Thursday, August 23, 2007

The End is Near

There are a few things by which you can measure your life. Milestones. Unseen flags planted along a curving path that, once crossed, let you know that a distance has been traveled.

Birth. (a gimme really)

Driver’s license.

Porn movie rental.

Legally purchased Mad Dog 20/20. (and subsequent government sanctioned hangover)

College graduation.


Yesterday, I crossed another of these milestones.

I was sitting at my desk here at home, editing episode 5 of the sitcom (check out episodes 1-4 at, when I got wind of the distinct scent of burning sulfur. Seeing as how I don’t life anywhere near an oil refinery, I was a bit concerned. My first thought whenever I smell anything that smells even slightly “fiery” is always that something has—well—caught fire. My imagination immediately begins to conjure up images of the building ablaze. A wall of flame threatening my neighbors, their only hope; my heroic action, my superior sulfur-sniffing schnoz.

But when I got to my front window to check it out, all I found were two kids sitting on the bottom of my steps.

I could tell they were up to no good; they had all the telltale signs of being 10-year-old punks:

1) They were 10 years old.

2) They were kids.

3) They both had that 10-year-old punk-ass haircut. You know the hair I’m talking about. I call it the “Blond Boy-Princess Cut.” Highlights and shine that a tween pop diva would stop purging for. They looked like they just got fired off their stunt-double jobs on “The Suite Life of Zach and Cody.” Hair that says “I’m a bad-ass motherfucker” to other kids, too young to appreciate the irony.

I really knew they were dumbshits when I saw the bigger of the two toss a spent stink bomb into the street (I knew I recognized that smell!). I watched them for a little while longer as they threw some other crap into my driveway, had some inane—yet dramatic—convo and fired off some text messages on their Sidekick. (Seriously, why the hell do 10-year-olds need a freaking Sidekick?!)

Finally, the bigger one produced a blue marker from his pocket and I needed a cigarette.

I stood downstairs in my driveway and talked to Tanya on the phone. The kids stayed put at the bottom of the stairs. I half watched them. I should have busted them for throwing garbage into my driveway, but I hate confrontation, even if I’m twice the size of both of them out together. So I decided to relax about it.

I hung up with Tanya and headed back upstairs. The kids graciously move two inches each to let me by.

That’s when I saw it.

The little shit had tagged my bottom step!

I stood behind them for a few moments weighing my legal options before saying anything. These days you have to. You just can’t go around disciplining other people’s kids anymore. In fact, you should probably think twice before talking to them.

But when they felt my contempt busting a hole in the backs of their heads, they slowly turned around.

“Hey, why don’t you clean that shit off my step?”

And with that utterance, I entered a new chapter in my life. The chapter that begins: “I’ll have the strained peas please.”

I’m officially an old man.

I know I’ve said that before, but this time it’s indisputable. Because I didn’t just say “hey, why don’t you clean that shit off my step.”

I stood there while the kid did it.

Albeit, not without a fight.

“I didn’t do that!”

“Yes you did, I saw the blue marker in your pocket. Blue writing. Blue marker. I cracked the code.”

“I didn’t, but if you insist on blaming me, I’ll clean it up.”

“Dude,” I said dude. I may be an old man, but I’m not going quietly, damnit! “Dude, I’m not an idiot. Just clean the shit off my stairs. This place is a big enough shithole without you writing all over it.” I swore a lot just to let the kids know that I’m cool as hell. Because that’s oh so very important.

So the kid grabbed the nearby hose, while I and his princess-boy buddy watched, and he scrubbed the writing off the step with his shirtsleeve.

“Okay, that’s good enough.” There was still some blue left but not much. After all, why humiliate the kid any further because of some blue stains when the owners are barely keeping the entire staircase safe enough to walk on in the first place?

And with a hearty, “Now get the hell out of here.” It was done.

Am I a hypocrite? I had no respect for other people’s property. I tagged crap when I was a kid (with un-washable spray paint! I blame the movie “Beat Street”).

But you know why I stopped? Because some old, out-of-touch, killjoy fucker yelled at me for it.

To everything turn, turn, turn...

My hip hurts.

Fun Fact: When I was 10, my friends and I decided to make a fort—on the roof of the Public Library. When the cops showed up to bust us, we ran and hid in an ally.

The only problem was that the ally was right behind the police station.

Kids are dumb.

This picture is an artists rendering of the actual library mentioned above. Why no real picture, you ask? Well, this is the only one I could find online. Evidently, they don’t trust cameras in Wheeling, WV. They think they steal your “coal.”

They are a confused and superstitious coalmining people.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I Remember When You Could Get a Loaf of Bread for a White Lie

Those were the days. When groceries were affordable and journalism was had integrity.

Of course, I’m not really talking about journalism, I’m talking about Dateline NBC. When it’s not driving would-be perverts to suicide, the news magazine exploits human misery in other ways. Things like murder “mysteries.” Usually on a smaller scale (unless a disenfranchised student goes on a killing spree, or it’s the anniversary of a disenfranchised student’s killing spree).

It can be somewhat entertaining, often terrifying, but I don’t remember it being so damned “hard boiled.”

As I was brushing my teeth last night, getting ready for bed (yes, I go to sleep at 10; I’m 34 years old now!), Dateline was on my TV. I was too lazy to turn the channel after Last Comic Standing ended (They sent home Matt Kirshen! That kid was funny, damnit).

Dateline was doing a story about a polo player who disappeared in The Philippines or something. This was the way the voice-over described Southeast Asia:

“It’s like opening the door to a very dark world where the currency is…betrayal.

The currency is betrayal?

I’m sure the story went on to discuss some business dealing gone horribly wrong. But before that statement was uttered on the show, the reporter had been talking about the victim’s alleged Asian extramarital affair. So the fact that The Philippines’ currency is betrayal seemed to me like a bit of a non sequitur. (Unless the guy was planning to trade his affair for a new car.)

Southeast Asia; where the currency is betrayal.

Southeast Asia, where they barter in misery, prepare food with revenge (and fish sauce) and floss their teeth with treason.

I’m sure they were going for an edgy feel to the “story.” But don’t the writers on these shows get paid well? The reporters don’t write the copy do they? It’s possible that whoever wrote this is practicing for their new pulp fiction novel.

“The Philippines; a place where a reporter can get a cup of joe, but shouldn’t be surprised if it growls at him. Where the jungles are steamy but the dames are steamier. Where pennies on the dollar can get you a night on the town, but can’t buy your dignity.”

They might as well write that stuff. Then they wouldn’t have to fill the story up with inane drivel like this:

“John Elwin loved polo like he loved life.”

And exact quote from the top of the broadcast. But what does that mean? I wish they would have said, “John Elwin played polo like he lived his life.” Then I could have added “…straddling a large mammal.” But they didn’t. They went for the even more vague statement.

Did John Elwin love polo like he loved his life? Will we ever know? He’s dead…I assume…I didn’t watch the whole thing. And can we trust the people who knew him best to tell us? He was having an affair that he kept secret from everyone after all.

Who cares?

Not me.

But we should expect more from our journalists, shouldn’t we? They’ve gotten horribly lazy. Someone should start a letter writing campaign to stop these lazy hacks.

Let me know how it goes.

Fun Fact: The Philippines’ actual currency is the Philippine Peso. And the exchange rate is high. You can get a lot of pesos for a dollar, but even that’s not enough to buy back your soul.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Quit Your Clowning!

It’s official, another of the world’s most selfish people has been saved by a fertilized egg.

Nicole Ritchie is pregnant (no, she’s probably not having a creepy Ronald McDonald baby…although, if she does, my suspicions will be confirmed). And she’s taking responsibility for her drunken indiscretions. She now sees the error of her ways. She has been made newly aware that she has a responsibility to others.

And all it took was for her to lose her period.

Well, I’m sure she lost her period a while before she was pregnant. But this time the loss of menses was due to a baby-ish thing squirming inside her and not due to her 15-calorie-a-day diet.

Nicole isn’t the first person to have this revelation. A remarkable amount of celebs have had had similar ones. Even the non-infamous are privy to an impregnation-induced epiphany. It’s as if the spermatozoa penetrate not only the egg, but the decision-making centers of the brain as well.

But before we launch the “this is your brain…this is your brain on sperm” campaign, let me be clear that I’m talking about men here as well. In a man’s case, it could possibly be argued that the release of sperm makes them better people.

You hear that ladies? The next time you go poking around at your significant other’s browser history, remember, he’s doing it for the common good!

But let’s not talk anymore about ejaculate. In fact, let’s forget that I typed the word “ejaculate” at all.

It’s not my point.

My point is that a pregnancy has a great number of life altering effects. It can make a person sleepier, fatter, jumpier, “stretchmarkier,” poorer and – more importantly – better.

It’s the last one that I’m interested in. Although, ladies, I am interested in what it feels like to be kicked from the inside. Is it as creepy as it sounds?

But, no, I’m staying on topic here. Lets talk about how bringing a child into the world makes someone a better person.

(Author’s note: No. Tanya is not pregnant, mom.)

I’ve never understood how having a child can make a person better. I can understand how a kid can make a person more careful. I can see how a baby can make a person more patient.

But not “better.”

Let’s take Nicole again as an extreme example. I know that your typical mom isn’t a drunk-driving, coke-snorting multimillionaire celebrity socialite. But take Nicole anyway…please! Oh, the humor. My sides, my sides.

Before Nicole got pregnant, she couldn’t see how she was at all responsible to the people around here. At least not the people who weren’t immediately around her. The general public that is to say.

But now that there’s a Nicole Ritchie/Joel Madden hybrid sloshing around somewhere near her small intestines, the world has been shown in a whole new light. She is going to be more responsible because…well because…

Let’s examine that, shall we?

Nicole used to be a careless debutante who saw the people of the world as nothing but an ATM, traffic and congestion. Something to get in her way and pay her rent. But now there’s a baby involved. She can no longer be the selfish woman that she once was. Why?

She has learned that it’s important for her to be a responsible person. She is responsible to…her baby. Her actions have a direct effect on…her baby. She wants to be a positive influence and make the world a better place…for her baby.

Pardon me if I seem a bit skeptical about Nicole’s sincerity.

Seems to me that saying you’re going to be less selfish in regard to the world around you just because you had a baby is a bit like saying:

“I used to set fire to a condo complex down the street about once a week. It was fun watching all those homes burn. But then I bought a unit there. That’s when I decided that what I was doing might not be the best idea.”

Being forced to be a better person doesn’t seem like the greatest act of benevolence to me. You wouldn’t say that a serial killer on death row is a good man now simply because he hasn’t killed anyone in the 20 years he’s been locked up, would you?

Am I being unreasonable here? Is it possible that Nicole is striving to be a better person now because she finally has learned what it’s like to truly love another person, therefore making it possible for her to develop a sense of empathy toward humankind in general? Maybe. Sad. But maybe.

And does it matter that Nicole has hopelessly selfish reasons for being less selfish?

Do the ends justify the means?

And should the city of New York be able to tell Nicole that her baby can’t drink formula in their hospitals?

Like that? Like how I changed the subject there?

Man, we’re not losing our civil liberties…we’re giving ‘em away.

Fun Fact: My Apple keyboard is driving me nuts! The space bar sticks on the right side. And I keep inadvertently hitting the caps lock key. Why does this keyboard suck so much? I paid a lot of money for it! And why can’t I type right?!

Help me, Mavis Beacon!

You too, Steve Jobs.