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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Larry Getlen’s Top 10 CD’s of 2005


1. (Tie) System of a Down – Hypnotize
Opeth – Ghost Reveries
The Mars Volta – Frances the Mute

Fans of progressive metal rejoiced in 2005, as wailing guitars, soaring melodies, complex song structures and careening rhythms smashed through the ear walls and asserted their dominance. Raise your lighters for “Lost in Hollywood,” all hail the “Ghost of Perdition,” say a prayer of thanks for “The Widow” and praise the gods of song for victory over the musical weak.

4. The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan

Ah, Meg. You twice-as-cute Mo Tucker in Santa red, you cherub of the arrhythmic, how I long to pinch those pulse-pounding cheeks. What could have enthused God so on the day he deemed that you and Jack should meet?

5. Coldplay – X&Y

Fuck Jon Pareles. The masters of melancholy rode through town in moody style, trailing tears in their wake. A record so dense and evocative, I’ll even forgive him for Apple.

6. And You Will Know Us By The Trial Of Dead – Worlds Apart

The brilliant orchestral joke that opens the record features a regal choir belting out “this is so exhausting.” Given the verve and sweat in this soothingly pounding effort, it’s no wonder.

7. Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine

That Ashlee Simpson has even one fan in a world where Fiona Apple exists is a crime against nature. The four hours of shockingly excellent music in MTV’s Katrina benefit proved one thing – few singers touch their soul like Fiona.

8. Death Cab for Cutie – Plans

Ben Gibbard is music’s heavenly cherub, and Plans is his cloud of wonder. One gets the sense that if placed under a microscope, Gibbard’s DNA would be intertwined in perfect harmonic patterns.

9. System of a Down – Mezmerize

A true double CD? J’accuse, you crazy Albanians! Mezmerize fails to meet Hypnotize’s challenge of poignantly thrashing consistency, but compared with the mainstays of the rock world still glares down with rightful superiority.


10. Queens of the Stone Age – Lullabies to Paralyze

Forget Oliveri – recording an album without Grohl after what might be the best rock drumming album ever put on computer chip was the real challenge. While the task was thankless, Homme and Co. still gave us a basher worthy of their rep.

###

Monday, April 04, 2005

Mitch Hedberg, a comedian with a punchy one-liner delivery that he perfected to become one of comedy’s brightest talents, died last week.

I was fortunate enough to have interviewed Mitch on two occasions, both times by phone while Mitch was on the road. The first was in early 2003. We had scheduled a late afternoon conversation, and when I called his room at the Embassy Suites in Raleigh, North Carolina, he was groggy. Clearly, he had just woken up. He was in dire need of coffee.

“I just woke up,” Mitch told me. “I wanna do a good interview. Can you call me in ten minutes?”

I did, and we spoke for an hour. And I later realized that when Mitch had said, “I wanna do a good interview,” he meant it. In over 15 years of interviewing musicians, comedians, actors and others, I have never heard anyone say anything like that, before or since. When I called him back, he was friendly, warm, and open. This was not a guy giving lip service to some journalist. This was a 15-year show business veteran who really wanted to do a good interview. Which he did.

Here are the two articles I wrote about Mitch. Both were written for City Link Magazine, a Fort Lauderdale-based entertainment newspaper, so they are both a bit Florida-centric.

Enjoy.



This article appeared in Fort Lauderdale’s City Link Magazine in early 2003.


Mitch Hedberg
By Larry Getlen


Comedian Mitch Hedberg has built a career in a manner not unlike most successful stand-up comics – awkwardness for the first few years, slowly evolving into more and more polished (and funnier) material over time thanks to hard work, writing, touring, bombing, and slowly but surely perfecting his craft.

But there is one aspect of his career that is unusual for someone in his profession.

He got his start right here in South Florida.

While there is scant opportunity now for aspiring comics to hone their craft here, the situation was different in 1988, when Minnesota native Hedberg traveling southward down Route 35 with a friend, hit Texas, and made a spur-of-the-moment decision about the next step in his life - left to Florida, or right to California.

They turned left.

“I lived in Fort Lauderdale, Lauderhill, and Lauderdale by the Sea,” recalls Hedberg, who earned money by participating in medical drug experiments, and served as a cook at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper.

“They had a little hamburger and sandwich stand they brought out to the beach during the day,” says Hedberg, “and I got a job doing that, standing out in the sand with all these girls. I had to dress up like a cook, so I looked a bit ridiculous. We’d make hamburgers and tuna sandwiches, and I remember I had to take this bucket of tuna out of the refrigerator on the beach. You know how some things are better left unseen? That’s why kitchens have closed doors. Although I actually did meet a girl doing that. It was wild.”

Hedberg’s first time on stage saw him perform a sketch with a friend at an open mic night. It was in Boca Raton at a restaurant called Haggerty’s which featured comedy seven nights a week. He quickly realized that he’d be happier performing on his own, and did his first stand-up set at a club called Governor’s on the intercoastal.

“There were about 30 people in the crowd, which was a lot for an open mic,” says Hedberg. “I actually did good. I got laughs. I don’t know why, because I knew I wasn’t saying jokes that were funny, but people were laughing. I think it had more to do with nervousness, and people latching on to that and maybe feeling sorry for me. But I got laughs, and I got spoiled. There were a couple of times I got laughs after that, and then I didn’t get laughs for about a year.”

While he suffered from stage fright, Hedberg knew right away that stand-up was his calling.

“I knew immediately,” says Hedberg. “This kid I worked with said, ‘you’re not gonna make money with it,’ and I said, ‘yeah, I am.’ I knew what I needed to do. I mean, I knew I wasn’t good, I wasn’t kidding myself, but I knew I could get good. I saw the potential. It was something I could just do on my own, and I didn’t have to listen to anybody. So I knew right away I wanted to do it.”

At the time, there were enough comedy venues in South Florida that an aspiring comedian could perform five nights a week, so Hedberg performed at open mics around the region for the next two years, until his girlfriend decided she had had enough of Florida.

“Florida’s kind of a hedonistic scene,” says Hedberg. “So the girl I lived with, I really liked her and stuff, but I wasn’t very faithful to her. She got fed up with me and with Florida, so she decided to move to Seattle where her brother was, and she told me I could go with if I wanted. For some reason I said yes. I should have stayed, really, but actually, going to Seattle was a good move because I started to get paid work.”

In addition to saving a relationship that would last another seven years, Hedberg moved to the next phase of his career during his time in Seattle, learning the intricacies of the craft.

“I had to figure out how to write a real joke, and not just get laughs from being unorganized and stuff,” says Hedberg. “It took two years before I had five to ten minutes of jokes. Plus, when I landed in Seattle, it was a new scene and a new group of people, and I felt like a bit of a hot shot. Because I would go to open mic and be good. The people there were like, who’s this new guy? They thought I had just started. They had no idea I’d been doing it for two years, so they were like, wow, this guy can do ten minutes and kill.”

So with ten solid minutes of material under his belt, Hedberg took to the road, and the next stage of his evolution. “Once I got to the half hour position, that was another two or three years of not doing good,” says Hedberg. “Because I didn’t have enough material, really. So after two years I felt good about five to ten minutes, and after five years, I had a half hour.”

As Hedberg describes it, his style evolved in a roundabout way over time, assisted somewhat by nerves.

“It was a matter of getting comfortable on stage first, because I had a lot of stage fright,” says Hedberg. “I was very nervous on stage, and that affected my speech. So it was a matter of combating stage fright. Once I got that down, I was able to actually start talking and being coherent on stage, and writing jokes. I started to write the jokes shorter, and started to edit a lot of the shit out of there. I realized the importance of being economical with words. But conquering stage fright was a big part.”

To this day, Hedberg sees that stage fright as a major influence on his loose, rapid-fire vocal patter. “Now, I’m comfortable on stage,” says Hedberg, “but I don’t think standing in front of 300 strangers is something where I’m ever able to be totally comfortable. I don’t think I’m nervous on stage now, although people will still think I’m nervous because of my tics. I’m not nervous at all, but that had some influence.”

As his career progressed and he got to the ten-year mark, Hedberg had built his style, and was also bolder about promoting himself. At the time, MTV was running several stand-up comedy shows. Hedberg walked into MTV’s offices, unannounced and unrepresented, and asked to be seen for an audition. He got the audition and the show, and at taping was the man who would become his manager.

Doors soon began to open for Hedberg. He performed at the prestigious Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal and on several comedy shows on various cable stations, and then, one year after signing with management, got booked on Late Night with David Letterman.

And again, nerves almost became an issue.

“I had done five or six cable comedy shows up to that point,” says Hedberg, “and every time I was disappointed when I’d watch it. I’d be so nervous during the filmings that I had heart palpitations and anxiety. It was awful. I thought, if this happens when I’m at Letterman it’ll be awful. But Letterman was the first time I went out there that I felt normal, and felt good telling jokes. So I was lucky to do five or six experimental runs on these cable comedy shows that hardly anybody sees, before I got the national exposure on the Letterman show.”

Hedberg sees that the Letterman opportunity came at the right time.

“It was just a magical moment,” says Hedberg. “My body rose to the challenge. Because I was having heart palpitations, literally, while I was in front of the camera on these cable shows. My heart would start skipping beats, and I thought I would faint on camera. They have a mirror on the side of the stage at the Letterman show, and I just looked at myself and said, this ain’t gonna happen this time. And that’s what happened. My first set went really well, and I’ve been invited back nine times since.”

While Hedberg has evolved into one of the best and most admired stand-up comics on the circuit, he almost segued into another area. Soon after his Montreal appearance, he found himself with $25,000 leftover from a development deal, and decided to make a movie.

“I wrote a script and I went to Minnesota to hire people to work on my movie,” says Hedberg. “The Minnesota film board helped me out and hooked me up with people, and we thought we were gonna make a movie for $25,000. In the end, I spent about a hundred grand. I got some loans, and got into some credit card situations.”

But in the end, Hedberg had a completed movie, Los Enchiladas!, which co-starred other prominent stand-up comics including Dave Attell and Todd Barry, and seemed to be headed for big things when the film was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival. Unfortunately, the film’s reception at the festival was less enthusiastic than he had hoped.

“It wasn’t good, it wasn’t good at all,” says Hedberg. “The movie was a comedy, and there were three hundred people packed into this theater, and they didn’t laugh very much. It was awful. It was like a stand-up set I couldn’t control. I was watching something I wrote to be funny not get laughs, but I couldn’t change it, I couldn’t alter the pace or anything. I had to just sit and watch these people not laugh. It was horrible. You’re supposed to do a Q&A afterward, but I fuckin’ split.”

The Sundance experience was one more example for Hedberg of the precariousness of the business, and also a reminder of what a good thing he had in stand-up.

Hedberg, who still admires the movie and may put it out on DVD and sell it through his web site, returned to stand-up with renewed focus after Sundance. In 1999 he put out a CD, Strategic Grill Locations, that he sells through his web site (mitchhedberg.net) and at shows. The CD has sold around 10,000 copies so far. For his second CD, tentatively titled All Encompassingly, he signed a deal with Comedy Central. The cable channel, which recently released CDs from Attell, Jim Breuer and their Crank Yankers show, will release All Encompassingly later this year.

In the meantime, Hedberg, who would love to get an HBO special or release an hour-long concert movie at some point, will continue traveling the country, enjoying a level of success truly amazing for the guy who turned left at Texas to basically avoid college.

“One time I did a theatre show,” says Hedberg, “and the check was so big I showed my dad, and I don’t know if that was the best idea, because now he wonders what I do with the money.”


###


This article appeared in Fort Lauderdale’s City Link Magazine in December 2004.


Mitch Hedberg
By Larry Getlen


Mitch Hedberg is driving through Mile City, Montana with his wife and his road manager in a brand new RV. For those who thought that a life in stand-up comedy is without its rewards, Hedberg’s new traveling abode is proof to the contrary.

“We’re rolling down the road in a 35-footer,” describes Hedberg. “It’s winter up here. This is a brand new, 2005 vehicle, so it’s pretty sweet.”

Hedberg bought the RV with the royalties from his 2003 CD, Mitch All Together. The CD is his second, and has sold over 85,000 copies, an impressive number for a comedy recording.

Mitch All Together was released on Comedy Central Records, which enables it to be sold in stores. Hedberg made his first CD, Strategic Grill Locations, available independently, selling it only at gigs and through his web site. It sold somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 copies. So while Hedberg sees a much smaller percentage of the new CD’s profits, the increased numbers more than make up for it in the increased exposure.

“When you first turn over your CD, you get scared because the profit margin is a lot lower, but then your sales are a lot larger,” explains Hedberg. “You think when you’re selling it on your web site that everyone who wants to buy one is. So I sold 15,000 to 20,000 of the first one on my own, and I was happy with that. But 85,000…I’m hoping to get to a hundred.”

The new CD contains Hedberg’s usual brand of quick one-liners, such as, “I went to a doctor. All he did was suck blood from my neck. Don’t go see Dr. Acula.” While the bizarre quip has been Hedberg’s stock in trade since he hit his first open mic at a Boca Raton restaurant called Haggerty’s in the late ‘80s, long time Hedberg fans may notice a difference in his style on the new release. For reasons he can’t quite explain, his delivery is considerably more aggressive on Mitch All Together than ever before. While his head-down stoner aura remains, his delivery is considerably quicker than in the past, and many of his punchlines contain a bite unusual for the comic generally regarded as mellow.

“I was going through a period of aggressive performances when we made the date to record,” says Hedberg, who notes that while the change occurred organically, he is now working to bring about some level of correction. “I wasn’t too happy with it being as aggressive as it was. I was happy with the results of the CD, but I was definitely speeding up my delivery, and it’s a drastic change from the first one. I think my third CD will be right in the middle stylistically.”

In addition to the success of Mitch All Together, another triumph for Hedberg was performing on the Comedy Central tour with Dave Attell and Lewis Black. Hedberg was the show’s opener, and said that the tour was just as crazy as fans might imagine.

“It was the best thing ever,” says Hedberg. “Those guys party all night, non-stop. I was chillin’ out after the shows, laying low, but after a night of partying ‘till 5, 6 am, sleeping a couple of hours and then getting to the airport or being driven to the next town, they wouldn’t be cranky. They were sweet guys.”

Hedberg sounds genuinely bummed out that the tour had to end, and confirmed that Dave Attell is just as big a party hound as fans imagine – adding that Lewis Black is no slouch himself.

“Insomniac is exactly what he does. That’s how hard he parties. Even harder,” confirms Hedberg. “They gotta keep it basic cable clean, and he parties HBO style. Lewis too. I don’t know if it was a case of keeping up, ‘cause Lewis likes to chill, he’s usually more of the chill guy, but he was partying non-stop for a while. But I noticed that as soon as he had his girlfriend around, he would lay low. So I think he likes to chill, go back to the room and have a steak just as much as he likes to party, but he kept his hat in the ring just about every night.”

Perhaps the best thing about being on the road for Hedberg is traveling with his wife. Many comedians who are married deal with constant separation, but Hedberg’s wife and “compatriot,” as he calls her, Lynn Shawcroft, is a comedian as well, and serves as his opening act.

“She’s Canadian, and I met her at the Montreal festival,” says Hedberg. “She opens for me, and it’s an amazing set-up. I can’t be without her. As much as I like to stay on the road, I’d have to have something like this in order for anything to work. I’m addicted to her. I had ten years on the road all solo, having fun and experiencing what being a touring comic was. So I had both sides, which is cool, because I would have hated to experience only one side. I’m glad I got to taste both.”

Shawcroft not only serves as Hedberg’s companion, but complements the comic both personally and professionally.

“Comedically, she’s sarcastic, witty, and very fast,” says Hedberg. “Compared to me she’s probably more three-dimensional. She’s more warm on stage, a bit more charismatic, uses more eye contact. I tend to be in my own world, somewhat shy, I suppose. So she’s a little bit more open and willing to deal with people, which is cool.”

Hedberg and Shawcroft are getting to the point in their life where kids are being considered, and Hedberg has already figured out how that may work in a life on the road. He’s at the point in his career where he can get away with performing only three nights a week, so he’d be able to spend four nights a week with the family. But there is one aspect of having kids he’ll take pains to avoid.

“I don’t wanna write jokes about kids,” says Hedberg. “I lot of comics, when they have kids, they write jokes about ‘em. I’d probably have funny experiences with my kids that I’d want to write jokes about, but I just don’t wanna be the comic writing jokes about his kids. I have a fear of that.”

Hedberg, who wrote and directed a film called Los Enchiladas that played at Sundance and appeared in Almost Famous, will appear next year in Lords of Dogtown. A dramatic version of the hit documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, Hedberg plays the guy who introduces Europhene skateboard wheels to California – a key role for a skateboard movie.

Returning to South Florida brings back fond memories for Hedberg, who worked as a cook at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper during his early days in comedy. While he warmly recalls the now-defunct clubs that nurtured him, it saddens him that none of the Fort Lauderdale open-micers he started with stayed in comedy. Many successful comedians, especially in New York or Los Angeles, have friends they bombed with in the early days, and can now commiserate with about similar success. But Hedberg is the only comic from that time and place enjoying the spoils of headliner status, the CD and the RV, and he wishes that South Florida had had a bit more on the ball in terms of preparing one for comedy success.

“It was such a weak group of people,” he says of his former fellow neophytes. “I didn’t know it at the time, but now I see they were destined for a short life in the comedy world. I wish I would have come up with some superstars. I’d love to see and hear some success stories, but I think they’re all in some other business now. It’s too bad, ‘cause I had a great time in Fort Lauderdale doing comedy. I’d love for this week’s show to be a homecoming show, but there’s nobody home.”


###

Thursday, October 14, 2004

CELEBRATE “BUSH’S LAST NIGHT” WITH NEW YORK’S TOP POLITICAL COMICS, & PRESIDENT CLINTON’S JOKE WRITER!!!

Spend Election Eve at the Triad Theater,
celebrating the night before we vote the bums out!


Join New York’s finest political comics, including current and former writers and performers for Tough Crowd, SNL, Air America, and even the man who brought the funny to President Bill Clinton, at the Triad Theater on Monday, November 1, the night before Election Day, for “Bush’s Last Night,” a comedic celebration of our voting George W. Bush out of office!


“BUSH’S LAST NIGHT!”
Monday, November 1 – 9:00 p.m.
Triad Theater, 158 West 72nd Street between Broadway and Columbus
(Subway - 2,3 to 72nd St.).
Admission: $10 w/ 2-drink min.
Advance tickets @ theatermania.com, or call 212-352-3101
Free stuff: Several lucky audience members will win free schwag from Air America!


Performers:

MC – Ritch Duncan (has written for SNL, Tough Crowd and Craig Kilborn, and founding editor of Jest Magazine)

And featuring:

Mark Katz (joke writer for President Clinton; author of hilarious memoir Clinton & Me)
Eric Kirchberger (Comedy Central’s Premium Blend)
Bruce Cherry (writer – Air America)
Larry Getlen (Chappelle’s Show, wrote for Tough Crowd w/Colin Quinn)
MEAT (one of NY’s top sketch groups, described by the Chicago Tribune as having “wit, flair and sass that would make ‘SNL’ envious.”)



###

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Bush went up in the polls after Reagen’s death. Now he just sits on the phone, “is Gingrich sick?” Renquist getting a head cold, maybe? How’s dad?”

Friday, March 26, 2004

So, Condoleezza Rice won’t testify publicly before the 9/11 commission or the families of the victims, but has plenty of time to go on morning shows to slam Richard Clarke. Hmmmm...what can she be hiding? I think I know what she’s afraid of. Here’s one possible scenario about what might happen if Condi speaks publicly to the commission.


DEMOCRATIC SENATOR: Ms. Rice, it has been noted for this commission that in December 2000, the president-elect and his staff, including yourself, were briefed that Al Qaeda was very close to executing a catastrophic attack on the U.S. homeland. Is that true?
CONDI RICE: Senator, we were briefed on certain conditions, and prepared to take swift action after President Bush’s inauguration and the full instillation of the officers of this administration.
DS: So you’re saying the incoming administration had a plan?
CR: A very tough and concrete plan for dealing with Al Qaeda, yes sir.
DS: But that plan was never executed, was it, Ms. Rice?
CONDI’S LAWYER: One moment, sir.
(Condi and her lawyer whisper furiously for 30 seconds.)
CONDI: No, sir.
DS: And the reasons for that?
CONDI’S LAWYER: One moment, sir.
(They whisper again. Careful listeners notice that the word “dickhead” is uttered at least twice, once by Ms. Rice, and again by her lawyer.)
CONDI: I cannot explain these reasons due to issues pertaining to national security.
DS: Ms. Rice, need I remind you that America is watching, and has a right to answers.
CR: Sir, America’s security...
DS: Ms. Rice, it has been alleged before this commission that President Bush was in possession of a plan crafted by the Clinton Administration to kill Osama bin Laden. Is that true?
CR: Yes, sir.
DS: Then what happened to that plan, Ms. Rice?
CR: I don’t know, sir.
(Urgent mumbling from the commission members and viewing gallery)
DS: Ms. Rice, might I remind you that you’re under oath.
(Rice and her lawyer confer again – the words “dweeb” and “assmunch” are both uttered a touch too loudly, causing the commission chair to reprimand Rice’s lawyer, who responds by saying he’s sorry and that it won’t happen again.)
CONDI: I do not know the current whereabouts of the plan, Senator.
DS: But the president did have this plan?
CR: Yes, sir.
DS: And now you don’t know where it is.
CR: That’s correct.
DS: Ms. Rice. Be honest. The president lost the plan, didn’t he?
CR: (Pause, and then) Yes, sir.
(Loud rumblings from the viewing gallery. The chair bangs a gavel loudly and screams “ORDER,” which baffles everyone assembled since they’re not actually in court.)
DS: Where did the president have the plan last, Ms. Rice?
CR: Sir, we believe the president had the plan in the kitchen of his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
DS: In the kitchen.
CR: Yes, sir.
DS: What was he doing with the plan in the kitchen, Ms. Rice?
CR: Making nachos, sir. The President is a big fan of nachos.
REPUBLICAN SENATOR: Point of order, Ms. Rice. Does the president use homemade guacamole, or the store bought kind?
(Condi confers with her lawyer)
CR: Store bought, sir.
(More loud rumbling from the gallery, including a few distinct “tsk, tsk” noises from several elderly Hispanic women.)
DS: Senator, if you don’t mind. Ms. Rice, if the president had the secret plan to kill Osama bin Laden in the kitchen while he made the nachos, then how did the plan get lost?
CR: Sir, it is believed that precisely seven minutes after placing the nachos in the oven, the president realized that...
(Her lawyer puts his hand on her arm to stop her, but...)
DS: Sir, you will let Ms. Rice finish, or you’ll be held in contempt of Congress. Ms. Rice? What did the president realize?
CR: That he had left the secret plan to kill Osama bin Laden on the bottom of the baking sheet.
(The crowd rises up in screaming disbelief.)
DS: So the plan to kill Osama bin Laden was burned, then.
CR: Actually sir, the paper escaped unscathed. The president forgot to turn on the oven.
DS: So the president then retrieved the plan?
CR: Yes, sir.
DS: So the plan was alright.
CR: Not quite. Several key passages were rendered unreadable due to the grease from the guacamole.
REPUBLICAN SENATOR: Ms. Rice. I feel I must interject here. Was the president not aware that had he made the guacamole from scratch, using fresh avocados, then there would have been significantly less grease?
DS: That is immaterial, sir!
RS: I’m just saying that homemade guacamole, perhaps made from real California avocados, might have prevented this catastrophe, therefore preserving the plan to kill Osama bin Laden.
DS: Will the Senator from California please pipe down? The guacamole stains only covered certain details, not the entire plan, isn’t that correct, Ms. Rice?
CR: Yes, sir. Only a few operational details were rendered unreadable by the guacamole grease – troop disbursements, ammunition storage capability, things of that nature.
DS: But you said the plan was lost. Surely this was not due to the guacamole.
CR: No, sir. That was because of the dog.
DS: The dog, Ms. Rice?
CR: Yes, sir. The president’s dog smelled the guacamole on the paper, and grabbed it from the president using her teeth.
(Condi’s lawyer, muttering “fuck this” under his breath, gets up and walks out.)
DS: Ms. Rice, are you actually telling this committee that ultimately, the United States of America was without a plan to kill Osama bin Laden because the dog ate it?
CR: No, sir.
DS: Thank god.
CR: She buried it.
DS: I’m sorry?
CR: The dog ran away and buried the plan somewhere on the ranch.
DS: And the president made no effort to catch this dog?
CR: Not true, sir. The president grabbed hold of the leash, but was dragged by the dog.
DS: What kind of dog was this that it could drag the President of the United States?
CR: That would be a spaniel, sir. But a very feisty spaniel.
DS: What about the Secret Service? Couldn’t they grab hold of the animal?
CR: No, sir. The Secret Service were tied up.
DS: Wait – are the saying the Secret Service left the president unguarded because they were busy elsewhere?
CR: No. I mean they were literally tied up. Around the legs. By the leash.
DS: Ms. Rice....
CR: The dog managed to wrap the leash around the President’s legs, and when the Secret Service tried to intervene, the President wouldn’t hold still, so the leash would up tied around the three of them.
DS: But if the leash had the three of them, then the dog would have been constrained!
CR: He was. Right up until the time the neck collar snapped.
DS (removes glasses, rubs eyes) OK, Ms. Rice. So once everyone was finally untied, did they attempt to retrieve the plan from the dog?
CR: Of course.
DS: And?
CR: The dog appears to have buried the plan in the woods. Secret Service dug up the grounds for days, but the document was never recovered.
DS: Ms. Rice – surely this could not have been the only copy of this document.
CR: Unfortunately it was, sir.
DS: How is that possible?
CR: When the President printed out and then closed the document, he somehow did so without saving it.
DS: That’s virtually impossible.
CR: The President is a very special man, sir.
DS: Alright. Alright. Ms. Rice, seeing as how the administration botched this so horribly, can you tell us if any steps have been taken to prevent such things from occurring in the future.
CR: Yes, sir. The President no longer has access to any classified documentation related to national security.
DS: OK. Well, that’s something. And on that note, we’ll take a short recess for lunch. Who’s up for Chili’s? The nachos and guacamole are on me!
RS: Really, sir, we’d be so much better off if the guacamole were homemade.
(Both men have a laugh as the families of the 9/11 victims weep quietly in their seats.)

###

Monday, February 02, 2004

I recently wrote an article on the Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players for City Link Magazine in Fort Lauderdale. A week after the article appeared, I received (through the magazine) a very nice letter from Jason Trachtenberg's dad. I don't usually get letters like this, so I thought I'd share it. (And, in case you're curious, the article it refers to is below.)


Dear Mr. Getlen,

I would like to thank you for the beautiful article you did on the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. I felt that you went beyond most of the other writers to provide an great in-depth look at their lives and music. I depend on the media for much of my contact with the band even though I am Jason's dad and Rachel's granddad. They spend so much time on the road, I get less opportunity to see them than I would like, but articles such as yours make my day. My time is coming. Next weekend, they will be in Maryland, Philadelphia and New Jersey so I will OD on their performances while I have the opportunity. In another week, they are leaving for a tour of Australia. I don't think they are taking the infamous '83 Suburban on that trip although it would probably perform fair dinkum in the outback.

Lollipops and unicorns,

Milt Trachtenburg

Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players
By Larry Getlen


Rachel Pina Trachtenburg spent this past New Year’s Eve much like any other ten-year-old girl – dressed in a silver pantsuit looking like the spawn of Ziggy Stardust, playing drums at a club in Brooklyn behind her father as he sang songs inspired by slides taken in the 1950’s, as a crowd of appreciative hipsters drunkenly cheered her on.

OK – so maybe her childhood is shaping up a bit different than most.

But at ten, Rachel has been playing live music almost half her life, and her family’s act, the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, may make her a celebrity before she hits the five foot mark.

The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players consists of drummer Rachel, her singer/songwriter father Jason, and mom Tina, who, although she doesn’t actually participate in the music making, designs the groups costumes and operates the slide projector. The act features Jason and Rachel playing songs based on old slides the family found at garage and estate sales, and it has become a genuine media sensation, generating coverage from MTV, Entertainment Weekly and the New Yorker, and appearing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien before they even had a record deal.

Now, the Trachtenburg’s have released their first CD, Vintage Slide Collections From Seattle, Vol. 1, and just filmed their first video, for the single “Mountain Trip To Japan, 1959.” And now that they’re moving from the clubs to the music mainstream, it remains to be seen whether they have what it takes to convert a brilliant novelty into long term success.

There are many reasons for the family’s current buzz, including the slide gimmick on which their act is based, and the adorable Rachel. In fact, watching them do their thing at Brooklyn’s Southpaw for New Year’s Eve, the one word that comes to mind throughout the show is “adorable.” Between Rachel’s Meg White-like appeal (she plays drums on White’s level – she’s not as adept as White at basic rhythm, but bests her on the variance of drums sounds used within a song), and Jason’s own Rick Moranis-like precocious nerdiness, the entire act feels like something you want to place in your pocket and bring home for the wall unit.

But cute only gets you so far, and the Trachtenburg’s probably wouldn’t have gotten to CD stage if there wasn’t a strength and legitimacy to the songwriting. Jason Trachtenburg has a way of converting kitschy pictures into perfectly pithy lyrics. In the aforementioned “Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959,” a slide of an extremely rural, grizzled man in a plaid shirt who stands before a store sign marked “graveyard” is accompanied by the lyric, “We like death, yes we do/Going to see the graveyard,” and the next slide of a gravestone of five men hanged in 1884 is met with “And the hanging too/It could have been you/if the foot was on the other shoe.”

And therein lies a secret to the Trachtenburg’s success. Inside the cuddly exterior, a serpent’s bite sometimes awaits. The deeper one gets into the album, the more punchy and political the lyrics get, and one realizes that Jason has managed to make his family act fluffy and filling at the same time.

Most of the last half of the album (save for the final song) is a rock opera of sorts, based on slides of an old meeting from a McDonald’s corporate office, and an anti-corporate sentiment oozes from the tracks. Talking to Jason Trachtenburg a week after the New Year’s Eve show, one gets a sense of a man who feels he’s doing something of phenomenal importance, far beyond that of any novelty act.

Trachtenburg played his original songs around the Seattle area for 15 years in the typical coffeehouse/open mic circuit, all the while earning a living by walking other people’s dogs. One day in 2000, his wife Tina came across some old slides, and suggested that Jason show them as a backdrop to his act. Jason flipped it, and instead wrote songs based on the slides. Quickly, a phenomenon was born – although to hear Trachtenburg describe it, it was beyond a phenomenon.

When he performed in front of the slides for the first time, “it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before in the 15 years I’d been in show business,” says Trachtenburg, who soon came up with an entire act based on the new gimmick. “The line would be blocks down the street. We’d have triple sell-outs, people couldn’t even get in. It would be ridiculous. The bigger it got, the only thing that could be compared to it was Beatlemania. It was that out of control.”

But while the slides were drawing sell-out crowds, the act was missing something – a drummer. Rachel, who was six at the time, was already a musically-inclined child who would play harmonica at her father’s shows.

“As a result of living in Seattle and having to drive around for everything we do, we ended up having to listen to the radio a lot,” says Trachtenburg. “We listened to oldies and classic rock. So Rachel had an encyclopedic knowledge from listening to the radio for six years, several hours a day, just like some kids would have from TV, from watching several hours a day. She knew the history of rock, classic rock, and to a certain extent indie rock. So we needed a drummer, and she can’t play harmonica on every song, we’re not gonna be like Blues Traveler, so we said, ‘let’s get her on drums.’ So she took drum lessons and got the basic beat down.”

While Trachtenburg says that his daughter enjoys the musical lifestyle she now leads, which includes living on the road for weeks at a time, his tendency to challenge his child has occasionally been taken too far.

“One thing she felt a little awkward at, I kind of overdid it, I thought she could play harmonica and drums at the same time, and sing,” says Trachtenburg. “She actually did that for a couple of shows, but said it was uncomfortable.” Trachtenburg feels that it’s important to challenge his daughter. “Who’s to say? I thought it could be done. In retrospect, it doesn’t seem that outrageous. I think challenging them is important. You find that they’re amazingly confident. They can do as much as adults can do if not more, and just as well, with a better attitude.”

And if the reaction from the crowds and the media are any indication, many people agree. “We were in the New Yorker,” says Trachtenburg. “We had a Talk of the Town feature, with a cartoon and everything. Rachel got her own New Yorker-style cartoon. It was a huge deal. Then shortly thereafter Spin did a feature, and then it was a steady stream of national and local press since then.”

Once Trachtenburg realized what was happening, he started contemplating ways to move it forward. “At first I was really excited, because we’d actually stumbled upon something and started making a living at it,” says Trachtenburg. “Then it was, OK, now how can we keep this thing going, keep it intriguing and artistically aware and competent in the wake of where entertainment is right now, and where it’s been in the past? What’s our place gonna be in the history of entertainment? Now this is up to us to decide. So we’re really ready to start putting out some strong and highly evolved products with a concept. We’re a conceptual art rock band.”

And these are important considerations, because while the family is getting a great reaction now, there will come a time when the novelty of the slides wears off, and Rachel, of course, won’t be ten years old forever. Trachtenburg is asked how the act can evolve beyond novelty, but to him, novelty has little place here.

“That question has to be posed to every single band who has ever played in rock,” says Trachtenburg. “So you’ve seen our show, and then what? They’re probably going to see our show again next time. We will, just like any other rock band, do our set, we’ll do our songs, and I guess all we can do is just keep introducing new songs while keeping the old favorites, just like any other band. What is any other band going to do?”

But Trachtenburg doesn’t really see his act as just like any other band. He sees it as something more. He feels that he’s created not just a phenomenon, but a new paradigm. “I feel this concept has the potential to change entertainment if we apply it correctly,” says Trachtenburg. “If it’s constantly evolving and taking it to the next level, this act will change entertainment history.”

When it’s suggested to Trachtenburg that statements such as these could be considered somewhat grandiose, he responds that his reaction merely matches the excitement he feels his act has generated. “We feel it. We’ve already done it,” says Trachtenburg. “We’ve raised the common denominator of what acts have to do in a live performance setting.”


###

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

President Bush unveiled a plan to spend $1.5 billion to promote marriage, especially among low income couples. The move was seen as great news for the thousands of couples nationwide who were unaware of this “marriage” idea, and instead had just been declaring their love by disrobing, rubbing raw meat on each other, and declaring their undying allegiance to Larry Flynt.

The administration said the move is a response to conservative fears that the institution of marriage is under attack, fears that arose after the state of Massachusetts gave gays the right to marry, and after Dick Cheney recently subjected the secret location he’d been hiding in to a Queer Eye makeover.

Many couples are opposing the Bush plan, saying that they were aware of the concept of marriage, but rejected it because they still plan on having sex.

Part of the money will be spent on counseling to help couples nurture interpersonal skills that sustain “healthy marriages.” The counseling program will be developed by Republican presidential advisors Henry Hyde and Newt Gingrich.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

GEORGE AND SADDAM’S HOLIDAY EXTRAVAGANZA!!!

Announcer: Ladies and gentleman, here now to bring you their own special version of holiday cheer, your emcee’s for the evening, President George W. Bush, and Saddam Hussein!!!

(Crowd goes wild – George and Saddam tap dance in from stage left, each with top hat, white tie and tails, and holding one of those dance baton thingies Fred and Ginger used to use. They sing a few verses of “I Get a Kick Out of You,” and end with George dipping Saddam as the crowd cheers them on.)

Saddam: Hello everyone, and welcome to our extravaganza! We are so happy to see you! Are you happy to see us?

Crowd: Booooo! Boooo!

(Various heavy items, such as batteries and fruitcake, are thrown from the crowd)

Saddam: Looks like people aren’t that happy to see us.

George: What you mean us, kemosabee?

(Crowd laughs)

Saddam: Oh George, you slay me.

George: Well, if I have my way.

(Crowd laughs and cheers.)

Saddam: OK, but seriously, we’re not here to express the decade-long animosity you and I have for each other and our families, but we’re here to put on a show. How is your family, by the way?

George: They’re great. Dad’s never been happier.

Saddam: Yes, I’ll bet.

(Knowing laughter from the crowd.)

George: And how’s your family, Saddam?

Saddam: Well, my sons are dead.

(Silence. Crickets.)

George: Yes. Well. Maybe we should just sing a song.

(Crowd cheers)

Saddam: What a wonderful idea. Let’s a sing a song. Any ideas?

George: How about that song that goes, “I Fought The Law, and the Law Won?”

(Crowd snickers)

Saddam: Now Georgie, you never stop teasing.

George: I’m a kidder. I’m known around the House of Representatives for my sparkling sense of humor.

Saddam: Yes, and for strong-arming Democrats.

George: Well, Saddam, when it comes to strong-arming, I think most people would agree, “you’re the tops.”

(They go right into a verse of Cole Porter’s “You’re the Tops.” The crowd sings along.)

Saddam: Well, George, that was fun, but seriously, you don’t give yourself enough credit. I heard about the protestors beat up by the police in Miami, and the “Free Speech Zones” in Washington. Genius. I had a free speech zone in Iraq, as well. I called it “my house.”

(Saddam laughs, crowd begins to get unruly, booing, hissing, ripping the chairs out of the floors and hurling them toward the stage. One wizzes past George, and the secret service pounce on the man who threw it and beat him to a pulp. Crowd cheers. After that, crowd is subdued.)

Saddam: Boy, you run a tight ship, George.

George: I’m just trying to spread freedom, Saddam.

Saddam: Spreading it like fertilizer, my friend.

(Crowd reacts to Saddam’s joke with indifference - begins to stir in their seats.)

George: Well, Saddam, I see they’re getting restless. Let’s get this party started. I got a surprise for you – so let’s welcome our super duper secret special guest.

Saddam: Super duper secret special guest? George, what have you done?

(From the wings walk three CIA agents, and the doctor who first inspected Saddam for lice. Crowd recognizes his lab coat, and goes wild.)

Saddam: Oh no! Not that guy!

George: That’s right, Saddam, it doesn’t get more crowd-pleasing than this. Ladies and gentleman, who remembers that great video of Saddam being checked for lice?

(Crowd cheers enthusiastically.)

George: Wanna see it again?

(Now they are out of or on their chairs, screaming, ladies ripping off their shirts in excitement.)

George: Alright, here we go!

(The CIA agents hold Saddam down as he screams in protest, and the doctor gives him a thorough exam.)

George: Who wants to see us raise the stakes?

(Crowd hoots.)

George: Guys, we still haven’t found his weapons of mass destruction. We all know where smugglers usually hide stuff. What say we make this a comprehensive exam?

Saddam: No, George, not that! Not on TV!

(CIA agents spin Saddam around, whip off his pants and bend him over. Doctor prepares for the rectal exam, as the crowd goes apoplectic. Woman run toward the stage and throw their arms around George, only to be beaten down by secret service. Saddam flails wildly, trying to escape, to no avail.)

George: Look at him! Look at him, folks. (mockingly) “Please, George, please don’t anally inspect me.” He he. People, are you enjoying this?

(Crowd cheers)

George: Alright, well, there’s more to come, so you just stayed tuned. We’ll be back right after this word from our good friends at Haliburton. Hey guys, let me take a shot.

(George puts on a rubber glove as scene cuts to commercial.)


###

Thursday, November 13, 2003

In light of their banishing the mini-series about The Reagan’s to their Showtime sister network, CBS has announced that they have halted production on "Mother Theresa: Slave Trader," and will also not be proceeding with "Jesus 'H' Christ: The Heroin Years." "Jimmy Stewart: Hollywood Pimp," however, is still scheduled for the spring.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Prince Charles Caught in Mystery Scandal!


Fleet street rocked the world today by announcing the emersion of England’s Prince Charles in a new mystery scandal. The English press are barred from discussing the specifics of the scandal by court order, but assure the world that the scandal is “quite explosive,” and is “definitely a new mystery scandal.”

Details of the scandal are hard to come by, but this much is known - Prince Charles either did or did not do something, with someone, at sometime either now or in the distant or recent past, and if he did this thing, then the thing he did was quite explosive indeed.

In the face of the court-imposed blackout, gossip hounds scrambled to decipher any signals indicating exactly what the scandal might entail.

After an all-night excavation, Ronald Barlane of the Globe uncovered a manuscript carved on parchment in ancient Sanskrit, revealing that a drunken Prince Charles came perilously close to foiling the invasion of William the Conqueror by selling military secrets to the Saxons for a cache of cocoa beans and a bucket of mead.

“If he had prevented the entire Norman invasion,” said Barlane, “that surely would have been punishable by a good bleeding.”

The Globe’s competitor, The Daily Mail, placed a 73-year-old woman known only as Melisma on the roof of their headquarters, naked as a jaybird and armed with only a foil baking pan and a metal coat hanger, to read vibrations from outer space to determine if otherworldly invaders played a part in the prince’s royal shenanigans.

“Don’t be surprised,” said one reliable source at the Mail, “if our little bonnie prince had something to do with abnormal tidal activity, or perhaps sunspots.”

While believing Charles’ proclivities to be extra-terrestrial in nature, the source also added, “and don’t be surprised if our Charles was also seen snuggling with a Spice Girl.”

Not content with conventional reporting methods, the Guardian’s feature staff spent the previous evening shooting smack into the webby area between their toes, then taking every Prince Charles story published in the past thirty years, cutting them up word by word a la William Burroughs, and rearranging them. The result, said one source, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Prince Charles won the 1973 Academy Award for Best Sound Editing for his work on Godfather Part II.

One inventive internet crusader, Bryon Smalls of thisistherealnewsnoreallythisisthetruth pleasebelieveme.com, broke into London’s International Museum late at night, and was able to conclude after reading all the hieroglyphics in the entire Ancient Egypt exhibit that while Prince Charles definitely did not have a torrid affair with Cleopatra, which would have decimated the rule of Pharaoh Ramses II, he might have a had a brief fling with Julius Caesar in an abandoned tomb.

But the final word may come from Jerry Springer, the American TV host who has also met with success on British television. On last night’s show, Springer, assisted by an abused ex-prostitute and two 400-lb women who stole each other’s husbands before finding out they were having a homosexual affair, consulted a Oiuja board, and discovered once and for all that Prince Charles either discovered America, or fucked a donkey.


###

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Something I didn't realize....

Blog templates can crash just like that. For no fuckin' reason. Whatsoever.

Shit.

I'll fix the right column when I'm damn good and ready.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Here's the new, “text-based trailer” (patent pending) for this week’s smash release, The Matrix Revolutions.



Darkness. Ominous rumbling bass. Then, suddenly,…

BOOM! POW! KAZAM! KAZAM!

“Neo, get the car!”

CSHHHH!!! CSHHHH!!!! CRUNNNNNCHHHH!

“Holy shit – look at them robots!!”

KaBOOOOM! KaBOOOOMMMM!

‘Trinity, you’re so hot.”

(Slurp, slurp, loud booming house music, squeeze, slurp, squish)

“Oh, Neo, I – MORE ROBOTS! AHHHHHHH!”

BOOM! SPLAT! KERPOWWWWWWWW!

“The Matrix is saved!” “Yeaaaaa!”

(People dance and celebrate, midgets skip while flinging rose petals, Neo and Trinity kiss while rolling in Neo’s bank receipts.)

THE END

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I saw a sign in a sporting goods store that read, “thank you for not smoking.” I like the concept of thanking people for NOT doing something. So I wrote a letter. “Dear Sporting Goods manager – Thank you for not breaking into my home and raping me in my sleep. Your negligence is appreciated. I look forward to your continued negligence in the future.” Next day, when I got home, I had six cartons of free sporting goods waiting for me, along with a note – “Don’t ever come to our store again.”

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Here’s some inside info. Comedians cannot tell strangers that we’re comedians. Because no matter where we are, their immediate response is “say something funny,” and then we’re on the spot. So when that happens, I come back with, “why did the chicken cross the road?” And they’ll say, “why?” And I respond, “cause he was a psychotic little fuck with a Napoleon complex who wouldn’t listen to REASON!” They leave me alone after that.
Magazine inserts are getting to be a bit much. This week’s issue of the New Yorker comes with two fold-out inserts, a cologne sample, a DVD, a rotating color-wheel for a car ad, four subscription cards, a pop-up ad for National Coming Out Day, postcards for Absolute vodka, and a cat. This may just be me, but I think the cat was a bit much. Especially when I tried to pry it out of the mailbox.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

The Living Will


I, Larry Getlen, being of sound mind and body, do hereby express the opinion that life is not as sacred as some would purport, and that if anyone can still promote the sanctity of life and existence after watching but one episode of According to Jim, then one’s value system is not in accordance with mine, and that person is therefore not worthy of making essential decisions regarding my well-being.

I have been made aware of various options for artificial resuscitation, and have decided on several options that are and are not acceptable in the event of personal catastrophe, perpetual anomie, or a state of dissatisfaction with the world equivalent to that of the old guy on my corner who wears a ratty seersucker suit caked in gravy, and who’s convinced that the cantaloupe he carries in his plaid pleather bowling bag accidentally invented the formula for New Coke.

The following are various resusitive methods that are acceptable for keeping me alive, should my condition require artificial means, or should I just ever get so bored on a Friday night that I actually watch Spike TV:

Bathed in mango/jalapeno paste
Whipped in the face by a small gray pony
The complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach played in it’s entirety for me on kazoo and spoons
The complete works of the other Sebastian Bach sung karaoke style for me by a 37 year-old transmission mechanic from Trenton
(to be continued…)

Monday, October 27, 2003

Little things remind me I’m getting older. I was hanging out with a friend who’s about 24, and at the end of the night I said, “I’m gonna blast.” And she said, “I’m gonna blast? Whoa, did we just time-travel back to 1983?” And I said, “No. If this was 1983, I’d be 17 years old, clumisily trying to fuck you. Instead, I’m 37, worried about whether you’re doing the right things with your life.”
I wanted to see something really scary this weekend, but I walked into the wrong movie by mistake. I saw the Texas Jigsaw Massacre. It’s about a teenager goes violently insane when he just can’t find that middle piece.
Regarding Queer Eye for the Straight Guy - Anyone else get the feeling that Carson is thisclose to convincing some straight guy that if he’d let Carson fuck him up the ass just once, it would be great for the guy’s relationship with his wife?

Thursday, October 23, 2003

As I wrote in my last blog entry, my mom told me this week that she’s moving in with her boyfriend. I’m happy for her, but still, something about it gnawed at me. After eliminating various superficial and financial reasons, I concluded that it was because my step-father, the man who raised me, and who died four years ago, was being replaced.

But the truth is, if I’m really honest with myself, it wasn’t that. What was upsetting was the thought that occasionally skates through my head that the man replacing him is better.

Ouch. That’s hard to say. That’s probably why I’ll never say it.

But I can write it.

It’s so easy to look back on life and see the shortcomings in people. My step-father, Sherman, was a good man with a lot of shortcomings. I think in the end, though, his greatest shortcoming was not being the kind of father that, looking back, I wish I’d had.

Sherman was a motorman for the MTA. Sherman was old world, blue collar Jewish New York. He talked with strangers on buses. He was remarkably loud. He didn’t talk, actually, he screamed. And not just in anger. Sherman screamed in friendship. He screamed in happiness. It’s just what he did. He was a big man (6’, 250ish), and he bellowed.

Sherman knew nothing about business, or finances, a fact that meant nothing to me until I hit my late 20’s, early 30’s, and realized that I knew nothing about business or finances.

He was not a cultured man. He knew nothing of art, or literature, or theater. He put ketchup on eggs. He put ketchup on steak. He put ketchup on pasta. If we let him, I believe he would have put ketchup on chocolate.

Sherman probably gave truth to the statement, “I have underwear older than you.” I really believe, up until I was in my 30’s, he probably had underwear older than me. And he refused to wear pants in the house.

Or, for that matter, teeth.

Sherman had false teeth, and one of the most common things heard around my house was my mother screaming at the top of her lungs, “PUT YOUR TEETH IN!” And he would respond, “Why?” And he meant it.

Sherman’s favorite pastime was laying in front of the TV watching football. He could do it for hours. Days. Never moving.

I never cared for football.

I have no idea if those two facts are related.

About five years ago, when Sherman was dying, I had a thought. He was in a wheelchair most of the time by then. I thought, if I take him to a Heat or Marlins game (I lived in FL at the time), I’m sure there’s a handicapped entrance we could use. It would make him incredibly happy, at the time in his life when he needs it the most.

I never did it.

I’m not completely sure why, but probably because I couldn’t bear the thought of spending the day with him. I am, inherently, a selfish man. Do I feel guilty about that choice? You bet. If I had it to do over again, I’d do it differently. But we don’t get that chance in life, do we?

I have a picture of Sherman on my nightstand. It is a picture of him in a tuxedo, big smile on his face, practically jumping for joy. It was taken at my sister’s wedding. It was one of the happiest days of his life, and it’s how my mother says she prefers to remember him, as opposed to the bitter, dying man slowly losing the function of his limbs and the ability to hold himself upright due to Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

I try to remember him that way as well, but I don’t always. Sometimes I remember the bitter, dying man. Sometimes I remember the slob. And sometimes I remember the man who would talk my friends into a coma.

But the Sherman I really try to remember is the Sherman who worked his ass off, the man who made the subways go, often working the overnight shift, to support a family he married into, a family that he loved dearly, cared about immensely, and, try as he did, sometimes just didn’t fit in to.

Try as I might, though, my memories of Sherman often get stuck in the slob days, or worse, the dying days, the hard days, the days of exasperation and screaming and crying and pain and horrific talk of nursing homes and the awful wish that a loved one would just die already to put everyone involved out of their misery.

But looking back on what I’ve written so far, I worry that my characterization of him isn’t fair. It lacks balance.

So here’s some balance.

When I was about ten or so, I was cast in a sketch performance at my Hebrew school. I had memorized lines, and was excited about it.

That morning, I came down with a high fever. My mom laid down the law – I was not going. Then she went to run errands, and Sherman came in and said, “let’s go.”

The show must go on. And it did.

That was Sherman.

When I joined the local Boy’s Club, Sherman coached baseball. Whenever me or my sister had an event or performance, Sherman was there.

They say that in life, just showing up is often half the battle. This is perhaps never more true than in parenting.

Sherman always showed up.

Still, in the haze of time and fading memory, it’s often hard to weigh that against the darker side – closing yourself in your room waiting for the screaming to stop, the punching of wooden cabinets in frustration, fights so fierce the family car pulls to the shoulder of the road and everyone gets out to let their anger breath and you have the balls to light up a bowl even though the parents are in view and you’re 1,000 miles from anywhere because you just don’t care anymore, and just basic differences in personality that perspective allows you to more clearly see.

I realize, of course, as I add and add and add to this as isolated moments pop into my head, that no essay or blog entry can give the complete measure of a man. What is here just poured out, unplanned, demanding to be expressed. If I were to attempt to give the complete picture of Sherman, from the manic, crying arguments and the increasing thoughtlessness to the dedication to the children he had no responsibility to care for to the way he’d shout for a hug from my mother out of nowhere (which, when combined with that “put your teeth in” thing, made for a pretty funny picture), I’d never stop writing.

When my mother and Sherman discussed marriage when I was about six years old, my mother asked my permission. She had told Sherman that no matter what happened, her kids always came first, and that if it didn’t fly with me then it wasn’t gonna fly at all. But I saw the goodness in him, and granted my mother permission to marry him.

All these years later, despite my love for Sherman – and I did absolutely love him, in my own dysfunctional way - I can’t say I made the right choice. Not because of who Sherman was – he was, ultimately, a good, kind, thoughtful man in his own way. He was not smooth or sophisticated and could be crude, but he genuinely cared. People were important to him. Through the muck of the rest, it’s a trait I wish had rubbed off on me a bit more than it did.

But not every couple is a good match. And looking at Bill – my mom’s new boyfriend, the man she is about to make her future with, the successful businessman who helped found a company and takes my mom on cruises and buys her things on a whim both because he can and because he thinks of it – I can’t help but think that this is the type of man my mom should have been with all along. She would have been happier.

And I feel like the world’s biggest, cruelest scumbag for thinking that.

As I was writing this, I realized that Sherman died four years ago this week. I believe two days ago was the anniversary, but I just left a message with my mom to verify it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I found out today that my mom was moving in with her boyfriend. My first response was, “Cool, I get the house to myself!”

My mom lives in Florida. I’m in New York. I’ve been living on my own for 15 years.

Some impulses just never die.

***

It’s weird when your mom says she’s moving in with some guy you barely know. You really do feel parental. When my mom told me, I’m like, OK. I don’t really know this guy. Oh, sure, I’ve met him a few times, but I don’t really KNOW him. Let me talk to his parents. Oh...they’re deceased? Well, did they leave a note of some kind?

When your parents are over 60 and move in with a boyfriend or girlfriend, (and yes, we do need to discuss the terminology), there are so many questions – just, as I imagine, our parents had when we moved out.

“How well do you know this guy? You’ve been sleeping over every night for the past year. OK. Fine. But are you sure the two of you can afford this? Oh – he’s retired from the company he founded and made out like a bandit. Well, that’s good. What about the neighborhood you’ve moving in to? Is it safe? Retirees. OK. If they try to mug you, I guess you can always throw them down on their hip. Well, what about your house, the one you worked so hard to redecorate? After all that work, you’re just gonna rent it out to strangers? How will you know if you can trust the tenants to keep it nice? Didn’t you see that Michael Keaton movie, where he played the psycho tenant from hell who shot the guy in his own house and got away with it because he persuaded a judge to legally bar the man from his own home, then said the man was trespassing in his own house, so he shot him? Oh, I’ve been watching too many movies, and should really get back on my medication? OK.”

***

Maybe I should meet his kids. I wonder if they’re being as neurotic about this as my sister and I. (My 34-year-old sister, by the way, cried when she heard, because my mother is going to be 15 minutes further away from her than she is now. I think she used the excuse that her kids wouldn’t be as close to grandma, but when my 8-year-old niece Emma heard the news, she was fine. That’s because my mom’s boyfriend has designated a playroom for her in his house, and then Emma quickly discovered where his secret cookie stash was. Frankly, if we all kept a secret cookie stash around, I think we could solve a lot of problems.)

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Surprising Things I Learned While on Jury Duty

A judge who attaches a piece of fishing wire to the back of his toupee, loops the wire through an intricate rig on the ceiling, and then yanks on it repeatedly during jury selection to make it look like the toupee is waving at you, is probably a bad judge.

“Intent” is a very important word in legal circles. Other important words in legal circles include “soup,” “cataclysm,” and “wedgie.”

When addressing the court, quoting Ernest Hemingway from The Sun Also Rises creates the impression that you are an intelligent, well-reasoned individual. Quoting Mariel Hemingway from Star 80, however, leaves exactly the opposite impression.

It is now possible to be charged with “aggravated bamboozlement.”

If you took a satellite photo of a New York City jury room, projected the image into space, and then reflected it back toward earth where you watched it on the highest quality photo equipment, the guy sitting directly behind me munching Doritos in my ear and mumbling, “he’s guilty, he’s so fuckin’ guilty, dude,” would still look like a complete dick.

Murder does not become OK just because the victim was “a raging pussy.”

Due to a recent Supreme Court decision, a judge is now allowed to approach a defendant and smack him on the head with a rubber mallet simply because he “doesn’t like the cut of his jib.”

An unemployed Colombian housekeeper who speaks no English is now officially one of my peers.

Dressing as a 18th century Revolutionary War veteran complete with buckled shoes and a powdered wig is fine for an attorney, as long as he refers to himself as “barrister.” Dressing like a six-foot–tall blueberry muffin complete with a crumb-top cap that straps around your chin, however, is still frowned upon by the court.


###

Friday, October 17, 2003

WELCOME TO WINTER
It's a very exciting time here in New York, as we are now solidly into the season that requires the use of coats and/or jackets.

As such, in case you’ve forgotten how to use them,
here is a quick guide to the particulars of coat and
jacket usage, as prepared from my own personal
experience.

1. Rummage through closet. Wonder where coats and
jackets are.
2. Throw short sleeve shirts around room in
frustration.
3. After one hour, many curse words and a few ripped
garments, remember that you placed them in a box under
the bed.
4. Retreive box.
5. Cough for 15 minutes after breathing dust on box.
6. Remove jacket from box, and wonder if Members Only
is still in style.
7. Try jacket on. Wonder when you gained 50 pounds.
8. Take jacket, which is now torn down the back, and
toss in trash.
9. Repeat 6-9 until box is empty but for an old moldy
donut.
10. Stare at donut drooling like Homer Simpson. Be
sure to remember to make the “uuuuummm, dooonut”
noise.
11. Eat donut. (This step is optional.)
12. Strip off clothes, curl into fetal position and
cry at the mockery your life has become.

(Note – do step 12 only if you’ve done step 11)

And then, once you’ve done all that, you’re ready to
enjoy the glorious autumn chill.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

MY KISS IS ON YOUR LIPS...AND YOUR FACE...AND....

My radar sucks. It just doesn’t work. Try as I might, I have now lost patience with trying to distinguish when to go for the “hello” kiss on the cheek, or when it’s supposed to be a hug, or some people are apparently now just doing the cheek-to-cheek air-kiss thing. It’s too confusing. I saw a friend the other day and went in for the hug, but she surprised me with the cheek. In the ensuing confusion, I kissed her cheek hello, and it wound up – how shall I saw this politely – wetter than intended.

The incident haunted me. Social faux pas are certainly not new to me - the person who once absent-mindedly gave a book of artwork from Absolute Vodka ads to a recovering alcoholic as a Christmas present - but I consider soiling one’s cheek on a simple hello to be one of the more egregious. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

So the next day, I wrote her an E-Mail.


Kate

When I saw you yesterday, I might have accidentally left something on your face. It’s probably gone by now, but if not, I’d be happy to come remove it.

Your pal, Larry.


Because that’s what pals do.

After writing the note, I immediately felt better.


(Note - I know no one named Kate. The name has been changed to protect the awkward.)
A public message to people who whistle in public. Read carefully, this is important.

If you’re one of those people who whistles in public, allow me to say on behalf of anyone in earshot:

YOU’RE NOT IN TUNE!

No. You’re not. That’s right. Not. When you try for C#, it comes out Bb. And as would be expected, any attempt at recreating a minor chord comes out sounding like you bit your cheek. Considering that over $100,000 worth of high-tech studio technology went into creating that highly processed sound for the recording, thinking you could recreate it simply using two lips and a tongue was foolishly, delusionally egomaniacal. And even if, by some miracle, you ARE in tune - we still don’t want to hear it. Because being a great whistler is pretty much like being great at the pan flute. No one cares. Just stop. Take up the kazoo – that would be less annoying.

(Notable exception - Darryl Hannah in Kill Bill Volume 1.)

Sunday, October 12, 2003

I grew up in a Brooklyn neighborhood called Gravesend. Gravesend. The end of the grave. The end of death. I spent my childhood at the end of death. Really nowhere to go from there, is there? Plus, it’s a pretty shitty place for a kid’s birthday party. Especially when you had to give directions.

"Here’s what you wanna do. Drive south on the Belt Parkway till you see the burning corpses of the damned. That’ll be Exit 6. Get off there and ride three miles until you come to the anguished souls crying out for redemption. Now, if you see a zombie with maggots shooting out of his eyes, you’ve gone too far – you’re gonna wanna turn back and look for the hellbeast with the scalp of flame. Then turn left, and Chuck-E-Cheese is just two blocks on your right. Park in the back near the howling wolf-beast with three heads and the cloven hoof, and if a man with a black cloak and a scepter says he’s the valet, explain in a gentle voice that you’d prefer to park it yourself."
How To Get Elected

It’s morning in America, folks, and a golden morning it is for our democracy. The public has spoken, and our elected officials have been put on notice that if they slip up, they will be removed – just like that. And not just replaced by anyone, but by slick, wealthy Hollywood stars who can get away with things the average politician can only dream of.

But what if you’re not a Hollywood star? What if you’re not even a failed child actor, porn star, porn mogul, pudgy lieutenant governor or watermelon-smashing “comedian” with a healthy but mystifying following throughout the mid-west? Can YOU be governor?

Why, yes you can, citizen! Because this is America, where all it takes is $3,500, sixty-five signatures and a dream.

But how, you might be asking? Well, glad you asked. It’s so much easier than you think to be governor, senator, or even president. And the great thing is, anyone can do it! Limited intelligence? No sweat! Not the world’s most articulate individual? Please! Not a problem!

So for all of you civic-minded citizens out there who aspire to great power, here is your guide to getting elected in America. Break a leg, as we say in politics, and see you on the campaign trail!

1. Self-assessment

Do you have what it takes to be a holder of high office? Not just anyone will do, after all – the American people only want candidates with “character.” Take this simple quiz and find out if you’ve got what it takes.

a. Have you ever been arrested for manufacturing large quantities of methamphetamine using a nothing but three beakers ripped off from a local high school, bicycle tubing, baking soda, tonic water and Red Bull?
b. Have you ever played an impromptu session of the Milton Bradley board game Operation, using an unwilling stranger in an elevator as the playing board?
c. Did you admire the Rwandan Hutu warlords for their innovative methods of resource conservation?
d. Special bonus question: Are you so ingenious that you figured out a way to turn the Kennedy’s Republican?

Here’s what it means if you answered “yes” to each of these questions. If you answered yes to:
a. You are an innovative thinker who can develop unique solutions to complex problems. Congratulations! You’re one step closer to office!
b. You are a personable individual who knows how to get close to strangers in an almost intimate way, and can truly be a governor of the people. Congratulations! You’re one step closer to office!
c. You have the ability to see the bright side of even the most horrible situation, and therefore can keep your head clear, allowing you to make the important decisions. Congratulations! You’re one step closer to office!
d. Governor-elect Schwarzenegger – Don’t you have more important things to do right now?

And if by some chance you answered “no” to all the above, don’t fret. You must have some positive qualities – right?

Let’s proceed.


2. The way in.

In order for you to be able to run for office, there needs to be an election. If one is upcoming, you can easily call your local election board, secure the proper paperwork, fill it out and pay the fee. But what if there are no elections coming up? Can you still run?

You bet your incumbent-hating ass!

Some states have mechanisms for a “recall,” which will allow you to run even if a candidate is already in office, and no election is scheduled. Isn’t that great! We’re so democratic, we will hold elections at any time, for any reason! And it only takes one person to make it happen!

What a country!

If your state has provisions for a recall, the most important part of this process will be collecting a certain number of signatures. This is very easy if you have a few million dollars. If not, it may take some work.

But if you do have a few million to spare, here’s what you do.

a. Hire people in every country to collect signatures. For maximum impact, have them stand in places where people are least likely to be actively engaged in thought. We recommend any mall or Wal-Mart, Celine Dion’s Las Vegas show, a Dennis Kucinich rally, or any movie theater from April-September.
b. Have your signature collectors tell these people that this is their chance to “take back government for the people.” Now, you may be asking, what if you actually have very close ties to the most powerful establishment politicians in the world? Doesn’t matter. It’s all in the wording – “take back government for the people.” The more you repeat this phrase, the better your chances.
c. Blame the incumbent for everything, whether or not it’s really in his or her control. Encephalitis epidemic? Terror threats from suburban third-graders? The worst crop of new network sitcoms ever? It’s the incumbent’s fault, and no matter what he says, YOU won’t let the people forget it.
d. Avoid issues. They just confuse people. Limit all talk of actual politics to three-word sentences, max. The only phrases you need to know are “balance the budget” and “lower taxes.” Whether or not these will actually help the economy is irrelevant. Just keep repeating them, and don’t stop.
e. If there’s any way to make yourself one of the most recognizable movie stars in the world with a twenty-year history of blockbuster releases and global name recognition, go ahead and do that. But this may be harder than it sounds, so don’t sweat it.

If there is a recall mechanism in your state, these easy steps will usher you right into office!

If there is NO recall mechanism in your state, don’t fret.. Simply search the legislation in your state for the following phrases: “impeachment,” “resignation,” “disembowelment,” “eviscerated by leeches,” or “wiccan.” Within these phrases, there will be other mechanisms for getting the current office holder to step down.

Barring the availability of any of these mechanisms, however, remember that governors are made of mere flesh and blood. Worst case scenario, you can cut right through that stuff!*

So there you have it, folks. Your guide to becoming governor. Best of luck in your endeavors, and remember – when you do get elected, you’ll have lots of cushy patronage jobs to give out. When that time comes, remember the people that got you there. ;-)


Yours in democracy,



Larry Getlen


*(In the event that any FBI, CIA, or Secret Service officials should read this E-Mail, please note that the statement above is officially “satirical.” This E-Mail and the authors thereof in no way condone the slicing, dicing, pureeing, or cutting-into-Santa-Claus-shaped-blobs-for-the-purpose-of-baking-into-festive-holiday-cookies of any elected official. Plus, it is not even true that all governors are made of flesh and blood. New York governor George Pataki was actually carved from a Grade A Virginia ham, and Iowa governor Tom Vilsack is nothing more than plywood and mulch held in place by industrial glue and hemp.)



Monday, October 06, 2003

A BATTLE OF WITS WITH A TON-ARMED MAN

I flew to Florida to see my family for Rosh Hashanah. A friend asked me what Rosh Hashanah was. I said, you know, the festival of lights. That’s the kind of Jew I am. On Rosh Hashanah even Catholics were like, “Happy New Year,” and I’m like, “it’s September you dipshit, what are you talking about?” Took me three minutes to work it out - oh, right , OK. And Yom Kipper’s the day Jews put the food down.

So I flew down to Florida to see my family on Song Airlines. Song, for those who don’t know, is the bastard child of Delta. Delta needs to compete with all the budget airlines, particularly Jet Blue, which offers high class cuisine and colorfully designed interiors and DVD players and shiatsu massages and a ride on an Oriental spin fuck chair with a flight attendant upon return. (Oh, wait – that’s Hooters Air – never mind.)

I guess Delta chose the name “Song” for the airline because “Song” has a happy association, because people love music. Which is fine, but, what if it's, like, three hours of Debby Boone singing “You Light Up My Life.” Or worse, Pat Boone singing Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Or even worse, Kelly Osbourne singing anything. They’d have to call it Suicide Airlines, because no one on the plane would make it the full three hours without grabbing a packet of peanuts and jamming the entire thing into their windpipe.

So I board the plane. Now, two things to know about me when I fly. First - aisle seats, always. I book them in advance, because I’m a big man, and I need the leg room, Otherwise I wind up sitting in hyperventilation position for two hours, knees to the sky, head up my ass. Not fun. The other thing is that I book the exit row, because you get twice the leg room. And if you didn’t know that, you’re welcome.

When I get to my seat, there is a man already sitting in it. And when I say a man, I mean a mountain - a hunky, bulbous, 350-pound mass of jello and down. Not sure how to calculate this scientifically, but I believe his center of gravity was a donut.

As I look down at him, it takes my eyes a while to adjust because there’s so much to see. It’s like looking at god, or the Grand Canyon, or Britney Spears with clothes on. You’ve heard it exists, but you never thought you’d actually see it.

“Excuse me, this is my seat. 16D,” I say. He looks up at me – slowly, because his neck muscles can only move at a certain pace, kinda like a retractable stadium roof – and he grunts, “D’s the window.”

Doesn’t it sometimes seem you can tell how stupid a person is by how stupid they assume everyone else is? I mean, does he spend his days around the kind of people who would fall for that?

“No, this is D.”

So the man gets up and moves to his real seat, which was the MIDDLE seat.

He sits down. Only about half of him is actually in the middle seat. The other half is overflowing in ...many directions, really. There’s flesh oozing next to him, in front of him. I think a little bit eked out the crack of his seat into the row behind him and frightened a small child. But the worst part was the fold that made itself at home over my armrest.

Now, I’m not a small man by any means. I’m not so large I can’t fit into an airline seat, but it’s fair to say that what little room I do have will be used. Now, however, about 1/3 of my seat is taken up by Jabba the Hut’s fleshy sidecar (a way too obvious, but also way too appropriate, reference - thanks for your indulgence).

I’m now squashed toward the aisle, and my arm has made a permanent impression in his side. If police could capture people by forearm prints and needed to find me, they could just take an impression from this guy’s side roll and they’d have me in no time.

As we wait for takeoff, nestling into this man gets increasingly unnerving. I don’t like strangers pressed against me – particularly big fat guys - but the more my arm and then my shoulder and my side jell with his mounds of fat, the more comfortable it feels. First it seems like a big fluffy pillow, and then kind of womb-like, like he’s this big amniotic cushion and I’m still a few months from being born, and it gets comfortable on a really primal level, which was uniquely disturbing, and yet somewhat dreamlike.

But of course, I realize that I might not feel this way about two hours into the flight.

As the doors of the plane close, I see, and I’m sure he sees, that the window seat remains empty. This gets me psyched, because I figure he’ll move over. But as they make the announcements about the plane getting ready to take off, he buckles in. He’s not moving.

So now I get into this whole psychological thing. Is he doing this on purpose? Is this his revenge for my making him give up the aisle seat? Or is it strategy? Is he waiting for me to ask him to move, so that he can do so ONLY if I give him the aisle, forcing me toward the window?

I decided that this was, in fact, strategy. The fucker was negotiating, and using his massive flab as a bargaining chip.

Well, I’m no one’s bitch. I would not be manipulated in such a heinous and obvious manner. Years in business teach you that the key to successful negotiation is waiting, not wanting, and the willingness to fail. Anxiousness concedes the battle. Last one to speak loses.

So I hunkered in. Worst case scenario, I had three hours of flight with the best pillow on the plane. Let another passenger console himself with the germ-infested, wafer-thin excuse for comfort the airlines jokingly refer to as “a pillow,” that transparent cushion that still holds the lice of a woman who flew from Uganda to Paris for a turban weaving conference during the Spring Equinox of 2000. I’ve got 350 pounds of authentic man blubber to comfort me - nature’s beanbag chair.

Finally we taxi, and accelerate, and take off. Up, up into the sky we go, his side appendage merging with my arm like the molten paws from Videodrome. At one point, he even reaches over and lifts his left roll - WITH BOTH HANDS! – and places it closer to the center of his Buddha belly. I’d never seen anyone do that before. I wish I had it on video.

So up, up, and away we go. 10,000 feet. 20,000 feet. 30,000 feet. Seat belt signs are turned off, electronic devices are turned on. People recline, sleep, breath in recycled air to lull themselves into toxic sleep.

My right side has now become part of an entirely new being, a merger of the right side of my own torso, my right elbow and forearm, and the entire left side of fat man’s body. We have effectively become one, and I begin to suspect that were a terrorist to attempt to hijack us at any point from here on, this new creature would rise up - my right arm propelled by the sheer power of his girth - spring into the terrorist's mouth and envelope him in milliseconds, saving the day and setting the stage for us to write a NY Times best-seller called “From Homunculus to Hero – The Fight is in the Fat.”

Throughout this, however, I am possessed by a nagging sense that maybe I should swallow my manly pride, ask the guy to move, and accept the fate of the window seat. After all, which is worse, the slight loss of leg room the window seat offers (which itself would be offset by the empty middle seat), or being the junior partner the hostile takeover of my right arm?

Of course, I also suppress the thought I dare not admit – that comfort has overtaken repulsion, and I’m starting to like this.

But whichever the case, any thoughts of capitulation or weakness are quickly quashed.

The key to winning negotiation – the willingness to lose.

Don’t break.

And then, suddenly, victory becomes swiftly mine. The man unbuckles – quickly and silently – and moves to the window seat.

I have won.

The rest of the flight is a testament to comfort. I stretch out, listen to tunes, read, enjoy Song’s “gourmet” delicacies (which means deli sandwiches that aren’t five days old), and basically enjoy a flight in the relaxing manner I deserve.

But I gained more than just a comfortable flight that day. I gained the knowledge, pure and unencumbered, that I am a man of principle, a man of strength, a man of resolve. I’ve got pride and principles, dammit, and 350 pounds of slobbering fat can’t change that.

So thank you, Song Airlines, for proving for me that in the end, it really isn’t the destination – it’s the journey.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Random thoughts...

The war on TV has now become my daily background noise. I’m sure the Iraqi people would be thrilled to know that the destruction of their country just took a role in my life formerly occupied by Radiohead.

The big movies last weekend – Hilary Swank in The Core, and Cuba Gooding Jr. in Boat Trip. Note to Adrian Brody – don’t get cocky.

At an open mike, a young woman with an acoustic guitar got up to the mic and said, “and now, some Bach.” And as she began to play, within mere seconds, the thrill of preparing to hear the music of one of history’s finest composers became the terror of sitting through an overlong third grade recital.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

I saw a headline today on the cover of a magazine. It said, "Fatal Hospital Mistakes: How to Avoid Them." Without even reading it, I can tell you that. Here's the secret - Don’t operate on anyone. You’re not a doctor. You start cutting into people's rib cages and you’ve got a degree in theater, there’s gonna be a fatal hospital mistake.

Monday, January 27, 2003

The euphemism “pre-owned” has become the auto industry’s way of avoiding the fact that used cars are, in fact, used, thinking that calling them “pre-owned” will lend an air of distinction to rusty, dented automobiles. In an effort to return a degree of honesty to the once noble used car industry, we hereby suggest these more truthful alternatives.

Pre-puked on steering wheel after mixing Jack Daniels and $25 worth of Taco Bell Burritos Grande;
Pre-earned nickname Kneepad Nina in back seat of;
Pre-cracked its frame driving over a nasty pothole on Delancy St., and now held together with chewing tobacco and hemp;
Pre-trunk used for numerous stabbings like that really bloody scene in Goodfellas (since scrubbed clean);
Pre-original radiator traded for a QZ of Thai stick and a Foghat album;
Pre-French Connection stunt car;
Pre-Airbrushed in electric Day-Glo purple with the words “Vinny loves Angie” on both sides, the hood, and the wheel walls;
Pre-New York Met bullpen car (stench of failure from Satoru Komiyama since scrubbed from backseat);
Pre-original windows shattered by blasting Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” through 300-watt surround car stereo system with three foot sub-woofer installed in trunk;
Pre-Ranked just below AMC Gremlin by JD Power and Associates;
Pre-Used as Gypsy Cab after losing janitorial job due to closing of Show World;
Pre-Al Sharpton limo (grease from hair gel since sandblasted from backseat)

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Welcome to John F. Kennedy International Airport. You have undoubtedly been told by now not to accept any packages from people unknown to you. For some of you, however, this essential information was not detailed enough. Here, then, is a more detailed list of exactly what you should not accept from strangers before boarding your plane:

Any prescription drugs more than three months past their expiration date;
Advise about the stock market;
Any DVD or video cassette featuring movies with Steve Bauer, Eric Roberts, or Tanya Roberts;
Any clothing made out of hemp;
Any inexpensively-priced coupon booklets good for discounted meals at the Russian Tea Room;
A booklet entitled, “How to Make a Fortune in Internet Stocks;”
Yogurt;
Wooden nickels (LOLOLOL, OH GOD, that one ALWAYS kills me, WHEW, ok, but seriously,..., sorry, I’ll stop);
Videocassettes of any NBC sitcoms from the Fred Silverman era;
Any food item labeled “organic” given to you by a man who looks like he hasn’t washed his hair in over two months;
Any movie made by Madonna, script written by Joe Eszterhas, or album recorded by any cast member from Star Trek;
Any magazine featuring pictures of, or information on, The Hilton Sisters;
A book entitled Trent Lott Traces His Ugandan Roots;
Anything furry, breathing, or pock-marked; (i.e. Lemmy from Motorhead);
The boasting of anyone claiming to be famous because they were arrested on COPS, rejected on American Idol, or peed on on Survivor;
Lox.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

The Lift
A short story by Larry Getlen

The closing doors left just enough room for the over made mother and daughter to sprint through. The mother, an easy 250 pounds not counting one pound of thickly matted hot pink lipstick, just avoided ramming her shoulder into my incapacitated left arm.
But while the Thanksgiving Day parade incident has made me jumpy – rapidly deflating Goofy made me the first injured spectator since 1954 – it’s fair to say this woman missed my sling by a hair’s width. Considering her 10 mile-per-hour clip – she must have started running at Au Bon Pain, and built momentum from there – her bulk would surely have flattened my arm against the metal elevator wall.
So here I was, ascending the Empire State Building with 100 slowly creeping floors to go, pressed between overbearing mother and adult daughter who, due surely to improper breeding, stood on either side of me.
The latter, I surmised, was a recent college graduate. She looked spiffy in a well-pressed blue pinstriped suit, with the fresh-faced demeanor of a recent inductee into the glamorous world of the W2 and the paycheck.
Breathing heavy from their uncharacteristic sprint, huffing and puffing in my face like a personally delivered Obscene Phone-a-gram, the two settled into place. Once the asthmatic symphony concluded, they regaled me with speaking voices the delicacy of bricks through a pencil sharpener.
“You always do this!”
“Don’t yell at me.”
“Just once, can’t you lay out your clothes the night before!”
“This was a big day for me – I wanted to look good.”
“And now you’re late!”
“Please, don’t ruin this for me. God, why do you always do this!”
The daughter began to cry. Not a light sob, but a wail, a hideous call to the sea that soon became a shriek. Meanwhile, her mother continued her berating, calling her daughter stupid, beyond help, a burden and an ingrate,..., so unlike her.
And with that, the simmering pressure in my brain boiled over. I couldn’t take it anymore. I took a wide step toward the elevator door, spun a 180, and unleashed.
“Stop it. Stop this at once. You’re a despicable woman! How dare you berate this poor girl for your shortcomings! After all you’ve surely subjected her to, you have no right to treat her this way. She has taken enough of your abuse and your insults. The time for you to ruin this girl’s life is over! She is a woman now, and no longer required to tolerate your infernal stupidity.”
Then I turned to the daughter.
“And you. My god, get a spine.”
And with that, is if directed by god himself, the elevator stopped, and the doors opened. I stormed out as they closed behind me, naught but stunned silence occurring beyond.
I looked for the level marker and saw that I was on the 35th floor. I found the stairs and began my long ascent to the top. It would be an arduous, tiresome journey, but one that I would take with pride.

###

Sunday, October 20, 2002

The Vatican was upset Monday after a church property in Moscow was turned into a brothel. Representatives said they made the change because there was so much sex happening there already, it just made sense.

Members of a Uruguayan rugby team that crashed in the Andes thirty years ago, and were forced to eat human flesh to survive, won the rugby match that they were supposed to play thirty years before. The team credited their victory to aggressive play, and to the fact that every time someone on the other team had the ball, they would yell, "give me the ball, or I'll eat your flesh!"

According to experts, statements by evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell, who make disparaging remarks about Islam, undermine public sympathy in Islamic countries for the U.S. war on terrorism. This has been, Reasons to Hate Jerry Falwell, episode 496.

Bill Patton, a 45-year-old Michigan man, was arrested after neighbors allegedly saw him through his basement window having sex with a pumpkin, an incident made more despicable by the fact that Patton had slipped the pumpkin a Roofie.

It was reported this week that the preserved body of a homeless man kept in the studio of the late British artist Robert Lenkiewicz may have been there for nearly 20 years. But at least it was 20 years where he had a home.

Emma Wilson, the daughter of Weakest Link host Anne Robinson, is now hosting a new reality game show for kids on Nickelodeon called Scaredy Camp. The show will feature Wilson scaring the crap out of kids by showing them home movies of her own childhood.

Despite mixed reviews, Roberto Benigni's new film "Pinocchio" has broken Italian box office records for its first weekend, making over seven million dollars. Viewers especially love the ending where, against all odds, Benigni is somehow transformed into a real actor.

President Bush traveled across the country campaigning for Republican congressional candidates, in hopes of helping Republicans regain control of Congress. In an effort to help the Democrats in their fight to gain Congressional seats, Bill Clinton and Al Gore stayed home.

Government worker Ian Jarman has accused his management of sex discrimination for making him wear a tie to work everyday. Apparently, Jarman was forced to wear the tie around his genitals.

The big hit at the Arkansas State Fair this year are fried Twinkies, covered in powdered sugar. The originators of the tasty snack said they brought them to the fair because with the Clintons living in New York, there just aren't enough good reasons left to make fun of Arkansas.

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