Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Hurried Hairshirt Concise Horoscopes

Aries: Eat more fiber.

Taurus: Good news awaits. So does athlete's foot.

Gemini: Yes, he's cheating. No, it's not your mom.

Cancer: Red dress, pumps instead of mules.

Leo: Try mouthwash.

Virgo: It's under the couch.

Libra: Go ahead and lance it.

Scorpio: She had Herpes. Nice going.

Sagittarius: That wasn't beef.

Capricorn: You forgot to carry the four.

Aquarius: It's more than a simple rash.

Pisces: If it's past the expiration date, just throw it out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Speaking of Rubber Bottles Filled with Vinegar and Water...

How much of an utter douchebag is Hillary Clinton?

Whether you agree with their action or not, the Democratic party stripped Florida (and Michigan, but we won't worry about that right now) of its delegates when they made the idiotic decision to move their primary up to January 29th. The Democrats decided to go this route because, last fall, it truly looked like half the fucking country was going to have their goddamn primaries on New Year's Day because they wanted all the glory that comes with being first.

We need some serious election overhaul, folks. I've ranted on and on before about this asinine drive states have to get their primaries in early so that candidates pay more attention to them. We should go with a one-date-fits-all primary or rotate the early elections or some goddamn thing to make all this nonsense go away and remind Iowa and New Hampshire that they're really no more fucking important than Oregon and Arkansas. (Okay, maybe they're more important than Arkansas.)

Anyway, as you may have heard, all the Democratic candidates pledged to avoid campaigning in Florida and Michigan in order to show solidarity with the party. There are those who think this was a dumb move on the part of party officials, as they'll desperately need those voters when the general election rolls around. But, good idea or not, most of the candidates abided by the decision.

Except Hill. Who decided to leave her name on the ballot in Michigan. Who showed up in Florida right after the polls closed. Who has promised to attempt to get the convention delegates to vote to give Michigan and Florida back their delegates so everybody can kiss and make nice-nice. Who is trying to use this basically meaningless goddamn primary win to look like she's got momentum going into next week's Super Tuesday. (Or Mega-Tuesday, if you must, since it's even super-er this year. I feel that anyone who calls it "Super Duper Tuesday" should be stuffed with candy and beaten like a motherfucking pinata.)

This is essentially the same thing as agreeing with your third grade friends that you weren't going to race to the arcade, then breaking into a spring while they're up in a tree, playing with their Han Solo and Obi Wan action figures. (Feel free to substitute whatever childhood-related metaphor works for you here.)

So this is one more goddamn example of Clinton playing dirty. Hey Hillary! You and Florida can go fuck yourselves!

Ah, the keen insight of my political discourse.


Fresh as a Field of Wildflowers

Hey folks, swing on over to and download the latest episode of The Conversation!
It's our highly-anticipated Douche-tacular and it contains so much awesome douche-related information that you'll plotz! That's right, motherfucker, you'll goddamn plotz!

Monday, January 28, 2008


The Shock of Recognition

Ever identify with all of a fictional character's negative traits, thus depressing the living shit out of yourself for absolutely no good reason? Yeah, me neither.

No, actually, I just finished the newest novel by Richard Russo, he of Nobody's Fool and Empire Falls fame. I've read all of his stuff at least a couple times and was utterly stoked when my wife got me his 2007 novel, Bridge of Sighs for Christmas.

Russo has a lot in common with John Irving, with whom, I believe, he studied at least briefly. (God knows I could be completely wrong here, but I think Russo took a workshop from Irving, possibly in Iowa(?).) Anyway, like Irving, most of Russo's novels tend to take place in one general geographical region (upstate New York). Also like Irving, Russo's first couple of novels ended up being--sort of, in a way, in my opinion--warm-ups for his break-out. He reuses a lot of the same themes and you can clearly recognize echoes of previous characters in subsequent books.

Let me be clear here when I say that this is not a criticism. I love all of his stuff and I think it's perfectly valid for a writer to use his own sort of archetypal characters to explore different sorts of ideas springing out of similar themes.

Anyway, Bridge of Sighs is told from multiple perspectives, including a first person account by one Lou "Lucy" Lynch. As a kid, Lucy comes across as whiny and needy and just basically scared of life. And of course it reminded me of the worst aspects of myself at that age. And then, when the book goes on to explore the notion that we often have no free will and are doomed to repeat our mistakes, learning nothing from them, I got even more depressed as I reflected on all the various and sundry times I've done the same stupid shit over and over and over. It sucks to be confronted with the worst of yourself, doesn't it?

God, I loved this book.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Say It Ain't So, Dennis!

Well goddamnit.

I am not happy about Dennis Kucinich dropping out of the presidential race. I can't imagine it's easy getting shut out of debate after televised debate because the media has wanted this to be a fucking three-person race from the get-go. I can't imagine it's easy keeping up a campaign that can only charitably be called quixotic. I can't imagine it's easy suffering through so many months of being basically a punchline just so you can bring up issues you feel are important and force other candidates just a little bit to the left so they can avoid looking like conservatives next to you.

I can't imagine any of that's easy, but I still wish the man could've stuck around longer. I never thought he had a shot in hell at actually winning so much as a single state. Nobody thought he had a shot. Except maybe a handful of still living in the same off-campus apartment eight years after graduation because they don't want to have to go through all the trouble of moving their bong collections.

I had no intention of voting for Kucinich, but I just liked knowing he was there. And now he's not. Which makes me sad.

So sad, in fact, that I'm not even going to crack any jokes at his expense.

Except to say that I heard that he was forced to drop out after John Edwards found his pot of gold.

Best of luck, congressman.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: You may feel some estrangement from a loved one this week, Aries. Or maybe you'll love feeling a stranger. To be honest, the stars are a little vague on this.

Taurus: Things have been too hectic of late, Taurus, and a return to a calmer, more relaxed pace in your life is definitely called for. So this would be a good week to start smoking more weed.

Gemini: This week, Gemini, you need to take a page out of the play book of the great Mahatma Gandhi. Mainly, you should starve yourself and wear loose-fitting white robes.

Cancer: Stop putting so goddamn much salt on everything. What are you, a deer?

Leo: Your resentment of a friend's success is bubbling a little too close to the surface this week, Leo. Try to relax a bit and just be happy for them. And if that doesn't work, bake them some zucchini bread and piss in the batter.

Virgo: Virgos in a rut can try shaking things up in the bedroom this week with a little role-playing. Maybe you can be the timid carpenter and your partner can be the lascivious building inspector. Or you could pretend to be anteaters in heat. The world is your pretend oyster, Virgo.

Libra: You are not the Lizard King and you most certainly cannot "do anything."

Scorpio: When faced with a heart-wrenching decision this week, Scorpio, you're going to have to go with your instinct. Of course, your gut may tell you that your initial instinct is wrong, in which case you'll need to sort out whether you ought to believe your instinct or your gut, neither of which have ever done you much good in the past. Flip a coin or something.

Sagittarius: It's entirely possible that, at some point this week, someone will mail you a package of dog shit. It's also entirely possible that you'll feel some bizarre obligation to send a thank you note.

Capricorn: You are filled this week with an incredible sense of inner peace. Which is usually what you get right before everything goes completely into the shitter.

Aquarius: Romance is on the horizon, Aquarius. And it's walking the fuck away as fast as it can.

Pisces: This week, Pisces, you become aware of a growing certainty in your mind that Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was not the work of genius you initially took it to be. You're smart!

Monday, January 21, 2008


The Long, Lazy Weekend

Hey hey hey! (Think Dwayne from What's Happening, not Fat Albert.)

Just spent the last two days on my couch, watching the entirety of 30 Rock's first season on DVD. It's the perfect antidote for the writer's strike! Well, maybe not perfect, as the writers don't get that huge a percent of the DVD sales, thanks to the last time they got fucked over on a contract.

Anyway, I'm going in tomorrow to have steroids injected into my spine, so if I don't post for a few days, you'll all know that the doctor missed and severed something. Whoops!

Seriously, pray for me.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Assorted Gripes

Just a few things that are pissing me off right now about which I thought I'd vent.
  • Unnecessary Apostrophes--So many of my students have the absolutely appalling habit of sticking an apostrophe in front of every single goddamn "s" that comes at the end of a word. These kids are in middle school. By now, they should be well aware of where these dot-n-dangles should/should not be placed. But I get papers all the time with sentences along the lines of, "He know's five way's to kill you with his fist's." This infuriate's me. And then, today, I'm trolling around Google News and I find the following headline from a site--apparently a news site run by my students--called "Actress Archives": "Lindsay Lohan Get's Deadly Serious About Sobriety." Somebody fucking got paid to write this article and nobody around them knows how to edit copy?
  • Ugly Betty--I was in the room last night while my wife was watching this show, which I don't think is the worst piece of shit on TV by any means (*cough-cough* The Hills *cough-cough*) but of which I would never have seen a microsecond if I was not married to someone in the show's target demographic. So, there's a scene where a character is getting artificially inseminated. And they've got her hooked up to some kind of monitor, on which we see what's supposed to be the egg receiving the sperm, after which said egg begins rapidly dividing. Now, I realize that this is simply a device to cue the audience into the fact that the insemination was successful. But it still pisses me off. Anyone who's ever tried to puzzle their way through what the fuck they're seeing on an ultrasound should know that there is no intra-uterine fucking microscope that can show you the moment of conception. I just found the whole scene a little insulting. And I can't, apparently, willingly suspend my disbelief.
  • Comanche Moon--I remember so very fondly the first time I watched Lonesome Dove. It had such an interesting story and such a strong cast, I loved every goddamn second of it. From the Mexican cook ringing the dinner bell, to the Irish kid covered in water moccasins to Tommy Lee Jones dragging Robert Duvall's corpse across the state of Texas, I was transfixed. I started watching Comanche Moon with the understanding that it probably couldn't live up to the original. And, wow, it really, really didn't. Which puzzled me. Another great cast. Written by the Academy Award-winning writers of Brokeback Mountain. Horses. And yet, for the most part, it sucked mule turds. Three actresses that I really like--Rachel Griffiths, Elizabeth Banks and Linda Cardellini--were given nothing to do except stand around in bad weaves and overact. Val Kilmer appeared to be doing one long master class on "Freaky Shit I Learned from Marlon Brando While Shooting Dr. Moreau." The one saving grace in this whole thing was Steve Zahn. I've always loved Steve Zahn in just about everything I've seen him in. (I usually pretend that Saving Silverman never happened.) But, in Comanche Moon, he did the greatest Robert Duvall impression you'll ever see. He really captured the character in a way that made you believe this was the same Augustus McRae. I enjoyed his performance so much, in fact, that it kind of makes up for all these other gripes.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Get Out of Here

Nothing much going on here at Hairshirt today, but that doesn't mean I'm leaving you hanging.

In fact, today's a day to celebrate! Someone actually wrote another letter to Ask Hairshirt! So you can head on over there and join in the discussion.

And, as if that's not enough quality entertainment, you can also head on over to Podomatic, where you'll find the latest episode of that most brilliant of podcasts, The Conversation. As a reminder, you can also subscribe to The Conversation by using the rss feed on iTunes.

Then, come back here tomorrow, when I'll be discussing 35 ways you can yodel your way to a thinner you!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Hairshirt Horoscope (Special Geektastic Superhero Edition)

Aries: Like Aquaman, you are sadly underrated by most everyone, your true value ignored while those around you go on to great acclaim. This is probably because, also like Aquaman, you seem to think tight orange and green outfits are really cool.

Taurus: Sometimes, Taurus, you wish you could just work magic like Zatanna, muttering a few words backwards and altering reality. Well, you can't. But, like Zatanna, you can feel free to wear fishnet stockings and a top hat.

Gemini: Sexually, one would have to compare you to Superman. Mostly in the sense that you seem to be a strange visitor from another planet.

Cancer: This week, Cancer, you're going to be, at times, so overlooked that you'll feel like The Invisible Woman. Just not with the "invisible force field" powers. How the hell did they bring a force field into it, anyway? Can someone explain to me how a force field has fucking anything to do with being invisible?

Leo: To get everything on your agenda accomplished this week, Leo, you'll need to be as speedy as The Flash. The living one, not one of the two dead ones. Dead people are notoriously slow, Leo.

Virgo: For far too long, Virgo, you've been dark and brooding, like Batman. It's time to let out your fun-loving inner Robin. Just not with the boy-whore-on-parade outfit.

Libra: You ever read that issue of Swamp Thing where he goes down into the sewer to escape Arcane? Well, that's basically what you smell like.

Scorpio: Like the tragic Phoenix, Scorpio, you are often helpless against the darker side of your nature. On the plus side, there's very little chance that Brett Ratner will take a giant steaming dump all over your greatest story-line when he adapts it for the screen.

Sagittarius: You have one similarity to Wonder Woman, Sagittarius, and that's really shitty taste in swimwear.

Capricorn: If only, like Wolverine, you could get hurt and then instantaneously heal, Capricorn. But you can't. And it's going to take a heart as hard as Adamantium to keep from being broken by what's in store for you this week. But your hair kinda looks like his. Which is something, I guess.

Aquarius: You have a lot in common with that technology-based hero Iron Man. Mostly the fact that you're an alcoholic.

Pisces: Pisces, sad to say, the only superhero you're even remotely like is Brother Power the Geek.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Me No Am Smart

I am fucking stupid. I put the "tard" in retard. On the scale of 1 to 10, my intelligence would rank a slack-jawed, drooling 2. I make George W. Bush look like Hammurabi. If my brain was cotton, I would not be able to fashion it into a flea's tampon.

These and many similar self-loathing thought floated in my head today as I got off the phone with the receptionist at the pain clinic I'm currently working with.

You see, after months of physical therapy that yielded very little, I decided to take my orthopedist's advice and consult this other doctor he knew. Said doctor figured the best way to calm down the nerves against which my bulging lumbar disc was pressing was to inject a little shot of steroids somewhere in the vicinity of my spine. I told him that sounded lovely and we scheduled it for tomorrow.

All last week, I was practically dancing around the apartment (practically dancing, you see, because to call any of the pathetic gyrations I can muster "dancing" is to insult the art form and bring shame upon all those who practice it) in the joy that my gimpiness might finally be coming to an end.

I was pretty organized. I wrote up lesson plans for my substitute. I arranged for my friend Deni to escort me home from the hospital, as my wife had an unbreakable previous engagement. I alerted my orthopedist's office that I would be picking up the films from my MRI this afternoon so that I could bring them to my pain doctor.

What I didn't do was to read the pre-op instructions carefully enough to see that I had to stop taking my fucking Advil seventy-two hours before the procedure. A fact of which I was made aware when I called the pain clinic to confirm my appointment on the morrow. I almost fucking cried.

'Cause now I have to wait another goddamn week. Now I have to endure this shit for seven extra days. Now I get the awesome anticipation and subsequent experience of seventy-two hours sans pain meds. Yipee motherfucking yahoo.

I really wish I had a different brain. And a different body to go with it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


My Mental Jukebox Sucks Ass

Going a little nuts here. If you listened to the little podcast extra that my pal Keith and I put out, you may have noticed our use of a variation on the theme from Masterpiece Theater. It's a pleasant little melody that I've had a fondness for ever since my buddy The Beige One used it in a sketch show we did way back in the day in Seattle.

Since I listened to the podcast, I've repeatedly found myself whistling, humming and scatting the song. I hate that. It's my usual earworm problem, but now I'm performing.

I do this a lot actually. There are a number of songs that I've become familiar with over the course of my life that just somehow bubble to the surface and tumble out of my mouth unbidden. All the time. When I'm walking down the street. When I'm doing dishes. When I'm fashioning a new tinfoil hat to keep the aliens from reading my thoughts. It's a hassle.

And the songs that pop into my head aren't even necessarily songs that I've listened to for years. I never just start spontaneously singing, like, a Beck tune. Nope. It's scarier stuff. The other night, just to give an example, I was sitting at the computer when I all of a sudden noticed that I was singing fucking "Take a Chance on Me." I fucking hate ABBA.

Here, then, in an attempt to exorcise them from my mind, is my top ten list of songs that I find myself unwittingly singing. God help me.
  • The Theme from The Godfather
  • Oklahoma
  • Tomorrow
  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  • Moon River
  • If Ever I Would Leave You
  • 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
  • The James Bond Theme
  • Pretty Little Picture
  • Just One of Those Things
Now, I'm not saying these are bad songs. In fact, I don't really mind most of them. But I don't want them to haunt my synapses.

Also, I'm disturbed by the fact that nearly half of them are show tunes. Not disturbed in a sexuality-questioning way, just disturbed because it means that I have to officially accept that I'm someone who knows show tunes. I blame my parents for that. Thanks, guys.

But of all these, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" is the only one that I've listened to with any frequency over the last twenty years. So what is it about the other songs on the list that's kept them floating inside my cranium? It's a puzzlement!

Friday, January 11, 2008


Episode II: Shmashmack of the Shmones

Hey, all you crazy podcast-listening kids out there! You can "download" the second episode of The Conversation with Bob Felcher and Karl Baloneypants right now at!

That's right! In mere minutes, you can be walking around town listening to me and some other guy talk about things right in your ear! It's crrrrrr-azy!

Go now. No operators are standing by. I mean, do you fucking know how cruel it would be to expect those poor operators to just fucking stand there, waiting for your stupid ass to call? You thoughtless prick!

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I Tried to Hide Myself Under the Desk

Little story from the AP.

OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Intimidated by snowy, slippery roads, a teacher cracked open a can of chili and slept in her classroom. Emma Clisante had a sleeping bag, pillow, toothbrush and fresh clothes Tuesday night at Ogden Preparatory Academy.

''I'm from the Dominican Republic, and when I see snow on the roads, it scares me to death,'' Clisante said.

She read, surfed the Internet and caught up on other tasks. She turned off the lights when custodians left at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

''Every hour, I would wake up,'' Clisante said. ''I locked the door from the inside and tried to hide myself under my desk.''

Principal Kathy Thornburg was impressed.

''It warms my heart and shows the quality of educators we have at the school,'' Thornburg said.

Now, did you read that last sentence? The quote from the principal? The principal, you see, is impressed and heart-warmed. By a teacher who is so fucking freaked out by snow that she refuses to leave work. This is definitely the kind of example you want to set for children. "That's right, class. Two plus two equals... Aiigh! Run! A snowflake! Quick, hide under your desks!" I'm sorry, but anyone who even contemplates staying in their classroom after a day spent teaching is clinically insane.


*choke* *sob*

And, lo, there came a plague of locusts, descending on the towns! And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth! And I actually fucking kind of agreed with something Bill Kristol said! The Day of Reckoning is at hand.

I'm sorry. I absolutely hate that I think this, but Hilary Clinton's near-tears moment at the press conference this week just struck me as completely calculated. Well-calculated, I grant you. The woman must have some hum-dinger mathematicians working for her to have come up with a formula for just how close to crying she should seem in order to put her over the top with voters in New Hampshire.

I'd be a lot easier to convince that this was real if I didn't still recall her freakish laughter tour of the Sunday morning talk shows a few months back.

Maybe I'm wrong on this. But, to me, it just fits with what she's been doing. God, I wish the woman would just stop fucking politicking. Back in the day, she just did what she thought was right, or so it seemed. Now, it seems like she can't take a genuine dump.

Don't get me wrong. I'm happy with her as my senator. I would not be horrified if she won the presidency. I just want her to remember how to be actually human.

Still, even with all her faults, she's a hundred times better than any Republican. If I hear fucking Mitt Romney use one more goddamn Olympic medal metaphor, I'm going to mail him a ten-pound bag of dog shit. "Well, three races down and I've won two silver and a gold. Silver's better than bronze. I saved the Olympics! It's a happier go-to reference than 9/11!" The man's a fucking empty hair do!

November can not come fast enough.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: Your dream finally comes true. Unfortunately, it's that dream where you're late to take a test and you're not wearing pants.

Taurus: Focus your energy on positive thoughts. Discard any heavy mental baggage that's interfering with your progress. Also, don't forget to floss. Just 'cause it can't hurt, right?

Gemini: It's true that a hint of vanilla behind the ear can be very seductive. But there are better ways to achieve this effect than rubbing a pint of Breyer's on your neck.

Cancer: A relaxing mudbath might be a brilliant idea for the Cancer in need of a little pampering. However, you should go ahead and pay for a spa day, as your plan to fill your bathtub with potting soil and Vaseline Intensive Care lotion will cause more problems than you foresee.

Leo: All the media coverage of the presidential primaries has you anxious. You're already feeling nostalgic for the wonder and the glory of the Bush years. My, how the last seven years have flown.

Virgo: You should try to read more. Especially stop signs.

Libra: Be careful this week. The stars show that there's a serious possibility you could wind up hospitalized after a routine back-shaving goes horribly awry.

Scorpio: As is your annual tradition, you're staving off those post-holiday blahs by baking up a storm! And, hey, it just so happens that your 250 lb. diabetic children cannot get enough of your strudel!

Sagittarius: Despite what those cruel, cruel people at work are saying behind your back, your breath doesn't really smell like ass. In fact, it's more like a really delicious, aged Gorgonzola cheese. And who doesn't love Gorgonzola?

Capricorn: Be aware that you may not be on the same wavelength as people to whom you're confiding personal information. To you, it's just "one or two harmless hobo burnings." But others might not share your sense of fun.

Aquarius: The worst part about that terrible cold from which you've been suffering is not the soreness of your nose after two weeks of wiping it with tissue. No, the worst part is that you've been unable to use your sense of smell and your cat's litterbox is now so toxic your postman can barely deliver your mail without vomiting.

Pisces: A new sexual partner will open you up to a style of physical intimacy you've never experienced before. For instance, there's the Sex While Wrapped in Bacon style. It's different, but just roll with it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


We're Having a Heatwave

It was so freakishly warm in the city today that I was walking my dogs in my shirt sleeves. No pants, no shirt front or back, just the sleeves. Ah, global warming.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Just Like Hairshirt, But With Noises

So, my friend Keith and I have started what's going to be a podcast. Eventually, it'll be downloadable to your favorite MP3 Player. For now, though, it's sitting on a site called Twango, where you can go and listen to the streaming edition. In fact, you can go using this link right here.

The show is called The Conversation with Bob Felcher and Karl Baloneypants and features Keith and I discussing current events and other shit about which we know practically nothing. So go and give a listen. Or don't, and regret it for the rest of your sad and miserable life.

EDIT: The show has been moved. We're now on the much cooler site Podomatic, which you can reach by clicking here. So yeah.

Friday, January 04, 2008


Joe and the Amazing Shrinking Scrotum

One of my favorite New Year's Eves in recent memory was the year my wife and I shared a relatively intimate evening--no parties, no friends, no hallucinogens--and went to Central Park, where my wife ran in the Midnight Run while I stood near the Bethesda Transverse, watched fireworks and called my family to wish them a Happy New Year.

I enjoyed it so much that, for a while, I've been hoping we could arrange to be in New York on the 31st to repeat the experience, only this time, I'd run with her, having discovered in the last couple of years that I have legs and am, shockingly, capable of moving at speeds above a stroll.

Given my lame-ass goddamn back issues, I was, this year, unable to join in the run, even though we were in the city. I was pissed.

I wanted my own sort of cool and non-intoxicated way to start 2008. I thought about it for awhile (not, like, days or anything; this is not the sort of thing for which I got all my neurons blazing in rapid-fire mode) and I remembered the Coney Island Polar Bear Club.

You see these guys on the news every year. They strip down to their skivvies on New Year's Day and dive into the the water off Coney Island. Now, I have a fondness for cold water. One of my favorite things on a hot summer day is to hop in the shower, get the water flowing as chilly as I can get it and standing there until ice cream wouldn't melt on my ass. (And, no, I'm not putting a lot of ice cream on my ass.) I also love Coney and am glad to have any excuse to make the long goddamn train ride out there.

So I checked out the Polar Bear Club site and saw that, to participate, you needed to raise $100 in pledges, with the funds going to help a camp in Maine for sick kids. And I thought, "Hey! I love sick kids!" So I sent out a plea to friends and family, came up with half the dough and registered.

Going out to Coney, my wife asked me if I was excited. And I don't know that I really was. More than anything, I was just nervous about getting there on time, getting signed in and figuring out if I was supposed to already have the pledge money collected, or if I just needed to turn in the pledge form.

We got there in plenty of time. I wrote the nice people a check to cover our $100 in pledges, for which they gave me a long-sleeved t-shirt that I'll never wear. Then I had to change. I'd come, you see, in normal-person winter clothes, with the coat and the hat and the scarf and the nice lady, don't bite! But I didn't intend to wear that into the water.

So I stepped into the men's room of a Coney Island changing house. (I'd always thought the term for the place near the beach where one changed into one's swim suit was called a bath house, but apparently, that term is now 100% reserved for skeevy gay sex joints, so we'll stick with the "changing house".) I'm an actor and I've done my share of shows over the years where I was utterly without even a half-assed dressing room and had to change my clothes in cars, closets or crappers, but I don't think I've ever been quite so worried about catching something insidious as I was in that changing house. I kept my feet firmly on my shoes and was as careful as a stutterer giving a blowjob.

Clothes changed, I waited for the festivities to commence with my wife and my friend Deni, who'd come along for moral support and, additionally, to tell me repeatedly that he'd never do something so stupid. I was feeling jolly. Right up until the moment of silence was held for the guy who died doing this last year.

So I was not quite as enthused as the president of the club blew his conch shell and led everyone down to the water. My trepidation was not aided by the anxiety I felt about taking off my robe and exposing to the world my hairy back and recently acquired fat rolls.

Once the crowd--and, man, it really felt like I was running with the bulls; it was something of a clusterfuck--started actually getting in the water, I forgot all that. Partly because the crowd was full of dudes that looked like this:
So I waded on in. And it was goddamn cold. Who'da thunk it? When you're up to your knees in freezing cold water, you body starts to shake in an effort to draw your attention to the fact that you're doing something stupid. I raised my arms above my head and screamed, like I would have on a really awesome roller coaster. It was, I guess, either scream or say out loud, "Jesus God, this is not what I should be doing!"

Then, as I walked further out, my testicles actually climbed up my body cavity and came to rest right near my rib cage, trying to catch some warmth from my aorta. As I got to the point where the water was chest-deep on me, I lost the ability do scream, as my lungs actually froze. I stood there as a couple of waves crashed into me, then I said, "Fuck it" and I dove in. (Polar Bear Club rules state that you have to be fully submerged or you're a giant pussy.) Having done that, I considered briefly whether I should stay in awhile and really maximize the experience. Then my asscheek fell off and I decided to get out.

All in all, this was a really wonderful experience. It was exhilarating. It was even a little bit profound, in that "cleansing" kind of way. The whole event was marred only by the fact that my father-in-law, who was visiting us, had gotten a hideous cold and was not feeling well enough to come with us. I tried to recreate the experience for him by standing in a bucket filled with ice cubes in our living room, but it was somehow lacking.

I had a good enough time that I think I'll do it again next year. But I think I'll get good and drunk beforehand. 'Cause everything's profounder when you're lit.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Letterman Grew a Beard! Holy Shit!

I've spent a hellish couple of months without The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Seriously, I feel a little lost in the mornings, eating my serial with no snarky media parodies to enjoy on my DVR. I'm frigging sad, though, that they're returning next week without their writers.

I'm massively pro-union, having grown up in a UAW household and being, now, a proud member of the UFT. This means that I feel conflicted about watching a show when I know there're folks out picketing it.

Really, what fucknut is going to come down on the producers' side of this whole WGA strike? The writers want to not get completely screwed out of profits for entertainment distributed on-line and the producers want desperately to screw the writers out of profits for entertainment distributed on-line.

So I side with the WGA and will feel mightily conflicted watching The Daily Show next week. I felt pretty damn good, conversely, watching Dave Letterman last night.

Now, I was a giant Letterman fan in college. I stopped watching him regularly when John Stewart took over The Daily Show, because I only have, really, so much time in my life to devote to late-night programming. But I still appreciate Dave.

And I thought he did a damned fine job last night. He was his usual funny self and also took care to acknowledge the strike. I thought the show would have been a home run, if I hadn't had to sit through Robin Williams' increasingly grated "riffing". (Robin--start drinking again. Might help.)

The weird thing was, I did a bunch of reading today about the various late-night shows' returns and a number of writers thought Dave was awful. The same writers almost invariably thought that Leno was bringing the funny on his writerless premiere.

At first, I was baffled. But then I was hit by the revelation (fairly goddamn pathetic, by revelation standards) that there's a Dave/Jay divide in this country. You either enjoy Dave or you enjoy Jay. And that's okay. Personally, Jay Leno's humor makes me want to puke, put it in a plastic container and then mail it to Jay Leno. But I understand that mi chiste is not necessarily su chiste.

So to everyone who wrote that Dave's scraggly beard made him look unready to return to work, but that Jay's banter with Mike Huckabee and Emeril were the stuff of improv genius, I forgive you. You're just ignorant. I get it now.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: Sure, the Iowa caucuses are tonight and you should be thinking about who's going to take another step forward toward becoming the next leader of the free world, but, frankly, all you can think about is poor Lindsay Lohan and her latest public mistake. The poor, poor dear.

Taurus: Life to you is nothing more than a low-calorie soup recipe to be whipped up at your whim. But what about grilled cheese, Taurus? What about grilled cheese?

Gemini: Word of advice, Gemini, if you're out of condoms, you shouldn't try just wrapping your junk in scotch tape.

Cancer: Things have been confusing for you lately, Cancer, but remember: even when we can't see the path we're on, all is clear to God. It's just that he's a giant prick about sharing his fucking information with us.

Leo: You've been feeling cooped up inside for weeks, Leo. Maybe this is a good week to try your hand at some outdoor winter sports. So the next time you pass by a like you think might be kind of frozen, go ahead and walk out onto the ice.

Virgo: People like you because of your big heart and your generous nature. They like you in spite of your ass-like breath.

Libra: In times of stress like this, it's sometimes helpful to take time to look through old photos, to remind yourself of happier times in your life and remember that there will be more happy times ahead. Alternatively, you could just jack it to some internet porn.

Scorpio: When someone says, "Why don't you go pound sand," what exactly does that mean? Are they actually telling you to use your fists and actually, like, pound sand? Help me out with this one, Scorpio.

Sagittarius: Life is like a yo-yo, Sagittarius. It's a cheap piece of shit that you can never get to do what you want and you'll eventually throw in the garbage. Admittedly, that's a fairly pessimistic metaphor.

Capricorn: Beware of large groups with torches and pitchforks, Capricorn. Not that you probably needed me to tell you that one.

Aquarius: As a wise man once said, Aquarius, "French fries might be delicious, but that doesn't mean I want to shove a pound of them up my ass." Actually, that may not have been a wise man. Thinking on it for a minute, I'm pretty sure a drunk man said that.

Pisces: Beauty is only skin deep, Pisces. If you don't believe me, try looking at someone who's had their skin removed. It's not beautiful.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Happy Goddamn New Year!

Just got back from Central Park, where my wife ran four miles and I froze my nuts off while watching an awesome fireworks display. Started 2008 by kissing my wife, listening to an old They Might Be Giants show and reading the first chapter of a Michael Chabon book. Not a bad beginning for the new year.

Now I've gotta get to sleep, because I'm waking up tomorrow and heading to Brooklyn, where I'm going to jump in the water off Coney Island. I kind of miss the days of my youth, when New Year's meant getting hammered and that was about it.

Fuck 2007! (Except for the part where I got a new nephew and the bit when my wife got an awesome job close to home and any other shred of it that was in some way good.)