Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Category: humor (page 1 of 2)

Gluten-Free Halloween

pumpkin

Andy opens the door to greet a little boy and girl, both dressed as superheros.

Little Boy/Girl: Trick or Treat!

Andy: Hello, there! Ooh, what cool costumes. I recognize you, Batman. I mean Batgirl.

Little Girl: I’m not Batman or Batgirl. Why is it so important for you to identify me when gender is a societal construct? I consider myself a gender neural Bat Individual.

Andy: OK. And how about you, young man. I don’t recognize your superhero costume.

Little Boy: That’s because I’m an anti-hero, Alexander Petterssen.

Andy: I don’t know him.

Little Boy: Jesus. Haven’t you read any of the dystopian graphic novels by the Norwegian artist Gustav Slettemark?

Andy: Uh, no. (calling loudly) Bridget, do we have treats for our young guests?

Bridget comes to the door carrying a large tray with nine different bowls containing a variety of choices of treats for the kids.

Bridget: Here you go. Pick the one that best fits the needs of your dietary and religious restrictions, and political leanings. For the regular kids, we have Snickers with Almonds. But if you have a nut allergy, this second bowl contains nut-free Tootsie Rolls. This third bowl contains gluten-free gummi bears. The fourth bowl contains sugar-free lollypops. Bowls five and six have candy imported from Israel and Egypt, and are kosher and halal. Bowl seven contains organic and fair trade chocolate from a company that we researched online, so we know is supporting sustainable agriculture and worker health and rights. Bowl eight contains candy from a chocolate company with no national or international links to the Nestle Company, the Occupied Territories, or any stockholders who donate to the Republican Party. Finally, in bowl nine, for those kids who have reinterpreted Halloween as a Harvest Festival promoting healthy and natural living, we have individually wrapped leaves of kale.

Andy: So, Bat Person and Alexander Petterssen, which treat do both of you want to take from us?

Little Girl: We both want the kale.

Little Boy: Yeah. Is it pre-washed?

Bridget: I think so.

Little Girl: We’ll wash it again, just to make sure.

Andy drops the kale in their trick or treat bags, and the kids run off. Bridget plops down on the couch, exhausted.

Bridget: You know, the kids in our new neighborhood are kinda assholes, don’t you think?

Note: Despite the joke, I will be giving kids two choices this year — Snickers with nuts, and Skittle for those with nut allergies. Why not?

Glass Half-Full

Here is a video of the piece I read at the “Listen to Your Mother” show at Symphony Space in NYC in May.   I met so many wonderful people because of that experience.    You can also see the other videos from the show on the same YouTube page.

Which Levi’s Jeans Makes My Ass Look the Best?

youtube

For the last few months, there have been these YouTube advertisements plastered all over the subway platforms, in the subway cars, and even on the subways themselves. They showcase a group of girls who look no more than fifteen years old, and have six million followers each.  I’ve never heard of any of them. Bethany Mota? Michelle Phan? Clearly I’m not in the right demographic.  One aspect that I did notice is that they are “fashion and lifestyle” bloggers.

“I’m doing it wrong,” I tell myself each time I board it a train and see one of these ads. “Why didn’t I become a fashion and lifestyle blogger?”

One morning, not too long ago, as a mariachi band was playing in my subway car, I had a revelation.

“Why couldn’t I become a fashion and lifestyle blogger?” I asked the guitarist wearing the sombrero.  “There are so few middle-aged male fashion and lifestyle bloggers giving advice to other men! The field is completely wide open!”

And that’s how this this post came into existence.  Well, actually, there were two more steps before I get to the post.

First has to do with my dating life.  Or rather it’s lack of existence.  Last week, I was talking to a friend, a recently divorced woman who had already gone on a few dates and was pushing me to join an online service.

Seeking good advice, and trying to change the subject,   I said, “Tell me, and be honest, as a friend. What do women most look for in a man?  Is it his career achievements, his sense of humor, or his intelligence?”

She laughed, saying, “The number one attribute that women look for in a man is — how good his ass looks in a pair of jeans.”

This totally blew my mind.   And then I promptly forgot about the conversation.

This morning, around 10AM, my mother asked if I wanted to go shopping with her at the Macy’s on Queens Boulevard. She received a “Friends and Family 25% coupon” in the mail and she was always up for a bargain.  I hate shopping for clothes, but I agreed, mostly for selfish reasons. Near this Macy’s is a diner that makes a good Reuben sandwich, and there is also a Best Buy across the street, and I wanted to play with the new Samsung phone.

By noon, we were in the department store.

My mother said, “I want to check out some bras,” and I knew this was my cue to go check out the men’s department.

“You know what,” I said. “I could use a new pair of jeans. I’ll meet you back here in a half hour.”

So I went to the men’s department, which is always the crappiest section in every department store, located on the dark and dingy lower level next to the appliances.

I passed by the fancy designer jeans and went straight for the Levi’s against the far wall.   I’m a Levi’s guy.   I mean, other than two brief moments of weakness in my life where I bought other brands of jeans (one was Wrangler in fifth grade and the other was a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt men’s jeans that I would rather not discuss),  I have worn Levi’s all my life. More specifically, I have worn Levi’s 501 jeans since junior high school, never deviating, never changing.

But something changed when I accidentally bumped into this sign.

sign

I had a number of thoughts.

1) Therapy.   Why do I always wear the same style of 501 jeans?   Could my unwavering choice of jeans be symbolic of a lifelong rut,  the equivalent of only eating Cheerios your whole life, or never leaving your house?  Do I need to change up my style of Levi’s jeans in order to change up my life?

2) Dating.  If my ass in jeans was going to be the dealbreaker in any relationship with a woman, I needed as much help as possible.  I wasn’t born with the genes for jeans.   You see, that was clever.   Clever people never have good asses.

3) Commerce.   What if I tried every single style Levi’s jean, making note of which jeans made my ass look the best, and then wrote about it in my first “fashion and lifestyle” post for middle-aged men, inspiring a whole generation to look to me as their sartorial guru?Who knows — by next year, I could be in a YouTube advertisement on the E-train, next to the fifteen year old YouTube stars?

So, that’s how this post was born.  I went into the dressing room, sneaking in every different pair of numbered Levi’s jeans as I could find in the stacks of jeans, dressing and undressing and taking photos under the worst lighting ever known to man , and probably making the men in the others stalls wondering what the hell I was doing in there with all the shuffling and clicking of the camera.

OK, men — so here is what I learned about the various Levi’s Jeans.   Just be advised that your ass might be different than mine.

First up was my old favorite — a pair of 501 jeans.

501

It was important to first try on a new pair of 501 jeans as a “control” subject on which to compare and contrast the other styles.  Every since I entered my first science fair back in the day, I’ve always been very determined to follow the correct scientific approach.

The 501 has an “iconic straight fit,” but as you can see from the photo, it does very little for my ass, and the material by my thigh hangs like the drapes in a summer house.

501_2

I don’t want to badmouth the 501. It is a sturdy, honest choice. And it is the only style of Levi’s jeans with the “signature button fly.”  Sadly, what I once found very cool, hip, and special, I now just see as something that requires extra work when I need to pee.

No to 501. It’s time to move on. Sorry, old friend.

The 505 “Regular Fit” fit pretty good, and didn’t feel much different than the 501s.  Like twin brothers.   The boring twin brother who became the accountant.

505

Described as a “classic, stylish and comfortable straight leg for all occasions,” it felt as generic as the description.  No one ever gets laid wearing the 505s.

No to 505.

The 517 “Bootcut” was the only authentic boot cut that the Macy’s had in Queens, maybe because very few people in Queens ever ride their horses over the Queensborough Bridge to go to Manhattan for brunch.

517

Everything just felt wrong with these jeans. They were too long, and too high, and too much room in the seat. And do cowboys really need so much extra room in the groin area? Maybe now I understand why so many of my female friends have moved to Austin. Unless I was going to attend one of those “City Slickers” dude ranches over the summer, I would feel like a idiot walking around the city in these jeans.

No to 517.

Not unsurprisingly, this particular Macy’s on Queens Boulevard sold every available type of  Levi’s”relaxed fit” style, which I think was a not so subtle way of Macy’s executives telling us that, “You are the Borough of Fat People.”

First up was the 550 “Relaxed,” which is described as “a classic laid-back fit” — and by “laid-back” I think they mean, “jeans for those who used to go to Grateful Dead concerts.”

550

These jeans didn’t enhance my ass AT ALL. In fact, it made it my rear end look even less impressive than it does in real life. This is a jeans for sitting — for an outdoor music festival, for smoking pot with your baby boomer friends, for watching an entire season of Orange is the New Black.

These are not the jeans to enhance your ass.

No to 550.

The 559 “Relaxed Straight” was even worse.

559

These were the worst possible jeans for my build, and the extra room in the rear made it look like I was wearing a pair of adult diapers under my jeans. Not sexy at all.

No to 559.

The 560 “Comfort Fit” continued the slide into denim atrociousness and I imagined old Levi Strauss himself turning in his grave at the thought of his name on these pants.

560

The 560 is roomy in the seat and thigh, but the waist is so high that I could have lifted these pants over my head WHILE still wearing them.

No to 560.

The 569 “Loose Straight Cut” is what I affectionately called “the gangster jeans.” The fact that these pants were the biggest seller in this Macy’s says a lot about the citizens in my neighborhood, and why no one in Manhattan ever wants to come visit me in Queens.

569

I always see young guys on the bus from Flushing wearing these jeans, halfway down their ass, and I never understood how they kept the pants from just falling down around their ankles. Now I know the truth. They don’t keep it up. After taking this photo, the pants fell around my ankles.

No to 569. I don’t want to show that much of my ass.

The 510 “Skinny” jeans gets a lot of press because all the young hipsters wear these in Brooklyn.  I was pretty skeptical about them until I put them on, and you know what – I thought they looked pretty good.

510

Hey, I’m not bragging or anything that I still have “the right stuff.” And sure, I suppose I was a little narcissistic when I climbed on top of the seat, took off my shirt and imagined myself as Mick Jagger singing “Brown Sugar” to the mirror.

And then I sat down.  And the jeans smashed my balls into what could only be described as a vise hold, in what seemed to be a punishment for that #NotAllMen joke I made on Twitter a few weeks ago.

No to 510.

One by one, I compared the jeans.   I was in the dressing room for so long that I forgot about the time. An hour had passed, and my poor mother was wandering around Macy’s looking for me, and freaking out. And then came the announcement, said to the entire Macy’s over the loudspeaker system interrupting the music, “Will customer Neil Kramer please come to the register in the men’s department. Customer Neil Kramer please come to the register in the men’s department. You mother is looking for you.”

So, I never did try all the styles.  I felt bad for mother, and I was hungry for that Reuben.

So, now is the big reveal.   Did I find my Holy Grail of Levi’s Jeans?

And the answer is yes.   The winner was clearly the 513.

The 513 is the “Slim Straight.”  It gives you a bit of the snugness of the skinny jeans, but lets you keep your testicles for future reference.  It is comfortable like the 501, just not as baggy.

513

Look at my ass.  Have you ever seen it looking any better?

I know this post was probably long-winded, something that Bethany Mota or Michelle Phan or any of those fifteen year old superstars would never do in any of their YouTube fashion videos, but remember — this is only my first lifestyle post, so I’m still learning.

My African-American Friend

“Hello.”

“Derrick?  This is Neil.”

“Well, this is a surprise.”

“Listen, I know we haven’t spoken in a long time.”

“I’m not apologizing.”

“I know.  I know.  It was my fault.  It’s OK that you went to Jennifer’s party and didn’t tell me about it.  I don’t want to lose your friendship over something stupid.”

“Well, thank you.  I’m glad to hear that our friendship means something to you.”

“It does.  I’m a firm believer in diversity and whenever I have a heated conversation about race relations, I like to say that “some of my best friends are African-American.” And yesterday, I was online arguing with this woman about the lack of diversity in the parenting blogging community, and I was about to say, “Some of my best friends…” when I realized that YOU were my ONLY best friend who was black, and since we weren’t talking, I couldn’t honestly say that “some of my best friends are African-American” anymore because I am all about authenticity. And that hurt.  It also makes me look bad not have a black best friend.

“So, are you saying that you want to become friends again, so you can tell others that “some of your best friends are African-American?”

“Well, it’s not the only reason.  But the main one.  Is there a problem with that?”

“That is disgusting.  Is this what the entire civil rights movement means to you?  Just so you can prove your liberal credentials to your lily-white ass friends by trotting me out like… some… some… accordian playing monkey?”

“I would never call you a monkey.  That would be racist.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that your roots are in Africa.”

“So?”

“So, I mean you have some sort of psychic connection to the jungle.”

“I’m from Queens.  I’ve never been hiking.  Who wants to go to the f*cking jungle?  How would you like if I called you a kike?”

“Are you calling me a kike?”

“Yeah, maybe I am!”

“What exactly is a kike?”

“I have no idea.”

“When I first heard that word, I thought it was “kite.”  Which was odd.  Why would you call a Jew a kite?   You rarely see Jews flying kites.”

“That’s not true.  Remember we flew kites once at Jones Beach.”

“That’s true.”

“We were terrible.  We had to ask that old guy to show us how to fly a kite.”

“So, are we friends again?”

“I don’t know.”

“You need me.  As much as I need you.  Without me, you can’t say that “some of your best friends are Jewish.”

“That’s not true.  Half of my friends are Jewish.”

“They are?”

“I work at school in the Upper West Side!”

“I forgot.”

“Am I really your only black friend?”

“Well, right now you are.  No, wait.  There is this black guy in Redondo Beach.  But I don’t really like him that much.  He’s a little boring.  Always talking about his car.”

“What type of car?”

“1965 Mustang.”

“Nice.”

“You wouldn’t like him though.  He doesn’t like the Simpsons.”

“No?  Nah.  I probably wouldn’t like him.”

“Even though he’s black?”

“Even though he’s black.”

“OK.  So where do we stand…?”

“Uh…”

“I take that as a yes.”

“OK.  We’re friends again.  You can go tell your white friends that you have a black friend again.”

“Thank you, Derrick!  Nice to have you back, African-American friend!”

Note:  Sigh!  I hate saying this, but just to protect the innocent from overly-literal readers:   Truth Quotient:  4%

A Proof of the Existence of God

Many of you ask me about my religion, wondering if I truly adhere to the belief in an all powerful, all-knowing God.

Here’s what I think: None of us can truly know if God exists, but anyone who admires nature, must see that there is a Grand Organizer serving as the CEO of the Universe. Season come and go, babies are born; life is a perfect cycle, the ultimate musical symphony. Even the parts of life that make no rational sense at first do HAVE MEANING, once we devote ourselves to examining the mysteries. All you need to do is OPEN YOUR EYES.

Let’s take the idea behind aging. We get old and die. It is rather dumb idea. If you were going to create a MAN in your image, would you really go out of the way to make him start out as young and strong, and then, as then as he gets older and wiser, have his body and mind fall apart until he is just plain dead, lying in a hospital bed.

Makes no sense, right? This God should be fired, or at sued, like Toyota is being sued with their faulty accelerators on the Prius.

But hold on. Let’s approach it from another angle — a philosophical method — one operating under the assumption that God carefully and methodically plans life out with an organizer on his heavenly iPad.

This morning I took a walk outside. Summer is approaching in Los Angeles. The flowers are blooming. Women are walking around in tight t-shirts and shorts. I found myself attracted to several of these women. Some were young, some were older.

And what type of thoughts were flying through my head? Yes, the existence of God.

Here’s why —

When you are a man in your early twenties, you spend most of your time trying to get into the pants of a woman your age. All other women seem too old, unless you are a Mrs. Robinson type perv.

As you move into your latter twenties, you notice that your female friends are ALSO in their late twenties. It shocks you to realize that they are actually SEXIER now than women in their early twenties. What happened? They have more confidence, more life experience. Of course, you wouldn’t refuse to hop in the sack with a twenty-two year old, but your age range has expanded, creating more opportunities.

I know every man remembers the moment he turned thirty and opened his eyes, and said, “Holy shit, women in their thirties are f**king hot!” Ten years ago, these would seem like old women. Now they are in their prime. These women have lose their shyness, and it is not uncommon to hear a thirty-five year old woman telling a man on a first date, “How about after dinner we go back to my place, watch the last episode of Lost, and I’ll give you a blowjob you will never forget.” No woman in her twenties would ever say that. Of course, as a man, you are still attracted to women in their twenties. But now, in most cases, you are attracted to women in their twenties AND THIRTIES.

You see where this is going. This natural selection continues as the man ages, so by the time a man is in his eighties, he is interested in fucking every woman from 21-89. Without God lower his libido, can you imagine how difficult it would be for a 90 year old man to go outside without tripping over his erection and breaking his hip?

Luckily, God is merciful. Even with the lessening of the libido, there is a point in a man’s life when he is attracted to women his own age, his daughter’s age, his granddaughter’s age, AND HIS great-granddaughter’s age. The pain is just too much for anyone, and God, in his wisdom, allows him to die.

God exists.

My Health Care Plan

Many Democrats are shocked that a Republican won Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts yesterday. I’m not. It is a referendum on Obama’s health care plan, and I think I am uniquely experienced to comment on this subject. For the last two weeks, I have been visiting my father-in-law in the hospital, and just like a journalist going undercover, I have seen FIRST HAND how our health care system really works.

The simple fact is that there are a lot of sick people. Too many sick people.

The beds in the hospital are never empty for long. In fact, since my FIL has arrived in the hospital, he has had five different roommates, and one of them didn’t make it out alive. Is that really a good success rate?

And who are these sick people anyway? If we examine the word “sick,” we see that in general discourse, we mean someone “not healthy.” And why aren’t these individuals healthy? Is it the taxpayers responsibility? Should we really feel sympathy for a bunch of lazy leeches who CHOOSE not to care for themselves? Many of us work hard to look and feel good. It is something we are proud about. It is an achievement. But it is WORK. Hard work. Why should I subsidize those who don’t eat and exercise correctly?

Do you know how much it is costing YOU to keep my father in law in this fancy hospital room with costly equipment and highly paid “doctors?” You’re even paying for his FOOD, which gets delivered to him from a MENU, like in a four star hotel! Sorry, folks, but my family is using you like a bunch of suckers — and you don’t even realize it!

Obama has it wrong. Universal healthcare is like a band-aid, welfare for those who want to sleep late rather than go to the gym before work.

I’ve heard the excuses before. You say you have “no room” for an exercise bike in your bedroom. Well, you certainly find enough room in that bedroom for that big screen TV and that stack of burgers from In-N-Out, you scourge of America with your wii age of 95!

I work hard to stay out of the hospital, and then I have to pay for YOUR unhealthy fat ass who won’t walk to the supermarket! The fashion industry does a better job than the medical establishment in promoting HEALTH with their healthy thin, role-models. Those who insist that “real” (read fat) women should be portrayed in ads, are not your friends. These women, so-called “feminists,” are mostly lobbyists for the pharmaceutical companies wanting to promote bad health to increase profits for diet pills.

It breaks my heart to see my father-in-law sleeping so much. He used to be a strong guy who built chairs and loved to garden. But as he aged, he grew lazy. While the nurse was undressing him, I noticed that his abs had grown weak. I have seen photos of him when he was younger in the Soviet Army. He was a hunk! So, what happened? I blame America, the decadence of the West, her seductive processed foods, and her constant search for the easy way out.

As I thought about all those in the hospital, I had an “aha” moment. Fancy medical equipment and high priced pharmaceuticals are not the answer. Massachusetts voters were right. Obama’s health plan would bankrupt America. The real answer is as simple as $19.99 per American household. Yes, I am talking about Jillian Michael’s “30 Day Shred.”

If every American was required to complete this video, our country will truly be as healthy and fit as our forefathers hoped when they wrote the Constitution. Rather than pissing away our money into more debt to China by creating universal health care, our hospitals could be turned into greenhouses to grow organic tomatoes. I have a dream: One day, we will be a country of tight abs! After all, a person’s fat content tells a lot more about a person’s overall health than an EKG!

Granted, our country would need more qualified physical trainers, but this could be easily arranged by creating a ShredCorps. Many trainers could already be shipped to various parts of the country from Los Angeles, where one out of every three residents is an unemployed physical trainer.

Hospitals do not make you healthier. I can see the toll on my father in law. He is lethargic and depressed. Is this really worth $10,000 a day? Can you imagine the results if my father-in-law had Jillian Michaels yelling at him to to “push” one more crunch. He’d be his old self within days!

Next time you are in the hospital, take a look around. Why are the sick children lying in bed playing video games and getting fat on vanilla pudding? Those who are sick WANT to be sick so they can get free room and board at the hospital. If you want my tax money, I want you to WORK for it. Have those kids do squats to get better.

I applaud the people of Massachusetts, who are as revolutionary as in 1776. Throw those Crestors, Prozacs and diabetes monitors into Boston Harbor, and let’s ride like Paul Revere to a world of fitness.

“Jillian Michaels is coming! Jillian Michaels is coming”

It’s time for a revolution. Out of your beds, you lazy bums in Cedars-Sinai. It is time for your workout!

Editor’s Note: This is supposed to be a satire, perhaps not well done, but it made me laugh. I hate to have to put this disclaimer up on my blog because it ruins the joke, but let me be perfectly clear and state this to a new reader: No, despite me saying so in the post, I do not truly “believe” that we can solve our country’s health care problems by supplying sick people with Jillian Michael’s 30-Day Shred rather than having them stay in hospitals.

What Type of Holiday Card Should You Send Me?

The Holiday season brings up some uncomfortable issues. Several women, both Jewish and non-Jewish women have spoken to me, unsure what type of card to send to me.  Do I only celebrate Hanukkah?  Will I be offended if I receive a Christmas card?  Is a simple “Seasons Greeting” too lame of a Holiday message?

I cannot answer these questions for every Jewish male.  Each of you will have to make your own choices.  And rather than offering any guidelines, I have come up with a few copywriting ideas for the type of seasonal cards that I find both enjoyable and appropriate.

Hanukkah Cards

I want to light your menorah, Neilochka, eight days a week.

Let’s meet at my place.  You’ll eat my latkes, and I’ll spin your dreidel.

Who needs a Christmas Tree when you have my Hanukkah bush?  See you on Saturday night!

Christmas Cards

Card-giving is much more complicated for my female friends who celebrate Christmas. You want to share your holiday with me, but knowing that I am Jewish, don’t want to make me feel uncomfortable. Here are a few non-religious Christmas cards ideas that would definitely put me in the holiday mood:

It’s Christmas.  A Day for Loving A Jewish Man.  Again and Again.

I Know You Don’t Celebrate Christmas, my dear Jewish friend, but I Would Like to Get Laid By You on New Year’s Eve

Forget Santa.  I’d Rather Have You Coming Up My Chimney.

Email me for my address. Happy Holidays!

My First Day as the Chicago Cubs New Mascot to Attract More Gay Men to the Park – the Chicago Red Hot

I just noticed that two of the volunteers to be this week’s guest posters are gay women.  Does this give me any insight into the demographics of my readers?  Is Citizen of the Month popular in the gay community?  I hope so.  I love readers of all sexual orientations — as long as they click on the ads.  My last guest poster of the week is Fort Knocks of Impatiens.  He is not gay.  Or at least I don’t think so.  He is a twenty-something humorist who seems to love the Chicago Cubs.  And since I don’t care about the Chicago Cubs, I figured I would spice up his favorite topic (and please my gay readers at the same time)  by assigning him this rather ridiculous storyline —

My First Day as the Chicago Cubs New Mascot to Attract More Gay Men to the Park – the Chicago Red Hot by Fort Knocks

It was one of those times in a young, impetuous man’s life when he mortgages the love of his family for the pursuit of an ignoble passion.

Philosophically, technically, I believe in the dominion of the intellect over the will and the will over the passions.  If you ask me the order, that’s how I’ll answer: intellect over will, will over passions – that is, your passions impel you, but your will controls your submission to those passions; and your intellect determines the resolution of the will.

I’ve learned that from an early age, from 18 years of Catholic School.  Yes, that’s right, eighteen years.  But also, I believe in that pecking order of the personality (intellect, will, passions – repeat it like a mantra).  It makes sense to me – that it should be true.

As a matter of course, as a matter of empirical reality, I know that sometimes things don’t work that way.  I know this because I have an intensely addictive personality.  I am addicted to drinking, smoking, sex and gambling.  The only reason I’m not hooked on more serious drugs is because, thank God, I’ve never tried them.  But don’t worry – addiction to drinking, smoking, sex and gambling is quite enough.

People have told me that a lesser man would have broken by now.  I know that being a lesser man is the only thing that’s kept me sane.  The reason I haven’t broken is because I bend.  And it feels so good when I bend, stretch like a sapling under strong weight, and it hurts so bad when I snap back upright.  The weight of addiction has bent me like an old man’s years bend him.

When I was younger, I wondered why old men didn’t just stand up!  I wanted to straighten them out myself, flatten them on a table – lay them on their backs and push against pelvis and clavicle until they unfolded under my hands like a road map.  I imagined that then they would breathe, freely, deeply, for the first time since their first Social Security check slipped through the mail slot in 1981.

Now I know it doesn’t work that way.  Which is why I don’t try to unkink my own hunched back, just manage it; just make sure my shoulders aren’t banging on my knees, my forehead between my calves.  Manage the bend, that’s my motto.  Control my handicap.

It was gambling that got me into this mess, smoking and drinking that had made it worse.  God knows where the sex would take me.

——

“Do you think you could make it onto the field during a Cubs game – for more than a full minute?” my friend Eddie had asked me five weeks before, while we were – wait for it – drinking.  Of course I could.  I knew I could.  In the warm friendly haze of a dozen beers, I was certain.

I loved that haze; it made anything possible.  It meant she loved you, your life was on track, your friends were the best in the world and you were strong, smart, good-looking.  I’d written a poem a few years before

When the sun has gone down and the moon takes its place
And the revelers rise to give darkness new grace,
When the harshness of daylight has dwindled to night
And all beauty increases, by softness of sight,
Then the friends are more friendly, and enemies too,
Which is more than the unreserved drinking can do,
For there’s magic about, and it’s all through the air,
And as long as you’re with me, I long to be there.

That feeling.  That fucking feeling was what made me take the bet – a thousand dollar bet, which was about nine hundred and fifty dollars more than I could afford to lose.  That made me take the bet.  That, and my certified addiction to gambling.

Every day I would think about calling Eddie, calling it off – knowing he wouldn’t mind that much.  I’d pay him twenty bucks, he’d make fun of me, we’d be done with it.

And then every night, I’d drink until that feeling got to me again, until I was past the point of talking myself into it.  “I played baseball in college for four years,” I’d say.  “Of course I can do it.  I’m an athlete.  Hell, I could do five minutes, let alone one.”

That was how my first attempt happened: July 8th, 2008 – the first month of the second half of the year: new beginnings.  And I was celebrating by hefting my ass over the low fence to the left of the Cubs home dugout in the middle of the fourth inning.  New beginnings.  If you were watching the game, that’s why the commercial break took an extra thirty seconds or so.

It all started off well enough: a quick sprint and I was across the foul line, moving into shallow left field.  Edwin Encarnacion, the Cincinnati Reds third baseman, made a half-hearted grab for me, but I was past him.

And then I ran out of gas.  The two years of steady smoking since I’d last run regularly had an unbelievable effect.  I swear I hadn’t gone more than fifty yards when I was sucking wind, slowing down, looking over my shoulder for the inevitable security.  I dodged once, turned to my right and was immediately tackled and smothered.  And I was so gassed I was almost relieved.  Total time on the field: forty seconds.

Needless to say, the blue-coated security and ubiquitous ushers were on the lookout for my face the next few home series.  Three times in the next two weeks, I was nabbed before even setting foot on the playing surface and then, once last week, I was denied entrance to the stadium.  Denied entrance to the Friendly Confines that I know and love so well.  I needed a new plan.

——

When I saw the flyer advertising for “specialty mascots,” I had a glimmer of hope.  When I called in and heard that there was still one position unfilled, that hope swelled inside me.  And when I arrived to interview to find that somehow, no one there recognized me as the would-be trespasser, that hope filled my heart and overflowed.  I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get the spot.  I barely listened as they described the job, the position, my duties.  I signed the waivers, the contract with a smile on my face.  And last Sunday, July 27th, I reported for duty.

The game was at 6:00; I was there by three, knocking on the “Personnel Admitted” door right next to Gate 14.  A girl about my age with a clipboard and headphones swung the door open.  “Are you the red hot?” she said.

I was confused.  The red hot?  Was she coming on to me?  What?

“No, you’re the red hot,” I said, and then added, reading from her nametag, “Amy.”

She shook her head but I could see the smile at the corners of her mouth.  She grabbed my wrist and pulled me inside, spinning me in front of her down the hallway.  I was smiling to myself in congratulations of my smoothness halfway down the walk when I remembered, “Red Hot!  Fuck!  That’s my job!  Ohhh yeahhh.”  I turned to say something, but she was talking on the headset, “I left it right there…  Ok, I’ll be up in a second.  Yeah, he’s here.”  She turned to me, swinging me by my wrist to a door in the right wall, and with a hand over her mouthpiece, whispered, “I’ll help you with your costume.  Strip.”

And then she walked away down the hall.  I watched her go, her white sneakers susurrating on the cement.  Not a bad-looking girl.  Strip, huh?  Ok, Amy, you got it.

I pushed my way into the cement room, decorated with green lockers on walls to the left and right.  An old, and by the looks of it, unused vending machine stood at the far end of the room, some thirty feet from me, and on the floor in the middle of the room lay what looked like a red kayak with rounded bottom and edges, so rounded that it was basically cylindrical.

I took my shoes off, and my shirt, and then I stopped.  Couldn’t mascots wear clothes under the costumes?  Didn’t they all?  Was it just too hot this time of year?  I was paused with my belt halfway undone when I heard the door rasp open behind me.  Amy walked into the room, closed the door carefully behind her and took off the headset, setting it on top of the first locker.

She shook out her hair with her fingers as she walked past me, blowing out a sigh.  I turned, my fingers still on my belt, to see her hefting the kayak-thing and turning back to me.  “Pants off,” she said, and then smiled, a full, not-just-corners-of-her-mouth smile.  “Part of the job.”

I had no idea where this was going, not a clue in hell, but I was liking it so far.  I kicked out of my socks and then slid out of my jeans.

“Whoah, does the smell in the locker room turn you on or what?” she said.  I glanced down.  “Must be something,” I said.  She dragged the red thing over to where I stood, flipped it over to I could see another hole like the one on the top, except instead of being in the middle, like a kayak, this one was at one end.

“Hold this,” she said, handing me the end.  It was round, and wide, about two and a half feet wide, no narrower at the end than the middle, with a little clip on the very tip, a small steel loop.  I took this in quickly in the half-second before she reached over and pulled my boxers down to my ankles.

I passed off the “mmm” sound that escaped me as an “mmm-hmmm!” clearing my throat.  This was weird.  Amy looked up at me, a confused expression on her face.  There was much to be confused about.  “Aren’t you gay?” she said.

I looked down, narrowed my eyes, and tried to shrug, which was difficult with the giant red thing in my hands.  “No,” I finally said, “I’m not.”

Amy stood up and looked at me.  Then at her watch.  Then she reached over my shoulder and flicked the power switch on her headset to ‘off.’

She was very energetic.

——

I was sure we were going to be late.  I really didn’t want to be late.  It must have been getting close to time when she told me to climb inside the red thing.  “Are you nuts?” I said, but she was busy tucking in her shirt.  “Hurry up!” she said.  Ok, the dominatrix thing.  Fine.  I wasn’t into it, but I owed her, I figured.  I started to climb headfirst into the top hole hear the end.  It was slow going, my legs waggling in empty air.  And then she smacked me, hard, right on my bare ass.  I jerked and banged my head on the inside of the red plastic, then crawled out.

She was giggling, but obviously still in a hurry.  “Oh, shit,” she was saying, “I left a huge welt on your ass.”  Why would she worry about that?  Ten minutes ago, she was scratching up my back like a damn leopard.  I turned once and a half around, craning to try to see the welt, like a dog chasing its tail.  She giggled again and pushed me back to the red thing.  “Go!” she said, “feet first.”

“What?”

“Feet first!” she said.

“…” I said.

Amy shook her head.  “Did you even read the job description?” she said.  She lifted my feet in the end hole and scooched me down farther.  Soon my ass was in the tube.  She kept pushing, telling me to “scoot!” until I was completely inside the red thing, staring out the opening at the cement ceiling where a bare light-bulb hung.  I could feel the cool of the cement floor against my ass through the other hole, and slowly, gradually, the words from my job meeting started coming back to me.

Amy was at the door, opening it, and I could hear more people coming in.  Three or four, maybe.  There was a shuffle of feet and a clink of steel at the clip on each end of my red sarcophagus, and then I was hefted into the air.  I could feel the rush of air across my backside.

As I was hefted out of the tunnel, squinting in the bright sunlight and hearing someone reminding me to “smile!” I remembered everything, and I realized why Amy had been so nervous about the bright hand-print she left on my ass.

I was the Chicago Red Hot.  My job?  To attract gay men to the park.  My MO?  To be trussed up like a giant sausage on a rotisserie next to the visitors bullpen, and rotate for nine long innings, cooking evenly in the sun and offering the crowd alternating views of my smiling face and my bare white ass.  With Amy’s handprint gleaming on it.

I won the bet.  Damn right I did.  And I also boosted gay attendance in a big way.  Already the section just up the line from the bullpen is known as “Queer Corner.”

But when my family found out, my conservative, traditional Catholic family, it wasn’t an easy thing for them to swallow.  It was one of those times in a young, impetuous man’s life when he mortgages the love of his family for the pursuit of an ignoble passion.

Intellect, will, passions – I can say it like a mantra.  But sometimes, when you live in a world as addictive as this one, an experience can turn everything on its head… or in my case, on its ass.

An NPR Easter

The announcement came from Rome:  after pressure from the ACLU, the courts had decided that crucifixion was unconstitutional.   Jesus was released and returned to his job as a carpenter, continuing his sermons as a side gig, speaking out on progressive issues important to the local community while raising his blended family.

(Coming soon:  An NPR Passover — where God’s Ten Plagues are held up in court as excessive punishment,  Moses negotiates with the Pharaoh, and the Children of Israel remain in Egypt as immigrant-workers, but with better health insurance.

Postscript:

A man appears at the door.  It is Irving Berlin.

Irving Berlin: What kind of stupid post is this on Easter?

Neil: Irving Berlin?  What are you doing here?

Irving Berlin: I like to show up on every important Christian holiday.

Neil: Why’s that?

Irving Berlin: Well, the last time I came to remind you that shiksas love Jewish men who write Christmas songs.  Today, I’m going to brag about Jewish guys who write Easter songs.

Neil: I never liked “Easter Parade” that much.  Sort of a boring song.

Irving Berlin: F**k you, Neilochka.  Let’s see how you lucky YOU get with non-Jewish girls when you move out of Sophia’s house.

Neil: You know, Irving, would it have killed you to actually write a song for your own people — like a Passover song?  I’ve always found Jewish girls very hot.

Irving Berlin: Yeah, I guess they can be sexy.  But I avoid them because they remind me of my mother.

Neil: That’s silly.

Irving Berlin: You know, Sophia actually looks like your mother when she was younger.

Neil: What are you saying?  That I want to…. my own mother?!

Silence.

Irving Berlin: How’s therapy going, Neilochka?”

Happy Easter!   Here are a few photos from the Easter Parade that Sophia and I took a few years ago —

easter3.jpg

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Jokes in Yiddish

Humor is very important. I’d rather hear good jokes than see a naked woman in my bedroom. Of course, if the naked woman was the one telling the jokes, I wouldn’t complain. Especially if she was also carrying a corned beef sandwich.

You see, that was sort of a joke. Not a good one, but then again, you didn’t pay to come to this blog.

Sophia likes to laugh. That’s one of things that keeps us together. Tonight, we watched Bruno and Carrie Ann’s Dance Wars. The song and dance routines were so bad, that we were laughing it up. The show was like a bad high school production, and you couldn’t even blame the writer’s strike. Thankfully, it put us in a happy mood. Who said TV couldn’t couldn’t have a positive effect on personal relationships?

Since I’m on the subject of humor — how many of you have heard a guy tell a real joke in Yiddish? Probably not many of you. I don’t know Yiddish, but I imagine every joke to be much funnier in that language.

Here is a guy telling some jokes in Yiddish. I’d like to imagine that I would be like him if I was born during his generation. Eh, I probably would be too shy. It is much easier writing a blog.

(Mom, if you want to watch this, remember to turn the sound ON)

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