Thursday, September 30, 2004

--Hey, this dress shirt’s on sale.
--Yeah, discounted down from mortgage-your-home to eat-Ramen-for-a-month.
--Look, I can’t wear t-shirts every day.
--Why not?
--Jeez, I listen to you, I’ll be cheap and a slob my whole life.
--Fine, buy ‘em, but what the hell do you need those jeans for?
--What? They look good. They fit nicely.
--Yeah, ‘cause they’re 32-inch waist.
--So, you have how many pairs that are 31?
--A few.
--And what about the 30s? When’s the last time you fit into those?
--I’ll tell you: when you were running 40 miles a week. Now what do you do?
--I dunno...
--Yes you do, lazyboy. You’re down to 15, maybe 20. Which is why your waist is up.
--Look, I’ve been busy lately...
--How long you gonna use that excuse? ‘til you think you look good in jeans that don’t wedgie your ever-growing ass? Listen to me: You’re not thinning your wallet when you can just thin your belly. Put ‘em back. Starting October 1st, you’re in training, fatty.
--Okay, okay! Jeez, you’re a cruel motherfucker.
--I’m just you, Mike.
--I know... This is why it’s best to go clothes shopping alone.
--Right, ‘cause you need therapy, whacko.
--No you do, you neurotic bastard.
--You wanna take this shit outside?
--Yeah, but this time I get to be Brad Pitt; you’re Edward Norton...

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Customs at JFK Airport can be a scary-ass place. The danger isn't people smuggling in illegal substances. It's the powder keg of tension created by throngs of queued-up, jet-lagged, butt-sore tourists, anxious to just get home already.

My family had already stood forever at baggage claim, only to stack our luggage onto one of those carts and wait for the lottery--who would be the lucky one? Who'd get a complete stranger to rifle through their shit? Touch their undergarments and open their toiletry tubes and tinctures?

And was the friggin' line even moving?

My sister eased the cart forward a millimeter and lightly touched the heel of someone in front of us. She apologized, but the elderly reedy woman turned around and scowled.

"Yeah, you're gonna be sorry in a minute," she said with that nasty sourpuss. What the fuck?

My dad chimed in, trying not to sound exasperated when he said it was an accident, we're all just impatient to get outta here, so please turn around and stop snarling at my daughter.

The old shrew turned to her coot husband and started muttering about the lot of us. Regarding my dad, she said, "So rude. Probably from Brooklyn or the Bronx."

So my ol' man's New York accent made him a lesser mortal than these alter cockers. The crone spewed out: "Some people have no class."

Dad couldn't take it anymore. "Lady," he said, "you wouldn't know class if it came up and bit you on your wrinkled ass."

Her coot husband stepped forward. "Hey!" He thrust his bony finger in my father's face.

Bad idea.

I never saw my dad get violent my whole life, but we'd all heard the stories about his misspent youth. The day he and my mom got their marriage license at City Hall, they ran into an old childhood friend of his. The guy spent hours reminiscing about Pops kicking ass down at the pool hall. Mom was concerned--exactly who was she marrying here?

Another thing about my ol' man -- he had two things in common with Cartman from South Park: an occasional foul mouth, and Dad truly wasn't fat, but man, was he big-boned. Wrap your thumb and middle finger around your wrist -- can they touch? My father's forearms were too thick. And his hands were like bear-claws.

So when my dad pointed his finger back, the coot had a giant sausage in his face.

But that's when I said, "Hey, I think that other line is moving," and pulled my dad back. The coot lowered his finger and then we all stepped away. Crisis averted.

See, I played it out the situation in my mind. Pops would deck this little guy, who'd break his hip and sue the shit outta us. Who needed that aggravation? Also, all those legal fees, there goes any chance of Dad helping Mikey out to buy a new car...

But I gotta tell ya: The whole thing seemed kind of funny to me. These two elderly men stabbing their pointers at each other like a senior citizen finger-fencing duel. Another day, I might've liked to see the results of that geezer fight.

Monday, September 27, 2004

It's a pity that a kitty grows up to be a cat.
When they're kittens I am smitten -- those fuzzy acrobats

Are real cute in pursuit of some fun unabashed
Like at Joan's -- at her home, one night I had to crash

Her critter had a litter, there were three kittens left
Ran around, oh the sound, bound to make you deaf

Scamper-bam! Slamity-slam! Crash-bash-boom. Screech! Scamper!
Tranquility? Impossiblity. Toss that dream down the hamper.

Soon I found that the sound wasn't all that odd
I deduced I grew used to the klutzy clods

Late that night -- it wasn't right -- I heard something new
Sounded scared. It declared, "Mew! Mew! Mew! Mew! Mew!"

So I looked for the schnook to save him from his doom
His poor cries, I surmised, came from the dining room

Saw no cat, only that incessant howling racket
But slumped there, on a chair, was my leather jacket

Bovine hide, and inside, I saw it sure enough
Little snout, head stuck out the bomber's narrow cuff

My right sleeve, I believe, the dude thought was a tree
Cow-hide cave was his grave unless I set him free

Undid the snap -- no more trap -- fresh air the kitty'd meet.
He slid clear, on his ear -- would he land on his feet?

Bonk! His head hit instead, but he seemed to be okay
He said "mew!" -- a thank you? -- and then he dashed away

Saved the kitty, and I admit he got me thinking twice
Of the Persians and other versions of creatures who eat mice

But the beeline toward the feline, I'm afraid that it had peaked
The next morning, without warning, I tell ya I was freaked.

It was scary--chest that hairy? No, fur made me go "Bleck!"
Sleevey-Dude and his brood were sleeping on my neck.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Some unsolicited advice from Mikey:
1. Girls, don't flake on a guy. If you make plans with him, and then cancel at the last minute for a pretty lame reason ("I'm kinda tired..."), he may not call you again for a very long time.
2. Guys, sometimes if you don't call a girl for a very long time, then when you do, she may be so happy to hear from you, she'll say, "Oh, I don't care, I'll do whatever you want to do."
3. Oh, the possibilites... Yeah, but as much as you wanna take that invitation to its depraved raunchy extreme, there's a good chance of her flaking again, so keep it simple. Like checking out a movie you're anxious to see.
4. However, taking a girl to a comedy/horror flick is not always a great idea. Sure, you might crack up at the main character slacker dude being oblivious to the living dead walking around, but the girl will sit there in the theatre with no more than a faint smile and say, "No, it's okay, I can appreciate why you're enjoying this." Afterwards, she'll be cool with it, but in the future, she may say she wants to take you to a movie she likes. And if you're like me, you suspect sitting through something likeThe Notebook would be more painful than zombies eating your flesh.
5. Still, check out Shaun of the Dead. You'll find it hilarious & brilliant... if it's your kinda thing.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Four years and several days ago, our bothering leg brought forth on this side of the continent, a new pain, conceived in ligaments injured, and dedicated to the proposition that all men and women in the emergency room are equally insane.

Okay, forget that. My Lincoln is stinkin’.

Just telling the time I went to the ER for a minor mishap. I knew it’d be forever before I saw a doctor, so I brought a book to pass the time. But I didn’t need it; there in the waiting room, I found plenty of entertainment. In that sort of train-wreck, Jerry Springer freak show kind of way. All the other patients had non-serious injuries, too... but seriously fucked up stories surrounding ‘em.

Mine was tame by comparison. I had started up with the L.A. Roadrunners, which used to be a small group of marathon trainers. Now it had ballooned to over a thousand members, so they siphoned everyone into pace groups and made us run in double file so we didn’t mob the paths on the beach.

Mikey can’t be herded in like cattle; he needs to roam free like a wild stallion. Stuck in a cluster of runners, I didn’t see the concrete barrier come out of nowhere and attack me. Had to jump, jive and flail, and though I didn’t worship the other runners, I was soon kissing the ground they walked on. As I got up, everyone was alarmed at the sight of blood, but those were just scratches. It was my left ankle that was hurting. Still, I was sure it was nothing, and told them to go ahead; I’d catch up. Twenty paces later, I realized my old high school coach’s answer to every injury, "walk it off", wasn’t gonna cut it here. I still had a mile and a half to go and my swelling hoof was starting to look like it belonged to a Clydesdale.

Meanwhile, moments later... after a great morning of surfing, a slender athletic woman was attaching her board to the roof of her Volkswagen, and about to zip out of her wet suit, when she heard, "Excuse me..." She turned to see a disheveled young guy approaching. Sweating, bleeding and looking a bit deranged as he hobbled his elephant-sized left leg along, he said, "Could you give me a ride?"

Ultimately, she did (driving with one hand on the wheel, the other with a canister of shark repellant aimed at her pained, possibly-psycho passenger).

I spent the rest of the weekend icing up the ankle, but when the swelling was still there, I figured I should limp over to the hospital to make sure it wasn’t broken. Turned out it wasn’t; just a really bad sprain. I knew it all along. I tells ya, who needs some radiologist with a fancy MD degree when you got comic-book send-away X-ray specs?

But while I was waiting to get my results, I got the scoop on everyone else in the ER.

A Korean woman was there with her two-year-old son. The kid had a small cut – maybe just a nick, maybe would need stitches… on his scrotum. How? ‘Cause kimchi-for-brains Mama was changing the toddler, and had him seated naked atop of a chest of drawers. The tyke tumbled off the dresser and as he fell, scraped his balls against one of the knobs. I felt so sorry for that kid. Didn’t know which was worse -- nearly getting castrated by a chiffarobe, or having a nutjob for a mom.

Then there was this other woman: Think of a young, thin Dianne Wiest, but prettier. Short auburn hair, that smile which made her eyes real squinty… Can you picture that? Okay, now imagine her as a gin-soaked floozy in a bloody ratty bathrobe who’s been knocked around more than a stadium beach ball.

The nurses told me that she was coming to the hospital all the time, getting her stomach pumped, or being treated for bizarre injuries from her recent drinking session. The woman refuses to get help, so she had become an ER regular. During the latest bender, she had stood up on someone’s sofa to start dancing, fell back and smashed into a glass coffee table.

What’s with these people? Some folks just shouldn’t be allowed near furniture.

The ol’ rummy looked my way and started flirting, batting her narrow eyes and saying, "Oh, poor thing, what happened to your leg?" A second after the sound of her words hit me, the smell did. Lawdy-Lawd, that vomit and Night Train odor will run over anything in its tracks. I politely answered her question and buried my still-grimacing face into my book.

A few chapters later, a dude sat down next to me. I thought at first it was Dennis Hopper from Easy Rider. Long stringy hair, even longer handlebar mustache. And he talked real slow.

"Maaan, I was on my motorcycle, maaan, and this car rammed me. Bike’s totaled, maaaan."

The woman doctor asked him some specific questions, trying to get the dude to say what happened to him, not his beloved Harley. Seems he flipped over his Hog, broke his fall partially with his hands. I didn’t need my X-ray specs to see they were busted in several places. The knuckles were even more gnarly than my ankle.

But the doc was trying to find out if he sustained any head injuries, too. She asked him to walk; he did that okay. Then she asked him his name; he said "Jesse." Jesse. Perfect. He did remember his last name -- it wasn’t James.

Doc: Jesse, do you know what day it is?
Jesse: Uhhhh...

Okay, he probably didn’t have a job. Every day was a weekend to Easy Rider.

Doc: Do you know what month it is?
Jesse: Uhhhh...
Doc: How about what season it is?
Jesse: Uhhhh... summer?

He was right -- barely. It was almost autumn. And hey, he had a one-in-four-shot. The thing with this guy: it was hard to tell if he had suffered any dain bramage, or was always like this.

Then she asked him what year it was. Jesse didn’t know. It was the year 2000. The Millennium, dude.

Doc: Jesse, do you know who’s the President of the United States?

Oh, come on. What kind of question was that? Jesse didn’t have a job or know about the Millennium, how can you expect him to follow politics?

Jesse: Uhhh... Bill Clinton.

Holy shit. Way to go, Biker Dude. It then occurred to me that while the year is regularly changing, Jesse had eight years to figure out Slick Willie was in charge. After the upcoming election, he’d have to start over again.

The doctor left for a moment and Jesse turned to me. "What year is it, maaan?" I told him and he said, "Oh yeah. I knew that. I knew that." I felt like we had just taken the SATs and were comparing answers afterwards. Ignorance is perspicacity as lobotomy is to what?

Jesse said didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford any head X-rays or brain-scans or nothin’, so he didn’t want the doc to think he got knocked in the noggin.

Just then she walked past and Jesse said, "Hey, Doc. I remembered. It’s the year two-thousand." She nodded... then looked at me.

"Did you tell him?"

I said no. But she gave me a stern look and I broke down. "Yeahhhh..."

Jesse and I lowered our heads -- guilty. Teacher caught us cheating. She walked away again.

"Sorry, maaan," I said. Jeez, he had me sayin’ it. "Didn’t mean to rat you out." But I told him I didn’t think he should scrimp on his skull. Better to make sure his head was okay and worry about the cost later.

He said no problem, and realized I was probably right.

I don’t know whatever happened to Jesse. I hope he’s alright and haulin’ ass on a new Harley. For his sake only, if George W. Bush gets re-elected, it could be a good thing. Jesse might need four more years to know who’s President.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

No, it's not as awesome as a puppy or a hot blogger babe in a prep school outfit or cowgirl gear (hubba, hubba). And non-baseball fans probably won't appreciate this.

But an authenticized autographed baseball by "Rocket" Roger Clemens, with its own protective display case (kinda like the one below, but inscribed with all Clemens' teams, including the Yankees, of course) is a damn cool surprise gift. My mom and sister are really sweet.

I caught a foul ball last year from Adrian Beltre, who's an MVP candidate this year (he won't win; Barry Bonds will get it again for the 7th time). I didn't have the patience to try to get Beltre to sign it. This is even better -- Clemens may win a record 7th Cy Young this year.

AND, I'm told, I'm getting another gift -- a framed photo of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, from Gehrig's 1939 farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. "Today-ay-ay, I consider myself-elf-elf, the luckiest man on the face of the earth-earth-earth."

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I said I would continue with the situation regarding my mom and her assisted living place… but it’s an ongoing saga of aggravation. I’m kinda tired of dealing with it/thinking about it, and so I’m gonna bang out this post to update y’all, if you’re interested.

Fight the powers that be! The powers being Pig Head and Ratchet, who actually have continued to amuse me. Well, not Ratchet. I think that ice princess could single-handedly stop global warming. But I feel sorry for Pig Head with his sad, sad, stupidity. Pigs are supposedly smart animals. But they're not bright enough to deal with legal eagles who won’t sit back and accept his truffle-shuffle pigshit.

He called me the day after our meeting, thinking that because I was good cop, I was on his side. So he agreed that my sister, Tom and I had a strong argument for fighting the eviction and admitted that he and Ratchet were completely unprepared for our meeting. “You were the only one concerned with your mom’s well-being,” he said. I told the schmuck we all were. Just because I asked questions relating directly to that issue didn’t mean it wasn’t the bottom line for everyone. The point of the meeting -- and all our conversations -- was to determine the reason for the eviction, which was unclear and irrational in his notice and subsequent discussions.

Pig Head said, “Well, your mom fell in the pool and we can’t guarantee that --“

“I’m not having this conversation again,” I said. I wasn’t looking for him to try to answer it now. Jeebus. If he wasn’t gonna listen to our responses the twelve times before, suddenly Captain Vague would achieve a moment of clarity?

I tried to explain that if he too was concerned with my mom’s well-being, he’d reconsider the eviction. To her, she feels like she’s failed. It was as if she got into a good school, and now she’s flunked out. My mom was a straight-A student her whole life (and expected the same from her kids), and now she was getting expelled.

“Wow,” Pig Head said. “I never thought of it that way…”

So then he said he was gonna get us in touch with some woman at the corporate office to discuss it further, since we were getting nowhere. Sounded like she was his superior. Respect mah authoritay! I was trying to find out right from the beginning who we talk to in order to go over his Piggy Snouted Head, and finally I found out. But a corporate stooge? Great. We weren’t gonna have any luck with Beulah Ballbricker.

Turned out, Beulah was really nice. My sister talked it over with her, and the woman said the eviction notice sounded invalid as written. Duh. What have I been saying all along?

But even if Beulah invalidated the notice, Pig Head would write a new one with more specifics, so she suggested we write a complaint for wrongful eviction to counter his unkosher proclamation.

I started hashing it out. This is why it was good to take notes during the meeting. And where even blogging helped, ‘cause I just elaborated on Pig Head and Ratchet’s hissy fits and de-Rashomoned their skewed version of events. But I’m not fluent in legalese. My sister later edited and amended the complaint, wondering why I was in love with the word “stipulate” and defining every term (e.g. “the head of assisted living, hereby known as ‘Ratchet’ or ‘Frigid Friggin’ Beotch with the Ass Tattoo’”). When it was done, we had written a damn good argument, if I may say so.

But at the same time, we were looking at new assisted living places... and found one we all liked. It’s a little cheaper, not much further away, and just as nice. It’s older, but has more outdoor areas, including a little terrace for my mom to go out and smoke her Salems – sure, work on that emphysema, Mom.

By the way, Beulah Ballbricker was right -- the eviction notice turned out to be indeed bogus as Bill & Ted’s Journey. So we told Pig Head (dumb sap) not to hurt his porky pate and write a new one. I wanted to warn him that our countering complaint would probably cost him his job, but just said that we were leaving anyway. The vindictive side of me wants to make those schmoes’ careers plummet faster than Britney Spears’, but my mom is already feeling like a pariah at the joint, so best to just move on.

As a result, the last month or so we’ve been handling all the ramifications of moving and getting my mom a new wheelchair. I went through most of this just a couple of years ago, and thought I had things moving with relatively minimal maintenance. But it’s consuming me once again...

...Even when I'm away from it all. Sometimes I have to tell my sister to please stop calling me all the time, worrying & deliberating over every little detail. She says, “Sorry. I can’t help it. You have to put up with me.” Yeah, yeah. I know.

Last weekend she invited me to some fundraising charity silent auction event. I hate those things. Get dressed up in a suit & tie, hobnob with a buncha boring attorneys? Worse was that she wanted to bring our mother and grandmother. Which means me escorting the old ladies around all night. I had had enough. I said no thanks, and she seemed annoyed, but I had to put my foot down. I’ve also told my mom that once we get her settled in, she has to understand I can’t be coming around as often – Mikey needs his own life back. Mom said its fine – after all, how is she gonna get grandkids otherwise? -- but we’ll see when she gets bored/lonely/angry/irrational.

So my sister took them to the event without me, and now I found out they got something for me at the silent auction. A present. For no apparent reason. They just saw something they thought I would really like. I don’t know what it is; I’ll find out tonight. Mom says it’ll be the best gift I’ve gotten since they surprised me with Max, my golden retriever puppy. My sister says, well, maybe not, but it’s pretty cool. I don’t wanna build it up either. Whatever it is, the thought and consideration is just a reminder. One of the many reasons this mishugenah mischbucha is worth the aggravation.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

First assembly of junior high school. Everyone was mingling in the auditorium before they started the boring lecture -- it was perhaps about the metric system. "Miles Meets the Meter Martians -- Take us to your Liter". Or some crap like that.

An awkward prepubescent seventh-grader named Mike was trying very hard to fit in. Who should he talk to? So many of his elementary school friends had gone off to other junior highs. He didn’t know any of these people. Hey, there was a group of ninth-graders hanging out down at the stage level, and Mike knew one of them -- the older brother of a friend. Yeah, Mike would get in with the older kids. All he had to do was go down and say "hi". Or "what’s up". No, that’s so sixth-grade. Just say "hey". Or "hey, how’s it goin’". Yeah, that’s good.

But after a quick "how-hey-hi-up-goin’-what", the older kids went back to whatever they were talking about. Probably cool things Mike knew nothing about, like cars, and beer and TV shows there were on after 10PM. Stupid fascist curfew was keeping Mike outta the loop about "Dallas" and "Trapper John, MD".

The kid stood there, looking around, realizing he was doomed for the next three years. Jeez, look, he even had the wrong sneakers. No one wore Adidas anymore. Yes, it stood for "all day I dream about sex", according to lore of the playground, but this year Nike was in, which probably stood for something even more awesome. At least Mike didn’t have Pumas... what kind of sicko donned an acronym for "puke up my ass"?

Mike noticed a rubber band on the floor near his outdated footwear. He picked it up and twirled it in his fingers, giving him something to do. But the ninth-graders were about to walk away.

"Hey," Mike said. "What do you want me to shoot with this rubber band?"

It was the best he could think of. The older kids stopped and looked at him.

"I’m an excellent shot."

This was true, actually. Not a natural talent, it was a skill he obtained from years of practice in many a bored classroom. Mike wasn’t an expert marksman yet -- after all, he still hadn’t achieved the holy grail of urban legend and taken anyone’s eye out yet -- but he was confident of his elastic propulsion abilities.

His friend’s brother looked around and then pointed. "Hit that girl in the ass."

Mike turned up toward the auditorium. Holy shit. He knew that girl. She was a year older than him and back in elementary they had some combined-grade classes together. Mike hadn’t seen her in a year, but never forgot her as the biggest grade-grubbing snot who ever heckled him for misspelling a word on his book report on "Danny the Champion of the World". Now she was sucking up to the eighth-grade class president, another phony Mike recognized from all those smarmy school government speeches. Okay, then...

Actually, the girl was kinda far away. Mike wasn’t sure if the rubber band had enough tensile strength to cover that range. The band might just lob down and land short. A metaphor for Mike’s future, perhaps?

Still, the ninth-graders were waiting. So Mike stretched, pointed, aimed and fired... As it sailed upward, the girl turned away from the president. If she moved, it would be a misfire...

But the timing couldn’t have been more perfect: Snap! The band hit Gracie Gradegrubber in the ass. She gasped, turned around and – Slap! – hit the guy across the face. President Smarmy had no idea what just happened.

Down at the stage level, the ninth-graders were laughing uproariously in secret triumph. Mike was the sureshot hero.

He still wasn’t cool enough to sit with them during the assembly. But Mike didn’t care. He lounged in his seat, surrounded by complete strangers, listening to some goofy actor say, "So even though by the year 2000, we Americans will be measuring everything in kilometers, I still won’t have to change my name, Miles...?"

And for just that brief moment, Mike thought... junior high is gonna be cool.

Friday, September 17, 2004

"You know what your problem is, it's that you haven't seen enough movies. All of life's riddles are answered in the movies." -- Steve Martin, Grand Canyon

Maybe, maybe not. But it's often where I get my frame of reference.

Went running tonight with the group in Beverly Hills. Of course, normally I'm like Prefontaine in Without Limits, but I just took it easy so I could get back into the swing of things and chat with some other runners.

We all went over the usual b.s.: Are you gonna do a marathon soon? Watch out for that pink SUV. Yeah, I know how work sometimes keeps you from training.... Hey, I think that's Ozzy Osbourne's house. What do you do for a living?

One guy works for the LA radio station that runs Howard Stern and Tom Leykis. No, not an engineer, not a programmer... he's a salesman, offering airtime on the radio for companies to run commercials.

"So in other words, you sell air?"

He nodded, and looked down. I hope he wasn't embarrassed and was just watching his step. (Beverly Hills streets are paved with gold, y'know. Very slippery.)

"Like Billy Crystal in City Slickers?" I said. "Cool."

However he may have felt about his job, if you could relate it to the movies, it's not that bad.

There was a woman who's a low-level executive... for a toy company.

"You mean like Tom Hanks in Big?!"

She nodded too. Did they get these references? Had they seen enough movies? Or were they simply conserving their energy for the run?

Then they asked me what I do. Shit. I hate talking about my job.

I said with a faint smile, "You ever see Office Space?"

The Tom Hanks woman nodded again. "Well, Michael," she said, smiling, "I hope your last name isn't Bolton."

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I love Spanish television. I usually have Telemundo or Univision going in the background, especially on the weekends, 'cause "Sábado Gigante" is one of my favorites. It's a variety show with skits, interviews, games, and musical performances. They do their own commercials, too. Some charming caballero in a suit and some hot chiquita in a slinky dress holds up the product -- low enough that you can still see her cleavage -- and they announce something like, "¡Con Wisk, sus pantalones están limpios!" My Spanish is rusty, but that either means it'll clean your jeans, or check out the rack on this spicy Latina. The audience even knows all the words to the jingles and sings along with the show's host, Don Francisco: "Captain Crunch... Crunchberries... ¡qué deliciosos!"

Know what else? Beisbol been beddy beddy good to me. I love rooting against the home team. I was the only one in my section at Dodger Stadium cheering when the Padres beat 'em tonight. Though I do root for Shawn Green of the Dodgers (hit 2 homers today), 'cause... how often does you see a Member of the Tribe on the diamond? There's him and Gabe Kapler... two Jews in baseball. That's all that's allowed. In history, there's been Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax, Rod Carew the convert... and now two at the same time? It's a golden age for athletic-Semitism.

Don Francisco is Jewish, too. Don’t mean to pull another Adam Sandler Chanukah Song version and out my non-Gentile brethren, but, who would expect that señor to be part of the Kosher clan? I mean... a Jewish entertainer?!

I’m throwin’ out some random thoughts for now ‘cause may be busy for a little while and take another blogging break. I may not, but if I do, I wouldn’t want anyone to worry. The time off would be for a variety of reasons... uh, you could chalk it up to the high holidays. So to my bar- & bat-mitzvah buddies, l’shanah tovah. To Don Francisco, prospero año felicidad. And to everyone, hasta luego, amigos.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Mundane Monday

Yesterday a woman approached my car the same time I did, her keys out, ready to start it up. I looked at her and she realized: "Oops, sorry, thought this was mine."

"No problem," I said. So many silver sedans seem similar.

She went to her vehicle, which was brown.

Time for a car wash. The smoggy science experiment on my hood must come to an end.

Fortunately, I got to do it this morning, 'cause I didn't go to the gym. Well, I did, but I forgot my wallet, so I had to go back home, and then there wouldn't be time to work out. I'm always forgetting something at the gym lately. Maybe my body's getting stronger, but what to do about this stupid brain? Sometimes I forget my workout gloves. Not a big deal, but then no one believes my explanation for the calluses on my hands. If I don't bring a fresh pair of socks, I gotta wear the sweaty white ones all day. And if it's underwear, I go commando.

So I'm starting off this week feeling wimpy and absent-minded, but at least I have a silver car, clean sox & boxers, and nice, supple palms.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Saw Resident Evil 2. Movies based on video games are bound to make no sense, but who cares? Living dead hellhounds, middle-school kids and topless hookers, facing off with Milla Jovovich in a torn mesh shirt, armed with a motorcycle and shotgun? After a long week, that’s exactly what I needed.

My friends felt the same way. I hadn’t hung out with them in a while, we’d all been so busy. And my buddy Jim was cracking me up. Maybe I was just in that kinda mood, or maybe he was getting handed all the right set-up lines...

There was a preview for some thriller starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Weird murky imagery, too incoherent to be frightening. It was called The Grudge. The lyric, "Where’s that confounded bridge?" came to mind. Which was weird, ‘cause one of the other guys said, "’The Grudge’ – isn’t that the name of that cool Led Zep song?"

Jim said, "Yeah, and a shitty Buffy movie."

Previews often make me forget what I came to see. Then I remembered as the eerie music began. I was so excited to see something stupid and fun, I felt like asking a stupid question.

I whispered to Jim. "Hey, is this gonna be scary? Like, with lotsa zombies and stuff?"

"No. Just daisies," he said. "Daisies and Care Bears."

I laughed so loud the guy in the next row shushed me.

Friday, September 10, 2004

A few random, personal thoughts about 9/11:

I'm so glad it's on a weekend this year I get so overwhelmed, it's hard for me to be in the office. I'd rather be with family. But I don't want it to become a national holiday. If it turns into another Memorial Day, it could lead to more beer-guzzling barbecues and 24-hour department store sales.

I was working at another boring job at the time -- a very cold corporate type of office. When I came back to work on September 12th, everyone was business-as-usual. No discussion about it, nobody taking stock of the situation, just everyone shuffling papers and making calls. The receptionist greeted me with a perky "Good morning!", exactly as she had done on September 10th. Maybe it affected them differently, in ways that weren't apparent, but I just couldn't work at a place like that. I quit at the end of the week.

My dad was one of the subcontractors on the World Trade Center. I always felt a little sense of family pride seeing the Twin Towers. If you were downtown, you could look up and use them like the Northern Star, to get your bearings. I went back a year later, and the emptiness in the skyline at Ground Zero was disconcerting, chilling.

My cousin, the artist, was living in the Lower East Side at the time. He later told me that once, while welding some copper for a sculpture project, he had to stop abruptly. The smell of burning metal reminded him too much of the air in New York City that day.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Hey, remember the Chris Farley Show on Saturday Night Live? When he would ask his guests about things they did in movies or whatever? To Martin Scorcese: "Remember, in Taxi Driver, when DeNiro says, 'You talkin' to me?'" To Paul McCartney: "Remember when you were with the Beatles? Remember when you were dead?" Remember that? That was awesome.

It's like that with my friends when they reminisce... except they mostly bring up silly things I've done.

My childhood friend is always mentioning my embarrassing moments or repeating the same uncool aspects of my youth. "Remember how you used to have really gross eating habits with peanut butter?" Yeah. I don't do that anymore. "And when you were first learning to drive, and we were waiting at the intersection, and you kept letting every car go ahead of you? Even the ones that were like a half-mile away?" Yup. I live in LA now, so, y'know, I'm an excellent driver. Definitely. "How 'bout that time when we were around nine and you got into a fight with that kid who turned out to be a psycho and he took a swing at you with a baseball bat?" Right, that was hysterical.

I can laugh at myself -- there's plenty of material. But once in a while, it'd be nice if they invoked the good memories. He never mentions how I was in the elementary school talent show every year, and my performance of "Casey at the Bat" or Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue" brought down the house. Or the time I stood up to that bully Matt Nocerino and kicked his ass (okay, more like I gave him a bloody nose, and then the teachers broke it up -- but hey, that was pretty brave of me). How about that one wrestling season, I went undefeated -- a school record (sorry to sound Al Bundyish), got my name on the announcements every week, and for a brief period, I was BMOC. A few of the Jewish-American princesses had crushes on me, but I eschewed the Benetton-clad babes for the goth-punk chick with the Clash T-shirt and spiky hair. Damn, I was cool.

One of my college friends loves to tell Mikey stories that usually begin with, "Dude, you were so wasted this one time..." Then he'll tell me about the crazy things I did, and in true Farley fashion, end it with, "That was awesome. Remember that?" Uh... not really.

Last night, I hung out with an old running friend, who's back from Europe. After we caught up a little, she started doing the same thing.

"Remember that time we all hung out at your place, and we were all watching Bourne Identity on DVD, and when it was nearly over, we looked in the corner, and there was you and Summer making out on the couch?" Yeah... "And how you didn't want to go running with me for a few weeks 'cause you felt weird about hooking up with my best friend?" Yeah... "Oh! And how about when I had to drive you around town when you were practically naked?!"

Yeah, that was a good one. After a long morning run with her, I was back at my car in Venice. I had a clean shirt in my car, so I threw my sweaty one along with my sneakers into the trunk, slammed it shut and -- dammit -- what was I thinking?! The key was inside the trunk. Everything else was locked inside the car. So there I was: no keys, no money, no cellphone... no shoes, no shirt... no dice. I was miles from home, and couldn't walk, especially after having just run 15 miles. Fortunately, I saw my friend drive past, flagged her down, and had her chauffeur me back to my house. Then my sweaty, half-naked self had to jimmy into my own apartment to get a second set of keys. The only thing that woulda made that day complete is getting busted by the cops for breaking & entering.

It was amusing, but I just think she was relishing it too much. What am I, a clown, here to amuse you?

"Remember that, Mike?"

Do you remember how you married some guy you didn't really like, perhaps just to get a Green Card? And then you got into running, just to get away from him? To the point that you would encourage me to join you on ridiculous mileage -- two-, three-hour runs, even though you didn't even want to train for a marathon? And then when you finally split up with the guy, you decided to go back to Germany? And everyone kept telling you to stay in California -- hell, we've got an Austrian governor. But you said that you always had more fun when you went back there? But I told you it's 'cause you were on vacation -- of course it's fun if you're not working and stressed out and dealing with the day-to-day bullshit. I go to New York to visit and think the subway delays and crowded streets are wonderful. And then you came back after a few months, 'cause you realized that your hometown in Deutschland Uber Alles is full of schtupid schtrudel-eating chain-schmoking schprocket-heads? Remember how I hated to tell you I told you so?

Of course, I didn't tell her so. I just looked at her as she continued to laugh at my little mishaps.

"Yeah," I said. "I remember that. That was awesome."

Monday, September 06, 2004

5 things that made me laugh this weekend:

1. I collided with another guy running on the beach. No one was hurt. But it happened in front of a really hot bikini chick. Neither of us was watching where we were going.
2. My friends and I watched the first season of Chapelle's Show on DVD. "The Mad Real World", Paul Mooney... That shit's high-larious.
3. Later that evening, we went out to Coffee Bean. I had never tried the ice-blended white chocolate frappucino before -- sounded good. I ordered it and asked the guy behind the counter (a black guy, if that helps this story) if I could get it with no coffee, no whipped cream. He said that's what they call a "Pure White Chocolate". Funny, I said. That's what the girls call me. He laughed, which made me laugh. When my drink was ready, he said, "Enjoy, PWC."
4. There's a gay porno theatre I drive past on Santa Monica Boulevard which always has movies with brilliant titles. The newest one is "Rim with a View". But my all-time favorite title is still "Tastes Like Chicken".
5. I had dinner with some writer friends, discussing the zany agents we've had. My friend's rep is named Lou. Lou -- perfect name for an agent. My friend said Lou is in fact a stereotypical agent. Has little brash comments for any occasion. When my friend broke his leg skiing, the agent said, "That's why I don't go. Skiing kills more Jews than Hitler." Lou also calls up my friend and hits him with schmoozy superlative statements: "How's my favorite client?" or "There he is -- the best-looking writer in Hollywood!" That's the line that made me laugh, 'cause everyone knows that title belongs to me.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Three things you shouldn’t do:

1. Drive drunk; 2. Gamble scared; 3. Blog angry

(If you wanna blog drunk, that’s totally cool.) My frustrating family stuff lately needed attention before I engaged in reckless blogability.

On Thursday, we had a sit-down meeting to discuss my mother’s eviction notice from her assisted living facility. It’s unjust and Mom is used to the place -- it’s not perfect, but it’s one of the best. We’d rather she be able to stay. Once I could take a step back from the seriousness of the situation... I actually found it rather amusing.

There was me, playing good cop. Bad cop was my sister. You do not want to get into an argument with my sister. I learned this when I was a little kid, ‘cause even then, she was a natural lawyer. She hates when you say that, but it’s true. Try telling her that you cleared the table yesterday and it’s her turn tonight. She’ll argue and argue and use twisted logic to alter your perception. Next thing you know, you’re clearing the table, you think two plus two equals five and you’ve agreed to be her personal butler. As you’re adjusting your black tie and Jeeves jacket, you’ll be wondering, how the hell did I get talked into this?

There is one way to win an argument with her. A sophisticated level of reasoning, passed down from Socrates and Sun Tzu and Sherlock Holmes. You close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and yell: "I’m not listening to what you say! I don’t ca-are! Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!" The ancient philosophers invented it, but I added the little hip-sway.

An attorney in my sister’s office, Tom, was so outraged at this eviction, he volunteered to help try to put a stop to it. Tom is a brilliant litigator. He reminded me of Denzel Washington in Philadelphia. Denzel kept simplifying his opponent’s argument by saying, "Now, explain this to me like I’m a five-year-old..." Tom did a similar thing. "I’m sorry, I’m just a little slow here. But the reasons you’re citing for evicting their mother seem vague. Maybe it’s me and I’m just not getting it. But please, indulge me and maybe you could, I don’t know, give me some specific examples?"

They couldn’t. Which leads me to the man who wrote the eviction notice. The pig-headed schmuck who is clearly just worried about his license and his job. I’ve had a circular argument with this idiot ad nauseum.

Him: Your mom fell in the pool. I can’t be held liable if it happens again.
Me: It was an accident. It won’t happen again.
Him: You can’t guarantee that. I can’t guarantee that.
Me: Can you guarantee that any of your residents won’t fall in the pool?
Him: No...
Me: Well...
Him: But none of them fell in the pool. Your mother did.
Me: That’s why she’s most likely not to do it again.
Him: I don’t see it that way.
Me: Well, if anyone is going to avoid falling in, it’s the person who already did it. She was scared to death. She’s not going near the pool again. So there’s no way she’d fall in.
Him: You can’t guarantee that.

In the meeting, Pig Head was fidgeting and shifting in his seat, completely intimidated by the fact that we were--gasp!--writing things down!

My favorite part came when Tom asked Pig Head -- since he couldn’t seem to elaborate on the vague language of the eviction notice -- if perhaps there was some other reason for it. Pig Head blinked a hundred times and said, "I have no idea what you’re talking about."

"Oh, I’m sorry," Tom said. "Maybe I’m not being clear here." Tom asked if Pig Head had had concerns that my sister and I might have been planning to take actions against the facility. (We hadn’t been, prior to the eviction.)

Pig Head flipped out. "Why, because you think we’re responsible for the pool incident? Because you think your mother has been abused, mistreated?!"

We just stayed quiet. He said it.

"Are you threatening me?! You have to leave right now, you’re gonna come here and threaten me!"

Tom didn’t get up from his seat. "Sir, I’m not threatening you. You’re the one who’s standing over me, stabbing his notebook in my face."

Pig Head stopped and looked at what he was doing. He lowered the notebook and stepped back sheepishly. Though that disgusting layer of spittle between his lips was still there the rest of the meeting.

When we left, it was unanimous among Tom, my sister and me. Pig Head was just plain stooopid. Tom said if the guy was in a deposition, in five minutes he’d be going berserk, yanking out the wires of the recording devices. Several times in our meeting he had threatened to walk out.

The other person in the discussion was the woman in charge of the aides for assisted living. My mom calls her Nurse Ratchet. She doesn’t look like Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; in fact, she’s a very attractive young woman. But that’s only on the outside. Inside, she’s pretty chilly. Wouldn’t say she’s encouraging lobotomies, but the temperature does drop when you’re around this lady. I’m convinced that she’s the other part of the problem. While my mother has gotten ornery and stubborn after her stroke, you can get beneath that and learn to appreciate who she is, and what she’s gone through, and then know how to work with her to give her the best care. But that requires extra warmth, compassion and patience. A cold control freak like Ratchet is gonna have more trouble than most.

She didn’t say much in the meeting. Ratchet did acknowledge that Pig Head was out of line at the end, but she resented any implication (more like their inference) that she and her staff ever did anything wrong.

Afterwards, talking privately to my sister and me, Tom lightened the mood. He wanted to tell Ratchet that despite the animosity in the room, he really liked the tattoo on her ass. I smiled; my sister looked confused. I said to her, "You didn’t notice that black tribal thing, when she leaned over to grab her stuff and storm out?" She shook her head. Tom and I shrugged. "It’s a guy thing."

(To be continued…)

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