Tuesday, July 29, 2008

They Call Me Mr. Monster!

I’m a little late getting this out, but I just wanted to say that I had a smashing time at Sunday’s Brooklyn Blogade picnic in Prospect Park.

We camped out near the Music Pagoda and I realized how little I knew about this beautiful park. When I was growing up the park—and Brooklyn, for that matter—were much different places.

Nobody in his right mind would walk through the park at night back then and I doubt if there was much day traffic either.

My late father loved the park and I remember him declaring every time we drove through the place that “if I were mayor I’d make this park safe if I had to put a cop behind every goddamn tree!”

We drove through Prospect Park one night and some lowlife SOB pelted our car with eggs, which would have smashed into my mother’s face if the window had been rolled down.

But now I love the place. On Sunday we had great food, great people, and the great fortune of avoiding the lightning bolts that struck around the city all day long.

Big ups to Dave of Dope on the Slope and Brenda of Crazy Stable and A Year in the Park, (yes, she's two, two bloggers in one!) who put this gig together. I’m sorry I didn’t make it to Brenda’s historical tour, but I had trouble getting my keester out of bed

Once I got there I had the pleasure of chasing around the Midnight Cowgirls’ lovely little daughters, who had me huffing and puffing, but not quite like the Big Bad Wolf.

I love playing with little kids. It makes me feel young and ancient at the same time as I chase them around with a growl and a wheeze.

Don’t ask me to educate them, give them sound advice or teach them table manners, but if you need someone to get them all riled up into a screaming frenzy, I’m your boy.

My father used to do this with my cousin’s three daughters ages ago and the kids dubbed him “The Cookie Monster.”

This was back when Sesame Street was new, so that should give you some idea of how much time has passed. In fact, if I think about it, I might toss my cookies, so let’s move on.

My thanks to Xris of Flatbush Gardner for the beautiful photos I am swiping for this post: as always, a great job, my brother.

When I was leaving, one of the little girls waved and said “goodbye, Mr. Monster.” Hey, at least she called me “mister.” Even my old man didn’t get that.

Now for a serious segue from a Brooklyn picnic to Brooklyn art. Are you still with me? Good, because I don't want you to miss this.

Mike Sorgatz, devoted companion of Eleanor at Creative Times, will be showing his peerless paintings from Aug. 1 - Sept.12 at the The Fall Café, 307 Smith Street (at Union).

There will be a reception this Friday from 7 to 9 pm and I know you want to be there. Mike and Eleanor are good people and there’s going be to some seriously good freaking art at this thing.

Come on down and make the magic happen or Mr. Monster is going to be very upset with you…

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Star Quality

It looks like my house isn’t quite ready for its close up.

I thought I had a great idea: I wanted to rent out my family’s house to movie and film crews so we could make some extra cash while rubbing elbows with Hollywood creative types.

I had seen this article in the New York Times Real Estate section about allowing filmmakers to put your house in pictures and I thought, why not?

The house is huge, I’m the only one here, and we could use the dough. It all adds up.

And, since I’m a movie freak and would-be filmmaker who never had the nerve to move to Los Angeles, I thought I might be able to bring the mountain to Mohammad, so to speak.

My blogging buddy over at Crazy Stable had the Law & Order bunch in her house and in addition to seeing her home appearing in a hugely popular TV show, she got a load of free bacon.

I would gladly skip the bacon just to see a film crew in my ancestral home, to hear cries of “action” and “cut” and “make up!” and whatever else these movie/TV people say.

I planned to let the film crew run around the empty upstairs apartment, then go up there to see if everything was okay and then—oops!--casually drop one of my scripts on the floor with a cry of, "oh, my goodness how did that get there?"

Why, yes, funny you should ask, I am interested in film making and screenwriting, just like you guys. What a coincidence.

And did I mention my shamelessly desperate need to get the ever-loving fuck out of my current miserable existence and start a brand new life as a movie mogul millionaire—and, by the way, would you guys like some Frito's and Diet Pepsi?

The way I look at it, I have to move once we sell the house anyway—so why not Beverly Hills?

I know I can get used to wearing Armani suits, calling everyone “babe” and driving a Mercedes---or having someone drive it for me. It would be a challenge, but I'm sure I could do it.

They could shoot a family scene in our backyard, or a horror movie in the basement, assuming there isn't a real monster down there waiting to rip their heads off. It is pretty dark down there.

They could use my old bedroom as a place that’s been ransacked by desperate diamond thieves or a flea market that's been hit by bomb, or the bedroom of a middle-aged guy who dreams of running off to L.A. and working in movie business.

And when they were done and the movie or show hits the screens—big or small—I would wait and wait and wait until the 2.8 second shot of our place and so I could scream “that’s my family’s house! that’s my family house!” while being pelted by obscenities, Goobers and stale popcorn.

I had the fantasy all lined up; now I just had to make it happen, which isn't really one of my strong points.

I called the two big auction houses listed on the City’s film and TV office web page—didn’t I send them a resume once?-- and left messages with both. As soon as I finished making the calls, I got this queasy feeling, like I had made a huge mistake.

What was I thinking? No one wants to shoot a movie in our house, unless it's a fly-by-night, seat-of-their-pants pack of losers without a penny to their worthless names shooting some kind of slasher-porn-rock video-nature documentary-mouthwash commercial.

They’ll probably trash up the house, infuriate our neighbors and leave the place looking like postwar Berlin...or my bedroom. This could be a first-rate disaster, I thought, and it would be my fault.

Meanwhile, we had a real life drama happening on my block, as I learned the other day when I helped Emma, one of the local senior residents cross Fifth Avenue.

“Robert,” she asked as she took my arm, “have you heard anything about Mrs. Watson missing?”

My jaw fell, hit the pavement and bounced back into my mug. Mrs. Watson—not her real name, of course—is missing?

She is an elder stateswoman on Senator Street, one of the last few surviving parents from my mom and dad’s generation—if not the last. How could she possibly be missing?

“No, I haven’t heard anything like that.”

“Yeah,” Emma, another fake name, told me. “I heard they found her wallet in Staten Island—”

“What?” I shrieked. “She has a woman living with her, for God’s sake, how could this happen?”

“I don’t know…”

The “wallet found in Staten Island” line hit me pretty hard because usually if your wallet is found in Staten Island, your head will be found in New Jersey—if it’s ever found at all.

I didn’t actually believe anything like this had happened to Mrs. Watson, but there was nagging bit of doubt in the back of my mind, like, well, you know, these things do happen to somebody…

Cut to the Chase

What the hell was going on with my block? Were we under some kind of sorcerer's curse? Where in the hell were those Law & Order guys when you need them?

My sister suggested I just knock on Mrs. Watson’s door and ask, which sounded logical, but I felt a little strange about that.

What do you say? Hi, heard Mrs. Watson has vanished off the face of the earth and you have no hope of finding her, and, hey, do you have any Frito's?

I would have to give this one some thought.

The next day a woman from the auction houses called me back, but she didn’t sound all that enthusiastic. I have no doubt that she got a thousands of calls after the Times article ran and I guess she was just doing her due diligence.

“They usually want places in Manhattan,” she said, implying that Bay Ridge was somewhere in the lower regions of Tajikistan as opposed to be a 40 minute subway ride away. “And they’re looking for places that are spak-tack-u-lahhr.”

I think she was actually saying “spectacular,” but I can’t be certain. After the Seinfeld episode with Teri Hatcher I thought people would avoid that particular adjective.

And how am I supposed to respond? My house certainly seems spectacular to me. Well, maybe not spectacular, but certainly stunning and fabulous and magnificent, and hey do you want to shoot a goddamn movie here or not?

I feel like a frustrated stage mother. Can’t you see how beautiful this house is? It’s got personality, pizazz, all that je ne sais que crap.

What are you people looking for? Tara from Gone With the Wind, or stately Wayne Manor? It’s a nice house, there’s only one guy living here, now let’s make a movie deal.

The other auction house never called me back and I was feeling kind of depressed. I want out for sushi during the week with some friends and one woman told me that a crew had used her apartment during a commercial shoot.

Her flat wasn’t the star of the ad, however, it just served as an equipment store room. She didn’t sound too thrilled with the experience, which included the director deciding to pick up a pair of bongo drums he found in her apartment and start banging away at 4 AM. Her neighbors were so pleased.

But she suggested that I keep trying. Look around online or post a notice on Craigslist. And I thought yes, that might work.

Maybe my house won’t be a star, but it can be a supporting cast member, a memorable character actor, like William Bendix or Gabby Hayes, or one of those other celebrated faces my dad would get all excited about when he saw one of them on TV.

“Look who it is!” he’d exclaim, pointing at the screen.

“Who is it?” I’d say.

“I don’t know,” my father would declare, “but he’s been in a million pictures.”

After going through the same exchange several thousand times, I eventually learned not to make any comment and watch the movie in silence.

After making that decision, I finally got the nerve to ring Mrs. Watson’s front doorbell. This is what the Law & Order guys do all the time.

I was a little anxious, half-expecting to see a house full of grieving relatives and a squadron of cops asking questions, taking pictures, and putting everything smaller than a Mini Cooper into plastic bags.

Instead Mrs. Watson’s aide answered the door and immediately I knew I had gotten a bum steer.

“Hi,” I squeaked. “I just wanted to see if everything was okay…”

Well, of course it was and now the aide was giving me the raised eyebrow, as in, why shouldn't everything be okay?

I felt compelled to tell her what I had been told, without naming the source, and the aide rolled her eyes.

“It was Mrs. Watson’s sister,” she said. “She went to the Staten Island Mall and while she was there she lost her wallet.”

Okay, that’s just a little bit different from the story I had heard. I’ve had about three people tell me that this story sounds like the game “Telephone,” so I’ll spare you that analogy…even though I really didn’t.

I felt a bit foolish walking back to my house, but I was being a good reporter, going directly to the source; I had done my due diligence. And I’m glad the news was nowhere near as bad as it could have been.

So my house isn’t famous yet. Mrs. Watson is safe at her home, praise the Lord, and we don’t need the Law & Order guys around here after all.

I don't know if I'll pursue the idea of renting the house out to filmmakers. And I don’t know if I’ll ever get out to L.A.

But I’m pretty sure I’m going to stay away from the Staten Island Mall.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Waxing Psychotic

Dear Joanne:

You are a moron.

Please don’t try to deny this, as we both know it is true.

You are an imbecile, a scum-sucking hosebag, a sewer dwelling ass-breath of a fucktard, a prehistoric nuthugger, a defiler of fluffy kittens, a molester of tropical fish, a threat to farm animals the world over and a loser-and-a-half.

I don't like you.

You ruined my Friday night and, though I can’t prove it, I convinced you were the reason I forgot to buy wax paper the other night, even though I was convinced I had.

The fact that you caused all this misery without actually meeting me in person is a testament to your nuthuggerness, which, if you haven’t guessed already, is not something to be proud of.

You know what you did, but I’ll do a brief recap anyway for the folks watching at home. This disaster started when you contacted me via the interracial dating web site.

Okay? You wrote to me. That's important. I didn't know you from a hole in the ground, I didn't know you from a can of paint, I didn't know you from Adam or Eve and I wish it had stayed that way.

We exchanged emails. We spoke on the phone and had a nice conversation. And we agreed to meet last Saturday on the night of my solo show at the Stage Left Studio.

I called you Saturday afternoon to find out if we were still on and, lo and behold, you said you couldn’t make it.

Honestly, I didn’t mind. I was able to get to the theater early and get more comfortable, resulting in an excellent performance, if I do say so myself.

My partner, Cheryl Smallman, did a fabulous rendition of her show “Dreamless,” and afterward I went out for sushi, drinks and good times with a wonderful couple who had attended the show.

I called you again—or did you call me?—I forget and it doesn’t matter worth a damn anyway. We agreed to meet on Friday night. You kept calling me “sweetie” as if you gave a rat’s ass about me, though, of course, that wasn’t even remotely true.

I called you on Thursday and you said “can I call you back, sweetie.” (Again with the “sweetie!”) You never called. So I called you on Friday-goddamn-great-day-in-the-fucking morning to find out if we were going out that evening.

“Oh, hi,” you said in your best nuthugging voice. “The thing is, I met somebody...and we’re going out.”

“Good luck with that,” I said before hanging up on you.

I sat there with the phone in my hand in stark, staring disbelief. You met somebody? But I thought I was the somebody you met. Do you remember that or has a lifetime of rampant nuthugging destroyed that lump of hospital waste you call a brain?

So, in other words, you were dumping me before you even met me. You got my hopes up, wasted my time, and then flipped me the bird.

This is the second time this has happened to me in a month and I’m wondering now if it was you on both occasions. We all know nuthuggers practice the dark arts, perhaps you’re some kind of shape shifter.

First, you're an Irish immigrant in my local butcher shop and then you appear online as an African-American mother of a biracial teenager. What next—a foul-smelling Albanian dwarf with a beard down to his knees?

Speaking of Albanians--I have Albanians in my family tree-I’m told that one of the worst insults in their language is to tell someone “You should be eaten by dogs.”

I’d say that to you, but I like dogs too much and I don’t want them gagging on your putrid carcass.

Do I sound bitter?

I was so furious, there were so many things I wanted to say to you, that you were an idiot, you were a waste of life as well as a Jurassic fucktard. I was thinking of writing you a nasty email, but I didn't want to come off as an angry loser. So instead I'm writing this post so the whole Internet will know what you are.

I left the office after speaking to you,called my best bud Hank, who was in an L.A. Starbucks at the time, and began ranting.

“I’m losing my fucking mind!” I shrieked as I staggered down Hudson Street. “I’m losing my fucking mind!”

I used to roll my eyes at these twits who shout into their cell phones as they walk around in public. Get a grip, I used to think. We don’t need to hear this.

Little did I know…

Hank was great. He listened to my whine, let me rant, and helped me get my head straight. That’s because he’s a real friend, a decent human being and a great guy--not a nuthugger like you.

Rage Against the Machine

There have been a series of strange things going on lately. As I mentioned, I came home from the store the other day and was unable to find the wax paper I had bought. I looked through my bags; I even looked in the freezer. Nothing.

Wax paper is useful stuff, the kind of thing you're used to having around the house. I shouldn't have to buy wax paper, it should just be there when I open the kitchen drawer. Except that it wasn't.

I was about to go back to the store when I picked up the receipt and found I had never bought any goddamn wax paper even though I was convinced I had.

This sort of thing makes me nervous, since my father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and every time I forget something or make a mistake like this, I wonder if this is the first step down the dark alley.

Now I'm thinking that it is all your fault.

Then all the machines in my life started turning on me, like something out of a Stephen King novel. The step machine and the treadmill at my gym would not cooperate, moving at a little old lady's pace, no matter what buttons I pressed.

One toilet in the company bathroom wouldn’t stop flushing after I used it and then another overflowed the second I looked at it.

My workplace computer crashed after I made the mistake of calling the IT people to complain about the slow service.

Their response was to wipe out my computer’s memory as if I had never existed. I wish I could do that with you.

“It’s like the Keystone Kops!” I whisper-screamed at my desk. “It’s the fucking Keystone Kops!”

Then my bank got in on the act. I went to the branch near work at lunch time and there was only one ATM working and there was line was about to burst out onto the street.

One of the flunkies told us we could go inside and get money from the teller. When I did, the teller said I had to fill out a form. A form--for my own money? Why do I have this stupid card?

"Forget it," I snapped and stormed out, muttering and mumbling like some nut on a park bench.

I went to Our Lady of Pompeii Roman Catholic Church to mark the anniversary of my mother’s death. I felt good feeling in church and receiving Communion. It had been a while and it was nice being in this beautiful old building.

Then I went to light a candle for the Virgin Mary.

Well, it’s actually an electric bulb designed to look like a candle. I prefer a real candle myself, but a light bulb will do in a pinch. And I guess it does cut down on the three-alarmers. So I put my dollar in the wooden box and threw the switch.

And nothing happened.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. On one side of my brain, I could hear the screaming violins from “Psycho” and on the other side I could hear the sane part of my mind saying, “you’re in a church, you can’t freak out, you’re in a goddamn church!

I asked myself, what is God trying to tell me--besides beware of nuthuggers? What does God want me to do?

Well, I thought when sanity returned, He wants me to find a solution, so I reached over, threw a switch on a neighboring candle and the light came on—in more ways than one.

I went to the Midsummer Night Swing event at Lincoln Center on Friday night--I had no other plans, thanks to you--and had a decent time. It felt good talking to other people, even if I didn’t meet the woman of my dreams.

It is better to light one candle than to curse the nuthuggers.

I have recently decided to stop going to single’s events and I think I will also get off the dating web sites that I’m still on.

The only requirement for these sites is the ability to use a keyboard and, hell, NASA has chimpanzees that could do that. And they’d be better company than most of these losers I’ve met online…like you.

I’m going to spend more time in the real world. I will not let the forces of nuthuggery defeat me, I will not use this ridiculous incident as an excuse to crash and burn. I will find that special someone and enjoy life.

But first I have to get some wax paper.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Welcome Home

I woke up Monday morning hoping the previous day had been a nightmare.

It was a nightmare, but it was also too bloody real. Amy, the little girl from up the block, really was gone.

I went outside to toss some trash into the garbage can and saw my neighbor, this old Chinese lady I have known for years. She's a wonderful woman and a great person to have living next door.

We don't speak our respective languages, but we've done all right with hand gestures for the most part.

When I nodded up the street, indicating Amy's house, my neighbor pointed straight up to Heaven. And if there's any justice in this world, that's exactly where Amy is now.

Today is the sixth anniversary of my mother's death. I thought I had missed it and I wrote about it in an earlier version of this post--making sure to beat myself up, of course--but I was the victim of faulty intelligence, including my own.

And I probably would have forgotten anyway, given the way my head has been behaving in recent days. I've been caught up in a lot of crap at work, most of which is my own doing.

You would think that having just witnessed yet another painful death, another shocking example of how fragile life can be, that I would wise up and appreciate what's important in life and not get excited over the meaningless nonsense that happens to all of us in the course of a day.

Yeah, you'd think that, but for some reason, I'm not thinking it--I'm not thinking much at all lately.

Six years just flew right by. She is my light and my strength. I miss my mother in so many ways that I still cry when I think about her. I can still hear her voice, still see her face, and I wish she were here.

I was standing at DeKalb Avenue Monday morning on the way to work when I saw a little Chinese girl struggling with her mother, who was clearly scolding her. I know how mothers sound when they're annoyed, even if I don't understand the words.

It's hard not to think of Amy when I see a little Asian girl. I wanted to tell this woman not to yell at her daughter because you never know how long you'll have her.

I keep thinking-what if the last thing Amy's mother did was yell at her daughter--and then she lost her child? She would punish herself forever.

I suppose the doctors will eventually say that Amy died of natural causes, though there is nothing natural about the loss of such a precious little girl. It's about unnatural as you can get.

It's so frustrating--you have no one to curse at or attack. As sick as it sounds, if she had been murdered, at least you'd have someone you could hate, someone you'd try and kill with your bare hands.

I bought a bouquet of roses Monday night and took them to Amy's house. A man answering the door didn't seem to understand me and once again I thought that maybe I had gotten it wrong, that maybe she was still alive and recuperating.

But then the man called over a young fellow I had seen on Sunday and he accepted the flowers. Standing in the doorway, I could feel the grief in that house just spilling over like dank air.

I know that feeling, having gone through the same thing when I lost my mother and then my father.

A short time the young man and a young woman came to my door with a thank you card. It wasn't necessary, but I understand their need to follow protocol. They had tears in their eyes--as did I--so I kept the conversation short.

"Thank you so much for your kindness and thoughtfulness," the card says. "Amy loves pink and I know she would love the flowers that you've gotten for her."

I like the use of the present tense--"Amy loves--"; it keeps her with us for a little while longer.

When my mother died we all said she went straight up to Heaven. I'd like to think that she was waiting for Amy when she got there.

So now Amy has someone to take care of her and my mother, who had so much goodness in her heart, has a child she can love for all time.

It sounds like a good deal to me.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My Friend Amy

Her name was Amy, she was nine years old and she was my friend. And I want you to pray for her.

I can't believe what happened today in the space of just a few hours, how this beautiful Sunday could have turned so foul and how a lovely little girl could be so incredibly alive one moment and gone a short time later.

Amy was a little Chinese girl who recently moved to my block on Senator Street. There are many Chinese families here since the Chinese section of Sunset Park has pretty much run out of room.

I met Amy one morning a few weeks ago while I was walking up the street and she was standing on her front stoop.

"It's almost summer and it's almost my birthday, which is June 29," she said.

It sounded like a speech she had memorized and she was so cute I couldn't help but laugh. The next time I saw her, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and she told me, "a Barbie doll."

I saw Amy on the block most weekends and today I saw her and two of her friends sitting on the stoop sucking on ice pops. It was such an iconic image of summer. I wanted to get an ice pop myself and sit down next to them.

Amy came by my house a few hours later holding a small pillow that she was using to sit on a bicycle and greeted me.

"You live here?" she asked. "I thought you live in other house."

"No," I said. "I live in this house."

She looked down at my flip-flops and nodded.

"You don't wear slippers outside," she said. "This your house."

I had the front door open so she walked up the steps and peered over my shoulder.

"Look a mess," she said, quite accurately.

"We're cleaning the place up so we can sell it," I said.

Amy started to talk and talk and talk about her family, her pet dog Bobo, her friends, her trip to China, her old apartment on Eighth Avenue in Sunset Park, which apparently had a lot of mice, and her friend, whom she claimed had several pet skunks.

I didn't follow all of what she was saying, but I was having such a great time listening to her voice and hearing about her child's vision of the world.

I'm not a parent and I think kids sense that I'm not the kind of adult that will tell them to eat their vegetables and do their homework. Or if I do tell to do those things, they feel it's safe to ignore me.

Kids often see me as a friend or a large playmate and that's fine with me.

At one point, I was watching Amy as she spoke and I tried to imagine what she would be like as a young woman.

I know from my experience with my nieces how quickly the days go by and how fast children grow.

I pictured her with glasses for some reason, wearing a business suit, and telling me about her law practice or other such important business.

I returned to reality as Amy told me that she preferred cats to dogs, like living here as a opposed to China and that Bobo had puppies, all of which she named. (I remember "Biscuit", but I can't think of the others.)

As she spoke, she'd wrap the pillow around her head, behind her back; she'd squat down and stand back up. And then she looked back into my house again.

"Look a mess," she repeated.

Again I explained that we were cleaning the place out, which I know is no excuse for the shape the house is in, but I had to say something.

"I'm tired," she said abruptly walked up the block.

"Take care," I said.

An hour or so later I was getting ready to go for a walk and then to the gym when I heard sirens. No big deal, I thought, and then I looked out the window and saw a fire truck and an ambulance halfway up the block.

There are some elderly people up that way and I assumed the response was for one of them. We dialed 911 a lot at my house when my parents got older.

And then I saw something I couldn't believe. An EMT charged out of Amy's house holding this little body, like a doll--I could see the legs dangling as he ran.

I raced up the block and saw a woman on the ground screaming and beating her breast while two older women spoke to her in Chinese and tried to get her to stand.

No around me could speak English and I stood there like a dummy until a man who lives nearby walked by me.

"Is it the little girl?" I asked. "Is it Amy?"

"Yes," he said, "it's Amy."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. That adorable little girl who had made herself at home on my stoop just a little while ago was now in the back of an ambulance on its way to Lutheran Medical Center.

"She was running around in the house," the man said, "and then she fell down. She got back up and collapsed."

I hung around for a little while, but I knew I was in the way. I came home, got on my knees and asked God to please spare Amy.

I went about my business after that, taking a long walk on Shore Road and the going to my gym for a workout.

As I walked by her house a second time, an older man told me "she's all right, thank you." I just didn't believe him for some reason. After years as a reporter, I know when I'm getting the brush-off.

I kept telling myself that Amy would be all right, that kids are resilient, they bounce back from just about anything.

After dinner I walked up to Amy's house and asked two young people how she was doing. The young woman started crying.

"She died," the young man said.

I just stood there staring at them for a few seconds. How could this be possible? How could this little girl just die?

George Carlin had a bit about the stupid things people say when they learn about someone's death, like, "I was just talking to him," and "If there's anything I can do, just ask."

Well, I found myself saying both those lines and now all of a sudden the Carlin routine doesn't seem so funny.

One man told me that the doctors aren't sure what happened yet. I wonder about the last thing she said to me--"I'm tired." Did those words meaning something more that just fatigue? It's all speculation now, all meaningless.

"While we were in the emergency room," he said, "her mother prayed to every god she could name to spare her daughter's life. Even I started crying then."

I was able to get to my house before I started crying, but it was close.

Amy's mother must have know how bad things were from the way she reacted. Something in her heart told her that she was losing her daughter.

People like to say there's a reason for everything, but I'll be goddamned if I can see any reason for this horrible thing, no reason whatsoever for us--her family, her neighbors, the world--to lose such a lovely child.

She should be playing with her friends right now, running up and down the block and giving joy to everyone who sees her. She should still be with us.

Amy will never grow up to be that young woman I imagined. She'll never come down to my house anymore or greet me as I walk up the street and that is such a goddamn shame.

This demented world needs more children like Amy; it needs more of her beauty, innocence, and sweetness, not less.

I don't know how I'll be able to walk by her house now. Even in the terribly short time I knew her, I always kept an eye out for Amy.

So it will always be summer for Amy now.

She's gone to a place that will be bright and sunny forever, where there's an endless supply of Barbie dolls, where anything is possible and every day is a glorious adventure.

Rest in peace, Amy. I'll miss you so much and I'm very proud to say you were--you are--my friend.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Hunger

I lost my lunch this week and I wasn’t even sick.

It was Monday morning, the first workday after the July Fourth weekend. I was sitting on the R train holding my briefcase and my lunch.

Yeah, that's right; I pack my lunch. If that makes me a cheapskate, so be it. A decent sandwich in Manhattan can cost 7 to 8 bucks, so you do that five days a week, 50-odd weeks a year, well, it adds up.

This lunch was a beauty, if I do say so myself. I had a ham and cheese sandwich with tomato and mustard on whole wheat bread. I brought along an orange, an apple, and a small bag of baby carrots. It looked like something your mother would pack for you.

A former co-worker once saw me taking my lunch out of the refrigerator in the cafeteria, complete with the baby carrots, and shook his head.

“You’re scaring me,” he said, apparently appalled at my good eating habits.

On Monday my energy level was pretty low and I decided to ride down to DeKalb Avenue and change to the B train.

As the train pulled into the station, I put my briefcase on my shoulder, got up, and walked out of the car—leaving my lunch behind.

I didn’t even realize it until I was halfway across the Manhattan Bridge and by then, of course, it was much too late. I was going to Soho and my lunch was on its way to Astoria—and neither the twain shall meet.

I wasn’t rushed like I usually am. I wasn’t pondering the problems of humanity. I wasn’t fleeing fire-breathing fundamentalists, or god awful singers massacring old Beatles’ tunes, or noisy high schoolers, or blundering tourists.

I just left my lunch behind.

I can’t believe I did that. I might as well have taken the sandwich and tossed in the nearest litter basket. I’d like to think some poor person found it and got a decent meal, but it’s not the smartest thing in the world to eat food you find on the subway.

I lost an orange once when I fell asleep on the train and it rolled out of the car at Pacific Street. But this time I was awake, allegedly anyway. And I had my lunch stolen at my office, but I was a crime victim then. On this day, I was just out of it.

Maybe I’m still feeling the effects of the holiday weekend. Maybe I was daydreaming. I had gone to Dekalb instead of getting out at 36 Street because I didn’t feel like shoe-horning my way onto the D train. Or maybe my mind is going.

In addition to the waste, there was also the nagging feeling that someone might see my lunch and think it was a bomb—you know, the “If you see something, say something routine.”

I imagined the Bomb Squad being called in, the whole subway system being shut down, millions of commuters inconvenienced, all for a ham-and-cheese sandwich and a bag of baby carrots.

Then the paranoia went into high gear as I worried that there would be a receipt or some such other type of paperwork that would lead the police right to my front door. Then they'd give me a bill for screwing up the morning commute and slap my mug all over the tabloids.

Mad Mummy

I treated myself to a sandwich at a place near work called “Out of the Kitchen.” It was a very tasty turkey and cheddar on whole wheat, but for 8 bucks, they should call the place “Out of the Wallet.”

I looked around for someone to blame for this and then I recalled First Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum.

I had gone there for the music and the dancing and I wound up not enjoying either one. The venue was hot, overcrowded, and the acoustics were awful.

But I stuck around, determined not to give in to the urge to just go home.

I saw this attractive young woman eating ice cream and I went to up and I said…nothing.

I choked. I stood behind her, I stood next to her, but I didn’t have the nerve to approach her. I don’t what the problem was, but I couldn’t bring myself to start talking to her.

So I walked around the entire room, hoping that maybe I’d gather up enough centrifugal force to propel into speaking to this woman.

But by the time I got back to her spot, some fat balding guy was talking to her. Big surprise; she wasn't waiting for me.

I was so upset—with myself. Then I did something I’m really ashamed of. I stood behind these two and hoped, I actually hoped, that this guy would strike out.

I think “pathetic” is much too mild a word for this kind of thinking. I wonder if I purposely walked away so that I would lose my chance with this woman. I'm pretty good with the self-sabotage, you know.

I watched in horror as the two walked away together—great, the fat guy gets to score—and then I saw the ice cream lady turn and give the guy the little wave, the get lost signal, and then she left on her own.

I actually felt some kind of joy at seeing this guy get dumped; oh, the power of schadenfreude, which sounds like a kind of German pastry, now that I think of it.

I got more aggressive after that, approaching several woman and speaking with them—what a concept. I struck out, but at least I was finally trying.

But I wonder now if my cheering at the other guy’s striking out came back to haunt me on the subway, that losing my lunch was some kind of punishment for my childish behavior.

Maybe I riled up some Aztec spirits in the museum who frowned upon my negative attitude, like that old horror movie "Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy", which I never saw, but which my brother assured me really sucked.

The big battle didn’t happen until the end of the picture, he told me, and it wasn’t worth the wait. Perhaps now this is a case of "Robert vs. The Aztec Mummy."

I came home and watched a DVD of “Sweeney Todd” with Johnny Depp. I loved the play but this thing was horrible, with throats being cut every five minutes and gallons of blood spilling all over the screen.

They should have called this thing “Sweeney the 13th” or they could have given Johnny Depp a hockey mask and called him “Sweeney Kruger.”

I wish I had that DVD with me when I lost my sandwich. I could have watched it and lost my appetite.

Okay, so there are a few lessons here.

First, if you see someone, say something. You want to meet a person, don’t hover around her—freaking talk to her.

Don’t wish bad on people because it only hurts you. Spit in the sky and it comes back in your eye, as my grandmother used to say.

And for God’s sake, hold on to your lunch.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

New & Improved

I'll be doing an expanded version of my monologue "The Memory Mill" this Friday and Saturday, July 11 & 12, at the Stage Left Studio.

I wrote and performed this show last year while taking a class at the People's Improv Theater and it's been a wild ride ever since.

I'll be the opening act for my colleague, former classmate, and all around good time buddy Cheryl Smallman, who will be performing her fabulous solo show "Dreamless."

I have had the privilege of working with Cheryl before so I can attest to her tremendous talent.

Stage Left is located at 438 West 37th St., Suite 5. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $15.

Cheryl and I will be teaming up again on July 31 and I'll have more details as the date draws closer.

Come on down for a great evening of solo performing. It'll change your life...and in a good way, too.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Little Scare

Madonna made me drink me too much on the Fourth of July.

I went to a barbecue in Brooklyn perfectly ready to sip soda, gnaw on some chips, and make pleasant conversation.

I had been out late the night before with my Bay Ridge Meet-Up Group and I wanted to keep things light on the Fourth.

But then Madonna Kabbalahed me into drinking too much Prosecco and I promptly passed out on the couch.

I don't begin to know how she did it, but I figure if the Material Girl can use the Kabbalah to make Alex Rodriguez cheat on his wife, I'm convinced she had something to do with me getting loaded yesterday.

"I feel like Madonna’s using mind control over him. I don’t recognize the man he’s become," Cynthia Rodriguez supposedly told friends, according to The Telegraph. "He was a sweet, beautiful, loving husband and father. Today he’s very cold and calculating."

Of course he is. And it's all Madonna's fault. Just like me and the barbecue.

I mean, hell, what am I supposed to do--take responsibility for my own actions? Accept the fact that I, and I alone, was responsible for guzzling too much of that sparkling Italian wine?

No freaking way--this was Madonna's fault. Just like it wasn't Alex Rodriguez's fault that he (allegedly) cheated on his wife. The man just couldn't help himself. And neither could I.

You remember that "Vogue" video? Christ, you could hypnotize people into buying aluminum siding with all those swirling arms.

I want to mention right here and now that I didn't do anything outrageous at the barbecue. I just failed to remain conscious for a certain period of time. I don't know how long, of course, as I was not conscious.

But I didn't start any brawls, insult anyone's wife, drop my pants, or spit on the rug. I didn't torture the cats, harass the dog or frighten the neighbors.

When I found myself nodding off--goddamn Madonna!--I excused myself, went to the living room and konked out.

"The perfect guest!" my aunt exclaimed in horror when I told her this morning.

Well, maybe not perfect, but at least I'm not putting the Kabbalah kibosh on anyone's marriage.

And, as I think of it, I had planned to stay for only one drink on Thursday night and come home early.

The next thing I remember I was staggering into the men's room of the Salty Dog somewhere around 1:30am--Kabbalah!--and declaring to absolutely no one "so much for one drink!"

Maybe Madonna had something to do with that, too. She might have a long-distance Kabbalah plan that allows to her to put the whammy on somebody in America on nights and weekends. This woman is truly evil.

She's one of the few surviving Eighties acts. You think that's an accident? Think again. Remember her and Sean Penn, back in the days of Shanghai Surprise,when the Daily News dubbed them "Most Hated Couple on the Planet"?

Talk about cold and calculating. There had to be some kind of funky business going on there.

When I turned 39...a while ago...this flamboyantly gay co-worker of mine called me at the office.

"Soooo," he said, "you're as old as Madonna."

Something about that phrase really creeped me out. What's worse is that I think I'm a little older. And the fact that I keep aging probably has something to do with the Kabbalah.

I'm so glad I read this item in the papers. Now I know the source of all my problems. I'm late for work, I lose my temper, I knock over a little old lady while trying to catch the subway--it's the curse of the Madonna Kabbalah.

I can't wait until April 15th when the IRS comes calling and I just throw up my hands and say, "Kabbalah!"

Now they might say "Leavenworth!" in response, but maybe I can get Madonna to do the K-job on the judge and skip out of court a free man.

I'd like to write more about this but I have this urge to stuff my face with all sorts of unhealthy food and drink.

Madonna, cut that out!

Friday, July 04, 2008

'We Hold These Truths...'

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government.

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here.

We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.

We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.

And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton