Friday, September 28, 2007

Nepali Climber Sets Record for High-Altitude Nudity

A Nepali climber claimed the world's highest display of nudity when he disrobed at the 29,035-foot summit at 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

He also bagged the records for Most Shrivelled Penis, and the Fastest Speed Ever Reached by Retreating Balls.

Off To See The Whizzer

A urinal, for those who don't know, is a big bowl stuck to a wall and attached via pipes to plumbing. Usually they're mounted at the average man's groin level, but in the spirit of equal opportunity, most bathrooms also have one that's lower down, for boys or dwarves or whoever has genitalia that isn't too far off the ground.

Now, I've got no problem with tiny humans, but these things piss me off. Look at it from my point of view: if all the urinals are taken except for this one, what the hell am I supposed to do? I can either pee in something that's located just south of my ankles, or I can stand on the sidelines and wait.

There are a thousand reasons why I won't use the thing. First, I'm not a child. I don't ride on the motorized elephant that's outside the local supermarket, I don't splash about in kiddy pools, I don't order off the kid's menu at Denny's. And I'm not about to pee in a kiddy urinal either.

Second, hitting the thing is more challenging than I like my bodily functions to be. If you've ever been in a men's restroom, you know the problems we have with aim. A urinal is a good-sized target, but when it's three feet away from business you'd might as well be aiming at passing blimps. It's like that carnival game where you fire a water pistol at a clown's mouth, and a balloon blows up out of its hat. When the clown is level with the pistol, you've got yourself a contest. Balloons blow up, one pops. Lower it a couple feet, though, and everybody on the midway goes home with wet shoes.

Unfortunately, waiting for a normal urinal isn't as easy as it sounds. Picture this: I'm in a bathroom with three urinals, two at average height. There's a cop at one, a longshoreman at the other, and nobody at the third. And then there's me. Standing behind these guys and whistling.

Any rocket scientist observing this scene will piece it all together, but these guys won't. There are usually dividers separating the urinals, so these two guys know there's a urinal that's available but they can't see that it's lower than the rest. As they stand there busy with the task at hand, they're getting increasingly leery of the guy who apparently doesn't have to urinate but just dropped by to window shop.

Now, I have to say, I don't mind watching. I like bathrooms. There's attractive men, no women, partial nudity. It's like the hottest cocktail party in town. And being tall, for once, is an an asset, since my eyes are well above any dividers. I don't exactly make it a habit to check out the neighbors, but a guy's got to look somewhere, right?

If urinals are heaven, the stalls are hell on earth, because we've got the opposite problem there. We've got a clear, unobstructed view of something nobody in their right mind wants to see. It's like driving by a car crash: we don't wanna look we don't wanna look we don't wanna look -- oh, what the hell. A split-second's weakness and a lifetime with a snapshot of a chubby midwesterner squatting on a toilet burned into my brain.

Even if we manage to control ourselves, we still get into trouble. Our seated neighbors see our shadows fall over them, see the head that's suspiciously high off the ground and suspect the worst. One careless moment and we end up on "America's Most Wanted," making most of the country feel sick.

What's a simple task for average-sized people, then, becomes Mission Impossible for us. We bend our knees, scrunch our heads down, and inch down the center of the stall, fingers crossed. We pry a paper cover from the dispenser, position it on the seat, pull down our pants and maneuver onto the toilet, all in a room that's maybe half the size of a closet while keeping our heads less than five feet off the ground.

Chinese acrobats would cry uncle.

Regardless of what kind of an athlete you are, you're doomed to fail. Since you're bent at eight joints, you're taking up four times the room. You turn around now and your ass rubs the door. You spear your shoulder on the coat hook, and bang your knees on the toilet paper holder. Your pants smear the seat like wool paper towels, and you leave feeling like you slow-danced with Paris Hilton.

It's that dirty kind of feeling that requires pointy surgical tools to erase.

Last week I had lunch with my sister at the Waldorf, and after she left I stopped by the bathroom to freshen up. My head momentarily popped up over the divider, and I was startled to see a similar one right next door. The face was chiseled, bronzed and handsome, and even higher up than mine. "I'm not looking!" the man assured me, averting his eyes and expecting the worst.

"Buddy," I said, chuckling, "I have so been there."

He glanced over at me warily. "Yeah," he confirmed, "I should have guessed."

"Shoot, at least once a week somebody wants to punch my lights out because they see me up here. I'm minding my own business, but because my eyes happen to be higher than the divider everybody thinks I'm a Peeping Tom."

A wave of relief splashed across his face. "Hell, I've had guns pulled on me," he confessed. "How crazy is that? Like I want to see these guys. Like they're dancing Swan Lake on the toilet or something."

Despite my apprehension I started to laugh, and with a lusty chuckle he joined in. When our eyes met again our embarrassment had turned into something else. "Hey," he said, in a voice so low it rattled the stalls, "would you like to get a cup of coffee?"

What the hell, I thought. At least if it worked out I could tell friends we met at the Waldorf. "Sure," I said. "I'll meet you outside."

I left my stall, heard him zip up, and then the door to his stall swung open. When he jumped down he couldn't have been five feet six.

I'd like to say I ran screaming from the place, but I decided to give the guy a chance. I mean, I've always said men needed balance in their lives, and he'd demonstrated his beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Paris Hilton Goes Green

NEW YORK (AP) -- Paris Hilton plans to add eco-friendly touches to her new home in Beverly Hills, Calif.

''I just bought the house and haven't been able to work on it yet,'' she says. ''But I intend to.''

"It's going to have fountains that use rainwater, and a driveway made of recycled tires," she declares. "And I'm going to tear out all the tanning beds once I can figure out how replace them with, like, the sun."

Paris Hilton Goes Green

Reba McEntire Outsells Kanye, Curtis

LOS ANGELES - The duel between Kanye West and Rapper 50 Cent is ancient history, with a country-crooning woman taking over Billboard's number-one spot.

Reba McEntire's star-studded disc "Reba Duets" sold 301,000 copies in the week ending September 23. West's "Graduation" appears at No. 2 with 226,000 copies sold, and 50 Cent's "Curtis" is No. 3 with 143,000 copies.

In a statement released to journalists Ms. McEntire is quoted as saying, "Yo, yo, yo -- that's what I'm talking about, bee-yotches!"

Reba McEntire Outsells Kanye, Curtis

Judge Decides Custody for Anne Heche

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Anne Heche and her estranged husband, Coleman Laffoon, say they're happy with the outcome of a custody hearing over their 5-year-old son, Homer.

Heche, an ex-girlfriend of Ellen Degeneres, and Laffoon, a freelance videographer, had been in closed talks over custody issues.

Heche will assume custody on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with Laffoon taking over on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On weekends the boy will live with Celestia, the raccoon-shaped God from a sparkly yellow dimension.

Judge Decides Custody for Anne Heche

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Asterisk to Mark Bonds’s Record Ball

After America voted its fate on an Internet website, the baseball that Barry Bonds knocked out of the park for the all-time hitting record is being branded with an asterisk.

And Donald Trump's hair is going in the Hollywood Wax Museum with a question mark on it.

Asterisk to Mark Bonds's Record Ball

"Control" Tops? Not Exactly.

I went to the New York premiere of the movie "Control" last night. It's a biopic about Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division who ended up hanging himself. The place was absolutely jammed with paparazzi, and flashbulbs were popping by the millions, which confused me. How many newspapers want pictures of Helena Christiansen? Is there a huge demand somewhere for photos of a disheveled Harvey Weinstein?

I really wanted to like the movie. It looked absolutely gorgeous, in artsy black and white. But it desperately wanted to be one of those "Angry Young Men" British films from the 60s by folks like John Schlesinger, and unfortunately the story fell short. I'm not sure it's possible to make an interesting story about a boring, depressed young man, even if he wrote great songs.

Its main fault, though, was that it suffered from Documentaritis: you know, where ordinary people feel compelled to say things nobody really talks about. I still remember them from history class in junior high:

MAN: Well, if this isn't PHILADELPHIA in 1742! THOMAS JEFFERSON, how go your efforts to form a CONTINENTAL CONGRESS?

That's how the dialogue is in "Control."

IAN: You're my very first girlfriend, DEBBIE CLEVELAND, and I'd like to marry you.

DEBBIE: Gosh, okay! I never knew life could be so grand in dreary MACCLESFIELD, ENGLAND!

IAN: Let's go to the pub and celebrate. Look -- there are my old school chums who formed a band. Hi BERNARD, STEPHEN, PETER! How's the band going?

BERNARD (sullenly): Not so good. We need a lead singer.

IAN: I can sing! And I write poetry, when I'm not listening to Bowie shirtless on my bed and daydreaming.

STEPHEN: Well, then, IAN CURTIS, welcome to the band! Hooray!

PETER: Look! There's TERRY WILSON, the influential TV host. TERRY, you have to put our band WARSAW on television!

TERRY: Sure! In fact, I'll even sign you to my label, FACTORY RECORDS. Let's head to the studio now to record an EP, though they won't be invented for another fifteen years.

RECORDING ENGINEER: That new song TRANSMISSION is a classic! What's the name of your band, anyway?

IAN: I just changed it to JOY DIVISION. That's a reference to the enforced prostitution of women in World War II prison camps.


But here's the real problem with the movie: it's long and slow and boring. And since we all know the ending, we start hoping it'll get there soon. Ian seems very sweet and awfully sad but we just can't help ourselves. He plays with a piece of string and we cross our fingers. "Go for it!" we silently urge. "Choke yourself!" When he heads for the bathroom we boo. "No! Not the medicine chest -- the closet!" And then it happens: we see the clothes line stretch then hear a thump as something heavy falls.

He did it! we think. He finally did it! I'll be in the bathroom in two minutes, and eating pizza in ten. Then the camera cuts back: he's safe in his bedroom. It was just a daydream.

God damn it. C'mon, buddy -- step up to the plate!

Finally he does it. We don't know why, so we don't care. The rest of Joy Division are left sitting around, distraught, and we expect a journalist to walk in:

JOURNALIST: Tough break, BERNARD. This is certainly a sad day in MAY OF 1980.

BERNARD: Horrible. Absolutely miserable. The end of the OLD ORDER. Really a BLUE MONDAY, eh?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sally Field to Play Mary Todd Lincoln

LOS ANGELES -- Sally Field has been signed by Steven Spielberg to play the president's wife in the epic biopic "Lincoln." Based on a Doris Kearns Goodwin novel, the film is expected to center on the president's role in leading the North in the Civil War.

In addition to her recent Emmy, Field has won Academy Awards for her roles in "Places in the Heart" and "Norma Rae."

The script has been rewritten around Ms. Field, and now includes lines like "You freed the slaves! You really, really freed the slaves!" and "You shot him! You really, really shot him!"

Sally Field to Play Mary Todd Lincoln

Bush's Horrible Boyfriend, the Video

My old pal SpunkDaddy has filmed "Bush's Horrible Boyfriend" and posted it on YouTube:

Bush's Horrible Boyfriend

Naturally I'm biased, but I think it's pretty great. Let me know what you think. If you've got a comment like "He sure do have a purty mouth," though, you're better off sending it directly to him.

SpunkDaddy's Beard

Monday, September 24, 2007

Heel, Boy

When I was younger, I was a paperboy in Hollywood, in charge of maybe twelve square blocks. Back then there were four daily papers, with the Times the cream of the crop. The paper I worked for was a few rungs down -- a thin, cheap rag whose right-wing rantings were dictated by its bored billionaire owner, like the New York Post today.

After school, around four, I'd head to a certain street corner in the heart of Hollywood and wait for my distributor to show up. The face changed almost daily, but I'm thinking the help-wanted ad that drew these men must have used the words "sweaty," "alcoholic" and "cauliflower nose." I cut open the bundles they tossed from the back of their van, then delivered the papers to all the individual doors.

I did this seven days a week for almost a year, and I'm still confused about the concept: barely-pubescent boys wandering the streets alone in the Degenerate Capital of the World. Roaming seedy apartment buildings, dropping off newspapers, knocking on doors and collecting money at the end of the month. Isn't this pretty much the definition of child endangerment? This was something like a Domino's Pizza for child molesters: they didn't even have to go out and scour playgrounds for their prey, since eight bucks a month delivered kids straight to their doors.

I was young and dumb and raised by wolves, so I brought the shady types crawling out of the woodwork. I still have mixed feelings about it. Being hit on by strangers who were three times my age: was it disgusting? Did it turn exciting if I recognized them from TV? If they had crushes on me, could it turn sweet? There was Michael, the rising young comedian who always seemed to be showering when I dropped his paper off. There was Roger, the married actor who thought a massage was an appropriate thank-you gift. And then there was Errol X.

Errol was an A-list Hollywood costume designer who worked on a long string of big-budget films. He'd be semi-famous today even if he hadn't used his connections to amass a world-class collection of movie star memorabilia. Cinematic Gays are still debating whether he rescued his prizes from trash heaps, as he claimed, or whether he pilfered them from unsuspecting studios. Now, searching on Google, I see he owned just about everything -- all the signature designs worn by legends like Liz and Bogie and Marilyn. He saved the best for himself and sold the rest to Debbie Reynolds since he didn't have the space to keep it all.

All I knew at the time, though, was that he was handsome, in his late twenties, and -- since I frequently laid by his apartment-house pool after I finished delivering all my papers -- he had a body to rival Tom Selleck's. One afternoon I took a catnap in the sun and when I awoke he was sitting beside me in abbreviated blue Speedos. "Hey," he said casually, "you want to come upstairs and get something to drink?"

"Sure," I said, without thinking. I was surprised he'd even talk to me, a stick insect with David Cassidy's hair. Five minutes later we were in his apartment -- no, I take that back: his museum. Arranged in groups around his darkened living room like tourists in Grand Central Station were lifesized mannequins displaying the highlights of his collection -- sequined gowns, lamé capes, fur coats. Over each was a pin spot providing dramatic lighting. I expected Gregorians to chant.

I couldn't have cared less about any of this crap, and didn't listen when he told me what it all was. I'm no movie fan, and I absolutely hate musicals. If I'm ever imprisoned at Abu Ghraib, all they have to do is play something from "The Pirates of Penzance" and I'll crack like a nut. When Errol paused to catch his breath I scurried for the refrigerator, and after I shoveled down everything edible we headed to another room of the house.

"I've never done this before," Errol said once the Speedos were off. They all said it, like it'd be their escape route if I was wearing a wire, but it was pretty clear that Errol had. He was warm and affectionate and amazingly skilled. I left maybe two hours later, happy and, for once, well fed.

Here's the main reason why kids that age shouldn't have sex: because after they do, they spend the next year scrawling their partner's name in swirly pink writing in their notebook. Me, I fell hard. My hand cramped. I went through stacks of paper. "Roman X" I wrote, over and over again.

Every day from that day forward I stopped by that pool, and every day he'd be waiting for me. We'd go upstairs and play around, then he'd blather on and on about his collection while I packed sandwiches to go. One day I decided to push things forward. "We should go out at night some time," I suggested, and to my surprise he said sure.

I told my uninterested parents I'd be sleeping somewhere else, and I showed up at Errol's promptly at eight. Our date was like a montage from a Julia Roberts movie: dinner at Musso & Frank's, a movie at the Cinerama Dome, and then back to his place for champagne. I didn't even mind when, entre acte, he serenaded me with Cole Porter songs. Around midnight he fell asleep with a smile on his face, and that's when I decided to explore.

I figured I'd start at the fridge, with the doggy bags we'd brought home. I padded towards the kitchen but froze when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. A small black object shot out from the cabinet skirting towards my path, pausing in the center of the floor.

Being poor, I'd had a long history with bugs. Years of practice made me something like the Barry Bonds of bug killers, though my record was untainted by chemical assists. I backed up slowly, being careful not to scare it, and grabbed the nearest thing handy. A shoe. I grasped it firmly, its sparkling surface cutting into my palm, and inched toward the clueless bug. The second I was within range I brought it down like a hammer. With a loud crack it smacked its target dead on, flattening the bug paper-thin.

I grabbed a paper towel and wiped the floor clean, then flipped the shoe over to wipe it off. My stomach churned at the sight: liquified cockroach, with disjointed bits of head and wing and leg embossed deep into the leather. Figuring he'd never notice, I set it back on its pedestal and scurried right back into bed.

The next morning I woke up to a tray of croissants and orange juice, and a sheepish talk from Errol about how this wasn't going to work. I was sad but I didn't really mind. I'd gotten what I'd come for: excitement, adventure, three square meals. I put on my clothes and said goodbye.

From that day on, Errol was just another door to me. I still laid by his pool occasionally, but I knew he'd never turn up. One day when my distributor dropped off the paper I found his picture on the front page. There'd been a Hollywood memorabilia auction, and he'd sold those shoes. For a hundred and ten thousand bucks.

I shoved the stack of papers under my arm and started for the first door. Hopefully he'd use some of the money to solve his bug problem, I thought. But whoever bought them -- I sure hope they don't get the wrong idea about Oz.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Marcel Marceau died.

I'm not even thinking about making a "trapped in a box" joke.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Honey, You Kill Me!

It's part of the brain's mysterious wiring that we fantasize about the men we never meet. If you're always dating doctors, you fantasize about plumbers, and if you're always hanging out with plumbers you'll fall for guys in suits. If, like me, every guy you meet is friendly, eats at Olive Garden and returns his library books on time, you're going to kneel by your bed each night and pray God brings a mass murderer to you.

I've always wanted to go out with a mass murderer, I think partly because junior high school was so hard. Kids used to make fun of me because I was thin and smart and . . . well, gay as Richard Simmons' flowered fannypack. I kept imagining how much better my life would be if a Hell's Angel had my back. It wasn't that far-fetched, either: a couple guys in my homeroom carried knives, and had more chest hair than my dad. Unfortunately, they were fixated on girls, booze and weed, and I didn't even get one of these until I was twenty-five.

Now that I've got something to offer, it's too late. Killers just aren't what they used to be.

When the first serial killers appeared on the scene, they were totally charismatic, so determinedly weird that you knew they were either in cahoots with the devil or scheming to take over his spot. They weren't anything like the other adults we knew: for one thing, they looked interesting. You sit down to dinner with one of them and you know you're not going to discuss what you did in second period. "Um, first Miss Markie told us about the French Revolution, and then --" "Hey! SHUT YOUR YAP! I'm trying to talk to the dog."

Unlike your dad, they had full heads of hair, and eyes with intelligence behind them. Sure, they were psycho, but when a mass murderer stared at you, you stayed stared at. Today everything's watered down: you can't tell men from women, Republicans from Democrats, Luddites from Libertarians. The left wing is trying to attract conservatives, the right wing is trying to attract women and blacks. And the Pope's been apologizing for so much crap I half expect him to ring me up and offer to return that "facial massager" my Mom confiscated when I was fourteen.

And now we've got mass murderers who couldn't frighten children if they had broccoli behind their backs.

Take the Menendez brothers, for instance. Shooting both their parents, then blowing their inheritance on women and Porsches. They're definitely sociopathic -- and attractive, too, with full heads of hair and the confidence you get from crazy. I'm having flashbacks. I'm about ready to break out the expensive stationary, to get glamour shots taken at the mall. "Dear Lyle, how are you? I am fine. PLEASE LET ME BE YOUR JAILHOUSE BITCH! Best wishes, RomanHans."

Watching their trial on TV, though, I discover that one of them is wearing a toupee William Shatner would have spat on, and the other's dating a lawyer with a Mr. Kotter perm. Then they take the stand and start crying and you think, oh man, these guys are just dumb.

That's so typical of today's killers: you get them in front of the jury and they're all, well, my parents abused me, and I never got a PlayStation, and when I was five I was on a cable car that hit a dog. I'm hyperactive and I've got ADD and I'm real real sorry too!" They're brown-nosing like it's going out of style. Eddie Haskell did it better thirty years ago: "Lyle, would you like to make a statement?" "Yes, I would, your honor. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you all look particularly lovely today!"

Kenneth Bianci -- one of the Hillside Stranglers -- was the exact opposite. He had that casual coiffure that screamed manliness: unkempt, tousled, always sprinkled with bits of scrub or twigs that bespoke of his love for nature. His body wasn't from vanity or Nautilus: he had the natural muscularity of someone who's spent years lugging bodies around. Plus he used to dress up as a policeman to lure women into his car. How hot was that? Hell, black shoes and an irritated look are more than enough to win my heart.

Charles Manson was by far the craziest, and also the envy of every guy I knew. He was hanging around with rock bands, he had drugs Liza Minnelli never heard of, and he actually understood Beatles lyrics. He knew "Helter Skelter" was about drugs, and "Revolution" about overthrowing the government. Me, I hear "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and think it's about a flight attendant.

Manson must have been doing something right judging from all the hippie chicks he had following him. Hippie chicks were the vacation homes of the 60's, the sign that you were on the fast track to success. To middle-class America they were unwashed young women whose brains were addled by drugs, but all us teen dudes saw hot broads in tie-dye who blew all the guys in the commune in between making macrame belts.

Manson had a string of hippie chicks, trailing him like the Seven Hippie Dwarves: Squeaky, Dopey, Hairy, Stinky. He got to have sex with like twelve different women, one at a time or all at once, and when he woke up in the morning, the chicks would go, like, hey, Chuck -- after I blow you, is there anybody you want me to kill?

Before you write to a serial killer, then, do your homework. Think about how well he'd fit into your life. Is he spontaneous? Is he laid back? I could never date a methodical murderer, because you know how men are: they dig a hole, then all of a sudden they're ambitious. "I'll bet I could build a deck," they say, bolstered by their shovelling prowess. They dump the body in, cover it over with cement, flatten it out. There -- one square done. Big enough to hold a patio chair. Only forty-nine left.

The next time, though, the excitement has waned. They dig the hole. They stop for a beer. The body sits there and rots. The hole fills up with water when it rains, and pretty soon there's mosquitos the size of Shetland ponies in your yard. Just try holding a summer barbecue next to a coffin-sized swamp. It's sure to prompt a few awkward questions, no matter how pretty your table setting is.

And once you trap that man, you've got to forget the lectures, because now you're their partner in crime. There's no "holier than thou" for you. You've got to banish all those distancing phrases from your vocabulary: "You need to stop killing hitchhikers!", "Stop that or I'm leaving you!", and "Honey, can't you PLEASE just toss this one off an abutment?"

Because everybody knows you can't change a man, and nobody -- nobody -- likes a nag.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

An Asian Guy Gives His Thoughts About O. J.

I guess you can't really blame TMZ: they send their staffers all over town to photograph and interview and generally pester celebrities, and these guys can't exactly ask for ID. Apparently, though, they're not so good at recognizing people, and they just made a bad mistake.

The Advocate, a national gay magazine, had its fortieth anniversary party on Tuesday night at a West Hollywood club. Jeff Lee, one of their employees, was waiting in line for a gift bag when a TMZ crew wandered up and asked for his thoughts on O. J. Simpson's latest scuffle.

At first Mr. Lee thought they were just asking random people for their opinions, but when he heard the name "Judge Ito" it sank in.

Glasses, bearded, Asian -- evidently it was more than enough to convince TMZ that the young accounts-payable supervisor hanging around a gay magazine's party in the gay capital of the world was a married, 57-year-old judge. Mr. Lee gave his opinion and the video ended up on the TMZ website.

Someone at the L. A. County Superior Court pointed out the mistake, and the Ito identification was removed. The video is still there, though God knows why. They've got an exclusive interview with an Asian man as to whether O. J. is guilty or not.

Now all they need is a black guy who kind of looks like O. J. to tell us how the search for the real killers goes.

Advocate Staffer Confuses TMZ

An Asian Guy Gives His Opinion of O. J.

Mahehalani is Full of the Island Spirit!

My sister sent me a headache for my birthday.

She ordered four blooming orchids from the Aloha Orchid Nursery in Hawaii as my present. I like orchids so it was really thoughtful, but the reality was a box full of crap. None of the plants was actually blooming, and they'd been so badly packed half of the buds fell off. Two plants were turning yellow and losing leaves, and on one plant all but one of the buds were seemingly dying.

I wasn't going to complain. I was just going to email them and tell them that my orchids didn't look so well. Because, you know, if one kicked off a month from now and I wrote then they'd say, "Too late! You should have told us before!" But I couldn't find an email address, so I called.

Mahehalani was full of the island spirit. Customer concern, not so much. Losing leaves is perfectly normal, she assured me. They're called "cane orchids" because they lose their leaves, leaving you with bare canes. Eventually, she said, they'd grow more.

Now, I found this an interesting lesson in orchid microbiology, but not particularly satisfying as an explanation for a birthday gift that was going straight into the trash. But Mahehalani -- I'm picturing her in a muumuu and lei -- was blithely unconcerned that the orchids they describe as "blooming" were well on their way to being birthday canes.

I pointed Mahehalani to the guarantee. "You deserve the very best in quality and service," it reads. "We offer 100% unconditional guarantee on all of our tropical flowers. If at any time you are not completely happy, please let us know so we can rectify any errors that may of [sic] occurred."

That's not their orchid guarantee, Mahehalani said, perhaps adjusting the anthurium behind her ear. That's their Tropical Flower Guarantee. And though orchids are both tropical and flowers, it doesn't apply to them. The orchid guarantee plainly states they'll send you whatever they damn well want.

Realizing this was going nowhere at long-distance charges, I pointed Mahehalani to the description on their website. It couldn't have been more clear: "4 Blooming Dendrobium orchids," it says. These clearly weren't blooming. Isn't that like sending a Pinto when somebody ordered a Range Rover?

Au contraire, Mahehalani said, with poi and a doobie possibly nearby. The orchids I received are blooming: the blooms just haven't opened yet. They never send open flowers.

They just post pictures of them.

Screwed by Hawaiians. Mahalo!

P. S. You also don't get those cute little pots.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Psychiatrists Weigh In On Rosie O'Donnell

David Letterman's got a great running gag: every night he makes a joke about Rosie O'Donnell which he prefaces by asking how many folks in the audience have read her new book, "Celebrity Detox." When no one claps, they break out laughing.

Obviously this proves that nobody cares about Rosie. Absolute proof positive that we don't give a damn.

Oh, except the book doesn't come out until next month.

Today the New York Post dives into gory detail about Rosie's craziness, quoting two "shrinks" about her extensive mental problems.

Ranting Rosie O'Donnell is full of rage, has a profound distrust of men, craves public adoration, shows signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and dishes out her anger mostly to women because of deep-seated abandonment issues over her mother's death, said a psychiatrist after reading her latest memoir, "Celebrity Detox."

The book is a Freudian frolic down memory lane that reveals clues to a secret trauma from her troubled childhood, two shrinks say.

O'Donnell is unable to control her neuroses or change her behavior, says Dr. Robert Butterworth, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist who specializes in childhood trauma. "Freud would have a field day with this book. . . ," he states. "Obviously, she has a whole thing with men. Donald Trump is like a substitute daddy paying for something that happened in her past."

"It's a book about her relationships with women, particularly the two 'Barbaras' -- Walters and Streisand," says Manhattan psychiatrist Susan Jaffe. "They are mother figures to Rosie. Streisand is the ideal mother, and Walters, by not speaking up for Rosie, abandoned her, like Rosie's mom did by dying. And Rosie's very disappointed in that."

Butterworth sees flashes of post-traumatic stress disorder in Rosie's angry eruptions, and says her early penchant for self-mutilation might also signal a more serious personality disorder, the doctor said, at least during her childhood.

Post "Shrinks" Diagnose Rosie

My sentiments exactly: the woman is an absolute mess. In fact, her craziness is sooo all-powerful and overwhelming it even make mental-health professionals forget about their rules of ethics:

American Psychiatric Association: The Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry

Section 7, subheading 3:

On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.

Ethical Rules of Psychiatry

So, my opinion? Rosie's neurotic. And some doctors are unprofessional, gossipy quacks who'd sell out their parents for a few inches in the Post.

But who knows what I'd think if I'd ever gotten a degree?

Dr. Susan Jaffe, M.D.
220 East 54th Street, Suite 1C
New York, New York 10022

Dr. Robert R. Butterworth, Ph.D.

Google to read Dr. Butterworth's opinions on Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Mel Gibson and the Olsen Twins.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Airport Bathroom Becomes Popular Tourist Stop

(Minneapolis, Minnesota)  When tourists head for the bathroom at the Minneapolis airport, it's not because they have to go. It's because they want to see the stall made famous by Senator Larry Craig.

The staff at the airport's information counter are being asked for about it dozens of times a day. "It's become a tourist attraction," said Karen Evans, information specialist.

On their way to Guatemala, Jon and Sally Westby of Minneapolis dropped by. "We had to just stop and check out the bathroom," Sally said. "In fact, it's Jon's second time - he was here last week already."

Of course. "Honey," Jon says, "why don't you look around the gift shop? I may be snapping pictures for a while."

Oh, Baby -- Click That Shutter.

Lying in the Sun

It seems like every time I go on vacation I have to explain my sexuality to somebody, and it’s starting to piss me off. It starts when I make hotel reservations. “We don’t have a fitness center,” the clerk says, “but we have a lovely garden. I’m sure your wife will appreciate that.”

A friend and I want to go to one of those debauched, all-inclusive resorts, to lie in the sun and have sex with total strangers. “Sandals is a great couples resort,” the travel agent chirps, “but it’s not much fun for single men!”

I’m in Boston and need to see leather, so I tell a cabdriver to take me to the Eagle. “You don’t you wanna go there, bub,” he advises, in a seemingly-helpful tone. “That bar’s for gay guys.”

By far the worst was at a hotel in the south of France. A paramour and I were celebrating our two-month anniversary, so I’d booked us a suite at a converted convent. Behind the desk was a tiny old woman in a threadbare black robe who looked like she’d been abandoned by the last inhabitants. She pulled up our reservation, her hands shaking like a chilly chihuahua. “But someone has made une erreur,” she said. “You are two men, but you have zee room with one bed only! I will change for you at once.”

Mark and I froze like snowmen as tension crackled in the air. Now, call me crazy, but I’d happily have gone with separate beds. They’d probably be big enough for two, and we could always push them together. I’d rather sleep in the bathtub, in fact, than explain homosexuality to some dried apple of a woman who’d given her life to Jesus. Mark, however, wasn’t going to let it slide. He’d bore her to death discussing everything from prepubescent gender identification to courtship rituals among the Chippewa before he’d cave in. In three and a half hours, I predicted, she’d be swinging from the rafters by her rosary.

He stepped up to the counter like a speaker headed for a podium. “We asked for one bed when we made the reservation,” he said, “and it wasn’t a mistake. You see, the common assumption that everyone is heterosexual is a political rather than a biological tenet, and the truth is -- “

His words veered into a yelp as my foot thwacked the back of his knee. I pulled him into a huddle where I mimed “tiny” and “nun” and, well, everything short of “I’m trapped in a box!” He exhaled hard and backed away and I approached the desk. “See, I was in the Army,” I said, “stationed in Korea. There was a shortage of beds, so everybody had to share. For nine years I slept in tight quarters with other men, and I got so used to it that now I can’t sleep alone.”

“Oh, le pauvre!” the woman gasped, looking like Macaulay Culkin at age one hundred ninety. “I am so sorry!”

“It’s not that bad,” I said defensively. “I mean, we do that ‘Those aren’t pillows!’ routine at least once a night.”

We got the room we wanted but even before we left the lobby Mark was yelling at me. “Coward! Why did you always have to lie? How are things ever going to change if everyone keeps dodging the truth?”

“I’m on vacation,” I protested. “I didn’t drag us here just so we could explain to Sister Bertrille that we like to touch each others’ willies.”

He smacked the button for the elevator. “So what was your excuse yesterday?”

He had a point there. I told my landlord it was fine to drop by unexpectedly, told my mom I had to hang up because a football game was on TV, and told Mark I thought it really was room odorizer when I bought it.

It took an hour or two for the argument to dissipate, but like all lies it kept coming back to haunt us, always in that Tiny Nun form. We ventured to the fitness center for a quick workout, and there she was cleaning the equipment. “Messieurs,” she twinkled, admiring our physiques, “how zee ladies must sigh over you!”

Mark glared at her. “As Alfred Kinsey discovered in the 1950s, approximately ten percent of the male population would similarly sigh over -- “

I was afraid Tiny Nun was going to grab a dumbbell and pound herself out of her misery so I jumped in. “Next to saving the whales,” I barked, “that’s our goal in life!”

We’d gone eight hours without speaking when I suggested marking our anniversary with champagne. Mark cracked a smile, but it vanished when the skinny figure appeared at our door. “Do we celebrate?” she sang, Dom Perignon in her bony claw.

“We most certainly do,” Mark snapped in his frostiest tone. “We celebrate that despite the patriarchal intolerance of same-sex, transgendered, and bi relationships -- “

Tiny Nun glanced frantically at our open windows but sensed they weren’t high enough to do any real damage. I hollered over him. “We celebrate a wonderful city, a wonderful hotel, and a WONDERFUL FRIENDSHIP!” I screamed.

The little woman vanished like fog, leaving lukewarm champagne and the shards of our relationship behind. “You know what?” Mark said after swigging his glass in one gulp. “I don’t think this is going to work.”

“I know,” I said, “I know. I’m a great guy, but you’re not ready for a relationship.”

He shook his head. “No, I’m ready for a relationship. Just not with a liar like you.”

I thought about protesting but he just might have nailed me. The more I thought about it, though, the madder I got. Sure, I lied occasionally -- but always for a good cause. I tried to make people feel better. I tried to spare their feelings, so they didn’t have to dwell on how stupid they were. Did that make me evil? Did that damn me to an eternity of singlehood? By the time our bottle ran dry I’d convinced myself: I wasn’t the James Gandolfini in this relationship.

After two more days passed without a word we wandered out to the hotel terrace for coffee before the flight home. We nearly jumped out of our seats when the Catholic Freddy Krueger materialized with a basket of pastries. “Still eet eez only zee two of you?” she quizzed, eyebrows springing up like McDonalds’ arches. I watched as she scanned the grounds expectantly, as if at any moment Catherine Deneuve and Jacqueline Bisset were going to burst in wearing big floppy hats and give both of us wet French kisses. And I decided I’d had enough.

Mark fired up again, using words like “ontology” and “taxonomy” and “fin-de-siecle,” but Tiny Nun had a butter knife and she looked like she could use it. I picked up a breadstick in my right hand, a bagel in my left, and pointed the former at the latter. “Babe,” I said, “I’m only going to explain this once.”

Friday, September 14, 2007

Google Announces Moon Challenge Contest

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Google, the internet search engine, has announced a $30 million contest for the first non-governmental flight to the moon.

The money will go to the first private company that can land on the moon and beam back a gigabyte of images and video to Earth, a spokesperson for Google said Thursday.

Thought to be in the running for the prize are the robotics department of Carnegie Mellon University, Richard Branson's Spaceship Company, and Alice Kramden.

OJ Simpson Questioned in Casino Robbery

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Investigators questioned O.J. Simpson about a break-in at a casino hotel room involving sports memorabilia, police said Friday.

The break-in was reported at the Palace Station casino late Thursday night, police spokesman Jose Montoya said.

Simpson later issued a press release saying that if he did indeed break in, it was by changing into swim trunks, wrapping a wet towel around his shoulders, then convincing a busy maid that he'd just returned from the pool and realized he'd forgotten his key.

OJ Questioned in Casino Robbery

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tooth vs. Beauty

Eight months after I moved to New York, there were still errands to be done: I needed to send change of address notices, I needed to reprogram my phone, and I needed to find a dentist.

On the latter, at least, it’s not like I hadn’t tried. I picked out the guy I wanted but getting an appointment was like reservations at Nobu. Whenever I called the line was busy, and when I finally got through he was booked.

I can wait, I told the receptionist. Next week would be great, but when chickens ruled the world was okay too.

She quizzed me for references, clearly unhappy about dealing with a commoner. I knew that admitting I read in the Enquirer that he cleaned Matthew Broderick’s teeth wasn’t the best way to win her over, but when I paused to think she leapt into the lurch. “I sorry,” she yipped in a fake Spanish accent. “No esta uno dentisto aqui.” Click.

And so one weekend with dirty teeth I headed to Tribeca for their annual artists’ open house. These were the studios where folks like Warhol and Basquiat had worked, and now art lovers treated the hallowed halls like church. I zigzagged in and out of studios as I realized this place was like a church: Our Lady of the Hopelessly Untalented.

There were paintings of nude women who looked like they were smuggling potatoes, and abstract paintings that looked like my stomach contents after a Swedish buffet. Instead of the usual artist chitchat about figure and line and movement, everybody was talking medicine. Fixing noses, bypassing arteries, patching hernias. By the time I reached the second floor I’d started asking myself:

Is every “artist” in Tribeca really just a doctor with a hobby?

On the fourth floor I ran into another visitor wearing the same horrified expression as me. “What do you think of this stuff?” I whispered as the “artist” greeted her guests.

He grimaced like Ian McKellan discovering Louie Anderson was his blind date. “Wonderful studio,” he said. “Isn’t it a great space?”

I grinned. One thing I loved about New Yorkers was how deft they were with criticism. They didn’t just blurt out negative opinions, since word could get around. Instead they dodged the truth like prizefighters. A restaurant that served roadkill had flattering light. A store the size of a postage stamp had impeccable flow. And a gallery with horrible art -- well, it was certainly a great space.

“It’s incredible,” I agreed. “There’s certainly no shortage of . . . air.”

I poked my head into a particularly horrifying studio, where the clinking of crystal coaxed me in. I was chugging merlot when I spotted Dr. Michael Pennington, Dentist to the Stars, talking orthodontia with an admirer. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have recognized him but I subscribe to New York magazine and even caught the shirtless pix.

I ambled up to him the second he was free. “Did you paint these?” I asked, simulating enthusiasm. “They are just amazing.

When he opened his mouth his teeth lit up like milk bottles in the fridge. “Thanks. It’s nice to meet an art lover.”

“I’ve been trying to get in to see you. One of my fillings is loose, and it’s been a year since -- “

He waved a hairy hand like Queen Elizabeth batting away gnats. “You’ll have to call my office. But I’m afraid there’s a waiting list.”

I was trying to decide whether to cry or beg when he cocked his head toward a nearby canvas. Significant glances ping-ponged between us, and eventually it clicked. “Some of your work has moved me profoundly,” I declared as my throat threatened to seize up. “In fact, I might have to buy one. Are you sure you can’t squeeze me in?”

He smiled and his crow’s feet crinkled. “That might make a difference. I couldn’t say no to a fan.”

I scanned the paintings again, pretending to bask in their beauty but actually looking for the cheapest. $1800 for a still life of either an apple or Ed Asner. Still, it was a small price to pay to bump gums with Christy Turlington. “I’ll take this one,” I said. “I can’t resist all the color and movement.” Though if that were true I’d be the world’s biggest Charo fan.

I wrote out a check and he gave me his business card. “That’s my private line,” he said. “Tell Darcy I said to squeeze you in.”

I thanked him profusely and grabbed the picture, tromping downstairs with mixed emotions. I was going to see New York’s Hottest Dentist. But I wasn’t supporting the arts: I was inflating the ego and the bank account of a billionaire hack.

On the ground floor I bumped into a woman wearing the same sheepish expression and carrying another Pennington under her arm. She peered at mine. “That painting is really something,” she declared. “You don’t often see all those colors together.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Yours is quite an achievement in . . . flatness.”

She sighed. “They stink, don’t they?”

“The stinkiest. Mine makes me feel sick to my stomach.”

She pushed open the heavy metal door and sunlight spilled in. “In that case,” she said, “better head back to the fifth floor. You’ll want to buy a Kaufman.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wal-Mart Rolls Out New Company Slogan

"Save Money. Live Better."

My guess was "Buy Chinese And Take A Chance."

Wal-Mart Rolls Out New Company Slogan

Luscious Lance Gets His Chance

I was walking Snowflake when I saw this flyer taped to a neighborhood tree. That's what trees are for in New York: they're doggie toilets, as well as cork boards for folks with something to say.

Even for amateur wrestling, this is a motley crew. Tiberius has clearly shot up too many Mexican steroids. It looks like the only exercise Mad Dog gets is trying to work a comb through his beard. The Shaolin Assassin has obviously eaten too much Shaolin Spaghetti.

And what can I say about Luscious Lance? The details are fuzzy even with the actual flyer in hand. On his head is the Disheveled model, Ash Blonde shade, from the Courtney Love House of Wigs. He has either a corsage or an angry chinchilla pinned to the lapel of his Dress Barn oversized trench. There seems to be a large clock dangling over his hand, like he's some kind of gay Flavor Flav. And even in black and white, it's clear the lipstick and eyeshadow have been applied with a trowel and still can't hide his manly complexion.

I'm almost tempted to go to this event just to see how Luscious fares. I'm hoping he gets paired up with Crazy Carl Catholic: you know, the balding, mild-mannered accountant who leads old women to their pews on Sunday and then trawls during the week. I can just picture Carl splashing Lance with holy water before sucking down a six-pack of Pabst and trying to feel up all the pubescent girls in the house.

Or perhaps, since Lance is clearly not completely male, he'll be paired with Carl's wife, Cuckoo Carla Catholic. She could lecture Luscious on Jesus' legacy of love, then go home and slap her daughter Sofia silly for even thinking about dating somebody black.

Even if Lance loses -- and based on my experience with faux-wrestling, he will -- he'll still have a future around here. This is an old Italian neighborhood: the old women all wear cheap, ratty housedresses, and the young ones wear midriff-bearing halter tops they've Bedazzled with glittery expletives.

Lance will still have a shot at Best Dressed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Obituary for a Parrot

What is up with the New York Times? Lately it's seemed like the whole paper has been taken over by shallow, rich white women, with entire sections composed of nothing but stories about botox and Marc Jacobs and where all the socialites are flying today.

And now they think we're interested in the words of a squawky, fluffy-headed peanut-eater.

Heck, I won't even read Andrea Peyser.

Obituary for a Parrot

"Roots," Boots, and Big Galoots: Eddie Carmel

With so many giants around, it was frequently difficult to tell them apart. The newspapers solved the problem by giving them titles. They dubbed an Irish Giant, an Icelandic Giant, a Cornish Giant and a Arabian Giant. Eddie Carmel, an 8' 9" man from the Bronx, was named "The Jewish Giant," probably because "The New York Giant" would have confused sports fans.

Eddie toured with Ringling Brothers for many years, and was photographed by Diane Arbus. One day he decided to cash in on his fame, so he traveled to Hollywood and auditioned for films. The doors of respectability didn't exactly swing wide open, so he ended up playing the monster in a string of B-movies. He followed these up with records that were also about monsters. Eventually his options grew thin, and he died at the age of thirty-six in a hospital in the Bronx.

It took twelve men to carry him to his grave, and they're still complaining.

Pick up "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" from Amazon, starting at $3.97 used. Get it even cheaper if you buy it with "The Crawling Eye."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Read Along With the New Gay Barbarian Webcomic

Recently I got an email from "Homoludenz" asking me to blog about a "new gay barbarian webcomic" by Dale Lazarov and Delic Van Loond. Since I'm totally gay positive and an easy mark, I'm happy to oblige. Plus, I haven't found anybody to complain about today.

The only problem is, I can't figure it out. Isn't there any dialog? Aren't there captions? For readers as brain-dead as myself, I wrote up what seems to be the story line and I offer it to you here.

Page 1

STRANGER: Behold, yonder is a village! Oscar, my trusty four-footed steed, let us descend thither. I am in desperate need of a gymnasium: I haven't worked out in a fortnight, and my delts are beginning to sag.

OSCAR: At once, master! Methinks we may discover the bottom half of my tail!

Page 2

WOMAN #1: Who is that fine stranger with the callouses on his firm behind?

WOMAN #2: I hath never laid eyes on him before. He is so fetching, so manly! I wager you twenty farthings he hies either to the brothel or to the gaol.

WOMAN #1: Ha! You have no eye for character, my sister. I'll bet he goes straight to Williams-Sonoma. (Pause.) I win.

OSCAR: Okay, Einstein, I'm supposed to reach the water exactly how?

STRANGER: Why, what mystery is this? Some peculiar kind of ceremony wherein a berobed holy man bestows his blessing upon two people?

BARMAID: It's called "Marriage." Judging from your hair and your necklace, though, it's not something you need to worry about.

Page 3

STRANGER: Oh, okay. I will take my leave in a backward manner, because if you see my hot, tight butt you may start to suspect that I'm gay.

OSCAR: Master, are we finished here? I'm hot, I'm bored, and I've got a collapsible umbrella stuck in my mane. Meanwhile, I think I broke a nail.

STRANGER: I shall yank your shoe off with my bare hands and carry it around. Thank the gods I bought boots with knee pads! (To woman): Greetings, oval-headed wench! Didn't I see your offspring in a Maurice Sendak book?

WOMAN: Ye be crazy: I stole him from Lynda Barry. If ye be require a blacksmith, look no further. There's one in the next panel, hence.

Last Page

BLACKSMITH: Whoa! Greetings, Fairest of Strangers! That be a mighty fine ass you have.

STRANGER: Ahoy, my new friend in the sleeveless Calvin Klein tee! Ye surely be no soothsayer, for by the gods the noble Oscar is a horse. Likewise, though, I'm appreciative of the airy sway of your Crested Nuthatches dangling in the breeze. Can you perhaps pound replacement footware for my poor befuddled beast?

BLACKSMITH: Yes, I certainly can. Does he have sensitive feet, like the docile Cecil here, or can I use the regular mallet?

OSCAR: Pound away, buddy. I can take whatever you dish out!

BLACKSMITH: Your loincloth rides up your crotch, displaying a most perplexing bareness. Have you an explanation?

STRANGER: The last village I visited had a salon where wax was dripped upon my nethers and then ripped off. The experience was quite alarming, but it leaves me smooth as a baby's bottom for near upon six weeks.

BLACKSMITH: Well, then, it sounds like something I should try. When I don my knickers it looks like Gene Shalit wearing a blindfold.

STRANGER: First attend to my horse, and then I will demonstrate. I trust you have no problem with pain?

BLACKSMITH: It shall be a new experience for me. No drugs, no scat, and "rhubarb" is our safe-word, okay?

OSCAR: Do you have Revlon's Turquoise Temptation? I'm feeling a little bit flirty today.

Friday, September 7, 2007

ABC's New Fall Season

I went to a screening last night of several of ABC's new shows. Evidently TV budgets have shrunk so low that actual filming has been scuttled in lieu of People In India Who Know Photoshop. (Please, watch the first three minutes of "Pushing Daisies" and tell me that isn't half a boy and a dog's head floating over a field of flowers.) And no experience is required for the writing staff. Of the three-and-one-tenth programs I saw, all were torpedoed by bad writing.

Wacky quirks pass for character development. From "Samantha Who?" -- and warning, the dialog I quote isn't even close to the real thing, because I ain't no tape recorder: "If he really loved you, he'd know you adore Elvis Costello and you always sneeze three times."

Cutesy narrators drone on and on about cutesy details. In "Pushing Daisies" (I'm thinking they dropped the "Up" just so I wouldn't call it PUD) the narrator talked roughly ten times more than all the other characters combined, telling us wacky little facts like this:

NARRATOR: And then in an accident with dirty kitty litter, her aunt lost the sight in one eye!

By far the worst, though, was all the supposedly-intelligent people acting incredibly stupid to further the plot along -- what I call the "Oh, Okay!" school of writing. Take "Dirty Sexy Money," for instance:

Nick (Peter Krause) is an altruistic lawyer with a glass-walled office and closets full of expensive suits, but what he really wants is to open an orphanage in an impoverished nation. His father, a lawyer who worked for a shady, crazy, "royal" family, dies under mysterious circumstances. Nick confronts the patriarch of the clan, Tripp Darling (Donald Sutherland), at the funeral:

NICK: You bastard! You thief! I don't want anything to do with you or your family ever again!

TRIPP: Come work for me. I'll pay you five million dollar a year.

NICK: Oh. Okay!

In "Samantha Who?", Sam (Christina Applegate) is a naif surrounded by idiots and bitches. She got hit on the head, and now her memory is gone. What part does she play in all this? Could she -- shudder! -- be a bitch too? (There are flashbacks. She is.) How can she ever learn who she really is?

She confronts the wise old Tom-Waits-quoting black doorman. "If you want to know the end of the story," he says, "start at the beginning."

SAM: You mean --

WOTWQBD: Yes. Move back in with that ridiculously stupid family of yours.

SAM: Oh. Okay!

"Pushing Daisies" has more rules than Monopoly. Ned (some guy) has a busy childhood, making for a very busy narrator. He discovers early on that he can bring dead things back to life! Then he discovers that if these folks live more than sixty seconds, some innocent bystander will die! And then he discovers if he touches the people he brought back, they'll die again! This time for real! Forever!

He explains this phenomena to two different people.

BOTH: Oh. Okay.

On the plus side, each of these programs was oddly educational. Things I learned:

Amnesia makes you stupid. (SW: A friend reminds Sam she's an alcoholic, so Sam races straight to an AA meeting. Standing at the snack table and stuffing her mouth with lemon bars, she announces "Hi! I've never been here before!" Pause. "Oh, wait. Unless I have. Have I? Anybody recognize me? Hey, where are the donuts?")

Even magical piemakers never get a single customer. (PuD)

To get your crazy family's attention, break something big. (DSM.)

If you lose your memory, go live with the guy who says he's your boyfriend. (SW)

Having a parent die makes you stupid. (DSM: Nick goes to his father's funeral but waits outside, thinking he probably wasn't invited.)

If your second touch kills somebody forever, better keep a couple feet between you. (PuD)

Crazed smugglers stop strangling you if you pretend to stop breathing. (PuD)

Last, for everybody keeping track, we've hit a new low in terms of minority representation: Blacks are extras, sidekicks, and wise Tom Waits-quoting doormen. The GLBT world consists of one tranny hooker. And there are twice as many people with eyepatches than Hispanics.

Of course, only the former know the singular of "shrimps."

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Fun in the Fifty States

I don't know what's scarier about this story. One, that a pack of hairless grey/blue creatures with vampire fangs was roaming around Texas sucking the blood out of helpless chickens. Or two, that an old woman with a penchant for hunting found the body of one of these things, took it home and cut it up -- apparently tossing the body in the freezer while toting the head around to show her friends.

Okay -- I know which is scarier.

Jesus, and I'm embarrassed to have Lean Cuisine in mine.

Texas woman shows off her entry for the annual Ugliest Dog Head competition.

Bonds. Lame Bonds.

As a poor guy in Manhattan, I've amassed thousands of tips for saving money. I gave up buying newspapers since it's easy to find discarded ones on the subway. I go to gallery openings on hot summer nights for wine and hors d'oeuvres, and also to save on my air conditioning bill. I get my hair cut by trainees at a famous salon for a fraction of their usual charge.

Eventually, though, I approached the age where all those little schemes turned unattractive. When you're a fresh-faced twenty-year old, no matter how poor you are, gallery owners are happy to see you. When you're fifty, though, and wearing castoffs pulled from Goodwill's dollar pile, they don't exactly greet you with flutes of champagne.

Now, I have no problem with being poor: I just don't want to have to worry about it. I don't want to be the cranky old man with the calculator, figuring how much my share of dinner will cost, how little I can leave for a tip, how much I'll have left for the rest of my life. "Let's see," I'd mutter, punching in the numbers with a gnarled fingernail. "I've got fifteen thousand dollars, and maybe twenty-three years left. That gives me three dollars and twelve cents a day. A six-ounce can of Sheba is seventy-nine cents. . . . . "

Fidelity Investments sent me a flyer about retirement planning, and it got me worried enough to stop by their office. I assumed they wouldn't be interested in the measly 401K I'd amassed during a brief period of responsibility, but "Chuck" assured me they were. He said Fidelity had thousands of funds to choose from, some earning as much as 20 percent a year, and asked what kind of return I was currently getting. When I said four percent he stared at me like I'd offered to clean his wingtips with my tongue.

I filled out a stack of paperwork to transfer the money over, and then there was one last decision to make: what fund should I pick? I'm totally bearish on America -- the dollar has dropped so low we're pretty much just a swap meet for foreign tourists -- so stocks were out. I wanted absolute safety, I told Chuck, and he assured me that Fidelity had the perfect fund for that.

Chuck suggested FSHBX, a short-term bond fund with one main objective: DON'T LOSE MONEY. That's more or less my mantra, the reason I still pinned my lunch money to my 2(x)ist briefs, so I agreed. He hit a few buttons on his computer and it was official: I wasn't just an idiot with a 401K plan: I was a guy with a mutual fund.

Once we were done, Chuck pointed me to a conversation nook where a passel of besuited businessmen sat. "Any time you want to do research," he said, "feel free to drop by." He showed me a stack of free newspapers -- The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the New York Times -- and the coffee-pod machine, also free.

I wiped my eyes, unable to believe my good luck. I was like a frat guy wandering into an Applebee's and discovering the "Deal or No Deal" models mudwrestling inside. My eyes darted from one handsome, prosperous-looking man in pinstripes to another, all chatting happily and sipping free coffee. If they'd had bowl haircuts and an uncontrollable itch they still would have been out of my league.

"I just might do that," I told Chuck.

The next morning I was waiting when they unlocked the door, and I sprinted for the coffee and newspapers. One by one the Prosperous Types appeared. We made eye contact, smiled, exchanged pleasantries. By noon, I knew, somebody'd be naked. I sat back in my chair, feeling like Ferdinand Magellan discovering heaven, and caught some numbers scrolling across the bottom of a TV screen. With a quick, automatic calculation in my head, I realized I'd just lost two hundred bucks.

By eleven o'clock the Prosperous Types were eyeing me curiously. I'd lost four hundred dollars, and was sweating so much passing waterfowl were circling my underarms. I tried to maintain my calm, but with all the newspapers and TVs and computer terminals, it was all too easy to track my account. Every minute it seemed to drop further. Chuck said that usually when stocks go down, bonds go up . . . yet the market dropped and my fund sank too. The market reversed course but my fund continued its way down. Bonds went up, my fund dropped. Bonds went down, drop drop drop.

By mid-afternoon, my hopes for meeting men was ancient history. As I visualized living my golden years in a cardboard box, sex shrank to a distant second space. When they finally threw me out at the end of the day I had a twitch you don't usually get without bent forks and electrical outlets.

Over the next few days I turned into a nervous wreck. I gained a wide-eyed stare of disbelief, a pallor from spending all my time indoors, and wrinkles from worrying about my dwindling savings. Fidelity has a tiny disclaimer on all their paperwork: Past Performance Is No Guarantee Of Future Results. That was absolutely true, I discovered. In fact, tossing dice gave a better clue. After the fund dropped a quarter a share, I decided Chuck and I needed to have a little talk. "This is a 'capital preservation' fund," I reminded him. "Why isn't it preserving my capital?"

He clicked away at his computer. "Well, the fund has some exposure to subprime mortgages. It owns some American Home."

All the blood in my body raced to my head, and if this was a cartoon I'd have morphed into a whistling teakettle. American Home? The subprime mortgage company that just filed for bankruptcy? The folks who'd give a high-interest home loan to a dog that could hold a pen in its mouth? "Correct me if I'm wrong, Chuck, but isn't FSHBX a conservative fund? Why would somebody think subprime mortgages aren't risky?'

He shrugged. "Maybe they weren't back when they bought them."

Chuck tapped more keys and told me the subprime bonds weren't maturing for another year, which meant there was lots of time for a further dive. I couldn't take it: I was trying to find a man here, but I was so nervous watching my portfolio shrink I could hardly keep my coffee down. Nobody wants to date somebody who shakes so much passing strangers ask them for rides.

I told Chuck to sell.

After he filed my order, Chuck had all sorts of suggestions on what to do with the remaining money. I smiled and thanked him. I didn't say that I only take the advice of idiots once.

My money -- what there is left of it -- is still at Fidelity, in their safest money market fund. It's back to earning four percent again. Chuck occasionally suggests better ways to invest it, but I tell him I'm not ready. If I do invest it again, in fact, I'll go for something less risky. Give it to a gypsy to gamble, or hide it in the forest under a rock.

The good news is, I'm much more relaxed at my "research" sessions. Whether the market goes up or down, I read my USA Today and smile. I don't twitch when MSNBC pulls up another graph. I wear the confident smile that tells the Prosperous Types that my portfolio and I are okay now. Eventually they'll forget that I was a wreck, I tell myself as I grab another cup of French Roast.

Really, it's one of the best freebies in New York. Worth about a dollar-fifty a cup.

In five hundred and eighty-seven cups, my calculator says, Fidelity and I will be square.


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

From MySpace to My Space

I should never have let Raoul move in. He has nothing to do before his clogging class starts, and he just won't leave me alone.

I’ve told him several hundred times that I need to concentrate when I write. I need to sit alone for long periods of time, staring at the computer and thinking. Intelligent thoughts rarely pop into my head, and they need peace and quiet in order to grow. It doesn’t help when he comes in looking for that book he’s been reading, or suddenly decides to vacuum, or needs a carpeted space to practice his routine for "America's Got Talent."

We've argued about this several hundred times but never resolved it, and I know it's only going to cause trouble if I bring it up again. He doesn’t get it. He says he tries to give me my space, but since I work in the den there’s nothing he can do. It’s not his fault he needs a stamp. Or his tennis racket. And sometimes, you know, you just have to try on your snowshoes.

Which destroys my train of thought, and ruins my writing. In fact, if I’d been hired to write the Ten Commandments, there’d be exactly three of them now. Because just after I’d thought up the one about murder he'd have come in asking if I thought Mango was a good name for a puppy. While I was pondering adultery he’d knock and ask if I recognized a tune he was humming. And when I thought about honoring moms and dads he’d poke his head in and ask if I knew how to get popcorn stains out of underwear.

In fact --

What's that, honey? Really? A cloud that looks like a turnip? My, that’s interesting.

Now, what was I talking about?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Wrong Numbers From Hell

Even before I left the store my shiny new cell phone started to ring. It took me a minute to figure out how to answer it, and another minute to realize that instead of actually putting an end near your mouth you're just supposed to hold it by your ear and yell, "HELLO?"

"Hey, bro. It's me, bro," a languid male voice drawled. "You got some H, or some K, or maybe some Js for your good bud?"

This sounded like an obscene phone call from Pat Sajak. "You don't want to buy a vowel?" I asked.

Pause. "What? You got some E?"

Rather than waiting for the guy to solve the puzzle I punched "End" and dropped the phone back in my pocket. Not two minutes later it rang again. "Dude," a drunken female slurred, "can you front me an ounce of Acapulco gold, Panama red or Kentucky blue?"

This time I didn't say a word before hanging up. I mean, even if I did deal drugs I wouldn't sell them to some hop-head Martha Stewart. Jesus, I thought, do New Yorkers actually need their weed to match their drapes?

After three more drug calls in five minutes I turned the phone off, and when I checked back an hour later I had 62 messages. "Call me back! Call me back!" they all begged. "Please, please, please!"

This is crazy, I thought. It’s like being married to Amy Winehouse.

I'd bought the phone for a New Year's resolution, hoping to magically become efficient, but instead I was so irritated I could hardly think straight. Flip. Beep-bop-boop-bip-beep-bop-boop. "Hi, this is Felicia at Verizon. How may I help you?"

"Hi, Felicia. This is Roman. I just bought a phone this morning, and already I've gotten six hundred calls from strangers looking for drugs."

"We can fix that in a jiffy," she chirped before putting me on hold. I twitched involuntarily. I mean, the last time I heard that phrase I woke up with an $8,000 plastic-surgery bill and Joan Rivers' nose.

A couple of minutes later she came back sounding enthusiastic. "All taken care of," she said. "I got you a new number."

That was too easy, I thought, and three seconds later when the phone rang again I realized I was right.

"I saw your picture in the Voice," a guy growled. His voice was deep and manly but it sounded new to the neighborhood. "You're friggin' hot."

I was nearly positive he didn't really mean me, since the Voice doesn't often print photo spreads of middle-aged computer programmers. If I said it wasn't me, though, it'd be like saying I wasn't friggin' hot, which I was. I said thanks.

"No prob. Look, here's what I'm thinking. I'm lying on your table, wearing nothing but a towel, and you're standing next to me in a short, flimsy bathrobe. You're playing straight, taunting me with your hot, hairy legs. You massage me with hot oil, your fingers working their way up my inner thighs, and your robe is slowly falling open, so every time I look I see a little more of your hunky body. Finally, when I can't stand it anymore I reach up and grab your -- "

Flip. Beep-bop-boop-bip-beep-bop-boop. "Hi, this is Felicia at Verizon. How may I help you?"

"Hi, Felicia," I said. "This is Roman again. That number was better, but my boyfriend Raoul doesn't like me massaging other guys to fruition. Can we try again?"

"Sure," Felicia said, but when the next number rang I was hardly surprised. "Bud!" somebody said in Cheech or Chong's voice. "The fight's set for Friday, behind the garage at the corner of 150th and Lex. Can you bring Tiny Tyson?"

"Tiny Tyson?"

"You know. Your cock." Pause. "Is this Shuggie?"

"This is Roman. Shuggie doesn't have this number anymore."

"Hiya, Roman." Pause. "You got a cock?"

I hung up, just out of habit. I'd never done well with this conversation in the past and I wasn't about to try my luck now. Flip. Beep-bop-boop-bip-beep-bop-boop. "Hi, this is Felicia at Verizon. How may I help you?"

"Hi, Felicia," I said, after an extended sigh. "It's Roman again. Look, maybe I should explain something. I don't sell drugs, I don't massage people and I’m not interested in animal sports." Then I asked her the question that's probably been bothering all four law-abiding New Yorkers: "Is it possible to get a phone number here that hasn't been ruined by a felon?"

Felicia put me on hold for two and a half hours, and I learned the words to fourteen Billy Joel songs. I couldn't imagine how she expected to find me a good number. It's not like they ask you what you do for a living when you get a phone, and even if they did, nobody would admit to crime. But she sounded chipper when she returned. "Roman," she said, "I found one. This guy returned his phone because he couldn't afford it, so he couldn't have been doing anything illegal."

This girl was way too smart to be working customer service for some faceless multinational corporation. I thanked her profusely and hung up, but as I sat with fingers crossed the godforsaken thing shrieked again.

That was it. "Look!" I yelled. "Let me make a few things crystal-clear. First, I'm not going to sell you drugs. I don't do drugs and I don't sell drugs. Second, I'm not going to touch you. I'm not giving you a massage. I'm not running my hand up your thigh. And I'm not going to let you reach under my robe to touch me. Last, and most regrettably, my cock is out-of-service, on vacation, permanently out to lunch, and it has no interest in encountering yours behind somebody's garage."

There was a pause on the other end as someone absorbed my announcement. "Good for you, Father," a shaky voice replied. "I just resolved to watch less TV. Now, can you spare some time Saturday to baptize the baby?"

Monday, September 3, 2007

I Am Like The Post Office

I take off on major holidays.

Well, and occasionally I service people who come to my window.