Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Sunday, March 27, 2011


She Got Her Drink On

A couple of friends of ours were in town this weekend; two people with whom we always have an excellent time. We spent some time with them over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, having--not surprisingly--an excellent time. It's a bit different hanging out with them than it used to be, in that we've got The Kid, which means we turn into pumpkins around 7PM, so every meal we eat tends to be the early-bird special.

Last night, though, my wife volunteered to bring the boy-child home alone (very brave on her part, given that he was out past bedtime and was wired like [insert drugged-up celebrity joke here].) I took her up on this very generous offer and went out for drinks with our friends. And a good time was had by all.

Actually, a really, really good time was had by this one particular lady in the bar.

The place was mostly empty when we got there. Which was a big plus, in my eyes, as I prefer fairly quiet places where one can actually hear the conversation at one's own table. We snagged a spot, got the first round of drinks in and sat down for some pleasant, occasionally disgusting, talk.

Then the place started to fill up. There was a huge group there for a birthday party. The birthday gal was a very pleasant-seeming girl who was turning, I believe, 27. A mere pup. But, when she had occasion to speak to us, she seemed quite nice. Most of her friends, although frequently hitting us in the face with their purses because the place got that crowded, seemed nice-ish as well.

But one of their party--who, strangely, most of them seemed not to know very well--had done a little too much partying before the party.

She stumbled in not all that long after we'd gotten there, when only a few of the Birthday crew had arrived. She stood there in her far-too-tight, way-too-short skirt and bellowed out the name of whoever it was she was supposed to be meeting. She then lurched over to a table of people who seemed as taken aback as we were. But she joined them, so we concluded she was meant to be with them.

Periodically, through the evening, as the place got crowded, she could be seen crossing the floor like a runaway bulldozer or doing a truly inappropriate grind on someone. Generally making a spectacle of herself.

On the plus side, she was wearing underwear. We know this to be true, because, at one point, she hiked up her skirt to pull said underwear down a bit; a move that, as best I could tell from my thankfully brief glimpse of the action, was meant to be "sexy." At another point, in order to take a phone call, she sprawled out on top of an empty table right beside us, with her ass in the air and the view up her skirt offered for the crowd's...approval? So: underwear, thankfully.

After the phone call, she went to pick up a/her/someone's drink, knocking the glass down, which resulted in both the beverage pouring forth into the hood of my friend's coat and the glass breaking. Her thirst was in no way diminished by the broken glass, though, and she actually went to take a slug from it. Fortunately, some kind soul stopped her before she sliced her face off.

And that's where we get to the reason I'm writing about this. Because, up until the broken glass, nobody had really stopped her from anything. Nobody took the drink from her hand and said, "You need to get in a cab and go home now."

I wasn't watching her the entire time, so I suppose it's possible that someone did try to do this and failed. But most of what I saw was people laughing or looking away, embarrassed. During some of the more horrific displays, a number of folks took pictures, including us.

What do you do in that situation? The lady was not part of our immediate group, she was part of someone else's group. That pretty much means that she's not our responsibility. But none of the people whose responsibility she was seemed to be doing much. I felt a good bit of pity for her, but I was also filled with a decent amount of contempt for someone who acts like that, no matter what her state. There is something inherently amusing about a person so drunk they make an ass out of themselves; half of the content on YouTube is based on this. But why do I then feel like a dick for making fun of her?

In the end, I guess, I can assure myself that, if she'd passed out and someone was about to do something truly wrong to her, I'd have called the cops or something. And I can feel grateful that I haven't made a habit of getting anywhere near that drunk for a long, long time. (Also, during those college years before I learned how to not get utterly wasted, I never did any stripper moves when blitzed, I generally just vomited.)

Still, I don't feel good about myself for laughing at her. So, I'm sorry, drunk lady. Hope you made it home okay.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I Could Have Saved More

I am the worst dead pool contestant, ever. I was part of a pool for, I think, five years. Nothing high stakes. Just a few folks thumbing our noses at mortality and trying to win a hundred bucks or so. All in good fun.

No, really. I understand how you could find it objectionable, placing bets on who you think might die in any given year. I understand that many would think it insensitive, morbid, blasphemous or just plain douchey.

But I have to tell you: I think I actually did a lot of good with my list over the years. I saved lives.

A spot on my list was an almost certain guarantee that you would not die. If you were one of the celebrities I kept going with year after year after year, you were basically immortal. I was kind of the Oskar Schindler of the aging celebrity world.

Seriously, how else would you explain how Mickey Rooney's still around? He's around because I picked him to kick the bucket year in and year out. The power of my suckage at dead-pooling kept that old fart going. Him and everybody else I chose. I don't think I scored more than a couple of times the entire period we played.

Which is why I'm writing now. After all this time, the folks who put this contest together every year decided it had run its course. And we threw in the towel. And a month later, the Queen of my list passes away. I'm sorry, Liz. If we'd kept going, you could've had another decade, at least.

But I don't have that power anymore. Which means that Abe Vigoda is not long for this world. Likewise, Andy Griffith and Jerry Lewis will be worm's meat by the end of this year. Steve Jobs will not be around to launch iPad 3. Ruth Buzzi and Chuck Berry just booked their tickets to the Big Adios. I protected you with my list as long as I could. Now, you deal with St. Peter directly. Good luck. I'm sorry.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: They say a watched pot never boils, Aries. Keep that in mind this week. Also keep in mind that your pilot light may be out. Which would also explain the not-boiling.

Taurus: You want what you cannot have and you have what you cannot keep. Oh, shit, sorry! That's not your horoscope. That's the tagline for a new Robert Pattinson movie. My bad.

Gemini: You are ignoring the warning signs all around you. Mostly because they're written in Swahili. You really oughtta learn Swahili.

Cancer: Given the state of the world, you are more certain now than ever that the next life will usher you into an eternity of good times at Dollywood. That's some faith you've got there, chief.

Leo: Today, you're feeling utterly discotastic.

Virgo: To achieve your dreams, Virgo, certain sacrifices will need to be made. Not, like, goat-killing or anything, just kind of going a few days without dessert. Seriously, don't kill any goats.

Libra: An argument with a loved one may bring up feelings you'd long thought gone. Feelings along the line of: "I wish she'd shut up. I really have to pee."

Scorpio: Now is a great time to indulge your love of design, tackle a project in a new room and give the whole house a brand-new feel! It's gonna need more than a new set of coasters.

Sagittarius: To get what you want this week, you'll need to dig deep within yourself. Ya nose-picker.

Capricorn: Quiet time at home with the family is what you're in need of this week. So, make it happen, if you have to drug the kids for a night or two. They'll get over it.

Aquarius: Be it food-poisoning or flu, there's a great big bucket of vomit in store for you this week.

Pisces: Juggling? Really?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011



So here's a great thing about writing while under the weather. You can sit a your computer and crap out forty-five minutes worth of words on a subject, then realize that you're not saying anything you'd want to bother anyone with reading and can't really publish anyway, because someone else already wrote about this topic a few days ago and put things a lot better, because he's a professional writer so why bother. Oh, wait, that's not a great thing. In fact, it blows.

(Actually, I don't feel the exact same way about the subject of this piece as the author does, but that's neither here nor there.)

I need to take some more cold medicine and go to fucking bed. Feh.

"Feh!" says I.



I have had a lot of dogs in my life.

Well, in actuality, my family had a lot of dogs when I was growing up. We had a couple of dogs at different times when I was really small, one of which I do not remember at all--he died--and one of which I remember well--we gave her away. And then, when I was maybe 11, we got another dog who turned out to be the first in what would become a giant pack of canines that would leave my parents' house covered in shed hair for fifteen or so years.

At the height the insanity, we had a Cocker Spaniel (the one that kicked off all the dogginess), two Newfoundlands (to this day, one of my favorite breeds, despite the smell), a goofy Golden Retriever and a Brittany Spaniel that my sister foisted on my folks. That's a lot of dogs.

What I'm saying here is that I grew up with dogs. I was used to having dogs most of my life and, when my then-girlfriend, now-wife and I set up house in Seattle with various cats, I was jonesing for a puppy.

My girlfriend was a cat person. Her family had had one dog that she remembered, but she'd had a pair of cats with which she was much closer. She didn't mind the idea of getting a dog, but she lacked the fido fervor I felt. (Alliteration! The sign of quality writing!)

We talked on and off for a few years about getting a dog. We got to the point where I pretty much had her talked into it. And then one Saturday, on our way to a meeting of the theater group we'd co-founded with some drunkards we knew, we stopped off at a Seattle animal shelter, just to take a casual look around.

We hadn't even gotten in the door when a lady stopped us and asked us if we were looking for a dog. We said yes and she pulled open her trenchcoat to reveal two dozen puppies sewn in the lining. (Okay, no, she didn't. But that image suggested itself to me and seemed too appealing to pass up.) What she did do was to pull us over to her car, where she had a pair of big mixed-breed dogs that she'd found.

She told us she and some friends had been camping in Idaho. (On, one presumes, an abandoned potato farm.) They'd been at a place called Maiden Rock and had happened across these two dogs. They'd searched high and low for some owners but, not finding any and loathe to abandon two such beautiful, friendly hounds as these, named the girl "Maiden" and the boy "Rock" and shlepped them back to Seattle, where they fostered them at various friends' houses while they tried to find a permanent home.

The dogs both seemed very nice and they were lovely. But I wanted to go into the shelter, just in case some puppy inside seemed like a better match than a fully-grown Massive Potato Hound. But, of course, there wasn't anything in the shelter that could even come close to comparing. So we came back out and, though we felt bad breaking up the pair, took "Rock" to be our own.

On the way to the meeting, we discussed names. Being pretentious, I wanted to use something from Shakespeare. So we tossed a bunch of Shakespearean characters back and forth until we hit upon Benvolio. Good guy, peacemaker. And we could call him "Ben" for short.

I don't always make great decisions. I am frequently kind of stupid. But agreeing to my wife's instinct to take that dog was one of the best things I've ever done. He made my wife into a dog person. It took very little time for both of us to fall insanely in love with him. You couldn't not. He was that kind of dog.

13 1/2 years we had with him. He was the best dog I've ever had. He was Gary Cooper in dog form. He was patient and smart and loyal and handsome and just about perfect. He's pretty much ruined me for other dogs. It's been over a month and the loss is still sharp. We will miss him forever.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


A Little Perspective

I feel like crap. Not literally.

I have what I'm assuming is a cold. Congestion, coughing, fatigue and heavy on the achiness. Not loving it. I get a little whiny and self-pitying when I'm ill like this. But right now, I'm not feeling too horribly sorry for myself.

Because right now, my dad is undergoing another go-round with cluster headaches.

I'm not quite feeling up to doing a whole bunch of research at this moment to link to accurate, clinical information on clusters. So I'll just write a bit on what I've gleaned about them seeing my dad suffer through them for about three decades:
  • along the lines of a migraine, but, I believe, a bit worse than that.
  • like someone is shoving a bunch of icepicks into your brain.
  • can drive you near-suicidal with the pain.
  • come and go in cycles.
  • possibly triggered by diet(?)
  • not cured by much of anything.
I've seen my dad deal with these frigging things since he was in his thirties. They're hard on him--see above--and hard on the people who love him, because there's fuck-all you can do to help. You can stay in the other room and be quiet. You can leave him alone. You can feel really bad. And that's about it.

My dad's a strong guy. I've seen very little that can lay him low. But these things do it every time. He's gone a few years without them. But my mom told me the other day that he's getting them again. I hope--really, really hope--that this cycle does not last terribly long.

I love you, Dad.

Saturday, March 12, 2011



It's hard to walk away from a relationship. It's so hard that, sometimes, we stay and stay and stay in a situation that's just no good for us. When there are other, more fulfilling things we could be doing, we make the choice to stay in the relationship we don't want anymore to avoid having nothing. We take the coward's way out because it always just seems like it's easier to stay together.

I've tried to end it any number of times. And then I swallow my pride and come crawling back, knowing that the love isn't there. Well, I'm done with that. I mean it.

Because there comes a breaking point, doesn't there? There comes that point when you know. You know that, if you make that same mistake one more time; if you cave in and let things continue once again, you will have lost an amount of respect for yourself you cannot lose and still go on.

So I've reached that point. And it's over.

It's liberating, knowing that this is it. That the longest relationship of my life is coming to an end. Time to move on.

It was time to move on as soon as I saw that you'd put Lost on the cover this week. Ten fucking months after the show goes off the air and you feel that Lost is relevant enough to merit not just an article, but a fucking cover? It was bad enough when the show was still on and you'd have them on the cover every other week. But now? I'll be honest, I don't give a shit what the stars of Lost are doing now. And I loved that show. Loved it! But I have less than no desire to read a fucking cover story about Matthew Fox doing a play in the West End. No, sir. Sorry, Entertainment Weekly. I'm out.

I've left before, I know. And then I see a Dark Knight cover and I buy an issue off the newsstand. And then I pay $4.50 for a Summer Movie Preview and I start to think, "Hey, if I'm going to be buying this anyway, I might as well be paying the subscription rate." Which is how I find myself reading the fucking Power Issue. And your big American Idol preview. Or the latest utterly unnecessary list, like The Fifty Greatest Movies Featuring Cheese or whatever other pointless set of factoids you crap out.

And I'll be honest, even the Summer Movie Preview isn't what it used to be. That's right. Even at your best these days, you can't recapture what we had way back when. I haven't forgotten, Entertainment Weekly. I remember back in the 90s. Back when you had that edge. Back when you were young and hip and we'd spend hours together. That was a long time ago. And I don't need you now.

You might as well know: I've been seeing the AV Club for awhile now. They're everything you used to be and more. And they're free. So this is it. This is goodbye. Don't send me your pathetic renewal requests, because I'm not coming back. I might think of you every once in awhile. But then I'll remember how many of your articles I skip on average these days, and I'll set you back down gently on the magazine rack and walk away.


Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Meat Scream

I'm not a big fan of talking food commercials in general. I have never understood why seeing chicken McNuggets sing would make someone want to buy a box. The whole "sexy" green M&M with legs and lipstick makes me worried for humanity.

But this...

This takes things to a whole new level.

I don't eat Hot Pockets. I think I did, maybe twenty years ago before I realized that cooking could be more involved--and rewarding--than sliding something frozen into a cardboard tube and bombarding it with radiation.

These Side Shots are, to the best of my understanding, an offshoot of Hot Pockets--which was, by the way, my nickname in high school--and come in pairs that you pull apart to "enjoy." I can't speak to the quality of the product. They may be the tastiest thing since tempura-coated, deep-fried Ding-Dongs. (Gag.)

But the commercials are disturbing to me because these characters the ad company has created look like someone has sliced their lips off and their gaping maw is one big meat scream.

Who the hell wants to eat that?

Monday, March 07, 2011


Smooth Operator

I rarely have any opportunities to look smooth. I'm not, generally, very smooth. Today, I got a chance to look positively unflappable. And I embraced it.

So I'm riding the 3 train home with the Kid on my lap. His daycare instructor has told me he ate pretty much nothing all day, so I'm encouraging him to do a little subway snacking. We've got a little walnut & yogurt-covered raisins combo that was very popular yesterday and I'm getting him to down some. In fact, I'm taking some nibbles myself and enjoying an iced coffee. Folks on the train smile at us.

Then we have some coughing. Little bits of walnut fly out of the Kid's mouth. The lady across the aisle from us says, "He's choking!" because, obviously, I can't hear the child on my own lap hacking something up.

I cup my hand under his chin, 'cause I have a sense of what's coming. And what's coming is a flood of milk, walnut and yogurt-covered raisin, all whipped up into a frothy concoction roughly the texture of a cottage cheese smoothie.

I keep my hand under there until the deluge subsides, then I calmly--and I really must emphasize the placid look on my face throughout this entire episode--open his lunchbag and dump the vomit on in. I pull a few napkins out of my pocket and, smiling, wipe off the Kid's hand and coat.

Without disturbing the toddler on my lap, I reach around the stroller and deftly pull a packet of wipes out of the diaper bag, then use a few of them to clean off the kid's chin and my rancid-smelling hand. I throw all the be-puked towelettes into the lunchbag and close it on up. Then I take another delicious sip of iced coffee.

This would not have been smooth if I'd been dry-heaving. This would not have been smooth if I'd loudly asked the Kid, "Why the hell are you puking on me?!?" This would not have been smooth if anything resembling a panicky or disturbed look wandered across my visage.

But this was smooth. For me.

Saturday, March 05, 2011


Ode to Mr. Kotter

Okay, so there's too much to say about this subject to tweet about it. I'm not Kevin Smith and I'm not going to do a series of 85 tweets to have my say on any one topic. I'm not going to try throwing this whole thing up on Facebook, either. Dammit, there are some things that can be best said on a good, old-fashioned blog. So here we are again.

I'm a teacher. I think I may have mentioned that on here somewhere before. I got into teaching because, about eleven or twelve years ago, I read a Newsweek article that said that we were running out of teachers and we needed fresh blood to fix our broken educational system. This may or may not have been the same issue of Newsweek that talked about this odd new phenomenon of "reality TV".

When I moved to New York a couple of years later, with that article still in my head, I fell under the staggering influence of a series of subway ads for a city-sponsored teaching program, a program in which people left their current careers (in my case, scooping cat turds at an animal shelter) and, after a swift summer of study, were thrown into classrooms in under-performing schools to try and save America's future while we simultaneously earned our master's.

Now, I will be the first to admit that this program was massively flawed. I did not feel prepared when I first stepped in front of a class full of students who it was my responsibility to teach. In fact, once I closed that door for the first time, I pretty much just stood there frozen, not knowing what the hell to do. That feeling lasted the entirety of that very, very rough first year.

But I didn't quit. I stuck it out that first year, and the next and the next, trying hard to become a better teacher. I didn't quit that first year because I thought of teaching as something good and noble and I didn't want to give up on that.

I feel that way still.

Teaching is a hard fucking job. Very. Fucking. Hard. School of Rock--with its room full of eager-to-learn students who sit quietly and absorb every utterance their instructor mutters--is fiction. Summer School--with its lazy teacher who breezes through the year, barely working, and then loafs about for three months--is fiction. What I'm trying to say is that any movie or TV show that may have given you the impression that teaching is a cinch is more full of shit than a Port-o-San at a Jimmy Buffet concert.

And as far as the outrageous pay that teachers are supposed to be getting: go ahead and do a little googling to find the average teacher salary in your area. Then, when you stop laughing, c'mon back and finish reading this. I'll wait.

The reality is that teachers work our fucking asses off for ridiculously little money. We face overcrowded classrooms. We're expected to buy much of our own supplies. Many of us lack materials to teach what we're expected to teach. I don't know about the rest of the country, but that "three months off" is closer to two months in NYC and a lot of folks spend the bulk of that time teaching summer school because we need the money.

Many of my students are normal kids that would've fit right in with the fifth grade class I was in 1981. But I also teach some kids who feel like it's okay to tell their teacher to fuck off. I teach some kids who feel like it's okay to threaten to "snap your fucking neck." (Don't worry, they're fifth graders. I'm in no danger, I promise.) I teach some kids who place no value whatsoever on their education and don't give a thimble full of rat turds if anyone else in the class gets to learn, either.

I bring these kids up to say that this is what I'm dealing with. These are not bad kids. They're not. But they've got problems. And these problems they have are something I have to figure out how to handle every day. In addition to all the other challenges teachers face today.

Teachers get off at 3:00? Fuck you! I, like every other teacher out there, bring my work home. Sometimes, it's time spent planning, grading or entering grades into an online data base. Sometimes, it's patience that has been worn down to a puny nub from being disrespected hours on end, so that I snap at my family for no good reason. My work comes home, long after 3:00.

I don't know why teachers have suddenly become the punching bag for all our country's woes. I suspect we have become the new "welfare queens"; a group of people demonized by right-leaning politicians to convince people that cutting social spending is the way to save our economy, instead of forcing corporate executives to give up one of their eight houses.

Listen, I understand that not all teachers are perfect. Dare I suggest that the every profession is that way? I understand, as well, that our educational system is not doing as good a job as it should. But don't try to tell me for one goddamn second that this is all the fault of lazy, idiot teachers who care about nothing but lining our pockets with the taxpayers' hard-earned cash. And don't try to tell me that the solution is to get rid of the only voice we have, our unions.

Here endeth the lesson.