"...it's like Will Rogers, Jean Shepherd and some grumpy Jewish man all rolled into one."

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Right to Bare Arms

I was shot in the workplace the other day by someone who didn't know how to properly use a gun. This really happened.

Granted, it was a Nerf gun shooting a foam-bodied projectile with a plastic tip -- but it still hurt like hell. My "friend" (ha!) at work picked up the Nerf gun, which was lying on top of a small storage cabinet between my desk and my neighbor's, and started to play with it while waiting for me to finish an email before heading out together for a coffee break. I was focused on my desktop monitor and suddenly SMACK!!! the Nerf projectile struck me in the side of my neck. It had been "accidentally" (ha!) fired about 18 inches away from my head. My "friend" (ha!) shrieked in dismay once the weapon discharged, and I let loose with a series of expletives that would surely land me a part in the next Martin Scorsese movie.

The perpetrator (new name for my "friend") apologized profusely and then offered the following excuses:
  • "I was just playing around with it."
  • "I didn't know it was loaded."
  • "I didn't know how to operate it properly."
  • "I never fired a Nerf gun before."
  • "It shouldn't have been out in the open."
  • "You were sitting too close to it when it went off."
OK, that last one I made up but the perp rattled off all the rest of them. The shooter attempted to absolve herself of any personal responsibility for the situation, so blaming the victim was sure to be next in her series of disingenuous statements if we hadn't already made it to the coffee shop by then. There was a quick reference to how she'd "Dick Cheney'd" me, alluding to the former Vice President's hunting accident some years back where he blasted a companion with a load of buckshot. If you recall, the victim in that shooting later apologized to Cheney, saying he was sorry "for all that Vice President Cheney and his family [had] to go through". Well, I'm not planning to apologize to my assailant, that's for sure.

Plus, the only thing my family had to endure were spasms of laughter when I told them I'd been shot with a Nerf.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Prattle of the Sexes

She says: "Maybe your brother can give you a hand while he's here."
She means: "You have made a complete mess of this project, you f*©king idiot. Fix it."

He says: "Go ahead, suit yourself."
He means: "I am paying absolutely no attention to what you just said."

She says: "I'd like some more help around the house."
She means: "I met with a divorce attorney today."

He says: "You look great!"
He means: "Get in the car already."

She says: "Is that what you're wearing?"
She means: "How old were you when your mother stopped dressing you - 23?"

He says: "You don't have to come if you don't want to."
He means: "Please please please please don't come with me; it's emasculating."

She says: "That was nice."
She means: "Nice try."

He says: "That was nice."
He means: "I'm going to sleep now."

She says: "I'll just be a minute in this store."
She means: "You might as well take a nap on a bench in the food court."

He says: "We can't afford it."
He means: "Unless I give up my dream of buying a boat."

She says: "Dinner was delicious!"
She means: "Nice try."

He says: "Dinner was delicious!"
He means: "If I keep complimenting you, hopefully I'll never have to cook again."

She says: "It wasn't that expensive."
She means: "Compared to the price of a boat."

He says: "I can't imagine my life without you and the kids."
He means: "I can't take care of myself."

She says: "I can't imagine my life without you and the kids."
She means: "Well, without the kids."

He says: "I love you."
He means: "I hope you won't be too mad when you see our new boat parked in the driveway."

She says: "I love you."
She means: "In spite of your many flaws."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

One Man's Squealing Is Another Man's Roar

I had a very disturbing dream last night after a dissatisfying day at work. If anyone out there in Reader Land is a Licensed and Insured Dream Interpreter, your comments explaining the significance of said dream would be most welcome.

[The work background is nothing extraordinary: work sucks, should I stay or should I go, day-dreaming about relocating (both the missus and I) and finding jobs elsewhere...]

So, in this dream Carol and I were not husband and wife, more like boyfriend/girlfriend (I was the boyfriend) of long-standing, something like 20 years together. (In waking life, we're coming up on Anniversary No. 33 this summer.) For reasons unknown, Carol decided we needed to break up. It came as quite a shock to me. There were various scenes of me in our "house" (we currently live in an apartment and do have the lake house up in Maine, but the dream house's layout wasn't familiar at all), arguing against the breakup. At some point I had moved out into a rather decrepit studio apartment on my own: peeling paint, third-hand furnishings, and I could just imagine the elevated train rumbling past the kitchen window. (Brief aside -- when we moved to Boston, nine years ago, I came up first while we sold the house back in SC and for six months I lived alone in a studio with second-hand furnishings, right next to the Mass Pike and across from the commuter rail station. I would be awakened every morning no later than 5:15 A.M. by road noise and clanging trains.)

Between scenes back at the house with Carol, I was encouraged by some of my co-workers (real-life and current) that I was going to be O.K. and others would find me attractive (-enough). No one spoke ill of Carol, they just seemed to accept the situation for what it was and thought I should move on with my life. But I wanted to be with Carol and kept returning to try and hash things out with her.

During one visit that again turned out badly, I was ushered out the front door by our maid, a woman of color who was rather short and squat. (We've never had a maid or housekeeper and I don't know why skin color or height came into it.) The maid seemed none too fond of me. Carol was willing to speak with me during this and other interludes but couldn't be swayed from her decision.

At some point, it became known that she had a new boyfriend. However, it wasn't clear whether he was the reason for the split or someone who came along after she'd decided to part company with me. In the last scene I can remember, I had once more returned to the house to present my case (again, emphatically/angrily) and became predictably frustrated by Carol's calm but insistent rejection. I started to storm out of the house, but Carol came after me and wanted to continue the conversation. We stood outside on the porch and I began to restate my position. At some point, I turned and looked away while speaking and when I turned back toward Carol she was leaning in to an open window, passionately kissing the new boyfriend. I was now even more incensed that she'd stopped listening to me in order to make out with this interloper. He was tall, maybe 6 foot or 6' 1", slender build, wavy hair and wore wire-rimmed glasses. (If you saw my high school graduation picture, I had similar hair and glasses back then, and was much thinner than I am these days, but I was and remain a mere 5' 9". I tell people to imagine Napoleon Dynamite, without the squint.) I walked away screaming at Carol, with my anger compounded by her even-more-hurtful decision to start making out with the other dude in the middle of our "discussion".

This was one of those dreams that seemed to take hours to experience but I'm sure was over in mere minutes if not seconds. It woke me up around 5:45 in the morning, much earlier than normal, and I was so upset that I decided to get out of bed and watch the early news vs. lie around any longer feeling so distraught. I made coffee and breakfast for myself (and a cup for Carol, in a travel mug -- I really am an exemplary husband) and then it was time to get ready for work.

Carol got up at her regular time, so I didn't see her until I was coming out of the shower. She stayed in the bathroom as I described the dream. When I said she'd been kissing the new boyfriend, she smiled and asked, "What did he look like?" I described him as above, and she attempted to reassure me -- "I am not seeing a tall, slender man with wavy hair and glasses." I parsed that reply for a few moments and then asked her what the man she was seeing looked like. This was her opportunity to reply that he looked just like ME... (ahem, awkward pause, cough).

I imagine I dream as often (or not) as is the norm. I'm not one for strong recollection of most dreams; don't keep a dream journal and have rarely had a recurring dream that repeated over multiple nights. But every once in a while I have a whopper like this one, and that's usually indicative of several nights of "memorable" dreams to come. If I have any more I hope I'll be taller and convince Carol to take me back. Or at least live in a nicer and quieter bachelor apartment. Well, a fella can dream -- can't he?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Todd Rundgren-And-Bear-It

Back from a week's vacation in NC and SC wherein we visited with some very close friends whose names escape me at the moment. That's because we also saw three Todd Rundgren shows over a four-day span.

Many of you are now asking, "Todd WHO?" Really, have you never heard of the Internet? It's a system by which questions no longer need be asked in order to be answered. I highly recommend it.

But getting back to Our Hero (as many of us Todd fans refer to him) -- he's perhaps the archetypal "cult figure" in rock music. A brief brush with Top 40 stardom fairly early in his career, followed by a deliberate decision not to repeat himself, and yet he's remained an innovative and influential musician with a moderate but solid fan base for over forty years. I came in just after his first wave of notoriety with a band called the Nazz but slightly before his biggest selling album, Something/Anything. I'd love to say I saw him back in 1968 at a club in Cleveland with sticky floors along with only fourteen other folks... But the when and where aren't as important to me as the why. And I can't really explain why I have such a great love for his music; I just... do. I don't like all of it, but love most of it, enough that I'm still excited to purchase new releases when they come out every few years, just to hear what he's up to. I've seen him in concert maybe 20 times over the last 35 years, in various configurations from large bands to solo-with-pre-recorded-backing-tracks. Many fans have seem him hundreds of times. I can't claim that level of devotion, but I'm joyfully listening to him on iTunes as I type this.

Don't we all have something we're passionate about to the point of near-obsession? It may be a musician, an actor, a series of books, a TV show (my other obsession is The Dick Van Dyke Show, and my Two Degrees of Dick Van Dyke connection is that I once met someone who guest-starred on the program. He played a character named "Randy Twizzle", who sang a song about a dance called the "Twizzle", which was a pale imitation of the "Twist". In all the years since I met that actor, a very talented and exceedingly handsome man named Jerry Lanning, I have yet to find ONE OTHER PERSON who remembers that particular episode of the series), or quilting, or recognizing every model of Studebaker ever built... but there's something you could prattle on endlessly about, isn't there? If only you could get someone to listen to you.

We have friends who are musicians and once performed on a bill with Todd (Richard X. and Nancy Heyman - check RXH out here). They invited us backstage after the show and while waiting to catch up with them to head out for dinner, who was standing across the way but Todd himself. My wife spotted him and said, "Let's go say 'Hi!'" We ambled over and quite rudely interrupted a conversation he was having with Steve Forbert (another fine musician, best known for his hit "Romeo's Tune", and some of you out there may be as obsessed with Steve's music and longevity as I am with TR's). My wife smiled and shook hands and said how much we'd enjoyed the show and we're friends of the Heymans and how about those Mets? She then pointed to me and said, "My husband is the real fan...", whereupon Todd sorta turned my way and offered a hand, which I gladly shook with excessive vigor while saying, "Phlub m'nug shpritzl dornk." I literally could not form a single coherent word, much less an entire sentence. I've met and been intimidated by a few other reasonably famous folks -- let's see, the entire list in roughly chronological order is:

  • Brooks Robinson: I was 9 years old, a rabid Baltimore Orioles fan, and he placed a hand on my shoulder. I told my mom I would never shower again since he'd touched me and I kept that pledge for nearly two weeks.
  • Dr. Ruth Westheimer: I was working in a mall in White Plains, NY when Dr. Ruth walked up to me to ask directions to a community room where she was giving a talk. After she asked me which way to go, I wittily quipped, "You're Dr. Ruth!" She already seemed aware of that.
  • Austin Pendleton: We attended a preview of a play he'd directed in Chicago, after which there was a Q&A and after that he stayed on the stage and continued to chat with audience members. He was warm and gracious and I kept waiting for him to stutter like his lawyer character in My Cousin Vinny.
  • Tom Perrotta: One of my favorite authors, who gave a talk at the offices of the Boston Globe and also kindly answered questions from the audience. I tried to tie all of my obsessions together by including a Todd reference into the conversation (one of his books begins with a quote from a Todd lyric) and also handing him one of Richard X. Heyman's CDs. "What a guy!" I'm sure he thought to himself during the ride home. "Another Todd fan AND he gave me a most excellent CD as a gift! Maybe I'll be lucky enough to run into him again at the next Obscure Influences Conference."
One of the biggest Todd highlights came just a few years ago when Carol, Josh and I all attended a TR concert where he played a couple of his older albums in their entirety. Hearing the albums performed from start to finish took me back to when I'd first put needle to vinyl to hear them umpteen years ago. Sharing the experience with my wife and son left me overwhelmed at the end of the night -- we're not the kind of family that shares a lot of common interests; we don't go on ski vacations, haven't kayaked together down the Susquehanna, and it's increasingly rare these days that we're all in the same place at the same time. But on this one night we shared our passion for this musician and, by extension, our love for one another.

But if I'd seen Brooks Robinson outside the theater on the way in, I would have ditched them in a heartbeat.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Bitter Patter

Looks can be deceiving. Smell, however, should be trusted implicitly.

It's not what you know, it's who the hell told you??

Pride goeth before a fall. That's why I stick to the couch.

One man's meat is another man's poison. That's why you should avoid the Beef Stroganoff at any luncheonette.

I cried because I had no shoes. Then the salesman came out with a size 10 wide and I was happy.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. No, wait -- on second thought, you can keep the wretched refuse.

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the sauna.

Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? Their ex-wives know.

The wages of sin is death, but they do offer a 401(k) match.

The man who has confidence in himself gains the confidence of others. At least that's what my financial advisor told me as I handed him that check.

If not us, who? If not now, when? No, next week is bad for me.

He who hesitates is lost. But he'll never ask for directions, that's for sure.

Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies. I guess that doesn't leave us much to talk about.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I like to live dangerously.

A prophet is not recognized in his own land. Check again, I'm sure my name's on the list.

Good things come to those who wait. Yes, that's the same thing I told you yesterday.

Lightning never strikes twice in the same place, so slide over a little.

Many a true word is spoken in jest. You are stupid and ugly, LOL.

There is many a slip 'tween cup and lip, particularly after last call.

You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar, but really -- could you just close the screen door behind you?