Friday, December 24, 2004

Random Thoughts on Christmas Eve

And so this is Christmas. And here I sit, alone at my computer. My goyishe friends are all out of town, spending the holidays with their families. My sisters are in New Jersey, spending the holidays with their goyishe husbands and children. My parents are vacationing in Santa Fe. Meanwhile, the most exciting parts of my day were spent at the tanning salon, the gym, the supermarket and Duane Reade. It's a gay Christmas, Charlie Brown.

Earlier tonight I baked three loaves of banana bread, and left one of them wrapped in foil in front of my neighbors' door; I'm pretty sure this officially makes me a spinster.

So steeped in pathetic lonliness am I that I may actually head to Jersey myself tomorrow to spend a little Christmas time with the aforementioned sisters' families. Then it's back to work Monday for four days -- and then -- wait for it -- NEW YEAR'S IN FT. LAUDERDALE!! I literally cannot wait. I need this vacation like I need air and water.

Did anyone besides me watch The Kennedy Center Honors Tuesday night on CBS? This year's honorees were as follows: Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Australian opera diva Joan Sutherland, Warren Beaty, composer John Williams and Elton John. It was one of the most fascinating things I've seen on TV all year.

The Kennedy Center Honors is the classiest of awards shows. There's no insipid red carpet, no silly banter, and best of all, no acceptance speeches. Instead, the honorees sit silently atop the balcony wearing rainbow-colored thingees around their neck and watching the festivities... right next to whomever happens to be President of the United States and First Lady at the moment.

Let me just say this: I don't know what Joan Sutherland's politics are, but I can state with great certainty that none of the other honorees are big fans of George W. Bush. And that's fine; we live in a country with a tradition of treating presidents with respect, even when we disagree strongly with them.

But what was fascinating was that the Kennedy Center is all about honoring great achievement in the arts. And there sat a President and First Lady who have less interest and investment in America's artistic and cultural life than perhaps any of their predecessors. Indeed, they seem to hate art, just as they hate science.

The fact that so many of the speakers and performers were African-American (most of them paying tribute to Davis and Dee) only heightened the awkwardness.

And so, while speaker after speaker got up to extol the virtues of art and artists, and while the audience cheered speeches and performances by such diverse celebs as Puff Daddy, Audra MacDonald, Renee Flemming, Billy Joel and Robert Downey, Jr. (who bizarrely thanked Elton John for saving his life), nobody... I mean NOBODY, in the course of a two-hour show, ever acknowledged that George and Laura were there. None of the honorees, who were sitting inches away, ever glanced in their direction, let alone shook their hand. The Bushes were literally the elephants in the room that nobody wanted to talk about.

There were two breathtaking exceptions: The first was during Steven Spielberg's tribute to John Williams. After running down the list of Williams' classic soundtracks, from Jaws to Raiders to Schindler's List, Spielberg said, "John Williams is as American as apple pie and George Bush's mother."

Cut to the president, who tried to smile but looked like he had been smacked in the face. Only a genius like Spielberg could come up with a way to essentially say "your mama" to the President on national television. And get applause for it.

The second moment came during Robert Downey Jr's tribute to Elton John. Downey said Elton, like John Kerry, was suffering "from acute symptoms of another dual-diagnosis disease of mine: The ADD, of course, the altruistic Democrat disorder." Cut to a smiling Kerry, who was also in the audience.

Downey went on to offer three phrases that came to mind when he thought of Elton: "Genius, life saver... the other first lady?"

Cut to Elton John and his life partner, David Furbish. Widen out to show a visibly pained Laura Bush, sickly smile frozen on her face.

It was surreal.

On that note, I'm off to the sofa to watch the DVD I rented today, "Control Room," which examines U.S. and al-Jazeera coverage of the war in Iraq. Ah, sweet Christmas memories are made of this.

My best wishes to everyone for a happy, healthy holiday.♥

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I'm Alive!

LATE UPDATE!! I JUST WENT TO THE POST OFFICE, AND IT TURNS OUT MY PACKAGE WAS A BAG OF POO!! Well, it might as well have been. It was a DVD screener for some movie called "In Good Company," mailed to me from Universal for my consideration as best original screenplay. (I'm a member of the Writers Guild, so I get these once in a while.)Feh.

So very, very behind... and almost off the Soapbox charts. (I'm hanging on at No. 15, but just barely.)

I've actually accumulated quite a few vignettes since my last blog ages ago, but I fear they've already begun to fade from memory...

Let's first get the personal announcements out of the way:

Congratulations to my childhood friend, Rebecca Landwehr, on her marriage. (Rebe and I used to pretend to get married in nursery school, so this milestone is especially poignant for me. Of course, I also used to pretend to marry Adam Pechter. But I digress...)

Happy Holidays to Amy, Ryan and Jakey McDavitt... an all-American family if there ever was one. Hope you guys are enjoying your new digs.

Best Wishes to my parents on their Santa Fe adventure; I'd love some alligator boots, by the way. Size 8 1/2. (Yeah, laugh all you want: It's really funny to go through life at 5'11' with feet the size of a Geisha. It's no wonder I'm always losing my balance.)

And to whoever mailed me the package I haven't yet picked up from the post office: Thanks in advance. (I'm assuming it's something nice, and not a bag of poo, but we'll see.)

Moving on: Friday night I went to Rose's Turn with Seth and his bald, straight, out-of-town friend, Mike. Mike has a gay dad, so he had no trouble fitting in at a West Village Piano Bar. He even got up and sang!

There was a large group of older straight couples seated at the very front of the bar. So I dared myself into saying the following at the mic:

"I'd like to sing a great song from the 80s. Which is appropriate, since all the people at this front table are in their 80s." I then launched into "Life in a Northern Town."

Then, during "Cat's in the Cradle," every time I said "Dad," I would face one of the old guys and sing directly to them.

I must say they were good sports. At one point I made another joke and commented on their utter lack of response. "That's because we're too old -- we can't hear you!" one of them shouted back.

About 20 minutes later, after I had rejoined Seth and Mike at the table, the oldest woman in the group wandered over to me. "Listen, you punk," she said, wagging her finger at me. "I was here the last time you performed, and I cheered for you and even took your card. Now I'm gonna go home and rip it up!"

I apologized profusely and explained I was just getting a cheap laugh. Then she asked me the world's worst question:

"How old do you think I am, seriously?"

Now my general rule of thumb, whenever I'm asked this question by a woman or gay man, is to take my actual guess and subtract 10. This broad looked 75 if she looked a day. "65?" I said smiling.

Her wrinkled eyes narrowed into tight slits. "You are a punk! I'm 59!"


(Sidebar to Mom: You look damn good, honey. You, too Granny.)

Saturday night was my final night of regular employment at Barrage. Predictably, it was insane -- the busiest late night we've ever had. Socrates literally had to turn up the lights and kick people out at 4AM. The place was TRASHED. It was like cleaning up after a frat party (minus the passed-out girls).

Some of the night's highlights:

Asking a couple of Lithuanian guys drinking copious amounts of vodka if they were the only two gay Lithuanians in New York City. "No," said one, shaking his big pale head. "There are about five others, but they're not friendly. We don't talk to them." He also taught me the Lithuanian word for penis: "bibis."

Two of my regulars, Ian and Steve, bringing me a farewell present: a sumptuous brownie from Amy's Bread on 9th Ave. Holy sugar rush, Batman!

Having a platinum-blonde, spiky-haired woman from Sussex, England confide in me that she was a lesbian. "With that hair, you better be, honey," I replied, to the delight of her table.

Being asked, as I was furiously sweeping up broken glass, by one very creepy dude how much I would charge to clean his apartment. Naked. I couldn't even think of a snappy response to that one.

There's more, but work calls. Oh, one more thing: Something very cool may be happening for me in mid-January, in terms of press. Won't say more than that right now 'cuz I don't want to jinx it.

If I don't blog again until after Christmas (and who knows, these days), A Very Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good laugh. ♥

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Collin Farrell Lets One Slip (Literally)

Ohmigod, I suck. I can't even believe how delinquent I've been with this blog. I was on such a roll for a while and then, poof — my "daily" blog has become as irregular as a 97-year-old woman who can't find the raisin bran.

The worst thing is, the less I write, the less I'm able to write. Without the daily routine of hunting and pecking across the keyboard, the part of my brain that generates written language seems to atrophy. Even writing these two paragraphs has taken me over five minutes, and I've gone back and re-written them several times. (I'm particularly troubled by the apparent tense shift in my first graph. "has become as irregular"??... "became as irregular"??... why does the present-perfect seem more correct to me?)

Even an email from my dear old friend Keith Johnson in Raleigh, N.C., beseeching me for more blog, wasn't enough to kick my ass in gear.

Sidenote to Keith's sister, Candy: I loved the holiday letter. Break a leg in your cabaret!

Sidenote to Keith and the rest of the Johnsons: Where the hell are YOUR holiday cards, BEE-YATCHES?!)

And then there's the pressure: I feel like, having not blogged for so long, I must now be witty and entertaining to the point of genius. Well, for those of you expecting that level of discourse, you might as well stop reading now: It ain't happenin' tonight.

For the rest of you devotees, here, in a nutshell, is everything new with me:


OK, well, Wednesday night I did the 9:30 show at Carolines along with my fellow comedy class graduates. The crowd was puny — apparently the 7:30 show had been packed wall-to-wall — and some people had rough sets. Mine went well, thank God, but I didn't try anything new, pathetic wuss that I am. My most spontaneous moment came when I did my usual impression of my father telling his favorite joke: "Hey, did you hear about the Indian who drank too much tea?" (The punchline is, "He drowned in his tea pee.") So I did the setup and at that moment I happened to glance down at the front table... only to find a large Indian family seated there. "Don't worry," I said. "It's not that kind of Indian."(yuk yuk.)

The highlight was probably beautiful(but evil)Colin, the recovering drunk from Long Island. He really came alive onstage in a way we had never seen him in class. Very sharp and interactive with the crowd, and one of those cases where the material was good but the delivery was better. (Sample joke: "I don't get all these gay overseas cruises they have nowadays. Everyone knows you can't take fruit out of the country."(yuk yuk.)

Spent most of the week chained to my work desk trying to figure out my new responsibilies, which include payroll. I'm wondering if I should tell them my final math grade senior year of high school was a D-... no joke. In truth (and in case my bosses read this), I really like what I'm doing and hope I can keep doing it. (Pardon me while I wipe my nose off.)

Last night was my family's annual Hanukkah party: a lovely, latke-filled evening. The Hanukkah Harry exchange was a huge success. My mother turned out to be my secret Harry, and thankfully she got me what I wanted, which was a complete set of (really nice) wine glasses. (Yes, this is the kind of gift gay guys crave. I'll never forget that awful Hanukkah when I was nine and my dad got me a catcher's mit.) My parents also got me a gift certificate to Banana Republic, which, as my friend Seth later reminded me, I desperately needed. ("Because your clothes suck," he explained.)

I was Harry to my sister, Laura, and, per her request, I got her one of those sweater-poncho things that every woman in America is wearing this month. I spent WAY beyond the $25 limit, but it was worth seeing my sister's reaction. After 33 years, I finally got her something she didn't hate.

We were supposed to include a poem with our gifts, hinting at our identities. Here was mine:

One of my names begins with J.

I think about comedy all day.

And I'm gay.

Boy, was she ever stumped.

Actually, the best poem came from my 11-year-old nephew, Tyler. I can't remember how it went, but I recall he ended by rhyming the phrases "can't get enough of" and "mazel tov." This from a kid who's not even Jewish. Eat your heart out, Eitan Levine.

Took an overpacked train pack to the City (lots of Hanukkah parties in the 'burbs this weekend, I guess) and met Seth for drinks at Barrage (where my presence created quite a scandal, being that I had taken the night off). Then headed down to the East Village to check out some of the sleazier venues, which did not (and yet did) disappoint.

Woke up this morning and had my oatmeal in front of a recording of last night's SNL. The delicious Colin Farrell was host; Scissor Sisters was musical guest. It was probably the best episode of the season, particularly Fred Armisen as Fericito. At the show's end, however, Farrell seemed to forget he was on live American television and said, "I want to thank everybody here for the best week of my entire life, I shit you not!" Not only is that FCC fine-worthy, it's a most unpleasant image.

Speaking of which, tonight I cooked rich and hearty chili for my delightfully wacky cousin Robin, who was in town with a friend for the weekend, along with Robin's son, Matt and his girlfriend, Ashley. I tried to make the apartment look festive, with Christmas lights on the windows and red and green candles on the table. Of course, I couldn't find a single set Hanukkah candles in all of Hell's Kitchen, so the poor menorah remained unilluminated. The Jews always suffer. But we all had fun nonetheless.

On that note, kiddies, I gotta hit the sheets. My goal for the coming week is to blog at least one paragraph per day. Yes — small dreams, but they're all mine.♥

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Win a Date with Crap

Hi, remember me?

It's been nearly a week since I last blogged, the longest blackout period — blogout, if you will — since I started this page back in August. My work week was simply too intense to find the requisite hour to come up with something worthwhile to write about and then insert all those persnickety HTML tags.

I felt oddly detached without my online diary. I have no idea if anyone else missed me, but at least I missed me. (Aww, that's so sweet, thank you! You're welcome. Wait — who said that? I did, you freak. Shut up! No, you shut up!...)

Life is a blur lately, and it occurs to me that I've been over-committed for some time (and that I need to be committed — see above graf). So last night I gave my two weeks notice to Socrates, the manager of Barrage. I love working at that bar; it's literally the best waitstaff gig one could get. I love how social it is, and I love the cash. But it's nine hours every Saturday night, and it's preventing me from accomplishing anything over the weekend other than the most rudimentary tasks. Or put another way, you know you're working too hard when the highlight of your week is watching "The Real Gilligan's Island" on DVR.

(Sidebar — how much do we hate that

millionaire's wife?!)

Rest assured, I'll still be gainfully employed Monday through Friday (right, Times guys?), and I hope to use the extra free time to work on creative/entrepreneurial endeavors like comedy, freelance writing and voiceover work.

Probably I'll just watch more TV though.

Speaking of TV, tonight I watched what could be the worst movie ever made: "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton." Now, I realize there was little chance of this being a stellar cinematic work, but I wanted to watch it for two reasons:

1) I love mindless teenage comedies.

2) Josh Duhamel.

Plus, some decent actors appear in the film, including Topher Grace, Kate Bosworth, Gary Cole, Nathan Lane, Sean Hayes and that chick who plays Summer on "The O.C." But oh my god, did it suck. Terrible writing, horrific directing, nary a chuckle to be had. But it did inspire me in a backwards sort of way: I know I can write a better script than that. Now it's just a matter of overcoming my chronic laziness...

Speaking of which, I actually had a nice set at Don't Tell Mama Friday night and was thrilled to see my high school friend Maggie in attendance, along with a number of other folks I know. Maggie and I hadn't seen each other in like nine years, but we fell right back into a groove, which was cool. Her feedback on my set: "I thought it was hilarious, but I couldn't tell if it was because I know your parents, or because you were actually funny." I pointed out to her that most of the crowd didn't know my parents and still laughed.

Traveled en masse to Barrage afterwards, where Socrates made me one of my favorite drinks, the unfortunately named Pearl Necklace. (It's like vanilla vodka, bailey's and some white liqueur.) It's supposed to be served in a martini glass, and he made it for me on the rocks in a pint glass. I barely made it back to my apartment and later spent some quality time kneeling in front of my toilet. Good times.

In other news, I finally got my Secret Santa/Chanukkah Harry assignment, so today was spent braving the Christmas crowds on 5th Avenue in search of an appropriate present. Holy headache. Saturday night I head home, present in hand, for Phy and Lew's annual Chanukkah party.

In the meantime, it's back to work tomorrow morning for another week in my new department. And then tomorrow night, I'll be at Carolines for the 9:30 Graduation Show of my comedy class. Details on

my website.

Here's wishing all my former class mates broken legs on stage. (Except you, Colin, ya bastid.)