Monday, November 30, 2009

Crash Into Me

Six days after reality show star wannabees, Michaele and Tareq Salahi, crashed a state dinner at the White House, they continue to get their names and faces in every news and entertainment medium; and I do mean EVERY medium: on iTunes you can download Bing Crosby’s new Christmas tune, “Michaele and Tareq Salahi is the thing to say, on a bright Hawaiian Christmas day.”

The saga seems destined to continue endlessly and now they want their adventure to become a book, which would then be turned into a 3D animated movie by Pixar.
I flipped around the cable news stations and this is what I heard today:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Wecome back to Hardball. My guests are Republican Senator Mad Redface and Democratic Congressperson Whiney Holdhisbreath Blueface. Gentlemen, Here’s what my question is, because after all these reports I have a question, and I want you to answer it, after I ask it, and here’s what it is, do you think the Secret Service should be punished?
REDFACE: Well, I ...
MATTHEWS: Because a lot of people are saying they should. But who’s to blame. I mean, that’s my question, and I’m just saying, I’m asking.


GRETCHEN CARLSON: You're back with Fox and Friends. You know what? Did Obama bow? I bet he bowed to these people.
STEVE DOOCY: Given everything we know about him, I’m sure he did.
CARLSON: What kind of a name is Salahi?
DOOCY: It’s a weird, crazy name. Tareq Salahi? They’re illegal alien Muslims.
CARLSON: He’s turning us into an alien Muslim country and bowing to them.


KEITH OLBERMANN: Bill O’Reilly reported that some New Yorkers at the party got bombed at the bar and he suggested that therefore the Salahi’s were connected to 9/11. And for that, Bill-O is today’s ... woorrst person in the wooorrrld.


GLENN BECK: The fact that no one is raising this question shows that there is a coverup. The Salahis knew where Bin Laden was hiding but the Secret Service didn’t ask. Am I the only one who sees this?


MATTHEWS: The couple posed for pictures with Joe Biden. The wife is pretty hot, in my opinion. Look at her with her hands on Biden. According to Biden, the Obama team had set up a website for people to report that they weren’t invited but the Salihis didn’t understand how to use it. What do you think? Was it Biden or Obama or do you think the secret service is at fault?
BLUEFACE: Are you done?
BLUEFACE: Okay I think...
MATTHEWS: Sorry I’ve got to cut you off. We’re out of time


CAMPBELL BROWN: On CNN News we did some investigative reporting and we have graphics and magic boards showing that the Salahis wanted to be on real housewives of DC. We’re here with JohnnyB who claims to be an expert on wanting to be a reality show.
JOHNNYB: I want to do a show about being a CPA and a comedy writer.
BROWN: A totally bizarre combination.
JOHNNYB: Exactly. I've been trying to become famous on that premise for years. These Salahi yahoos go to a party uninvited and you can’t turn around without stepping in their fame. I wrote great comedy for a well known radio star for years and couldn’t even get a mention in his biography.
BROWN: Some radio guy failed to mention you in a book? That's your story?
BROWN: So you are not really an expert, you’re just bitter?


OLBERMANN: While your critics rail against you, you, Mr. President, stood up for the right of everyone to have health care and now you stand for the right of every American to attend a state dinner, opening up our government to all who are hungry…


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: Fox News has just received a startling 911 phone recording.
OPERATOR: 911. What's your emergency?
MAN: Oh God, I think my son just crashed a state dinner.
OPERATOR: You think he did or he did?
MAN: I don’t know. He was hanging around the function and I was trying to work on this reality show I'm developing and then the state dinner started up and we can’t find my son.
BOY: Can I come out yet dad?


OLBERMANN: That’s it for November 30, day 6 of the coverage of the state dinner party crashers.

Just Bury The Crap

Finding lies and inaccuracies in Sarah Palin's book is like finding cat turds in a litter box: unpleasant but not unexpected. If you know what it's full of, why keep sifting through it?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Number 1 Golfer’s Club Injured In Late Night Incident

Hot Freak Style News – Orlando, FL - One of Tiger Woods’ championship golf clubs was reported injured during an argument between the golfer and his wife early Friday morning. Neighbors reported that golf pros riding carts equipped with sirens woke them at about 3 a.m. as they rushed to care for the damaged club.

Former model Elin Nordegren was said to be teed off with her husband over reports of an affair he had with sexy Manhattan hostess and VIP diva, Rachel Uchitel. Tiger is known to favor women with foreign names who also happen to be smoking hot.

Initially the couple told police that the club was in the back of their SUV and was damaged when Woods was pulling out of the driveway at 2 a.m. to “hit the driving range” but instead hit a fire hydrant and a tree. Investigators say that the injuries to the club were not consistent with a fall from a vehicle. “The damage matches the pattern of scratches and bends occurring when a jealous wife swings the club at her husbands car. Happens all too often in Florida,” said the club forensics expert from the Orlando police department. "It appears she also bashed the windows of the SUV, making a hole in one," he added.

Officials are keeping the condition and identity of the club confidential. One wonders if Woods’ wife would wield a wood and whether Woods was wounded. Perhaps his spouse preferred to pursue and pummel the player with his prized putter for purportedly playing a round with his paramour.

Rumors suggest that the club with which Woods’ wife whacked her wandering husband was also involved in the liaison with the hostess/whore. However, photos of the two together reveal that Uchitel was present both when Tiger was sporting his wood and when he was stroking his putts, so it remains a mystery which of his sticks he was struck by.

It is also unknown whether Tiger's balls were involved in the fracas. Fans hope the situation can be ironed out. Hot Freak Style News will continue to follow the story.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No Thanks To You

I want to express my thanks for many things, but I won’t, because it only leads to trouble.

Naturally, I am thankful for my wife who has stayed with me for over 30 years. I am thankful for my daughter who can brighten my day with a simple text message or im. I am thankful for my sister and my niece. I am thankful for my friend, Marshall. And also for my other friends. Nevertheless, I am not going to write that I am thankful for any of these people because this is where it starts to get tricky.

“Why didn’t you mention some specific reason you are thankful for me,” my sister might ask.
“Why didn’t he mention me? I’m his friend too,” Marshall’s wife will wonder, “and what about our kids? I thought he liked them.”
It begins to feel like planning a party:
“If we are thankful for the Smith’s, we have to be thankful for the Hendersons. And the Scotts were thankful for us on their blog, so don’t leave them out.”
“What about MY family,” my devoted wife will ask, aren’t you thankful for them?”

Which brings up the other problem. I like to communicate clearly and precisely. When I say I am thankful for my wife, I fear it implies that that encompasses the totality of her existence. Perhaps I need to state some specific negative thing about her just so it is understood that there is a balance. I mean, for example, I am not thankful for her talking to me – at certain times.

Now if I list everyone I am thankful for, and why, plus at least one qualifier, I will be writing forever.

Maybe I should just say the things I am thankful for, like pie and beer. But there are so many things: warm sunny days, the beach, Andie MacDowell and so on. Again, the list is too long to include it all here.

I think I will pick just one thing. I am thankful for humor.
I am thankful for being able to be amused by and laugh at the things I am not thankful for.
“Just humor? What about me?” asks Comedy.
“Don’t forget your old pal, Parody.”
“Don’t confuse me with him,” chimes in Satire.
“Who would have thought that you would overlook me?” smirks Irony.

Never mind. But, hey, I am thankful for you reading this.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Breakfast At Realities

I met my friend Giddy Golightly at Mom's Country Cholesterol and Vegan Home Style Diner. She pushed aside her Watermelon Wellness Frappe to get a better angle on my fried chicken and waffles. Mumbling around the forkful of my breakfast stuffed in her mouth, she said, “Just got back from Heidi and Spencer Pratt’s interview.

“Are they dead?” I asked.

She considered it and replied, “No. They didn’t seem to be.”

“I thought you were on the celebrity death desk at E! Entertainment Network.”

“I know. Right? But when nobody dies, they make me cover other stories.” She stabbed a hunk of ham steak on my plate and introduced it to her teeth. Her yogurt sat fermenting. Heidi and Spencer told us about their new book, ‘How to be Famous: Our Guide to Looking the Part, Playing the Press, and Becoming a Tabloid Fixture.’"

“In the Twilight Zone episode titled ‘To Serve Man’,” I told her, “it turns out the aliens’ book is not a manual on how they can make our lives better; it is instead a cookbook.”

She looked up, a crumb of biscuit in the corner of her mouth. “Seriously? You don’t even say, ‘spoiler alert’?”

“Some fringe celebrities plan an event to promote a book with ‘Playing the Press’ right in the title? Could they be more obvious?”

“The book tells people how to be famous. Everyone wants to be famous.”

“Steve Martin used to do a routine called ‘How to earn one million dollars and never pay taxes. First,’ he said, ‘get a million dollars.’ Heidi and Spencer can’t tell people how to get famous – they can tell people how to stay famous – you just sucker the press in. Heidi and Spencer don’t even know if their own lives are real or a TV show.”

“Hello! They are on a reality TV show. Reality has the word ‘real’ in it. Except you don’t say REAL-it-ee, you say re-AL-it-ee. Why is that?”

“Because of the liberal media, I guess. Look, I have never watched ‘Laguna Beach’ or ‘The Hills’, the MTV semi-reality vehicles that spawned the Heidi-and-Spencer-Pratt entity. My daughter used to watch those shows and I was in the room, but even hot, young woman on the beach couldn’t make me look or listen. So I guess I shouldn’t judge them.”

“Exactly. And they want to help people like you understand them. They explained that ‘The Hills’ only focuses on a small part of their lives, they want a new show to reveal everything that happens to them.”

“If you hold two mirrors facing each other, you get a reflection of infinite nothing. That would be the result of a reality show about reality show stars who became stars by being in a scripted reality show.”

“This is an important cultural phenomenon. Like Heidi said, ‘You don't get to see our everyday lives and what we do’.

“That is the exact purpose of my life. That is my reason for doing everything that is NOT watching Heidi and Spencer. The philosopher Berkeley said we can’t know if people exist; we know only that we perceive them and can talk only about what we perceive. I don’t want to perceive them. Berkeley should be known as the father of the reality show.”

“Why be a hater? The Pratts were like the best part of ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’ last season.”

“’I’m a Celebrity, get me out of Here’ is like Charon’s boat on the river Styx. It carries the deceased to the underworld and they never return to life.”

You are Mr. Stupid Analogy Today, aren’t you? Are you going to eat that bacon or turn it into some pseudo-intellectual pop culture commentary?” She grabbed it before I could answer.

She was right, but it still hurt my feelings. I decided not to tell her about Gilligan’s Island being based on the Greek myth of the underworld. The Skipper was Hades and Gilligan was his three-headed dog, Cerberus. The Castaways were carried across the water to the central marsh and unable to ever leave. Gilligan’s Island was a spinoff from the Twilight Zone and a metaphor for Hollywood celebrity – the first reality show. But maybe that was just the bacon/sausage/cheese/egg/jalapeno/biscuit talking.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Would Squanto Do?

I was pretty cavalier in my post about the global climate change leading to the end of the world as we know it. Today I read of a shocking and sobering development that has brought the extent of the destruction into focus and chilled me to my soul.

“Heavy rains in Midwest lead to pumpkin shortage”. "Our calculations indicate that we may deplete our inventory of canned Libby's pumpkin as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday” which means NO PUMPKIN PIE!

Some people won’t care. They’ll just put an apple pie on the Thanksgiving table and expect everyone to be thrilled with the novelty of it all. Yes, there are people who tire of the familiar and are bored with the same foods appearing on the table every Thanksgiving. I imagine these same people tire of the sun coming up every morning. “Oh, yawn. I awake again, breathing and alive, day after day. I wish it were not always so.”

My wife’s own mother once wanted to shake things up a little one year and not have sweet potato casserole. Did she not understand why they call it “tradition”? Did she learn nothing from “Fiddler on the roof?” No sweet potato casserole? My wife fainted, I shouted, my daughter cried. We all went to counseling and when the therapist suggested maybe we shouldn’t visit them anymore, my mother-in-law relented. Had it been pumpkin pie that was in question, I would never have forgiven her.

There were warning signs of disaster in the news. There is a weather related shortage of Eggo waffles. Upon learning of that I should have turned off the mulching mower and manually raked the leaves. I should have started biking to work and eating locally grown foods, like, say, goetta.

Now it is too late. I wish I had heeded this poem

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for my pie — and I killed the bastards.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Rapture of Indian Summer

Disappearing rain forests and melting ice caps be damned! I am enjoying the climate changes in Cincinnati. We had two warm, sunny autumn weekends in a row. That doesn’t sound like much to you but, in Cincinnati, that miracle is like unto finding a chocolate chunk shaped like Jesus in your Graeter’s mocha chip ice cream.

We’re here in the middle of the country, so the coming floods, famine and pestilence that are soon to destroy the coasts will likely take years longer to get here, just like fashion trends. So we did not concern ourselves with global climate upheaval this past lovely weekend: I wore shorts and my “Ohio State Dad” t-shirt to rake the leaves and we enjoyed lunch on the sidewalk table outside the European Café, basking in the emissions from passing cars.

They call this Indian Summer, which I am sure is some kind of insult, like “Indian giver.” This web page tells how the term Indian Summer traveled to the UK where “Indian” was mistakenly thought to refer to people from India as opposed to those from America, who were themselves mistaken for people from India when misguided Europeans stumbled onto our shores. An irony wrapped in ignorance inside of xenophobia.

Speaking of Indians, “A nearly two-decade legal challenge by Native American activists to the nickname of the Washington Redskins came to a close Monday when the Supreme Court declined to review the group's last loss in federal courts.” You might think the tribes would also challenge the name “Native Americans”, seeing as they were natives before this was America. You might also think that giving up a racist sports team name would be a fair trade for the natives not bringing the genocide thing to trial – an even better trade than the Manhattan deal – but you would be wrong.

Football is important to our culture and economy. A team name, mascot and logo is big business and the Washington team has deeply invested in theirs, giving “Redskins” a tremendous intangible value. You can’t overturn a corporation’s right to profits just because somebody's feelings are hurt. Sticks and stones and all that.

Football is this important: “The University of Cincinnati plans to borrow $9.7 million to start construction on several athletic practice fields on its main campus. To be completed by fall 2010, the fields are a critical factor in UC’s strategy to retain football coach Brian Kelly.” On top of the millions they pay the coach of a COLLEGE team, they are borrowing millions in an uncertain economy in order to entice the coach to honor his contract. The thing is, they will get it all back in sales of tickets, team merchandise and TV rights because we love our football (that includes me) We’re also going to get a big fancy casino in Cincinnati. Despite the financial and other crises in our country, we are all about the bread and circuses here, particularly if the bread is a bun wrapped around a hot dog and smothered in chili and cheese.

Football is this important: A letter to the editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer says, “Notre Damers, quit picking on coach Charlie Weis. There is nothing he can do because it’s out of his hands. God has intervened and is repaying Notre Dame for bestowing an honorary degree on pro-abortion President Obama.” Charlie O’Leary’s god is a vengeful god. Also a little meshugah. Wouldn’t it have been easier to stop the university from bestowing the degree rather than to engineer a last minute touchdown for Michigan? I mean, have you seen how bad Michigan is this year? Getting some of these lousy teams to beat Notre Dame is a tough job for God. But punishing the football team may be the only thing the people of South Bend will understand.

Besides, much of the evil we see, the honorary degrees to Barack Obeetlejuice and Indians challenging corporate greed, is the work of Satan. Satan is among us and we may be soon to see the final showdown between Devil and God. I wonder if we could book it in our new college football stadium? Football is our religion, after all (college football being generally played on God's first Sabbath).

Yes, we are seeing global climate disaster, wars and rumors of wars and other signs of the apocalypse (Bengals sweep Steelers; UC Football in top 5). But while the world goes to Hell around us, my wife and I will sit on the sidewalk in front of the European Café and enjoy out gyros and souvlaki, thankfully relieved of the polluting traffic as all the righteous people of Cincinnati will have been taken to Heaven in the Rapture.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sarah Palin's Way Off

Tag Line: “While the rest of us were just thinking about it...Sarah borrowed a political party and did it...all in a year.”

For those of you who don’t want to read “Going Rogue”, here are the SparkNotes:

Sarah Palin wakes up one day and decides she doesn’t feel like governing Alaska right then. She convinces John McCain they should spend the campaign together going off script, break the rules and seize the day.

Palin decides she will drive the high-powered Republican conservative agenda, which makes McCain very nervous. He’s not supposed to drive that agenda but he hops on board, knowing that his moderate base will be very disappointed in him.

Sarah’s day off reaches it’s peak when she takes over the Republican National Convention and sings “Obama Shame”.

Anyone who stands in Sarah's way is made to look like a fool. Throughout the journey Sarah is pursued by McCain campaign chief strategist, Steve Schmidt, who is frustrated in his attempt to reign in Palin. He tries to do the job he was hired to do, but is thwarted by Palin and ends up as a villain in the story.

Sarah’s refusal to take responsibility for the damage she does hurts those around her. The precision-engineered right-wing agenda ends up in a ditch and McCain gets blamed for it.

Despite the fact that Sarah shows total disrespect for those trying to educate her and get her on the road to real success, she comes off as the maverick hero. She is lauded for not doing things the right way, for having decided her education was not important. Her equally ignorant classmates look up to her for “Going Rogue.”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Story, In My Eyes

Both things were unexpected. One, that before the show started I was so sure my piece was going to go badly and, two, that Dick-Joke-Guy was so unimpressive, it put me at ease again.

My approach to comedy is to tell a story. Think of Bill Cosby, Robert Klein, George Carlin. Then think of some CPA/CFO who can only wish he told comedic stories like they do. I take a real piece of my life, twist it out of shape, draw glasses and a mustache on it, squirt whipped cream down its pants and then tell the audience this is the way I found it. I imagine this is funny.

When I walk into the comedy club, I become aware that I am old enough to be the father of most of the other comics and nearly old enough to be grandfather to the rest. I become aware of this even when it isn’t true and some of them are within ten years of my age.

The audience, likewise, is, in its entirety, made up of 20-somethings who came to hear jokes about drugs and dicks, liberally decorated with fucks and shits and things of that nature. Again, I perceive this to be true even though it isn’t.

Last night when I walked into Go Bananas, the first comedian I saw was a young guy talking to his fellow, youthful, comedians about some skit he was writing, “consisting entirely of dick jokes.” Everyone in the audience was a friend of these kids and was anticipating jokes about Kanye West, Axe grooming products and pot. This was true even though I had 11 friends in the audience and, anyway, pot belongs to my generation more than it does to those youths.

For a moment I contemplated what my friends would think if I decided I didn’t want to go up. I didn’t remember feeling this unsure of my material ever before. Why did I think the part about preschool would be amusing to anyone? For sure, this will be the last time I do this.

The MC came on. An older comic was the first amateur and struggled with his material (though he seemed unfazed by the struggle). There was another guy and then Dick-Joke-Guy went up. He had a piece of paper with his jokes or notes about jokes, which he referred to throughout his set. His material was very uneven. I laughed, I sighed, I got bored and glanced around the room. As I watched D-J-G, I knew that I would be okay. He was not as I had initially perceived and neither was the room. I knew my story, I had the glasses and whipped cream ready, and I’d been up there before. I would get some laughs, maybe have some slow spots, but no one would throw anything at me and I’d sit down and enjoy the rest of the show.

There were some better comedians than me up there and there were some worse. I didn’t forget anything, I didn’t go over my time, I didn’t bomb, I didn’t quit, I didn’t throw up, I didn’t cry. People laughed. They laughed where I expected and even laughed at the preschool bit. They laughed at the jokes and not at me – I think - it's hard to say with those lights in your eyes. Still, that is the last time I ever do standup. That is true, even though it is not.

The last picture is of my friend, Alex Stone, a very talented comedian, young enough to be my son, but who was not at GB last night.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's Likely Among the Worst Stories Ever

“At age 77, Richard Ramsey is likely among the oldest people in the U.S. to undergo a sex change operation.”

It was awhile before I could read past the first sentence of that story. It wasn’t because I am a guy and most of us would shudder at the thought of cutting off our most prized body part. It wasn’t for any discomfort with the transgenders among us who choose to do so.

My problem was with the reporter who butchered his story with the lamest opening in history. Ramsey is “likely among” the oldest to have a sex change? Likely among? Likely AMONG?!

If Ramsey is NOT among the oldest ever, you don’t even have a story. No, actually, you have a HUGE story. A 77-year-old is among the youngest to get a sex change operation? "Stop the presses! Jonesy, get on this right away. Old folks having sex change - hey, maybe they're so old they don't even know it's happening to them. This could be a pulitzer!"

Of course Ramsey is among the oldest. Why not write, “Being in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI is likely among the leaders of the Catholic religion.” or “Large, brown and hairy, Smokey is likely among the species of animals who shit in the woods.”

I am the one who should really be ashamed. I read a story from AOL news. I’m sorry. It just popped up when I opened my im.

When I saw the link to the REAL story, I clicked over. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported “Ramsey, … is likely the oldest person in the United States to have surgery to change genders, experts say.” AOL added the word “among”.

I often criticize news stories that appear to have gone in without editing. In this case, AOL News (I know, not a real news agency) actually did edit the story ... to the point of stupidity and beyond. To be “among” the oldest, all that is necessary is to be over the median age. If half the people who have a sex change operation are under 30 and half are older, Ramsey is among the oldest – the word “likely” becomes totally superfluous.

I imagined the conversation that went on in the AOL story meeting resulting in slicing the relevance from the lead sentence and inserting “among”:

EDITOR: Geez, Johnson – your story here ... I gotta cross my legs and hold my hands in front of my pants when I read it.

JOHNSON: Freaky, huh?

EDITOR: Gripping. Really. I got one problem, though. How do we know this guy – girl – whatever - is the oldest guy to have his noodle whacked?

JOHNSON: That’s what the Philly Inquirer said: he’s likely the oldest, according to experts.

EDITOR: Likely. Yeah, how do we know how expert these guys are? We can’t just repeat that if we’re not sure. We got the integrity of AOL News to uphold.

JOHNSON: You want me to look up how many old geezers had a plumbing job?

EDITOR: We don’t have budget for that. I’m just saying, I mean, I read somewhere about a guy who cut off his own thing when he was 99. Abram, or Abraham or something. Then he did his own son. Sickest thing I ever heard about. Can’t remember where I read it.

JOHNSON: Huh. Well ... you wanna kill the story?

EDITOR: No, it’s got a great hook. That lead is gonna make guys shudder and then click on the story. Let’s do this: Let’s say this transgentile guy is “among” the oldest to ever unlink the sausage.

JOHNSON: “Among”?

EDITOR: You know, part of the group. There could be older guys, but he’s up there. Like saying Eli Manning is among the top rated quarterbacks. It isn’t too precise. You don’t have to know – and you can’t get in trouble when the Giants lose 4 in a row.

JOHNSON: Perfect. I don’t know how you do it, boss.

EDITOR: It’s why I make the big bucks. Let’s knock off for lunch. I got a craving for hot dogs.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Get Up, Stand Up

Every couple of hours I panic. I’m going to forget a hunk. I’m not going to hit the line right. It is just not funny. Not even to me any more. It’s not 5 minutes. It’s about 3. I have to add a piece of another routine. No, then I’ll go over. I’ll miss the light. They will start playing me off the stage

Every couple of hours I get psyched. This is funny. People will laugh – they will laugh where I set them up to laugh. The adrenaline will pump. I will do it under 5 and get off. I will feel the applause.

I can’t write music. I don’t “get” music. I see people pick up an instrument and look at music, and play it, and take it somewhere they I can’t even figure out, and I want so badly to go there. I can look through the glass and know it’s there but I’ll never be inside the music.

Comedy I get. I listen to comedians and I hear the joke and, at the same time, I see the construction of it. I see the notes and feel the timing. I can appreciate the talent behind it or I can see how to fix it. When I think of a standup bit, I have the voice inside me; I know how it should sound. Sometimes it comes out of my mouth just like I planned it, sometimes it doesn’t.

I’m not a professional, I’m not that good, but I’m funny. I’ve done only amateur nights but I know I’m funnier than some of the people getting paid for it. At least, every couple of hours, I think I am. Then, later, I’m not.

I don’t know how it happened this time. I have not been sleeping well. Maybe my mind was foggy from fatigue. I had a headache at work and I asked someone for a Tylenol; she was out of those and gave me something else – supposedly an Advil, but possible quaaludes – you never know. Whatever the reason, I signed up to do 5 minutes Wednesday – amateur night at Go Bananas.

I had thought of something to write about for this blog. Then I remembered having done that topic in standup a couple years ago. I looked up the routine I wrote and, hey, it was pretty funny. What if I went back up? I love it when it works. People had been asking me for some time if I was going to perform again. I kept saying no. I gave reasons but the reasons have faded in my mind. It’s been a couple years. Why not do it again?

For the past week I have thought about this performance every hour of every day. Oh, I have been distracted by work and chores and food and occasional sleep, but it’s always there. I’ve gone over and over it and really made some improvements.

Every couple of hours I get psyched. This is funny. People will laugh – they will laugh where I set them up to laugh. The adrenaline will pump. I will do it under 5 and get off. I will feel the applause.

Every couple of hours I panic. I’m going to forget a hunk. I’m not going to hit the line right. It is just not funny. Not even to me any more. It’s not 5 minutes. It’s about 3. I have to add a piece of another routine. No, then I’ll go over. I’ll miss the light. They will start playing me off the stage.

I’m starting to remember why I stopped.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

You Must Remember This

Before my mom died and before we knew she had dementia, she lived with my sister and my sister's daughter. One evening the three of them were out to dinner. When Mom needed to use the bathroom, she wondered aloud whether this restaurant had a well-maintained one or a nasty, foul one.

"Oh, they have a nice bathroom here, Gramma," my niece said, "you've used it before."
"I have never been in the bathroom here," Mom assured her.
"Yes you have, Gramma."
"I should know if I'd been in the bathroom or not."
My niece was hurt by this contradiction but she is persistent when she knows she is right.
"You always tell us how you forget things, Gramma. You probably just forgot that you've used it."
Mom stiffened her spine and sternly replied, "I may not remember the things I've done, but I never forget the things I haven't done."

We have savored that little statement among the family legends and for all these years thought it was a unique item of somewhat tortured logic. Well, speaking of torture, Dick Cheney is either channeling Mom or a victim of incipient dementia himself.

To 72 questions about ways he had been involved in the Valerie Plame affair - things he had done or said - Cheney responded that he could not recall.
"Expressing uncertainty on many areas he was being questioned about and refusing to discuss another area altogether, Cheney was emphatic on at least one basic point.

According to the FBI summary, Cheney said there was no discussion of using Plame’s employment with the CIA to counter her husband’s criticism that the Bush administration had manipulated prewar intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."
"You didn't expose Ms. Plame CIA status as punishment for their charges that you lied about Iraq."
"I ought to know if I outed a CIA agent for political reasons."
"You have repeatedly told us that you forget things, sir. Maybe you just forgot putting her life in danger for revenge."
Cheney stiffened his spine and sternly replied, "I may not remember the things I've done, but I never forget the things I haven't done."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Light Up This Guy Like a Flame

Recently we watched the original, 1980 “Fame” movie about a performing arts high school in New York which was remarkable because there was only one gay kid in the entire collection of dance, theater and music students.

Montgomery MacNeil’s homosexuality is not just presented as an anomaly; he reveals it as his response to the theater class assignment, “tell us your most painful moment”. Montgomery explains to his classmates that his therapist told him the condition is “probably a life choice”. Monty morosely relates that he is “getting a lot of help” and he is amused by the irony of being “gay” when it dooms him to a life of never being happy. His parents were divorced and he tells about going someplace with his mother, where it was “like we were lovers.” What!? The creepy factor totally obscures the outdated implication that not having a male role model may have led him to his “life choice”.

This was the attitude about homosexuality 30 years ago; imagine what the attitudes were a decade earlier – when I was in junior high school.

When I was 13, we had a sex education assembly at school. Dr. Agee talked about many things including that then taboo subject. We were all giggling, when suddenly she said something that hit home. And this is the only thing I remember her saying that day: “it is unclear how homosexuals get that way, but one theory is that boys who grow up in female dominated households become gay”.

My parents were divorced and I lived with my mother and older sister. Sitting through the rest of that lecture in a cold sweat, I realized that female domination was like a poison, slowly turning me gay. Back in the 60’s, we didn’t have any gay, prime-time role models like Elton John or Rosie O’Donnell or even movie characters like Montgomery MacNeil. All we had was Liberace - and they didn’t acknowledge his sexuality. I would ask my mom, “Why does that man dress all sparkly and talk funny like that?” She wouldn’t answer me, she’d just switch the channel to Gomer Pyle USMC, and say, "There, watch that Jim Nabors fella. He’s a Marine."
(Surprise, surprise, surprise, when it turned out Jimbo was gay.)

So my family situation was making me gay and I didn’t know exactly when it would happen. It could happen slowly, or the swish might be flipped overnight.
The fact that the girls in school, sporting their new, perky breasts in soft, fuzzy sweaters caused me to have an erection did not entirely reassure me. I was 13 years old – the mechanism was still getting calibrated - a bowl of oatmeal could give me an erection. I needed a way to know for sure what I was.

So, what I did, I kept a stack of Playboy magazines under my bed and I would periodically test myself to see if I could still have a “complete” experience with the centerfold. There were frequent pop quizzes. One day I did 12 separate tests – January through December – all home runs -- but as I started through the batting order a second time, my fears were confirmed. No reaction. I tried holding the magazine in the other hand. Nothing

The next day I pulled out the magazines to say goodbye and, I don’t want to go into detail, but clearly I was hetero again. Apparently it switches back and forth. That’s what that one guy told me in college.

Nevertheless, the rest of my life, despite my lack of attraction to men and despite my positive experiences with women (including marrying one and fathering another) I still have lingering doubts and I look for signs.

The things that worry me are:
I don’t fix my own car or even change own oil
I don't read in the bathroom and I often pee sitting down.
My life is still dominated by women.
I still REALLY like oatmeal – I don’t know what that means.

The main thing that proves that I’m a heterosexual man is that I have retained the skills I developed with those Playboys: my hands are strong and I can work a remote -105 cable channels in a 5 minute commercial break and back to the show I’m watching, without missing a second, baby.

The shows I watch now have more openly gay characters than those we saw in the 60s or even the 80s. I haven't seen the new "Fame" movie; I hope it has a more enlightened portrayal of gay people. In the United States today, a lesbian can grow up to be the daughter of a (former) Vice President. However she can't marry her mate. Maine just became the 31st state to officially reject same-sex marriage.

Baby hold me tight
Cause you can make it right
You can shoot me straight to the top
Give me love and take all I've got to give

I feel it coming together
Let us give marriage a try

Monday, November 2, 2009

San Francisco, Here I Come

So they reopened the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge today and somehow I managed to be at the front of the line. Well, what happened was, I was in the line for the alternate route, my car just idling while I perused the tabloids in the rack (btw, Kate Gosselin is pregnant with Roman Polanski’s baby) and I was the first to notice the Caltrans guy standing at the Bay Bridge entrance, waving people over as he opened the lane and booted his register.

I rushed over there, but, just before driving onto the bridge, I froze up. I looked left and right and all the lanes were blocked by drivers apparently as hesitant as I was. The guy next to me was glancing around too. We made socially awkward eye contact and then both rolled down our windows. The horns behind us were threatening, but we didn’t move.

“You gonna cross?” he asked.
“Yeah, but you can go first.”
He had both his hands extended, clutching the top of his steering wheel. He looked out at the bridge and pursed his lips, shaking his head slightly, side to side. “You know who fixed the bridge?”
“Same guys that fixed it last time. Same guys that installed that cable that fell off.”
“Anyone can make a mistake. These guys have to check and double check everything.”
He looked over at me again. “What do you do? I mean for a living.”
“I’m an accountant. CFO of a large professional firm.”
“So you’re an experienced, competent accountant. Ever make a mistake on a financial statement? – even after double checking it?”
“Of course.”
“But the financial statement didn’t collapse, sending hundreds of people into the bay.”
“Right. That’s why I’m still sitting here. But you know what?”
“The guys behind me are thinking the same thing. If I take off, they are going to wait a bit to see what happens to me. If it’s not good, maybe they get a cool cell phone video to post on YouTube. Meanwhile, by itself, my little Ford Focus (**pardon the product placement **) probably won’t break the bridge. And, if it does, I figure I’ll be ahead of the collapse, so … see ya.”

Russell Daniels of the AP captured my sprint across the bay. Since I haven’t heard otherwise, I’m assuming those behind me made it okay.