Monday, February 1, 2010

Things I Don’t Understand: The Handkerchief

So I’m in a local bookstore last week, waxing poetic on my laptop about midgets and JD Salinger, when this slightly-older-than-middle-aged gentleman and his equally grey female friend grab the table next to me.

He is eating a sandwich, napkin by his side. Paper napkin. He chews loudly which makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

He talks while he chews which makes my stomach turn. Then he does something I just don’t understand.
He pulls out a handkerchief from his right pant pocket, blows a bunch of snot into it, and returns it to his pocket. I don’t want to say what this makes me do, but let’s just say the search party has not found my scrotum just yet.

Can someone explain this to me?

I mean really. The guy had a NAPKIN next to his plate. Wouldn’t you forego the whole snot-in-your-pocket routine if you could? And don’t tell me he was being green. Oh and Mr. Hanky (not THAT Mr. Hanky!) did it 5 times. In 30 minutes. That borders on some sort of nasal drip, no?

Since my grandfather’s generation, we have (almost) lost the traditions of the pipe, the cloth diaper, and the bow tie (except among guys named Tucker).

Doesn’t this make more sense than any of them? Okay, cloth diapers are just gross. But the idea of blowing mucus into a cloth that you continually refold and twist and turn and return to your pocket is astoundingly disgusting.

Where is the TODAY Show expose on the grossest possible things you can do?

“Hey Al Roker, did you know every time you flush the toilet you are spewing tiny fecal particles into the air, so shut that lid!”

“(Fill in corny Al Roker comeback here, which spurs guffaws by the kiss-ass camera and production crew of the show)…Oh Ann Curry, I don’t know what it’s like in the Orient, but here in the states we love to blow snots into a raggedy cloth and put that it back in our pocket. And old women often put them up their sleeves.”

“Oh , Al, You so funny.”

“Ann, I’m serious. Look, here’s mine! Hey, Bon Jovi’s out on the plaza today. I wonder if he’ll deposit some DNA in my hanky?”

“We all can dream big,” a bored Meredith Vieira says, missing the joke because she’s counting her money.

“Is DNA is punk rock band?” Matt Lauer says, wondering where in the world he is at that moment.

So I’m calling for the end of the hanky. Maybe we could have a hanky recycling day where we trade them in to make snot-stained t-shirts for the ravaged children in Haiti. Or more cloth diapers (“Now self-sticking!”). Pre-soiled sheets for college dorm rooms.

Either way, we must end this practice of essentially snotting up our pockets. I can just imagine this poor man’s wife washing his pants. Reaching in to clean out his pockets? Cue the mouth vomit and search party.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Small, But Measurable Loss; Why Little People Make a Big Imact

So yesterday was a very sad day. JD Salinger, one of the best writers of the century, died. And the day before, the diminutive actress Zelda Rubenstein (Poltergeist, Under the Rainbow and any other movies that required a little Jewish grandmother-type figure)passed on as well.

I’m not one to mourn famous people, especially when they were in their 90s, like Salinger. They lived a full life and, quite honestly, they haven’t contributed much to our society in recent years. So having them gone today is pretty much like having them here yesterday. And Salinger was a recluse. His death? Sad, but inevitable. Let’s all move on.

The Rubenstein thing is more disturbing. No, not because she was only 76. And not because she’s gonna shift around in her coffin like a small bag in the overhead compartment of a 747 jet. And not because she’d been starring in landmark roles recently.

It’s sad, because, I just fucking love midgets.

Now I don’t know if she was technically a midget (the tallest midget can be is 4”9’ but it doesn’t make everyone that height or less a midget. I don’t think. I don’t even know what a Milk Dud is, so why even listen to me), But it’s sad when a little person dies. It makes me sad. Why the obsession with midgets?

Well, it’s like this. Midgets, pound for pound, are the purest form of entertainment.

And you know I’m right about that.

But, they must be interspersed with normal sized folk. Otherwise, it’s just a shitshow. My brother, knowing my mini-person obsession, once bought me an all-midget Western “The Terror of Tinytown.” (I kid you not. They rode Shetland Ponies. And it’s decades old, filmed in black-and-white in 1938). I resisted viewing it for years. I didn’t want to hate it.

I hated it. I couldn’t even finish it, and it was about an hour-and-fifteen minutes long. (Is that technically classified as a “short film”) It was in more ways than one, a letdown.

And there have been documentaries about little people and there is the annual convention of little people that always seems to make its way to some news show every year, but that’s not fun. Midgets dancing with midgets ruins the visual affect. The look like swollen (or dried out) regular people and they move a little funny. Show me a 7-foot Shaq doing the Electric Slide next to a 51-inch wee person. Now THAT’s funny.

How much do I love midgets? One year, in this dead pool I’m in with about 15 other people, I drafted 75 little people of some notoriety. (Oh yes, there are plenty of midget entertainers, you betcha. And, yes, that was a casual reference to a dead pool. So what? That’s for another blog. And no I don’t have Harry Morgan. And yes Abe Vigoda is still alive. Oh and because you are wondering, yes, I did pick all the little people from the show “Little People, Big World” but spared the regular-sized siblings.)

There was actually a midget version of “The Bachelor” a few years ago. It was on Fox (shocker!) and the whole “series” was two episodes. “The Littlest Groom” aired in 2004 (I guess “Big Love” was already taken). I LOVED it. And I think any guy who religiously watches The Bachelor is, you guessed it, a douche

What I liked about it, in addition to how cute everyone was in their little dresses and tuxedo, was that after he met all the midget girls, they brought in regular women. Oh….the midget girls were not only pissed but they hurt themselves by craning their necks so high. All of them had that “Oh no you didn’t” look on their tiny childlike faces.
The only really disappointing thing, other than the show not being on every week for a four-month span, was that they NEVER asked the tall girls why they would date a midget. The honest, answer, of course is fame and notoriety, but it was like the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Okay, the 300 pound gorilla.

I think he picked a tall girl. Maybe he picked a midget. Who knows. My memory has always been short.

But the point is Zelda Rubenstein is gone. Zelda baby, you have left a big hole in the world of small entertainers. Your time on this earth was, predictably, too short.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Can't Get Change at the Post Office; Same Old, Same Old is a Time Honored Tradition

Change is everywhere. Three years ago, nobody ever heard of Twitter. A year ago, we were celebrating our new President who seems to be in a heap of trouble today. And it wasn’t so long ago that Tom DeLay was just an ordinary scumbag, not a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.

But, alas, some things never change.

Perfect example: The Post Office.

None of us LIKE to go to the Post Office. We only go because there’s a certified letter waiting for us, when we think shipping is somehow cheaper there, or we want to meet Lance Armstrong in his cute yellow shirt. (The last two NEVER happen, by the way.)

So we go. And quickly we realize that NOTHING has changed at the post office for 25 years. The first thing we do is look for the right forms. We fill them out, watching the line get longer. We panic. “Do I want Express Mail or Priority Mail? What’s the difference? Why does this form come in three different colors? Is there a color for Tuesday? Don’t they have any friggin packing tape out here? Why is there a 2007 calendar still on the wall?”

Then we battle the line, marveling at the paltry, dirty conditions that make a high school boys locker room look like Saddam’s palace. We try to find the person making the snorting sounds – you know, when someone refuses to use a tissue to blow their nose? We overhear conversations that are not appropriate for our living rooms, much less the Post Office (“I told that boy that bitch was nothin’ but trouble, her and her nose ring be bringing all kinds o’ diseases in my house.”)

And there’s always someone ahead of us in line who is somehow in a bigger rush than we are. He turns to everyone he can make eye contact with, sighs, stands with his shoulders shrugged and head disapprovingly shaking his head, all while checking his watch four times.

There’s the smelly person, though often it’s difficult to isolate the stench. There’s the mom with four kids in tow. There’s the dapper guy clearly on lunch from his very important hedge fund manager job who’s pissed off that he needs to send a baby shower gift to his wife’s college friend Suzy who is expecting twins. Note: He is very likely to be Mr. InaRush. There might even be a DMV employee who thinks it’s taking a long time.

So we slowly move along, noting there are three stations for postal workers, yet only one of them is occupied. (I will not make a postal worker joke here. Not only is it too easy and cliché, these are people I want on my side. I’m always VERY nice to them. Karma and such. Oh, and Mr. Rogers's mailman was Mr. McFeely, so it's kinda in my blood.)

So Mr. InARush gets to the counter and suddenly he appears to have the urgency of someone in those Corona commercials, lounging on the quiet shoreline, their beer easily within reach. He leans on the counter, is chatty with the clerk (about whom he was muttering about minutes before), asking about the kids and how the new Postmaster General is treating the troops. He wants to weigh his options. “Should I get two-day ground or send it overnight to arrive on a Saturday? Does that require a signature?”

Really, pal? This, besides making ME want to go postal, triggers one of my (hundreds of) pet peeves: That people who have waited a more-than-expected-time on line suddenly forget from where they came. Look , we are all in the same boat. So act with the urgency you expected from those who came before you. Thank you. That is all.

So it’s finally our turn and we half expect the post office to close. We get up there, place a crisp order “Overnight, 10:30 a.m. delivery. Waive the signature.”

“Uh, sir you filled out the yellow copy of the form. You need to fill out the pink one.”

“Uh, why?”(Said in the friendliest, most polite way. Karma, remember?)

“It’s Tuesday.”

Very well then. We retreat back to the desk with the 2007 calendar nearby. We scribble the info on the pink copy. We are done and now must do that awkward “sneak back and cut the line” maneuver, which we know triggers feeling of bloody rage in the last two people on line who don’t say anything but bore a hole in the back of our heads with their eyes.

We meekly exit, making no eye contact with anyone.

“Why couldn’t it have been a certified letter? I’m never coming back here.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Don't be This Guy: Snarky Financial Douche Dude

I like to categorize things. I’m a little compartmental that way. Or just mental. I’m still deciding.

I had a meeting in a local hotel today (I pause while you all think of your snarky comments) and I passed a ballroom in which representatives of what I’ll kindly call a personal wealth seminar were selling their wares to ordinary people who happened to be free on a Tuesday afternoon.

I got a glimpse of the “leader” as I heard him say “we are your best option to get wealthy” and a couple of other guys stationed at the door about whom I made snap judgments. And categorized them.

They are, for lack of a better word, douches.

And, for the record, there is no better word to describe them.

I sat in the lobby for a few minutes to think, watch people, and hope my next blog subject came to me. I find that if you just open your eyes and watch people, they will provide all the comedy you need. So while I waited for lobby-dwellers to entertain me, I kept looking back at The Douche Ballroom.

This particular brand of douche, the “I am the only financial professional who knows how to balance your IRA with your money market accounts along with your portfolio to give you the maximum possible wealth, but only if you sign up today so I can meet my quota” guy makes me crazy. Particularly in this day and age, a little humility goes a long way. And, please, one extra percent on an IRA for someone who comes to a Tuesday afternoon hotel financial seminar is hardly “wealth.” It’s a vacation – maybe. Like Niagara Falls.

One guy, an aggressive balding guy who apparently has not garnered enough personal wealth to not work the door at a Tuesday afternoon lecture but does not possess the charisma to speak in the front of the room, kept coming out to talk to people who had the gall to try to return to their lives before the formal snake oil program had ended.

He confirmed his own douchery.

“It’s important to act today,” he told one woman. “You’d be amazed if you wait even a week how much money you’ll be leaving on the table.”

To another woman: “We are just inviting you to your own party.” (I’m not sure what that means, but it did remind me of some pick up lines used by fraternity brothers some years ago.)

Yet another victim: “You are worth way more than you know; Let me help you get there.” (For the record, people who measure anything in terms of “way more” are also douches. I’m sorry, balding money guy, can you show me “way more” on a bar chart or spreadsheet?)

Just listening to this guy made me want to shower. The whole “expensive silky shirt with no tie so that I’m casual but I reek of success if not some questionable cologne” routine is so easy to see through, at least for me. But that’s because I can smell a douche a mile away.

Especially when they provide me blog fodder. Now if I could only get another percentage point on my 401(k)….

Monday, January 25, 2010

Things I Just Don't Understand: Sir Paul's Post-Beatle Career

We just made it through the holiday season. And I’m happy to say I only heard “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime” piece of dung only twice. And by piece of dung, I mean a steaming heaping pile following a Mexican lunch from a street vendor and corn on the cob thrown in for good measure.

I think I’ve made myself clear.

I’ve often joked that Paul McCartney’s name should be stripped off all his Beatles songwriting credits for writing, singing, and in any way being associated with “Simply Having a Wonderful Brain Aneurism.” And this weekend, in the car, I heard “Silly Love Songs” written by Sir Paul and his band Wings.

Then it dawned on me. This is another “Thing I Don’t Understand:” Paul McCartney’s post-Beatle career. Let me sum up this "career" - we would rather hear the screams of his ex-wife while he slowly nibbled the rest of her leg off, all the way up to her torso. (Don’t roll your eyes; this is not the easy cripple joke you think it is. Okay, maybe it is.)

I think I’ve made myself clear.

“Silly Love Songs,” according to Wikipedia (so I KNOW it’s true**) was his reply to critics who said he wrote too many lightweight songs.

Let me repeat that. He was criticized for being soft. And THIS was his answer:

You'd think that people

Would have had enough

Of silly love songs

I look around me and I see it isn't so

Some people wanna fill the world

With silly love songs

And what's wrong with that?

I'd like to know

'cause here I go again

I love you, I love you

What’s wrong with that? You’re kidding right?

That’s like being the guy who waterboards a terrorist and, after his practices are called into question, he introduces a fire hose to the proceedings.

That’s like OJ introducing a line of knives so sharp they can cut barbed wire outside his prison

That’s like Michael Jackson….oh sorry, I’m told I must wait a full year after his death to make new molestation jokes.

Let me put it this way, Sir Paul: even James Taylor thinks you are a pussy.

If your edgiest/most interesting songs are “Band on the Run” and “Live and Let Die,” both of which have long stretches of estrogen that make even Ellen DeGeneres uncomfortable, then you’ve got to come back to us.

Paul, you wrote Hey Jude for the love of Pete! And Yesterday. And Blackbird. And Helter Skelter. Charles Freakin Manson, a serial killer, was influenced by Helter Skelter. Some credit the creation and growth of heavy metal to that song – and the best you got is “Silly Love Songs.”

Why did you stop using LSD and start burning incense?

I clearly don’t understand you, Sir Paul. And Craig Ferguson is right: you DO look like Angela Lansbury.

(** Denotes that my brother, the biggest Beatles scholar that exists (at least until his wife beat him in Beatles Trivial Pursuit this weekend) will surely set the record straight and at the same time manage to voice his opinion on Wikipedia. Have at it, Sean.)

Guys I Hate, Edition One: Australian Firefighting Keanu Band Dudes!

So I’m sitting in the bookstore under the guise of “working hard,” which probably means I was on Facebook while watching people come and go. These two girls, and by girls I mean behemoths, so please don’t build them up in your mind – approach the counter.

Surely fresh off their workout, they are interested in a protein shake or a bottled water. In either case, they say to the young guy behind the counter, “Can I see your tattoo?” When I roll my eyes, he rolls up his sleeve to show off his tattoo (which he drew himself) that features the words “pride, responsibility and honor” or three other words that have no value when injected into the skin.

He then shows his other tat, another self-drawn work of art. The girls giggle something about where are the others and they all flirt and get a little red. Thankfully I’m watching my cholesterol so I had no interest in these girls, but this exchange, naturally, made me think about guys I hate.

Okay, I don’t hate the guys themselves. I hate the “gimmicks” with which they easily meet women. It’s hard enough to a ruggedly handsome, humorous, thoughtful, intelligent man such as me to meet someone, so it bothers me when guys have an automatic advantage. Let’s examine the categories here:

1. Firefighters. You wear a ratty old T-shirt to a bar that says “Podunk FD; Engine 7” and you wax poetic with your buddy: “Remember that time we raced in that building after the explosion and saved those 3-day-old kittens?” Your next decision is what you want the girl you met last night to put in your omelette. Easy.

2. Australian guys. Women, please don’t roll your eyes. You know this one is true. He doesn’t even have to be hot. Some guy in the park, the bookstore, the bar says ANYTHING with an Australian accent (and usually a British accent) and you’re DONE. “Hey, love, can you tell me where the STD cream is” he might say in the Walgreens. Your answer “I have some extra at my apartment. I have some shrimp in the freezer if you want to….” “Put one on tha barbie…” (Knees weaken)

3. Military guys. Yes, they are heroes. Yes, we owe them our freedom, even our lives and our way of life. But come on, fellas, can you possibly not leave the house in full dress. You’re free to discuss your service, or the shrapnel you took in your shin, or how you can hit a target from 25,000 feet. But please, the uniform is kryptonite for females. Can we level the playing field, or the battle field, just a little?

4. The dark, brooding, band guy. You’re not sure he has showered yet in 2010. He keeps mostly to himself. The only words he ‘speaks’ are lyrics from the jukebox that he mouths. Yet, you smile at him and suddenly all his pain, his art, and his thoughtful expressionism bubbles to the surface. He’s so feeling that you look past the fact that he’s wearing a Members Only jacket from the 80s which hasn't been washed since the 90s, and he owns one pair of jeans, which he may or may not have worn this entire week.

5. Keanu Reeves. I just don’t get this one. To say he’s a human fire hydrant is an insult to hydrants and the dogs that pee on them.

I’m sure there are other types of guys that immediately repulse me, but I’ll keep it light today. Plus I need to decide what kind of tattoo on get my arm. I was gonna go with “Hemingway” or “ESPN The Magazine” or some such literary influence. Maybe I’ll just go buy an FDNY t-shirt in the thrift shop or learn a foreign accent.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Things I Just Don't Understand: The Chalky Diner Mint

I’m a pretty bright guy. Not the smartest but not, say, Keanu Reeves. But there are certain things I will never understand. Like quantum physics, how to assemble furniture from Ikea, and the widespread appeal of George Lopez.

But this morning I discovered another small “nugget of life” that I just can’t comprehend:

The chalky diner mint.

I mean, I understand minty treats. Sure who doesn’t like the sweet little something that makes you smile and freshens your breath. But most of us have never met Kristin Chenoweth.

But the chalky diner mint, to me, doesn’t get the job done. As usual, I have several doubts and questions regarding subject, including but not limited to:

1. Why so chalky? I mean, I thought Milk Duds had the powdery treat market cornered (well the LEGAL powdery treat market). And when you are ready to bite into the chalky diner mint, it basically disappears like pixie dust in your mouth. Completely unsatisfying and, if the urban myth is true, Mikey from the Life cereal commercials, died that way.

2. What did you eat that you need a chalky diner mint? I mean, in the diner, I always play it safe.

Burger. Short stack of pancakes. Chicken noodle soup. If you’re having the beef stroganoff, the veal picatta, or ANYTHING with hollandaise sauce, your breath is the least of your problems. Your colon is about to unleash a fury you have only read about.

3. If your breath does stink, just buy gum.

4. If you need to grab a solid food with a spoon, you should know better. Soup? Sure. Cereal? Of course? A bowl of mints? Uh….I’ll pass. If you need to fish for a food like that “grab the stuffed animal” game in the diner lobby, you should just skip it.

5. EVERYONE else has touched the mints. The reason of course they have the spoon in the mints, or they place the mints in something in which Bingo numbers should be housed, is that everyone paws the mints. Old people. Married people. Little children. Single guys. Divorced women. Babies wearing diapers. Busboys. EVERYONE has touched the mints. If you want to suck the fingers of everyone who’s eaten at the diner this week, you go right ahead. (And if you do, please do not tell us about it. You sick bastard.)

Of course, the good compromise is the individually wrapped chalky diner mint. But it’s still a chalky diner mint. And it comes with unnecessary waste. I beg, I implore the diners of the world, to go to Walgreens and buy the big bag of Starlight mints. Get some Andes Candies. Even those Halloween-sized boxes of Milk Duds (if you can find them).

But please stop the madness. The chalky diner mint’s usefulness has long passed. Sometimes it’s not the first impression but the final memory that leaves the most lasting feelings. If you serve the bowl of chalky diner mints, I might be forced to eat elsewhere. Until of course I obsess about something else I do not understand. That shouldn’t take long.