priorities

Although some of the mystical ‘leading economic indicators’ seem to be recovering, don’t think this country is done with the nightmare. For the most part, I have been insulated from the economic crisis. A key reason for this: I had no money when the crisis began; I am exactly as broke as I was when all of this started.

But a some recent news items point out how dire things still are. In March, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra went on strike, and now it seems the Syracuse Symphony may have to cancel the rest of its season. What? We’re talking he cornerstone of the entire upstate New York classical music industry–how could we let this happen? I mean, GM is one thing–but the Syracuse Symphony?!  Where are the congressional hearings? Where’s the outrage?

I don’t think any of us can imagine where this will lead.  Fewer musicians working could mean that,  I think for the first time in our nation’s history, we could see musicians in the unemployment line. Less rehearsal time may mean that audiences will be forced to endure unevenly performed string quartets. And who knows–maybe they won’t even be played by quartets! Everyone knows that our nation’s cellists are the first to be cast aside in a crisis.

Of course, economic analysts often point to small regional orchestras as the true bellweathers of the economy–the proverbial ‘canaries in the coal mine.’ Just think what might happen next. Ballet companies having to dance in street shoes…operas mounted with NO incidental music… a production of  Wagner’s ‘Ring’ cut down to only three and a half hours!

If the SSO and other crucial groups are not bailed out by the federal government, the repercussions will shatter the very foundations of our society. We cannot leave our children a country in which community theaters, in the interest of ‘financial responsibility,’ have to mount productions of  “One Gentleman of Verona” or “Seven Angry Men.” Or a version of “The Music Man’ where the townsfolk can only sing about “55 Trombones.” Please, people. Demand that Congress save the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. Or this great experiment, this America, will surely collapse.

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how does this work again?

I am extraordinarily lucky to  have found ‘the girlfriend.’  I had pretty much given up on the partner thing, since prior to connecting with She Who Tolerates Me, I hadn’t had sex in five years. While I’d like to attribute this to my incredibly high standards, there may in fact be other reasons for this drought.

When I was a younger man, I filled these dry spells with soul-searching, personal growth work, and porn. I never went to strip clubs, because I never understood the point—let’s, see, I’m lonely, and would really like to be with a woman, so I think I’ll go to a place that charges me a lot of money to LOOK AT what I want, which will get me excited, but I won’t be able to do anything about it. Sorta like being really hungry and going to a restaurant where the waiters SHOW you plates of food that you can’t eat.

Unfortunately, porn doesn’t do much for me, because the internet has made it too complicated. Used to be, you’d grab a magazine, and see pictures of people having sex. But while looking at those pictures, you didn’t have to deal with other pictures ‘popping up’ to get you to look at new pictures. I’m just saying, when the mood is just right, call me old-fashioned, but I like to focus on the couple I’m watching pretend to have sex.

There are also too many options with internet porn. I realize the spectrum of human sexuality is diverse, but are you kidding me? Two men, three woman, and an some kind of…sling? See I think what makes porn work is when the viewer can, at least on some level, imagine himself to be in the scene. Me, I’ve never mentally put myself in a sling.

The problem is that men get bored so easily with our simple man-minds, we have to keep making up new, more ‘out there’ types of porn. First it’s threesomes, then orgies, and all of a sudden we’ve got somebody with a camcorder uploading videos of alpacas masturbating.

You’d think, being bisexual, life would be a veritable Satyricon for me—a sexual smorgasbord. But no, it just means I can go into ANY bar and go home alone. By the way, I hate the term ‘bisexual.’ It sounds too clinical. I prefer my Native American name–”Dance With Anyone.” Or you could call me “donnyandmarie,” because I’m a little bit country AND a little bit rock and roll.

Before the girlfriend, the last time I had been in an actual relationship, Heather Locklear was starring in a series. Turns out, my sex life actually paralleled Heather Locklear’s career. I got laid a lot from 1981-1989 (’Melrose Place’ and ‘T.J. Hooker’), not so much from 1999-2002 (’Spin City’), and once in 2004 (’LAX’).  So until the lovely Miss Locklear gets another gig, I’m gonna have to find some way to get back in circulation.

I have thought about placing a personal ad, but I’m not sure I’m very ‘marketable.’

Forty-eight year old struggling writer and standup comic with limp seeks partner to share couch at friend’s apartment. Does not drive. Hobbies include playing the clarinet and blogging.

I’ve read that you can make romantic connections in places other than bars. But where? I’m Jewish, so I could cruise synagogues, but it always felt a little weird flirting with someone at a house of worship–I mean, God’s right there , for God’s sake. And I’ve heard that grocery stores are possibilities, but I’m not sure how you start that conversation (”I see you eat food, too. Maybe we should hook up.”)

It had been so long since I had sex, I wasn’t even sure if it worked the same way. Like they had developed some sort of…Sex 2.0 that I didn’t know about. I’m happy to report that it’s exactly the same as I remembered it, although I have  had to retire a few of my moves.

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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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first drafts

GREAT SPEECHES

IN HISTORY

Ah, to say just the right phrase. To string together in concise fashion the perfect mix of sentiment and meaning–to galvanize the assembled masses. I’m sure all of us at one time have asked “Where are the great orators today?” I know a guy who sleeps outside my building who was asking that just last night. In addition he asked if I could help him out with a little change, because he fought in ‘Nam and still hears the choppers sometimes at night and that Charlie killed his best friend.

My point is, who among our so-called ‘leaders’ has the power to inspire us with their words, to coin the phrases that will strengthen us in battle and comfort us in tragedy? President Obama gives a great speech, but even his most stirring words had to start with a first draft.

Now, a recently discovered collection of these early manuscripts has been made public, and we can see that even our most treasured orations went through a little…tinkering.


During the Revolutionary War, and facing certain death for treason against the British Empire, it turns out Patrick Henry initially muttered

“Look, you don’t have to kill me.

I like the King–this whole ‘United States’ idea is just a big misunderstanding”–and I can take you to Jefferson–he’s the main guy behind this anyway.”


Few people know  that Abraham Lincoln agonized for hours before his great speech, and that the original ending was to have been

“I realize that it won’t matter what I say here, since most of the people here are DEAD. God, I hate this job.”


Civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King foretold in lofty metaphor a vision of a country united across racial divides. However, in an early manuscript, Dr. King, worried about instigating violence, intended to begin with the somewhat less inspirational

“I have…what seems to be, at least in my mind–what might be a pretty good idea–at least give it some thought.”


The immortal question posed by JFK in January of 1960 inspired an entire generation. But what we remember as “Ask not what your country can do for you…” actually began as

“Don’t ask me what to do. I’m not sure we really have to do anything. It’s not like we’re at war”


And baseball great Lou Gehrig, addressing the Yankee Stadium faithful, brought tears to a generation with his humility and strength in the face of tragedy. But it turns out, in an early draft of his speech, he actually planned to say:

louToday…I consider myself…to have really been screwed over here. I mean…c’mon, people, I’m a professional athlete, and now they’re telling me I’ve got an incurable neurological disease—AND you’re planning on naming it after me? There are luckier people I can think of.”

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your guaranteed accurate horoscope

I’m amazed that newspapers still carry horoscopes. I mean it’s not like there’s an alchemy column, or like the police blotter lists witch sightings–you can’t find a palm-reading report in your Sunday paper. But people still read their horoscopes.

I stopped reading my horoscope when I realized it was so generalized that it could apply to anyone.  So in the spirit of ‘giving the people what they want,’ and after much divination, oracle-consultation and star-gazing (I’m unemployed right now, so I’ve got the time), I’ve put together a guaranteed 100% accurate fool-proof astrological forecast and guide for today, March 11th, 2009. Just for you. Seriously. It’s personalized.

 

ARIES

Someone you know will talk to you today. Also, you will find yourself unsure at some point about something, but this will pass.

TAURUS

Don’t try to solve the world’s problems today. You won’t be able to.

GEMINI

Caution is your watchword, Gemini, especially if barefoot mountain-climbing is on the agenda.

CANCER

For you, this is a day governed by the laws of physics. It’s not a good day, however, for running naked through the grocery store.

LEO

Like a typical Leo, you enjoy some things more than others.

VIRGO

It will seem today that life is unfair, but you will probably not kill anyone.

LIBRA

If you see a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk, you should pick it up and keep it. Today is a good day to plan for the future, or pursue your goals, or be productive.

SCORPIO

Watch out Scorpio–there will be people who disagree with you today. There is a chance you will fall in love.

SAGITTARIUS

Today is not a good day to travel to Baghdad. You will think about a member of your family today,and have some sort of feeling about this.

CAPRICORN

Because of the position of your ruling planet, good things will make you happy. Try to have good things happen today.

AQUARIUS

The alignment of the outer planets will make it difficult for you to accomplish everything you planned, but some things will work out o.k. Other things won’t.

PISCES

Avoid screaming, demon-possessed outbursts today– especially around co-workers. Pisceans by their nature hate being shot, so it’s best to avoid this.

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