Monday, October 30, 2006

Had enough of spiders? Not me. The Spider Pavilion had so many species of spectacular silk-spinners trying to catch bugs, the shutterbug in me had to catch a few photos.
1154sp 1169sp 1164sp 1178sp 1172sp 1156sp
Carving jackolanterns later, I still had these creepy crawlers on my mind. I needed a good pumpkin pattern, and racked my brain -- then arachnided it.
Happy Halloween.
sololt solodrk

Thursday, October 26, 2006

“What’re you lookin’ at? Oh, you like the web I spun above your car, huh? Well, listen, I ain't Charlotte and you ain’t Wilbur the pig, so don’t expect any fancy silk screen messages. I got my eyes on you, boy -- see? In fact, I got a bunch more, although I don’t see so good. Doesn’t mean I won’t go arach-attack on your ass. Now make like Little Miss Muffet and eat your curds and whey away from here. Or are you one of those weirdos who’s into us wall-crawlers? Go check out the Spider Pavilion this weekend. You oughta enjoy that, Peter Parker. Jeez, and they think I’m creepy. C’mon I gotta eat and you’re scaring away the bugs, so stop buggin’ me. Why don’t you take a picture, it’ll last longer. Hell, take two and then take off, huh? Freak.” snblys sneys

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What scares you? Had any horrific Halloween-worthy happenings?

I don’t mean your fear that Kodos & Kang will win the election next month. Or a near-death experience when you almost choked on a piece of pickled herring. Or even the time you were traumatized after accidentally seeing Aunt Sylvia in her skivvies.

I’m talking about those really spine-chilling moments from your real life. The kind of eerie episodes you expect only to occur in a horror movie, yet you actually experienced ‘em. Which freaked you out at the time, but in retrospect, you realize you’d just been reading too much Edgar Allan Poe.

One of these occasions was when I haunted by a hellhound in Spain, as I’ve described earlier. I learned my lesson: Never intrude on the domain of a demonic dog. And find out how to say pepper spray and holy water en español.

Here’s a few other scary scenes:

When I was a teenager, for some reason, my friend and I were roaming around upstate New York one night. We wound up at one of those Catskill resorts, which may have been abandoned since the heyday of the Borscht Belt. Or maybe it was still in full swing, but everyone staying there was asleep at 2AM. Or… murdered. Okay, we were letting our imaginations get away with us, but the place had a weird musty smell and a Camp Crystal Lake vibe. Plus we couldn’t find a living soul there. We went from building to building looking for someone, but most of the rooms were locked. I finally found one I could open, and as the door creaked ajar, I saw strewn across the floor -- a pile of doll parts. Plastic arms, legs, torsos and heads. Pieces of those creepy dolls with the eyes that close when they’re lying down, but hold up Talking Tina and her eyes open to stare at you lifelessly. I did want to discern what the dismembered dollies were doing there, but I was no dummy. It was too fucking freaky. When my friend asked why I quickly shut the door again, I just said, “Dude, we’re outta here.”

Also in my teenage years, I used to baby sit my neighbor’s kid. I’ve also mentioned before how I wound up unintentionally terrorizing the tyke with my Skeletor skit. Perhaps the universe gave me some petrifying payback. Little Russell was asleep and his parents came home just as I finished another chapter of the novel Christine. The premise of a killer car is kinda crazy, but Stephen King has a way of making it work. It’s in the details, like his description of the murdermobile resting in the garage after running over a few people, the metal body clicking as the engine cooled… I was still thinking about it as Russell’s parents paid me for my babysitting duties. Since I lived across the street, there was no need for them to drive me home. So as I started to walk outside, I heard their car, back from their evening out, making that same cooling, clicking noise. The sound scared the shit outta me. Granted, they didn’t drive a ’58 Plymouth -- more like an ’83 Volvo -- but you bet your ass I booked it back home in less than 60 seconds.

Going back home was the setting for yet another incident. Except it was a few years ago, here in Santa Monica. I was walking with my sister early one autumn evening. The setting sun cast a weird light on a wilted flowering bush. I pointed and asked my sister if she thought that branch over there kinda looked like a claw. She didn’t see it, so brought her closer so she’d get a better view of the plant’s gnarled appendage. That’s when the entire bush started shaking, like it had come to life and was reacting violently to our presence. The claw shook as if it belonged to an evil witch casting a spell. Now, I admit, I jumped back, startled, but that was it. My sister, on the other hand, shrieked. Not just once, but over and over, a bloodcurdling scream: “Aahhh! Aahhh! Aahhh!” She didn’t stop until the source of the shivering shrub was revealed -- a tiny sparrow. The bird must have roosted in the bush and got nervous when we approached it. But as it tried to fly away, it got caught in all the intertwined twigs. As the sparrow finally flitted off, I explained this all to my sister and calmed her down. Then I had to chew her out -- that bizarre moment wasn’t half as scary as her Fay Wray impression. Jesus, she nearly gave me a heart attack. Of course, according to my sister, this was all my fault. “What the hell are you doing,” she said, “pointing out a tree branch that looks like a friggin’ claw?”

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Here's a quick doodle of a typical day at my TV gig. When we're trying to screen a segment, Gene rambles on with some unsolicited sexual observation that causes everyone in the post-production dept. to drift off; even Gene's precious PDA seems to prefer to be elsewhere.

Curt the music supervisor's riffin' on some rock tune; Stacey, former assistant to the executive producer, wonders if she should've changed job positions; Millie's wishin' for winter sports; Nolan's lamenting that his editing skills don't work in real life; and me? I'm just sketchin' out some voice-overs, which sound as awful as the sketch of me looks.

Yeah, it's far from my best cartoon, but like Gene and his stories, why should I let that stop me from sharing? Click on the image to enlarge it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Another Adelphia anecdote: She’s making me dinner tonight. I can’t wait. I’m sure it’ll be excellent. But even if something goes wrong that’ll be good too. In fact, I’m kinda secretly hoping for it. That way, I won’t be the only screw-up.

See, I’ve been cooking for her a lot, like when we don’t feel like going out to dinner, although most of my chef work is done in the morning. Breakfast is my thang. My patented super rich cup of coffee, OJ, a healthy fruit salad -- usually a delicious medley of berries -- and some kind of egg concoction. Ever have matzoh brei? Even if you have, you haven’t. Not until you try mine.

My family used to clamor for it, all year ‘round, not just during Passover. If we were missing that Manischewitz unleavened bread, I’d make one of my gourmet omelets. I know it sounds easy to cook up some eggs, but not so in my impossible-to-please household. Mom didn’t want her food too spicy, my sister insisted the onions be sautéed to a specific crispiness, and Dad would peek over the pan and say, “Hey Mikey, know what this needs? Cumin. Or, a dash of dill. Or Mikey -- ooh, hey Mikey, paprika!” At which point I wielded the sharp knife and told the old man to get the hell outta my kitchen before I cumin and cut off paprika’s dill.

Dinner was a pain in the ass, too, even though I rarely prepared the meal. But I once volunteered to do the manly job of carving the meat and it forever became my responsibility. Which I dreaded because everyone had a different preference on cuts: “Don’t slice ‘em too thin!”, “Gimme the end piece!”, “I want ‘em lean -- but not too lean!”

Somehow I managed to cater to their specifics, but it didn’t matter. Because one time, I absent-mindedly let the cord to the electric knife get in the path of the alternating serrated blades and -- ZAP!-- a big spark, a poof of black smoke, and that was it.

I mean, it was no big deal. No one was hurt. I didn’t ruin the food, and we just went out and bought a new electric knife. But I never heard the end of it. Even years later, whenever I did any work in the kitchen, I could count on one of my beloved family members to smirk and say, “Careful, Mikey. Watch out for the cord. Don’t electrocute yourself.”

It had been a while since I did any culinary work, but Adelphia’s re-energized me. I’ve made her pasta dishes, and broiled chicken with intricate salads, matching the meal up with the perfect wine… And she’s loved every meal. I’m inspired to try new things, but my kitchen’s kinda small. I don’t even have a microwave.

So when Adelphia wanted popcorn as a snack, she had to bring over the old-fashioned Jiffy-Pop kind. I was never a big fan of popcorn; after a handful at the movies I always switched over to the Sno-Caps. So I had never made any popcorn in that expandable foil thingie that gets pregnant over the stove.

Apparently you’re only supposed to rip off the paper top in the center, but I opened up the package on the side, peeling off the pie crust on the outside to remove the cardboard instructions. Only I didn’t seal the aluminum container back up properly, and as it heated up, the foil burst at the seam, allowing kernels to pop out the side.

As I was trying to salvage this mess, Adelphia came into the kitchen. “What’s going on? Is everything -- Ow!”

“What’s the matter?” I turned around. “Are you okay?” She had entered the room barefoot and had stepped on one of the unpopped kernels that was bouncing across the floor.


Okay, I thought. I know those things are hot, but let’s not get over-dramatic here.

Adelphia pointed. “Fire! Your stove is on fire!”

I turned back around and saw that the kernels that were popping out the side of the foil had now gone up in flames.

Before anyone could panic, I turned off the gas and threw some water on the burning popcorn, putting out the fire. Yes, I know, had there been grease on the stove, I could’ve made things worse, but Adelphia liked the butter-less healthy popcorn, so there was no oil to be separated by the water; it was safe. In fact, when I got past the kernels that were burnt to a crisp or soaked through and through… there was a good bowlful of delicious popcorn for her to enjoy.

Yet, the next morning, as I got up to make her another batch of my mouth-watering dark chocolate chip and banana pancakes -- from scratch -- Adelphia shouted out: “Michael, don’t burn the house down!”


Well, I hope her dinner tonight is delicious and goes off without a hitch. I learned the hard way: You make one mistake and your whole reputation is shot. Guess you’re only as good as your last fire hazard.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I hope I’m not making Adelphia jealous, but I gotta spend my days in a dark room with a lot of attractive young women. And sometimes a buncha dudes, too. Hey, it’s my job.

I’m back at the TV gig, watching footage of our dating reality show over and over, which alters my sense of reality. When I view multiple takes of these people making fools of themselves, long before their wacky episode airs, I almost feel like I know them -- not as intimately as my girlfriend, but enough to give ‘em a shout out when I see them in the real world. Not “The Real World”, but the real real world. You know what I mean.

A few weeks ago, I was having dinner with Adelphia and a few friends -- good conversation, good food (I had the ribs) -- and as the meal came to end, a cute waitress walked past whom I recognized.

“Susan,” I said, and she stopped and looked at me. Susan had no idea who I was. She didn’t know me, and I realized I didn’t really know her. But felt like I did, after spending so much time on a show segment featuring her from last season. Since I was in post, not production, she never would have met me personally. But I knew all about Susan. Anything she chose to share on the show -- her likes and dislikes, her sexual experiences, where she had hidden piercings…

I didn’t mention any of that to Susan. I simply explained to everyone that I worked on her episode and it turned out great. As Adelphia and the others headed out of the restaurant, Susan and I talked for a quick minute. It was too bad she didn’t do better on her date on the show -- she was easily the most likeable of the cast members -- but she said the production was a fun experience nonetheless. Plus I think she enjoyed being recognized, her little moment of celebrity.

As I went up to the front entrance to rejoin everyone, Adelphia saw me stick something into my shirt pocket. “What’s that?”

“Nothing,” I said.

“If it’s nothing, lemme see it.” She stood there defiantly in front of our friends.

Fine. I reached in and fished out a toothpick I had taken from the counter at the restaurant lobby. Adelphia furrowed her brow and asked me why I was being so sneaky about a toothpick.

I shrugged and said I was gonna wait for a moment when she wasn’t looking to clean the back of my teeth. Hey, I just had the ribs. But I didn’t wanna gross her out.

Then Adelphia shrugged. “That wouldn’t bother me,” she said.

“Well then what would?” I said. “What did you think I had in my pocket?”

“I thought that girl gave you her card or something.”

I started to laugh. I put my arm around her and kissed her and assured her that I didn’t want that girl’s number, that I’m not interested in anybody else, that Adelphia’s the only one for me...etc… I meant every word, but I’ll spare you any more mushy details.

What I will tell you is another reason I laughed. I guess Adelphia hadn’t seen or didn’t remember Susan’s show. Because even if I had been interested in Susan, I doubt it would’ve been mutual. The episode she was on was a lesbian date.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

My sleepaway camp had a longtime rivalry with the other camp nearby. Remember that movie Meatballs? We considered ourselves the ones on Bill Murray’s side competing with the evil snobs across the lake. And I’m sure the other guys thought the same thing.

So intercamp sports games were particularly exciting. But not to me, for two reasons: One, I hated those jerks in my sleepaway camp. And two, I sucked at sports.

That’s probably why they stuck me at boring ol’ fullback during our soccer match, while the other guys got to have the more glamorous roles of trying to score. Which they failed at. And when the other camp’s team loomed in our side of the field, I rushed out to intercept a shot. But I wasn’t fast enough to block the kick properly, the ball ricocheted off my leg and was deflected into our goal.

For the rest of the summer, I was blamed for our loss. “Mike scored for the other team,” the kids would say. “Which camp do you go to anyway, Mike?”

You see why I hated those jerks.

But even as a kid, I knew it wasn’t all my fault. If our forwards had scored even once, we wouldn’t have lost. If our halfbacks had stopped their team up the field, they wouldn’t have been able to take the shot. And what about our goalie? Was he too just confused to keep the ball out of the net because it was last touched by a fellow teammate?

The disharmony among these finger-pointers was indicative of why our camp got its ass kicked in other games too. It was just easier to play the blame game.

As uncoordinated as I was, I had been on winning squads before. Like my little league team. We had a lot of talent to make up for my spazziness -- our star player later went on to pitch in the minors -- but the camarederie and support from the other guys in our roster was encouraging and I was able to make improvements on the field and in the batter’s box. Okay, mainly I crouched my already-short body down so much that my strike-zone was virtually non-existent, and I got walked a lot. Klutzy me rarely got a hit, but my on-base percentage was phenomenal.

But what I’m basically saying here is: There’s no “Mike” in “Team”.

I thought about this as I watched the Yankees lose the playoffs. Again. I hate to admit it, but I’ve noticed a difference in attitude of the Bronx Bombers in the new Millennium. People blame A-Rod’s lousy hitting for recent losses, but he’s just one player. Yes, one extremely well-paid player. And that may be part of the problem… among many problems which have existed for the past 6 years. Whether it’s the presence of high-salaried superstars or a general complacency, the team definitely lacks unity. I don’t know what’s going on in the dugout, or in the clubhouse, but it’ll take more than putting one guy -- who’s far from living in the poorhouse -- in the doghouse.

The House That Ruth Built could clean house and kick out Joe Torre. Okay, a new manager might help shake things up. It may be about time for a new perspective. Someone who’s hungry to get his first World Series ring, not just one for his pinky to match the other four fingers. But Torre, I got your back, man. Anyone accuses you of not doing a great job… I’ll say it ain’t so, Joe.

So here’s where I make the metaphorical leap and compare Major League Baseball to my childhood sports experiences: It’s obvious to me that my sleepaway camp’s soccer team had too many internal problems and defeated themselves. Just like the Yankees in recent years.

But when an unlikely bunch of scrappers work together, they can defeat the odds and win it all. Like my little league team. And maybe next year, the Yankees.

Or maybe I’m making too big a deal of all this, trying to find life lessons among these stupid games. Maybe Bill Murray’s character in Meatballs put it best when he said, “It just doesn’t matter! It just doesn’t matter!”

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