Monday, May 26, 2008

One of the Greatest Gifts

"There is nothing better than birthday cake. It's like a slice of concentrated love with butter cream frosting."

--Takayuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka and Toshihiro Kawabata

When I was in my early twenties, I was always so worried about my career, or the lack of one, to be more precise.

I was convinced that I was doing something wrong, that I should be successful, instead of struggling at some crappy office job or standing on the unemployment line.

I whined to my mother that I was going nowhere, life was passing me by, and that I had no future whatsoever.

“I’m almost 30 years old!” I wailed.

“Oh, now,” she said, smiling, “if you look at it that way, you’re almost 50 years old.”

I turned 51 years old on Friday and that conversation with my mother has this dual existence in my mind, where it seems like it happened yesterday and still manages to feel like ancient history.

I'm whining about my career and all those big dreams have yet to materialize. And my mom's not here to listen to my bellyaching. But I'm still thankful for what I have.

Unlike last year, where I threw the big five-oh shindig and nearly had a nervous break down in the process, I kept things low key this year. I just went to the theater with my sister and aunt follow by dinner at my aunt’s house.

It was a good day. The weather was nice, there were tourists and sailors all over the place and I could enjoy myself without having to play host.

This is interesting time of life. People keep telling me that I’m not old whenever I start griping about my age (some things never change, right?) and yet within three days recently I received a membership offer from AARP and a brochure from a cemetery in Queens offering a good deal on a plot.

Please, people, one at a time.

One of the greatest gifts you can give to those you love is a sense of security,” the cemetery brochure says, “the knowledge that you have taken care of everything.

The cemetery says it’s one of the few in New York with available property and encourages future corpses to “seize upon the rare opportunity to choose exactly how you wish to be remembered.”

I don’t see how buying a hole in the ground is going to have any impact of what people think of me. God knows I’ve tried to influence people’s thinking while I’m still breathing and it doesn’t work.

People will think whatever the hell they want to think about you, no matter how spiffy your grave is, but, hey, I’m old, so what do I know?

The cemetery says it offers "a variety of other options, including graves, niches and cremation."

Can I have all three? That should give those I love a real sense of security. And I will have finally found my niche.

I wonder if that variety of other options includes immortality. That would sure give me a sense of security.

I started the celebrating on Friday by going to the gym for a couple rounds of boxing. My instructor is in his forties and he just knocked a guy out in a kickboxing match, but I'm happy to report that he went a little easier on me.

I was riding home on the train that night when a homeless man I had seen before got on at Union Square and started his spiel.

"Within in a few weeks," he told us in a loud wheezing voice, "by the grace of God, I will by 67 years old. Sixty seven years old! But lately things haven't been going to well for me..."

Dance With Me, Henry

He proceeded to ask for anything, a nickel, a quarter, food, whatever. I realized that I had heard this routine before, that this guy was always turning 67 in a few weeks and that "lately" was pretty much a permanent state of affairs for him.

But I gave him a buck anyway. At least I had a home to go to.

My bud Paula treated me to dinner in an Italian place in Downtown Brooklyn that night and then I was off to the Three Jolly Pigeons to hook up with people from my Bay Ridge Friends group.

People were buying me drinks and wishing me a happy and no one made me go up to the stage for karaoke, praise the Lord.

The funny thing is, the more I drank, the more I felt like singing. I seem to recall swaying and mumbling along with "Margaritaville" though that could be my mind playing tricks on me.

I was out with this group a few weeks ago and we wound up at another place in the neighborhood called the Salty Dog.

They have dancing there after 11 pm and though it took a while, people started coming out on the floor.

The music wasn’t my style—you call that crap music?!?—so I stood on the sidelines and watched as the younger folks did their thing.

I love watching women dance because they just love to dance, whereas the male animal only dances so he can get close to the women.

There was one young woman who made quite an impression of me. She was petite, with bare shoulders and a tattoo on her right arm that I couldn’t quite out, since she never stayed still.

She danced with such exuberance, such joy,I could barely take my eyes off her, and it wasn’t just lust—honestly.

I wanted to be with her in some way that I can’t quite describe, even though I knew the age difference--and her boyfriend with whom she was dancing--would make that quite impossible.

Of course, even if we were the same age, I don't think I'd have a shot at her anyway. And I’m sure if I saw her in the street I’d walk right by her, but on this night, she had some kind of magic it was happening all over me.

It’s probably for the best that she exists only as a fantasy figure for me. Reality can be such a killjoy. But at least I can learn from her willingness to embrace life and be happy.

I did give myself a nice gift on Saturday. I have this habit of tearing into myself, putting myself down and condemning everything I do or fail to do.

I caught myself doing that on my birthday and I decided I would take a day-long break from this self-abuse. I was declaring a truce is this seemingly endless war in my head.

There was an incident during World War I where German and British troops held a truce at Christmas time. They didn’t wait for the generals or politicians, these soldiers, who were all living in trenches like animals, just decided they would stop killing each other for a short time.

I decided that for one day I’m give myself a break. All those lines like “I should have” and the “why didn’t I’?” and “What’s wrong with me?” got a one-day furlough to leave me the hell of alone.

It was strange not beating up on myself every waking moment. I actually had time to be relax and enjoy my life, and be thankful for my friends and family and for my time on earth.

I want to do this tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. I want to keep having one-day truces until I reach an armistice with myself.

Okay, now I've got to see a man about buying a grave.

We Shall Not Sleep

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

--Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dr. Doolittle, I Presume?

You know, for a second there, I thought I was back on the farm.

I came out of my bank branch on Hudson Street Monday afternoon and was heading back to my office when I swore I heard a sheep.

Yes, a sheep—as in, “baa-baa, black sheep, have you any wool?”

With Memorial Day so close, I was thinking about the annual sheepdog contest that’s held at a country fair near my aunt’s farmhouse in the Berkshires.

I’ve gone there a few times and even though I have no idea of the rules of the game, I always enjoy watching the doggies get out there and round up them sheep.

It is so soothing to be there, miles away from all the crap that threatens to break your spirit. For me, it’s the official start of the summer season, not July Fourth.

But I wasn’t in Cummington, Mass. now. I was in Soho and you don’t expect to see a herd of sheep walking down the block. So where the hell was this sound coming from?

Then I saw this man in his forties wearing a jacket and tie and walking down the street with a briefcase in his hand. And he making the sheep noise.

People starting looking around and so did the man with the briefcase, as if he didn’t know where the noise was coming from—even though he was the one making them.

The guy was walking in my direction so I fell in step behind him and watched the effect he had on other people as he went along, switching now to bird calls.

Two women waiting for a street light to change turned when he did his pigeon routine. A delivery man on a bicycle did a double-take as our man let out a crow’s “caw-caw.”

It was strangely entertaining watching people react to this guy; sort of getting a thrill when someone falls for the same practical joke that you did.

I have to confess that the briefcase and tie threw me off a bit. Usually you can spot your weirdo types from a block away. But this guy looked—and I hate to use this word—normal.

Maybe he had lost his marbles just that very morning; perhaps he watched Hitchcock’s The Birds once too often and decided to join the flock.


My aunt suggested that maybe the guy really didn’t know he was making these animal sounds, like he was suffering from a kind of bestial Tourette ’s syndrome.

Or it could be that he was just desperate for attention, as so many people in this increasingly impersonal world are.

Like the chimpanzee who screeches and bounces off the bars of his cage, it’s not important why people are looking at you, as long as they’re looking.

Admittedly, he could have been doing much worse. The guy wasn’t attacking people or touching himself; he wasn’t trying to save souls or sell timeshares. He was just making animal sounds and I have to admit he was pretty good at it.

As he disappeared into an office building, the briefcase man did one more bird cry and four young delivery guys who were smoking cigarettes and shooting the breeze did the now familiar look around and then got on with their conversation.

I have to wonder what this man did for a living, where he was going when he entered that building. What exactly does he have to offer to a company? It's not the kind of skill you would normally put on your resume, as in "I can type 80 words a minute and wail like a lovelorn baboon."

I don’t believe animal noises have been in big demand since radio drama went out of style. Of course, for all I know, the guy could be the CEO of a multinational corporation with a yatch and a summer home in the Hamptons. When you have that kind of dough, you can make any noises you want.

I’ve been reading all sorts of strange animal stories this week. There was a report in the Wall Street Journal about the packs of wild dogs in Moscow, who cross at the light and ride the subways with the commuters, though I don’t think they pay a fare.

The dogs have this way of sneaking up on people eating in public places and barking so the victim will drop his or her lunch to the ground and unwillingly feed the animals. Apparently the mutts are good at deciding who will be most likely to drop his Big Macski.

Then there was the lost parrot in Japan who was reunited with his owner when he recited his name and address. The bird’s family said they had been teaching this information for two years to the wayward parrot, which is a lot more helpful than “Polly want a cracker?”

And finally there was Blacky, a donkey in Mexico, who was actually thrown in jail for three days for biting and kicking two men. Blacky got out of the joint after his owner paid a fine and the victims’ hospital bills.

I wonder if Blacky had been framed. If only hell had phone service, he could have called Johnnie Cochran. But now Blacky has a criminal record and won’t be able to run for office like all the other jackasses.

I won’t be going to the county fare in the Berkshires on Memorial Day. It’s been so long since I’ve been to the sheep-herding contest, it almost feels like a dream, and I would really get back there some day.

But for now I’ll be in here in New York, celebrating my birthday and doing my damnedest not to make animal noises in public. Grrrrr.....

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hurt Parade

In this great future, you can't forget your past.
--Bob Marley

I was standing at the 59th Street subway station the other night when a man near me took out a trumpet and began playing a jazzy rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

It was late and I was tired, but this guy was good.

We never used to have subway musicians in the Bay Ridge area train stations.

We had beggars, hobos, drunks or bums—we didn’t say “homeless” back then—but there were no street entertainers to speak of, none of the guitar players or singers or jugglers or other kinds of urban entertainment that you saw in “the city,” which is what people called Manhattan.

I guess now that Brooklyn is getting more gentrified, the subway performers are migrating along with the new outer borough residents.

Standing on that platform, I found it comforting to hear a song about being lost and then found, about being blind, and now able to see, especially in light of recent events in my life.

It started with the numbers, or least that’s my theory.

One recent Saturday I was doing my usual when I went to my local fruit stand and rang up a bill of $9.99.

“Hmm,” I thought, “how often does than happen?”

Funny I should ask. I left the fruit stand, walked three blocks to the drug store and rang up a bill of…$9.99. This was getting too weird.

Some people told me I should play that number—whatever that means-- but all I could see was 666 standing on its head.

I went to the butcher shop a few days later and the total came out to $7.77. Is the universe coming into some kind of strange alignment? Is this beginning of the Apocalypse, the End of Days?

And why do I keep hearing the theme song from the old TV show 77 Sunset Strip?

“You should play that number,” the cashier told me.

And then there’s the music. I was walking through the subway station at Grand Central on my way to a conference when I heard a woman singing “Top of the World” by—ugh!—The Carpenters, which I had not heard in decades. (And I’m not complaining at all.)

This song is so painfully saccharine it can make your cheeks suck in, and yet this woman was somehow doing a nice job with it. She had a fine voice and she slowed the tempo down and she was…good? I tossed her a buck and got a smile in return.

On the way back from the conference, a guy on a subway platform was singing “No Woman, No Cry.” I got a few bars before the doors closed and the train moved on.

I was in a local saloon the other night when I just had to get out of the house and away from the damn TV and heard “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell. Hell, I hadn’t heard this song in…decades. What’s going on here?

On the D train yesterday, a group of Mexican musicians moved through my car doing a mariachi rendition of “Jambalaya.”

It was…different, but I still tossed a buck into one of band members’ outstretched Stetsons. However, one our fellow passengers who was yakking on his cell phone didn’t seem to be enjoying the show.

Speaking of cell phones, I was at the ATM at the bank near my office when I heard "In the Mood" playing. I turned and saw this older gentleman take out his cell phone. I wanted to tell him what a great ringer he had, but he was deep in conversation with someone who sounded like a defendant in a criminal trial.

And I may have Carpenters on the brain, but I’d swear I heard another woman singing “Top of the World” at the 36th R station the other night. This all feels like a soundtrack to a movie with no script and I'm the leading man.

You Still Here?

People are also giving me a pain in the past.

I was looking up a former co-worker on Google—I still haven’t learned my lesson with this yet—and I come to find out this person, who hasn’t returned any of my phone calls or emails, who was so clueless about reporting that he or she (cagey bastard, ain’t I?) would ask me how to interview people, is now an editor at a screaming, major honking media company.

So I bet you think I’m jealous or envious or both, don't you?

You’re goddamn right I am. I’m furious, I’m greener than a month old loaf of bed. How dare this person or any person for that matter have a better gig than me?

This is unmitigated bullshit and I demand satisfaction. Maybe I should play one of those numbers, strike it rich and then moon all of humanity from the backseat of my limo. Put this on the top of your world, you sons-of-bitches.

Now I should mention here that I work for a major media company, too, but, of course I’m not satisfied. What--I should be happy with what I have?

I got a call from a headhunter last week. Like all headhunters, she had this great job she wanted to tell me about and while I’m not complaining about my current gig—too much—I always like to hear what else is going out there.

We kicked around the idea of getting together and then she happens to let slip the name of my potential new employer.

“Boo Radley is looking for someone like you.”

“Boo Radley?” I asked in disbelief. “Boo Radley from WTF?”

“Why, yes. Is that a problem?”

Yes, lady, as a matter of fact it is. I know Boo Radley, having had the misfortune of working with him at WTF.

Of course his name really isn’t Boo Radley—though the physical resemblance is there—and our former company wasn’t called WTF. But everything else was all too bloody real.

I thought this clown was out of my life, but here he is turning up like a bad Carpenters’ tune. (Wait a minute--all the Carpenters’ tunes are bad.)

I pulled myself out of the running for this position and told the headhunter to have a nice day. I didn't want anything to do with Boo and I'm sure Boo would feel likewise, so let's put this puppy to rest.

I saw a man on the R train last night studiously fussing with the wire cap on an old beer bottle. He was huge, with a big mustache and wearing a pair of paint-stained black shorts.

Like a lot of people who ride the trains, he wanted to people to notice him so he sang as he worked on his beer bottles.

He wasn't singing any lyrics, just a lot of "dot-ta-dah, dot-ta-dah" stuff, but then I picked up on the tune. It was “Honeymoon Hotel,” a song from Footlight Parade, an old Busby Berkeley musical with Jimmy Cagney that my mother and I used to enjoy together.

We used to laugh at the elaborate sets and dance numbers, all of which were supposed to be taking place live on a stage some place even though there were fade outs and close ups and other sorts of cinematic techniques.

I hadn’t heard that song in…oh, well, you get the idea.

The same movie features the hit “Shanghai Lil,” but the bottle man got off the train before he reached that number.

I still don't know what all the numbers and songs mean, but I know I have to work on my attitude. All this anger, jealousy, or envy, it's not good for a wretch like me.

I have to change my tune.

I got a weather alert on my computer just now telling me the temperature in Brooklyn is 55.5 degrees...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Word for Today

I missed my train by just a few seconds today.

I had come out of the gym and I was extremely tired. All I could think about was getting home and relaxing.

I heard the train from upstairs and I was praying it was heading in the opposite direction.

Then I saw people climbing up the subway steps at Ninth Street on my side of the tracks. I heard the "ding-dong" warning bell signaling that the train doors were about to close.

And I got downstairs just as my train--I call it "my" even though I missed it--pulled out of the station and left me behind.

This is torture for a hyperactive New Yorker like myself.

Subway service is so terribly slow on the weekends that missing the R train on a Sunday afternoon is tantamount to entering the Witness Protection Program. No one's going to hear from you for a while.

And what made it worse was the fact that I had just missed the damn bus up on Fifth Avenue.

I usually take the bus back from the gym so I can spend time outside. It's slower than the train, but it's nice to get away from the tunnels every so often. Today, however, was not my lucky transit day.

Now you do have those days when the transportation gods smile down upon you so that you connect with every train or bus or combination of the two.

But naturally I didn't look at both sides of the situation. Instead, I groused and griped as I sat down on the wooden bench.

A fat-faced woman waddled up the platform attempting to sing along with her headphones and, being in such a crabby mood, I found myself hoping some small bit of concrete would dislodge from the ceiling and hit her on the head.

Nothing serious, mind you; just a good enough whack to remind her that there are other people in this world, some of whom actually may not care for her singing.

I know, shame on me.

It turned out that this lady was having a bad day, too, at least from what I could pick up from her conversation she was having on the pay phone halfway up the platform.

"I got off the fucking train, yo," she said to someone who was apparently hard of hearing. "I'm pretty pissed off. If I known I was on the right train, I wouldn't have gotten off."

Even I had to sympathize with her. Missing the train is one thing, but getting off at the wrong station truly sucks. You keep replaying those few seconds when you stepped through the doors and ask yourself, why, why?

I sat there trying to read the Times Book Review while the N, D, and R to Manhattan roared in or through the station. That noise can really emphasize the feeling that you're going nowhere.

Finally, the Bay Ridge bound local arrived. I got up and happened to look to my right, where a young mother was holding her little girl and snapping a picture with cell phone camera.

It was a very lovely scene, even in a subway station, and it did a lot to cheer me up. It also reminded me that today is Mother's Day.

Oh, yeah. This day used to have so much meaning for me, but now that my mother's been gone for nearly six years now, I feel like an atheist on Christmas.

Wish You Were Here

All the newspaper ads and TV commercials don't apply to me anymore.

The day sparks all this commerce--flowers, cards, candy, and every item is described by the words "makes a great Mother's Day gift"--tires, jackhammers, or jet engine parts, whatever it is, your mom will love it. Now swipe your credit card in the little slot.

I got an email the other day slugged "Last minute flowers for Mom," but the only flowers we'll get for my mother is the ones for her grave.

My sister went to the cemetery today and I kind of wish I had gone with her. I still think its an empty ritual and I often become more depressed when I go out there. To be brutally honest, I didn't feel like going out there today.

The cemetery is a very popular location on Mother's Day. The cars crawl through the place and there are so many people placing flowers on graves. It reminds you that you're in a constantly growing group.

It's odd: I miss my mother more and more and memories of her can still bring my to tears, but I'm not feeling this way today. Maybe I've built up a resistance to the whole notion of Mother's Day.

I was thinking about how we'd visit my mother in the hospital when things got really bad. Her lungs were failing to a point where the nurses had to use this suction machine to clear her lungs out.

It was a painful, ugly procedure, but it was critical to my mother's health. I used to leave the room while the nurse did the suction, but towards the end, I would stay and hold my mother's hand while she winced and squeezed my fingers.

It was awful, but I finally realized that it was much worse for my mother than it was for me.

When I hear people talking about their parents make them so angry, I want to tell them to stop and think. Some day your parents will be gone and it will be too late for "I'm sorry," or "I didn't mean it," or any of that other crap.

This morning I called the mothers in my life--my aunt and two sisters-in-law. But I fell down on the greeting card front. I'm usually pretty good with this, but this year I've got nothing but excuses.

Maybe I shouldn't ignore Mother's Day. Instead of pretending it doesn't exist, maybe I should wish all the best to all the mothers in the world.

We do something at my Sunday boxing class that the instructor calls the word of the day.

After working our tails off, the teacher calls us all into the middle of the room, we all raise our fists into the air, and shout some positive word, like "dedication," or "confidence."

It's kind of corny, I suppose, but it's a sincere attempt to keep the positive energy going as we leave the gym. And since I was an English major, I like to feed my ego by coming up with the word as often as possible.

But I was stuck today. I couldn't come up with a decent word.

"What's today word?" the teacher asked.

"Mom," one of my classmates said.

I flinched for a second, but I looked around and realized that I was one of the oldest people in the class, maybe even the oldest. I'm sure most of the people around me still had their mothers with them.

So on the count of three, we all shouted "Mom!" at the top of our lungs.

I have to say it felt pretty good.

After Fest

Okay, I know I'm late in the day with this, but I want to add my name to the list of people who had a great time at Thursday's blogfest.

I thought we had an excellent turnout with a lot of new faces and an incredible variety of interests. I met some very nice people, while putting away beer and Mexican food.

I introduced the shout-out and then helped coordinate the huge mass of people who wanted to take to the stage and tell the world about their blog.

Big thanks to Louise of Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn and a tip of the cyber-hat to all the other fabulous folks who helped put this thing on the map, like Eleanor from Creative Times and Petra from Bed-Stuy Blog.

There was a great video about the bloggers from Blue Barn Pictures and an excellent tribute to the photo-bloggers from The Brooklyn Optimist.

Thanks also to my bud Xris of Flatbush Gardner, who took many excellent photos, including that one I ripped off for this post.

Hey, if you're going to steal, steal from the best.

I have to say, yet again, that I am so glad I got involved with this singularly talented group of people.

As I said during my intro to the shout-out, when I started my blog, I felt like a guy who had been lost in the jungle and blogging was my way of firing a flare into the sky.

Over the last year, I've learned things about myself and my surroundings and for that I am tremendously grateful.

Thank you, one and all.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Blogfest Eve

The Third Annual Brooklyn Blogfest, a gathering of Brooklyn bloggers who write about their neighborhoods and anything else that matters to them, will be happening tomorrow.

The excitement is killing me!

If you're a blogger, an aspiring blogger, or you just love Brooklyn, get your butt down there and represent...or whatever you think is appropriate.

I would love to see more Bay Ridge bloggers there, especially since I walked all over the neighborhood Sunday putting up Blogfest posters.

I've been the only one from my hood going to the monthly blogades and I know there are more bloggers in the Ridge. So let me see your face at the place.

The event was founded and is organized by Louise Crawford of Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.

WHEN: Thursday, May 8 at 8 pm

WHERE: The Brooklyn Lyceum
227 Fourth Avenue at President's Street, Park Slope

ADMISSION: $10, Students $5

What to Expect: Here's the line-up for the program. The show begins at 8 p.m.

Video: Place Matters: Blogging My World by Blue Barn Pictures

Brief Welcome: Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn (Louise Crawford)

Speaker: Creative Times (Eleanor Traubman)

Speaker: Bed-Stuy Blog (Petra S.)

Video: A Walk Around the Blog Promo by Brooklyn Independent Television

Speaker: New York Shitty (Miss Heather)

Speaker: Gowanus Lounge (Robert Guskind)

Speaker: Gersh Kuntzman, editor of The Brooklyn Paper

Video: A Word from WNYC's Brian Lehrer

Speaker: Top Ten Tips for New Bloggers presented by So Good (Heather Johnson)

Speaker:, a resource for bloggers who blog about where they live

Video: A Tribute to Brooklyn's Photo Bloggers (produced by Brooklyn Optimist)

Speaker: Bloggers Reach Out: The Brooklyn Blogade presented by Flatbush Gardener

ANNUAL SHOUT-OUT: Your chance to share your blog with the world introduced by yours truly, Luna Park Gazette

Food and Fun: There will be light refreshments and other goodies from Maria's Mexican Bistro, Red Mango Bakery, Brooklyn Fudge, and beer courtesy of

After the presentation there will be plenty of time for networking, beer, delicious snacks courtesy of Maria's Mexican Bistro, Red Mango Bakery and Brooklyn Fudge and conversation.

Many Thanks to the Sponsors of the Blogfest: Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Blue Barn Pictures, Outside.In, Brooklyn Optimist, Gowanus Lounge, Michael Sorgatz, Brit in Brooklyn, Bed-Stuy Blog, Red Mango Bakery, Brooklyn Fudge, Maria's Mexican Bistro, DJ Solo P from Groovalicious Entertainment and the Community Bookstore.

Poster designed by Michael Sorgatz.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Go, Speed Dater

According to the dictionary, the word “fiasco” originates from the Latin word for “bottle.”

How that word grew to become synonymous with a complete failure, I don’t know, but “fiasco” is the only way to describe what happened to me on Friday night.

I signed up for a night of speed-dating at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, one of my favorite places on earth, which would be followed by a concert by the Brooklyn Philharmonic.

I’ve gone to speed-dating events in the past, and while I never met the future missus, I always had a good time. You flirt, you joke around, you nosh on some pretzels, it was always fun.

That all came crashing down on my head last night. I didn’t meet anyone I would allow to feed my goldfish—if I had goldfish—let alone date. All I got was cold from the damn air conditioning.

I don’t know if the stars were in the wrong alignment or maybe some sorcerers put the whammy on me, but whatever it was, I could not connect with anyone last night. Nor did I want to.

It was horrible; a disaster, I felt emotionally drained and physically ill. I don’t know why they call this business “speed-dating” because it seemed to go on forever.

The promoters talk about having 12 dates and they were right. I had 12 bad dates, one right after the other.

The people were freaks. There was some woman who smelled like a musty attic; there was a young brunette who did her best to play a dumb blond, and a woman who kept looking over my shoulder while pretending to talk to me.

On top of that, the guy in front of me was so slow in getting up off his ass that he was eating into my date time.

Half the people I met were “artists”—playwrights, freelance writers—until it got down to specifics and it turned out that they all had day jobs.

Every three minutes a bell would go off and we had to change seats. I got so sick of hearing that damn bell, I felt like a hamster looking for a food pellet.

There was a pre-date mixer where we all corralled in this small area on the second floor—right near the rest rooms, which, as it turned out, seemed quite appropriate.

That’s where I met the musty attic woman. We engaged in some harmless chitchat until a man with a cheap toupee horned his way into the conversation.

It got to a point where she started talking him and pretty much ignored me. I’m never sure what to do in these situations.

I wasn’t really interested in her, so Rug Boy was really doing me a favor. But should I give ground-—whatever the hell “giving ground” means?

I saw Rug Boy talking to another woman later that night during an intermission in the concert. I was tempted to bum-rush his conversation, but, of course, I didn’t. I just got the hell out of there.

It’s been said that the only one who got rich during the California Gold Rush was the guy selling the shovels. I think the same could be said of the singles industry. The happiest people are the ones running these things.

Putting males and females together in one room and hoping they mate may work for cattle and hamsters, but not for people.

Groin Theft Congo

Looking on the bright side, at least I don’t live in the Congo, where the cops busted 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises.

The victims said the sorcerers touched them to make their genitals shrink or disappear. Damn, where’s Harry Potter when we need him?

“But when you try to tell the victims that their penises are still there, they tell you that it's become tiny or that they've become impotent,” the local police chief told Reuters.

They didn’t know their penises were still there? I may not use mine as much as I like, but I know where it is. It’s kind of like parking your Ferrari in the garage.

As you can imagine, all this penis-snatching has been the source of a lot bad feeling. Ten years ago 12 suspected penis snatchers were beaten to death in Ghana by angry mobs.

Hey, don’t beat those penis-snatchers. Make them go to speed-dating events and they’ll repent their evil ways before you can ring that stupid bell.

Down in Chile, they’ve got the perfect antidote to penis-snatching. The mayor of a Santiago suburb has been handing out free Viagra to senior citizens declaring “an active sexuality improves the overall quality of life.”

I used to wonder where I would go when I retire, but I think I found my little slice of paradise.

Jimi Hendrix apparently didn’t need Viagra, if you believe the people trying to sell a tape of someone they claim is the rock icon having sex with two women.

How does that three-way business work anyway? Do you have sex with one until someone rings a bell and you go to the other one?

The managers of the Hendrix estate say the tape is bogus, but the company peddling the tape stiffly supported their product, citing the approval of Cynthia "Plaster Caster" Albritton, who, they say, is “famous for creating plaster molds of the penises of rock stars, including that of Hendrix.”

A plaster penis mold? I wonder who some of her clients were. Jim Morrison? Mick Jagger? The Archies?

Does Cynthia do civilians? I can’t think of a better present for the holidays. That’s a gift that keeps on giving and you don’t have to move to Chile.

FDR didn’t have to leave his home either. An article in Newsweek described a scene in 1931 where Roosevelt, who had lost the use of his legs to polio, had three doctors look him over to see if he was healthy enough to run for the White House.

The doctors gave him the thumbs declaring that he had “no symptoms of impotentia coeundi," which sounds like an opera singer now that I think of it.

So FDR really had nothing to fear below the belt but fear itself. Too bad Cynthia Albritton wasn’t around back then.

A new biography about Roosevelt looks into the many loves of FDR. I must say that it bothers me that a guy in wheelchair was getting more action than I am. But of course, I don’t have to deal with Hitler or the Depression.

I've decided I’m going to take a break from these singles events. I’m going to follow the old bit of advice about doing what you enjoy and meeting people under normal circumstances.

I’ll find my special someone yet. And when I do, Cynthia Albritton will be the first one to know.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Five Bloody Years

Today marks the fifth anniversary since a felon by the name of George W. Bush told us major combat operations were over in Iraq.

Remember the arrogance? Remember the swagger?

Remember how he used the tragedy of 9/11 to lie us into this disaster, which has now claimed more than 4,000 American lives and God knows how many innocent Iraqis?

Sure, the neocons knew it all. We were going to march into Iraq, be greeted as liberators and be out of there in less than six months.

Of course there were no weapons of mass destruction. Of course there were no links between Saddam and bin Laden. Of course Bush and his cronies were lying. Anyone with a brain had that figured out before the first shot was fired.

But unfortunately, in America, that leaves a lot of people out of the loop.

Does it matter that a new poll suggests that George W. Bush is the most unpopular president in modern American history? Probably not. But I am a little surprised that 30% of those questioned favored the war.

Who are these idiots? What country are they living in?

How could they possibly believe in this fiasco and if really they do, could they please do us all a favor and enlist so they can see this nightmare up close and personal?

Now John "Insane" McCain is picking up on the Bush doctrine. McCain believes in his little twisted mind that major combat operations really are over. Poor guy. He needs help...desperately.

Anyway, you neocons break out your flags, put up your yellow ribbons, and dig into those freedom fries.

Skip around the block chanting, "the surge is working, the surge is working." Maybe that'll drown out the sound of explosions in Baghdad.

Whatever you do, don't try and help the situation. You idiots have done enough damage already.