With the help of friends, ALL THE FUN IN BETWEEN:
My best Hulk Hogan, or a sneak peek at what I’ll look like in a few decades
Almost Krusty the Clown
Party in the back
And this is what a year’s worth of hair looks like:
There’s something special about reading handwriting that couldn’t have been written by anyone else, for anyone else. That connection is the stuff of magic, and the letter is the symbol of the relationship, where you give a little of yourself and the gap that’s left behind is filled with a little of the other person, and afterward you’re somehow more complete than you were before.
Each one is a heartwarming gift, a gift of time and intimacy straight from mind to heart to pen to paper, a precious artifact from a precious soul.
Nothing in 2012 was more exciting than the breathless moment of opening the mailbox, anxious to see what was waiting for me inside.
The visitors were amazingly stereotypical. Loud teens gawking and pointing and laughing. A few older couples, where the uncomfortable man trailed behind the inquisitive woman. A group of girlfriends who asked me to take a picture of them posing in front of a graffiti art piece by LUSH depicting Andy San Dimas greeting a penis. It took up an entire wall in the “F*CK ART” Exhibit.
Go ahead. Google it.
One of the first exhibits you see is an explanation of Rule 34. The accompanying video was broken and a younger, hipper Brawny man, with a mustache and red flannel shirt like the original 70s version, was fixing it.
The early 20th Century photographs of people having sex outdoors because of the better lighting were fun. The floor dedicated to animal behavior was fascinating. And the room with the larger-than-life-sized male and female sex dolls encased in glass with holes in front of the naughty bits that encouraged touching (I didn’t touch) was noticeably colder than the other rooms and floors. But the quirkiest thing was this:
Three gluttonous and glorious months later, I finished the tub of Italian ice I’d received for my birthday and found the perfect use for the tin can – TIME MACHINE.
- Space Jam Taz that my friend and I won from a claw machine at Fun Time USA in Sheesphead Bay on a fourth grade school trip
- Said friend’s favorite book
- Another friend’s favorite drink, in his preferred container
- Daily News; local flavor to mark the date
- (not pictured) A wager on the World Series
- (not pictured) Many notes and letters to our future selves
And then everything was individually wrapped in plastic bags and shoved into the can, which was smaller than it looked.
A hole was dug.
The can, wrapped in two plastic bags, was dropped into the hole…
…and packed it into the Earth, not to be disturbed for a few decades.
A promise to tomorrow.
A smile from yesterday.
What was supposed to be an end of the year self-indulgent and cathartic spoken word piece turned into an accidental comedy set instead. “Comedy” is as loosely defined as possible in this context.
Each performance at the open mic was a strict seven minutes. According to the Internet, we speak at 120-150 words per minute. Allegedly. So I needed to fit a story to about 900 words, leaving room for lingual clumsiness and microphone fumbles and zoned-out brain farts.
It was bad enough that I’d waited until last minute to write the damn piece. What made it worse was my word count ending up around 1400 after the first draft. So I kept cutting and cutting until I got it down to a lean 800-something words.
I timed myself and even with natural pause breaks, I clocked in at four minutes. Apparently I speak closer to 200 words per minute, Internet. So I went back and threw in the stuff I’d cut out, and shifted a few things around to achieve semi-coherence.
Okay – so I’m standing backstage. I’m supposed to go next. I run the outline through my head, trying to remember turns of phrases and the rhythm of the thing and OH GOD WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH MY HANDS.
The guy ahead of me finishes his performance but my name isn’t called. I guess there were two Kevin’s on the sheet and I thought I was the first Kevin. And I guess maybe something happened while I was in the bathroom and they found out the other Kevin wasn’t there so they skipped him/me?
It turns out I was the second Kevin, and I’d signed up for the reserve list, which meant I had four minutes instead of seven.
So I’m standing backstage. I’m up soon. Do I go with my original 800 word draft? Or try to cram seven minutes into four? What’re the most interesting parts? WHAT AM I TRYING TO SAY?
My name is called and I decide to cut all the sappy shit and just keep the silly bits.
If you want to see something that’s ACTUALLY funny, turn on the captions and read along.
TIP FOR PUBLIC SPEAKING:
DO NOT EAT TACOS AND A GIANT QUESADILLA BEFOREHAND.
I peeked in through the cluttered window into a small room, with just enough space for two chairs, where a man was tidying up. The giant neon tarot sign blocked most of his body. The only thing I could see was his stomach, a bulging beer belly that belongs to an older man. I waved, trying to get his attention. He ducked under the sign and looked out at me, surprised, like a dog who was chewing on something he wasn’t supposed to be chewing on.
The door opened and I saw a man in his 50s, very tan, with round eyes and a hawkish nose and crooked teeth. He was wearing a Yankees cap, a navy T-shirt with the NYPD crest on the chest, and baggy blue jeans.
“I’m here for a palm reading,” I told him.
“Please, siddown,” he said in a Brooklyn accent. “Anywhere you like. Sorry ‘bout the mess. I’m renovatin’.”
He went into the back, through dusty curtains, and came out with a big wooden chair and a small black plastic grocery bag, the kind you get from delis, which looked like a sack of garbage. He placed the bag on the ledge by the window and started unknotting the top. He stared outside while talking to me.
“Let me tell you ‘bout the readings,” he said. “There’s the single palm, which is fi’ dollahs, and then the double palm is ten. But dose only tell you about yourself. The tarot cards are much better. They’ll tell you ’bout the future. Places and names – everythin’.”
“How much are the cards?”
“Twenty fi’ dollahs,” he said, with half a deck in his hand, before turning toward me. “I recommend the cards. They’ll tell you everything you wanna hear.”
“I’ll go with the palm,” I said. “I want to know about myself.” That was only half-true.
He stopped trying to unknot the handles on the plastic bag and sat down across from me. “Put the money in there,” he said, pointing at the metallic vase by the window.
“Do I need to fold the bills in any special way?”
“No. Just make a wish. And keep it to yourself. Don’t tell me.”
I made a wish and went back to my seat.
“Gimme your palms,” he told me. I extended my hands and he slid his left middle finger down my right palm, followed by his right middle finger down my left palm. “You’re forgetting somethin’,” he said with conviction.
“No, I’m not.”
He looked constipated. “You were goin’ ta school for somethin’ but now you’re not.”
“No.” It was a lucky guess and I wanted to see lightning strike twice.
He paused, looking painfully constipated.
His face went back to neutral. He looked straight into my eyes, deathly serious.
“Someone owes you money.”
“Okay,” he said. “Ask me somethin’.”
“Something about myself?”
He caught me off guard. I thought he was supposed to do all the work and all the telling.
“Anythin’,” he continued. “About a job or marriage or –”
“Will I get married?”
“Sure,” he said, leaning back into his chair, with a big smile, supremely proud of himself. “In two years. Maybe sooner. She’ll come to you. Don’t force it or else you’ll get stuck wit’ a nagging woman you can’t get rid of. Trust me. You’re, what, twenty two twenty dree?”
“Yeah, in two years you’ll be married. You’ll have…two boys and a girl.” He strained his brow. “I see dree numbers…Dree. Six. Four. In any order, those are your numbers.” He leaned forward. “You’re goin’ ta be rich. Personally. You’re gonna be comfortable. Ask me anothah question.”
“How am I going to die?”
“You’re going to live a long life,” he fired back immediately and defensively.
“I don’t care when I’m going to die,” I said. “I want to know how.”
He looked like he was about to have a stroke. He turned his head to the side to look away from me. “I don’t like answering dose questions,” he said. “Ask me somethin’ else.”
“Where am I going to live?”
“Manhattan,” he said, bouncing back with cheer from whatever ailment I’d inflicted on him just before. “Rents are expensive, but you’ll do well. You’re going to have a good job.” He was happy to pick up from his earlier thread.
“You’re studying somethin’ right now,” he said with a regained authority. “You’re studying to do somethin’ you wanna be.”
“You’re in school now, right?”
“Well, whatever you wanna do, you’re goin’ ta be able to do it,” he said. “You’re going to live a long, prosperous life.”
He leaned in closer. “But think twice before you speak,” he cautioned. “When someone says somethin’ to you or asks you somethin’ – listen, there will always be stupid people. When somebody asks you somethin’ stupid, think twice before you say somethin’ back. This will help you.”
“And don’t take nothin’ from nobody. Whatever you wanna do, you’re gonna do it.”
“Now give me your hands. Let’s say a prayer.”
He closed his eyes and muttered some stuff under his breath.
“Okay,” he said. “Say Amen, Amen.”
And that was it. More entertaining than a fortune cookie, but not as fun as Blackjack.
You’re all invited to my wedding in 2015.
How could I pass up a chance to discuss Daytripper? (I mean, I went to Toronto to meet Bá and Moon, after all.) It’s a story about life viewed through the lens of death. About youthful idealism. Friendship. A father’s approval. A father’s tall shadow. Finding one’s place, carving one’s identity. A great love ending in heartbreak. A chance encounter ending in great love. The fight against mortality. The acceptance of mortality. Transcending mortality.
The conversations started off cordial, thought provoking, and fun.
But then a guy butted in and complained about the story not being real enough. He refused the premise of using death as a device, refused to accept the sincerity of the work, and peppered his critique with superficial complaints, nitpicking this and that and missing the message and emotion of the story. It was like he read with a suspicious eye, treating the story as if it were a legal contract or political declaration. A failure to empathize, I thought.
“Here’s how I would’ve done it,” said the WASPy alpha male with slicked back curly brown hair and sweater vest, the kind of guy who chats up people with ease at any social function, mistaking snobbery for sophistication. The kind of guy who has something to say about everything and you wonder if there’s anything he actually likes.
After the quick aside, he turned away and resumed making googly eyes at the cute girl sitting at the corner of the table. Because, of course, how could he pass up a chance to exercise his expertise and wit and authority to someone he feels is most worth his time and effort?
How “real” do stories need to be? Can we learn nothing from the fantastical and the absurd? Can we not enjoy something unless it conforms to our preconceived notions of what something ought to be?
Have we been burned so badly and lied to so much that we’ve become averse to and suspicious of sincerity, incapable of being sincere because that makes us vulnerable?
As we were discussing the balance between living in/for the moment versus planning for the future, a shy guy with a hunched back interjected and said he didn’t understand the story or see a point to it. He criticized the nonlinear storytelling as being vague and hard to follow. He probably enjoyed Pulp Fiction, but that’s an asshole assumption on my part.
But here was someone who could remember and understand several decades of superhero continuity yet couldn’t understand the triumphs and frustrations over the years, big and small, that make up a life. I call bullshit on not being able to relate to the characters in Daytripper. You might not have ever celebrated Iemanjá Day at Rio Vermelho, or got married or had a kid or wrote a book, but I’m sure you’ve never saved the multiverse from higher dimensional annihilation either.
Maybe I’m flustered because I dive into movies and books and comics hoping to enjoy them with sincerity and not suspicion, hoping they’ll take me somewhere I haven’t been before and feel things I’ve never felt before. Stories that sometimes affirm feelings that I selfishly thought that only I felt – the universal neuroses and insecurities that, no matter how cleverly they’re disguised in fiction, we all stumble over from time to time.
Maybe I’m just a bigot who’s upset because other people take pleasure in attacking and tearing down rather than creating, taking chances, and being vulnerable.
Maybe I assume more than I think.
I need to work on that.