Work It Out

I have got to join the gym. Like today. Like right now. I just logged on to the 12th Street Gym website and went to sign up but then I got distracted by this video of a girl harmonizing with herself on YouTube. Amazing! These videos are everywhere. I’ve managed to watch 20 different people harmonize with themselves. 17 of them were singing “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz—which, I have to say it, I’m over—but it was amazing nonetheless. Another thing I’m over: joining the gym. I’ll be all about it again tomorrow, I’m sure, but today I just don’t have the energy. But soon! I have got to do it. I’m running out of time. The Boys of Summer party is in less than 6 months! I am in no position to be running around a dark club in a bathing suit! But it's a requirement; I can't possibly miss. It’s only the social event of the season. People plan their vacations around it. Ripped dudes and saucy ladies fly in from Abu Dabi and Oklahoma just to go. It’s really one of the great modern wonders. I mean, where else can you dance until 8 in the morning in next to nothing? (Besides, like Ibiza… and Miami… and Key West… and some parts of California… and pretty much anywhere, I guess.) But, really! Now, I don’t actually ever dance until 8 in the morning at Boys of Summer. For the past three years I’ve gotten all sleepy around 2 and stumbled home with one flip-flop in my hand. The excitement is just too much. It’s like Christmas morning (with much less wrapping on the packages). You know how you get all hyped up the night before and you can’t sleep and you race downstairs and tear stuff open for 20 minutes and then pass out in front of the TV, all drooling on your new sweater, your head propped up on a Nintendo Wii? It’s like that. But with alcohol. And (more) shirtlessness. I’m never shirtless at Boys of Summer. Which is WHY I NEED TO GO TO THE GYM.

I’ve never been a gym person. I’ve always wanted to be a gym person but I just don’t have the stamina. I’ve joined 4 different gyms over the past 10 years and, over the past 10 years, I’ve gone to the gym about 16 times. Which means I only have to go 5 more times until it’s a habit. You remember in fourth grade, when you were an idiot, and you discovered that little nugget about how if you do something 21 times in a row it becomes a habit and then you did something ridiculous like jump up and down 21 times and then looked at your friends and said, “Now it’s a habit”? Ugh, fourth graders. Morons. When I was in fourth grade, all I did was swing on the swing set (even though I was clearly too old for that nonsense), commit my life to memorizing the words to the Tiny Toon Adventures theme song and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song, tell the one dirty joke I knew, and plot ways to stay home sick so I could watch Matlock in my pajamas, make icing with the food processor and vacuum. And now look at me! 27 years-old and I still can sing the entire Tiny Toon Adventures theme, I quote the Fresh Prince theme every five minutes and I’m still telling the same damn joke. So, these three guys get lost on an old country road and they stop at a farmhouse to ask if they can stay the night…

Agh. This is what fills my brain. It takes me 45 minutes to subtract 27.57 from 105.38 but I could tell re-enact every one of Andy Griffith's amazing courtroom reversals. While harmonizing with myself on YouTube. What a waste. Fourth graders these days don’t have such hollow pursuits. They spend most of their time downloading ringtones and finding ways to get the morning after pill without parental consent. That’s why, back when I used to substitute teach fourth grade, I would always start off each class by standing on the table and shouting: “Your brains are very malleable! Commit yourselves learning a foreign language! Remember math! Sex is a constant disappointment which will never, ever fill the void in your heart!” I was not as popular as I would have thought. Kids these days.

I have got to get to the gym! I am getting old. I have to start before I turn curmudgeonly and set in my ways. I say things like “Kids these days.” I harrumph. I only read large print books. I can’t figure out texting. I hit Reply All. I go, “Oh, lordy,” when I kneel down. I don’t run. For anything. If I was being chased by a psycho killer I’d probably just pop my hand on my hip, pull down my bifocals and raise one eyebrow like, “You better get on out of here with that nonsense.” I’m feeling like it’s not too late, though. I’ve managed to convince myself that physical activity of some sort will keep me feeling young. It certainly does when I’m dancing. So, I figure, the fitter I am, the more I’ll dance, the more I dance, the younger I’ll feel, the younger I feel, the more I’ll work out, the more I work out the less likely I’ll be killed by a psycho killer.

It will only, I reason, take one hour a day for the rest of my life. Who am I kidding? I don’t have one hour a day. Shaving only takes 7 minutes and I only manage that on Christmas and Easter. Okay, well, Easter. I don’t even have one hour a day to do my laundry. I just throw it out the window and go shopping. I just can’t seem to get the laundry together. It seems overwhelming. I had this plan, at one point, where I would undress in the laundry room in the basement, sort my clothes down there and every third day or so I’d have accumulated enough clothing to load a wash. Fact: you can only walk up to the stairs of your apartment building naked 4 times before your upstairs neighbor files a complaint against you. I figure, if I was all jacked, I could probably get away with it at least 6 or 7 more times before he dragged my ass to Judge Judy and I’d have to be all, “I don’t know how to be an adult! My brain is no longer malleable! Look at this crazy-assed beard! I need to be put in a home!”

I don’t even know if I’ll look that good after working out. I don’t want to be one of those guys who starts drinking protein shakes and lifting stuff and all of the sudden starts looking like a Ninja Turtle, all hunched over, with weirdly pronounced shoulders and a stomach shaped like an eight. Not and 8-pack, just an eight. What is that? How can I not have that? I actually I have no idea what I look like right now and every time I go to the gym and meet with a trainer I bring a picture of some celebrity (Salma Hayek) and say, “Make me look like this,” like I’m at Shantelle’s Beauty Shop and Hair Emporium or some such. The trainers always look at me over their bifocals and say, “You better get on out of here with that nonsense.” (I often go to the gym at the local nursing home; it’s cheaper.)

Going to the gym comes after completely failing at my first plan: getting on The Biggest Loser. I’ve been very, very committed to this plan for quite a while now. My reasoning—both sound and brilliant—is thus: morbidly obese people go on The Biggest Loser, get yelled at by Jillian for about 6 weeks, sweat, fart, cry and all the other things you do on vacation, and then suddenly they’re hot. They’re never not hot. It doesn’t even matter what they looked like before. They all suddenly find great hair stylists to go to and smile more and they’ve got great bodies and they’re lives are perfect. I said to myself, I said, “You’re moderately attractive now. Just imagine how hot you’d be if you gained 250 pounds, then lost it on national television.” There is no way this plan wouldn’t work. There’s only one hitch: I can’t seem to gain 250 pounds. I figured I would just reverse diet. Like, if you’re dieting you’re supposed to cut out alcohol and red meat and not eat after 7 pm. So for the last 5 years I’ve been drinking everything in sight and I only eat after 7 pm. Somehow, this resulted in me not gaining any weight, but actually looking like an emaciated drunk. The producers of that show Intervention call me three times a week. (Well, it's either them or my parents.) I do not want to be on Intervention. Those people never look hot at the end. And they rarely win $50,000. What’s in it for me?

When I finally came to terms with the fact that I would not, in fact, be able to gain 250 pounds without being impregnated with octuplets (tried it; they didn’t take), I decided I would just lose all the weight I currently have and be a skinny hipster. This also seemed like a good way to get hot. All Panic! At The Soup Kitchen. And there’s plenty of sickly looking guys at Boys of Summer, their ribs all jutting out at odd angles, their Speedos drooping off their butts. Amazingly, however, I couldn’t even manage that. I can do side bends or sit ups, but I just can’t lose that butt. It’s true: I am not built like Joe Jonas. I am built like Beyonce.

This comes as a surprise to me as when I think of myself, I don’t think of Beyonce. I think of Justin Timberlake. When I buy clothes I think, “Would JT look good in this?” If the answer is yes, I purchase the item. I once died my hair blonde thinking that that was what differentiated our two looks. Clearly I have Celebrity Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I’m getting over it, though. I’m accepting my Beyonce hips. I’ve even found them to be particularly useful in many instances, like wrestling alligators.

I have got to join a gym. Lisa is trying to convince me to join her gym. It’s only $10 a month and it’s open 24 hours. Now these would, normally, be things I could get behind. I mean, I could come home from the bar, change clothes and work out at 4 in the morning. Or 11 at night. Or noon! But would I really? I absolutely would not. One, the gym is one subway stop away, followed by a brisk 7 block walk. Over it. Two, the gym only costs $10. I happen to be of the opinion that if something isn’t expensive it probably won’t keep my attention. I am of this opinion because if things aren’t expensive they don’t keep my attention. Example: prostitutes, laundry, volunteering. Now, I don’t have a lot of money. I actually haven’t checked my bank account in 7 months; I may not have any money. But I have expensive taste (in addition to Beyonce’s butt, Justin Timberlake’s clothes and Vin Diesel’s eyebrows—Shantelle’s Hair Emporium does a mean wax). My preferred scenario would be if Lisa’s gym cost $100 a month and then I got a 90% discount. Then I would feel like I was getting a deal and I’d be unable to pass it up. It’s like when they have $1 well drinks at the Smarty’s, the country-western piano bar and library. I know I do not want a well drink because I do no drink the well. But I know that the well is usually $4 to $6 and so $1 is a deal. Convinced of this, I then buy ten drinks and I feel good about it. Until the next morning. The gym is the exact same way. It seems like a good idea until you're all sweaty and shirtless and singing "Sweet Child O' Mine" and you're thinking, I am going to pay for this tomorrow at work. The 12th Street gym is doing their annual membership drive where they offer one year for $389. Plus $100 start-up. This comes out to between $40 and $60 a month. I think. (I don’t know for sure because I was absent the day we learned calculators in 4th grade). This is, clearly, a deal. I know this because the ads say “ACT NOW ON THIS AMAZING DEAL!” The deal is amazing! I have to act now! I’m getting all panicky just thinking about it. This gym is obviously the better place. Because they cater to idiots like me.

Furthermore, all the people who go to the 12th Street are hot. I know this because I used to sit in the coffee shop next to the 12th Street Gym and look at hotties as they walked past. Sure, their were plenty of uggos that walked by too, but I’m fairly certain they were just going to the Potbelly next to the gym. In workout clothes. Uggos don’t like the gym; they like Potbelly. I like Potbelly, too. But I’m not an uggo. So, I need to join a gym so I can start meeting hotties. I have no interest in working out. It hurts. It’s boring. You sweat. It’s like summer S&M school. I’m over it. I’ve decided it’s easier to just suck my stomach in for the rest of my life. It’s even easier to just watch YouTube videos in my room while eating oven-toasted sandwiches. So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m over the gym. Today. Tomorrow, though…


Help Yourself: Part Two

The other night I had had enough! Not to eat. I have never had enough to eat. I had just had enough. I had, I think, flown into a rage about something inconsequential someone had done or something I’d said. I don’t know, something totally changeable. I found myself stuck in the worst funk. Not even my old stand-bys were cheering me up: old episodes of Will & Grace (Over it!), dulce de leche Haagen-Daas (Whatever!), beating up hobos near the railroad tracks (Snore!). I sat cross-legged on my bed, wiping the blood from my knuckles and I decided that something had to change, something big. “Self,” I said, to no one in particular. “You have got to get your shit together.” Cause, you know, there’s certain patterns of behavior that everyone has that maybe aren’t the best, certain habits we have that hold us back from living our best lives. I have them, too. Oprah has them; she has made an entire career out of hashing them out. Barack Obama probs had them, before he reached the unattainable level of awesome where he currently resides. I have got to fix myself, I thought. Not fixed like a cat or a child molester. The downstairs department on old Rowdy is staying in working condition. Just in case. Remaining sexually able is, for me, like having a fire extinguisher. It’s just a good idea; you’re not going to need it but what if you one night you get really drunk and decide to make macaroni and cheese and all of the sudden the pot overflows and the counter catches on fire? You’d be like, “I’m so glad I still have testicles.” This metaphor gets an F minus.

My initial impulse was simple and, if I do say so myself, quite smart. I’m an adult, I reasoned, that is unavoidable. But unlike so many other things one can find oneself being—a nuclear physicist, a professional dog-walker, an elephant tamer, Grace Jones—there is not a training manual or a class you can take. I decided that if I was going to remain an adult—as opposed, to say going all Benjamin Button and becoming an impossibly hot movie star. That’s what that movie is about right? This gremlin gets babysat by the girl from the Hard Out There For A Pimp movie and then grows up to be Brad Pitt? Seen it. If I was going to remain an adult, I should probably go about figuring out how to be a better one. The best one I could be. So I logged on to Amazon and bought $80 worth of self-help books. I am one fucked up puppy; I need a lot of help. Plus they have this thing where they’re like, “Hey, sucker, if you like that one you should probs buy these, too. Here, we’re just going to put them in your cart like you used to do with pudding at the supermarket and Dr. T’s all like, ‘Don’t think I didn’t see that,’ but then she gets to the check out and buys it anyway.” So sneaky.


It started off simply. I bought called How to Be an Adult. I don’t have a lot of time for finesse. Then I bought a book on maintaining healthy relationships because I don’t know a thing about that. Flying into rages and all. Then I bought a couple of books on modern Christianity. Then I bought a book called The Five Things We Cannot Change. Because I don’t know what they are. What if it’s like “1. Everything”? Then I’ll stop wasting my time and go get a Big Mac.

I then purchased a book (perhaps the only book) of daily devotions for black lesbians and gays. That was the first book to arrive. Reading that was a short-lived exercise in self-betterment. While I started feeling more confident and inspired, something lead me to believe it was actually a primer on black militancy. Perhaps because it was co-written by Marcus Garvey and Toussaint L’Oveture. I started showing up at work enswathed in an angry pink pashmina, pushing people out of the way, full on mouth kissing the Mexican dishwashers, standing on tables shouting “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house!” People were like, “Uh, that’s great, but we just wanted to know what tonight’s specials are.” Whatever, whitey.

For real, though, I don’t actually want to plunge into the soul-searching, detailed, lifelong process of changing myself on the inside. That sounds like a lot of work. And there is way too much saved on my DVR; I simply don’t have the time. I still have to watch the last 3 episodes of “Pushing Daisies” and that show has been cancelled since November. I have the inauguration DVRed. All nine hours. I have got to get to that before somebody tells me how it ends and ruins it for me. Work on myself? Maybe next year. Plus, as good an idea as working on myself is, it just doesn’t rate that highly on my “Want to Do Scale.” It’s currently hovering right above doing my taxes and right below making French toast. Making French toast is hard. Well, it’s not hard but there’s the dipping and the mixing and the pan-frying and the getting distracted by the mail and the wondering if you lick your fingers if you’ll get salmonella and the washing all the dishes—all 17 of them; really French people, be more difficult, please. By the time you finish enough to fill you up (12 slices) it’s time for lunch. And you haven’t even started the bacon, yet. Breakfast, I’ve decided, is just too much trouble. I mean, I guess that’s why God invented Honeycombs. It’s a nice idea, really—scrambled eggs, cinnamon toast, Polish sausage, pancakes with passionfruit syrup, raspberry scones, chocolate-covered strawberries, Bloody Marys (I kind like a big breakfast) but the only way you’re going to get that is if you wake up at 5 am. Or if you have a maid named Sookie. She has to be named Sookie. For all the rest of us who wake up 10 minutes for we’re due at work, scream, count our fingers, pull a pair of pants and a shirt from the bag sitting by the door that really, really is going to get taken to the dry cleaners one of these days, spritz some cologne on, run out the door, run back in the door, grab our keys and go it’s Eggos and regret on the menu.

So, honestly, if I don’t have the time to make myself a good, old-fashioned, 4 course all-American breakfast (go eff yourself, French toast) I certainly don’t have time to sit down and work out whatever issues I have. I’m a very busy person, following the daily adventures of Sasha Obama (today she had a cheddar cheese sandwich for lunch! And swung on the swing set for 15 minutes!) and gossiping and whatnot. All that is pretense, of course. You make time to do the things you really want to. I just don’t want to do it.
Here’s a partial list of things I would rather do than work on myself:
SCUBA dive
Fix the garbage disposal
Get the landlord to fix the mess I’ve made of the garbage disposal
Complain with my mouth full
Work on developing a deviated septum so I could get a nose job without people talking about me
Make lists
Apply to be on a reality TV competition
Invent time travel

Oh, time travel would be brilliant! Bloody aces, mate! (Today I am Australian!) I’d be so good at it, too, as I’ve made a lifelong study of the mistakes, pitfalls and triumphs of one Mr. Martin McFly in the Back to the Future opuses.

Time travel! Ingenius. I trust you enough, Internet, to share the intimate details of my plan with you. Perhaps you can learn from my perspicacity. I would go back to freshman year of college, spring term and I would hide in my closet, as my roommate was wont to do (that is if I could find room in there next to all the ugly plaid shirts. And my sexual orientation). I would wait until I was really engrossed in The Iliad or an AIM conversation or illegally downloading Ani Difranco music like the big lesbian I was back then or Yahoo searching the symptoms for meningitis for the fifteenth time that day, then I’d jump out, and scare the shit out of myself. “Hey asshole!” I’d say. “Do your homework! Seriously. All of it. And remember the stuff that’s happening right now. It is as fucked up as you think it is and will make very funny stories over drinks. Also, have a drink. But not twelve. God, you’re going to be a mess in 3 years.” Then I would disappear. (I don’t really understand the difference between time travel and magic. Or Star Trek.) I would then go to October of sophomore year and do the same thing. “Hey lover,” I’d coo (I have a love-hate relationship with my 19-year-old self, clearly). “Do your homework. And stop staring at my receding hairline. If you liked it, you should have put a hat on it.” (Pause for laugh. Sigh, exasperated.) “You’re going to find that very funny in like 8 years. Do you even know who Beyonce is yet? Ugh, imbecile.”

Originally my plan was to do all of my homework for myself, thereby allowing my younger self to explore New York and college and himself and develop the sparkling personality I now possess. But then I realized that if my younger self didn’t actually do his homework himself he’d graduate without knowing much of anything. But then again, he’d be part of that very large, elite group of smarmy know-nothing assholes with Ivy League degree and sparkling personalities. And so he’d probably have a better job than I currently have. So, I might revert to that plan.

Anyway, before beaming up again, I’d add, “Also, don’t go to the First Friday dance. It will set off a chain of events that ultimately leads to George Bush being elected for a second term, Clay Aiken losing this show called American Idol and a massive a amount of awkward dancing over the next 7 years.” It also leads to a lot of personal stuff, but that’s between myself and… myself. Nosey. So, I’d drop that bit of wisdom on myself and then go back to the present and look at my kingdom, I’d be finally there, to sit on my thrown as the Prince of Bel-Air. I think I’m getting my plans mixed up.

Such a simple plan, right? That’s the genius of it. Nothing complicated. Just two heart-stopping encounters with some nerd in the late nineties and all the sudden my life is perfect. Much easier than setting aside time each day to crack open a self-help book, take notes, pray about who God wants me to be (an astronaut!). So, that’s what I’m working on now. Reading is for poor people. And if time travel doesn’t pan out, I’m going to give breakfast a try.


Is This Real Life?

I've been plotting ways to get a baby. I don't want to father a baby; I just want to be around a baby. Sometimes. Today. Tomorrow I may want to be around a trapeze artist or a box of bagels. But today? Today I want a baby. I don't want financial responsibility for a baby; I do want to have the right to dote on a baby. Like a niece or a nephew. I don't want to have to change a baby's diaper; I do want to take a baby to New York for its 16th birthday. I don’t want to wake up to calm it in the middle of the night. I do want to post pictures of it on my Facebook page. I don’t want to change a baby’s diaper. Have I said that before? That’s because I really don’t want to do it. Diapers, I’ve been told, are like envelopes full of poop. I have no intentions of subscribing to that mailing list. I don't want a baby. I've been plotting ways to get a baby. I'd like to, maybe, Netflix a baby.

My brothers, like much of the free world, refuse to bend to my iron will. I mean, how many boxes of expired condoms do I have to mail to these people? True, wishing an unexpected pregnancy on either of my two brothers—both of whom are in their early twenties and just starting out potentially prosperous careers—is, well, rude. But it’s for a greater good: mine. My parents, too, keep insisting that the laws of nature prohibit them from giving me another baby sibling and they seem completely turned off by my suggestion that they just adopt a little Somalian diva (Zahara Jolie-Thomas?). I am, however, undeterred. I’m not a quitter. I never give up. Except on things that are hard. And things that I don’t want to do. And things that occur before 9 am, things that make me feel awkward, things that make me feel comfortable, things that require bending my knees, things that require clothing I don’t currently own, and the television show Heroes. This, however, is none of those things. I am resolute. I am. I kind of want to be around a baby. For like an afternoon. But not in a creepy way. Not sitting next to the ball pit at McDonald's. Is this weird? I don't have a biological clock that I know of. So maybe this is all for naught. Like a phantom pregnancy. I don't have any actual plans for a baby. I don't want a baby. Maybe.

I don’t know why. There is nothing inside of me that is even remotely suggesting that me and babies ought to have anything to do with each other. I don’t even know if I like babies. I mean, they’re squirmy and awkward and helpless. They are essentially small versions of me. Babies, as a widely accepted concept, don’t make a bit of sense. Babies grow inside of you! They feed on human milk! Babies are aliens! They start off as an egg and a sperm! (Earmuffs Zahara). They are attached to a feeding tube at birth! They do not speak English! At all!

In my adult life I have only even held one baby. And that was a less than successful experience, to put it mildly. Lisa and I were at a rehearsal dinner for one of her friends. Another of her friends had just given birth to the most beautiful girl in the whole entire world. I mean, this child is a miracle. She gets lovelier and smarter every day. Naturally, I am terrified of her. At one point during the dinner the baby started being passed around the table. As she neared me, I started looking for the nearest exit. I buried my head in my drink. I cut off my hands. Somehow, someone managed to thrust her toward me and so I grabbed her ever so gently and prayed. Hard. Lisa took out her camera and captured the moment.

How happy do I look in this picture? So happy. Like insane happy. Like the mother of those octoplets. The house all overrun with children and cats and plastic surgery bills and US Magazines with Angelina Jolie’s face angrily crossed out. Look at my eyes, though. You know what you see there? Bone-chilling terror. (The baby doesn't look too sure of this particular exercise, either.) This child is alive, I’m thinking. Anything could happen right now. What if there’s a fire drill or the Rapture or my hands suffer sudden paralysis? This is not a good idea. I stood up suddenly and started screaming, “I have the baby! I’m holding the baby!” I was essentially Sean Penn in I Am Sam. The mother-of-the-bride, who was giving a very nice toast at the time, gently asked “Can someone please take that child away from the special gentleman?"

My hands started to tremble and my eyes started darting around the room in search of a place to put the child. I was like the least coordinated 3rd grader during the final seconds of Hot Potato. Again.

The baby moved ever-so-slightly in my hands and I said to myself, Rowdy, you will not drop this most beautiful, precious creature. And so, panicked, I set her down on the table in front of me. Which is a shame because I had just filled my plate up at the buffet for the third time. What does not come out of baby clothes? Barbecue sauce. You know what also does not come out of baby clothes? Absolutely everything else. Hence, bibs. I’m not really sure why people even clothe babies. Just tie a body-length bib on it and call it a day. This makes sense to me. Here’s what doesn’t make sense: bibs on adults. Are people sitting down at Red Lobster, tying the plastic bib on and then pouring entire bowls of melted butter down their shirts? Eating seafood should not be a daunting experience.

When I worked at The Chart House people would always ask for bibs. And then act shocked that we didn’t have any. I’d be like, “Ma’am, you are on a fancy date with the Governor. Even I, your server, am wearing a tie. This lobster costs $100. There’s no way in New Jersey I’ll be tying a plastic bag around your neck this evening. You’re 57 years old. Work it out."

I suppose, then, I should at least learn how to hold a baby before Netflixing one. The looks of dismay around the table at the rehearsal dinner were a little embarrassing. Most of my friends have opted for bar tabs and beach time shares over babies, but it can’t last forever. And dear Lisa, it seems like every week someone else she knows is getting preggers. Sometimes I would look at her while she opened up birth announcements like she was the black girl in 28 Days Later. The last non-zombie in all of England. (We sometimes things we live in England.)

Not that parents our age are zombies. But it's contagious, the baby fever. Whenever I’d find her packing a bag on a Saturday morning, en route to a baby shower, I’d slip a surgical mask in her bag and whisper, “I’ll have my phone on me in case of trouble. And if they charge at you, go for the head.”

The world I live in is not a world where babies exist. Sometimes I wonder if the world I know ever will. It’s a strange thought, this sudden over-whelming desire to change the entire shape and size of your life. Not to mention the shape and size of your uterus. But, then, one wonders if its much a conscious decision in the end. It’s like Joan Didion says, “It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.” One day you’re no longer a child. You're some other person, some adult, someone who wants to raise a child, someone who wants to sacrifice and plan. Somebody’s mommy, someone’s daddy. It happens, clearly, but it mystifies me. Still, it must be nice to have a plan.

When I got home last night, I sat on my front steps for about an hour just contemplating… where I’d left my keys. I spotted a homeless man who had secreted himself inside the locked subway station entrance at the end of my block. He spent the better part of the hour attempting to walk down the up escalator. Some adulthoods are not as fulfilling. Still, it must be nice to have a plan.

I do not have such a plan. Escalators bore me and children terrify me. Children get the measles. And report cards. And they all have a strange smell from 3rd grade until 5th grade—it’s like erasers, sweat and suntan lotion. Children think the sky is the end of the universe and that the ocean is the end of the world. Children do not know what Saved By The Bell is. Children think the Jonas Brothers are cool. Children get sedated at the dentist do this:

This is exactly how I act every day. I wake up, count my fingers, scream and ask, aimlessly “Is this going to be forever?” This is not Daddy behavior.

Maybe something will change. I mean, obviously, something will change. Everything changes. Most of all my opinions. But for now, I’m just a kid, too. 27-years-old and still unsure if this is real life. I’ve been plotting ways to get a baby. Maybe. But I think we’d just chill. I wouldn’t teach it about constellations or tying its shoes or help it find its nose. Not yet, at least. We’d just sit back and talk about how much we have in common. We both like naps and staring at the wall. Neither one of us understands how most things work. We can’t really walk without falling down; we cry; we want our mommies. And we both like drinking from a bottle.


Help Yourself: Part One

I’ve decided to start this new thing where I don’t talk shit about all my friends. It’s a New Year’s Resolution! It’s February 9th. It’s a Chinese New Year’s Resolution! It’s part of my grand plan to get people to like me more in 2008. It’s 2009, asshole. I’m on C.P. Time! The other phases of my grand plan include: stop throwing parties where I insist that everyone take off their pants, reduce my use of the phrase “awkward faggot” by 35% especially when directly addressing people (i.e., “I like your jeans. They make you look like less of an awkward faggot.”), Oprah, and joining a gym. The last item is also part of my grand plan to make people want to make out with me.

I do think, however, I should stop talking so much shit about the people I like. It’s not bad shit, per se. Just me being frank. And nobody likes Frank. (He has halitosis.) (I’m sorry, Frank. But it’s true.) I can’t help myself. The older I get the less I’m able to keep myself from saying things that I consider to be blatantly obvious. You have a drinking problem; you are an awkward faggot; your boyfriend doesn’t like you; that shirt doesn’t match. But I love you! It’s a trait I’m picking up, I think, from Dr. T, who, as I recall, frequently gets herself into trouble for speaking her mind. When my father was made a deacon at out church, the wives of the deacons—the deaconesses—assumed Dr. T would be all Michelle Obama about it and become a deaconess, too. This entailed ladies lunches, home visits and working in the kitchen for church dinners. When they approached her, the story goes, she told them in no uncertain terms, “I couldn’t be less interested in joining your little club. Go find some other sucker.” Gosh, I love Dr. T. She really doesn’t have any room for bullshit and I’ve grown to love it. She’s not a bitch nor is she particularly pushy; she just says what she thinks.

About a year and a half ago Dr. T had a stroke. This was extremely scary for all of us, Dr. T included, mostly because strokes run in our family and we’ve watched a number of family members waste away as tiny parts of their brains atrophied. The concern-—mine and everyone else’s—-was that she was setting off on that same grim path. When called and told me the news I was in the middle of watching a YouTube video of Fantasia singing “I’m Here” from the musical “The Color Purple” on Oprah. I was already near hysterics when I answered the phone so you can imagine how well the conversation went. That video is like the Michael Phelps of making me cry.

This is a partial list of things that make me cry instantly:
The Color Purple
Montages (of anything. Show me a series of cupcakes with a sad song playing and I’m a mess)
Angel’s funeral in “Rent”
Kids crying
When the milk goes bad
The Hours
Other people’s success
Engagements (for pretty people)
The 7th glass of Sauvignon Blanc (please stop me at 6)
The last 50 seconds of this video

Just writing this list has me sobbing. I can’t even see the keyboard. I’m crying like in the movies, like shaking, snot coming out of my nose, doing that uncomfortable grunting thing. Like, unnhh, unnnnnnh. I’m like McIraqi on Grey’s Anatomy. My roommate, Lisa, just ran in and wrapped me in a big bear hug. Chandra Wilson is here too. Hugging. Apparently applying pressure to a person when he or she is going batshit crazy calms the central nervous system. Who knew? It also cures Ausperger’s Syndrome?
I have no idea what the hell they’re talking about on Grey’s Anatomy 68% of the time. I’m just staring at the TV waiting for a catastrophe or comic sexual interlude. A side note: Dear world, when did Grey’s Anatomy become The L Word? Please get back to me in writing by Wednesday.

Anyway, so Dr. T was in the hospital after her stroke. I came down to Baltimore and gathered at her bedside with my brothers and my father. “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” by Alicia Keys was playing quietly somewhere nearby. Dr. T launched into a speech about all the things the stroke made her realize, all that deep stuff about seizing the day and facing your mortality. She pulled a family photo album out from behind her pillow and began thumbing through pictures of all of us at happier times. The birth of my youngest brother, my graduation, that time we had the really good biscuits at Golden Corral. I nearly lost all control of my emotions. Fortunately, my dad intervened. “That’s enough of that, Dr. T,” he said. “You know how Eric is with montages.” She shrugged, put the album away and turned off the stereo she’d hidden under the bed. “Anyway, you people,” she said, “I realized I’ve spent the last 26 years worrying about you, trying to solve your problems and make the world right for you. And I can’t afford to do that anymore. For health reasons. So you’re on your own. You’re going to have to help yourselves.”

I looked at my brothers and they seemed not to share my particular panic. So I looked at Dr. T directly. “Lady, you have lost your mind. I am only 26 years old. There is no way I can possibly handle all the crazy that’s inside my head. Or get out of bed in the morning. Or solve my own problems. So, I’m going to give you a week to feel better and then I’m going to resume calling you sobbing because I can’t find matching socks. And we’re going to pretend this messy business never happened. Thanks. Now may I please have the rest of your hospital meal? My blood sugar is getting low and I’m feeling very cranky.”

But, despite my efforts at diplomacy, we found that our relationships with Dr. T did change after that. Slightly, barely perceptibly. She just wanted us to grow a pair. So, grow a pair I did. And now, these days, in an effort to be more independent and to make my own way in the world I find myself inheriting her “Tell It Like It Is” crown. And only crying in the bathrooms at work, as opposed to at staff meetings. Still, as I said, I feel the need to scale it back a little. Maybe not be such a blunt instrument. Because, really, a brilliant black teacher lady with a doctorate and a spotty medical history can basically say anything she wants. Me, not so much. When I say these things, though, I'm only doing it out of love. I want to help you. But my desire to help you like me and maybe return my calls supercedes my desire to help you. So, I’m resolving to say nicer things. Well, not necessarily nicer things. Just things that aren’t mean. Actually, mean things are okay as long as I say them in a nice way. About people I don’t hate. Sometimes. It’s all part of the grand plan. For you. Sometimes I’m so wonderful I can hardly stand myself.


Highs in the Mid to Low Neuroses

I’m starting to feel like the guy I’m seeing is not really that into me anymore. The evidence for this conclusion is not my usual healthy combination of psychosis, prognostication and Jack Daniels. Cut me a little slack; I’m adult now. I recently finished reading (the back cover of) a self-help book called How to be an Adult. This time my feelings are based on actual fact. Your honor, I’d like to introduce into evidence exhibit A: he agreed to go see He’s Just That Into You with me. As I recall the exchange went something like this:

R. Eric: Do you want to go to see a movie?
Him: I’m just not that into you.
R. Eric: Oh, I’d like to see that, too! We’re so similar! Besties!
Him: What?
R. Eric: By the way it’s called He’s Just Not That Into You.
Him: What is?
R. Eric: Gosh, you’re funny. Anyway, we can go to the 8 o’clock show. Pick me up at 4.
Him: We’re going to a movie?
R. Eric: Sometimes I can’t understand a word you say. I love you! I mean, sorry, I… have the measles. Must take a Sudafed and lie down. Goodbye.

Exhibit B: The other night I had this nightmare that I was mad at him. My dreams are eerily prophetic. Sometimes. Once. Well, not that time, either. But I do have strange dreams sometimes. Like after my grandmother died in 9th grade I had a dream that she was talking to me on the stairs while I was holding a bunch of hats. Hats! I told Dr. T. about the dream at the time and she came up with a very lengthy explanation involving metaphors and juggling life and death and final goodbyes. It was very lovely at the time. I would probably tell Dr. T. about the dream I had where I was mad at this guy but I’m not really sure Dr. T. is interested in reassuring her first born son that a 6’2” white boy still thinks he’s cute and cuddly. Just a guess.

I should add that I am aware that the phrase “after my grandmother died in 9th grade I had a dream…” is grammatically (and grandma-tically) incorrect. Grammar is sort of ridiculous; it’s like physics. There’s unspoken (well, in the case of grammar, unspoken unless you’re reading aloud) rules about how these things like gravity and sentences work but you don’t really need to know them. Grammar is like an instinct and when you say something that’s not right you feel it even if you don’t know why. It’s a hunch. Not like my conviction that the guy I’m seeing is not into me anymore. That’s based on fact. It’s more like an aimless feeling of direction. Oh! It’s The Secret! I knew I’d figure it out. I always figure things out. Like the ends of movies. Seven Pounds starring Will Smith? Jellyfish suicide Duh. (Spoiler alert.)

Anyway, I can’t make heads or tails of grammar but I know enough to be sure the phrase I used was wrong and I’m all torn up about it. It implies that my grandmother died in 9th grade, which would have made the birth of my father, and therefore myself, impossible. Plus it’s a very sad thought. She was, in that sentence, the subject (I think) and so modifying the subject (subjunctive?) with the phrase (fraise?) “in the 9th grade” is not only misleading but tears the delicate fabric of time and space. It’s like in Back to the Future II when Future Biff finds the almanac that 1985 Marty McFly drops and somehow figures out how to use both a Delorean and a time machine (this, the man who ends up covered in manure in 3 separate motion pictures). Future Biff then goes back in time to 1955 and gives the future almanac to his younger self, thereby helping his younger self amass a colossal fortune and dooming the McFlys (and Hill Valley at large) to a grim, nearly apocalyptic version of 1985. Clearly my knowledge of the Back to the Future trilogy far exceeds my knowledge of how grammar works.

By the way, Back to the Future II takes place in 2015. That’s 6 years from now. Just saying. They have an 80s-themed diner where video projections of Ronald Regan, Michael Jackson and Max Headroom tell you the specials. I’m pretty sure no one will be that interested in those 3 particular icons in 6 years. I’m pretty sure no one is that interested in them now.

A Back to the Future-themed diner, however, is something that I can definitely get behind.

So, the dream clearly indicates something. I don’t know what. I didn’t say all the evidence was strong, just fact-based. Fact: I had a dream. I also had a dream that I left the doors at work unlocked and 200 college students came in and drank every bit of liquor in the bar in the middle of the night and I didn’t want to do anything about it while I watched on the security monitor because I didn’t want to seem like the bad guy. (Run-on sentence. Today I am teaching myself English!) When I told my boss (in the dream) he was surprisingly chill about it. When I apologized to my boss (in reality) he looked at me like I was insane.

Which brings me to Exhibit C: I am actually insane. (For proof see Exhibits A and B). Crazy. But in a cute way. Like a koala bear. An insane koala bear. Why would you ever want to get rid of your insane koala bear in favor of, like, a well-adjusted math teacher or 4th year medical student or a handsome local TV weatherman? That’s what’s insane, I tell you. Will a weatherman cling to you with his amazingly strong koala grip no matter how hard you try to push him away? No, he will not. He will tell you to pack an umbrella. “It’s going to be a wet one tomorrow!”

Weathermen are the worst.

Eventually this guy is going to find out who I really am (like, if I were to write out every obsessive thought that pops into my head and then post it on the internet like I was Rosie O’Donnell…) And if this guy, eventually, gets to know me (despite my best efforts), then I'm done for. Goose: cooked. Ticket: punched. If/then. One things follows another. It’s a rule of grammar (Google searched; proven’d): the conclusion is guaranteed by the premise. If is always followed by then, unless it’s not in which case “then” is implied. Example:

If I kidnap all the handsome weathermen in the tri-state area, then he will have no choice but to stay with me. [If and then are present.]

If I could figure out a way to go back in time, I could go to school for meteorology and become that weatherman (and perhaps save my grandmother from that tragedy at the prom in the spring of her 9th grade year.) [Then is implied.]

The thing about the if/then clause is that its initial premise relies on possibility or probability. Despite its implicit guarantees, it’s uncertainty personified. And I don’t do uncertainty. I like facts; I am a lawyer. Well, I’m not actually a lawyer. I once took the Bar Exam. I did not. I did however once visit a bar. And there I met a lawyer. (A plumber). If you go to a bar, then you will meet a lawyer. Anyway, your honor, the if/then clause relies too much on circumspect evidence and unstable premises. I much prefer the word therefore, which makes assumptions about both sides of the if/then clause. It takes possibilities and makes them certainties, which is a very useful tool in parsing the vagaries of dating and time travel. Example: There is no way he is unaware of how much of a basketcase I am; therefore he must not mind that much. Probably. Grammar proves it; grandma agrees. I rest my case.


The Secret

There are 4 very good, scientifically proven reasons why I should not attempt an ice skating excursion.

1. Black.

2. It is exercise. This is something that athletic people do not want you to know. But it’s true. All winter activities—snowboarding, skiing, throwing snowballs, shoveling the sidewalk, rushing the free buffet at your company Christmas party—are good for your cardiovascular health. This is an atrocity. Ice skating is like jogging on steak knives. And they prefer that you don’t drink.

3. Black. This bears repeating. Name a black figure skater. Suriya Bonali. Name another. No, thank you. I rest my case. The state finds in favor of the defendant.

It’s like Dr. T used to be overly fond of saying, “Black people and water don’t mix. If it’s more than I can drink I don’t want anything to do with it.” This goes for water in its frozen state, as well, you tricky athletic minxes. Of course, this was before Dr. T discovered the pleasure of a Carnival cruise. Now the woman can’t get enough of it. She’s always taking baths and such. She bought stock in Poland Spring. She and my dad installed a Jacuzzi in my old bedroom. They’re building a vacation home in Atlantis. I’m trying to tell you: the people are el obsessdo with el agua (I briefly minored in Portuguese).

4. I have bad knees, weak ankles, flat feet and terrible balance. I’m old as shit. I’m essentially dead, actually. I’m like Benjamin Button, except my body was born old and went, “Oh, well I give up.” Movement, blumpkins, is an issue. F’real. I go to physical therapy twice a week. It’s basically me, some injured college basketball player and 25 septuagenarians wearing sweatshirts that say “I know it all I just can’t remember it at the moment” relearning how to walk. Disaster.

I don’t actually mind physical therapy that much. It’s like a vacation for my brain. My physical therapist, Julie—a lovely lesbian who looks stunning in the color green and doesn’t seem to care that I don’t know the difference between a physical therapist and a psychotherapist and has some very astute observations about my intimacy issues—spends 90 minutes each day throwing rubber balls at me and making me stand in the corner, pressing my nose against the wall. It’s kind of like being the nerdy autistic kid in 3rd grade. Again.

Anyway. The will of the universe against me, I made plans to go ice skating on Penn’s Landing with Adam this evening. It was something different to do, a change of pace, a chance to possibly fall and have a 7 year-old glide by and slice my finger off.

As I said to Adam later, I don’t know what convinced us that a fun evening’s adventure would be primarily comprised of an activity neither of us knew how to do nor were prepared for in the least. “Tomorrow let’s go to space on the Hubble Telescope.” “Yeah! And while we’re up there we’ll do long division!”

Appropriate attire was, as usual, the first hurdle for me. Clothing myself is the second most time-consuming and difficult thing in my life at the moment. The first: actually getting out of the house. Not my fault: my internal clock is set to Colored People Time—Pacific (translation: Punctuality is not an option; arrival at any point is the general goal. To quote Dr. King, “I may not get there with you…” ) Too far?

I chose to forgo my peacoat in favor of my white puffy vest because the peacoat is bulky and cumbersome and I, apparently, am Apollo Anton Ohno. Aerodynamics is my primary concern. Because ice skating itself is not a gay enough activity, I chose to match my vest with white Chucks and a white hoodie with a grey and turquoise argyle pattern on the chest. Actually, it’s not turquoise, it’s that Cerulean Hope color that’s so in this year. I think I’m getting myself distracted. The point is I looked the part. And by the part, I mean I was dressed like an extra from a Hallmark Hall of Fame Christmas movie about two gay Canadian substitute teachers who fall in love. Look, in that pivotal scene where Richard stops the band playing at the annual holiday bazaar in the town square and climbs atop the stage in his skates and all to profess his undying and proud love to Arthur, there’s me gliding along in the background.

We arrived at the skate rink just bursting with (Cerulean) hope. This was going to be fun! As I laced up my skates and hobbled outside, I started to realize that I had no idea what the hell I was doing. It seemed completely, unavoidably and tragically likely that I would step on to the ice, immediately fall over and die. I was wearing a stranger’s shoes with blades on the bottom and standing on ice. To quote Dr. (Herbert) King, “What the blue fuck?”

But! Staring at the milky expanse of ice before me I resolved that I would not be victimized by the complete insanity of the proposition I’d agreed to, nor my total lack of skill in this area, nor the four aforementioned reasons why not. I had confidence! I believed in myself! I would use… The Secret!

Now, I don’t know what the hell The Secret is. Not a clue. It resides in an area of my brain with a myriad of other things about which I talk constantly and with great authority and yet don’t have a clue what they are. Also in that area: autism (no idea); firewalls (wtf?); Japanese geography (疣?); adult relationships (you should either dump him or not. I am sure of it); horticulture (that is a geranium); auto mechanics (the carburetor has atrophied); and the U.S. Senate (well, as Rachel Maddow says…).

The Secret. The Secret? Isn’t that the thing where you think happy thoughts? I mean, Peter Pan used The Secret and it got him to Neverland, so I ought not knock it, but honestly. The Secret, to me, seems like a very elaborate way of saying “If you want it, you will get it.” Which is all quite nice and utterly ridiculous. Then again...

Dressed like the Stay-Puffed Marshmallow man, my feet strapped into dainty, teetering instruments of death, I thought to myself, When in Rome… “I AM an ice skater!” I declared. I lifted my foot, stepped forward and sailed across the surface. The Secret? Who knew? No one tells me anything.


Dear Zahara Jolie-Pitt

Can you believe Zahara Jolie-Pitt (world’s most amazing adopted daughter of celebrities/future fashion icon and possible host of Project Runway) is 4 years old already? She looks fantastic! I swear, that girl just does not age. She’s a stunner like her mommy. Speaking of not aging and Angelina Jolie: Brad Pitt? What is this guy’s deal? He’s the same age as Clint Eastwood and looks like the captain of a high school lacrosse team. He has an crow’s foot. Zach Efron’s looking at pictures of this dude and going, Damn, I gotta get my shit together. Also, note to self: tell the world to stop stealing my bangs. Seriously. I think that Benjamin Button movie was actually an infomercial.

Anyway, ZJP! I’m obsessed. Here’s who I think she’ll look like when she gets older:

And how amazing is Iman? Another ageless Somalian lovely. And her husband, David Bowie? I think that guy signed the Declaration of Independence and is still rocking the fierce. Aside: at first it seemed weird to me that David Bowie signed the D of I because he’s totes British but then I remembered that all those dudes were totes British so it all became clear again. Question: when did people stop talking with British accents in the colonies? And why? Climate? The influence of Native American, Carribean and African languages on the British dialect? Magic? I’m just throwing ideas at the wall.

I fell in love with that little bundle of joy the minute I saw her. How could you not?

I suppose I’ve always been obsessed with Angelina Jolie’s kids—all 30 of them—but Lil Z takes the cake. She is ALWAYS posing for the cameras. And she is just so beautiful. I’m concerned that her hair hasn’t grown in 2 years, but then again Halle Berry rocked the modified pageboy cut for most of the 90s so who am I to argue?

I know it makes me sound crazy, but I would really like to meet her, Lil Z, I mean. Halle I could take or leave. We could maybe rock the Chuck E. Cheese, have a tea party and what not, dodge the paparazzi. You know, chill. I told my mother this and her response was perplexing.

Let me backtrack. There is a list of Fierce-Ass Divas that I want to meet. Everyone has one. And by everyone I mean, I don’t care if you have one or not but I do. Patti LaBelle is on the top of that list. After I met Ms. Patti

Let me repeat that sentence fragment on grounds of awesomeness: After I met Ms. Patti, my obsession with meeting everyone on my list went into overdrive. I called my mother and told her about my encounter with the one and only (and about how she swooped me into her arms and we sailed above Philadelphia and the sky turned purple and she kissed me lightly on the nose and was all, “Child, you are my favorite little blumpkin. Woo!”). I told my mother—Dr. T is her name—that I wanted to meet everyone on my list. “I’m going to meet Beyonce this summer when she goes on tour,” I said. “And I want to meet Ms. Julia Roberts, of course. And Zahara Jolie-Pitt.” Dr. T chuckled and said, “Well, you may want to wait til she’s 18 for that. So it will be legal to date her.”

At that I stopped mid-sentence, let the next words drop from my lips and fall to my lap, took the phone away from my ear, looked at it, put Dr. T on hold, called 911 to report a crazy person on the loose, put 911 on hold, called Dominos and ordered a chicken and spinach pizza because I was hungry and feeling vaguely iron-deficient, picked the line with my mother back up and said, “Dr. T, baby, did you take a bong hit?” Your honor, I object. Sustained.

I don’t want to date ZJP. I don’t want anything in that neighborhood. I don’t want anything in that county, actually. I’m not even a citizen of that state. Me and Ziggy Stardust did not sign that particular declaration. I just want to hang out with her. On grounds of awesomeness. This should not be hard to understand. True, she’s an ageless 4 year-old and I’m an ageless 27 year-old but what’s that got to do with the price of tea in China? And what’s love got to do, got to do with it? And what’s the capital of North Dakota? Bismark? And why is it important to know state capitals? Seriously? Why? 3rd and 4th grade social studies are full of such absurd topics. I’m going to tell ZJP that when we hang out. I’m going to say “Listen Z, learn your times tables. It saves about 3.4 hours out of your total life in thinking time and that’s crucial. And memorize the names of all the black presidents of the United States. And learn all of Beyonce’s albums and tour names in chronological order. But when they start talking about state capitals, girl, just take out your lil baby Blackberry and start figuring out what clubs you’re hitting up this weekend. Those are the locations that matter, blumpkin. But state capitals, Lil Z, are for poor people.”

This is my team of
Fierce-Ass Divas Whom I Want To Meet (Varsity and JV Squads):
Ms. Patti LaBelle (Team Captain!)
Zahara Jolie-Pitt
Mariah Carey (suspended on grounds of Nick Cannon)
Julia Roberts
Vanessa Williams
Bette Midler (retired)
Whitney Houston (benched: insanity)
Anne Heche (JV; benched: inanity)
Ugly Betty (JV)
Audra McDonald (JV)
Kristin Chenoweth (JV)
Eva Longoria Parker (JV)
Jennifer Hudson (JV)
Ellen (JV-egan?)
Neil Patrick Harris (FTW!)