Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

Fra-Gee-Lay. Must be Italian

Fra-Gee-Lay. Must be Italian

During one of my many whining sessions over the phone with my late mother, she once told me; “You know, I have noticed you are very easily slighted. I can be that way too, but it’s really not a great way to go through life.” She was right. Of course, (I never told her this. Rule number one in the Parent/Child instruction book is “Never admit when they are right.”) I am, and I have always been, hypersensitive and it’s not an endearing quality or a particularly pleasant way to live. Add to this my raging generalized anxiety disorder, my exceptional creativity and a newish technology (social media) for my insecurities to work out with, and we have a recipe for a fairly miserable online existence to couple my everyday fairly miserable existence. Trust me, my many insecurities and various neurosis’ don’t need to work out… they are already jacked like a Gold’s Gym Steroid Queen.

I’m not going to bash Facebook like I did cell phones in a recent post because I use Facebook on a daily basis. FB has been wonderful for reconnecting with old friends and staying in touch with others. It also allows for me to post clever, poignant and funny little one-liners, creating a facade of depth, decency, a soul and many other positive qualities that I pretend to possess.

“Butt-Hurt” is one of my favorite new expressions from the contemporary vernacular. According to another favorite website of mine; Urban Dictionary, Butt-hurt is defined as:

An inappropriately strong negative emotional response from a perceived personal insult. Characterized by strong feelings of shame. Frequently associated with a cessation of communication and overt hostility towards the “aggressor.”

Perfect. I think the reason I like this term is because I have spent so much of my life being butt-hurt. Like a pompous hipster asshat, I can honestly say I was into being butt-hurt before it became main stream. I’ve been butt-hurt regularly since 1975 when my grandmother told me I was sitting too close to the TV, watching my neighbor; Mr. Rogers, and that was why I had to wear glasses. (With the dorky strap that would insure that I wouldn’t lose them, but that I would be beaten up regularly at recess.) I was 5 at the time, so this was probably 2 or 3 years before I started using obscenities and threats of physical violence when addressing my grandmother…But I do remember not speaking to her, until she bribed me later that night with rhubarb pie and ice cream. I’m a big fan of using the silent treatment, which is interesting as I really suck at sticking with it. I fold after the second or third, “OK…what’s up?” As I said I capitulated quickly with the offer of the pie. I was cheap then, and come to think of it…. I’m cheap now too.

Facebook nuance and etiquette is a perfect breeding ground for butt-hurt-ed-ness or is it butt-hurtury?. I routinely pout and sulk over my FB friends not responding quickly enough (or at all) to my many inquiries, greetings and salutations. “I wished you a happy birthday 16 minutes ago and you haven’t thanked me….WTF?” What’s worse is that I know they saw what I wrote, because the little messenger thingy confirms with a little “Seen” followed by the time. “What’s the matter? Too busy to type or text “You too” after I wish you a “Happy St Patrick’s Day”? The time feature allows a truly anal retentive and delicate little flower like myself to determine exactly how long they have been ignoring me. Sometimes they respond just as I was settling into a nice juicy sulk, and I almost resent this. Nothing worse than having one’s butt-hurt interrupted or…um healed? Is that the opposite? Butt-healed? Well if it isn’t, it should be…that’s a great expression too. Remember, if it isn’t an expression yet, you read it here first.

"Yeah, I hath de-friended her this very morn. For she doth believeth that she is all of that."

“Yeah, I hath de-friended her this very morn. For she doth believeth that she is all of that.”

So there is that little nuance of FB. Sending messages on FB is communicating, but it’s a very different type of communication. One cannot just stop talking during a phone conversation. (Like I used to with certain exceptionally long winded family members. For example, If my grandmother started talking about how Aunt Miggie’s piles were giving her trouble lately, I knew I had a 20 minute lapse in our conversation window where I could quietly put down the phone, make a sandwich, trim my toenails or do a crossword puzzle before I had to pick the phone back up and say “Yeah, that must be terrible.” and pretend I had been listening the entire time. I just wonder if other people who are more well-adjusted than I (you know like, pretty much everyone) get upset by this. I hope so. I don’t like being the only neurotic on FB.

Another thing I wonder about in regards to FB is “de-friending” someone. To begin with “De-Friending” sounds frighteningly Orwellian.

“What’s wrong Scott? You look really down.”
“I was just de-friended.”
“Ouch.”
“Yeah.”
“Who was it?”
“Jimmy.”
“Jimmy?”
“Yeah.”
“Jimmy from high school?”
“No, we aren’t Facebook friends.”
“Jimmy from the Starbucks in Union Square?”
“No, Jimmy from the bar.”
“Do I know him?”
“I don’t know,”
“De-friended huh?”
“Yeah. (sigh)”
“Um, you want a hug or something?”

FB doesn’t tell you that you’ve been de-friended and I think most people aren’t aware of a de-friending right away, unless it is someone you correspond with regularly. I wonder if the executives and developers at FB ever had some kind of butt-hurt management seminar to avoid these kinds of situations. I mean it certainly wouldn’t do to have flashing lights and Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Good Bye by Steam playing when you sign on to FB after a de-friending. (Although in a warped way, that would be kind of cool) De-friending on FB is a little like de-friending in real life in that these people sometimes just phase out of our lives. I tried to find some friends who had suffered from a major de-friend fallout when researching this piece, but no one owned up to having had one. I’m sure it happens. Although the experience probably lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. When a friendship, FB or otherwise, ends, there should be some interesting and dramatic fallout…. some yelling followed by an “I want my Ken Burns Civil War DVDs and my ABBA CD’s back!!!” It’s just not the same, to hover your mouse over the “Friends” box and click them out of your life.

“Oh Screw you, ya creep!”
“Screw Me??? Screw Me?”
“Yeah!”
“Well, if that’s how you feel!”

“Let’s see…here it is…’friends’ … (CLICK) “Well, I certainly told her!”

At this rate, in the next 10 years we will all be breaking up, divorcing, getting fired and colonoscopy results via a swift click of the mouse

(RING) “Excuse me I need to take this….Hello? I see…OK Thanks. Bye.”
“Who was that?”
“My wife…she’s leaving me and running off with our pool-boy; CoCo.”

I admit I have gone on FB purges that would have made Wacky Joe Stalin proud. I have this weird notion that people with over 300 “friends” on any social media site are highly suspect. So occasionally I go through my FB friends and just drop the people I never speak to. What’s really strange about this is that I almost always find a “friend” or three whom I don’t even recall becoming FB buds with. I don’t worry about this too much. These things can happen when one has been known to drink to excess. To date, no one has reached out to appeal a de-friend ruling I have made. Maybe it’s a question of pride. Personally, I would be crushed upon discovering that I had become the victim of a de-friending. Even if it was one of the friends I don’t remember as we became friends while drinking to excess.

Oh, come on, Scott. You can tell me. Just whisper it.

Oh, come on, Scott. You can tell me. Just whisper it.

Sometimes we need to ponder a de-friending. I recently cut my cousin off after serious consideration. He had been posting political rhetoric nonsense on an hourly basis. For the most part I laughed it off, or pointed out where he was wrong. The final straw was when he posted that we need to teach the bible, morality and handgun training in schools. Yeah. There’s a real “What would Jesus do” philosophy. Sorry Cuz. I love you, but I don’t want to get interviewed by Anderson Cooper after the FBI and ATF surround your compound.

“What can you tell me about your cousin Scott?”
“Well, he was my favorite cousin growing up. We played Star Wars and tormented his sister a great deal.”
“Were you Han Solo or Luke Skywalker?”
“I was always Luke Skywalker.”
“That sucks. We had a gay kid in my neighborhood growing up…a boy who didn’t mind being Princess Leia.”
“Hey, we had one of those…we also got a tall wino to play Chewbacca.”
“How did you feel about being Luke Skywalker?”
“Well, it kinda sucked, Anderson. But, I was the blond cousin and he owned a vest, so it seemed a logical conclusion. But, of course, Han is much cooler.”
“I see on his Facebook page he commented that “The Bible and Handguns should be taught in American grammar schools.”
“Yes, sadly that was when I defriended him.”
“Do you think he’s dressed up like Han Solo in his compound?”
“Good question.”

This raises another issue and kindles a small fire of insecurity. When you de-friend someone, and they don’t reach out for an explanation, do you begin to wonder if they really give a rat’s ass? How dare this person whom you have no further interest in interacting with not flip out when they discover your little social nugget of rejection. I have to say, upon further reflection, it must be rough being a junior or senior high school student during the Facebook era. Back when I was an adolescent (an actual adolescent and not the 42 year old I am today with an adolescent’s mentality) we had to go to the mall for rejection that was more up close and personal. It was the 80s and things were tougher back then. Speaking of junior and senior high school, I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to be a young student during the Facebook era. Kids today are really proficient with computers and I shudder to think of the cyber bullying potential. It’s interesting that I have reconnected with lots of people from high school that I frankly never interacted with back then. As adults they say nice things to me “You always cracked me up.” No I didn’t. I wasn’t that funny. In fact, you never spoke to me in high school. Sadly, I can understand why adolescents are committing suicide as a result of cyber and Facebook bullying. Just thinking about what complete and utter bastards my friends and I were in high school. I could easily see us creating fictitious Facebook pages for classmates I didn’t care for. “Hey, 266 people like the “Jerome’s a Bum Boy Douchebag” page. I even had a kid I hated from high school try to invite me to his list of friends. I refused, and he tried again. Finally he wrote and asked why I had refused his friendship request and I mentioned that he had stolen my bike in 7th grade and that I am generally pretty enthusiastic in regards to cultivating grudges.

marx

Hello, I must be going” Is a brilliant Marx Brothers song and routine. It’s also a wonderful description for another FB phenomena. I hope I’m not alone here, but I have at least 5 FB friends who can’t, don’t or wont interact with me for more than 5 minutes without typing “Well, I have to go now.”, “Dinners ready,” or ” I have to pee.” I understand that people need to pee sometimes, or that dinner is occasionally ready, but every time they are chatting with me? I’m dubious. Then it becomes even more awkward because there is no way to ask about your friend’s rate of urination without seeming needy and annoying. Interestingly, a former FB friend once called me those very words. At least she had the class and courage to say this in person to me, which I appreciated and which allowed me to retort using an expletive that women aren’t so crazy about. No, not that one…the other expletive. She asked for it.

In Japanese there is a word; Wa or Wah which is an expression for a collective social harmony. Japan is a relatively small country with a lot of mountainous terrain that isn’t so suitable for habitation and a large population. It can get quite crowded in Japan and ‘Wa’ is the way that people get along through a rather rigid code of behavior and manners. A friend of mine who taught for over a year in Japan told me of a gesture that the Japanese make when they are in a serious rush or find themselves in an urgent situation and simply don’t have the time to say 14,000 sumimasens which is an all-purpose Japanese Wa expression that means “Excuse Me.”, “Thank You.”, “Sorry.” and “Yes, I’m being a rude bastard, but this is an emergency.” This gesture is considered a little rude, yet is still socially acceptable. Probably similar to the charming western custom of farting during a dinner party and then blaming the dog. I must pause here and say, I am a gentleman in these instances and own up…proudly. “Yep, that was me…pass the beans please…Where were we? Oh yes… You were saying handguns, morality and the bible should be taught in grammar schools” So, when a Japanese businessman is in a rush to catch the 3:10 to Kyoto and is in a crowded train station, he will lower his head and place a flattened hand across his forehead (much like Curly from the Three Stooges avoiding a eye gouge from Moe) and plow on through. Everyone understands he’s in a rush.

So, perhaps in the interest of Facebook Wa, maybe we should find a slightly rude but socially acceptable way to get people to stop pestering us with every day minutia or to knock off the “Hello, I must be goings.”

Maybe we should start color coding our friends, or come up with an acronym like LOL when we aren’t in the mood to or can’t chat for long. How about BTD (Busy these days) or CRTN (Cant really talk now) or how about IFWTPBSAE (I’m finished with this piece but suck at endings)

The End. Oh, no, wait . . . it's not.

The End.
Oh, no, wait . . . it’s not.

Epilogue:

I felt a need to revisit this piece as I have recently experienced some FB and former friend dramedy. I haven’t been able to make my faithful editor laugh in a couple months which is one of the reasons I haven’t posted anything lately.

I had a friend. I say friend in that we had been to each other’s homes, exchanged birthday and Christmas gifts, been to movies and other outings together and were familiar to a degree with each other’s lives. He ran a football pool I have been a member of for 15 plus years. I knew this friend from my former job. When I left the job we didn’t see each other much, but we were still friends via facebook. We got together once or twice after I left the job, but saw significantly less of each other.

He became a classic example of the “Hello, I must be going” type that I mentioned. He was on FB daily, several times a day posting news stories, photos and observations, just like I do. However, I found when I reached out to him he wasn’t particularly friendly or responsive. On several occasions I left our “conversations” feeling like he thought I was a pest. Now I have admitted I am hypersensitive, and certainly online/social media communications often lack context and tone. They’re easily misunderstood, and I’m sure I am guilty of coming across as cold, dismissive or whatever at times…hopefully not too often as I don’t want to be a hurtful or mean person. This friend, we’ll call him “Pete” for the sake of simplicity…Pete would write things like “You need to move on.” or “We’ve discussed this already.”…so yes, suffice to say I felt like a pest whenever I reached out to him. I was a little hurt, and I was a little pissed off too as I went through over a year of Pete’s nonstop lamenting about a love interest who was obviously and plainly not interested.

During Gay Pride month I had posted “Happy Gay Pride To All My LGBT Friends!”. Almost immediately, one of my FB acquaintances took issue with this and corrected me that the correct term is “LGBT Pride”. We had an argument over semantics. I messaged Pete who is gay and whom both he and I had agreed that PC feel good speech has gone way too far and that we are constantly walking on eggshells with what we say. As usual, Pete was a little dismissive. Maybe he didn’t agree with me. Maybe he was busy…I don’t know. But he messaged “Have a good day Scott.” which I took as a dismissal. I responded “Sorry to have bothered you.” and took him off my friends list. It had been awhile in coming. I was tired of feeling like I was an annoyance. He wrote back to me and said “Why did you say that, I was just telling you to have a nice day” I wrote back an explanation that perhaps we’d been misunderstanding each other.

As I said, there are no bells and whistles when a friend is removed from your list. He found out a couple weeks later, and wrote a rather firm parting shot at me. After speaking to my best friend about it, we decided the best response was no response at all.

Still the whole episode was sad and disappointing, and its conclusion was decidedly unsatisfying.

srsly?

srsly?

I am a lover of language, nuance and expressiveness. While there are certainly terms of this generation that I have no truck with (Oh, it’s like dat huh?” comes to mind); there is one I that I have become quite fond of: the sarcastic and facetious use of the word “Really”.

Since childhood I have referred to the dictionary as “The Big Book”. Maybe I couldn’t pronounce “Dictionary” as a child, but I also like to think that this title empowers the book somehow, like the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. I have always enjoyed arguing and take an especially smug and obnoxious glee in being correct in a debate. “Oh yeah, ma? Well, let’s just see what The Big Book has to say, shall we?” One of my more nit-picky tactics is to rubbish someone in an argument when my definition is ranked higher numerically than the person’s I am engaged in a debate with.

“It’s right there.” says my unfortunate opponent pointing to the disputed definition.
“Yeah” I retort “It’s number two, mine is number one!”
“So?” they ask when really they should know better.
“If number two mattered more than number one Al Gore or MItt Romney would have been president.”

Now here is where my obnoxiousness differs from your garden variety pest or annoyance. For up to the next 72 hours I will shove this in their nose in the most creative manner I can find.

“Hey, um when a little kid has to go to the bathroom and they say ‘number two’, what does that mean exactly?”

For weeks after a debate with my mom I would leave copies of the Big Book everywhere, open to the page of the disputed word. My mom started hiding her highlighters.

But I digress…

According to the Big Book “Really” means:

Definition of REALLY
1
a : in reality : actually <things as they really are> <there was nothing peculiar about her doing this, really — Peter Taylor>
b : truly, unquestionably —used as an intensifier
c : very 2
2
—used to emphasize an assertion <really, you’re being ridiculous>


Examples of REALLY
1. The dog runs really fast.
2. The water is really hot.
3. She’s a really nice person

I remember this was an important word as a child. First because little kids have next to no decision making power. It’s a delicate and precarious life resting on the whims of parental units and other grownups. So we need a lot of confirmation:

“I thought we might have dinner at McDonalds tonight.”
“Really?”
“Nah, let’s try the kelp and tofu quiche recipe from that hippy cookbook you love so much.”

My mom had her tiny torments too.

“Really” was also used as filler when we were assigned essays and reports of X number of words. Remember counting and re-counting the words as a kid? 500 words seemed exceptionally unreasonable when I could just as easily say “It sucked”. So, we filled our book reports with as many “Really’s” and “Very’s” as possible and hoped that the teacher didn’t notice. Ever the rebel, I made a point of handing in essays with 498 words. (Sticking it to the man since 3rd grade.)

“Tom Sawyer was a really, really, really, good book. It takes place a very very long time ago. It’s about a boy named Tom Sawyer who is really, really ,very, very smart…”

See? I stretched 23 words to 32.

The contemporary definition and use of “Really” is among my favorite terms today. This definition hasn’t made it in “The Big Book” yet, so I had to visit a favorite website; Urban Dictionary.

REALLY

1. An exclamation used when you can’t believe that someone has said, asked or done something so stupid, or unbelievably stupid. Often said very sarcastically.

2. A brief way to question the integrity of a person or an act. Implies, “I am so unimpressed with this, and disappointed in you for doing such a thing.”

That’s perfect. This fits my repertoire of constant disappointment and disbelief in the world and most of its residents. A fair estimate would be that I say or think “Really” approximately 3000 times daily…perhaps 4000 if I am running late, doing errands or using public transportation. Since it is my S.O.P to take things too far, I am frankly amazed that I haven’t taken to staring at various offending parties with my patented annoyed face and asking aloud “Really?”

Another facet of “Really” is that it requires a specific tone and a unique facial expression. How many words can claim this honor?

My ex-girlfriend when I was naked except for socks and glasses. “Really?”

I have been going to the same Dunkin Donuts for over 10 years, with the same coffee order, from the same woman…to this day; she repeats my order back to me, getting every aspect of my coffee wrong.

Me: (Said slowly in the hopes that today will be the day where she finally gets it right)
“I’d like…a small coffee,… with a little milk….. make it dark,…. and two Splenda, please.” I cringe and brace for impact.

Dunkin Donuts employee with the lazy eye and severe coffee dyslexia:
“Large coffee, with cream and three sugars?”

Really? REALLY?

A mother of 8 at the laundromat decides that the folding table for everyone’s clean clothes is the perfect place to change her baby’s rancid and over stuffed diaper, when there is a bathroom 5 feet behind her.

Really?

At the grocery store, after all her items have been scanned, the woman who has been on her cell phone suddenly realizes they will have to be paid for and spends approximately 40 minutes digging pennies and nickels from the change purse that took her 10 minutes to find.

Really?

A public toilet seat covered in urine with its contents unflushed.

Really?

Maybe we live in a “Really?” kind of world. People post excruciating minutia on Facebook and get butthurt (another most excellent contemporary expression) when all 306 people they are “friends” with don’t comment, like or otherwise stroke them. Not me, of course, I have a strict rule of posting 40 times or less the daily antics of my cats.

“Really” comes from “Real” as does “Reality”. Reality TV may be the most popular entertainment medium in the world today. Yet, the many of the successful reality TV shows generally have lots and lots of “Really?” moments.

Honey Boo Boo.

Really?

Her disgusting family.

Really?

On The Learning Channel.

REALLY?

3 million viewers.

Really?

“I’ve always wanted to sell out.  It’s just that no one wanted to buy me.” – John Waters

“Hey Ma, did you like my last piece?”
“Which one was that?  The “I Hate Paris Hilton Haiku Collection”?
“No Ma, the one after that, the four page satirical observations on the benefits of genital warts.”
“Yes honey. It was very nice. I keep telling you. They are all – very – nice.” – Mom

“Gimme some money” – Spinal Tap

I have finally started collecting rejection letters, or more accurately rejection emails.  It must have been worse ‘back in the day’ to go to the mailbox (“Hmmm, a letter from Tiger Beat. Finally, my Scott Baio, Kirk Cameron and N’Synch stalking will pay off!”), only to be denied with a letter that contains one of the more bitter pills of the English language  “…. we regret to inform you…” In a small way, I sometimes find myself wishing that I did have a folder chock full of rejection letters so I could hold it up for emphasis when my best friend is trying to cheer me up and I’m determined to stay a depressed little turnip. I’m so miserable, that sometimes I even use props. Take that goths. That’s how you really embrace darkness…old school. To date, every rejection email has been cordial, polite and best of all personalized. I have been tickled me Elmo that busy editors have taken 30 seconds to turn me down politely. It has restored some of my faith in humanity which has taken several hits this year (I’ve had to deal with insurance companies, emergency rooms, government agencies and used car salesmen.)

The one bummer about polite rejections is that it denies me elaborate revenge fantasies. Part of me likes to imagine that after Stephen king sold the paperback rights to Carrie for $400,000.00 (True story, and it was the 70s.) that he grabbed the stack of rejection letters he kept impaled on a railroad spike in his bedroom and called every single editor who rejected him and asked them how much they made this year. Fantasies of petty revenge…whatever gets you through the day.

 

Oh, it’s come to this has it? FINE!

Receiving e-mails that say “It’s not really what we are looking for.”, “It’s not exactly what we do here at such and such magazine.”  and “Sorry, this didn’t make our deadline.”  I’m not discouraged. Quite the opposite. I am a product of entirely too much television and too many movies. This is how it’s supposed to work. I get rejection letters until finally I get my big break.  Any day now an editor with a striking resemblance to Dolly Parton, Goldie Hawn or Holly Hunter will accept one of my submissions and we will begin an adversarial writer/editor relationship full of wacky hi jinx of missed deadlines and exclusives neatly typed up and left in the back seats of taxis. “Damn it Scott, you’re the best writer I have, but I can’t publish your exclusive on why Reality TV contests should use firearms…the chief will kill me.”  This happens in every movie and TV show, of course it’s going to happen to me.  Life is, after all, one big John Hughes’ movie.

It’s fascinating that such a heavyweight champion pessimist and curmudgeon as myself remains convinced that he will one day be the next Dave Barry or Stephen King. Hell, I’d settle for being the next Ed Anger who used to write my favorite column in the Weekly World News. (“All the news, that’s shit to print”)  I may be dead by the time my avant-garde potty humor genius is discovered, and discussed by academics in front of roaring fires while sipping a fine sherry, but I can live with that…almost.

I’ve had a rough year, so allow me my little delusions. In the world according to me, everyone gets published or gets the lead in the play eventually. I thank Heavy G for not having given me the acting bug. Having lived in both NYC and Los Angeles I have seen first hand, young people who threw caution to the wind after an excellent review in their high school newspaper for their Brando-esque performance in the drama club’s Spring production of No No Nanette. Upon graduation they immediately moved to the big city, found themselves an agent named Rocco or Shecky who eventually convinced them that George Clooney, William Shatner and Brad Pitt all got their start in low budget gay porn musical extravaganzas.

NOT what I looked like. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

My writing journey has been and is such a Hallmark Channel movie-of-the-week it’s ridiculous. My mom died in March,I tore my Achilles tendon in September (8 weeks in a cast), and I was attacked by six Jersey Shore clones 3 nights before Halloween while on crutches, wearing a vest, bandanna, and cowboy hat. (With the crutches I told everyone I was dressed as “Hop-a-long Cassidy”) The gentlemen who tried to make me taste test  the sidewalk took issue with my impromptu costume and yelled “Faggot” at me. They felt my look was more “Randy the Cowboy” from the Village People as opposed to Wyatt Twerp.  I responded with a middle finger salute and they piled out of their daddy’s car to discuss the latest in fashion with me.

My bedroom where I do my writing is straight out of Joe Gillis’ furnished hovel in Sunset Boulevard where I sit unshaven, chain smoking in a bathrobe, complete with brimming ashtrays and debt collectors calling or stopping by for coffee. How could I not be published in this circus of cliches?  Maybe for dramatic effect I should ask my Super Mario Brother’s doppelgänger landlord; Giuseppe to expedite my impending eviction notice. Anything to get these editors to recognize the F. Scott Fitz-Hemmingway in their midst.

I wont be working on improving my writing or making it more commercially viable. It’s wonderful just the way it is. I know because while in a morphine haze, my mommy told me so…and she studied English lit. I have reached that wonderful pinnacle in life which I haven’t experienced since I was 14 in that you can’t tell me anything. I once again believe in a ruling class, especially since I rule.

Speaking of mothers, last week my step-mother took a magnifying glass to my anthill and responded to the first (and last) piece I ever sent her. A week before she had emailed me about a writing class she was taking and dropped after attending once. (Isn’t it nice being an adult with the ability to tell a teacher they suck and saunter out? I sometimes register for classes for this express purpose. It’s important to keep others grounded.) I responded to her in glowing terms about how thrilled I was to hear about her class. I told her I had been writing for years, and that my college professors described my school paper review of the Spring production as Danielle Steele-esque. I know I have talent. Encouraged that I might finally have a family member who loved writing and with whom I could share my work I immediately forwarded her my latest article on the 2012 post election meltdowns. It was called…wait for it…. “Post Election Meltdowns“.  I guess my prior 6 page gushing email to her about the importance I place on writing and authors was too subtle of a hint. Unfortunately she, like everyone else, was tired of the election and put a lively crayfish in my Calvin Kleins by responding with “It’s nice that you’re writing, I’m sick of the election and could hardly read your piece. Keep it up, just not about politics.”  Awwww. thanks ‘mom’.

So happy I sent you my piece. Pppffthththththththhh

No one can deflate our ego quite like family. I’m thrilled that after my mother’s death, she has picked up the disapproval and discouragement ball and is charging to the net for a lay up. She also has 9 kids and several grandchildren of her own, so it’s nice that she can find time to dash the hopes of another who isn’t immediate family. My father isn’t a big reader, so he is out. He has been known to book mark 2 page Sports Illustrated articles. Maybe I should have waited for Thanksgiving and given the whole family a go at disemboweling my one dream that doesn’t involve Lynda Carter and spandex outfits.  After the “What I’m grateful for” speeches and before halftime in the Cowboys game we could go around the table and everyone could deliver variations of  “Have a back up plan.” in regards to my writing. Two can play at that game. When my uber-conservative step-sister asks me what I am grateful for, I can belch out one word for the benefit of her and her private school brood. “Tits”. Then we can visit the other family Thanksgiving tradition of drinking too much and dreading Christmas. What can I say? I’m a traditionalist.

My reason for writing this is to prod and nudge potential editors that my life in terms of both confidence and financial stability is reaching critical mass. It’s time for the big finale. Last week I went to my bank, punched in my PIN number and the ATM began laughing at me. I’m starting to become a little concerned. So come on editors. It’s time to publish the boy so I can blow my book advance on Johnny Walker Blue and  friendly yet sensitive, scantily clad ladies named “Lola” and thus creating even more cliched things to write about.  I’m ready to finally pay all my bills (in loose pennies to the especially mean and nasty creditors) and to embark on a book tour. I’ve kept my schedule open to write jokes for the President for the correspondents dinner.  “Barry, can I call you right back?  I’m on the phone with Netflix…thanks  youre a dove”

This afternoon, during a phone call with the lovely and talented Ms. Gow, she confessed to feeling a little blue and guilty.

“But Why?” asked I. (huh-huh rhyme)

Last week a friend and former co-worker of The Gow died after a battle with cancer. Being a sensitive and kind person (except when driving) the Gow was naturally devastated by this. She is a self-proclaimed emotional mush ball who cries easily and often. She has been sad over this all weekend, and I feel for her. I lost my mom to cancer in March, my dad was diagnosed last year which worried me and of course wasn’t exactly a joyous treat for him and my step mom, and I watched my friend Mark die of colon cancer in the early 90s. It is a very sad and painful way for a person to die. Gow is scheduled to come up and visit me this Friday for a comedy show and a weekend of movies, brunch, football and other things we love to do together. The funeral is set for Friday and Gow felt bad about missing it…then she felt bad about being slightly relieved that she had a prior commitment and would miss the funeral.I tried to comfort her explaining that:

A: She felt bad about missing the funeral

B: She did have a prior commitment causing her to miss the funeral, something she had planned for and spent money on, and thus wasn’t lying to get out of attending a funeral or blowing it off.

C: Funerals are sad, unhappy and unpleasant occasions and it’s natural to not really want to attend them.

I tried to cheer my BFF up and discuss the matter with her. It really was to a certain degree, the thought that counted in this instance. Then I had one of my odd little brain blips. I have ADD and at any given time there are lots of odd and sometimes clever thoughts floating around in there.

“Gow, there should be a word for that kind of thing.”

“What kind of thing?”

“When you have to do something disagreeable…and something legit comes up and you are…excused so to speak….but as relieved as you are, you have to act like you’re disappointed.”

Gow agreed with me that there should be a word for this reasonably frequent occurrence in life. Imagine if you had a sick friend and you called and offered to bring by some hot soup, comic books and dvds for them. Being a good friend, you honestly meant to do this…but let’s say a little later, you’re tired, or had a bad day and you’d like to put off your promised mission of mercy…then, you get summoned into work last minute, or your ill friend calls and says “You know I just took some NyQuil, some Tylenol PM and there is a Murder, She Wrote marathon coming on, so I’m probably going to pass out…. would you mind if I canceled your soup and comic delivery?” Now, you’re excused and you’re grateful, you dodged the bullet and without lying or blowing off…but of course you have to act slightly disappointed. “Oh, are you sure?”

I made up a few expressions for this type of circumstance, but Gow shot them down.

“Those are expressions…not words, honey”

“So it can’t be an expression?”

“No, it has to be a word.”

“OK, I’ll work on it.”

I apologize. I know this is a rather long build up to my piece about words.

 

Other words that I have become fond of recently are:

Turd: This is probably my word of the month. I like its sound. It’s a blunt word resembling a thud. It’s not a swear, but it’s a distant cousin. Turd is also great when it’s coupled with other words to describe something or someone disagreeable. Rush Limbaugh is a turd in a polo shirt. It also rhymes with lots of other words which makes for interesting and lilty speech patterns. Try to use “turd” in a sentence this week boys and girls.

Buffoon: I actually prefer the adverb form “Buffoonery”. Again, it’s not a bad word, but it’s still an insult or derogatory, which is helpful to me since I’m generally a pretty negative person. There is all kinds of buffoonery happening at any given time. Being a YouTube addict and looking up obscure songs and movie scenes, I stumbled on to a wonderful, contextual instance of the word “buffoon

Jim Morrison was a drunken buffoon posing as a poet. Buffoons are mostly harmless, but we’d all be just a little better off without them. Another famous buffoon is Ed McMahon, (or frankly any TV show side kick, yes-man. They’re all buffoons.) This is why I admire Craig Ferguson for using a robot (Geoff Peterson) as his side kick. Geoff is more entertaining than Ed McMahon or Paul Schaefer. Plus I sleep better when I know that buffoons aren’t making in a week what I make in 5 years merely by laughing at late night talk show shills who couldn’t pass funny gas after a Mexican buffet lunch.

Derp: Derp is a nonsensical word to describe stupid people, behavior, statements or mistakes. I like how it sounds. I enjoy voice manipulation and Derp is a wonderful word to use in many tones and accents. Try it with me aloud:

Southern Accent: “Derp”,
French Accent “Dairp”
English Accent “Duhrp”

See? Wasn’t that fun?

More pieces on words to come and please write in and tell me some of your favorite words, and why you love them so much.

It’s true! “There are eight million stories in the Naked City.”

I have said and written many times before that New Yorkers have no excuse for writer’s block. We have the unique privilege of paying way too much to share a suffocating, under maintained hovel with a roommate or 6 and the Roach Family Robinson in one of the craziest, most over-crowded, expensive, stressful, vibrant and interesting cities in the world. All you need is a little imagination, a pen, some paper or a personal recorder (Don’t worry, New Yorkers are accustomed to people seemingly talking to themselves. We even start to get a little worried when we don’t see them regularly). Pack a sandwich and hop on the subway to… well, anywhere in the five boroughs Then watch your fellow New Yorkers and take notes. I even thought this strategy might make a good book of short stories. “50 Sandwiches/50 Subway Stations” might just be that elusive best seller I have been searching for. I can just picture cute, wide eyed, naive college groupies waiting outside my luxury hotel suite in the middle of my record breaking book signing tour. “Oh Mr. Swenson, your book changed my life. I’m am English Lit.major at Columbia and I’m taking a class on Post-Modern American Potty Humor. I haven’t read anything as witty as your piece “Rancid Tuna Salad on Pumpernickel at 59th and Lex.” and the brilliant epilogue “Food Poisoning & Finding a Bathroom Near 59th and Lex”. Will you sign my book and my left buttock?…Here’s a sharpie.”

My warped little famous writer fantasies never seem farfetched to me. They made films out of Julie & Julia and The Devil Wears Prada. The second that pesky cease and desist order Ms. Streep has out against me expires…I can start pitching my ideas again.

I tell aspiring writers suffering from writer’s block to “just write and don’t worry if it’s any good.” I’m currently in a wonderful place with my writing career. Unpublished with no prospects and yet I still have the cojones and chutzpah to pass along unwanted and unsolicited advice to other writers in the same boat. So, this is what I am doing now…just writing, and convinced that it’s not any good. I titled this piece “Suffering from writer’s block” because it really is something that one suffers from. I’m not even a successful writer, and I feel like I have “lost it” if I haven’t banged out a solid piece of writing on the worldwide conspiracy to get on my nerves every 48 hours. I suppose it is similar to what professional athletes feel in the middle of a slump. I’m not even on a deadline or being paid to write. The best I can hope for these days is more than 10 views of my blog on any given day. It’s OK. I remain convinced I am the Vincent Van Gogh of gripey-kvetch essays. I’m not unpublished…I’m avante garde. I may never sell a piece in my lifetime, but surely my ramblings will be required reading for troubled sixth graders in 200 years. I can live with that, just not in a financial sense.

Being a hopeless romantic and a product of too much television and bad movies I sometimes find myself wishing that I wrote on a typewriter, so I could rip paper out of the feeder in a dramatic gesture of exasperation, crumple it up and throw it into a brimming waste paper basket. Modern technology has denied us many theatrical gestures like this. All the cool writers in the movies did this and I feel like I am missing something. It’s just not the same to daintily peck at the backspace key in a fit of creative frustration. Sometimes in the movies, frustrated writers would sweep everything off their desk in a vexed fit. It makes me want to buy an old typewriter and stacks of paper. I have never swept the contents off of my desk in a fit of hissy before, but I have wanted to. Computers are much more delicate pieces of machinery than the Sherman Tank IBM typewriters of the film noir movies. As much as we would love to sometimes, we can’t or hopefully don’t punch or headbutt our PCs. It also reminds me of when I was a young boy of 4 or 5 living with my mom and grandparents, watching Sesame Street, and they had a reoccurring character named “Don Music” who, I realized much later was really the Guy Smiley muppet with a bad wig on. Don Music was a tortured artist trying to compose songs like the ABC’s or Yankee Doodle on a grand piano complete with a bust of Beethoven. As he composed he would become frustrated, flip out and slam his head onto the piano, which to my 5 year old sensibilities was the highest form of comedy. Like millions of other children I began smashing my forehead against my grandmother’s piano. Apparently so many kids were doing this that parents wrote to PBS and Don Music got 86’d in 1974. But, I remember…boy do I ever.

Maybe the reason I am suffering through writer’s block is because I am laid up. It’s post Hurricane Sandy, I’m still in a cast, I have no money and I have run out of things in my household to write about. I sent my latest: “The Broken Toaster Chronicles” out for publication last week, and instead of the standard rejection letter, I got a hand written note suggesting that I “break the Prozac tablets in half” prior to my next submission. I even wrote about my cats, which I have claimed for ages is the last bastion of the untalented hack. The crazy cat lady or more precisely, The Untalented Crazy Cat Lady. I read the piece to the cats. One left the room to drop a deuce in his sandbox and the other fell asleep. Everyone’s a critic.

Being on injured reserve has kept me from my favorite spots for observing the human condition. No laundromat, competing for folding tables with third world immigrant mothers who like to use them for changing diapers. No grocery store where my blood pressure rises and IQ drops as I fume over the incredible number of people who can’t accurately count 12 items (or less). No work. No school. No gym…nothing. I need to be able to interact with the personal nemesis I have chosen; my fellow man. Then become irritated and annoyed, stomp home muttering to myself and pour forth some observational comedic gold. Then I call the editress-in-chief and BFF The Gow and read it to her. “Slowly please.” she tells me before I read to her. Actually, there is a little ritual we go through after I have written something. In the event that she has the unmitigated gall to not answer her phone, I patiently wait through her lengthy voice mail and scream “Where ARE You???” Unpaid editors are not supposed to go the bathroom without their cell phones. She must feel loved picking up her phone, seeing 16 new messages and patiently deleting my wailing missives.

RING

“Gow!” (That’s how she answers the phone when I call. Isn’t that cute? Yes it is.)

“Hi Gow, I just wrote something. Wanna hear it?”

“What do you think?”

“Um Yes?”

“Yes”

“OK.”

“Slowly please”

I start out slow but my ADD and excitement gets the better of me after I reach the second or third sentence and I speed-read to her, pausing only when I think I have made a funny and want to give her time to laugh. When she doesn’t explode with laughter instantly I start to get worried. She will either laugh and make me feel like I have accomplished something, or she will do her polite fake chuckle and tell me “It’s OK honey, it just needs some more work.”, after which I sulk, moan, bite my arm, ask “Why do you hate my writing?” she will reassure me and after I stop crying I tweak the piece to make it better. It’s an odd process, but it has worked to date.

Now if you’ll all excuse me. I am going to call the Gow and see exactly where I stand with this piece.

“Everybody thinks they have good taste, and a sense of humor,
but they couldn’t possibly all have . . . “

In order to garner more traffic to my ramblings here, my faithful editor and BFF; Gow has done her best to drill into my thick skull to read other people’s blogs and to comment on them. I have finally started to listen to the Gow and to browse other people’s writing and leave oh-so-clever commentary. The Gow was right. It has increased traffic to my blog. I have also gotten to meet some amazing and insightful writers out there too. I make a concerted effort not to leave oh-so-clever snarky commentary. I leave sincere compliments. I think hard as to what to “say” to these humorists, satirists, and story tellers. There are some very talented, gifted and flat out amazing writers/bloggers out there; people who blow my bittersweet observations about poor cell phone etiquette and irritable bowel syndrome out of the water. I read some of these pieces awestruck, with my mouth hanging agape like a simpleton who took 8 years to learn to tie his shoe laces or to wave bye-bye. They make me realize how far I have to go as a writer.

There are also some writers out there who simply suck.

Far be it for me to discourage people who like, love, need to, or want to write. I have never and would never write any negative commentary to a fellow blogger. To date I haven’t gotten any negative commentary, which I would hope to attribute to having some small level of skill. I also have the benefit of a best friend and editor who shares my sense of humor, is a fan of my work, who I respect to tell me the truth and reel me in. As a result my crappier work doesn’t survive to see the light of computer monitors. I don’t delude myself into thinking the world is a polite place. I just spent the past 6 weeks in a cast and have had the pleasure of observing my fellow man (and woman) blithely stand by whilst I struggle to open doors, or crutch quickly to elevators that close in my face as their passengers stare blankly ahead pretending not to see the man on crutches. I imagine them all breaking out into loud and raucous laughter, high fiving each other and imitating my crutch skills after the elevator door closes and proceeds up. “Did you see that? He almost made it! HAHA!”

The worst commentary I have received has been from people being entirely too literal with my ‘over the top’ comedy. People may find me funny, people may not. People may think I am childish, stupid, crude or any number of things. But, people taking things too literally is the arch nemesis of comedic observations. “Why are the priest, the rabbi and Paris Hilton in a life raft?”

Why must I share a planet with these people?

Years ago, a struggling actor walked into a reading for a TV pilot (This is a story, not a joke) The TV show’s premise was about a local pub in Boston and the trials and tribulations of the staff and it’s regulars. The actor read for the part, was thanked and “we’ll let you know’d”. The actor wasn’t pleased with his reading and knew he wouldn’t get the part. Thinking quickly he turned to the pilot’s producers, casting crew and directors and asked “Have you given any thought to a bar know- it- all?” The show became Cheers, one of the most popular television shows of all time, and the actor became Cliff Clavin the annoying, yet loveable bar know-it-all. Watching the character of Cliff Clavin is funny and something we can relate to. Being up close and personal with an actual know-it-all is maddening. Some people aren’t proficient at creating funny, even though they possess a terrific sense of humor. Other people simply don’t have a sense of humor or an instinct for humor. It is important for these people to recognize this and not comment upon comedy until they have sought help.

“It’s a little known fact, there Carla, that some people don’t HAVE a sense of humor.”

My ex-boss Wayne had no sense of humor to speak of, although he had an inkling of the instinct. He never found anything funny, but like a comedic sociopath he understood certain reactions were expected of him in various social settings. It was fascinating to watch Wayne pretend to enjoy a joke or funny story. He’d pry off the miserable scowl that was pasted on his face, actually making a sound similar to that of the Tin Man before Dorothy and the Scarecrow gave him a lube job “….oiiiil cnnnn…oil can”. Then he would create what he imagined to be a smile, lift his head back slowly and say “ Haaaaaa … OK …” He needed practice.

A few years back I had a young woman reading my work religiously, which normally thrills me to bits. This woman was a fan, I suppose, but she seemed to miss the over-the-top style of my writing entirely and would comment on every piece and dispel every exaggeration. For example; if I was writing a piece about the long waits in a doctor’s office, the inordinate amount of screaming babies present and magazines so old they were written on papyrus. Her response was “I work in a doctor’s office and there is no way that you waited “three weeks” in the office to see the doctor. Most offices close at 6 or 7 pm. Also sometimes parents have to bring their children to the office because they can’t find a sitter…” After about 2 weeks of literal corrections and observations I finally wrote a piece about humorless people who have no business reading, much less commenting on comedy blogs. Maybe said people would be happier reading instruction manuals.

She got the hint.

Just as we can’t all be professional athletes, gifted musicians, successful businessmen…we can’t all be funny, and we can’t all have a good sense of humor. The key is to recognize these things.

See? Creepy and strange doesn’t equal funny, people!

Sometimes when I am feeling bitter (which in my most conservative estimate is 80-85% of the time on any given day) I look up things like “Least Funny Comedian” or “Worst Comedy of All Time”. As a decidedly unsuccessful comedy writer it makes me feel better in an odd way. Plus, being a pop culture junkie, I am always thrilled to chime in with my 2 cents of commentary. Today while browsing through the ranks of the painfully un-funny, hoping to read some clever reviews about the abysmal NBC show Wings, which despite being sandwiched between the most successful shows on the network was completely unwatchable, I came across an English TV show in that aired in 1990 called “Heil Honey, I’m Home”.

The premise? Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun living in the suburbs, next door to a Jewish couple. Hilarity ensues.

I’m going to repeat that because I feel it requires repeating. A television program…in 1990…called “Heil Honey, I’m Home“… The premise of this sitcom is Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun living in the suburbs next door to a Jewish couple.

Someone thought this was a good idea for a comedy and they wrote it down…then someone else thought it was a good enough idea to make into a television show. I’m a little more willing to give the directors, actors, actresses, camera people etc. a pass, as work in the industry can be very sporadic at best. Impending bills and empty stomachs will often trump unbelievably bad taste.

Now, I love bad taste. I think getting away with bad taste in film, literature, art or any other medium; takes a very specific talent. Director John Waters is the master of this. Waters got Divine; a 300 lb drag queen to eat a dog grumpy in a film, and (some) people called it art. I think bad taste is a ‘bend, but don’t break’ kind of thing. It’s safe to say the “Heil Honey, I’m Home” breaks in spectacular fashion.

 

Wow. . . Just . . Eerrrr . . . WOW.

 

I almost hate to say it, but “Heil Honey I’m Home” gets my creative juices flowing. After discovering its existence and watching about 17 seconds of the first (and thankfully last) episode, so many scenarios came to mind. 17 seconds was about all I could take. The acting and writing was almost as bad the plot. Somehow “laugh track” and “Nazi” don’t really belong in the same sentence.

I can just picture a struggling actor calling his parents about his big break.

“Mum, I got the lead in a new show that’s going to be on telly.”
“Oh, I’m so happy for you dear. I knew you’d find something. You were always so talented.”
“Oh Mum, if this show takes off, I wont have to wait tables anymore. I can pay back all the money you and dad have lent me…”
“Tell me all about the show, dear.”
“I’m playing Adolf Hitler.”
“Hitler? Is it a miniseries about the war?”
“No mum…it’s a sit-com.”
Pause
“Mum? Are you still there?”
“Let me put your father on, dear.”

I also pictured the pitch meeting. A successful and busy producer’s office. A nervous young writer waiting to see him. This could be his big break. The producer’s secretary answers the phone. “Mr. Goldstein will see you now.” The writer enters the inner office carrying a script in a binder. The producer sits behind a massive desk puffing away at a cigar. His walls are adorned with posters for the massively successful shows he has and is currently producing. He motions for the writer to take a seat.

“Alright, Snodgrass..I’m a busy man, you’ve got 30 seconds…tell me about this show of yours.”
“Well JG, it’s a sit com.”
“Uh huh.”
“Two couples, living next door to each other in the suburbs and their love/hate relationship.”
“I like it so far.”
“Now, here’s the kicker JG.”
“Sock it to me..”
“The two couples are Adolph Hitler, Eva Braun…and … wait for it… living next to …a Jewish couple.”

Silence. The producer stares at the young writer for the longest 10 seconds in his life, then rising slowly he reaches for his cigar box and offers the writer one before sitting back down and leaning back in his chair as he shouts “I love it! Tell me more!” He leans over his desk and pushes the office intercom. “Ms. Price, hold my meetings and see what directors are available to start shooting next week.” Given the scale of even small television productions, it’s a safe bet that there were 50 or 60 people who were hoping that “Heil Honey I’m Home” would last at least one full season.

“Isn’t life swell, dear? “
“It sure is, hon.”

The show was initially supposed to be a spoof on 1950’s squeaky clean American family comedies like “Father Knows Best” and “Leave It To Beaver”. This got me thinking about what sort of theme song and opening credits the show would have. They could start with stark black and white footage of Stuka dive bombers and goose-stepping German soldiers set to very dark music by Wagner, then cut to a bright, color exterior of a little yellow house with Adolph Hitler mowing the lawn using an old fashion push mower and muttering to himself. The music changes to an upbeat accordion Oom- Pah- Pah Bavarian-Polka type tune.

Announcer’s deep baritone voice: “Heil Honey, I’m Home! Starring Joesef Kantactfurshit…Karla Kuntbagg, David Hasselhoff aaaaaand Shecky Wunderschwanz as Hitler.”

As the announcer speaks, a beach ball falls in Hitler’s yard. Hitler picks up the ball and glares over at his next door neighbors. A young Jewish man wearing a yarmulke and an early 1900’s bathing suit beckons for him to throw the ball back. He is standing in a shallow kid’s pool. Hitler goosesteps over to his front porch and punctures the ball on a World War One German helmet’s spike. The helmet is a matching set that is hung upside down and being used as flower pots full of daises. Upon seeing his ball punctured, the Jewish neighbor shakes his fist at Hitler. Eva Braun comes outside and waves to the Jewish man’s wife who is also coming outside carrying a tray of lemonade and sandwiches. Or, while we’re being all disgusting and anti-Semitic here, a tray heaping with lox and bagels.

The rest of the opening credits could include a montage of wacky, slapstick clips like Hitler coming out of the kitchen covered in soap suds from the inevitable “Husband and Wife switch roles and husband is clueless” episode.

Announcer: Sponsored by…Volkswagen!… and Manischewitz Matzo Meal.

Somehow, I am picturing Adolph and his Jewish neighbor being frenemies…like Mr. Rush and Munroe in “Too Close For Comfort” or George Jefferson and Tom Willis on “The Jeffersons”. The Jewish neighbors could have a rambunctious little boy who is always tormenting Hitler. Perhaps a cute running gag like the little boy always getting his name wrong. Hitler was also a strict vegetarian and took several medications for excessive flatulence. Another running gag. If it wasn’t so repugnant, this show would practically write itself.

“Hi Mr. Tilter.”
“Ze name ees Hit-ler, HIT-ler, vare ist your fadder?”
“He’s at work Mr. Pitler.”
“Ach yes, ze accounting…teepical Jewish proveshun.”
“Eva, get zis child avay from me.”
“What’s that smell Mr. Shitler? It smells like broccoli and poopie.”
“EVA, GET ZIS CHILD AVAY FROM ME!!!”

Only one episode of the show aired, which is certainly one episode too many. Seven shows were shot. It makes me wonder if the producer tried to plead his case that “the show was just beginning to hit its stride” or “The Battle of Britain Holiday Special is coming up.” or “Maybe if we started adding weekly guest stars…can you see Meatloaf as Goering?”

I think I’ll go take a shower now.

“Of course, my good man, everyone knows that Facebook IS the new standard for “Published Author”

I have started a regular “column” on Facebook. I call it a “column” because I am prone to many delusional moments. I want a regular column, so if that is how I label it… to my way of thinking, voila, instant column. My “column” in reality it is a status update that I have decided to call “Fun at Other People’s Expense” followed by a number. I started the numbers in the four hundred’s to create the illusion that I have written hundreds of these gems of witty yet hateful wisdom. It is also a bait and switch literary marketing tool. Maybe if I write something clever and funny, it will nudge a reader to dig deeper into my many ramblings. It’s an important phase in my plan to write and have published the Great American Bathroom Read.

One of the cool things about “Fun At Other People’s Expense” or FAOPE (Fay-Ope or Fay-Oh-Pee) is that I find I’m pretty good at it. Whenever I am at a loss with what to inflict upon my Facebook friends, because God forbid people aren’t paying attention to what I am saying or writing for more than 30 minutes, I’ll bang out a quick FAOPE. I suppose it’s not one of the world’s greatest talents. It ranks up there somewhere around “really exceptional toenail care”.

Yesterday, my best friend; The Gow came to visit me in my nicotine stained chamber of self pity. She came up for the weekend to visit and to help out with the domestic aspects of daily life that I am having temporary difficulties with after injuring myself. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was on TV, and for a goof I decided to explain the plot of the cinematic classic to The Gow.

Looks interesting. What’s it about?

“Oh, hey Gow, you’ll like this. It’s a film is called “Psycho”, it was made by this English director named Alfred Hitch-cock…it’s about a woman who steals some money from her boss and skips town to be with her boyfriend in another city. On the way she stops at an off-the-beaten-track motel and is murdered by the young man who owns the place. His name is Norman Bates and he is insane. That’s why it’s called “Psycho” He lives with his mother’s corpse, and…”

The Gow, who is accustomed to my shenanigans, stopped me short and deadpanned ” Shhh honey, you’ll ruin the ending for me.” She is well versed in my M.O. She knows that if she ignores me, I will redouble my efforts. She also knows that if she gets angry or annoyed, then I have accomplished my mission. The response was incredibly well played by The Gow as it silenced me…for about 30 seconds, which is the best anyone can hope for where I’m concerned.

It dawns on me that this tactic can go well beyond my silly “column”.  (No, I’m not going to stop calling it that) Getting rid of people with tact and grace is a useful skill. It is one many of us have yet to master. It seems to me that we often find ourselves wanting to be rid of people, but without hurting their feelings, being mean spirited or anything that may result in them hating (or hitting) us. We all can relate to the romantic interest that we are no longer romantically interested in. “I think we should just be friends” might be true, often it is, but anyone it has been directed towards leaves unsatisfied and frequently with little to no interest in actually remaining friends.

Have you ever stopped and thought about the many instances in life where you wish you could get someone to go away without bruising their pride or being rude?

Relatives, people we are dating but the spark is just missing, especially tenacious pick up artists. Jehovah’s Witnesses, sales people.

There are also people in life who simply…will…not…go…away. There is a regular at the pub where I work named Liam. Liam was born missing the subsection of the mind responsible for determining personal space or if anyone would like him to stop talking now. He’s not a mean person, or a bad guy, he’s just irritating…unbelievably so. He will ramble on and on (and on) 5 inches from your face, and he can not or will not be dissuaded by anything short of screaming “GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME LIAM!” followed by a 30 second, direct blast of chemical mace. His breath has a “just ate a dog shit burrito” quality to it, and he’s a close talker, which doesn’t help either.

Please. Stop. Talking. Now.

I think I may have inadvertently discovered a tactful way to get rid of people via my little tee-hee with The Gow. Just engage the mark in very direct conversation and keep pointing out the painfully obvious to them in the most pedantic manner possible. Continue to do so until you have turned the tables and that they will be trying to get you to go away.

Just imagine how long you could stay and listen to such gems as:

“You know they call baseball the National Pastime. That’s because it’s a popular game here in America. You know the term ‘pastime’ comes from the words “pass” and “time”, because it’s an activity that passes the time. Pass-Time get it? Paaassss Tiimmee”. Politically speaking I have to say that, Mitt Romney is a Republican, where as President Obama is a Democrat…there are two major political parties in the United States…The Dem-o-crats and the Re-pub-li-cans…”

Continue this simplistic monologue with an occasional “Oh, you already knew that?” thrown in. For this to work properly, it is very important to keep the tone innocent and magnanimous.

If any of my readers try this technique, I’d love feedback on how it worked (or didn’t work) for you. Just leave a comment at the end of my “column”.

I’d like to apologize in advance if someone decides to hit you.

The Gow

Posted: July 3, 2012 by S. Trevor Swenson in About, Me & Mine
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When I first started writing seriously (“seriously” being a highly relative term) I used to write about the mentally retarded, the slightly less stupid average people (who don’t have an excuse), things, places and people that annoyed me, etc. I’m not a mean spirited person, so the context in which I wrote about the retarded was observational, and not harsh or mean. One example was that when I would visit my mother in western Massachusetts I’d have her take me to the super market with her. First, because she would spoil me. I could toss anything into our shopping cart and she’d protest ever so slightly, not accept any money I tried to give her and then buy it all for me. I also loved the super markets in New England which were like a paradise compared to the ones here in NYC. Pristine cleanliness, friendly staff, great selection etc. One thing I noticed was that the people who bagged the groceries were generally retirees and the mentally retarded. What blew my mind was that the level of service from the retarded supermarket employees was leaps and bounds better than that in NYC and the “normal” people they hired. Their attitude was a thing to marvel at. They were so friendly and so pleasant with a rarely seen level of professionalism. The basic rules of bagging groceries had been taught to them and they had them down to a T, didn’t cut corners and were thrilled to be working. Honestly, how many “normal” people in America take such pride in their work?

Another thing I wrote of was when I used to stay up all night or wake up early, make some coffee and go downstairs to wave to the bus of mentally retarded people going to school every morning around 7am. They were so psyched and would wave back frantically and try to talk to me as the buses driver would just scowl. That’s a positive way for a person to start their day.

I also claimed that a person could make a wish every time they spotted a retarded person. This was not the only circumstance that I deemed wish worthy. There are many others. If you find a bay leaf in your food. You get to make a wish. If you get the last shot from a liquor bottle at a bar…make a wish. Once while visiting my friend Gina in DC we spotted a retarded adult walking down the street with stiff denim pants pulled up to his arm pits and belted there. I pointed him out and told Gina to “make a wish”. She did so and also snapped a photo of him as he walked away. A woman observed us doing this and said with great disgust “You have got to be kidding me!” It became a line with Gina and I in regards to laughing at insensitive subject matter.

So I wrote about things like that.

Some people took issue with it. Others laughed against their will. Things we aren’t supposed to laugh at can be the funniest sometimes. I always tried to include that I was not ridiculing these people…well not more than I ridicule everyone and everything else, including myself. Hell, in some ways they had my life beat by a mile. They were happy. They weren’t jaded. They were leaps and bounds more stoic than I am. They took time to smell the roses.

It was around this time that I met my best friend and editor; Gow. Her real name is Jama (Jay-Muh) We met online and she had read some of my stuff and had liked it. Like many people with a unique name she was sensitive about it. I once made some reference to her being a “Bad Mama Jamma”, and she deadpanned “Yeah, never heard that before.” I could relate. I never liked my name; Scott. It was too easy to rhyme when others felt like picking on me as a kid. It rhymes with “Snot” “Pot”, “Twat” and lots of other things. Kids are musical creatures and they’d make up poems and songs about me. My step sister once sang “Scotty on the potty kissing with Dottie” and I practically cried.

I dubbed Jama “Gow” after a story I wrote about a group of mentally retarded adults I encountered at the eye doctors. She liked the story and started cracking up. I thought on the one year anniversary of my blog, I’d rewrite the story and dedicate it to Gow. I am so lucky to have such a friend and editor. Plus a great deal of my early writing vanished. I had posted it on MySpace, but never printed it out. After a certain amount of time Myspace deleted the entries and the originals are now gone forever. Gow makes sure all of my writing is stored on thumb drives now. Of course it is often human nature to romanticize the past and things that are lost. I think lots of my lost writing was probably pretty good and would have been even better after I had rewritten and Gow had edited it. A person once told me that they saw an improvement in my writing over time.

So, here is the story…rewritten from memory, hopefully better than the original piece.

The Origin of Gow

I was at the eye doctors on Broadway here in Astoria. While waiting for my name to be called I was flipping through magazines. The magazines were so-so. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I become very larcenous at doctors offices. I steal magazines, samples, rip off recipes, and when I make it to the doctors actual office I will pocket any and everything I can. It’s my petty little revenge for having to wait and for doctors and their staff never apologizing for keeping me waiting well beyond my scheduled appointment. It’s just a common courtesy to apologize for keeping people waiting. The fact that I never get an apology from the medical field just says to me that they feel their time is more valuable than mine. “Sorry to keep you waiting, it’s crazy here today” isn’t too much to ask.

Across from me in the waiting room were 4 or 5 mentally retarded adults. I believe the politically correct term is “developmentally disabled” but PC language is bullshit. It doesn’t slip an ace into the cards they’ve been dealt. Plus, it is a highly inaccurate term in my opinion. I think everyone has some developmental disability. There are branches of mathematics being taught to 3rd graders today that I couldn’t understand after taking 5 classes as an adult and failing or withdrawing from all of them. Other people are brilliant in terms of IQ and intellect, but are simply clueless socially. These are, by definition, developmental disabilities.”Retarded” is what I grew up hearing, and it’s pretty simple language. Nothing wrong with it. “Slow” is another term I am fond of. These people weren’t slow. They had a physiological condition in regards to their brains/bodies. With them were three or four what I used to call “Tard Sheppards”. Adults who kept an eye on them, helped them with assited living, got them to the eye doctor etc. I enjoy bestowing nicknames on to friends and strangers alike. The first retarded guy I dubbed “The Burger King” because he kept talking about going to Burger King, and one of the sheppards was actually arguing with him about it.

“I wanna go to Burger King, and you said we could go.”
“I did NOT say dat!”
“Yes you did an’ I wanna go to Burger King.”
“You aint got no money fo’ Burger King.”
“Yes I do…”
“I took you to Burger King on Monday.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“Yes, I did!”

Really, who argues about these things? Children maybe. It made me wish there was a BK nearby so I could step out, grab him a whopper, fries or whatever and totally make his day.

The person next to His Majesty, The Burger King and The Royal Fool was the most severely disabled of the group and he kept rocking back and forth, biting his hand and arm and then, embarrassed, he would “hide” his hand by sitting on it. There is nothing funny about this, and it’s kind of sad, except I will say that occasionally when I am very upset or shocked that I bite my arm and rock back and forth. The people around me find it highly amusing.

After Rocket Man was a little old woman who seemed catatonic, and batting clean up was a young woman in her twenties who kept saying “Gow” over and over. What was interesting was that the sheppard next to Gow was having a very matter of fact conversation with her. It was as if she understood the subtle nuance and tone of the various gows.

“Gow.”
“Ummm, I think we’re having meatloaf tonight at the house.”
“Gow Gow Gow.”
“Mashed potatoes, string beans and apple brown betty.”
“Gow Gow Gooowwwww!”
“I know you don’t like string beans…you have to eat some kind of vegetable.”
“Gow?”
“OK. corn it is”
“Gow G-g-g Gow?”
“I think we’re next”
“Gow?”
“For new glasses.”

Finally, my name was called and I went in for my appointment.

Jama, as I said, liked the story and started saying “Gow” in lieu of “Hello” when she called. I started calling her “Gow” or “Little Gow”, which I think she liked, given her sensitivity to her name. It became an integral part of our friendship. “Sad Gow” became her expression when she was disappointed with me. We speak every day and when one of us doesn’t have the chance to call.

“Hi Gow…what’s up?”
“Sad Gow”
“Why Sad Gow?”
“Cause you didn’t call me”

It was a visit to adolescence. “Sad Gow” became synonymous with a disappointment. Gow once even said it out loud at work when her lunch room didn’t have the fish she dines on every day.

I ask her often if she likes being called “Gow” and she answers in the affirmative. It seems I need regular assurances. Gow does too sometimes, and that might be part of why we are so close. She never had a nickname. I have had some, but never cared for them. They were always a means to get under my skin and the only thing that made them marginally tolerable was that they were used by close friends.

This piece may not be my funniest, or most clever…if ‘clever’ is a word I may use to describe my self and what I write. But it’s important to me because I wanted to write something for my best friend and editor..something that would make her smile, something that would make her Happy Gow.

The Wonderful World of Words

Posted: March 1, 2012 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Me & Mine
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“Words, Words, Words” – Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’

“I love words. I want to thank you for hearing my words. Words are all we have really. We have thoughts, but thoughts are fluid, so we assign a word to that thought and then we’re stuck with that word for that thought” – George Carlin, ‘The seven words you can’t say on television’

I love words too. I like the sound of many of them, and their power. I use words to make others laugh. I am fascinated at how words evolve. They can become popular, lose popularity and then regain favor. New words are created all the time. I have favorite words, and those that I try to fit in when and wherever possible. We take words for granted. I swear less and less these days, but I still remember the delight of uttering and writing no-no words during my childhood.I asked a friend today to help me think of words I use frequently, but it didn’t work out very well. They came up with a laundry list of words they liked. I suppose I am on my own to think of the words I try to use whenever possible. At the moment I can only think of three off the top of my head, but I’d be willing to bet that I think of a couple more during the various rewrites of this piece. In fact, while typing that sentence I thought of a couple. Here are the original three before I get too far ahead of myself.

Facetious – Here’s the dictionary definition.

fa·ce·tious
     adjective
1. not meant to be taken seriously or literally: a facetious remark.
2. amusing; humorous.
3. lacking serious intent; concerned with something nonessential, amusing, or frivolous: a facetious person.


I first fell in love with facetious when my former employer would misuse it. Perhaps misuse is the incorrect term. He used it correctly, but he was lying as he did so. Let me explain. My former employer is one of those award winning turds who never sees anything wrong with their behavior and sees apologizing as something that only the weak partake in. He would routinely fly off the handle at me or various co-workers. His meltdowns were unnecessarily harsh and cruel and he was smart enough to realize it soon after. However, rather than apologizing, he’d say “I was being facetious.” when he got called on his crap. He was not being facetious. He was being a raging nutbar flying off the handle with an inability to apologize or to admit he was wrong. So, he’d dismiss his uncalled for, and harsh meltdown with a $10 word. Interesting that he had to be just a little smug in addition to denying the offended party the apology they deserved (i.e. me. I seemed to care much less when he flipped out on my co-workers because I’m kind of a selfish prick like that). I liked the sound of facetious and after being screamed at by him for minor infractions a few times, only to be told he was being “facetious” I had to go home and look it up. It is interesting to note that I have had to look up most of my favorite words. When I was young and I’d ask my mother how to spell a word or it’s definition, she’d tell me to “look it up”. I hated that. I especially hated that when I didn’t know the spelling! “OK, how do you spell it?” My 7 year old logic was often lost on my mother…this is OK as my 41 year old’s logic is also often lost on my mother. Now I like looking up words. The classical conditioning of my youth has backfired on my mother. I now run for the big book when she and I are having an argument on semantics, and I read the definition out in obnoxiously pompous voiced dictionary speak. My moms will inevitably point out that her definition was there also. “Yeah, but it’s number two.”  I will say gloating. She will stare at me for a moment with her patented  “I really should have hit you more as a child” expression before moving on to our next argument.

Facetious was a great word for me, as I have found myself on more than a dozen occasions having to explain or defend my comedy to people who have taken issue with it. I am being facetious. I am not to be taken seriously. I thought that I was generally over the top enough that it would be obvious, but apparently I am not all the time. I struggled with this issue.

On one hand I am too hypersensitive myself to justifiably get angry with people who take offense at something harsh I have written. I am perhaps the most easily slighted person in North America. I’ll sulk for months if I don’t get an

Sadly, sometimes it's actually necessary to point out the obvious.

Sadly, sometimes it's actually necessary to point out the obvious.

enthusiastic enough “excuse me” or “good morning” from someone. I am the poster child for being able to dish it out,but not being able to take it. So, I had a long hard inner debate. I finally decided that I am not a mean spirited person. I don’t wish ill on many people. My defense mechanism is humor, and sure, sometimes I take it too far, and when that happens, I feel bad and will apologize. But as far as defense mechanisms go, I’ll take humor over bell tower shooting sprees any time. People I admire and have tried to emulate in style were and are often harsh, while making us laugh. So, I am going to write like the perpetually angry little man that I am, and if a few people take it the wrong way, well…that’s too bad. If they want an explanation, I’ll give it to them. So if you don’t find grumpy observations on how irritating screaming babies in public are, or my poking fun at old people to be chucklicious, then don’t read my writing. I’m here for laughs. I’m not mean spirited. I don’t go to hospital burn wards and had out cigars, I don’t make homeless beggars name the best costume nominees for the 2006 Tony awards with the promise of a quarter, I’m being facetious. I should be taken as seriously as a five year old boy who writes “Ca-Ca” in brown crayon on a wall…I’m probably about as funny too.

Another favorite word…Pedantic. Again here is the definition.

pe·dan·tic
      adjective
1. ostentatious in one’s learning.
2. overly concerned with minute details or formalisms, especially in teaching.

This was another one I had to look up. There is a short story behind this and I have to thank my former professor Louie. It was day one of a new class and I had to go to the bathroom…badly. Come to think of it, I wasn’t having an intestinal rumbling or a bladder red alert; I was having a panic attack. Now, panic attacks hit the “fight or flight” section of the brain like a ton of lead. Since there was no one appropriate nearby to fight, I was choosing the flight option. I suppose I could have punched the little 18 year old girl next to me, and then scream “She started it!” which worked about half the time in first grade. After careful consideration, I decided this wouldn’t go over so well, and who knows…maybe the 96 lb girl next to me was packing pepper spray and had been taking kick boxing lessons. Yes, it had to be flight.

Could have done without the trip back in time, thanks.

Could have done without the trip back in time, thanks.

As I said, it was the first day of class, and the fussy little queen of a teacher was waiting for the rest of the class to arrive. It was now 10 minutes after class had begun. I said to him “Please mark me ‘present’, I just need to dash to the bathroom”. I didn’t add that I’d be in a stall hyperventilating until the panic attack wore off to a manageable level. He actually refused to let me go. I was reconsidering the “fight” option once again, except I have found that kneeing a professor in the crotch followed by a left hook isn’t so conducive to making the Dean’s List. So I sat down fuming. I am 41 years old. I haven’t been asking to go potty for over 6 months now. I was on time for class, and yet being denied because of the people who couldn’t bother being on time on day ONE??? I instantly disliked this man, but I acted like a well adjusted adult, sat back down and spent that first day in class drawing Sherman tanks firing upon Professor Rodriguez’s house instead of taking notes. I showed these artistic expressions to the young girl next to me, and she rolled her eyes. Maybe I should kick her ass.

I went home after class and wrote to a professor I liked; the aforementioned Louie. I wanted him to confirm that I was indeed a stellar student and that this professor was a big meany, and maybe to see if Louie would forge a doctors note explaining that I have severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder coupled with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and that my bathroom forays should not be impeded. (See, I love big fancy words.) Louie just chuckled and explained that “some teachers are just a trifle pedantic”. I agreed wholeheartedly with Lou and then I looked up the word, not wanting to appear stupid. Yes, Louie had hit the nail on the head. Professor Potty-Block was most certainly pedantic. I dropped his class after a week, and now make it a point of honor to visit the bathroom twice during every class I have had since.

Pedantic is slightly similar to another word I love but didn’t have to look up. “Officious”. Officiousness and pedantry are wonderful qualities for ridicule, and ridicule is a major hobby of mine.

Rounding out the big three is Smug

smug
[smuhg]
      adjective, smug=ger, smug-gest.
1. contentedly confident of one’s ability, superiority, or correctness; complacent.
2. trim; spruce; smooth; sleek.

I am not thrilled by these definitions. I also feel it can be used contextually in other manners. One example of this is a bagel shop in my neighborhood that is always hiring. They have a sign out front advertising the available position or positions and it states that they are seeking a hardworking, experienced person with total availability, willing to work weekends, nights, holidays etc. The sign goes on and on about what they expect, and the only thing they offer is a “competitive salary” which is American business slang for minimum wage with rigidly timed 10 minute breaks…in other words, you’re going to hate the company, get screwed front, right and center and you better smile about it. To me, that is smug.

Smug is another favorite word because it is a wonderful quality or condition to ridicule or to gripe about. I might add a third definition to “smug”

3. Possessing testicles that require a forklift to move.

I think it’s a great definition, but Dictionary.com has asked me politely to stop sending them suggestions.

Smug reminds me of the Yiddish word Chutzpah even though they are not interchangeable. Chutzpah has more to do with audacity. Yiddish is a wonderful dialect. It is a rare mixture of Germanic and Hebrew so the words don’t always roll off the tongue. I also feel a little awkward using Yiddish as it makes people think I’m Jewish. I have spoken with many of my Jewish friends and they too feel awkward using Yiddish for the very same reason.

The beauty of Yiddish is that it has very specific expressions for types of people, qualities of the human condition and things that should have a single English word assigned to them, but do not. It’s an incredibly clever language. There are so many English words that originated in Yiddish that I adore.

Drek or Dreck is a wonderful expression that I mean to use, but often forget in lieu of dook, dookie, boom boom, crap, shit, and poo.

A more pleasant blast from the past

A more pleasant blast from the past

Schlemiel and Schlimazel : The polite standard definition of these are “A schlemiel is a person who spills soup at a dinner party, and a schlimazel is the one he spilled it on”. My favorite definition comes from Louie DePalma in the hit TV show Taxi . He was calling Alex Rieger a schlimazel. “You know the difference between a schlemiel and a schlamazel Rieger? A schlemiel comes home early from work to find his wife in bed with his boss…a schlamazel gets fired for leaving work early.”

Compared to Yiddish; English is a decidedly boring language…this is why potty-mouth idiot savant Rain Men like myself make others laugh.

Urban Dictionary has become another favorite website of mine. Whenever I am feeling blue, I just scan through the various words and terms and within 45 seconds I will be rolling with laughter. I’m just not crazy about the term “Urban Dictionary”…somewhere along the way, the Political Correctness Gestapo made “Urban” synonymous with poor black inner city people. Black people have had some amazing contributions to language, but “Urban” is simply inaccurate in pigeon holing black people and the Dictionary. The best part of UD is that after every word there is an advertisement for coffee mugs, t-shirts and other merchandise with that word on it. I love that I live in an age and in a country where with the click of a button I can order 3 dozen t-shirts and coffee mugs of varying colors that say “Feltch” or “Twat” on them. They make great gifts for those difficult to buy for folks on your Christmas list.

More on this subject as it is too broad to be covered in one entry.