Archive | January, 2011

Mo’ Money, No Problems

27 Jan

Hey everyone,

It’s been a while since I’ve written in the ol’ blog, but a fun and neat thing happened last weekend that I think you might want to hear about.

I was in New York visiting my girlfriend, and we had gone to the really fun comedy show Too Cool For School in Greenpoint and stayed for karaoke.  By the time we were leaving the G Train had stopped running.  (G Train refers to an actual subway line, and not a nickname I am trying to give myself.)  We came back above ground to look for a cab to get back home, and just as we were getting into one, I noticed a wad of bills on the ground.  I picked it up, and there was a lot more money than it had seemed like, along with several credit cards and an ID.

Just then, a big Southie looking dude with a beard came up to us.

“Hey!  I was going to get into that cab!” he said.

“Nope!” said girlfriend, sliding into the taxi.

“Awww, come one.  Then at least give me that money!”

“No,” I said.  “We’re going to return it.”

“What about just giving me like twenty dollars?”

“No!”

I closed the cab door behind me.  As the taxi took us towards Union Square, we Googled and Facebooked, but we couldn’t find anything definitive about Michael P, the wallet’s owner.  Well, it wasn’t a wallet so much as a manuscript paperclip with an unreasonable amount of cash inside it.  We vowed to get up early and complete our sleuthing.  It was a pretty exciting prospect.

The next morning, a couple of well placed searches on whitepages.com got us our man’s parents’ phone number. We got in touch with his mother, who put us in touch with the guy himself.  He was very gracious and since he was at work, he sent his girlfriend to retrieve the wallet.

When she (Michelle, of Mike and Michelle, which is very cute) arrived, she was also super gracious.  She offered us a reward, which we refused many times, even allowing the money to fall on the ground.

“Come on,” she said.  “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if you didn’t take something.  Go out for a nice dinner.  You’ve earned it.”  Finally, we relented.

As we walked upstairs to my girlfriend’s apartment, I noticed that Michelle had peeled off more bills than I had originally thought.  She’d given us a one hundred dollar reward.

“We can’t keep it all,” my girlfriend said.  “Let’s donate some.”

Since she had just interviewed a Hurricane Katrina refugee for her blog, we decided to donate fifty dollars to Children’s Hospital New Orleans.  The remaining fifty dollars we used to take my friend Gorman out for pizza, buy wine for a dinner party, and drink coffee.  Suck it, Southie guy.  Victory, us.

One for the good guys!
Josh

 

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Bowled Over

13 Jan

My parents are real sweet folks.  They’re smart and kind and supportive.  My mom oversees in-home daycare providers in Lynn, MA.  My dad is a glazier, which means he installs glass and aluminum fixtures in storefronts and other places of business.  When I was a kid, they were always fair and reasonable in terms of discipline, rarely raising their voices and never raising a hand to me or my sister.

One weird thing, though.  Whenever my sister and I were being intolerable, like, real bratty jerks, my dad would go bowling.  He would get up, go to the closet, pull out his bowling shoes and balls (candlepin), and leave for two hours.  I literally have never seen my father take a sip of alcohol, but about five times in my childhood, I did witness him leave to bowl furiously until my sister and I went to bed.

So, as a result of this experience, I associate bowling with some sort of intense catharsis.  Add to it my love of The Big Lebowski, and bowling becomes an almost-spiritual experience in my mind.

Cut to last week.  I’m in Tennessee.  There’s no one around for me to hang out with.  My Thursday night show did not go as well as I had hoped.  I’ve done my writing for the day, and I’m restless.  So I google “Chattanooga bowling alley.”  There are three.  Each is about two and a half miles away.  But what else is there for me to do?  So I make the hike down the road in hopes of rolling my feelings down an alley.

It was a nice walk.  About forty-five minutes.  I started out with some skee-ball, which to me is like tiny bowling.  But it was not very satisfying.  I’m not sure whether it’s that the balls aren’t heavy enough or that you’re not actually knocking anything over.  So I switched to regular bowling.  And at first, it was a tremendous failure.

Here’s the thing, guys.  I haven’t bowled in probably three years.  So I’m a little rusty.  It is hard to effect a cathartic experience when you keep rolling gutterballs.  Through three frames, my score was an uninspiring seventeen.  So instead of working out my frustrations on the pins, I was basically doubling my stress by failing at a leisure sport.

Fortunately, after rolling, zero, nine, eight, and seven over four frames, I hit rock bottom and then started throwing rocks.  I finished with a modest personal best of 148.  And it really turned my day around.  Until it rained for the middle third of my two and a half mile walk back to the condo where I was staying.

Strikes and gutters.  Ups and downs.

(This entry took a melancholy turn towards the end, but, in reality, everything’s great.
PS. Come to my birthday show at Great Scott in Allston on Friday 1/14 at 7:30pm!)

“Who says Jews can’t kill in the south?”

12 Jan

Yeah, who says?

[Written Monday Morning]

Right now I’m in the Chattanooga airport, which is not much bigger than say Madison Square Garden, which is to say, large for a building, unless that building is an airport.  It’s snowing.  Still.  This year’s been a bad winter for snow in Chattanooga.  The first white Christmas they’ve had in over twenty years.  I’m praying that an airplane comes from Charlotte to take me to Charlotte.  And then another airplane can bring me back to Boston.  The South, you’re lovely, but I want to go home.

Here’s what happened.

I came to Tennessee for my first comedy club headlining weekend.  Big news.  Exciting stuff.  For me, I mean.  Globally, smallest potatoes.  Perhaps not even potatoes at all.  Chives?

Anyway, I arrived on Thursday for the first show.  The feature act (guy that goes on before the headliner) is a really funny, energetic friend of mine named Landry.  Landry had a great set.  I had a fine set.  The club owner took me aside after the show and told me it was his mistake for booking a higher energy guy before a quieter comic (me), but we were going to flip the order for the rest of the week.  A demotion.  Bummer.  I felt pretty low.

My Friday night shows were meh.  I didn’t feel great about myself.  I was wondering whether I was wrong for the room, or just generally not as competent as I had thought.  I talked to some comedian friends who were helpful and reassuring (thanks Erin, Myq, Gaby, and Shawn).  But I was still feeling a little sorry for myself.

After the late show on Friday, I was looking over the headshots of past headliners that decorated the walls.  I was using them as evidence to convince myself that I was just the wrong guy for the job.  That I was up against more than I could handle.  Different part  of the country.  Different economic situation.  Different accent.  I looked over the signed photos.  Cletus T. Judd.  Carrot Top.  Ricky Mokel, The Gifted Idiot.  Not really my speed.  To compensate, I tried to choose material that I thought would appeal to the crowd, even if it wasn’t my favorite.  I tried being dirtier, druggier, normaler.  I contemplated faking an accent.

Then I came across one that didn’t quite fit.  Hanging in the bottom left corner of the outer wall to the club’s office was an autographed picture of Marc Maron.  For folks that haven’t heard of him (mom, nana), Maron has a really great comedy podcast, and he’s been a really great comedy club headliner for years.  He does not do easy material, either.  His stuff really challenges audiences.  But it’s so funny, too.  The note he had written to the club owner is what really stood out to me.

To Comedy Catch,
Who says Jews can’t kill in the south?
Marc Maron

And I was like: Yeah.  Who says Jews can’t kill in the south.

So on Saturday night, I went out and forgot about trying to fit into a mold what I thought they wanted me to be.  Instead, I tried to showcase the facets of my act that they liked the best over the first three shows and accentuate those things.  It went a little better.  The late show, though, went great.  I was switching up material, doing some stuff that I was going to have fun with.  It was good.  Sunday night was good, too.  I left feeling a little victorious.  Like I learned how to handle myself in a new and different environment.  I stopped worrying whether I was the wrong guy, and started focusing on what I had been doing right.  I changed my pace and reordered material.  Instead of giving the audience what they thought they wanted, I gave them what I had, the best I could.  And everything worked out.  Although, I should mention, I still wore a red and white sweater with a blue button down to trick them into liking me.

Who says Jews can’t kill in the south?

Why Soytainly

8 Jan

They say the first step is admitting you have a problem, acknowledging that you’ve lost control.

So, not to belittle anyone with an alcohol/drug/sex/food addiction…I can’t stop eating hamburgers.  Not just hamburgers.  Reubens, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken salad on baguettes.  Hamburgers, I guess, were just the gateway meat.  For a while I was deluding myself.  Thinking I was in the driver’s seat.  I rarely dabble in steak or other more serious roasts.  I never ate meat for breakfast.  I didn’t eat as much as some of my friends.

But the other warning signs were there.  I was eating meat alone.  I was eating to get stuffed.  And not just on Thanksgiving.  I’d eat meat for days at a time.

So, at this point that metaphor is running pretty thin.  But the point remains.  I can’t stop eating meat.  And I know it’s not great.  For my body.  For the environment.  For the animals that get meat-ed.  I’ve read statistics.  Or, people have told me about statistics.  Or, I assume there are statistics.  Heart disease.  Cruelty.  Havoc wreaked on the earth by methane and other animal waste.  But, like, hamburgers taste so good, you know?

Here’s the dilemma.  How do I begin to put the intellectual concept of good over my direct sensory input?  Do I just immerse myself in data until it becomes reflexive and visceral?  Do I train myself to ignore physical pleasure and live according to philosophical precepts?  Do I stop writing rhetorical and vaguely masturbatory blog posts?  I don’t know.  I don’t have any answers.

And how much is enough?  Cutting out red meat?  Cutting out white meat?  Fish?  Eggs?  Dairy?  Cooked food?  Food shaped like an animal?  Could I eat a carnivorous plant?  Is that ethical?  Would it be delicious?

I think, empirically, any cutback is a good and valid choice.  And full on vegetarianism and veganism seem like a lot to jump into right away.  I have friends who have quit drinking and started smoking a lot more, and I worry that’s what I might be like.  Like, I’ll cut out turkey clubs, but my pizza intake will skyrocket.  So I think what I’ll probably do is wait until my birthday (January 15th) and then cut out red and white meat for a month.  Then reevaluate.  See whether I still have a problem with my consumption habits.

But, as they say, if you start thinking about whether you have a problem, that’s a sign that you have a problem.

Mission: Unattainable

7 Jan

WHY NOT ME????????????????

So, I’m here in Chattanooga.  Last night was the first show at the Comedy Catch, and it was a lot of fun.  Today I’m going to try to do a lot of writing and maybe visit an aquarium.  That’s a pretty good day.  But I’d rather be going on some sort of adventure.  Like, the kind you see in a movie.  I travel a lot, but generally my hi jinx and capers remain at a pretty low level.  I’d like to take it up a notch.  Here are the top five journeys I would like to undertake:

1. Getting the Band Back Together (a la Blues Brothers)

I love any movie where a down-on-his-luck protagonist has to reassemble a team of folks who used to be his friends but now don’t really hang out so much because of whatever series of events transpired to make him so down-on-his-luck.  Then, once they get back together, hoooo boy!  Madcap adventures out the wazoo.   That’s all I want.  Ever.  A cool twist on this theme is Sexy Beast with Ben Kingsley.  It’s less madcap, but there is a heist and a gang.  So, pretty good deal.  Nowadays they’d probably get the gang back together on Facebook, though, which is stupid.

2. Avenging the Death of a Relative/Loved One (a la True Grit)

There are lots of reasons why I’ve never done this one.  I am not good at murder.  I don’t know how to ride a horse.  All my relatives die of stupid natural causes, never anything cool like bandits or six-fingered men.  My eyes always well up when I hear: “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father.  Prepare to die.”  Not that I want someone to murder my father.  Just, like, I’m ready for vengeance if the time comes.  You’re welcome, dad.

3. Rescuing a Princess (a la Shrek or The Princess Bride or Super Mario Brothers)

This one is part nostalgia, part chivalry, part wishing I had a practical skill like being a plumber.  There’s so much to like about this adventure.  You get a buddy like a talking donkey or Andre the Giant or Luigi.  You can use your study abroad experience to not die from poison.  People cheer for you at the end.  What’s not to love?  Sure, it’s a little sexist.  But statistically more women get captured and put in towers than men, so that’s just the cold hard reality of the situation.

4. Treasure Hunt (a la Goonies or, to a far lesser extent, City Slickers 2: The Search for Curley’s Gold)

Uhhhh…there’s treasure at the end, dummy.  Everyone likes treasure.  First of all, it’s made of treasure.  Second of all, it lets your buy back your childhood home or do whatever dumb thing Billy Crystal was trying to do with Jon Lovitz and those other guys.  It’s almost like a heist movie where you don’t have to feel bad for hostages or bank tellers.  It’s a win-win-win-win-win.

5. Race to Prove Your Own Innocence (a la The Fugitive)

This adventure can be pretty lonely, but it seems like you learn a lot about yourself.  What kinds of things you are willing to dangle off of or jump over.  I’ve always wanted to meet a guy with one arm or Tommy Lee Jones.  Either one would be cool.

So those are probably my top five kinds of adventures.  I guess if pressed, I would substitute number five for Adventure to an Exotic Locale like space or a jungle or underwater.  Man.  Space, right?  Mostly because I want to know what it’s like to be able to dunk.  Maybe for my birthday next week I will go on an adventure to a trampoline store.  Living the dream, guys.  Living the dream.

Josh

Walk This Way

6 Jan

The United States spans an enormous swath of land, and an equally broad set of cultures.  Each region has its own flavor.  Accents, cuisine, terrain, celebrations.  But one of the least reported-on regional distinctions is the variance in American jaywalking.

Across the country, locals have widely divergent stances on crossing against the lights.  Some cultures relish the challenge.  Others shun it as too risky.  Here is a sampling of jaywalking traditions I have observed on my travels.

Boston

My hometown, and what I like to consider the jaywalking capital of the United States.  Just as centuries ago, colonists rejected British taxation by dumping tea into Boston Harbor, today’s Bostonians subtly resist the rule of government by crossing the road whenever they deem it safe.

Pedestrians have an aggressive attitude in Boston.  They take what they think they deserve, leaving motorists to react accordingly.  The Boston Jaywalker is at heart an anarchist, or at least a libertarian.

New York City

The New York Jaywalker moves in packs.  Though the city can seem an anonymous and uncaring place, jaywalkers band together to claim public spaces.  Though one or two people may individually decide to wait for the light cycle to favor them, a crowd, when assembled, will almost always force its way into the street through the principle of strength and numbers; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  There is a beautiful community and humanity to the New York Jaywalker.

Atlanta

Atlanta, though a major city, is an avatar for the Southern Jaywalker.  Jaywalking is practiced with far less frequency in the south.  Perhaps it is an extension of a more laid-back mentality.  The idea of “hold your horses, we’ll get there,” seems to be in play.  Pedestrians wait patiently for an amenable light.  There is very little turmoil or foot tapping.  It is a different mindset than I am used to, but I respect it.

Las Vegas

Vegas, baby.  The jaywalkers here are brazen and fueled by alcohol.  The police in Sin City are known for ticketing those who stray across the street at the wrong time.  So I’ve heard.  Probably the only major American city I have visited without jaywalking.  The weather (stifling) and the law enforcement (oppressive) make it inadvisable.

Los Angeles

LA is a funny town.  People just wait politely on street corners for lights to change.  There are rumors of people being ticketed, but I haven’t heard many substantial stories to back the claims up.  Other LA residents say they are concerned with “safety.”  Son, jaywalking ain’t about safety.  It’s about living life to the fullest.  East coast, fool.  Ride or die!  What?  Oh, sorry about that.  Nevermind.

 

Happy School Year

6 Jan

Hey Guys,

It seems like folks enjoy my preschool stories.  So here are some from the new year!

Fiona (age 4 and 3/4): Josh!  In the fall I’m going to a new school!
Me: I know.
Fiona: It’s called “Hogwarts!”

Later…

Fiona: I’m doing a Harry Potter show.  Guess who’s going to be Harry.  It’s me!  You can be Hagrid.

——————————————————————————————————————

Zach (age 4): I’m having a bad day, Josh.
Me: Well, let’s see what we can do to turn this day around and make it good!
Ceci (age 4): Nooooooo!  If you turn it around, then all of us having good days will start having bad days!

——————————————————————————————————————

We also taught the kids about New Year’s Resolutions.  They latched onto the idea pretty quickly.  In fact, when I asked whether any of the kids had resolutions of their own they’d like to make, one boy immediately shouted “NO TANTRUMS!!!”

Here are some other resolutions that came up:

“Dance more!”
“No yelling at people!”
“Swim more!”
“More parties with decorations!”
“Play more!”
“No pushing!”

One girl actually said: “I want to go to the gym more…because that’s where my gymnastics class is.”

It really goes to show you, that even though they’re young, you can really learn something from kids.  I learned that children have no idea what real problems are.  If you don’t know, now you know.

Later on,
Josh