He's a good guy; it was cool.

Meeting celebrities is neat, but it's not the thing I like about living in LA. I can go running in T-shirt and shorts anytime of the year. And in the summer -- like today -- when I get too hot sprinting along the beach, I can just jump in the ocean and ride a few waves. After I dried off and started jogging home, I looked out at the water and saw dolphins frolicking, not too far from where I had been swimming.

Why are so many people born in July? Guess it’s all that post Halloween sex – couples working off the leftover trick-or-treat candy. Chocolate is an aphrodisiac. Or is it the pumpkin pie...?

There’s 4 or 5 bloggers born this month, and I also had two birthday gatherings this weekend – one Friday and one Saturday.

I consolidated my gift shopping by getting some DVDs that suited my friends. Got one pal "Old School" ‘cause we’re always quoting that one during our long Saturday runs together. Even after 10 miles, "Mitch... I’m so cold... I see Blue... He’s glorious!" cracks me up.

And last night a co-worker was celebrating the big 4-0. I know he doesn’t have a lot of DVDs & I wanted to get him a movie that was as old as him, but... did they make movies back then? Seriously, what came out in 1964? My Fair Lady won Best Picture... Nah. Mary Poppins... I love that movie, but I don’t know if he too would think it was "practically perfect in every way". Wait, I just realized -- Dr. Strangelove -- that woulda been a great choice. Oh well. In the office we were doing duelling Brandos after he died – I’d do the younger On the Waterfront "You was my brother, Charlie, you shoulda looked out for me", and he’d do the older raspier Vito Corleone. So I got him The Godfather. And Jaws, just ‘cause it’s another classic.

It got me thinking about my favorite movies. Dunno if this is an LA–film biz thing or people are like this everywhere, but I find when you ask someone to name their favorite movie, they get nervous, like you’ve asked them to declare their method of execution. I try to reassure them that I’m not really gonna send them to a desert island with a TV, VCR, electricity, and that one movie for the rest of their lives. Just pick a movie you love.

What genre?, they ask.

Doesn’t matter. You need to categorize your tastes? Fine, I say, comedy.

Romantic comedy? Slapstick? Action comedy? Political farce? Black comedy?

At that point, I stop asking. They’ve told me more about themselves without even picking a flick.

I was going to try to make a list of my favorites, but I don’t really know what I could say about ‘em that you couldn’t get from Leonard Maltin, Pauline Kael or Harry Knowles. Lotsa people love classics like Raiders of the Lost Ark and It’s a Wonderful Life. And others I love may be on your lists, too -- Taxi Driver, My Cousin Vinny, Goodfellas, Fargo...

So I decided to go through my VHS/DVD collection and mention some that may be a little different. Here’s five – ok, six -- for now. You might know ‘em and love ‘em. Or you didn’t really like ‘em that much. Or you never heard of ‘em. In any case, I recommend you check ‘em out for the very first time again:

X – The Man with X-Ray Eyes
Roger Corman is a hero of mine. Gotta admire a guy who can bang out a feature-length film in a weekend – and sometimes his Z-grade schlock turned out to be a fine little flick. Here Ray Milland is a man who, well, the title says it all. He starts off looking through women’s clothes, making money by seeing the back of cards in Vegas... but as his powers of vision grow, so does his insanity – he can see through buildings, through space, through time! If you like this, or wanna cast your sights on a more beautiful poetic supernatural tragedy, see The Incredible Shrinking Man.

Mon Uncle
Jacques Tati created a character who was part Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Inspector Clouseau. Maybe Victor Borge, too. This was a French film, but there was very little dialogue. But not a silent film either, because the faint sounds of the ultra-modern suburban house were key – I wanna someday get a fish fountain like the family had, gurgling a little trickle of water upward whenever guests came over. Their gadget-crazy home is contrasted with the wild, silly city in which the uncle resides, though he can’t hold down a job because of simplistic bumbling.

Mr. Sardonicus
Just like Roger Corman, William Castle was another maven of B-movies. His usually featured a gimmick – e.g., The Tingler had buzzers in the theatre seats which went off to synch with the flick. This one didn’t need much – it’s about a reclusive count whose face is hideously disfigured into an awful toothy grimace following a tramautic incident which made him rich, powerful... and very evil. Yes, there are dabs of Phantom of the Opera in there, but Sardonicus particularly resonated with me after years of braces, oral surgery and other orthodontic nightmares.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
One of my favorite action dramas -- if I may categorize -- from 1973. Four thieves (named Mr. Green, Mr. Black... remind you of some other homage/ripoff characters?) hijack a New York subway train and demand a ransom of one million dollars to be delivered in one hour. The cast features Robert Shaw, Hector Elizondo, Martin Balsam, Jerry Stiller... and Walter Matthau as the chief of the NY Transit police, trying to stop these bad guys. Does he have a personal problem—an estranged wife or hot-headed temper toward authority? No. And when a movie has this much drama and twists, who needs it? Excellent theme music, and perhaps the best final scene of a movie ever.

The Pope of Greenwich Village
Back when Mickey Rourke had talent and decent skin, and Eric Roberts was a rising star and not the forgotten older brother of some chick named Julia, this was a hilarious character study. They’re two cousins who get fired from a restaurant job ("What do you need a fancy suit for, Charlie? You got no job to wear it to."), so they pull a small-time heist to gain big cash to bet on a "T’oroughb’ed – a fuckin’ racehorse!" But when it turns out to be mob money tied in with some corrupt police, the shit hits the fan – or (after slipping an officer some horse physic): "Cop shit his pants!" Geraldine Page has two scenes that nearly steal the movie, but nothing will top the heartwrenching "Charlie! They took my t’umb!"

The Thief of Baghdad
OK, just to prove I can indeed pick my all-time favorite movie – well, it’s a tie. Between Raiders and this one. A variation on the old Arabian Nights tales which has incredible special effects considering it came out in 1940. But it’s not just the visuals of the gargantuan spider, flying horse or magic carpet -- this is an awesome movie on every level. Tells the story of Abu the thief who teams up with Prince Ahmed to defeat the evil Jaffar, played by Conrad Veidt, the villain from Casablanca. And don’t forget Rex Ingram as the bombastic giant genie who keeps trying to squish little Abu and gain his freedom. "You are very wise, little master of the universe. But you are mortal. And like all mortals, when your stomach speaks, you forget your brain. When your brain speaks, you forget your heart. And when your heart speaks... HAHAHAHA! You forget EVERYTHING!"

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Last week I posted a cartoon about my job in England, and mentioned that the sarcastic slasher, Nicola, proved the pen is mightier than the Freddy Kruger finger-swords when she concocted some sketchings of yours truly. Back then, the Underground seemed to go on strike anytime the conductors got an upset stomach from watercress sandwiches or kidney pie. And that gave me the day off from commuting down to the British Rail station into Kent. So instead of weighing out tiny milligrams of compounds on the balance at the lab, I got to roam jolly ol' London all day.

I realize it's very disconcerting to see yourself in a cartoon -- you wear a T-shirt plugging a NY radio station and that's how they'll remember you... and I swear I never looked anything like these depictions... especially since they seem to alter between Nicola's pages and those drawn by her friend Elaine. But it is a rare compliment for me to be considered "well-balanced". Enjoy.

Arrgggh! I was trying to make a minor change to my template, and I lost the whole thing somehow. I can recreate the links, and put back Haloscan and Sitemeter. Fortunately, I didn't lose any posts. But will all the old comments and hit count remain? We'll see........... Argh.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Vegas is calling me – I haven’t been away for so long (over 6 months now) since before the Aladdin existed or Will Smith blew a bundle at Sin City.  It’s not that I’m a heavy gambler; I usually win or lose a couple hundred and call it quits.  But I find games of chance fascinating, or more specifically, the way they make previously semi-normal people into slot-jockeying-card-counting-poker-facing-blackjacking junkies.
My favorite game is craps – nothing better than being king of the table with dem bones in your hands.  The game moves fast, and if you saw me, you’d think Mikey’s one cool crapper -- cold as dice -- but actually I'm getting into a big internal debate over what to do on every roll. 
My heart will tell me to double up on my odds bet, but my brain will say that considering how many times I've made the point, I’m most likely going to seven out any second now.  Then the heart will say to stop thinking that way, dammit.  That’s how you jinx everything.
And the brain will say “Just thinking it doesn’t make it happen.”    
“Spare me the logic, Mr. Spock.  We gotta add some chips to that pile.”
“Don’t murmur that bullshit to me.  The odds are 2 to 1 that you won't get a 4 or 10 before--”
“Stop saying that!  What’s the gray matter with you?!  Look, trust me, you gotta go with your gut on these things.”
Gut:  Hey, hey, leave me outta this.
Brain:  Ahh, you’re both idiots.
Heart:  Yeah, keep talking.  I’ll cut you off, turn you from Einstein to Forrest Gump.
Brain:  Bring it on, blood-boy. You wanna play Finding Hemo with me?  I’ll go Medula Oblongata on your aortic ass.
Gut:  C’mon you guys…. You’re getting me all upset here……
“Hey, check out the cocktail waitresses.  I like those skimpy outfits.”

Heart:  Who said that?
Gut:  Oh, it’s Mr. Bigshot downstairs.
Heart:  That guy again?  Doesn’t he ever shut up?  All he does is get us in trouble.
Gut:  It’s your fault.  You feed into him.  He gets a swollen head, starts bossing us around.  Just don't listen.
Heart:  Fine.  So, brainiac, you gonna double on this bet or what?
Brain:  Er-ror.  System override.  Must. Go. To. Stripclub.

Monday, July 19, 2004

I know this guy John who used to work as a manager for a supermarket down in Torrance, supervising all the workers, from the cashiers and deli counter people inside to the bagboys and shopping cart collectors milling in and out of the parking lot.

There was an extra outdoor area John had to oversee in autumn -- the store had a small pumpkin patch, so customers could buy themselves a jack-o-lantern or whatever. John noticed that when things were slow, one his employees working this section -- a young teenage boy -- would sneak a pumpkin into the outdoor Port-a-Potty with him. Later, he’d come back out and furtively toss the thing onto the pile of old, damaged, cracked pumpkins -– the ones the supermarket couldn’t sell.

This went on several days in a row, until finally John pulled the kid aside and asked him what the hell he was doing. At first, the teenager denied any wrong-doing, but John had seen him, so he couldn’t lie. "Look," John told him. "You’re not going to get in trouble, just tell me what’s going on."

Embarrassed, the kid admitted, he was taking a sheet-rock knife, cutting a hole in the pumpkin, and using it to, y’know, get himself off. John just looked at him, trying to not to register any kind of expression. The boy got this idea from his older brother, who would take a cantaloupe and heat it up in the microwave first, so that it would be nice and warm before he –-

Okay, okay, John understood. ‘Nuff said.

He told the kid that he should pay for the pumpkins which he, uh, violated, and simply stop doing it... at least at work. That was it. The kid was relieved that he wasn’t fired, and more importantly, that John kept his little secret.

Could you imagine the ridicule he’d get from other kids? Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Beater. Pumpin’ the pumpkin lately? What are you, out of your gourd? Or just your garden-variety pervert? Dude, you're supposed to pop your CHERRY! Look, Charlie Brown, it’s the Great Pumpkin Fucker!

John told me this story as something that perhaps I would wanna write about. Every now and then someone hears that I’m a writer, and they say they have this awesome story. And usually, I find the story isn’t really that awesome, but perhaps the person thinks so because it happened to him or her. Or maybe it is a great tale, but they’re just not relating it well. And if they are, then I’ll suggest they write it themselves. John said, no, you go ahead and use it if you want. I found it compelling – and disgusting – enough to take a shot at it. He said, oh, wait, there’s more:

A few days after Halloween, the employees were gathered around. One of the cashiers had baked pumpkin pie for everyone. She used her own recipe, made from scratch. The secret, she said, wasn’t using fresh pumpkins; when they're overripe, they have extra flavor. So where did she get her produce? From the discarded pile of old, cracked, damaged, and holey -- deflowered -- pumpkins.

Mmmm, the employees were all remarking how delicious and creamy the pie was. Did everyone get a piece?

John and the teenager exchanged a look. "Uh, no thanks."

Sunday, July 18, 2004

People don’t understand why I’m often too tired to do anything Saturday night. Or why, on Friday, when they say, "Hey, the weekend’s almost here, aren’t you excited?" I have to force a smile. Or why I have to assert my alone time on Sunday, or as I sometimes call it, Mike Day.

Is it because I work all week, and then go out for drinks and a movie Friday night? Am I worn out from my long run Saturday morning? Or because later I go up to the sweltering San Fernando Valley? As Eugene Jerome said in Biloxi Blues, "This is hot. This is Africa hot. Tarzan couldn’t take this kind of heat."

Or maybe it’s because I spend nearly every Saturday with my mother, grandmother and sister. Now, it’s important to know that I absolutely love my family. They’re all wonderful people who’ve been great to me my whole life.

But they’re crazy.

My mother has been paralyzed from a stroke, and my grandmother is very old, so they can’t get around much or see well. But they look forward to spending time with the family each weekend. My sister Julie usually wants to go on outings, to museums or a movie, partially because it keeps us busy and decreases the chances of family arguments.

Of course, it doesn’t matter. These fights are inevitable. Which is why I’m usually for keeping it mellow. Who needs to drive all over town? And I’m the one who winds up transferring my mother in and out of her wheelchair into the car, into the restaurant, wherever. It gets extra tiring. We can stay home and have our weekly squabbles without me straining my back.

Last weekend, I was relieved that my mom wasn’t in the mood to go to the Long Beach Aquarium. I had told Julie, "Do you know what the traffic is like on the 405?" but that wasn’t good enough. Mom helped me dodge that bullet, saying she wasn’t in the mood for a long drive. So where did Mom want to go?

The 99 cent store.

Great. Don’t ask me why she was fixated on this, but the four of us went. I wheeled my mom through the aisles, and holy shit -- even at under a buck, this stuff wasn’t worth it. Jewelry made of cardboard, brand names that were slightly off: Heintz Ketchup, Milk of Magenta... You’d have to pay me to buy this crap.

Afterwards, we went out for Chinese food. There’s a nearby restaurant we all enjoy – very low key, good food, and surprisingly inexpensive.

But the usual drama began. My grandmother can’t make a decision. And Mom just keeps babbling sometimes, even if the conversation isn’t directed at her. And my sister doesn’t always remember that this is just how they are – you can’t change it; just try to deal with it.

Julie: Grandma, you want a shrimp dish?
Grandma: Well, okay, I guess that would be good.
Julie: They’ve got: Walnut shrimp --
Mom: I don’t want that.
Julie: Shrimp with snow peas –
Mom: I don’t want that either.
Julie: Cashew shrimp –
Mom: I don’t really like cashews –
Julie: Mom, please –
Me: Mom, we ordered a dish for you already.
Mom: What are we getting?
Me: Orange chicken.
Mom: Oh, good, I like that.
Julie: So, grandma, what do you want?
Grandma: Do they have a shrimp dish?
Mom: I don’t like shrimp.
Julie: Mom, I was asking Grandma!
Mom: Don’t you dare talk to me like that!
Julie: Fine. Grandma, what do you want?
Grandma: (stares like a deer in the headlights)
Me: Julie, let’s just get shrimp with snow peas.

That usually doesn’t conclude it. The discussion goes on a lot longer than that, ending up with us ordering shrimp with snow peas, but only after everyone gets even more annoyed with each other.

Yesterday, we did take the trip to Long Beach. The aquarium was great, once we got there. Giant tanks filled with sharks or glowing jellyfish or freaky cowfish or adorable seahorses.

But the usual frustrations played out prior to getting there.

We took my car, which is roomier than my sister’s, so Mom and Grandma could sprawl out in the backseat, while Julie drove, because as a passenger, she gets car sick. Plus I hate driving and she said she knew the way.

After nearly two hours on the road, as we’re getting into Long Beach, Grandma is telling one of her little stories. She’s always repeated the same tales over and over – no one in the family would dare mention certain buzzwords like "eggplant" around her. "Oh, did I ever tell you how your Uncle Barry hated eggplant his whole life, but one day…" Yes, she’s told us this a thousand times.

And in her later years, she’s repeating things with greater frequency. We had rented that documentary, "Spellbound", and she told us three times in the course of the video, "I’ve always been a great speller. I often find myself hearing a word and spelling it out in my head. Do you do that? My favorite word is ‘tintinnabulation’. That’s from this Edgar Allan Poe poem. It’s spelled T-I-N…" Upon the fourth repetition of this, my sister and I looked at each other. We wanted to ask the woman if she was insane, did she not know she just told us this? Or was this a test to see if we were listening?

But Grandma feels offended if you say something – it perhaps reminds her that she’s old and forgetful. So instead we grin and bear it, literally.

Mom, since having the stroke, doesn’t quite have that tact. She groans in the back seat how she’s heard this story since she was a little girl, for chrissakes. Then Grandma gets upset, and Julie turns around and says to let Grandma tell the story again if she wants to. And Mom tells Julie to be quiet; no one was talking to her.

Then Julie looks back and asks me: wait, which way do we want to go here?

I don’t know. I thought she knew the way.

Should she turn here? Where’s the turnoff?!

She’s starting to freak out – I’m grabbing the Thomas Guide – and she’s getting frantic.

Okay, I say, just go straight and if it’s the wrong way, we’ll turn around somewhere.


I forgot – my sister has this phobia about driving on bridges. She can handle canyon roads, narrow tunnels, heavy traffic, but for some reason, bridges freak her out.

We all have our little driving quirks. I personally don’t like being stopped on a steep incline. I hate that roll-back before you get started again. Ya never know if the car in front of you is gonna slide down the hill into your front end, or if your car is gonna wind up banging into that schmuck who’s riding your ass behind you. I probably would never make it in San Francisco.

So there we were, driving over this suspension bridge, my grandmother shaken with insult, my mom pissed off at my sister, and Julie crying hysterically as she’s facing one of her greatest fears.

By the time we turned around and got to the Aquarium, I thought my head was going to explode.

There was the usual interpersonal agita the rest of the day, but it was all anticlimactic after that, and like I said, the aquarium was nice. We all enjoyed it.

That’s why I don’t always look forward to Saturdays. But, hey, now it’s Sunday. I’m gonna relax and take it easy. Happy Mike Day.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Seems a lot of bloggers are mad scientists, taking time away from their nefarious experiments to post some pleasant, funny quips on the 'net. But I know what you're all up to, you devious doctors...

I used to be a mad scientist myself; I was born that way. My parents named me Michael David so that my office door would say MD, MD. So to make Mom & Dad happy, I was pre-med in college, and I kinda liked it, but I preferred writing stories & drawing cartoons to studying organic chemistry – call me crazy. We made a deal. Someday, I may get to fulfill my end of it and say:

"The people I'd like to thank first and foremost for this Oscar are Mom and Dad, for understanding when I wanted to go to film school instead of medical school."

But back before I was "droppin' science, y'all", I worked for a while outside London for the Wellcome Foundation, a medical research group, conducting experiments on Plasmodium falciparum. The tricky part wasn't handling this malaria-causing protozoa, but understanding the oh-so-droll Brits.

Now, listen up: sometimes Monty Python is hysterical, and sometimes it's just namby-pamby dreck. Ya hear me? And sometimes this PhD candidate, Nicola, told clever jokes, or as the Simpsons would say, "Her idea of wit is nothing more than an incisive observation humorously phrased with impeccable timing." But other times, I dunno... Are biting insults of everyone funny? Maybe they were. I'm American, and after all, we don't understand sarcasm. Yeah, right.

Nicola enjoyed this, but I didn't know she could draw, too – later, she did a cartoon of me. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Three reasons Mikey's happy today:

1. I bought a new bike over the weekend. Donated my old touring Trek and went to Sports Chalet and got a great Mongoose something-or-other mountain bike, 21 gears, gel seat, front shocks, etc., for a really good price. It’ll give me a break from running – just too damn hot out lately – but where will I keep this thing in my apartment? Running shoes don’t take up as much room...

2. The American League won the All-Star Game. I normally couldn’t care less about this stupid exhibition match. Last year, people whined because there was no winner after they used up all the players and it was still tied after like, 17 innings. Quitcherbitchin. You got to see every single All-Star take the field. Who gives a shit who wins this thing? In 2004, it was declared, "This one counts" – the winner gets homefield advantage in the World Series. Big whoop. I still didn’t care. Until Nick at work called and bet me on it. He thought National League would win. Sucka figured the 500-club outfield would make a difference. Or maybe it was former Yankees Clemens and Pettite on the mound. But they’re going up against present Yankees Jeter, Sheffield, Matsui, Giambi... and some good players from the Red Sox et al. I should’ve upped Nick’s piddling bet – one dollar – that doesn’t pay for a spoke on my new bike. But it's the principal, not principle. Can’t wait to go into the office and say, "Where mah money, bee-otch?!"

3. I’m going out drinkin’ tonight.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

There's a stray cat hanging around our apartment building. I think the woman downstairs feeds the fuzzy creature, and now little Brian Setzer (or is it Slim Jim Phantom?) is here to stay.

Not a big fan of cats. I'll tolerate one or two of the furniture-walkin' hairball-spittin' little monsters 'cause I usually really like the girl who owns them just that much. The things we guys put up with. Sure, sure, Mikey can play nice with kitty... But as you can probably guess, I'm more of a dog person. Then she'll say, "Oh, you'll love [Insert cutesy name here -- 'Sandy Claws', 'Finder's Fe-line', 'G. Gordon Kitty', etc.]! He's just like a dog!"

So why not get a dog? Treat a mongrel right, and it'll never turn up its haughty tail or try to gouge your eyes out – dogs aren't fickle little beasts that suddenly grow weary of your affection.

"Oh, you have to earn a cat's love. It's not unconditional like a dog's. You have to earn it."

Lemme get this straight: You give this thing a home, feed that finicky fur-ball, change the damn kitty litter... and you have to earn its love? Who's the pussy in that relationship?

Still, I gotta say, this stray cat at our place is pretty cool. She just basks in the morning sun or evening shade. Doesn't howl at night or bother anyone. I only hear her meow when I'm on my way to work. I stop and she comes up to me, rubs against my ankle and purrs. Then I can pet the little black beauty for as long as I want, until I finally have to get going.

The best part of this is I think I'm developing a new ally at the homestead. I tell her, "Now, remember, you see him, I want you to bite that Rocky the squirrel. Or Avi the landlord."

Sunday, July 11, 2004


I think that’s what I need. A vacation of some sort. I’m working on doing some exotic overseas travel in the upcoming months. But I’m itching to get away for a weekend soon – drive out to San Diego or San Francisco, maybe Mexico... go somewhere.

I don’t like driving very much -- except on roadtrips. That’s a whole different experience. I’ve gone cross-country twice and once went from LA to New Orleans and back in a week. Roadtripped out to Vegas so many times the highway patrolmen on I-15 know my name.

Quick jaunts like this can be spur-of-the-moment, but you gotta expect the occasional mishap. Flat tires, getting lost, road construction, angst with your co-driver – I took one of the NY-to-CA trips with my girlfriend at the time, and realized by Wyoming that the relationship was doomed. Kaput. Yeah, made that last 1000 miles really fun.

The one thing I don’t think I can do anymore is the in-the-car sleepover. Weird things always happen when you try to catch some Zs on the side of the road.

Hysteria in Iberia

Years ago, I went to Spain with my friend Dave. We rented a car in Madrid and made a loop through the southwestern part of the country, into Portugal, up to Lisbon and back.

Our whirlwind tour of tapas, sangria and sightseeing took us to Toledo, Ciudad Reál and Córdoba. It was late and it was Semana Santa, so a lot of the hotels in Córdoba were booked or closed down. Exhausted, we decided to just get some shut-eye for a few hours, then swing into Sevilla and start over with the fiestas again.

We found a spot off the main road, a dirt-filled lot up on a hill. We got out of the car for a moment to stretch, take a leak, and look around before we crashed.

I remarked that the area looked kinda spooky at night, but I was too wiped out to care as I put the passenger seat back and started to slip into unconsciousness. Dave must’ve taken that as a cue and decided to play a joke on me.

He was a real wise-ass, that Dave. At a bar in Madrid, he had introduced me to some locals he was taking to. He said, "Este es Miguel. Miguel es un maricon." Dave’s Spanish was normally atrocious – didn’t know his numbers past uno, dos, tres, so I had to handle all money transactions for him – but the guy knew all the slang. Maricon, I later learned, is a derogatory word for homosexual. At the time, I thought it sounded like "Americano." So when Dave said, "Right, Mike? ¿Tú eres maricon?" I said , and they all laughed. I didn’t get what was so funny. Dave’s international gay-bashing backfired when I put my arm around him and declared that he was a maricon, too. And proud of it.

So I think he was trying a new prank -– slinking around the car to try and scare me. I could see the top of his head go from my window, to the front, and back to my side again. Then he growled like some kind of monster. "Grrrrr!"

"Aw, cut it out, Dave," I said. "I’m too tired for your crap."

"Huh? What are you talking about?"

I looked over –- Dave was in the car with me. Laying back in the reclined driver’s seat, trying to sleep. He must have gotten back in the car while I had dozed off.

If Dave was inside... then what the hell was outside?!

Then we saw it: a huge angry black hounddog. It raised its jowls to display a set of saliva-dripping fangs: "Grrrr!" Steaming up my window.

Dave and I both screamed bloody murder. There was a lot of shouting, me telling him to start the friggin’ car, him yelling that he couldn’t find the damn keys. Meanwhile, the dog got up on his hind legs, scratching his front paws on the roof of our Ford Fiesta and began barking like a rabid Spanish Cujo, spraying spittle all over the place.

Finally Dave found the keys, gunned it, and we drove down the hill as fast as that compact would go. The perro de Diablo gave chase, galloping right behind us for a good hundred yards before we got away.

Back on the main road, when we calmed down, we figured that during our pit stop, we must have urinated on the dog’s turf. We had made a mark on his territory, and he needed to reclaim it.

Fine, the pissed-off pooch could keep it. We found the energy to drive all the way to Sevilla from there.

Fuelin’ Fine

Even in the U.S., if you wake up inside an automobile, you’re likely to be so completely disoriented as to have a coronary.

My friend Rob and I had decided late one night to take a roadtrip from New York and visit another high school friend who was studying at McGill Medical School. I had never been to Montreal so I was excited. I think Rob was too, but the guy was so low-key all the time, who could tell?

Halfway into the journey, both we and Rob’s ride were running on fumes. Oddly, all the gas stations in Vermont seemed to be closed at three in the morning. I suggested we pull over, put the seats back and sleep until daylight. So Rob put the car right at the pumps at a Chevron station and cut the engine. We’d be the first customers, he said. I wasn’t sure if this was the ideal location to zonk out, but I was too tired to object.

What had happened, I realized when I truly woke up, was that the station attendant came on his shift and saw a couple of disheveled youngsters passed out in an old sedan in front of the place. Were we criminals? Drug addicts? Better not take any chances, so he called the cops. The sheriff came down and tapped on the window, startling me out of my uncomfortable snooze.

It took about eight seconds for my mind to defog and decipher the situation. But in the interim, I was freaking out.

"Wh-what?! What the hell—"

Where was I? A fishtank? Outside the glass were a bleak sky and a towering Chevron logo. And gaping into the aquarium were two middle-aged yokels, one in a greasy jumpsuit and the other dressed like Smokey the Bear.

Rob was still asleep, snoring away. "Hey, Rob, wake up." I shook his arm, expecting him to go through the same panic attack.

But like I said, Rob was always low-key. I guess even when he first wakes up.

He didn’t seem fazed at all. Just sat up, nonchalantly rolled down his window and turned to guy in the jumpsuit. "Fill it up, super unleaded, please."

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Yo! Why do you blog, homey? What’s your master plan, G?

Maybe you wanna write about what’s going on with you, keep up w/your friends, maintain a daily journal, perhaps create an album of your family, discuss sports, entertainment, politix, or even list your favorite sex terms & positions.

Oh yeah, me too, but I also had been thinking how I needed to digitally save all my stuff – old dog-eared cartoons, photos, and even the few lousy recordings I made. As it was, they were on aging cassettes tapes, and if they got eaten by the boom box, that little captured part of my life would be gone.

Why am I telling you this? It’s a disclaimer as I present this crappy rap song to you. I have no illusions that this hip-hop single is fresh or fly or def or chillin' – if Tupac Shakur was truly dead, he’d be rolling in his grave. But I trust y’all not to laugh too much. And if you do, it’s cool.

I got zero rhythm, a goofy voice, and a lot was lost in the transfer to this site. My car stereo sounds better than my home system, so I sat in my hooptie blasting the tunes into my cellphone, which has lousy reception and occasionally cuts out for a fraction of a second – the clip’s just under 3 mins.

On the other hand, my buddy Chris did a nice job with the song’s 4-track mixing and his xylophone-keyboard work is very good, in my opinion. And when I listen to this, it makes me smile, not just because it’s so cheesy it makes Biz Markie’s "Just a Friend" seem like Beethoven’s Fifth, but it takes me back to earlier times. When life was mellelo like Jellelo, ya dig G?

Aiiight, an’ it goes a little sumtin’ like this.

Well, I gotta getta job, gotta start my career
'Cause graduation's over, real world is here.
Got a red power tie and a jacket & shooz
Headed on out to my interviewz
I get to the office, I'm lookin' round the place.
The man's readin' the paper, it's coverin' up his face.
"May I sit down?" I ask. "Yes you may."
But the guy don't even ask for my résumé.
He says, "Impress me boy, and you I will hire."
So I pull out my lighter, set his paper on fire.
He's yellin' & screamin' & callin' me names
While the Wall Street Journal goes up in flames.
Presses a button to call for security
Smoke detector sensed the impurity
Sprinkler goes off, people start to shout
An emergency exit – I rush right out
I'm runnin' & drippin' & my shooz iz squishin'
Remindin' me that I had failed on my mission
I got no job but I had lotsa fun
Guess I'm just destined to be a bum.

When it comes to coffee, I’m no connossieur
But pour me a mug and I’ll ask for more
A li'l milk, no sugar, and it tastes great
And offa the walls I reverberate
So, San Francisco just the other week
I’m walkin’ on up a hilly street
Y’know a lotta cafés were on the scene
And my body was cravin’ a little caffeine
Top of the hill, I decide to rest
Sit down, order coffee, the waiter says:
"Café mocha, latte, decaf es-pres-so?"
I said, "Yo, homeboy, I wanna cuppa joe.
Take some beans & roast ‘em & grind ‘em up
Pour hot water through it & into my cup."
"No," he says. "Coffee cannot be relished,
‘Less it’s fancy, ornate and quite embellished."
So I leave the place not gettin’ my fill
Next time I want coffee, I’ll go to Brazil.

Livin’ in New York, land of crime, grime and rape
It’s harder than hell to try and stay in good shape
You’re breathin’ in monoxide, eatin’ arsenic & mace
No wonder at the beach you’re gettin’ sand kicked in yo’ face.
So I run in Riverside ‘cause it’s rather nearby
A Doberman chases me and bites on my thigh
So I go to Central Park, long before it’s dark
I’m hit by a bike, complete with Campy™ parts
So I try the gym track, but I’m dizzy indoors
Is this my twenty-third lap, or is it twenty-four?
So I’m desperate, determined and though people tried,
Their warnings were futile – I was going to Morningside!
‘Course I get mugged, but it don’t affect my psyche
I got no cash; he takes my $90 Nikes!
Now you see me lazy, eatin’ burgers & fries
Yeah, I’m stuffin’ my face, but now you know why.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Do you like Macy Gray?

I don’t have any of her albums. Couldn’t tell you a single single of hers. But I do know the effect her music has on women.

It makes them sing along. Adorably.

I once took a date to a weekend brunch with some friends, and as we pulled up to the place, a Macy Gray song came on my car radio. "Oh, turn this up!" she said, and started humming along. By the chorus she was swaying her arms and crooning loud in a big smile, showing off that tongue-piercing with every lyric. So damn cute.

Unfortunately, at brunch, she felt a need to interrupt everyone to complain about the restaurant or chew with her mouth open. There were a bunch of other annoying habits, too. But didn’t need to see that metal stud in those circumstances.

I just thought of her ‘cause as I was driving home today, I heard that Macy Gray song coming from another car stereo. There was another female voice accompanying Macy, so I looked over. A pretty woman in a convertible was serenading the rest of the traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard. Cosmopolitan-looking, sunglasses on, bopping to the beat, and fiddling for something down at her car seat without missing a note.

I pulled up next to her at the light and tried to brainstorm something clever to say. Think, Mike, think! Hmmm... don’t you love that Macy Gray? Uh, got any grey poupon? Think, dammit.

She saw me staring, gave me a smile mid-verse and found what she was looking for. From her car seat, I mean. Cosmo girl came up with a cigarette and lighter. She sparked her Virginia Slim, and so I slammed on my gas pedal and peeled away.

Don’t smoke, gals. It might ruin your Macy Gray duet voice.

Exhausted. Too exhausted to talk about everything that’s wrong with the medical profession. But not too exhausted to gripe about why this American bureacracy has made me exhausted.

My grandmother went in the hospital today. Don’t worry. She’s okay. When you’ve got a mother and grandmother living in old folks’ home, you get used to this. Between the two of them, we’ve had five hospital stays in the last year alone, all of which turned out to be nothing. See, if you or I feel particularly bad, we wait it out or make a doctor’s appt. When you’ve had a paralyzing stroke like my mom or are a 90-year-old grandmother, they rush you to the emergency room at the drop of the hat or blood pressure. And there you’re bound to stay overnight so they can run standard tests at the whopping rate of one EKG or blood test every eight hours or so.

Earlier, my sister and I talked to my grandma, and she sounded fine. So we waited for them to transfer her from St. Joseph’s in Burbank to her insurance-providing hospital, Kaiser Permanente in Panorama City.

When we went to Kaiser tonight, the nurse said, "Oh, I’m glad you’re here. Because when St. Joe’s brought your grandmother over, they forgot to send her medication, too."


"So, one of you will have to go over and get it."

Why is the hospital’s screw-up MY responsibility?

Because they don’t care. I asked what would happen if we hadn’t shown up. Well, no one was gonna transport the meds. Kaiser would have to re-order all her prescriptions, and hopefully get them filled by tomorrow, including the ones, that, y’know, keep her alive and shit.

Okay, but St. Joe’s would at least mail out the old drugs, right? They wouldn’t just discard bottles of medications worth up to three bucks a stinkin’ pill?!

The nurse just kinda shrugged.

This started to get my blood boiled. I found myself energetic with rage, whereas my sister was already really tired.

So at 10:30PM guess what Mikey had to do. Mikey had to drive. Mikey hates driving. In the Valley. Mikey hates the Valley. Yep, he had to drive through the Valley from one hospital to another.

Anyway, now I gotta go to bed so I can get up early and go for a run.

Why? ‘Cause Mikey ain’t gonna get old, dammit. You can guess how he feels about hospitals.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

OK, for whatever it's worth, I saw Jay's reference to Seeker's personality test. I took it and here's the result:

Wackiness: 34/100
Rationality: 44/100
Constructiveness: 52/100
Leadership: 66/100

You are an SEDL--Sober Emotional Destructive Leader. This makes you a dictator. You prefer to control situations, and lack of control makes you physically sick. You feel have responsibility for everyone's welfare, and that you will be blamed when things go wrong. Things do go wrong, and you take it harder than you should.

You rely on the validation and support of others, but you have a secret distrust for people and distaste for their habits and weaknesses that make you keep your distance from them. This makes you very difficult to be with romantically. Still, a level-headed peacemaker can keep you balanced.

Despite your fierce temper and general hot-bloodedness, you have a soft spot for animals and a surprising passion for the arts. Sometimes you would almost rather live by your wits in the wilderness somewhere, if you could bring your books and your sketchbook.

You also have a strange, undeniable sexiness to you. You may go insane.

My thoughts:

I am not a dictator. I will crush the infidels who speak of this.

And I don't remember what choices I made in the test that determined that I'm some kind of a control freak, but I really wanna go back and change that crapola.

The rest is eerily true. Need validation? Yup – but that's OK, right? Please tell me it's cool. Distrust? What do you mean by that, hunh?

And ladies, while I may be difficult to be with romantically... ya can't deny my strange sexiness... oh yeah... Y'know I've already gone insane. Insane for your love, baby.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

If you wanna read a funny story about an adorable, resilient dog surviving a weird accident, check out Lovisa’s tale. No, wait, first read my story as a warm-up. My golden retriever Max wasn’t quite the canine Evel Kneivel, but he was the sweetest, cutest and smartest dog ever. Or at least two out of three. Here’s a picture of him as a puppy:

The other character in this anecdote is one of my best friends growing up, who reads this blog and may want to stay anonymous. I’ll call him Brian. Not Brian from "Got a Second?" This is a different Brian.

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah. It was Max’s first summer – he was maybe eight or nine months old, not quite full grown. Brian and I were around 14, also not quite full grown. But we were now old enough to walk the mile down to our old elementary school. I thought it would be a good place to take Max – he could run around in the fenced-in field, which would be empty because school was out.

Our old elementary was now a school for kids with disabilities. So there were some wheelchair ramps and signs in Braille, but otherwise the place looked the same… only smaller. Were the monkey bars always that low? And I remembered the kickball field as being more massive... Well, the merry-go-round still looked like fun. Brian and I pushed the thing to spin clockwise and jumped on. Nothing like a few G-forces to get you exhilarated.

Up to that point, Max had been frolicking in the field, but he didn’t want to miss out on the good time. Chasing your tail is one way to get dizzy; this seemed like an entirely new experience. He jumped onto the merry-go-round, and we cheered his boldness, "Go, Max!" But of course, a dog has no opposable thumbs, so he couldn’t grip the bars and fight the centrifugal force from sending him flying off. Max did a triple back-flip and half-gainer onto the grass. I stared, alarmed – then turned 360 degrees (we were still spinning) – and continued to stare, but Max got up and gave a little prance. Hey, that was awesome!, he seemed to be saying. Brian and I cracked up. Especially when Max trotted back, looking to jump on the carousel again. This was the dog version of Super Dave Osborne. Or, today, Johnny Knoxville.

The merry-go-round was slowing down, so it seemed easier for Max to leap on, and maybe stay on, too. But nope – whoosh – he went flying again, a golden-furred Greg Louganis, and we couldn’t but help laugh at the spectacle.

Until the carousel stopped. It was like someone slammed on the brakes, which was followed by a horrible whimpering sound. Still dizzy, I swung around and saw that Max had gotten his front paw wedged between the merry-go-round and the wheelchair ramp on one side of it. The poor dog was standing on his hind legs, stuck, crying and looking terrified.

I rushed over to him to try and help ease his paw out, but as soon as I got close, I felt something that made me recoil instantly. It was like an electric shock. I looked down at my arm and there were puncture marks in my wrist which were starting to bleed.

Max had bitten me. It all happened so lightning fast, I didn’t even realize. He wasn’t mad; he was freaked out. The dog would never ever, ever bite me. This was a golden retriever, the most kind-natured breed there is. When I’d play-fight with him, give him harmless pushes and taps, he’d just swing his face and snarl, bearing his fangs at me (rolling his terrible eyes, gnashing his terrible teeth, as Maurice Sendak would say), but would never actually chomp down. Sometimes I’d kid around with my dad, wrestling the old man, and I’d yell, "Get him, Max!" What would man’s best friend do? Grab ahold of my pant leg – just the cloth, not my ankle – and start tugging and growling. "Not me, you stupid dog!" I fed and walked this pooch and what did I get in return? A closet full of scuffed Levis.

I was surprised that Max could even bite that hard. Goldens are bred to retrieve game birds, leap into the water (Max loved swimming), and return, carrying a duck in its mouth without harming it. I’ve seen Max carry an inflated balloon around all day and not pop it. But I suppose when he was this traumatized, he’d lash out in full force at anything.

Max had had his shots; I wasn’t even concerned about the bite, but how was I gonna help him? Since I couldn’t come near him in that condition, Brian suggested we try to turn the merry-go-round. So we got on the other side, and gently turned it counter-clockwise, and that did the trick. Max’s paw came loose and he fell to the ground, now just scared and silent.

He wasn’t panicking as much and I was able to come over to him. There was a cut on his paw that was bleeding a little, and it was obviously broken – he couldn’t walk on it. Brian and I had to carry him home.

Max couldn’t have been more than fifty pounds, but he soon seemed much heavier than that, especially as the mile walk home started seeming like a marathon. Fortunately, a woman in a station wagon saw us – two teenage boys carrying a hurt puppy – and gave us a lift. I wasn’t about to refuse a ride from a stranger when my poor pooch was in this condition.

The vet patched him up – gave Max a small cast on his paw for a few weeks. I gotta say it was the cutest thing, seeing the little guy hobbling around on three feet. Fortunately, he was young and healed fast. Here’s me with Max years later, both of us adults now, and his hoof good as new:

I gotta give my mom credit for taking such good care of the dog, too. She gave Max his medicine and kept his cast clean and dry by putting a new tube sock on it every day.

My parents always sent me and my sister on interesting trips each summer. Different experiences to enrich our lives -- I went to Mexico, Israel, Iowa (?!). But mostly it was to get us outta their hair for a few weeks when school was out. I wasn’t gonna go on my bike trip (from Vermont to Cape Cod) because Max was hurt, but Mom insisted. I guess she figured tending to an injured Max would be less difficult than Max + Mike underfoot.

At least that’s the angle the 'rents played when they sent me off. I suspect the truth was, they loved stunt-dog Max as much as I did.

Friday, July 02, 2004

I always thought Marlon Brando might make another real comeback. Lose the weight, do something extraordinary again on film and win a third Oscar. But now he's gone. First Ray Charles dies, now Brando. All these artists I really admired. Sigh.... Well, somebody please tell Eric Clapton and Christopher Walken to stay healthy.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

5:30 this morning, the crazy neighbor downstairs started up again. Creating a mini-earthquake in his apartment by slamming things, cursing about it, and slamming some more. I went down and tried to talk to him, which was very surreal, 'cause his wife and him started arguing about whether he was gonna come to the door. He told her to let me in, she said no, he went to the door, she told him to put clothes on. I didn't want to come in, esp. if Jerkus Berzerkus was nekkid. Finally, I politely told him thru the door that even with my fan going full blast and earplugs in, I could hear his conniption fit and please... keep it the fuck down. I was still groggy and I think he started in with some weird shit about the root of life and what was important in life. Don't get philosophical with me, I said. Then in a brief moment of clarity, I said a basic need of life is sleep, motherfucker. Don't deny me of it.

I normally like the guy and can bullshit with him like that. But he is strange. Gets up at all hours of the day to do craftsman shit, like decorate this mailman truck they have out front. It's painted bright blue and completely adorned with magnets and trinkets and stuff -- a conversation piece on wheels. Why couldn't he work on that project, on the other end of the building... under Avi's apartment. Yeah, that would be the next step, to fink him out to the landlord, but I had enough odd conversations prior to 6AM. (btw, I love that idea someone left in earlier comments of paying some kid to knock on Avi's door at 3AM, but the guy downstairs is first on the prank list.)

Sorry, these rants aren't more compelling, but hey, it is my credo -- I type, I gripe. Now some hype:

If you're in LA and you're on, say, your third or fourth date, take the girl to Off Vine in Hollywood. That's for when you've been hitting it off with her but you need the somewhat fancy dinner to seal the deal. She'll love the quaint homey romantic ambience and you'll be enjoying the food -- not a bad dish on the menu. Order the raspberry soufflet ahead of time and I tells ya, you're in like Collin Farrell.

Of course, I was just with the family, which was y'know, nice, too. Crazy Uncle Barry and the rest kvelling over the simple decorations of the restaurant. I kinda wanted to go to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles instead, but yes, the craftsman style house of Off Vine is lovely indeed. I'm just nodding, thinking about how I gotta take a date here. Maybe if I did, it wouldn't be nutso downstairs that was keeping me up this morning.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by