Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Alchemist

The response to my debate blog has been overwhelming. And by "overwhelming" I mean six people told me they liked it. (And my mom called to say that Granny "loved" it!)

My biggest fan.

And so, barring some unforeseen circumstance, I will be live-blogging the Biden-Palin Debate Thursday night. That is, unless McCain dumps her from the ticket before then.

So what else is new? Oh yeah -- we're entering a second Great Depression. I'm so glad I chose this moment to leave my comfy, stable day-job and move across the country to join the ranks of the unemployed and uninsured. My next big decisions are going to include running with a pair of scissors, eating undercooked meat and bathing with a toaster.

Actual photo of me going out for breakfast.

The one up side of my current inactivity is that I have been reading like a madman. In addition to all the old books I've reread, I'm reading a whole lot of new books -- at least new for me.

On Boy Wonder's recommendation, I read "Gone Today, Here Tomorrow," a memoir by Randall Neece. It's sort of the same story as "Longtime Companion" or "Philadelphia," but with a happy ending. (I don't mean to give spoilers, but come on -- the title sort of says it all.) Anyway, it was good, not great. The second half is written so much better than the first that it feels like a different author wrote it. Still, it's definitely an inspiration and recommended reading for anyone who feels like he's in a truly hopeless situation.

Far more elegantly written (and a very different kind of book) is "Prep," by Curtis Sittenfeld. Sittenfeld's latest book, "American Wife: A Novel," is a thinly-veiled retelling of Laura Bush's life story, and it's gotten rave reviews. But since it just came out, I figured I'd wait to buy a used copy on Amazon and save some money. In the meantime, I bought a used copy of 2005's "Prep," Sittenfeld's first novel. It cost me all of 99 cents, and it was the best money I've ever spent.

"Prep" tells the story of Lee, a painfully shy Midwestern scholarship student at a fancy New England prep school. "Painfully" is not an overstatement. Her shyness is both fascinating and literally painful to behold.

I have always been suspicious of shy people. Being the opposite of shy myself, I never quite bought what I saw as an act. Even in high school, I often had the urge to shake a shy person and say, "Why don't you fucking say something?!" Shyness struck me as a kind of extreme laziness. After all, what could require less effort than being the only person in a room not speaking?

I also always assumed that shy people must hate me because I never stop talking. So, counterintuitively, when faced with them, I have usually gone out of my way to bring them out of their shell. I'll tell jokes and get loud and bounce around like a circus clown -- anything to get a reaction from them.

This behavior tends to frighten shy people, causing them to retreat further, which instigates greater hijinks on my part, and on and on. It's a vicious circle.

"Prep" proves me wrong entirely. Shyness isn't an act, and it's not a lazy trait. Rather, as evidenced by the book's heroine, it's labor-intensive and completely exhausting -- almost a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Consider Lee's inner monologue hastened by the mere thought of going on a date with a boy:

I was afraid of how even though I would put on lotion before I left the dorm, I'd feel like the skin around my mouth was peeling, and this suspicion would be another conversation under the one we were having, a continuous murmur that would rise in volume as we sat there. It would be demanding more of my attention, most of my attention, then almost all of it, and just before I went to the bathroom to check for sure (as if, thirty seconds after I came out of the bathroom, I wouldn't start wondering about the peeling all over again), I'd be tilting my head and shifting my chin to prevent him from looking at me straight on.

The entire book is like this. You might think that would make for unbearable reading, and it does, at times. Lee is not an entirely likable character. She's often petty and irritating and utterly self-absorbed. Yet there's something so real -- almost pure -- about her. We've all known teenagers like this. We've all been teenagers like this, even me sometimes. Sittenfeld captures adolescent angst to a degree not seen since "The Catcher in the Rye," a book to which "Prep" has been compared by many critics. I think it should be required reading in all high school Freshman English classes.

But as much as I enjoyed "Prep," it didn't have nearly the impact on me as Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist," which was sent to me as a gift from my dear friend Tommy Raniszewski.
"The Alchemist" is one of those books I'd been meaning to read for years, ever since Madonna quoted it in the 1996 "Evita Diaries" she wrote for "Vanity Fair."

The peak of her fabulosity.

The quotation, which is repeated in various forms throughout "The Alchemist" is this:
When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
This is the essence of the story. It's a fable about a Spanish shepherd boy who dreams of seeing the Pyramids. All of 167 pages, it's also a guidebook to living your best possible life.
I'm not big on new age stuff. I'm also not a particularly religious or spiritual person. But as I poured through "The Alchemist," word by word, page by page, I felt like I was reading a sacred text. There are countless passages in it that hit me so hard they made my eyes water.
Here are just a few examples:
No one fails to suffer the consequences of everything under the sun.
[T]he fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And... no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity.
When you want something with all your heart, that's when you are closest to the Soul of the World. It's always a positive force.
[B]efore a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we've learned as we've moved towards that dream.

The lessons of "The Alchemist" are simple and straightforward to the point of being common sense. Yet there is something in Coelho's telling that makes you want to reevaluate your entire existence -- everything you've learned, everything you've done.
It's heavy shit -- and yet incredibly light at the same time.
Thank you, Tommy, for one of the greatest gifts I've ever received.

Homo philosophical.

P.S. I'll be back at the Laugh Factory in L.A. this Friday night at midnight. And don't miss the next Hillcrest Comedy Show on Oct. 12. I'm hosting!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Live Blogging the Debate

UPDATE: So who won? Click here to see CNN's poll results...

5:55 p.m. OK, I've never tried live-blogging a breaking news event before, and I don't generally venture into politics on this blog, anyway. But I thought it might be a fun experiment in the spirit of one of my favorite blogs, Wonkette.

So here goes: My play-by-play of the debate, as it happens, as seen on ABC. (And by the way, I love that it's on at 6 p.m. out here! I can still enjoy my Friday night afterwards...)

6:01 p.m. Oh, that's one gigantic fucking eagle hanging on the wall of Ole Miss.

6:02 p.m. Jim Lehrer's eyes look red and watery. Wonder if he toked up beforehand.

6:03 p.m. Yikes, Jim's going right for the economy and the bailout plan. McCain is bumming.

6:04 p.m. Obama only took one minute before going on the attack, correctly blaming the crisis on Bush and his fellow Republicans, including McCain. Otherwise, his first reply was pretty boilerplate. Not bad, not great.

6:06 p.m. Wow, McCain begins by telling us that Ted Kennedy is back in the hospital. Guess it's an attempt to make him seem kindhearted. God, he looks old and tired. (McCain that is, though Kennedy probably, too.) His eyes are even redder than Lehrer's. Wonder if they were passing the bong back and forth. Really terrible answer.

6:08 p.m. Lehrer asks them directly: Obama is evasive. "We haven't seen the language yet." Now he's back to blaming McCain. Bad idea. He's coming across as petty and political when the issue calls for total directness.

6:10 p.m. McCain answers more directly: Yes, I'll vote for it. But then he goes into a rant about accountability and greed. As if his party isn't the party that represents the needs of the greedy.

6:12 p.m. First laugh: Lehrer asks Obama to talk directly to McCain about his saying the fundamentals of the economy are sound. Obama does so. McCain hits back with, "You were afraid I didn't hear him?" Grandpa made a funny!

6:13 p.m. When McCain speaks, only his bottom teeth are visible. Like a Simpsons character.

6:14 p.m. Methinks Mac just stuck his foot in his mouth. Just said, "We have presided over the largest increase in federal spending since the Great Society." Wait for it -- Barack's gonna hit him hard...

6:15 p.m. Though his line about Barack spending a million bucks for every day he's been in the Senate was pretty sharp.

6:16 p.m. Barack missed the chance. He should have pointed out that when Democrats left office, we had a surplus. But he is hitting Mac with the whole tax cuts for the wealthiest thing, which should play well at the moment.

6:19 p.m. Zzzz. This is becoming a snoozer.

6:20 p.m. Lehrer is really trying to get them to talk to each other directly. And it's not working.

6:22 p.m. Isn't this debate supposed to be about foreign policy?

6:24 p.m. Ooo, Mac gets points for using the word "festooned." Love it.

6:25 p.m. Mac claims Obama has voted to increase taxes on people making only $42,000 a year. Obama calls him a big fat liar. Adam wishes he were making $42,000 a year right now.

6:27 p.m. I know this is beyond politically incorrect, but has Obama had his hair straightened recently? It's looking very William Shatner-esque...

6:29 p.m. OK, this is weird, but does it sound to anyone else like McCain is having trouble breathing? Every once in a while he gets a little catch in his voice, like he's about to start sobbing. Also, his waddle is waddling quite a bit.

6:31 p.m. Uh oh, Obama's getting nuanced. America is far too stupid too understand that. And whoops, he just called John McCain "Tom."

6:32 p.m. Shut up, Mac! Let Jim finish his sentence.

6:33 p.m. Wow, does Iraq really have a 79 billion-dollar surplus? That's what Barack just said. If that's true, that's fucked up!

6:36 p.m. Of all the lies Republicans tell, and there are so many to choose from, the one that pisses me off the most is that fixing our health care system would somehow take away medical decisions from families and put them in the hands of the government. Ok, first of all, you're the party that wants to force women to carry pregnancies to term, even if they were raped by their fathers. Second of all, it's simply bullshit. There is nothing in Obama's plan that would give people less control over their health care. It would simply allow them to afford it.

6:39 p.m. OK, here we go. Iraq. Mac took about six seconds before he started bragging about the wonderful surge, which was his idea entirely.

6:40 p.m. Obama goes as planned: Should we have gone to Iraq in the first place? No -- and he said so (albeit when he was a state legislator, which sort of doesn't count for shit).

6:42 p.m. Good answer from Mac: The next President of the United States is not going to have to decide whether we should have gone into Iraq or not. He's right. Mac is hitting him hard now -- accusing Obama of being utterly disinterested in foreign policy as a senator.

6:44 p.m. Obama brings up Biden for the first time, the implication being that he sure as hell knows a lot more about foreign policy than scary department store mannequin Sarah Palin. Now He's hitting Mac hard about all of McCain's semantic blunders, including not knowing the difference between a Shiite, a Sunni and Subaru.

6:46 p.m. McCain's tie looks like a candy cane. A subtle dig against his opponent, the Islamic terrorist, perhaps?

6:49 p.m. When McCain smirks, as he does whenever Obama is speaking, he looks like the Grinch. I'm sensing a whole Christmas theme here.

6:50 p.m. Obama has gorgeous teeth and lips. If you cover up the rest of his face, he could be Halle Barry.

6:51 p.m. Boy Wonder and Catwoman have arisen from their respective naps and are now watching the debate with me. Catwoman's first comment: "Love Obama's suit!"

6:52 p.m. McCain just admitted that America dropped the ball after the Afghans defeated the Russians. Now he's prattling on about Pakistan. Best line of the debate so far: "I've been to Waziristan! (But I've never been to me.)"

6:55 p.m. Obama keeps pronouncing it "POCK-is-tan." You know because he's actually an Islamic terrorist!

6:56 p.m. Wait -- he just accused McCain of singing songs about bombing Iran. What the hell?

6:57 p.m. Wow, Mac just got REALLY condescending. "I don't think Senator Obama understands that there was a failed state in Pakistan when Musharraf took over." Oh yeah, that Obama -- what a dummy. All he did was make Harvard Law Review. What would he know about Pakistan? Unlike that student of international history, Sarah Palin.

6:59 p.m. Oh, God. McCain is telling a story about wearing the bracelet of a dead soldier. AND HE'S SHOWING US THE BRACELET! Not to be outdone, Obama is now showing us that he's wearing the bra of a failed pageant contestant.

7:02 p.m. McCain is really starting to look like a nasty old bastard. Hey, Gramps, no one knows what the hell a subcommittee's supposed to do!

7:03 p.m. Lehrer announces that the two candidates are exactly equal on time! Glory be!

7:03 p.m. Israel gets mentioned for the first time. Somewhere in Florida, my Aunt Marcia is saying, "Shhh! He's talking about Israel!"

7:06 p.m. Obama considers Iran's Republican guard a terrorist group. So there. And now he, too, is patting Israel on the head. See, all you old Florida Jews? HE'S NOT AN ISLAMIC TERRORIST!!

7:08 p.m. Uh oh. McCain just had a seizure while trying to pronounce "Ahmedinejad." He should remember Katie Couric's helpful trick: It sounds like "I'm a dinner jacket."

7:09 p.m. My butt is sore. This is the world's most uncomfortable sofa ever. I can't believe I sold those gorgeous leather sectionals...

7:11 p.m. Obama has become positvely (Bill) Clintonesque. And I mean that as a compliment. He's a damn good talker.

7:12 p.m. Hooray! Obama just mentioned McCain's gaffe from the other day about refusing to meet with the president of Spain! Ha!

7:14 p.m. Honestly, I can't say who's winning. But wait -- here's the first splitscreen of the night! And what's weird is, they've constructed it in such a way that Mac and Barry look like they're the same height.

7:16 p.m. I think someone put a very light, very thin, dab of silver eyeliner on Barack's lids. It's most becoming.

7:18 p.m. Now Obama's talking about loose nukes. Whenever someone uses that expression, I think of diarrhea. Just me?

7:19 p.m. McCain has now called Obama "naive" three times and said, "He doesn't understand" three times. It's an effective line, and Obama needs to hit him back. Hard. Now.

7:20 p.m. Blah blah Georgia. Blah blah Ukraine.

7:21 p.m. Yikes. McCain is now babbling in Russian. He's trying to sound knowledgeable and leaderly, but he's coming off like your least favorite college professor.

7:23 p.m. Oh, God, let it end. I am never doing this again.

7:24 p.m. Obama just used the same "walk the walk, talk the talk" that McCain used earlier. Intentional? Hmm...

7:26 p.m. Final question: What's the liklihood of another 9-11 style attack? Ugh. Scary shit.

7:27 p.m. McCain is boring me with this answer. Let's hope Obama does better.

7:28 p.m. Obama talks about ports, and Boy Wonder exclaims, "Yes! Please talk about ports!"

7:30 p.m. Obama says we're less repected around the world than we were eight years ago, then congratulates McCain on opposing torture of prisoners. Nice. Strong and classy.

7:30 p.m. McCain says -- it's four times now -- that Obama still doesn't get it. I can't fathom why Obama hasn't once replied to this.

7:33 p.m. Uh oh, Obama's bringing up veterans. Not a great idea...

7:34 p.m. McCain is still hammering Obama for his lack of experience. I'm afraid that's going to be the takeaway from this debate. And now, of course, McCain is rubbing the veterans thing back in his face. Come on, Barry -- get in one good jab before this thing ends.

7:35 p.m. Uh oh. "My father came from Kenya" is not a good start.

7:36 p.m. Shit. McCain's closing statement: "When I came home from prison..." Prison trumps Kenya. End of debate.

Homo exhausted.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Driving Miss Crazy

Apropos of my last post (and under the advisement of my mother, a k a "She Who Knoweth Everything") I am keeping certain developments close to my vest. Honestly, there's not a whole lot to report anyway; It's not like I got cast in a sitcom. I'm just making incremental steps in what feels like the right direction. Anything MAJOR I promise to impart to you, faithful readers.

I will show you this, however:

Look, it's me! On-stage at the world-famous Laugh Factory in L.A.!

What a beautiful club. I had a blast. And I actually met Jamie Masada. Boy Wonder and I were standing in the front foyer before the show, and there he was, standing by the ticket counter. I swallowed hard and approached him.

"Hi, Mr. Masada. I'm Adam Sank, and I'll be performing on the midnight show tonight. It's nice to meet you." Then I scurried away like a little mouse and hid under BW's skirt. (He wasn't actually wearing a skirt, but it's a funny visual, no?)

BW and I stayed in Hollywood with fabulous comic and actor extraordinaire Steve Hasley. Also crashing there for the night was Steve's landlady's cat, Sophia. I mention this only because Sophia was the friendliest cat I've ever encountered. She likes to lick people's heads. I had never had my head licked by a cat before. It's an extremely painful form of affection.

BW caught it on video, which I can finally upload to this site:


BW and I had driven to L.A. Friday afternoon. By which I mean BW drove LaHonda while I played with the radio and the air conditioning. With him at the wheel, the drive up only took about 90 minutes, not including a stop at In and Out Burger in La Mirada.

But I have a confession to make: I am a terrible driver. Or more accurately, I am a terrified driver. I actually have a perfect driving record, but nothing frightens me more than having to drive on the highway (or, as they call it out here, the Freeway).

Remember that scene from "Clueless" when Dionne accidentally gets on the freeway while she's practicing driving with Cher and Murray, and they all start freaking out and screaming at the top of their lungs?

That's me.

It's a question of practice. I grew up in New Jersey, where teens don't get their driver's license until age 17. That gave me only a year of driving until I left for college, where I didn't own a car until the end of senior year. True, I did manage somehow to drive my sister's old 1985 Mazda 626 from Michigan to New Jersey to Atlanta and then in and around Atlanta (a truly awful city) for 18 months and then back to Jersey.

But that was 15 years ago. Since then, I've lived without a car in New York City. At most, I've driven about twice a year in the last decade (including one positively terrifying trip to the Poconos with comedian Tom Ragu during an ice storm this past winter).

And here I am now in the car capital of the world. I need a car to get my hair cut. I need a car to get a loaf of bread. I need a car to go to the gym or the drug store or ANYWHERE. And to get to my local comedy club, the Comedy Store in La Jolla, I need to get on the highway and drive 15 miles each way. Alone. At night.

The drive begins fairly simply: I get on the 805 North, a wide-open, well lit, six-lane highway. There's almost no traffic at night in San Diego, so as long as I pop my Simon & Garfunkel tape into Carmen's cassette deck and take deep breaths, I'm OK.

But then, about 10 miles into the journey, I have to exit onto 52 West, a local two-lane highway. The exit itself makes my ass sweat; it's this giant, steep, never-ending curve. There are no street lights. And the right lane ends suddenly at one point, forcing one to merge left. (I HATE the left lane. I stay in the right lane as much as I possibly can, where other cars are less likely to honk at me for going only 45 mph in a 65 mph zone.)

From there, 52 becomes La Jolla Parkway which becomes North Torrey Pines which becomes Girard, and then you're right there at the club on Pearl Street. Basically a straight line, right? But there are all sorts of sudden twists and turns blind curves along the way, and it's so goddamned dark!!

Welcome to La Jolla. Lights not included.

Driving home last night, my knuckles white against the steering wheel, it occurred to me that it takes roughly the same amount of time for me to drive to and from the Comedy Store as it did for me to take the subway in NYC to the Village Lantern or Rose's Turn or any of the other places I used to perform. But the difference is, I DIDN'T HAVE TO DRIVE THE SUBWAY! I could read or sleep or cruise straight boys or whatever without giving any thought to the route I was taking. I just knew that if I got on the A at West 4th Street and 6th Avenue, I'd somehow wind up at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue in about 10 minutes.

And now I'm hoping for continuing opportunities in Los Angeles, which means driving 120 miles each way on a regular basis -- in a car the drinks gas like a Hummer.

At least there's a friendly cat waiting on the other side.

Homo behind the wheel.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Stuff is Happening

When I first started doing comedy, lo these many moons ago, a number of wonderful and exciting things happened very quickly for me.

Within the first two years, articles were written about me in New York's gay press. I was booked to open for Hal Sparks at Carolines. I got hired to perform in Cancun for a gay cruise company. I appeared on "Best Week Ever." And I was asked to host my own weekly show, then another monthly show.

Holy psycho-eyes, Batman!

And I remember thinking, "Wow! This is really happening for me! I'm on my way!"

And then, and then... well, nothing really. I hit a plateau which lasted another three years. And it wasn't that wonderful and exciting things ceased to happen. They did happen -- occasionally -- but at a much slower pace. And while I continued to work steadily, and my comedy definitely improved, I felt like I could never regain my early career momentum. I had stalled.

In retrospect, I see a couple things now very clearly:

1) It's not always a good thing to meet with success quickly. For one thing, comedy is a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes years to become a truly good comic. I wasn't ready for some of the high-profile gigs I got early on, and it showed in some of my performances. Yes, I knew the fundamentals. But I hadn't yet learned the tricks of the trade: How to rescue your set when the crowd goes south. How to tailor your material for specific crowds. How to do crowd work. How to adjust, reshuffle and edit on the fly. And so forth.

2) If and when you do find success, it's not always such a good idea to blog about it. It can come across to others as vanity, braggadocio, or downright douchiness. It can fuel resentment and make people want you to fail. It also tips off your competition as to what you're up to. And as I was late to learn, comedy is a highly competitive, frighteningly political business, especially in New York.

With all that in mind, I am very, very wary and far more circumspect at this point about posting positive career developments on this blog. And it kills me, because some stuff is happening. And it's good. And I want to talk about it.

But I'm not going to. I feel far more comfortable writing about all the pathetic, miserable things that befall me than any fabulous things that may transpire. I want you all to root for me and say, "Poor Adam! I hope things get better for him!," not "Fuck Adam! I hope he falls flat on his face!"

Or, as my dear friend Robin Fox puts it in her old-world ,paranoid Jewishy way, "Don't do anything to attract the Evil Eye!"

It vould be a shonda!

Also, I've been at this long enough to know that things that seem fabulous and promising can turn out to be nothing special.
So let me just say this: For the first time in a very long time, I feel hopeful.

Homo out.

Friday, September 12, 2008

This and That


No epic stories today... just a compendium of random thoughts tripping through my brain as I blog from my favorite Bohemian North Park coffee shop, where the Internet access is free, and the deviled eggs are delectable.

First, there is apparently no way to become a subscriber per se to my blog other than to do so on MySpace. HOWEVER: You can become a follower -- which is sort of like being a fan -- by clicking here. You'll need to register with blogger.com, but it's free and easy to do. Once you are a follower, your name and thumbnail photo will appear on my blog page (right-hand side, about halfway down the page), and you'll be notified on your blogger.com dashboard anytime I post something new. So far I have three followers. I'd love to have more, so sign up today!

By the way. If you happen to see an ad on my blog page that interests you, feel free to click on it. That's sort of the only way I make money from this thing. Unless, of course, you should be so moved as to donate a few bucks to my blog, which you can do by clicking here. My dwindling bank account and I both thank you heartily for your generosity.

Moving on:

An old friend and new reader is hurt that I haven't yet mentioned him on my blog, so here goes:

Several weeks ago, as Boy Wonder and I were walking through CityFest, an annual outdoor street fair in Hillcrest, I literally bumped into Corey Delp. Corey is my ex-best friend's ex-boyfriend, if you can follow that. I have known him for 10 years, during which we both lived in New York. It turns out Corey had moved to San Diego back in April. Neither of us had any idea the other was living here now. And we even go to the same gym!

Anyway, it's very cool to have someone in San Diego with whom I have so much history and even cooler to rekindle an old friendship.

This is normally the place where I'd insert a photo, but since I have no online photos of Corey Delp, you'll have to settle for a photo of Corey Hart:

Just be glad it wasn't Corey Haim.

Speaking of 80s pop music, I was working out yesterday when the Go-Go's "Head Over Heels" came blaring through the gym's speakers. Some people dismiss the Go-Go's as typical, cotton-candy 80s synth fluff, but I am not one of those people. I have always felt the Go-Go's were grossly underrated.

"Head Over Heels," from 1984, is a perfect example of their greatness.

First, click below to activate the song, and then continue reading. (Don't watch the video; it's pretty awful.)

OK, the verse is pretty standard-issue new wave stuff, replete with rather meaningless lyrics sung in four-four time:

Been running so long
I've nearly lost all track of time
In every direction
I couldn't see the warning signs
I must be losin' it
'Cause my mind plays tricks on me
It looked so easy
But you know looks sometimes deceive...

Been running so fast
Right from the starting line
No more connections
I don't need any more advice
One hand's just reaching out
And one's just hangin' on
It seems my weaknesses
Just keep going strong

But here's where it gets very interesting, at the chorus. Listen particularly for the hand-claps:

Head over heels
Where should I go
Can't stop myself
Outta control

Head over heels
No time to think
Looks like
The whole world's out of sync

The chorus sounds completely different from the verse. It's syncopated and futuristic and "out of sync" if you will. The claps occur where you'd least expect them -- on the up-beat of the third count, not between two lyrics but on top of the words "Where" and "No."

Don't understand what I'm talking about? Try hitting the hand-claps yourself while the song is playing. It's a lot harder than you think. Genius!

Plus, Belinda Carlisle is one of the few women I would have gone straight for.

And speaking of musical titans from the 80s, I've previously discussed my adoration of the band Squeeze. Well, once I discovered that Carmen's radio/tape deck was fully functioning, I was determined to find some cassette tapes to play while driving. As luck would have it, there's a thrift shop on my block that sells six vintage cassettes for a dollar, which is about the only thing within my budget right now.

Here are the six tapes I purchased:

A Very Special Christmas (Vol. 1)
Joe Jackson Live 1980/86
Barbra Streisand/Guilty
Madonna/I'm Breathless
Simon & Garfunkel/Bridge Over Troubled Water

and, most happily...

Squeeze/Babylon and On

I had literally forgotten about this album. It came out in 1987, the year I got my driver's permit. For the next two years, I listened to it in my Jeep constantly, memorizing the words to every track.

Memories came flooding back as I popped it in last week for the first time in more than a decade. And the following song, "Footsteps," seemed to perfectly describe my current mood:

I spent too much money, I looked far too glad
Now I have so little of what I once had
I had too many parties I had too much time
I got so lazy and fell well behind
Now the summer is over I can count the cost
Footprints on the beaches are now
Footprints in the frost
The summer is over I can count the cost
Footprints on the beaches are now footprints in the frost

Homo nostalgic.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My First (And Last) Day on the Job, The Finale

Have you ever begun working on something and then, halfway through, wished you had never started it? That's how I'm feeling about this story. I never meant for it to be a three-part epic. It was supposed to silly little yarn about how I spent one day working at a job that required me to beg for money on the street, and now it's become this monster I can't seem to finish.

Readers have been all abuzz: "What happens next! I can't wait!" etc.

This puts tremendous pressure on me. I feel like you're all expecting some big climax wherein a spaceship appears and I end up getting anally probed, along with the brothers of Alpha Gamma Omega.

Would that I were so lucky.

So let me warn you right now: There is no such climax. Not much else happens in this story. I stand there chmugging (short for Charity Mugging, as Harold, a reader from the U.K. tells me it's called there) for the rest of the day, and then I quit.

But since you've come this far with me, I feel obligated to at least give you the details:

When we last left off, I was standing on the campus of San Diego State University with Carlos, a 22-year-old Argentinean dude who looked liked a cross between Adrien Grenier and a teenage dinosaur and Lucy, and 18-year-old Mexican chick with a monotone, situated between the crew team and the homoerotic brothers of Alpha Gamma Omega, SDSU's only Christ-centered fraternity.

Carlos had me watch him "pitch" a few times, and then he decided I was ready to fly solo. I noticed immediately that Carlos pitched exclusively to young women, and only hot young women at that. They'd be scurrying through campus, rushing to get to class, and then he'd flash them that gigantic grin of his, widening his puppy-dog eyes and shrugging slightly as if to say, " Who knows? I could be your one true love." And I'm telling you, it stopped every one of these girls dead in their tracks. He'd begin talking about starving people, and they'd begin twirling their hair, batting their eyelashes and pushing their tits together.

What a bunch of whores.

I soon realized I was at a disadvantage here. At best, I looked like Carlos's much-older Jewish uncle. But I did my best to flash my own killer smile at the ladies. (I also flashed it at some members of the crew team, only to be met with hostile, square-jawed frowns.)

Lo and behold, two sorority sisters actually stopped to talk to me. "Hello, ladies!" I said.

"Hi," they giggled in unison. Maybe they were into old Jews.

"Ladies, thank you so much for stopping. My name is Adam Sank, and I'm a paid fundraiser for..."


I was suddenly interrupted by the entire SDSU marching band, which had appeared, as if by magic, alongside us and was playing the Aztec fight song.

I did my best to outshout the blaring trumpets.



The cheerleading squad had now joined the band.

"We're late for class," said one of the sorority sisters as they waggled their fingers at me and jiggled away.

As I tried to accept this rejection, Lucy leaned over to me: "Those are some ugly-assed cheerleaders," she hissed. "I'm way hotter than those bitches."

Then she turned from me to face some passing football players: "Hey, guys, wanna feed the starving today?"

And so it went. I gave my pitch about 50 or 60 times. I was actually pretty good at the part about how people are dying. In spite of Allison's instructions, I went off script, adding my own flourishes. "These people are dying from preventable, treatable diseases -- things like malaria, influenza, simple bacterial infections. No one should be dying from these!"

I watched as these students eyes would get very wide and moist. They really did want to help. But then I'd get to the money part, and this is where I'd fall apart.

"So... if you... for only $28 a month... it's less than a cup of coffee!... Credit card... checkbook..."

I just couldn't close the deal. Every student I spoke to apologized, telling me they just didn't have the funds. Some of them gave me a few dollars. One woman gave me sixty cents. But no one signed up for a monthly sponsorship.

I was not a good chmugger.

Most people I stopped were incredibly sweet. Foreign students, in particular, seemed sincerely moved by the plight of the starving. Two Japanese girls asked how they could work for Feed the Starving, despite speaking only minimal English.

Only one person was truly nasty to me.

"Excuse me," I said to a nerdy-looking guy in glasses. "Do you have a moment to help some hungry kids?"

"Sorry, dude," he said. "I'm on my way to drop the kids off at the pool."

"Thanks for sharing," I said.


By 3 p.m., I found myself envying the Christian fraternity brothers. Their job was comparatively so much easier. All they had to was pass out rush fliers and grope one another. They didn't have to talk about death and disease and hit people up for money.

By 3:30, I was envying every student who passed by. They were all so young and fresh-faced and full of hope. They had their whole lives ahead of them. It would never occur to any of them that they might go on to get a master's degree and spend 15 years working their asses off in a series of thankless jobs only to find themselves right back on a college campus with a clipboard, begging for cash.

Carlos could sense my pain, and he approached me gingerly. "How you doin' man?" he asked, flashing that million-dollar smile at me.

"Well," I said, choosing my words carefully. "There might be a worse job than this, but I can't think of one."

For the first time all day, the smile disappeared. "You know what?" he said. "You're right."

I felt awful. Carlos had had an unusually bad day, himself. Though he'd raised far more cash than I, he hadn't gotten a single sponsorship. (Improbably, Lucy had gotten two.) And sponsorships were where the real money was.

At 4 p.m., Jeeves and Cartman picked us up. They had been far more successful, having left Grossmont College early in the day for a far more lucrative spot in front of Whole Foods in Hillcrest. "Dude, those gays are really philanthropic," said Cartman. "One gay gave me a one-time donation of $200!"

Carlos looked stricken.

"Here," I said, thrusting the 30 odd dollars I had collected that day into his hand. "Add this to your total. I'm quitting anyway, so I'll just tell them I raised nothing."

Carlos considered this for a moment, before handing two dollars back to me. "You should at least hand in this, so they think you tried."

We got back to the office and met up with the other day's groups. Meryl's leader was beaming. She had gotten two sponsorships and was welcomed to the staff as a full-fledged canvasser.

"And what about this one?"the office director asked Carlos, nodding at me.

"Um," said Carlos.

"Listen," I said. "I tried. I really did. But all I got was $2. I'm sorry -- this isn't the job for me."

Everyone smiled sympathetically at the middle-aged failure before them. They had seen it all before. I apologized again, handed over my $2, shook everyone's hand and got the hell out of there.

"Dude!" yelled Cartman as I descended the stairs. "We're still coming to see your comedy show!"

The end, at last.

Homo out of the chmugging business.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My First (And Last) Day on the Job, Part Deux


Thursday morning I arrived at the Feed the Starving office bright and early for my training. I had already been given a script the night before, which I was told to memorize verbatim as soon as possible:

Hi, how are you today? [Wait for response.]

Great, do you have a moment for Feed the Starving today? [Wait for response.]

Thanks for stopping. My name is [Your name] and I'm a paid fundraiser for Feed the Starving. And I'm out here today because 28,000 people die every day from treatable, preventable illnesses.

The good thing is, Feed the Starving provides tangible solutions, like food, clean drinking water and literacy programs to people all over the world.

We can help many more people with the support of people like you. Would you like to see where we're making a difference in the world? [Show clipboard.]

It's so easy to sponsor a starving person. It costs only $28 a month -- that's less than a dollar a day. And you can set it up with a credit card or checking account. Can I sign you up for a sponsorship today? [Take their money.]

As scripts go, it was all right, though I took issue with the word "tangible." It's not conversational. No one ever says, "Hey, can we get some tangible solutions over here?"

I had asked Allison the day before: "Can't I just say, 'real solutions' or 'concrete solutions' or even 'effective solutions.'"

"No," she said. "This script has been tested, and we have found these words work the best. Do not deviate from the script."

Very well then.

I began Thursday by meeting my trainer, Carlos. Carlos was a 22-year-old Argentinean-American college student with enormous teeth and lips. He was maybe the best-looking guy I've ever seen.

Because I spent most of the ensuing eight hours staring at Carlos's face, I can tell you exactly who he looked like.

He looked like a cross between Adrian Grenier from "Entourage"...

With me so far?

And Robbie, the teenage boy dinosaur from Jim Henson's early 90's puppet sitcom, "The Dinosaurs."

That's Robbie on the far left, in the James Dean jacket.

Does anyone besides me remember "The Dinosaurs?" It was fucking brilliant. It featured an obnoxious baby dinosaur who would only address his father as "Not the Mama" and drop catch-phrases like, "I'm the baby! Gotta love me!"

Anyway, that's who Carlos looked like: Adrian Grenier Dinosaur. As he prepped me and my fellow trainee, a 40-something former schoolteacher named Meryl, for our day off begging, I stared at his lips.

"It's very important that you keep up your energy level," Carlos explained, his teeth growing by the minute. "And it's not only what you say, but how you say it -- the afflication of your voice."

"Excuse me," interrupted Meryl. "But I think you mean 'inflection," not 'affliction.' I'm a former schoolteacher," she reminded us.

"Sorry about that," Carlos murmurred, blushing deeply. "It is my second language."

I wanted to slap Meryl. How dare she correct beautiful Carlos's grammar? And if she were such a great fucking schoolteacher, why does she have to beg for money for a living now?

After our training, Carlos, Meryl and I joined our fellow canvassers for a morning meeting. As a team-building exercise, each of us had to go around the circle and say our names, where we were from, and which two people we'd most like to see fight each other.

Aside from Meryl, I was the oldest person in the room by far. The rest were college students, including a duo of very stoned looking boys named Jeeves and Cartman. Cartman said he'd most like to see Arnold Schwarzenegger fight Jesse Ventura. Jeeves said he'd like to see a bear take on a shark. "In semi-deep water," he added. I said I wanted to see Sarah Palin fight Conoleezza Rice.

That would actually be a good match.

Team-building finished, it was time to divide us up into canvassing groups for the day. I silently prayed that I would wind up on a team with Carlos and without Meryl. Sure enough, when it came time for Carlos to choose, he said, "I'm going to take Adam and Lucy." Lucy was an 18-year-old Mexican girl who spoke in a monotone. Jeeves and Cartman formed their own two-person team. Meryl went with the rest.

Carlos announced that our team would be spending the day on the campus of San Diego State University. Because of a shortage of cars, Jeeves and Cartman would be dropping us off before heading to their turf, Grossmont College in El Cajon.

"Are college students really good people to be asking for money?" I wondered as we all piled into Cartman's filthy vintage Volvo wagon.

"They're the best," said Carlos. "They actually care about what's going on in the world, and a lot of them have extra cash to spend. It's their parents' money, so what do they care, you know?"

"So how old are you, dude?" Cartman asked.

"How old do you think?" I answered. I was hoping they'd think I was still in my 20s.

"Forty!" yelled Jeeves.

"Actually," I said, trying to hide my pain, "I'm 37."

"My mom is 38," said Lucy helpfully.

"So tell us about yourself," said Jeeves.

I told them my story: How I was a comic, I had just moved here, I've been having a hard time finding a day job, and so forth. They were actually very interested in the comedy thing.

"We're TOTALLY coming to see you, dude!" promised Jeeves.

After Jeeves and Cartman dropped us off, Carlos, Lucy and I took our positions by the Aztec Student Center. It was the first week of school, and the entire campus was teeming with activity. Booths were set up as far as the eye could see, and students were being recruited for every organization from the Archery Club to the Young Republicans.

"This is not good," pronounced Carlos, scanning the scene. "We've got competition.

Picture this, but with 100x more people.

Undeterred, we set up shop in between the crew team and Alpha Gamma Omega, SDSU's only Christ-centered fraternity. I know this because each of the AGO members wore black T-Shirts with the image of a large red bloodstain on the back, reading "SDSU's Only Christ-Centered Fraternity!"

Above the bloodstain was a quotation:

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

--Jesus Christ

I couldn't help but notice that the brothers of Alpha Gamma Omega spent an inordinate amount of time touching one another. There was all sorts of shoulder-rubbing and fist-bumping and butt-slapping. At one point, one AGO lifted up his brother and carried him around like a large purse. It seemed perhaps they weren't actually denying themselves all that much.

To be continued. (I'm sorry! My boys just got home, and I need to serve dinner...)

Homo out.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My First (And Last) Day on the Job

Before I begin today, I need some technical expertise. My dear friend Seth writes:

Is there a way that I can set something up so that I get an e-mail each time you post to your blog?

Seth as first runner-up in the 2005 Miss Hawaii Pageant.

This is is a good question, and one I cannot answer. I suspect some of my regular readers may have figured out how to subscribe. If so, can you guys please leave a comment or email me with instructions? (This is only directed to those of you who subscribe to the blogspot version of this blog, not the MySpace version.)

Adding more confusion is that one of my readers, Austin-based comedian Dave Wornica, has somehow become a "Follower" of my blog, using some obscure blogspot function. I am thrilled to have a follower, but I'm not at all clear as to how other people can become followers if they wish to. And is that the same as being a subscriber? SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME!!!

Moving On: It's done! I have actually appeared on a comedy stage in San Diego. (Or La Jolla, which is close enough.)

The good news is, Boy Wonder videotaped my set! The bad news is, he couldn't get the zoom to work, so I'm the size of an ant. Also, I can't seem to upload the video to this site, or to YouTube. (I'm just a tehcno-mess today.) So for now, you'll just have to take my word that it went well.

Actual photo of me on stage.

I did my standard seven minutes and got great feedback from the club and some of the other comics, and especially from Stephen, the guy who produces Hillcrest Comedy, the show I'm doing next week, who may just be the nicest person EVER.

So... I am relieved.

I wish the news from the day-job front were as happy. I've now sent my resume out to like 50 different places. And we're not talking glamour jobs here, people; one of the positions I applied for was as a receptionist for a company that makes car lubricant. I actually had my heart set on that one because of the comedic possibilities.

"So, what do you do for a living, Adam?"

"I'm in lube."

Oh, the things you can find on google images...

But after all those resumes, I've received exactly one call, which led to one interview, which led to one day -- my first and last -- on the job.

Because I completely support the organization that put me to work-- it's a wonderful organization that does charitable work around the world -- and because I do not wish to burn bridges, I have changed the organization's name and the names of all the characters in the story, as well as some of the particulars. Otherwise, it's all true.

I got a call from a woman named Allison from the group Feed the Starving: Would I be interested in working as a canvassing manager? Absolutely I would, though I had no idea what a canvassing manager was. Allison asked me some basic questions on the phone as she looked over my resume.

"So, you worked for Fox News Channel?"

"Yes," I said, going to into my usual explanatory spiel, "But I don't share their politics. I was hired there as a production assistant before they were even on the air. At the time, the Fox brand was like 'Melrose Place' and 'Married With Children.' By the time the channel began expressing a radical right-wing agenda, I had been promoted to producer and was making good money. I should have left before I did, but..."

Allison interrupted me. "It's no problem. Can you be here at 11 a.m. tomorrow for an interview?"

Absolutely I could. I still had no idea what a canvassing manager did, but I was pumped that I finally had a job interview.

I arrived at the Feed the Starving office the next day and discovered I was to be part of a group interview. Allison greeted the four of us prospective canvassing managers and then launched into a description of the job, speaking faster than any human I had ever heard.

What canvassers do is go out on the street and solicit sponsors for Feed the Starving and it's very important because the more sponsors we sign up the more starving people we can save around the globe and it only costs 28 dollars a month to sponsor a starving person and that's less than a dollar a day so you know a dollar a day is much less than a Starbuck's coffee so it shouldn't be hard to sign up sponsors and if everyone gave just a fraction of what they spent at Starbuck's every day they could solve the problem of world hunger and people are starving all over the globe and Feed the Starving is one of the oldest aid organizations in the world and we can make a real difference if all of you work your hardest to sign up as many sponsors as possible and raise as much money as possible. Now all of you will be paid for the work you do and the way it works is you'll all make minimum wage unless you raise your quota for the day which is 80% of the average amount raised for that week or $100 whichever is higher and if you do make or exceed quota you'll earn an additional five dollars for that day so basically you end up making about $70 a day or $350 a week but if you don't raise at least your quote for more than two weeks that is grounds for termination and by the way the work week begins Tuesday and ends Saturday and you'll be standing on your feet about five hours a day and are there any questions?

I had none. It was painfully clear to me what I was signing up for: I was going to work as a beggar. A (barely) paid beggar, but a beggar nonetheless. I was going to become one of those people who stand in Times Square yelling: "Penny for the homeless! One penny for the homeless!," and everyone wonders if they're actually raising money for a legitimate organization or just themselves.

As it turns out, it's both.

That night, I searched my soul and talked in depth with Boy Wonder about whether I could actually go through with this. On the one hand, Feed the Starving really does save people's lives around the world. I'd be doing God's work, and there's certainly no shame in that. Perhaps this was my due penance for having worked all those years at Fox. Also, what else did I have going on right now? While I was waiting for something better to come along, why not help the hungry and earn a tiny little bit at the same time?

On the other hand, can I really stand outside asking strangers for money all day -- even for a worthy cause -- without shooting myself? And what's with this whole pyramid scheme whereby I'm always trying to out-beg my fellow beggars in order to earn the full wage? That is, if we only get paid our full $70 a day if we sell at least 80% of the weekly average, aren't we essentially in competition with each other, and won't that drive the average higher and higher, so that each week we'll have to work harder than the week before just to make our shitty $70/day wage? Something about it didn't sit right with me.

Nonetheless, I decided I'd at least give it a shot. One day -- we'd see how it goes. After all, maybe I'd like this job.

Yikes -- this story is taking far longer than I had intended. I'll have to continue it later.

Homo out.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I Love L.A. (Or Do I?)

Labor Day weekend. No job, few prospects, dwindling funds. What to do?

Road Trip, Baby!

This shirt makes me look like I have breasts.

Yes, BW, CW, our friend San Diego Patrick (not to be confused with New York Patrick) and I piled into Patrick's Jeep Cherokee Saturday morning and headed up the coast to Los Angeles for some holiday fun.

Incidentally, can everyone PLEASE vote for Barack Obama so we can overturn the ban against gays in the military and I can stop hiding these poor guy's faces? I can't tell you how long it takes...

To answer a question already posed by some of you (including Brad "Let me tell you everything fabulous going on in my career while you wither and die in San Diego" Loekle), no this was not a comedy-related trip. It was just about having fun.

L.A. is 125 miles from San Diego. The drive should only take about two hours, but due to constant traffic in and around the City of Angels, it's more like three. We had heard that Orange County had some wonderful restaurants and, since we were famished by the time we got there, we stopped at one such establishment.

Have it your way!

Here are some more notable photos from the ride:

Look! Nuclear reactors outside Camp Pendleton! Breathtaking!

Ahh! The L.A. skyline, looking not unlike a city on the Star Wars planet of Tatooine.

OMG! It's the Hollywood sign, far right, through the smog! I feel just like Lauren Conrad on "The Hills!"

That's me, relaxing on the Westin Bonaventure's Heavenly Bed. We couldn't understand why we got such a cheap rate. Until we discovered that Downtown L.A. is an utter wasteland, especially on the weekends, and that we had to get into the car and drive 30 minutes to encounter another living soul, let alone a place to eat.

Still... nice pool, right?

And a pretty fountain in the lobby!
(Relax -- that's San Diego Patrick -- not Boy Wonder.)
And my breasts have grown since we left San Diego.

The highlight of our trip was a day spent at the Santa Monica Pier. Ultra-touristy, yet somehow still cool.

That's me, center, prancing around in a skimpy square-cut bathing suit. Had I known we'd be the only gay people at the Pier, I might have worn board shorts.

Me and Boy Wonder enjoying the surf together, while angry straight people look on.

Not a lot more to tell you or show you about L.A. Could I ever live there? I don't think so. The traffic is insane, the parking situation is worse and most of the people living there seem like big phony assholes. I liked West Hollywood OK, but unless I lived there, worked there and had all my friends there, I think I'd find L.A. life pretty miserable.

THIS JUST IN: After weeks of begging and pleading on my part, the Comedy Store in La Jolla just granted me a spot this Sunday.

Hallelujah, and more to come.

Homo out of Hollywood.

P.S. Happy belated 46th Anniversary to my parents, Phy and Lew Sank!