Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Monday, December 12, 2016
Merry Christmas! This letter fulfills all of the obligations created when your parents remitted $11 to the North Pole Communications Coalition for procurement of our Silver Package especially for you.
The Silver Package is a very thoughtful Christmas gift, though not quite as thoughtful as the Gold or Platinum package. It must have been very important for your folks to save a few dollars considering that instead of a personal note from the North Pole you're getting a mimeographed sheet from a guy who graduated from Cal State Northridge. And instead of us actually addressing you by name we'll be calling you CHILD from here on.
Anyway, CHILD, this is Marv, Santa's Community Outreach Coordinator to New York, Maine and Vermont. Hopefully you find it exciting to receive a communication from somebody who may not be one of Santa's employees but could be a independent contractor depending on how the courts decide. Sure, maybe it isn't as exciting as a note from a reindeer (Platinum package) or an elf (Gold package), but thanks to me not a single focus group on the Eastern seaboard has ever run short on muffins.
I'd like to tell you that Santa has read your letter and can't wait to visit you in person. Unfortunately, that's not part of this package. I am allowed to say that Santa has been given your note, though at the present time it's wedged between sixteen unopened Citibank statements and three subscription-renewal requests from SMITHSONIAN magazine.
I'd also like to say that Santa thanks you for your generous offer of milk and cookies, but in his own words, "I ain't eatin' no cheapskate food." After all, if your folks won't fork over three extra bucks for a Genuine North Pole postage stamp and a "Santa, Stop Here!" window sticker, what guarantee does he have that your mom won't use cheap-ass slice-and-bake cookie dough? That she won't use lard instead of butter? That she won't swap out expensive shit like pecans for moldy-ass raisins? The Santa that I know would say thanks, but, you know, why don't you just feed that shit to the dog?
Anyway, the good news is, we would like to inform you that you are provisionally off the naughty list. You would have made it onto the Nice List, but your dad would rather ruin your life than downgrade for a day to Pabst Blue Ribbon. So you spend the next few weeks laying in bed, staring at the ceiling and wondering whether you'll be showing your friends a newborn Hatchimal or a corduroy jacket from Sears. For nearly six minutes your dad can drink without thinking, "Holy God, what kind of shit is this?"
Instead of getting a note that looks like actual old-man handwriting with a genuine reindeer footprint on it,
you're getting a letter on the paper you dry your hands with in the bathroom at WalMart, printed by daisy wheel. Instead of getting personalized content like, "Hello BILLY OWENS! Santa can't wait to leave presents for you at 1712 BAY RIDGE DRIVE!" your letter says "Hello CHILD! Santa can't wait to leave presents for you at UNKNOWN LOCATION!"
Other upgrades in the Gold and Platinum packages are a candy cane made by the elves, genuine reindeer food, and an autographed photo of Rudolf. But three bucks doesn't grow on trees, and Mom's been dying to smell that Vanilla Walnut Glade.
I believe I have contractually fulfilled all the provisions of this offer so I'll close now. And please don't blame your parents for this letter ending with "Best regards, Marv" instead of "With all my love, SANTA CLAUS!" After all, they put a roof over your head. It's just too bad it's not one that reindeer will be touching any time soon.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
I laughed, assuming it had to be a joke. Brian and I were both gay and she adored both of us. It seemed so ridiculous I'd never thought anything of the sort.
"Here's an example," Brian continued. "Name some of Charlotte's gay friends."
I thought for a minute. Charlotte knew a lot of people -- most rich and gorgeous New Yorkers did. To avoid confusion, then, she chose unique descriptive identifiers and permanently stuck them in front of names. If she knew two Alberts, she might refer to one as Crest White Strip Albert and the other as Republican Albert. If she knew two Matts, she might call one Cat Tattoo Matt and the other Staten Island Matt.
I didn't know why she did this, because it got her into trouble. Gay John wasn't too thrilled when Charlotte's mother referred to somebody named Handsome John and he realized it wasn't him.
"Well," I said to Brian, "there's Gay John, Gay Scott, Gay Stuart, Gay Toshi, ...."
"You don't think that's a little weird?" he interrupted. "To specifically single out everyone who's gay? Does she do it with anybody else -- Jews, blacks, Hispanics? If she really, truly accepted gay people, would she make such a big deal out of it?"
I blew it off as inexplicable but it planted the seed in my head. I had actually noticed how often she used the word "gay." As a gay man I hardly used it at all, whereas the straight woman used it constantly. In fact, that morning she'd asked me if I wanted to go with her and her "gay husband" to a gay club for some gay drinking and gay fooling around.
Charlotte had also raised a red flag with me when I was talking with Joe and David, a middle-aged couple who lived on the fourth floor. We were whispering about her upcoming birthday when she showed up out of nowhere. "Ohmigod," she gasped, eyeing us suspiciously. "If you guys are planning a three-way, I don't want to hear about it!"
We all laughed, but after she walked away we exchanged baffled glances. We agreed that her comment wasn't just clueless -- it was patently offensive. If she'd seen a guy talking to a hetero couple she wouldn't have assumed he was going to bang both of them.
I tried to forget about the whole thing during our usual Project Runway-watching night. While I was telling Emma about my trip to Berlin, though, she started acting weird again. "A lot of guys in Berlin have rings tattooed around their forearms," I said. "And I don't know if it's true or not, but somebody told me it's coded information about fistfucking."
"Ew!" Charlotte snapped, dropping a tortilla chip.
I scowled at her. "He said, 'Those rings mark how far they've gotten their arms into another guy's ass."
"That's disgusting," Charlotte sang.
I ignored her and went for the punchline. "I told him I'd have to get a ring tattooed halfway down my index finger."
Charlotte jumped up off the couch. "THAT'S IT!" she yelled, cranking up the TV. "STOP! I'm not going to hear about this!"
"About what?" I asked. "About gay guys having sex?"
"ABOUT ANY GUYS HAVING SEX! CAN YOU PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT IT?"
"FINE!" I shouted as I stomped toward the door. "I WILL! And you can talk about whatever the fuck you want, but you won't be talking to me!"
I slammed the door behind me, and after that Charlotte and I didn't speak for eight days. Before the fight she'd invited me to her birthday party, and when the day came I decided I'd still go. There would be enough people that it wouldn't be awkward, and I could leave a gift as a peace offering. I didn't think I'd done anything wrong but I felt kind of guilty, so when I shopped for her gift I went overboard. I went to a shop down the street that specialized in all the Brooklyn clichés: everything was handmade, sustainable, and organic, from the Peruvian bags woven from hand-twisted yarn to the incense made by Patagonian tribes from fossilized yak poop.
I finally settled on a bracelet made of hand-carved beads from Namibia. It was really beautiful -- as it should have been for $320 -- with chunky tourmaline and lapis beads carved with intricate tribal designs. It was totally Charlotte: it had style, it supported indigenous people, and she wouldn't have to worry about running into somebody wearing the exact same thing.
I toted the gift to the birthday party and Charlotte spotted me the second I walked through her door. Our eyes locked. Without a word our eyes exchanged everything we needed to say: that we both felt terrible, that we'd made a horrible mistake, and that we couldn't survive another minute without making amends.
We ran toward each other in seemingly slow motion, shoving the other party guests aside. We met in the middle of the room and hugged each other like we were never going to let go. "I'm sorry," I cried. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever done. I know you're not homophobic. I was just being stupid or I had a stroke or something, and I promise I'll never bring it up again."
"Really?" Charlotte said, wiping away tears. "You promise?"
"I promise. I'll never mention it again."
We hugged once more, and when we separated I noticed that both of our eyes were filled with tears. That's the mark of a great friend, I thought. When one of you does something unbelievably stupid, it just brings you closer together.
Naturally the party was brilliant, since Charlotte's friends were all six-foot-tall Russian models or handsome Norwegian musicians. We drank and laughed until the sun went down, and then a tipsy Charlotte took center stage to unwrap all of her gifts. She gushed over a pair of shoes, a painting, and a crystal vase before she got to my offering. She shot me an excited look and I veritably glowed with pride. She tore the paper open, pulled the lid off the box, and extracted the bracelet from the box.
With fifty people watching breathlessly, she held the beaded string at arm's length, and her expression turned from glee to disgust. "Roman," she spat like a third-grade teacher, "I never stick anything up my ass."
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Monday, October 3, 2016
[Hillary Clinton is] a really sarcastic woman. To sum up -- and I'll tell you the other thing: She's an incompetent woman. And I've seen it. She's an incompetent woman.-- Donald Trump to CNN
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Folsom is a "fetish" festival that started in San Francisco and spread to New York and Berlin. It's a guaranteed good time because the well-cultivated scary vibe surrounding it has thus far scared off all the bachelorette parties that plague our bars like herpes sores.
BACHELORETTE #1: Ohmigod, Cynthia, look -- there's a man in a puppy mask!
BACHELORETTE #2: Ohmigod, Charlotte, look -- those aren't Snausages!
I find myself trying to figure out what about this festival is uniquely Berlin. It's not the dozens of puppies, the sad trend I first spotted in New York months ago. It's stupid: basically it's submission in a leather dog mask. You scamper around and wait for your master to either spank you or give you treats. I tell Dieter's friend Herbert I don't think it's remotely sexy. Call me crazy but I've never gotten an erection looking at a big dog's ass.
"What about the tails?" he asks. "Do you know how they stay in place?"
I don't care if Burt Reynolds is holding them on, it's not getting a rise out of me.
Herbert points out the rings some guys have tattooed around their forearms, some as high up as their elbows. "It means they're into fist-fucking, and it shows how far they've gone," he explains.
That's kind of Berlin, I decide. The trend hasn't yet hit the U.S. but I should not be the guy who starts it. At least my tattoo would be cheap, since it'd be just below the second knuckle on my index finger.
The streets are jammed with hunky men in leather and vinyl yet one area is oddly clear. We investigate and find a mostly-naked man in a wheelbarrow -- I will tell this story to Germans later and no one will have the faintest clue what a wheelbarrow is -- holding a cardboard signs that says PISSOIR.
Isn't that French? I wonder. I decide since the cardboard is only three feet across the man couldn't fit the German word, which is PENILFREEFLOWINPLATZ. The man looks lonely, dry and dejected, so the liberal crowd is feeling guilty and muttering excuses.
MAN #1: I can't! I'm pee-shy.
MAN #2: I just went two minutes ago.
MAN #3: Look at this crowd! I'm a grower, not a shower.
Finally a young butch number steps up to the plate. The crowd presses forward to watch as he unbuttons his fly and whips it out.
This is really Berlin, I think, as I await the forbidden act. Pure decadent Berlin.
Just as the first splash nears its target, though, a man bursts out of the crowd and throws himself between the yellow flow and Wheelbarrow Guy. The crowd gasps: it's like a really gay version of Saving Private Ryan. The urine flies at the newcomer's face and hits it. It's close range so water ricochets everywhere and the receiver's face distorts both from the impetus of his sudden movement and the pressure of the golden stream. Still, the giant smile he's wearing tells us everything we need to know.
The man in the wheelbarrow isn't smiling quite as much.
I walk away and reconsider my judgment. No, that was all New York, I decide as a wayward puppy licks at my boots. It looks like you're finally going to get what you want and somebody shows out of nowhere to take it.
Friday, September 16, 2016
The first time I walked into Dieter's apartment I took one glance around and felt tears sting in my eyes. The sadness hit me like a ton of bricks. Was that a ... fake flower arrangement on the sideboard? A hanging rattan lamp? And there on the Bombay Company coffee table, was that a Tom Bianchi photo book?
My head spun so fast I expected kids to ask me for rides. I ran into the kitchen. "I ... I need a drink!" I sputtered to a mystified Dieter. I threw open a cabinet and froze in horror at its contents. Ferrer Roche candy, peach-flavored green tea bags, and a kitchen timer shaped like a goose. My body tried to register its shock but the guttural cry froze in my throat. What kind of person could live like this? I wondered. What godforsaken melange of horrific taste and disposable income could drive them to buy these things?
I concentrated on my happy place. This isn't so bad, I thought, and then my eyes settled on a painting of a naked male torso with highlights lavishly brushed in gold.
I ran for the foyer as a clueless Dieter followed. "So, how do you like the place?" he asked.
The immediate response in my head was, "Ohmigod, you poor, poor thing!" but aloud I said "It's terrific! It is really, really great!" And it was, I recognized. Not his apartment: folks from Ethiopia would have said, "You know what? We'll just live in this pile of mud, thanks." But his courage. His bravery. His strength in the face of such a paralyzing disability. I was privileged to live in a world with Vermeers and Manets and didn't realize that to some gay men it's not really art unless there's a penis in it.
I pulled his body close to mine, throwing my arms tight around him. We hugged as I mentally applauded him for his bravery. We kissed, then kissed some more. The affection turned to desire as shirts were slipped off and pants unbuttoned. Seconds away from abandoning all thoughts to pleasure I noticed one side of his underwear was green, one side was blue, and the middle was orange.
"Oh HELL no," I said aloud as I grabbed my shirt and stormed out. I blindly staggered down the darkened street repeating: No. No. No. NO! I mean sure, I had vast reservoirs of empathy and compassion, but at some point even Doctors Without Borders are going to say, "Oh, I have just fucking had enough."
Thursday, September 1, 2016
I go to the supermarket to replace toiletries. Toothbrush, check. Toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo. No contact lens solution? I ask a clerk.
No, she says. For that you must go to the apotheke.
I find an apotheke, which is a sort of curated drug store, and find contact lens solution. By my calculations I'm about a third of the way to getting presentable. No combs? I ask another clerk.
No, she says. Her English is not as good as the last. I must go to a very specialized store, she says, but she doesn't know the word in English and there are none around here anyway. She looks me straight in the eye, eager to convey the idea. You know, she says, it's that odd kind of establishment that sells soap.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Sunday, July 31, 2016
I spot a sturdy 40ish man with two of my top ten Hot Dude accessories: eyeglasses and a goatee. I sit down next to him on the long wooden bench and do what I do best, which is feign indifference.
He fills in the gap. "Hi," he says. "I am Orlando."
His voice is low and melodic, and without warning snow-white doves circle my head and butterflies drop pansies in my lap. "Orlando," I repeat in my head. It doesn't get much better than that -- a historical, romantic name borrowed from a Virginia Woolf novel. I look again at his eyeglasses and goatee and now he looks even hotter, his intelligence edged with a smoky foreign flair.
While I'm sucking in the details he gestures toward a shorter, thicker figure who slowly sidles into frame. "And this is my partner, Jeff."
Jeff. This is Jeff. The cheeping little birds around my head crash and die at my feet. Orlando sees my face fall and moves in for damage control. "We have an arrangement," he says. "We have been together forever, and we are realistic about our needs. In fact, we probably only see each other once a week."
That's reassuring, I think, though it's a bummer that this week's meeting has to happen while I'm around. But I look back at Orlando and Jeff vanishes from my brain.
"I am from the Dominican Republic," Orlando says. "Have you ever been there?"
I shake my head and mentally catalog more manly details. His hair is thick, his shoulders are broad, and his torso has an athletic V shape. I slide over until we are touching and I feel his wiry arm hair scratch mine. "It is such a beautiful place I know you will love it," he continues. "One day you must go and experience the tranquil life and the delicious food but most of all, the hospitality of the most wonderful people on earth."
I'm hooked. Absent-mindedly I send a hand to the bottom of his shorts to explore the hair on his legs. "I've always wanted to go there," I say, despite the fact that it's somewhere around Poland in my mental list of Places To Go. "How long have you been in America?"
"Fifteen years. And America is my home. But there is a hole in my heart that it can never fill."
I'm seconds away from offering to fill whatever he's got when Jeff walks up, grabs my hand, and places it on his rather undistinguished waistline. I'm at a loss: what is he expecting here? I thwart his hope of an appreciative rub in favor of the quick squeeze and drop that one gives an overripe avocado. With my hand back against Orlando I offer Jeff a smile that's just slightly tempered by the "Get the fuck away from me!" look shooting out of my eyes.
He gets the message and backs away with a hurt look. "I thought you had an arrangement," I say to Orlando.
"We do," he says. "We don't even live together. He lives in Poughkeepsie, and I live on the Upper West Side."
That seems like an odd sort of couple, I think -- if in fact you can be a couple in a situation like that. "And that's okay with both of you?" I ask. "When I have a partner, I want to go to sleep with him, and get up in the morning with him." This syndrome has been dubbed "The RomanHans Paradox" by the American Psychiatric Association, referring to anyone who wants to marry a rich, powerful businessman who'll also wake up next to them just slightly after noon.
"We like our space. We have a lot of different interests. We like our free time."
"Well, okay," I say, unconvinced. "I guess that could work."
We move even closer together as Orlando conspires to paint a romantic picture in my head. "In the Dominican Republic there is the most beautiful mountain you will ever see. It is covered with banana trees and twisting red vines, shaded by a verdant canopy in every shade of mottled green. Every once in a while you will spot a Golden Warbler, the most beautiful songbird. They say the first one lost his partner in a monsoon, and now all of his descendants repeat his song of eternal love tinged with unbearable heartache."
Tears are welling in my eyes when Jeff comes up and rubs his hand against my chest. This isn't the first time it's happened, since I regularly go to the gym, and there I'm a little flexible about my response. It's okay if lesser-attractive guys feel me up while talking about sets and reps, but when the focus turns to nipple I'm out.
Orlando sees my pique, notes the new action and shrugs. "Jeff is Cuban," he says. "Cubans are very determined."
I don't mind this reply: it's gentlemanly and understanding, whereas my first impulse would be to spray Jeff with a garden hose. I remove his hand and push it back to his side, whereupon he retreats. It doesn't help that he just moves a few steps away to resume staring at us, but that buys us enough freedom for our talk to resume.
"You must go to Punta Cana," Orlando continues, "where you ride on horseback across a white-sand beach edged by a forest of palm trees. At night you and your partner recline under a palm-thatched umbrella with tropical drinks to toast your love."
The ocean and candlelight are materializing in my head when once again Jeff feels left out. He moves in front of me and, without a word, starts rubbing his crotch against my knee. Though knees aren't one of the body's top fifty sensory organs, mine unmistakably identifies a mid-sized, rock-hard penis. I'm not sure why Jeff thinks this will win me over. It's the bar equivalent of an unsolicited dick pic. In this case, it's also like tossing all of your chips in the pot when you're holding a six and a two.
"No," I finally snap, like I'm talking to a particularly stupid Golden Retriever. "That's enough. I am not interested in you. I don't like you, I'm not attracted to you, and I don't like you touching me."
He backs away again, and suddenly it hits me: I've taken all I'm going to take. Yes, Orlando is hot. Hot and sexy and knee-deep in a marital mess. "This isn't going to work," I announce to Orlando. "I'm sorry. You seem like a really great guy."
He shrugs again, like this isn't the first time this has happened, and he understands. We share a sad, lingering kiss, with maybe a little goatee rub and Goodbye Hot Arm Hair grope thrown in. I spin on my heels and aim for the door when I catch Jeff's expression. It's sad. Disappointed. Upset. He clearly doesn't know what hit him, and all of a sudden it hits me: is Jeff really a consensual participant in this "arrangement"? Is he its instigator or its victim? And aren't I punishing him because of his looks? Aren't I being one of those shallow bar assholes that everybody complains about?
And how about that name, "Orlando"? I'll bet he wasn't even named after a Virginia Woolf novel: his parents probably fucked at Disney World.
I walk over to Jeff and put my arms around him. "I'm sorry," I say with heartfelt sincerity. "It was really good to meet you. You seem like a really nice guy." He looks up at me with puppy dog eyes, and when I move in to give him a farewell kiss, he jams his tongue in my mouth.
Friday, July 15, 2016
"We spent the whole time standing in the middle of my apartment," I say. "We talked for about twenty minutes and finally I just leaned in towards him. He backed away like he thought I was trying to walk past him, but then he realized what was up and he moved in. We must have kissed for half an hour."
"Yes!" she says, nearly high-fiving me. "What did he do with his tongue? Did he run it along your teeth or up inside of your lips?"
"It was mostly poking into my mouth. There wasn't much I could do other than just kind of suck on it."
"OHMIGOD! That is so hot. So you stood there making out, fully clothed?"
"Well, at some point our shirts came off."
"NO!" she screams. "You're kidding! You took your shirt off?"
I glare at her in disbelief. "Yeah, I just randomly decided to tear it off while saying, 'Wait'll you get a load of this!'" She shoots me a look of apology. "He took off my shirt. First my polo shirt, then my t-shirt. And then he took off his shirt."
"YES!" she shouts. "That is so FREAKIN' hot!"
"And we keep making out while we're pressing our bodies together, all hot and sweaty, with our hands running up and down each other. And then he slowly, forcefully backs me up against the wall, and with one of his hands he grabs both of my wrists and pins them over my head."
"YESSSS!" she shrieks. "YES! YES, YES, OH YES! OHMIGOD YES! BABY LIKE THAT! BABY REALLY LIKE THAT! THAT'S WHAT BABY LIKE!!!"
I stare at her until she comes to her senses. She says, "It's kind of nice when the guy is dom once in a while."
Thursday, July 7, 2016
Trump noted that his sister will turn 35 just before the election, which is the minimum age required by the Constitution to be president or vice president. “She just makes that by about seven, eight days,” he said, calling his sister “a machine.”
"That is really sweet of him," Ivanka replies when reached for comment. "I don't know if I'd be a good vice president, but Eric would be an amazing cabinet member. He's so handsome he'd have both parties crossing the aisle."
"I'm flattered," admits Eric, "but Ivanka is incredible. "She runs three miles a day on unbelivably shapely legs. She could easily run the country."
Ivanka blushes slightly as she pushes back her glossy blonde hair. "I'd rather be in Eric's hands," she reveals. "His biceps are gigantic. Even when he's covered in warm, sticky sweat you can hardly get your hands around them."
Eric's eyes slide down Ivanka's sleek form and he inhales sharply. "God didn't make anybody close to Ivanka," he finally reveals. "She's got that big old butt you need to hang on to if the economy is gonna take a real pounding."
Ivanka reddens slightly as her aureolas stiffen. "Eric has the smooth, muscular chest that says he's a civilized man, but in the center there's this thick thatch of chest hair that says, 'I may be a man but I'm also an animal, and if I wanna fuck you then I'm gonna fuck you.""
Eric is flustered but won't be stopped. "Ivanka's got these thick, pillowy lips that every guy wants to see in action," he says. "She could filibuster for a hundred thousand years and nobody would tell her to shut up. I'll bet half the congressmen would jump outta their seats and say, 'Bitch, you need to take care of daddy over here!'"
Ivanka can't take any more. She flings herself against her brother like somebody who's spotted a black guy at a Trump rally. "Oh Eric!" she moans, flattening her heaving bosom against her brother's pinstriped suit.
"Oh, Ivanka baby!" Eric gasps as he struggles to undo his pants. "Oh baby, baby, baby. I don't think I've got the patience for Congress but I'll be Secretary of your Interior any day."
Eric picks up Ivanka and effortlessly lifts her up onto a nearby desk, shoving pencils and Chik-Fil-A menus flying. He slides her skirt up to her hips, exposing a thin pink slip and soft flesh. "C'mon, baby!" he begs. "Open up them drawers like Hillary opened the embassy in Benghazi."
"OH, ERIC!" breathes Ivanka. "FUCK ME! FUCK ME LIKE OUR DADDY FUCKED ATLANTIC CITY TAXPAYERS!"
He's thrusting his firm pelvis against her sleek torso when suddenly she raises her arms to make him stop. "Wait," she protests through sweaty locks. "We can't. This is wrong!"
Eric's hurt eyes lock on hers and the intimate glance they exchange says far more than words. "You mean you're bleeding out of your whatever?" he asks, and she nods.
Donald Trump shrugs. "Aren't they amazing kids?" he asks, and then he starts talking about Mexicans again.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
ME: I should probably warn you about the Jello shots. There's Ecstasy in them.
WOMAN: You are kidding me. That's incredibly irresponsible. There are children here! We live on the Upper West Side, and the first drug our little Tatum should try is cocaine.
Friday, June 24, 2016
I try to come up with an actual date but can't do it. It's not like people send you Hallmark cards after you screw. You can't run to the file cabinet and sort through the greetings for written evidence: from Grandma for my birthday, from my sister for Christmas, from Keith for the spit-roasted three-way. I wrack my brain but can't come up with any holidays that usually point towards sex, like an anniversary with an old beau, or a Valentine's Day with a new one, and I can't recall boyfriends that would indicate I was screwing around at the time. Mentally I peer at my penis like a forensic examiner: there aren't any leeches or decomposition, but from its overall sadness I'd say it was clearly seven to ten years.
Emma acts like it's a positive thing. "You've got this zen calm to you," she declares. "Like you're post-hookup. Like sexual desire is a demon and after years of fighting you've finally wrestled it to the ground."
I'm pretty sure this isn't flattery. Fun, attractive people don't wrestle horniness to the ground: the ones I know give right in. Frequently, three or four times a week. But I've apparently dealt with it for so long I've become the first person in America to permanently win. I've looked into my pants and shouted, "BEGONE, SATAN!" so many times he's packed up his stuff and moved to some place where sin is still a vague possibility. He's probably hitchhiking to Betty White's place as we speak.
I decide to attack the problem logically, with a three-pronged approach. I answer an ad on Craigslist, I download Growlr, and I wander around the city acting friendly and trying to meet attractive people in the flesh.
Craigslist is the first option to crash and burn. I find a personals ad from a sixty-year-old man on the Upper West Side who likes the opera, the theatre, and travel, and wants to form a connection before taking it any farther. I email him expressing similar interests and his reply shoots back. "DO YOU HAVE A DICK PIC?" he asks. And thoughtfully he includes his.
I wrestle with it for a day or two. Times have changed, I say to myself. All the kids do it these days. Then I wake up one morning with one thought in my head: sixty-year-old men should NOT have dick pics. Nobody looks at a sixty-year-old man and thinks, "I'm on the fence about doing him, but I'm holding out until I get details on girth."
It takes me a week to dismiss Growlr. The hot dudes are all masseurs or personal trainers, which means there's a price tag attached. The regular folks confuse me. I'm expecting come-hither poses that recall Denzel Washington but get smiles and berets and tons of excess flesh. I just can't see them as sexual. They remind me of Rerun from "What's Happening?" While the rest of the cast is struggling with dating he's buying striped socks and asking, "Who's ready to Pop & Lock?"
I don't actually communicate with anyone on Growlr: the Shouts -- paid messages to all subscribers -- scare me off. Most include words like "420-friendly" (weed) or "PNP" (crystal meth). "Looking for PARTY FAVORS," reads one Shout. "Anybody else LIKE TO SKI?" asks another. Are these people serious? I wonder. Like cops will read these and think, "I'm stumped! Guess I'll have to look elsewhere for illegal drug use."
One man whose profile name is Happy Times gives me existential despair. "I'm bored," he says one day. "Anybody want a blowjob?" The next day it's, "I'm super bored. Who wants to get sucked?" That's followed by, "Really bored. My lips were made for oral service" and then "Just bored sick. Cum to my glory hole!" Mentally I compose a reply, but "Holy Christ, dude -- GET A FUCKIN' JOB!" probably isn't what he's looking for.
Meeting in person gets me the furthest. Stephen, a sales clerk at a local store, is getting off work and asks me if I want to go to his place for coffee. I get butterflies. Should I? Could I? He's short -- maybe 5'4" -- but he's handsome and outgoing so I agree. We're walking down 14th Street as Too Much Information pours out. He's a recovering addict who's gone to AA meetings every day for 27 years. He's currently addicted to diet soda, which explains the plastic cup he's carrying that's the size of carry-on luggage. He's 59 and likes age-appropriate men but his last two boyfriends were 35. Unprompted, he shows me pictures of them. When he sees my look of displeasure he offers an excuse: "I didn't want to go out with them," he says. "They talked me into it."
"Shoot," I say, slapping my forehead. "I forgot I have to be somewhere." I grab his hand and shake it to a confused look. "Nice meeting you!" I say, and I run.
Then on Sunday I go to the Folsom Street East Fair. I see a bondage demonstration, watch some Furries share a carrot, and twenty minutes later I'm with another handsome man, this one maybe 5'3", walking to another apartment for more drinks. Yaakov looked great with his shirt off, but it's back on now and with each step that memory fades. He gets a phone call and takes it. For five minutes he argues with somebody in Hebrew. It's pretty much the opposite of sexy, since it reminds me of renegotiating my lease.
We're four blocks away from his place when he tells me he's a rabbi. I feel like such an idiot; I thought it was just a bad haircut. Three blocks away he says his roommate stole his furniture so he has no place to sit down. Two blocks away he says he has no depth perception so he can't cross streets alone. "FASTER!" I implore. "LET'S WALK FASTER! I AM REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS!" One block away he tells me he was following me at the street fair. I finally realize that every time he opens his mouth I get a whiff of a really bad stink.
Which leaves Yaakov stranded at a crosswalk while I head home alone. I catch a glimpse of myself in a window and I start to understand Emma's comment. I've wrestled with the demon of desire so often it's like Godzilla fighting Rob Kardashian. Still, I add a mental note to my logical approach. "FIND A TALLER MAN," it reads. Not because he'll be closer to my height, but because the short ones can't walk fast enough.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
The Journal printed an all-time head-scratcher Friday titled "How Millennials Can Live Bernie's Dream." It claims Bernie Sanders supporters should "feel like [they're] in socialist heaven" because of how progressive the U.S. government already is. "[A] long-running American experiment in socialism is still going strong," it reads. The participants, and their spouses and children, get free health care! Free education! Salaries and benefits! How stupid the millennials are to fight for socialism when it's already here!
There must be a catch, you say, and there's a small one. You have to join the Army to participate.
That's the last line in the article written by Jeremy Stern, a lieutenant in the Army. To my mind, they could have replaced it with a more succinct, "HA! YOU WERE AN IDIOT TO READ THIS!" Because it's not exactly a news flash to hear that America provides Scandinavian Socialist-style benefits to, ahem, PEOPLE WHO WORK. Serious newspaper. Opinion section article. Could have been headlined, "PEOPLE WHO WORK GET MONEY AND BENEFITS AND STUFF!"
But really, the guy is recommending the Army? I wouldn't work at Wal-Mart and they'd let me have Cheetos and fruit punch for lunch. I'd have to wear a blue polyester vest but my boss wouldn't make me clean toilets with a toothbrush if he couldn't bounce a quarter off my bed. And you can claim grade school for children of inductees is "free" but spending your days in Iraqi minefields might be slightly more annoying than paying $214 a month.
I'm not laboring under the delusion that Scandinavia is heaven. I'm not moving there because free health care isn't worth the high cost of bulky sweaters. I don't think it's a fair trade: sure, I'd like a hefty retirement pension, but I also like sandwiches made from two slices of bread. Adios pastrami, roast beef, country ham, grilled chicken or bacon; every day, everywhere it's open-faced whitefish with dill.
It's ridiculous, though, to pretend it's like being in the Army. Swedes don't have to shave their heads. They don't all sleep in one giant room, or shower together. They don't roust themselves out of bed when somebody plays a bugle. And when they're giving PowerPoint presentations about maintaining greenspace around the wetlands, their bosses don't repeatedly scream, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"
Needless to say, I don't think competent journalists can pretend being in the Army is close to Bernie's goal. He may be from Vermont but I don't think he'll make anybody move to Pakistan before he breaks up banks that are too big to fail. And he may look crazy but I don't think he intends to fight income inequality by sending poor people overseas. Still, I get how "Bernie's Dream" can be difficult for privileged white folk to grasp, because it doesn't help the rich get richer before the rest of us can go home with the flu.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Friday, May 20, 2016
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Monday, May 16, 2016
Never was it more apparent than on last Saturday night. My friends Emma, Damien, Charlotte and I were in a cab on the Upper East Side when suddenly we saw a man dressed all in black running down the street holding a huge duffle bag in one hand and a sparkly jacket in the other.
Emma knew everything about New York, and a bolt of inspiration flashed through her eyes. "That building is the Belgian Embassy. But it's always closed at this hour!"
Damien knew everything about current events. "The Belgian Ambassador is in town trying to get America's assistance in fighting a fringe insurgent group. He's having a small party tonight to try to drum up American support."
Charlotte knew everything about fashion. "That jacket he's holding is a one-of-a-kind Rosie Assoulin for Lanvin, and it belongs to Heidi Klum. She'd never part with it, because it really flatters her rather unremarkable figure. He must be a thief! I'll bet he's tied up all the party guests and robbed them!"
Emma's hands flew up to her face. "We've got to do something!" she cried.
Naturally I felt left out, because everybody else had just demonstrated an amazing skill while I was in the back seat and could barely move my legs. I was a lump of mud next to these people! I was just a ridiculously tall geek with spiky hair.
"We have to do something," Damien said. "If only there was some way to attract the attention of nearby police."
"Roman," Charlotte gasped, "you're ridiculously, insanely tall. Crowds form when you try on shoes. Children cry when you try to dance. Anderson Cooper appeared out of nowhere the last time you tried to exercise. You can do it! Stand in front of the building and flail about madly. Every cop within eighty miles will investigate. YOU CAN DO IT, ROMAN HANS!"
I can do it, I thought. In one motion I swung the cab door open and raced to the sidewalk. I took a deep breath and held it. Summoning the spirit of the wind I felt my body slowly inflate, from my toes to the top of my head. My posture straightened as it filled my torso, and as it spread into my arms they floated weightlessly into the air. As its power strengthened, my movements transformed from rhythmic and smooth to sharp and wildly spasmodic. Within seconds it had turned into a tornado that was barreling through my body, holding me bolt upright but whipping me to and fro, my every movement utterly out of control.
One car stopped, then another. It was working! Traffic came to a standstill. Still madly flapping, I glowed with pride, and I realized an important lesson. We've all got talents, talents that are unique to us. That's indisputable. The challenge lies in recognizing these talents, accepting them, and exploiting them for good.
Within seconds Charlotte's words came true, and a police car pulled up to the building.
The first policeman's jaw dropped open. "What the fuck is that?" he said.
The second policeman shrugged. "Beats me, maybe a new tire store opened?" he said, and they drove away.
Friday, May 13, 2016
I did. There were different stories, as usual online: one model was sold by retailers, while the other was sold by HP. Or maybe one included a USB cable. What I didn't need to Google, though, was the fact that the one they'd sent me was ten dollars cheaper than the one I'd bought.
I couldn't decide whether to keep it or not until I had over a hundred things I needed to print. All of a sudden, ten dollars wasn't that important. I unpacked it and installed the software and of course it didn't work.
I called HP. Even over the phone line I could hear the tech guy's surprise-. "You ... used the DISK to install the software?" he asked incredulously. It was the tone you use to ask someone why they made a mobile for their toddler out of discarded plastic bags.
"I did," I said. "Because it said to, you know. IN THE INSTRUCTIONS."
"Oh," he said. "Well, maybe it'll be okay. You have an old computer and an old operating system and it's an old printer so maybe the old software will be okay."
His confidence was inspiring. I knew I should have downloaded more recent software, but I'd been at this for over an hour and I was sick of it. He thought it would be okay so I thought it would be okay.
And it was, for three days. Then, suddenly, the printer couldn't find the new network he'd set up. When I tried to connect it, it said the password was wrong. I called HP back.
"The security is too tight on your network," another tech guy said. "Call Time Warner Cable and have them change the security on your network from WPA to WEP."
This was Greek to me, but I did as instructed. And the Time Warner Cable guy actually laughed at me. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," he said. "There have been huge strides made in network security over the past ten years. And you want to erase all that progress and let anybody WALKING PAST YOUR HOUSE WITH AN ABACUS to get access to all of your files?"
He tried to connect the printer to the router over a WPS network (still Greek), which the printer claimed to support. Still no luck. "It's a hardware problem," he declared. "That printer is never going to work."
I called HP back. "I'll escalate this," another tech guy said. "Someone will call you back within 24 to 48 hours."
As a workaround, he said, connect the printer to the computer via a USB cable. Easy. Now I could print! Unfortunately, though, all those cool features the printer boasted -- printing from my tablet, printing from my cellphone, emailing to the printer, having HP monitor my ink and automatically send new cartridges -- wouldn't work.
Still, I printed, and printed. And then I woke up this morning, submitted something to the print queue, and waited. It didn't print.
My new HP Envy 5535 wireless printer. Didn't print. Over a wire.
Another HP techie, this one a woman, told me that sometimes you need to disconnect and then reconnect the USB cable. It didn't surprise me: I'd already come to the conclusion that the software was written by a small red squirrel. I disconnected, and when I reconnected I saw something I'd never seen before in thirty years of owning Macs. The screen started darkening from the top, like a curtain coming down, and fourteen warning lines said the same thing in fourteen languages. "It takes a lot to kill a Mac," they said, essentially. "But buddy, you did it!"
I told the HP tech about this and she didn't seem bothered. Why should she be? She had helpful computer support. "Why didn't anybody call me within 48 hours?" I asked while waiting for my Mac to reboot.
"Why would they call you?" she replied. "They don't know what the problem is."
Helpful note to HP: include a disclaimer in the small print. "If you don't hear back from us, it means, 'Man, we're stumped!'"
She offered to escalate the problem to management offices. Great, I thought. This printer has been escalated so high up I'm surprised we can still see it from earth.
HP never replied, and never gave a real answer to my tweets. Slowly I came to the realization that they didn't have to, because they'd win either way. They could send me a moldy acorn squash in lieu of a printer, and what could I do? It's the "As Seen On TV" strategy: You can send absolute crap to people and, while some will complain and return it, some will throw it in the closet and shut up. Me, I'd return it! I'd show them! I'd send them back their piece of shit.
I went to Amazon's website and submitted a refund request, then jammed the printer back in the box. I stuffed in the disk and the manual and then taped it up. Now all I needed to do is print up postage.
That rang a bell. Wait just a second, I thought.
Monday, May 9, 2016
Currently there are three Kawaii Cat Cafe locations: our flagship location in Akihabara, our newer branch in Oeno on the top floor of the Tokyu Hands department store, and our latest branch in Brooklyn, New York, USA.
In Japan, cats provide relaxing companionship in what may otherwise be a stressful and lonesome urban life. They are appreciated as beautiful, strange, exotic and amazing creatures that are often living works of art. With the opening of our Brooklyn branch, however, we have been very careful to appreciate and respect the differing local attitude toward our feline friends. All the residents there are rescue cats up for adoption, and will serve as ample proof that you occasionally think about something other than yourself.
In our Akihabara location, for instance, you may meet Nichi-Nichi, of the rare Kurilian Bobtail breed developed naturally in a remote archipelago claimed by both Russia and Japan. Easily identifiable by his platinum fur and unique “pom-pom” tail, Nichi-Nichi is an independent, gentle and highly intelligent cat. He loves affection but be careful: there are just two other Kurilian Bobtails in the world, and she is conservatively valued at half a million dollars.
One of the most popular Brooklyn residents is Mikey, a fourteen-year-old tabby-gingham mix. Mikey had a hard life on the streets. He's been attacked by dogs, pigeons, rats, raccoons and seagulls. He has a nice disposition despite the fact his fur is mangy, his tail is bent, and half of one ear is missing. Mikey loves to lie around, with an occasional break to sleep, and children are frequently surprised by how many mice or feathers they can dangle in front of him without getting so much as a blink. Give him a treat but be patient: it may take him nine or ten minutes to notice that you are holding something, and then three more to focus his eyes on your hand. Some people say that he has wonky eyes but we just think he appreciates both our haircut and our shoes.
In our Oeno location, you may be lucky enough to encounter Prince Rajhoul II, a Serengeti Manx.
This breathtaking breed was developed by scientists in 2012 and was bred in coastal Kenya to resemble wild African cats, particularly the leopard, which explains his thick fur and spots. Bring a camera and a snack, because you will want to spend some time with this active, graceful, and confident cat.
Back in Brooklyn, you might see our newest resident, Jingles. Jingles was rescued from a home with eight small children. Jingles likes hiding, sitting in dark places, and running wherever you aren't. He doesn't mind meeting new people in medium- to large-sized rooms when not meeting them is completely out of the question. If you'd like to pet him, ask the clerk if there are enough volunteers available and a corner where there is nothing that can break. Remember, shaking and trembling is his way of saying, "I love you!" but please don't approach him if there's an open window nearby.
At the Oeno Kawaii Cat Cafe you may also meet Minska. A cross between the Sphynx and the Munchkin, Minska has two most famous traits of both breeds — hairlessness and short stature. Minska is friendly, athletic, and, of course, small! Before you leave be sure to check your pockets to make sure Minchka doesn't accompany you home!
Back in Brooklyn, it's possible you'll encounter Necrophage. Necrophage was once a feral cat, so he's "streetwise." This means he's good at finding food, meeting colorful new companions, and holding his claws to your throat until you give him your car keys. Necrophage is free to be adopted due to a recent reversal by the appeals court, but make sure there are no children in your home or other things that might move or make noise. Necrophage's custom restraint and harness are dedicated to the memory of Brianne Martin, who was holding him when her cellphone rang.
We are sure you will enjoy your visit to any of the Kawaii Cat Cafes. Please check the website to plan your visit. Unless you are wealthy or famous you will never own a cat as fine as our Japanese residents, so reservations are often booked up months in advance. The Brooklyn location is easier to visit since those cats aren't quite so rare. Still, not everyone can find a junkyard, a cage, or a wire hoop attached to a stick.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
I have more than a few annoying neuroses, but fighting for most obnoxious is my need to get to places early. It's rooted in insecurity: I know I'm a total geek and can't compete with successful, attractive people, so I make sure I don't have to. I get to clubs right after the janitor has left with mop in hand, around the same time the DJ walks in. Sure, it's dull for a few hours, but instead of the doorman saying, "I'm sorry, but we're really full right now," he's all, "Yeah, c'mon in. A bartender should turn up in an hour or two."
Chris and I settled into the best banquette and played with our phones until other people started showing up. We'd never been to the club before, so we watched for a few minutes to get a handle on the crowd. After the first few couples entered, we noticed a pattern. Young, beautiful, well-dressed woman ... with old, unattractive, out-of-shape man. They came in by the dozens, varying only in ethnicity and with some ladies towering two feet over their partners instead of the average one-foot-eight. The men unbuttoned the waistbands of their Armani trousers before sitting down, spreading their arms across the banquettes and surveying the landscape. "There sure are some hot chicks here tonight," they exclaimed, to which their partners replied, "There sure are! Be back in a minute!" before kissing the air around them and fleeing to party with their doppelgängers next to the dance floor.
After the women burned off their initial energy, one of them noticed us in the way you'd spot a diamond earring on the ground. First it catches your eye in passing, then you give it a longer "What is that?" look. Finally it registers in the brain and you decide to investigate. She strode over confidently, like this wasn't her first trek down the catwalk, before plopping down on the sofa next to Chris.
"Hi, my name's Watson," she said. "Why aren't you dudes partying with us ladies?"
"We're gay," Chris blurted out. He might have been a little tipsy. Do the math and you'll notice another drawback to getting to clubs early: one drink every half hour and arriving at opening means that when the first female checks her Balmain wrap Chris and I are on the dance floor with our shirts off grinding against potted plants.
"You're GAY?" Watson yelled. "WOOHOO! Let's just check this out for sure!" She jumped onto Chris' crotch and started riding him like an Appaloosa, hanging onto his lapel with one hand and flailing the other around her head for counterbalance. We were, of course, reasonably startled, but from the lack of attention the act was attracting we realized that nobody cared if a beautiful young woman mistook a tony club for a Hogs n' Heifers or a tiny Englishman for a mechanical bull. In this case, however, there was less a chance of the rider being thrown than of the bull sliding out of his pants and running screaming into the night.
This is when it all slipped into slow-motion: Watson was riding Chris like a bronco, and he was staring at her in horror and trying to back away. Even if his crotch couldn't disengage contact, it's like the top half of his body thought it could regain some decorum if it were at a reasonable distance. Unfortunately, on top of the banquette was a harmless-looking candle, flickering quietly in its clear glass jar and giving off a vanilla scent. Chris, on the other hand, was wearing a Harrington jacket, which is a retro style from the 1970s that allegedly says rock and roll in England but because it's 100% polyester says to Americans, "Come see the softer side of Sears." As he slid back, his collar stretched across the candle, and slowly it started to brown and shrivel until it crinkled like a potato chip. Rather than being one of those "WHOMF!" fires fed by dried Christmas trees or gasoline it was like the fire wasn't sure it was wanted to move on, but did, you know, just because it was already there and might as well explore.
I'd been watching the whole scenario so I caught on pretty quick. Chris, apparently, had gotten clued in by the warmth. Our hands flew to his neck pretty much simultaneously, patting out the red sparks while trying to keep the molten fabric from touching and perhaps permanently adhering to his neck. Watson remained oblivious, caught up in her midnight ride, like there were still a few British settlers who hadn't woken up. As an odd scent circled the club every expression turned quizzical. Watson slowed. Her eyes glanced anxiously around the room before they settled on us. "Do you guys smell smoke?" she asked, finally climbing off her mount.
"It's all you, baby," Chris purred. "You could set cement on fire."
Watson laughed and I rolled my eyes. Chris and I looked at each other and knew that was it for the night. We'd found an adventure. That's what you look for when you go out in New York. Sure, maybe with other people it was dangerous music, or dangerous drugs, or dangerous strangers, but Chris and I were timid types who derived enough excitement from things like inertia and gravity. Chris rolled up his coat, burying the burnt collar inside, and we stood up to go.
Watson's face fell but she leapt up to hug us. "Let's do this again!" she cried, pulling out a business card that had her name and number on it and absolutely nothing else. Looking back, I almost wish we'd called her. She was fearless and exciting and maybe a little tweaked, but we were young and dumb and only had so many clothes.
Monday, April 25, 2016
Friday, April 1, 2016
City Hall station is at the very bottom of the subway line, on a loop the train uses to switch from traveling south to north, so it was easy to close off. Now you could travel south on the train, or you could travel north on the train, but you couldn't travel on that little section of track where it passes beneath City Hall and switches from south to north.
At least not officially.
Eventually some feckless traveller decided they'd ignore these instructions, and they discovered that nobody tried to stop them. The conductor says it's the end of the line and everybody has to get off, but nobody double-checks. They stayed in their seats and were ferried right through the gorgeous, abandoned station, and then they ran home to tell their friends.
Chris had been here almost ten years before he heard about it, but when he did he literally dragged me to the subway to give it a try. We sat in the front car so we'd get the best view, and stayed in our seats when everybody left. Before the train started up again, though, the conductor approached and repeated that it was the last stop.
Chris never told the truth when a lie would suffice, so he launched into an off-the-cuff fraud. "VEE er FOR-in TOO-rists," he announced. "VEE haf HURD of dee abandoned sub-VAY STAY-shun DEEP under-GRUND. VEE vud LAKE to see dees STAY-shun."
The conductor shot Chris a quizzical glance but eventually he shrugged. "Okay," he said, and he put out a call on his radio, presumably alerting someone that there would be two people aboard when the train turned around. In a gesture of international friendship, he waved us into the cab with him, then started up the train and we were off. "Where are you guys from?" he asked.
"VEE er from SVEE-den," Chris said. "But vee really LOF dees city." He was about to offer further details when we pulled into the station and our mouths dropped open in awe.
Everywhere we looked, intricate patterns of gold leaf sparkled with the light. Gold arches curved above the track, inset with panels of stained glass that glowed with intense jewel colors. A skylight of wrought iron had tendrils of hammered metal that recalled 1920s France. Guastavino arches buttressed the ceiling in gently-interlocking planes of orange and yellow tile.
The driver inched forward so we could get a detailed look. "So how long have you guys been in New York?" the conductor asked.
With his face inches from the window, Chris was lost in the face of pure beauty. "Almost ten years now," he announced.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Chris also liked pumpkin muffins. Every day he'd go to Variety Coffee Shop on Graham Avenue to order a pumpkin muffin and a cappuccino. He stood out from the usual hipster crowd, with his British accent and rakish hat and being at least twice their ages, so his order quickly became known by the four barristas.
"You sure do like pumpkin muffins," one barrista said.
Chris wanted life to be more exciting than people just eating stuff because they liked it. And he particularly didn't want to be known as the guy who couldn't resist pumpkin muffins. Just on a whim, he decided to liven things up. "It's not for me," he said. "There's an old Italian lady who lives upstairs from me. She lives all alone, and she has to be ninety years old. She doesn't get out much any more and she just loves pumpkin muffins."
The barrista's jaw dropped. "You are so sweet," she said. "That's the nicest thing I've ever heard."
Chris came back the next day, and the next, and the next. He ordered the cappuccino and pumpkin muffin, and all the barristas quietly admired his thoughtfulness. But one day Chris went in and decided he just didn't feel like a pumpkin muffin. He wasn't in the mood. "Just a cappuccino, please," he said to the barrista.
"What's up?" asked the worried barrista. "Why not a pumpkin muffin?"
Inspiration hit, and when inspiration hit Chris went with it. "The old woman died. It was very sad. The whole family was there, and they ate Italian food. The funeral is today. It's just barely hit me. It's so strange to order just a cappuccino now. I can hardly believe she's gone."
"Ohmigod," said the barrista. "That is so sad."
"But thank God for you," said another barrista. "You made her life so much better in the last few months by always thinking about her."
All the barristas nodded in agreement. Chris hung his head sadly as he exited with just a cappuccino.
The next day Chris decided he wanted a muffin again. "A cappuccino and a pumpkin muffin," he said to the barrista.
"But I thought the old woman died," she said.
"She did," he said sadly. "But I decided I'm going to eat a pumpkin muffin every day in memory of her."
The other barristas wiped away tears. "That is the sweetest thing I ever heard," one said.
Chris was elated by this development. Now he could eat a pumpkin muffin every day, and nobody would think it was just because he loved pumpkin muffins. And every day thereafter Chris bought a cappucino and a pumpkin muffin. And every day four barristas, as well as nearly all of the people Chris met, said, "There goes a really special guy."
Thursday, March 3, 2016
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
I dreamt I lived on a busy corner in Manhattan, at 6th Avenue and 10th Street. I had cyclone fencing around my yard, and I was standing just inside it, flossing my teeth with a thin strip of wood while looking across the street as it changed through time. In the 70s there were independently-owned businesses like Leo Bear's TVs, Eartha's Flowers, and Red-E-Go Auto Repair. These were gone by the 90s, replaced by a Blockbuster Video and a 16 Handles frozen yogurt shop. When we got to the present, there was an Urban Outfitters next to a multi-story restaurant with a roof deck where a couple hundred NYU students were getting drunk and having brunch.
Some of these students saw me and came over. "Why are you wasting your time flossing your teeth?" one said. "Why don't you come out here and get drunk and have brunch?"
"I'm not sure I like you people," I said. "And my teeth feel great."
Saturday, February 27, 2016
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
And then L'Oreal bought them. "We'll keep Kiehl's exactly as it is," they chirped. "Nothing will change." And before they even finished talking the advertisements started: "TRY OUR ORGANIC QUINOA SKIN CREAM!!!" "DON'T MISS OUR KOSHER LIP BALM!" The shelves multiplied and different bottles appeared until it took professional help to actually shop. Pomegranate, mango, rose hips, beeswax. Forget the legendary family-run firm: now they were just a free-range guava away from being Bath and Body Works.
I was almost comatose from over-choice when a salesclerk walked up to me. "Can I put you on our email list?" she asked. "I promise we won't email too much. And we'll send you coupons!"
She clearly knew my soft spot, and two minutes later I had fourteen emails clogging my inbox. "TWO SAMPLES WITH EVERY PURCHASE!" one screamed. Then "THREE SAMPLES WITH EVERY PURCHASE!" When I went sixty seconds without replying they upped the ante: "TWO DELUXE SAMPLES WITH EVERY $45 PURCHASE!" "THREE DELUXE SAMPLES WITH EVERY $55 PURCHASE!" When it hit "FIVE DELUXE SAMPLES WITH EVERY $65 PURCHASE!" I caved. In fact, I'd have passed out if I hadn't been near the Thai Basil de Provence smelling salts.
I picked out $65 worth of products -- a moisturizer, a toner, a tube of stuff for under-eye bags -- and then pondered the sample possibilities. I had to be methodical to get the biggest bang for my buck. Some were a quarter of the size of the full-size product, so theoretically they'd be worth $10 and up. Eye cream was the priciest, so I figured I'd get three of those. Wrinkle-reducing moisturizers were a close second so I'd get two of those.
I hadn't even thought about checking out when a clerk yelled, "I can help you over here," and then ran behind a register and stared at me.
I wandered over and dumped my selections on the counter. "I got an email about five free deluxe samples?"
"No problem," she said. She scanned the products with a little plastic gun and said, "That'll be $70.12."
Instantly I got sucked up in a tornado of déjà vu. As an avid bargain-hunter, I'd run into this dozens of times. I'd see a newspaper ad from a desperate store offering a discount. "HALF OFF EVERYTHING!" it'd say. "COME IN!!! DON'T MISS IT!!! And then I'd go to the store and the clerks would be like, "I never heard of that. Nope. What do you want to talk to the manager for?"
The ads blare about amazing, fabulous free offers FOR A LIMITED TIME that only a fool would pass up, and in person they're, "Wow. You're really gonna waste our time with that shit?"
"I want to get some eye cream samples," I said. "I travel a lot so I need them."
"We don't have any of those," she said. Then, to the woman holding products and standing behind me: "I'll be right with you. This will literally take ten seconds."
Really? I thought. You just promised somebody that you wouldn't waste any time with ME? I was mystified by how she'd arrived at that estimate, as it clearly didn't include human speech. It didn't allow for "Do you have any questions?" or "Have you used this before?" or "Do you honestly believe Moroccan spices can erase those frown lines?" It was barely enough time for "Have a nice day!"
Unfortunately for her, I wasn't playing along. "Would they have it at another store?" I asked.
She glared at me. "I can call and see," she said in the tone she'd use to say, "I can dance around and we'll see if it rains."
"That'd be great," I said. She shot me a look that said, "Seriously?" and said to the woman behind me, "I will literally be with you in just one sec."
She ran up my credit card and I signed the receipt, then she threw my stuff into a bag. To the woman behind me she said, "Here, let me get all of that." She took the woman's assorted items out of her arms and set them on the counter, then without a word she ran through a side door. I moved out of line to an unused counter, and a minute later she reappeared and dumped a pile of assorted samples in front of me. "I found an eye cream," she said. "Take whatever you want." And she scurried back to her register.
The samples were actually okay. In fact, I had a hard time narrowing it down. I finally settled on five, then looked to the clerk for her okay. She and the next customer were busy. A thought ran through my head: these were free samples, right? FREE. And wasn't that word usually followed by "for the taking"? I shot the clerk a carefree smile and said, "I am literally taking them all," and with enough açaí in my bag to choke a camel I hit the road.
Monday, February 22, 2016
Darkness settles in and other nocturnal animals venture out. The owl stretches and swoops off his perch, knowing that mice won't see him approach. The desert iguana crawls out from under his rock and forages for plants and small insects now that he won't bake in the hot sun. Rachel tries to hold a thirty-pound canned ham with just two fingers that are covered with Vaseline.
The hours pass and the sky deepens to velvety black. The coyote ventures out of his burrow now that his main competition for food, the mountain lion, is fast asleep. The sea turtle swims onto the shore to lay her eggs under cover of night. Rachel tries to answer the question, "Do different colors of floor tile make different sounds when you hit them with a sledgehammer?"
Finally, the sun inches its way back to the horizon and the first ray of light illuminates the land. The aardvark returns underground now that he has no chance to sneak up on his prey. The wasp flies back to his nest before the harsh sunlight can burn his porcelain carapace. Roman puts his bell collection into the washing machine before heading off to work, hoping to make the nocturnal world regret that they don't go to sleep until fucking 6 a.m.
Friday, February 19, 2016
Of course, maybe I'm not all that smart, because I thought Treasure Detectives would be educational. The name implies a modicum of brainpower, and it airs on CNBC, which sounds like a news channel. It starts off promisingly enough: somebody brings in something they found -- an art object, antique or collectible -- and then a bunch of "experts" delve into the history of the piece. Unfortunately, eight seconds into the program it dives straight into a bucket of stupidity and doesn't surface until the end. I compiled the idiocies endured in a dozen programs into one typical, fake episode.
HOST: Ralphie Klumsted of Tecumseh, Tennessee writes in and says, "I was going through the trash behind a Taco Bell the other day when I found a giant metal cannister under an old chalupa. I've seen five Peter Sellers movies so it immediately hit me: could this be a nuclear bomb?"
We'll certainly help you out, Ralphie. As you know, bombs are dangerous. Bombs are frequently carried into the sky by airplanes, and then dropped onto things. You might feel stupid when you drop a frosty mug of beer, but this can be far worse.
First, let's take Ralphie's bomb to somebody who doesn't know anything. Here's Tatum, a six-year-old who lives next door.
Tatum, one of our viewers thinks this might be an authentic nuclear bomb. What do you think?
TATUM: I saw a bomb on TV once. It sort of looked like this, except it had numbers on the side so the coyote would know when it would blow up. This doesn't have numbers on the side. [PAUSE] I bet it's a bomb. Can I keep it to throw at my brother?
HOST: No. But interesting! Lots of information! We certainly learned a lot, though the main lesson seems to be that if you ask total randoms for their advice you aren't the smartest tool in the shed. Next let's ask an old Italian exactly how bombs work.
OLD ITALIAN: Bombs work by splitting atoms. It's very dangerous. It's not like splitting a pizza. When you split a pizza, everybody gets a slice. Maybe somebody winds up with sauce on their shirt. But when you split an atom, something called "fission" happens. Every building in a thousand miles explodes, radioactivity burns up the atmosphere, and a billion people melt like cannoli cream.
HOST: Wow! Ha! I guess I'd better stick to splitting pizza! Now that we know how to make a bomb, can just anybody do it? Let's ask the director of Johnny Depp's Mortdecai.
DAVID KOEPP: A bomb works by causing a chain reaction among unstable atoms. One atom breaks apart, which causes another to break, and so on until the unstable material is spent and incredible amounts of energy have been dispersed. Can anybody build one? Absolutely not. Even if you had a machine shop and could fabricate all the metal parts, you'd still need enriched uranium.
HOST: Hmm. I eat cereal all the time. Is that like regular uranium with a multivitamin thrown in?
DAVID KOEPP: [PAUSE] Yes. Yes, it is.
HOST: Okay, we've learned that regular people can't make a nuclear bomb. But there's another possibility: let's see if maybe Ralphie found a nuclear bomb that some government agency made. Let's consult an actual expert.
HOST (CONTINUED): The United States supposedly dropped a bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. Is it possible they missed? Could somebody have caught the bomb before it hit the ground, and they kept it and it somehow ended up in a dumpster behind a Taco Bell?
ACTUAL EXPERT: For that to happen, you'd need a five-thousand-foot trampoline, a hydraulic elevator, a Winnebago the size of the Hindenburg that was impervious to sound and movement, and eight thousand assistants who'd fake the devastation wreaked by a nuclear bomb and then not tell a soul.
HOST: So that's a yes?
ACTUAL EXPERT: [PAUSE] That's a no.
HOST: Okay, I think we've decided. Let's call in Ralphie to give him the news.
HOST (CONTINUED): Ralphie, it's been a long week, but we've finally reached a conclusion. This is not a nuclear bomb.
RALPHIE: Huh. That's a shocker. How'd ya figure?
HOST: Well, first we decided that it's virtually impossible to make your own bomb. Then we determined that no government has ever lost a bomb. And finally we saw the word 'HOOVER' on the side, and when we hit the ON switch it sucked our curtains into that tube. We're 99% sure this is actually an old vacuum cleaner.
RALPHIE: Oh. Wow.
HOST: I know you're disappointed. If this had been an actual nuclear bomb, it would be worth millions of dollars, assuming you have no problem in dealing with bedouin. As a vacuum, though, it's worth approximately ten dollars.
RALPHIE: Oh. Okay. Thanks.
HOST: Everybody tune in next week when we examine a diary possibly written by Hitler where he talks about rollerblading through Disney World. See you then!
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Belty, on the other hand, is far more ambitious. I got to test a prototype recently and highly recommend it to anybody concerned about health and wellness. Just to get you up to speed, here's how the website's far-reaching claims translate into reality with the world's first smart belt.
"Belty is a high-end, lifestyle and wellness belt."
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Thank you for splurging on Belty. Eat some kale. By using Belty you agree that these proprietary messages may not be published elsewhere without written permission from another article of clothing.
"When walking, Belty can increase your walking pace through rythm."
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Belty detects that your movements are weak and irregular. Tap once if you are walking, twice if you are having coitus.
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: BELERRMSG #9R3M: FATAL SPELLCHECK
"When static, Belty will invite you to drink more water, stand up straight and explore new habits."
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Belty needs to check your hydration. Press Belty against your bladder until Belty beeps.
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Belty needs to check your posture. Put Belty on top of your head until Belty vibrates.
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Let's go skydiving!
"Belty is for the everyday go-getter who wants to increase their energy levels and improve their wellness."
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Run fast! Get that ticker pumping! Always consult your physician before beginning an exercise program recommended by a belt.
"Belty keeps you on track and sends good vibes your way!"
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: You go, girl! Tap Belty once for another affirmation. Additional charges may apply.
"Belty is the only intuitive and antonomous wearable that integrates artificial intelligence to promote a healthy lifestyle."
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Initiating search sequence to detect nearby broccoli.
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: BELERRMSG #5K3S: DICTIONARY STACK OVERFLOW
"Belty manages energy by suggesting power naps when they are needed the most."
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Belty detects that your movements are short and jerky. Oh, sorry -- are you having coitus again?
"Through the mobile app, Belty encourages users to develop new habits and makes them stick!"
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Didn't you tell your ex you've been working out recently? Whatever happened to that?
"The smart belt adapts to the rythtm of life!"
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Belty's going to sit down and smoke some weed now.
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: BELERRMSG #8H3D: FATAL SPELLCHECK
"With customizable straps you will never have to worry about your belt going out of style."
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Belty feel ugly. Don't look at Belty. Tap twice to order new Belty. Additional charges may apply.
"Belty helps you enjoy simple moments throughout the day by encouraging you to do the little things that change everything."
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Yes, that is a pretty scarf, but there's a reason people carry credit cards, Wynona.
"The app allows users to customize activities based on their preferences."
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Tap to confirm: do you really want Belty to stop texting you during coitus?
"[Our] dedication ensures a high quality product and makes Belty a unique accessory."
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Are your socks as smart as Belty? Belty think not.
"From the start, we made a strong commitment to offer a product made entirely in France."
NEW MSG FROM BELTY: Time for Belty vacation. See you next spring!
Monday, February 8, 2016
In Japan, drivers 65 and older accounted for about a quarter of traffic deaths in 2014, compared with about 15% in the U.S.
Random, totally unrelated facts:
Population ages 65 and above (% of total)
Friday, February 5, 2016
Before the cat, I always wondered why people got offended when you referred to their pets by the wrong sex. Say there's a man walking a Pekingese outside your apartment building. You want to share your admiration as well as reinforce someone's poochy pride. "That's a great little dog!" you chirp. "She's a gorgeous little thing."
Instantly the man turns defensive. His face hardens. It's the expression Mark Wahlberg makes when he goes to the bathroom after eating cheese. "It's a he. A HE."
You apologize, but you walk away mystified. I mean, who really cares? Masculinity doesn't feature very prominently in Hairy Pawter's life. He wasn't going to the strip club with his buddies after a hard day at the quarry. No, he was going to find a sunbeam and warm his tummy. He was going to yap at a butterfly for eight hours before chewing up a rubber donut. Is there such a huge gulf between him and a chick?
Besides, what's the option? I wanted to hear these pet owners verbalize their thoughts. "I know you can't tell the sex of my pet with zero outward evidence, but it's offensive to the both of us when you guess wrong. In the future, please lift Mary Puppins and visually inspect for either a penis or a vagina before addressing us."
I stopped talking to people about their pets, but it never stopped bothering me. I mean, if misidentification is such a horrible crime, why don't pet owners do like human parents and give us a clue? Human parents determinedly avoid misunderstandings: it would mark the end of life as they know it if they're pushing little Briantha in her carriage and somebody comes up and says, "My, that's a handsome lad!" They were on their way to Connecticut Muffin, but now they run to Psychiatrists R Us. Dad snaps a tiara on little Briantha's head and pokes two chandelier earrings through her earlobes. Now he swaggers while pushing the stroller, all but daring bystanders: "Now say she looks like a dude, motherfuckers!"
Still, the first time somebody misidentifies my cat I get it. I'm irritated. It's a personal insult, and it's demeaning. It says, "I don't care enough about either of you to use the correct pronouns. Does that bother you and your, um, thing?"
I smile, but inwardly I scream at them. "He is not a she. He is a he. You think a male cat can't be fluffy? A male cat can't be soft? I'll thank you to keep your tired gender stereotypes to yourself. This is 2016, and my cat is free to be whoever he wants to be. If he wants to go into fashion, he can go into fashion. (I'm pretty sure he can't, since he's a complete fuckup on a sewing machine.) If he wants to be a race-car driver, he can be a race car driver. (This is likewise pretty fruitless, since he dives under the bed when he hears a bird chirp.) If he wants to be a giant pudding-shaped paperweight that only stays awake long enough to bite me, then it's fine with me! (I didn't just pull that out of thin air; I'm the kind of person who only tells the truth when he's mad.) But you will not cow us. You will not intimidate us. You will not bully Chairman Meow!"
Of course, I don't say any of this. I don't even correct them. I understand my anger, and control it. I just got the cat, and in a month or two it won't even bother me. It's exactly like what happened with my third husband. On one of our first dates he says, "I'd like to go dancing," so we go to dancing. "I'd like to have Thai food," he says, so we have Thai food.
A month later we're on my couch reading newspapers. "I'd like a foot rub," he says.
I flip to the next page of my paper and don't even look up. "You like a lot of stuff," I say.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
First, I can't buy presents. I don't get the whole idea. You have shoes. You have a sturdy coat. What's the problem? The first few times I gave out gifts I went with useful. Steel-toed boots. Pepper spray. Bolt cutters. Waterproof matches, a flashlight that doubles as a club, a duffel bag. I'd be happy to get any of these, but for some reason the rest of the world saw them as weird. Though I had the best intentions I always got dirty looks, or even worse if they were opened at the wedding.
Second, nobody taught me how to make friends. On my first day at grade school, all the other kids were introducing themselves and chatting and bonding. "Hi, my name is Roman," I should have said. "That's an attractive shirt. Shall we meet at recess for a juice-box?" Whenever anybody approached me, though, the wolf came running out. "Do you have food?" I'd ask. "I have two dollars. Do you know if it's safe to travel north?"
The most obvious side effect, though, is my cheapness. I'd think twice about paying $12 to get my hair cut, and the going rate in New York is $45. Forty-five dollars. I wouldn't pay that for a dozen condoms, and nobody wants to touch my hair.
Which is how I found myself in the chair of a yet another trainee hairstylist yesterday afternoon. They're easy to find online: the hard part is making sure they've picked up scissors before. Unfortunately, Craigslist doesn't filter out people who wake up one morning and think, "Hey, I want to randomly cut somebody's hair at least once in my life." Take my word for it: they exist.
I didn't get the best vibes from this woman. She had a pierced nose and pink streaks in her hair that screamed "Short Attention Span." I pictured her making two or three snips before texting a friend, "I'm bored again. Why don't we screenprint t-shirts and pierce our labias tonight?"
"When did you last get your hair cut?" she asked as she ran her fingers through my straggly brown locks.
"Just last month," I said. I told her about my last free cut, at a hipster barbershop. It was decorated like a gold rush saloon, and the stylists wore vests with watch fobs and their mustaches were twirled up at the ends. I watched from the waiting room and the cuts were uniformly dreadful. They were all clippered short on the sides and longer on top, which leaves every third customer looking like he's got a giant lightbulb atop his neck. I tried to sneak out before the stylist got to me, but he beat me to the door.
"I knew it was going to be terrible," I said. "I told him to leave it long so if it was really bad I could have it fixed."
"Yeah, it's not great," she said. "What kind of cut do you want?"
I looked at her. She looked at me. "Maybe leave it long," I said.