Wednesday, November 22, 2006

TMI Series #1

I just had a job interview today and I really boned up on those scary questions interviewers ask unsuspecting nubile twenty-somethings. Today the scary question was "What is a fact about yourself that you don't want me [the interviewer] to know?" Umm...whaaaa??? So in honor of that query, I am now doing an infrequent pseudo-column I'd like to call TMI. Each week (bi-week, semi-month??) I will reveal something completely random about myself that you (the adoring public) do not need to know.

TMI #1: If I could strip to any song, it would be Heart-Shaped Box by Nirvana. Because it's supposedly about Courtney Love's vagina and nothing feels as dirty as that...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Comedy In Black And White

Because somebody should say something, I want to briefly touch upon a bad incident in comedy history. As some of you may have heard, Michael Richards (best known as Kramer from Seinfeld) has made what could only euphemistically be called "off-color comments" to two black hecklers at a club in LA. A cellphone video was made of his comments and the tape circulated around the country. Tonight on David Letterman, Richards apologized for his actions and announed that he was banned from that club.

Of course the story hit the airwaves hard and there was noticeable outrage. The surprise came from the counterreaction from Kramer fans. Suddenly a flock of people came to defend him saying that the hecklers were "big bad meanies". I have read board messages that have compared the hecklers to animals (sounds like a familiar stereotype of black people doesn't it?) and I also read one online article that actually insinuated that the hecklers themselves are racist (ummm???).

I'm sure Richards was feeling flustered--I've felt flustered onstage and sputtered around a bit. But the n-word was never a fall back for me; in fact I don't fall back on any epithets. And while I can forgive your outburst Mr. Richards, I certainly cannot forget your disgusting hate speech. And furthermore, I don't think you should be working on a stage--live or otherwise--until you can learn to act more like a professional. Just because people have devoted cults to his character on Seinfeld doesn't mean he can curse at people because he tanks on a stage. And you know what, Seinfeld wasn't even that funny--yeah I said it! And I don't want to further nitpick, but how many people of color were on Seinfeld? I'm just saying, if one were to really analyze it, one could see Mr. Richards as being more racist than his apology would have us believe.

Again, I believe Richards is very sorry (more so because his money train has derailed than because of embarassment, but I digress). But a live performance is not a TV show where you can erase and start over when a comedy routine heads south. Stand-up comedy is a call-and-response act, and audiences can be vocal about their distaste. I just find it insulting that these black hecklers are being villainized when so many black/female/gay/Asian/Hispanic comedians do road work and face far worse abuse from both all-white crowds and the community at large on a regular basis. In the future Mr. Richards, please handle heckling like an adult and not like a backwater shotgun-toting racist.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Stockholm Syndrome

Even though it’s 1:00 AM and I have to get up for work in five hours, I feel a need to blog. I’ve been a bit depressed today, so I’m going to share it with you guys, in an unadulterated unedited form. [In fact I may delete this post; so be warned.]

Here’s a quick recap on my life for those of you not keeping track: I just graduated and I’m working a day job to pay the bills while I try to make a name for myself as a stand-up comic. So far my name has not been too notable and I may as well be invisible to my fellow co-workers. There’s a surprisingly large amount of gossip that floats around between the offices. I swear, sometimes I feel like I’m back in middle school. I love the people there and the work itself isn’t unreasonable but the environment is a bit dreary for my tastes.

So where does the title of the piece fit in? Well—today I finished this project I am working on for a temporary assignment and I received an e-mail which said that as soon as I am done I would be terminated. I immediately defaulted into my shallow white girl voice: “Like what???! They like totally cannot just fire me like that” I mean, I know I don’t want to stay at the place for twenty years but I still invested time in this place and I can’t be given the boot just yet. I was torn between my lack of enjoyment for the gig and my fear of there being nothing else out there for me.

And then it dawned on me: my feelings for this job are like a freakish version of Stockholm Syndrome. I’ve been rejected from so many jobs, and I even had one headhunter flat out tell me that I have nothing to offer anybody except passion (it made me want to consider prostitution as a valid career choice). Everywhere I go, people laugh at my English degree and my ambitions. And if this job—this one thing that I have managed to secure—is pulled out from under me, well just look for my lifeless body on the 11:00 news.

It’s a weird feeling—being so unconsciously connected to a place I quite frankly can’t see myself staying at for more than a year. One day—if I become marginally famous (think C- list)—I can look back and laugh about this. But now, I guess my happiness is in the hands of these inscrutable employers. A scary thought indeed.

This blog isn’t all sad though. I finally made a connection to a co-worker, which feels great. So I feel less bound by depression and more bound by commonalities, even though it’s all tentative. Plus I heard back from my teacher and a woman I lost touch with for months.

Okay now it’s time for some bed. I have the LONGEST day tomorrow.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Table For One

This article is about to drop in the Wesleyan Arr-gus soon. Think of this as the sneak peek--obsessed Cato fans (all 3 of you--and yes I included myself and my stuffed animal). The title: Table For One.

I have a lot of pet peeves but no tic is more aggravating than the single-table pity look. Ever since I started working in the city, my lunches have gotten lonelier and now my most frequently used phrase at restaurants is “Table for one.” And instead of a smile and a “Right this way, sir”, all I get from the host is the slightly-tilted head, the sigh and the “Oh just one?” (Why do hosts say this, do they really think I don’t know the size of my own party?). Then comes the look—all narrowed eyes and furrowed brows and tiny O-shaped mouth. I truly despise that look. It makes me want to hit something—really hard.

Now I’ve received the glance but the shaming doesn’t end with the host. En route to my seat, I have to pull a walk of shame down an aisle of tables of twos, threes, fours, and even fives. And I get the pity stare from every single one of the patrons. I feel transformed into that fat kid with Coke-bottle glasses no would sit with at recess. If you think eating alone at MoCon is a fate worse than death, you are living in a bubble.

Lately, I want to give the illusion of the table as being filled. I place my bag on the chair opposite me and cover the table top with things—books, notepads, pens. Sometimes it works; some people think I’m a studious frazzled grad student. Usually it ends up being a mess when the server comes by with my food. He’s always confused as to where to put my plate once he sees the Library of Congress on my table. I have to haphazardly stack papers and books, nodding and apologizing like a doddering scholar. Some servers look away; others try to help and get greasy fingerprints on my stuff. Either way, the shuffling and clearing is awkward for everyone involved.

The worst places to eat are the ones with the huge bay windows. For some reason (a sadistic lust on the owner’s part, I presume), all the tables for one are located by these transparent windows. Whenever I eat by them, I always feel like I’m a specimen in a zoo, with a caption mounted on a faux-wood placard reading “North American Loser.” I can pretty much hear the thoughts of every person walking by, looking at my dining situation: “Isn’t he a little young to not have any friends?” “That meal looks a little big for him.” “Good Lord, is he having a beer and an omelet for dinner?”

Ostensibly, the solution to my dilemma would be to call up fellow alumni to establish lunch and dinner dates. The idea doesn’t stand up to practicality. While many of my friends work in Manhattan, we are spread so far apart we may as well be in different solar systems. Think about it: you only get an hour-long lunch. Once you take into account travel and order time, you have at best thirty minutes to eat and talk. So if you’re the type of person who’s using to prattling on for hours at Campus Center, well you can forget trying to meet up with your friends. Dinner would be a more viable option but I’m always running around going to networking events or on informal interviews. There is simply no time to have a proper sit-down meal.

I have thought about asking my co-workers to lunch with me but I could never bring myself to do it. It’s not a matter of elitism or ageism; I just don’t have the ability to talk to adults. Any person older than me by at least a year is unapproachable (unless it’s at a bar, and even then, conversation is still shaky). I get all blubbery and awkward and I’m never sure of what I can say. I can’t talk to them about my problems, which at this point revolve around landing a better job and jump-starting my entertainment career.

Besides, my adult employees all have problems a generation removed from me. I can’t relate to their complaints about 401(k) plans or mortgages or kids keeping them up until all hours of the morning. I still live with my parents; I don’t even pay my own cell phone bills. And the only times I pull all-nighters these days are when I have to write these articles (just kidding!).

So I eat alone, but it isn’t all bad. Instead of moping about, I use the time to catch up on your summer reading or take notes on the wacky couple across the aisle. I savor my food and my me-time, a luxury I never knew I’d enjoy so much.

For those of you who dine out alone, I raise my forks in salute. And for the segment of the Wesleyan population who have not experienced the solitary repast, you’d better do it soon. After graduation, your dining circle will shrink exponentially. You may find yourself at an Applebee’s getting a cheeseburger and chicken salad and eating the whole thing by yourself.

The pity look still irks me to no end. But now, I’m prepared for a retort. If I get another host with the narrowed eyes asking “Oh just one?”, I’ll say “No. Actually it’s a table for 100, one for each of my homicidal personalities.” And then we’ll see what face he gives me.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Worst Week Archive 2

Well, clearly I'm a great blogger; look at how well I stick to a set schedule. I have a show tomorrow and I don't have any liner notes. Needless to say, you guys should come (all 5 of you out there). This article wasn't the second one I wrote but it is the one I enjoyed writing the most. Plus, I might be reading it tomorrow. So here it is. Enjoy!

Out Of Hand:

It’s 3:00 AM, everyone’s asleep, and I’m in bed alone and restless. My fingers wander down to my pajama pants and slip underneath the elastic. A slight wind perks up my nipples; I remove my shirt and place it on the bedpost. My heart races, my penis stiffens, a fantasy involving scantily clad supervillains enters my head—the stage is set for an experience. Half-heartedly, I yank at my member—a mere test to see how alive it is. I settle back, close my eyes and prepare to work my auto-erotic mojo…and then I hear a thump in the other room. The fantasy world implodes, my penis shrivels in fear, and I close my eyes pretending to count sheep.

Don’t judge me, I’m not the only person this has happened to. Did you know that every twenty-five seconds a college student has a masturbatory fantasy interrupted by a person in the next room? If you don’t believe me, look it up—it’s a Wesfact. And don’t say “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I never do that!” because you’re a bad liar. Birds do it, bees do it, bonobos do it (quite often, apparently). And there shouldn’t be any shame in it—at least in theory.

Masturbation is a safe and healthy practice. Since humans first learned to walk upright, people have been spilling their love juices in an attempt to unwind and relieve some sexual tension. I’m quite positive bachelor cavemen looked forward to a jerk after successfully killing a woolly mammoth with a stone spear and a rock. And every ethnic group had its own euphemisms for the practice. I believe the Ancient Egyptians called it “stroking the asp.” Chinese philosophers referred to it as “handling the bamboo.” And even the Incas had their term—“fondling the meat maize.” Entire songs have been devoted to the subject—from Cyndi Lauper’s “She-Bop” to Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself.” And as Bill Hicks said, “It’s sex with someone I love.” Besides, it doesn’t lead to negative consequences like herpes or pregnancy.

In regards to my practices, I’m no spider monkey, but I am in my twenties and under a lot of stress. Between classes, extracurricular activities and fending off whackos, I need some time to decompress. I’m not an obsessive individual about it—I don’t have a shrine devoted to pornography. All I need is five minutes, some obscene pictures and a box of tissues. Back at home, scheduling a penis play-date was simple. My parents worked in the afternoons and went to bed early. This gave me tons of free time to lie back, relax and enjoy the pleasures of the flesh. There were some close calls but a quick duck-and-roll under the covers quashed all suspicion.

In college, the rules changed dramatically. If you think it’s bad having to worry about parents and siblings walking in on you, try masturbating next door to a resident advisor, an art freak, a video game addict and a sexaholic. Spontaneously self-love cannot happen in an environment when people are knocking on your door every five minutes or having a loud conversation about chlamydia in the hallway. And heaven forbid if you leave the door closed but unlocked—we all know it is not a deterrent. Don’t get me started on the whole window situation. I know everyone needs some natural light but what’s up with the huge windows facing the major pathways. I can barely change in my room without feeling like I’m stripteasing, let alone attempt to spank the monkey in front of a live studio audience.

And this is where performance anxiety sets in. After four years of being a wank ninja, I’ve gotten so used to aborting private sessions in media res that even when I do have ample time to fully indulge I can’t stay in the moment. It’s a sorry state to be in when you have to say to yourself, “I’m sorry I’ve been a total tease. Let’s try again another time.” It’s one thing to disappoint someone else—at least there, you can make up an excuse. But what can you tell yourself to feel better? “Look, it’s not me—it’s me.” Damn it, this isn’t fair! I shouldn’t have to work around other people’s schedules in order to sneak a couple minutes of personal time. Thus, the award of the week goes to the onanists on campus.

I do have a suggestion for the Wesleyan administration. In order to stop masturbators from continually having bad weeks, please invest in better soundproofing and smaller windows so we solo performance artists can express ourselves without fear of eavesdropping—or even worse listening to someone else’s clandestine habits. The walls here are so thin I suspect they’re made of whipped cream and rice paper. Assuming the heating pipes aren’t clanking louder than a steel drum, I can hear a person sneeze from five doors down. And while I could just play some loud music and turn up the television, walking the dog while listening to Jewel with The Weather Channel in the background just doesn’t feel right. Some of you may be into that and that’s cool (the aerial shots of hurricanes are kind of kinky), but I just want to enter a quiet fantasy realm. I can’t deal with all this paranoia crap.

C’est la vie. At 4:00 AM I can sit and rant but I’m still left high and dry—or as the case may be, sad and flaccid. Nevertheless I shall stiffen my resolve, think happy thoughts and hope that soon my fateful day will come. Until then, that orgasm will remain just beyond my grasp.