you kids get out of my yard!

I’ve finally gotten old enough to get away with being cranky. See, I’ve always been cranky, but now that I’m in my fifties, I realize I’m gonna start getting cut slack for being a cranky old guy. I can now be the guy in line muttering angry shit about–anything. I can pull it off now, because I look the part. You have to age into crankiness–it’s like smoking a pipe–a twenty-five year old with a pipe just looks pretentious and–well, wrong.

And why do I feel so oddly empowered? Why do I suddenly look the part? It’s not the grey in my goatee, or the lines on my face. It’s because now I walk with a freakin’ cane! Due to some sort of hip thing (not Tower of Power ‘hip’–grandpa ‘hip’), I’ve got a limp. Basically, I move a little like a Weeble. Now, I’m not thrilled that my marathon-running days are over (before they could even start–tragic), but I’m starting to at least embrace the plus side.

The other day I hobbled onto a train and proceeded to tell the teenager (who was, I might add, terribly unkempt) to get his feet off the seat in front of him. And he did! So testing my newfound license to scold, I strongly suggested that the kids in the back should quiet down, and they did!

But for the best example of the power of the cane–I was crossing the street last week, and noticed a couple of young guys in one of their…hot-rod jalopies. They didn’t see me, and clearly had no intention of stopping before the crosswalk. So I let them pull all the way into the crosswalk, walked to the driver’s side window, planted my cane and yelled ‘this is a crosswalk, punk!”  They looked very frightened. They backed up, waited for me to cross, and then drove away (at the speed limit, I might add).

Now in that moment, they were probably cursing me, but I guarantee that they will remember the insane old dude the next time they come to a rolling stop. And that’s the beauty part, people. I call it freelance social engineering.

This newfound acceptance of my…enfeeblement is very cool, and almost offsets the fact that, in general, my body is breaking down at an alarming rate. I suppose some of this is related to smoking, drinking and not excercising. Anyway, yesterday I got out of the chair at my desk and thought ‘I’ve been sitting too long.’  What? YOU CAN’T SIT TOO LONG! Sitting isn’t an activity! I’ve actually said ‘Oy–my hip’–trust me, when you use Yiddish AND talk aout your hip, you’re officially old.

I wear reading glasses, have digestive problems, walk with a cane,and about three years ago I woke up one morning unable to lift my right arm above my head. I suppose that’s something I should look into. Problem is, I don’t do the doctor thing. It’s not the actual doctor, it’s the time before the appointment. Combine an overactive imagination with the fact that I haven’t exactly treated my body like a temple (maybe a rec room? a VFW hall?), and I always assume the worst.

Side note about my cane–I actually wanted a walking stick–they look less, I don’t know, orthopedic. I’d seen some very stylish walking sticks, but then I realized that I’d never seen a walking-stick store. Or walking-sticks in a store. I couldn’t imagine that everyone with a walking stick hand-carved it out of branches from their back yard, so I did some searching on the web.

Funny enough, the only sites I found for my walking-stick needs were…pimp-related. Pimphats.com . Pimpcostumes.com . I found it interesting that, apparently, the demographic group propping up the walking-stick industry would be none other than our hard-working pimps. Turns out there’s a vast selection of stick options, including one that can (no lie) be filled with a pint of your favorite booze. Now that’s being at peace with being an alcoholic-when you don’t even bother to hide the bottle, choosing instead to guzzle directly from your pimp stick.

Anyway, I should end this now. My leg’s hurting, I need to take my Benefiber, and I’m kinda tired. Besides, my stories are on now.

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nice work if you can get it

Although I’m not in crisis mode any more, financially speaking, I would still like to find a…and I forget what they’re called…that’s right–a job. But it’s proven a bit daunting.

A while back, I was quarter-heartedly looking for a soul-sucking, mind-numbing underpaid office job with no benefits, and though I  emailed over two hundred resumes,I got exactly zero responses. Admittedly, my resume is a bit thin. I’m fifty-one and have worked exactly three real jobs, totalling maybe five years in the ‘real’ world. The kids on ” Real World” actually have better job prospects than I do.

Combine my scant experience with the fact that I can only take jobs I can do sitting down due to my mysterious hip/knee/leg enfeeblement, and the fact that (though I’m no expert) the economy seems to be…less than booming, making my job prospects about as good as those of a Republican running for mayor of Chicago.

Friends suggested I pad my resume. Get creative they say, which in my case would essentially be making shit up.  So I tried to think of things that couldn’t be checked on easily.

2001-2006         Missionary Work             Ulan Bator, Mongolia

Some people have said “But what about your years of work as a comedian? There must be a way to use those skills in the workplace.” Yet oddly enough, very few companies seem to need someone who’s good at mocking authority and insulting drunks.

Still others have said I should emphasize my life experiences. I’m just not sure that in my case that constitutes a marketable ‘skill set.’

1991-2011

  • watched television
  • developed contacts in the marijuana industry
  • gained proficiency at moving, especially on short notice

The other bit of advice I got was to not limit myself. Instead of applying for only those jobs for which I think I’m qualified, cast a wider net and apply for anything. “You can learn on the job” , they’d say. “Any job will train you if they like you.“ I must admit this was kinda fun. Just to see how far into the process I could go applying for a job as, say, a radiologist, or senior hydraulics engineer. Or, from a Craigslist posting on August 19th–

“Yes, I’m interested in the position of regional osteo biologics specialist. Now I think I’m pretty familiar with with the whole osteo biologics thing–did a little googling–just wondering…what region are we dealing with here? This is some sort of bone thing, right? Hello? …Hello?”

I’ve actually seen job listings on Craigslist for doctors. How many bridges have you burned as a doctor if you’re looking for work on a free ad site? Is that the standard career path for physicians? But the problem with looking for work on Craigslist is that Craigslist has all these other categories that suck you in and you never get to the job listings.

Craigslist is like this primordial soup of human randomness, neatly categorized. ‘Lost and Found’ is a great example–there are actually ads where people are saying they lost a wallet–and believe that someone will actually see the ad, and return the wallet! People who lost–other people! “Yeah, I think I found your cousin Ed–you wanna meet somewhere so I can return him?”

But my favorite is in the ‘For Sale’ category under the heading ‘Free.’ People giving away gerbils. Toilets. Yarn. A fifteen foot live birch tree. It’s the cyber equivalent of throwing shit in the alley.

Someone actually posted an ad offering a goat. This begs so many questions. Why does someone in Minneapolis have a goat? If someone in Minneapolis has a goat, they obviously didn’t get it ACCIDENTALLY, so why don’t they want it anymore? What’s wrong with the goat? And if someone needed a goat, would the first place they checked be Craigslist?

Anyway, if anyone knows some place that’s hiring middle-aged pot-heads who can type a little, let me know. I’m willing to relocate.

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it’s the little things

I believe there’s not nearly enough anger in the world. OK, not really. But I do think a lot of society’s problems go unsolved because nobody gets angry about them. Righteous anger.

So I figure, maybe people need to practice getting angry. Find some little things to get angry about, then work your way up to things that really matter. So think of this as an anger training workshop. We’ll find little, seemingly meaningless things that nonetheless, really piss us off, and try to nurture that little spark of outrage within. I’ll start.

CLICHES WHICH, WHEN BROKEN DOWN, ACTUALLY MAKE NO SENSE

This one is like a thousand nails on a thousand chalkboards to me. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Yes, you can.Think about it. You buy a cake and take it home. You now have a cake. Then you eat the cake. You have now had your cake, and eaten it, too. The phrase to express ‘not being able to have things both ways’ should be “you can’t eat your cake and have it, too” because if you’ve eaten your cake, you obviously don’t have it anymore.

STUPID NAMES FOR THINGS THAT WE HAVE TO SAY BECAUSE WE NEED THE THING WITH THE STUPID NAME AND THE PERSON WHO HAS WHAT WE NEED INSISTS ON CALLING IT BY THE STUPID NAME
I love Arby’s sandwiches–something about odd-tasting mass-produced quasi-beef product topped with a plasticene kinda-sorta cheese is comfort food for me. But the experience is ruined when I have to ask for packets of ‘horsey sauce.’ I feel like an idiot asking for ‘horsey sauce.’ It’s  horseradish! Or…is it?  Why isn’t the FDA investigating this? True story: I asked for two packets of horseradish at an Arby’s once and the person at the window was actually stumped for a second until I said “You know, horsey sauce.” By the way, I get just as angry at coffeehouses which have three sizes of cups but you can’t ask for a ‘small’ because they call their ‘small’ a’medium’. It’s hard to communicate with someone when they decide to REDEFINE WHAT WORDS MEAN!
PEOPLE WHO PUSH A BUTTON MORE THAN ONCE IN THE BELIEF THAT IT WILL MAKE THE LIGHT CHANGE (OR THE ELEVATOR COME) MORE QUICKLY
Stop it. Just stop it. The mystical forces which control the Walk/Don’t Walk  signals and the elevator do not care that you are late for a meeting. In fact, you end up vexing the Elevator God by your manic
button-pushing. I’m no electrical engineer, but you might actually be damaging the little doo-dad that sends the signal to the thingie that makes the elevator come. And by the way, if you see me push the button and you’re waiting for the same elevator, it doesn’t do any good to push it again. This just insults me, as if you’re saying, “Yeah, I know you pushed the button, but you should let me handle this.”
WHEN I PAY FOR MY PURCHASE AT THE REGISTER, PUT MY HAND OUT FROR MY CHANGE, AND THE CASHIER PUTS MY CHANGE ON THE COUNTER
Look, I suppose there’s always the chance that by putting my change into my outstretched hand, you might contract some flesh-eating bacteria, but when you think about it, I don’t know where your hands have been, either. I’m willing to take the risk.
WHEN I GIVE ALL OF MY INFORMATION TO THE FIRST CUSTOMER SERVICE GUY, FIND OUT HE CAN’T ACTUALLY HELP ME, SO HE TRANSFERS ME TO ANOTHER GUY, AND I HAVE TO GIVE HIM THE EXACT SAME INFORMATION
I’m pretty sure that any company with enough technology for menu options in their phone system also has the ability have the first guy send my name, account number, billing address, last four digits of my social security number and THE REASON I’M CALLING to the second guy BEFORE the call is actually transferred. Maybe your computers could actually be… I don’t know…networked or something.
Well, these are just a few of the everyday nuisances which, if unaddressed, will simply lead to more stupidity, which will lead to more irritation, more pent-up rage, and ultimately, civilization as we know it will collapse. Of course, it could be just me.
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to all the towns i loved before

In all my wandering, I’ve formed very specific relationships with each of the cities I’ve explored. Because really, when you move somewhere new, it’s a lot like dating–you get to know the personality of the place, try to figure out if the two of you are meant to be together…sometimes you have to break up with a place, and sometimes you just end up with some great memories. I decided to reminisce about the cities I’ve been ‘involved’ with.

Los Angeles: Ahh, my first love. I really only started seeing you because you were my neighbor growing up. We met when I went to UCLA, and I thought you were fun. But a guy needs more than fun, and besides, you were always dealing with some sort of drama–earthquakes, fires, mudslides–I needed something more stable in a relationship. It wasn’t till after I left you that I realized how shallow and superficial you really are, but I wish you well–I’m sure you’ll find others who get lured by your easy charm.

Minneapolis (the first time):  My first grownup relationship with a city. You encouraged me with your midwestern nurturing…because of you I was able to pursue my career. You cooked me wild rice soup and were always so nice…but like a typical man, I left because you were too nice. I thought I’d outgrown you, and needed have a little more action in my life. And let’s be honest–you can be really cold.

Boston: I’ll admit it–I was a jerk when we first got together. In my late twenties, making good money as a comedian, I was cocky and full of myself…I used you and had no intention of staying with you. We weren’t right for each other, and to be honest I always resented your provincial ways.

Miami: 1987…You were hot. And you got me into a lot of trouble. I’ve got no hard feelings about the time we spent together–but this was just a fling, all sex and drugs and no romance. I actually saw you again recently, and thought you looked good.

Los Angeles (again): I had no business seeing you again, and during our brief reunion I didn’t feel like I had ever really known you. Maybe it’s my insecurities–you’re almost too pretty for me, and though I still think about you, and I still want you, I can’t see you again.

Portland: After living on the edge for so many years, I found you, and I fell in love. You were so comfortable and low-maintenance. But ultimately, we just spent too much time getting stoned, and I was worried I was becoming complacent. With you, Portland, I didn’t have the drive to accomplish much, but it was cool hanging out.

Chicago: Now you were one helluva lady. A shot and a beer kinda gal who could still dress up and dazzle–in a simpler time, you’d have been called a ‘broad’ and it would have been a compliment. We spent three years together, and I think we could have made a go of it, but then I lost my job, my health became an issue, and I became a burden. It just seemed best to move on–guess it was a mid-life thing, and I had to find myself again.

New York: You know, I had heard about you from friends. Friends who thought we’d be great together. Exciting. Open to anything. We only had two weeks, but what a whirlwind it was (you probably don’t remember, but I actually met you ten years before–at the time you didn’t even notice me, and I left without so much as a goodbye). I think we might give it another try someday. But I’m not ready to commit to you yet. You demand more than I’ve got to give, and let’s be real–you’re used to someone spending a lot of money on you. When I get my shit together, though, I will definitely look you up.

Minneapolis (again):  Why do I always come back to you when the wheels fall off? But here I am. You’re not the most glamorous city–I’ve certainly had wilder nights and more adventurous times, but at this point in life your even temper and Lutheran reserve offer the kind of peace I need. You keep taking me back, even though you know that if something beckons, I’ll might leave you again. But probably not–I’m sure in a few months I’ll be making a hot dish, and we can bundle up like mummies and walk to the Sculpture Garden.

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i should’ve done this in my twenties

A couple years ago, before I settled into my happy domestic groove and was still in vagabond mode, I thought I’d try to move to New York. My third try. Turns out, I think I liked the concept of  becoming a New Yorker more than the reality. Attempt number three happened when I was forty-nine, so I didn’t have quite the energy I had the previous times that New York slapped me down like a damned dog.

I packed up my life in six bags and took a train to New York City. What I’m really saying is, at almost fifty years old, I decided to move to the most expensive city in the country with a bum hip, no job, two weeks of housing at a friend of a friend’s and three hundred dollars. In February. If anyone needs a life coach, I’m available.

Basically, having been evicted, I had to move somewhere, and my (at the time) flawless reasoning was that I might as well go to one of the few places where there’s still a standup comedy ‘scene,’ that having been my career. And as far as finding the inevitable mind-numbing, soul-sucking day job, well, although New York is obviously getting bitch-slapped by the economic meltdown (which New York was partly responsible for), I thought there would still be more job possibilities in New York than in, say, Minneapolis. It’s a numbers game. Yeah, at least for my particular skill set, I was wrong.

But I got there, and I was excited. And terrified. And excited. I mean, when I first wrote about this, I was looking out a new friend’s window down Broadway–freakin’ Broadway! Tempering my enthusiasm wa the realization that I didn’t know where I’d be sleeping nine days later. So there’s that. Forget about mood swings–I was on a freakin’ mood playground.

When I locked the door to my Chicago apartment for the last time, I realized I became officially homeless. That’s weird to wrap your brain around when you always thought you were just ‘bohemian.’ It was almost a badge of pride to live a kind of spartan life. I’m an artist, goddammit! Oh, how I wish I lived in the fourteenth century, so I could have a patron. I could write jokes for the king, and live fabulously. Of course, I’d have to write jokes that only showed the king in a good light, but hey it’s showbiz.

Twenty hours. That’s how long it takes by Amtrak to go from being a Chicagoan (“fuckin’ Cubs!”) to being a New Yorker (“fuckin Mets!”). The first stop of any length along the way is Toledo, Ohio. For forty-five minutes. For no apparent reason. All I was told is ‘it’s built into the schedule.’ So I’m in the Toledo train station at 3:30 in the morning chatting with a fascinating Orthodox Jew whose trip ended in Toledo (I’m sure many Passover seders end with the hopeful prayer ‘next year in Toledo’). Now a train attendant told me we would be leaving at 4:00, so at about 3:45 I start getting ready to say my shaloms to Chaim and I see my train…start to move.

Suddenly I’m in a bad romantic comedy, all slow-motion and muffled yelling, as I try to hobble after my train. Incidentally, on said train were my bags, which contained my phone, wallet and laptop. My entire life,or at least all record of it, was slowly, but inexorably, leaving me behind.  After what seemed like, oh, half an hour, or at least enough time to ponder every bad decision I’d ever made up to that point, the train stopped. Great. Now my imagination has me thinking this was some colossal prank, like when you’re hitchhiking and the car slows down, pulls over and then drives away. Very funny, Amtrak.

Turns out they were moving the train closer to some air hose thing (sorry, I wasn’t really processing things well at that point), and I reunited with my life. Also turns out the attendant was speaking in approximate terms with the whole 4:00 thing, and that the train departs Toledo at 3:50. Really my fault for not saying to her as I got off the train “No, when EXACTLY do we leave, because I want to make sure I don’t end up having to stay in FUCKING TOLEDO!” Apologies to any Toledo residents reading this. I’m sure it’s a lovely city.

When I settled back into my seat, I told a guy I had been chatting up on the train the story, and he said the same thing happened to him  at a stop in Cleveland recently. Which leads me to what I call the Toledo Theory. See, I think so few people choose to go to Toledo, or Cleveland, that the state of Ohio has paid Amtrak to leave a certain number of passengers behind, to help the local economy. I believe most of the residents of Toledo, Ohio were actually going somewhere else, and once they were stranded, basically said “Well…I might as well just stay here.” Granted, it’s not as sexy as black-ops helicopters or Area 51, but it’s my first wacky conspiracy theory, I’m kinda proud of it.

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psycho roommate quiz

I love living with the girlfriend, but there are moments when I fondly remember living alone. And that it kinda rocked. Drinkng milk from the carton, deciding to listen to all my Carpenters cds on shuffle and repeat, or just have one of those days when I don’t see any reason to get dressed (I know– I led a rich, full life)And I was lucky, because I only had one psycho roommate.

Now in my experience, psycho roommates don’t usually seem psycho when you first meet them, but then you see that one quirky behavior that used to be just goofy but now seems to be proof of profound mental illness. I’m gonna tell you about two roommates, but (here it comes..wait for it…wait for it…) there’s a catch! Only one of them was really a roommate of mine and you have to guess which one!

Greg smoked a lot of weed, which was one of the reasons I thought he’d be a cool roommate. I figured there would always be pot in the house, and we’d laugh a lot. What I didn’t realize is that if you’re not stoned, stoned people aren’t nearly as interesting. Now if Greg were a typical pothead, he would eventually get really quiet, nodding off while watching a ‘Becker’ marathon . But Greg liked to talk when he got stoned. Constantly. About nothing.

“Dude…I made up a new word! This doctor was talking about the knee reflex, and I was thinking you should call that a kneeflex!” “Dude–they should make a cologne that smells like a new car so that women think you’re rich!” Then I got to witness that perfect storm where stupidity, laziness and THC meet. I come home one day, he’s got a bag of pretzels on his right, a bag of mini-chocolate on his left, and he’s nodding. Then he takes a handful of pretzels and a few of the candy bars and shoves them all into his mouth at the same time.

He chews and nods, all the while gesturing to me in that way that says “No–hang on–I got somethin’ here”. Finally he announces that what he’s got is the “greatest snack food idea ever”. Chocolate-covered pretzels. After I explained to him that they…had already been invented, he called me an asshole, went into his room and slammed the door. I had never seen a stoner get that upset about anything, and from then on things between us were always a little tense.

Jim was my roommate during freshman year at UCLA. He was a computer genius who had designed some important software when he was 17. What he hadn’t done is learn how to interact with other humans. He didn’t speak for the first three weeks we lived together, and while quiet can be good when you’re studying, this was creepy-brooding-antisocial-No Country For Old Men quiet. He spent his time hacking into the university mainframe to play this early role-playing game. This guy was such a freak that he gets access to every student’s personal file AND DOES NOTHING WITH IT!

He was also such an oblivious slob that when I had company, I threw a large blanket over his half of the room, forming a hideous blob-like sculpture, which even at that was less likely to scare a date than the piles of fast-food wrappers, beer bottles and underwear beneath the blanket. I didn’t have to kick Jim out, though. Fortunately, the university did that, and when they did, he put on mountain-climbing gear and proceeded to rapel down the side of our eight story dorm building.

So, who did I really live with? Who’s fictional? Why am I asking  rhetorical questions? Just knowing that there are Gregs or Jims out there who are just a Craigslist ad away from masturbating in the room next to me makes me appreciate my drafty overpriced studio I had in Chicago.

It was a marginal neighborhood (apparently the real estate term is ‘partially gentrified,’ which means you can still buy crack on the corner but you can also get a vanilla latte with it), but despite the occasional mouse and the one cockroach I spotted in my kitchen (who I’m convinced was some sort of scout), there were things I really enjoyed. Like being able to cook naked.

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