Friday, August 31, 2007

Happy 38th

Today I'm 38.
Hold your applause.
Truth be told, I like the concept of people celebrating my birthday - Kristen from work baked me a cake, I'm having a lobster dinner with my parents and I snagged a few birthday cards and gifts along the way. I guess what I don't like is the getting old part. Oh, birthdays were fun as a kid with cake, ice cream and presents. Birthday parties were fun celebrations, full of magic and whimsy. Even in my 20s, birthdays were fun, with beer replacing soda. Still, back then I was something I'm not now: young.
I am getting old. I can see it in my thinning scalp, in the extra pounds, in my general demeanor. Yet with age comes wisdom. That's the real rub: the older we get, our bodies sag, droop and faulter, yet on the inside we get smarter and savvier with experience. If the world doesn't dull us or leave us jaded, it makes us tougher and more resilient. Nietzsche said it best: "What does not kill me makes me stronger."
What made all of those years tolerable, at least what made the birthdays tolerable was a stupid plastic record my mother bought me what I was six years old. The record, In 1976, the American Broadcasting Co. offered a record containing a personalized birthday song. Sung by Stewart Sloke, the song depicted Captain Zoom, a spaceman who sings a song to children on their birthday. It's a cheesy, campy and overtly stupid song and my mother always played it on my birthday.
And I mean ALWAYS. Every single birthday from the time I was six until now. Every August 31 she'd break out the plastic record and I'd hear:

“Hey, Eric it’s your birthday
I’m in charge of the stars and I’m here to say
Hey, Eric, you’re the big star today
My name is Zoom and I live on the moon
But I came down to Earth just to sing you this tune
Cause Eric, it’s your birthday today!”

For the last 30-plus years I've heard that song. I always shunned it; embarassed, thinking my mother was trying to humiliate me. Yet just this year I've really embraced the song. Call it nostalgia or senility or whatever old people get that makes them long for the past. I don't really mind holding on to that now. It's the one constant in an ever-changing existence for me: a childhood birthday record that once was ridiculous and silly suddenly having profound meaning as a link to my past. So instead of running away, I listened to Captain Zoom all the way through and loved every silly second of it. Thanks, Mom!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Writing Room

My writing room is important to me, a sanctuary where I can sit and create and just unwind in front of the keyboard. Everywhere I lived I carved out a special room, just for me, where I can go and think and write. Stephen King's brilliant book, "On Writing" suggests all writers must have a room they can go and close the door and write. My new pad has a back room, a bedroom I converted into my private office/library/inner sanctum/study/writing room. I put my tiny Mac laptop there, along with a printer and books. The Gadsden flag is my favorite; telling all not to mess with me.
I still need to get bookshelves for my books, but overall, the writing room is functional.

Cuddly Cthulhu and Sock Monkey just hanging out.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Pad, Part 4

The living room is finally taking shape with today's arrival of the loveseat. It fit into the room, unlike the large sofa that came last week. So now I have somewhere comfortable to sit. Finally!

The loveseat also dampened the enormous echo that permeated the room, due to a lack of furnishings. People don't really think about furniture until they need it. For the last week, I sat on the coffeetable while watching TV, which wasn't really comfortable at all.

Angry Italian Bas-Relief Head says ""Ciao!"

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Pad, Part 3

Okay. A lot has happened with the Pad recently. The bedroom is coming together nicely. I'm going for an Asian/Oriental/Far East look to it with furniture from Pier 1 Imports to compliment my ginormous bed that takes up 60 percent of the room. I have this comforter with a royal dragon and phoenix on it, so now the entire place looks like an opium den or San Francisco Chinatown brothel circa 1890. No matter. It's a look that says exotic and swinging bachelor, which is what I'm going for.

The arrival of my dresser rounded out the entire bedroom and gave me a place to put all my holy relics/religious statues/totems. They all look happy together, don't you think? From left, the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, Anubis, Jesus, Ganesha and Buddha.

The week has had its disappointments. The chocolate brown sofa I ordered arrived on Saturday, but the damn thing was too big to fit. The delivery guys couldn't negotiate the narrow hallway and the door was too small so I had to return it and order a loveseat instead. I did manage to get a coffeetable, but still have nowhere to sit in my living room, except the floor.
On the plus side, the cable guy came out today and hooked me up with Comcast. I have cable TV and Internet service, so for now I'm happy.
The writing room/home office/library/inner sanctum is still a mess, but at least I have access to the Internet and carved out a corner of the room that is mine for writing. The rest of the room is a chaotic jumble of stacked boxes and books, and is a work in progress.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Ideal Career...

Your Career Type: Artistic

You are expressive, original, and independent.
Your talents lie in your artistic abilities: creative writing, drama, crafts, music, or art.

You would make an excellent:

Actor - Art Teacher - Book Editor
Clothes Designer - Comedian - Composer
Dancer - DJ - Graphic Designer
Illustrator - Musician - Sculptor

The worst career options for your are conventional careers, like bank teller or secretary.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Strange Day

What started out to be a calm Sunday visit to the convalescent center to see Christopher following his hip replacement surgery turned into a grueling ordeal when my car was rear-ended on the Garden State Parkway by an SUV. In the end, four cars were involved in a chain-reaction fender bender.
I was on my to Cape May Court House to see Christopher this morning when I stopped at a light - one of three lights on the entire stretch of the Garden State Parkway. As I slowed to a stop, I heard a loud screeching and heard a bang and my car jostled violently foreward. I was okay, but really shaken up. I got out of the car and noticed the occupants of three other vehicles behind me doing the same. The New Jersey State Police came and took our information, then told me and the driver of the SUV behind me to pull over while he attended to the other two drivers.
Turns out the driver of a white van started the chain reaction when he slammed into a green pickup truck, which in turn hit the SUV, which in turn hit me. Kind of like a multi-vehicle clusterfuck. The family in the SUV behind me was from Montreal. As we waited, they began speaking some foreign language, and I know it wasn't French. I heard this language before and asked the driver his name. He replied it was Vahan, an Armenian name. When I told them I was half Armenian, the whole family became excited and began speaking Armenian to be. "What are the odds?" Vahan said, indicating two Armenians, one from New Jersey and the other from Canada, would be part of a car accident. After ten minutes of discussing our family trees, the Armenian-Canadian family and I were allowed to leave. I went to the convalescent center and saw Christopher about 45 minutes late.
Damage to my car: zero. Incidentally, I was the only one driving a car. Everyone else had larger vehicles. Vahan's SUV was a rental and had a badly smashed bumper and rear door. The gods were with me today.
Christopher was doing well after his surgery. It'll take him another week of therapy before he can go home and four more weeks before he can return to work. He was in good spirits and appreciated the visit. He showed us the incision - metal staples banding raw flesh. It looked really nasty, but inside him is an artificial hip that'll help him walk better, which is a miraculous thing.
I ended the day with a boat ride on the back bay with my lkandlord and friend, Sam and my dad. Sam cranked the boat up and we took off, boat rocking, waves splashing and salty sea spray drenching us. A harrowing experience, especially if you're not used to boating, but exhilerating nonetheless. We were all drenched and salty after that. As we tied Sam's boat to the dock, I vowed a newfound appreciation of dry land.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dear Mr. Bykofsky

Philadelphia Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky wrote a column saying this country needs another 9/11 to snap us out of apathy. Outrageous, isn't it? I wrote Stu the following reply:

Mr. Bykofsky,
I read with dismay your Aug. 9 column "To save America, we need another 9/11." Wishing a another disaster like the 9/11 terrorist attacks is an insult to those killed on that terible day. It is also an insult to the victim's families.
True, America did rise up after Sept. 11, 2001 and band together. Despite what the pundits and political hacks will tell you, Americans are basically a good people who come together in a crisis. Political affiliation, religion, race and economic status don't matter in a crisis. We are all Americans helping each other with a kind of compassion the government is incapable of.
You lament this country is fragmented and divided politically. Is this really the case, or what the political pundits will have us believe? Do Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Michael Moore and Al Franken really speak to America or a selective audience whose mindsets are unalterable?
If a fellow human is on the ground bleeding, you help them regardless of their political party or where they go to worship.
We don't need Islamic fundamentalists flying airplanes into skyscrapers or setting off bombs to bring this nation together. We need a concerted effort to rid ourselves of the entrenched political powers steering this country in the wrong direction. Better people need to run for office and we need to elect them. Only by losing our apathy and voting for people who will actually work to save this country will we truly preserve the highest forms of American principles - freedom, liberty and prosperity.
We need to decide what kind of place we want America in the 21st century to be - a place of ideas and open government, or an entrecnhed oligarchy filled with sound bites and little substance.
It's been suggested we're trying to change the culture in the Middle East, to transform their societies into more democratic ones. Can't we change our own country with leaders who don't care about political parties or pundits or polls and instead do the right thing - keep us safe, secure and preserve our common values? Can't we rid ourselves of cynicism and doubt and bitterness by creating policies that make sense and ensure a better quality of life? I think we can, and it doesn't include another attack by terrorists. If you want people to unite against Al Qaeda, the war should not be about politics. The war is bandied about like a political football, but both Democrats and Republicans got us there. The strategy was short-sighted and cooked up by think tanks and civilians instead of our military. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. We should refocus our efforts on where Al Qaeda is hiding, in Afghanistan and other isolated pockets in the Middle East and throughout the world.
We should convince other countries that 9/11 can happen in their countries, too, just like the bombings in Spain and the United Kingdom. Al Qaeda presents a threat to civilization and it requires a broad-reaching effort from different nations to combat global terrorism.
It is not our fight alone. It's the world's fight, and it doesn't require more bloodshed to spark outrage.
The people are already outraged.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Cash Cab

Seeing my former girlfriend on Cash Cab was strange. So many mixed emotions... However, this game show is just weird. Contestants are in a New York taxi cab and have to answer questions. My former girlfriend and her new boyfriend won $950 and instead of taking the video challenge and doubling their winnings, they took the money and left the cab.
Side note: three twentysomethings that played after her ended their game with $650, took the video challenge where they had to correctly identify a lemur, and walked away with $1,300. When in doubt, go for the video challenge. There just might be a lemur waiting for you.
I'd like to see a better version of Cash Cab. I'd like to see the Cash Cab pick up drunks at 2 a.m. or raveheads strung out on Ecstacy and are vomiting in the cab. I'd like to see them try and answer questions and stay awake or not get into an impromptu fistfight. Call it Drunk Cab. It would be a great show. You'd pick up hookers and pimps and druggies and ask them questions about literature, music, art and popular culture. Who wants to see a bunch of white, affluent New Yorkers when you can see Rico the Stick fumbling with a crack phial in the back seat? That's entertainment!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Pad, Part 2

Dishes, utensils, table and chairs, new TV, DVD player, bed, nightstand already in place. Dresser, TV stand and writing desk on the way. Had great meal with Mr. and Mrs. Landlord and it was wonderful! I'm going to love it here. Neighborhood is really good and neighbors know each other so it's safe. Still have to do a lot of unpacking. Lots of books need their bookshelves.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Lazlo Fink!

I returned to doing standup somewhat. Meet Lazlo Fink, Standup Comedian! Lazlo is my creation, a character I'm doing at open mic nights. He's a comic from New York City who thinks he's the greatest comedian in the world. Except there's one problem. He stinks. He's a lousy comedian. He's so out of touch with mainstream comedy but he doesn't care. He refuses to work blue and his material is tame by today's standards. He doesn't talk about politics, religion or sex. He has a bag of props he refers to as the Bag o' Mystery. He has a white rabbit puppet named Cosmo the Rabbit who tells rabbit jokes. Lazlo plays harmonica...badly. He tells lame jokes and works the crowd. He's entertained in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, cruise ships and anywhere else they need a comedian because the headliner got sick.
The transformation into Lazlo is a metamorphosis unlike no other: I slick my hair back, put on glasses, a blazer or suit and bowtie and ratchet up my voice to such a nasally whine Jerry Lewis would blush with pride.
Big Rick, Justin, Uncle Milt, Sharkey and Jim: thanks for being supportive and making Lazlo Fink my latest creation!