& Recently . . .

How to Protest the Republican National Convention without Giving Up Your Last Weekend at Your Friend’s Timeshare on Fire Island

From “The Amazing E-mail Letters of Dr. Maria Marinario and Dr. Humphrey Ichovitzsky” by Carol Novack

William Shakespeare, da Bard by Michael Fowler

Choire Sicha Is Not Who You Think He Is by Claire Zulkey

The Choire Sicha Roast

A Very Short Roast by Jessica Coen

Polish Fact

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August 30, 2004

How to Protest the Republican National Convention without Giving Up Your Last Weekend at Your Friend’s Timeshare on Fire Island

1.

Dutifully, take the first train out of Penn Station upon first word that the Republicans are in the city. On the train, devour current issues of Harper’s, The New York Times, The Nation, and Mother Jones to bolster your liberal perspectives. When the train arrives at the ferry station to Fire Island, cram magazines underneath neatly folded rayon jams, David Sedaris memoir, and disposable poncho. Eventually dig out magazines to sweep the sand and sea glass off the floor left behind by previous houseguests, shred newspaper for the Dick Butkus Qwik-Cook grill.

2.

Engage Fire Island residents about the unarguable, horrifying facts of the Bush Administration. Sweep the densely populated “swing-bars” like The Tally Ho and Legends III. Find someone who seems approachable, then, over drinks, inform them that Bush’s tax cuts overwhelmingly favor the wealthy. That the Bush Administration is systematically turning back over thirty years of environmental progress. That Bush’s Medicare bill helps corporations, not the elderly. If she seems responsive, quietly excuse yourself to hook up a Coldplay ballad on the jukebox, come back with two more chocolate martinis, and tell her that you may be half-Greek, but a whole lot of fun when you meet the right person. Identify her as the right person. Take back the night.

3.

The next morning, take a brisk outdoor shower, brew a pot of coffee, then lovingly repair the chainwork of the vintage Peugeot bicycles that have gathered by the shed over the years. Take one of the bikes to ride through the island’s stunning bamboo corridors. Feel the otherworldliness of a place only an hour from Manhattan. Then feel a pang of guilt that you are not in Manhattan, taking your place in a roiling mass of bodies gathered to oust a president who took twenty-eight vacation days in a thirty day month. Looking at your bike, remember that Peugeot is a French company. Republicans don’t like the French. Sigh with relief, then remind yourself to pick up Yahtzee, Sterno, and condoms in Ocean Beach.

4.

If it rains, don’t stay in the cottage. Attend one of the dozens of Al-Anon meetings that take place on Fire Island. After the other members predictably vent about their wayward families and friends, insightfully claim that George W. Bush is a dry drunk, having quit alcohol without the benefit of a spiritual, twelve-step program, and that since he is the President of the United States, and we are its citizens, he emerges, sadly, as our collective Dry Drunk Father. Given this, we, the newly christened Adult Children of an Alcoholic, must no longer enable him. Close your share with “Let go and let God,” then privately warn a dozing newcomer that if he “sticks with the bunch, he’s going to get peeled.”

5.

Pack your bag, lock up house and head for the dock to wait for the ferry back to Manhattan. Notice a rainbow disintegrating on the horizon. Watch the waves of the Atlantic crash against the jetties. Gather up the oceanscape with a dramatic sweep of your hand, then spot Uma Thurman. Discreetly position yourself in front of her, hoping she will notice your “fuck b*sh” T-shirt. When she doesn’t, trudge to the ferry, head back into the city, and tell your bruised, galvanized friends who demonstrated that you wish you could have been there. Tell people who aren’t your friends that you were.

August 26, 2004

From “The Amazing E-mail Letters of Dr. Maria Marinario and Dr. Humphrey Ichovitzsky”

Dear Dr. Ichovitzsky:

I recently read your article, “The Sex Life of Starfish,” and viewed the accompanying video with your photograph on its cover. I found it all most elucidating. I perfected my Ph.D. thesis, “The Sex Life of Octopuses” (due to be published in the March edition of Sea Legs), last night, and I must tell you that there are striking similarities between starfish and octopuses when it comes to the mating ritual; the only striking difference is (of course) the role reversal. As you discovered, it is the male starfish that gives birth, a breathtaking phenomenon, rare in nature.

When a male octopus is in heat, he wriggles his legs, just as a female starfish wriggles her points. By employing a marine audio laser, I was able to hear the subtle song of the male octopus in heat, as he wriggles his feet. Oddly enough, it sounds like a cross between Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and an obscure folk song by Béla Bartók that has never been published or performed. You can imagine: the song is riveting. It attracts all female octopuses within a radius of 31 miles. What happens next is truly esoteric. The female octopuses vie ferociously for first place with the male, forming a totally out-of-control football huddle. It’s exceedingly difficult to tell what’s actually going on without employing sea-opera binoculars, which, as I’m sure you know, are very hard to find. I procured a pair and was thus able to discern a rhythmic flapping of a plenitude of legs all entwined. My audio laser registered a hissing whisper.

Eventually, the legs of the female octopuses form a tight sailors’ octomillecross knot and when that occurs, the male octopus jumps onto the knot as if it were a trampoline. During the ensuing mating ritual, the male bounces on this knot at a rate of 53 bounces per second and the voices of the male octopus and the female octopuses crescendo to attain an almost inaudible high-pitched screech, similar in tonality to the death song of the Samoan conch (with which I am sure you’re familiar) but also reminiscent of the screech uttered by the male starfish.

This bouncing and screeching activity lasts for 3 to 346 seconds, depending on the age and physical endurance of the male octopus, who collapses and dies when he can no longer keep it up. At that point, the female octopuses sing a dirge remarkably similar to the 17th mournful aria sung by Isolde in that opera by Wagner.

At least half of the female octopuses give birth to baby octopuses (affectionately termed “little leggies”) within the following three days. This gestation period, is of course, identical to that of the male starfish.

I propose that we get together for a pint to discuss the ramifications of our research. Just let me know when and where and I will make myself entirely disposable. I understand that you have been studying the mating habits of the Fijian sea worm. What a fascinating project! You must tell me all about it. Incidentally, I am 6’2,” with long red hair, green eyes, and well developed mammary glands.

Sincerely,
Maria Marinario
(soon to be Dr. Maria Marinario)

August 25, 2004

William Shakespeare, da Bard


Sonnet XVIII


Shall I compare thy booty to a summer’s day, bitch?
Thy booty art so hot and stankin’, I sweat and itch.
Thugz run from taverns to scope so quizzically
Thy ripe, bouncin’ booty gliding by so physically.

Chorus:
Wench, thou hast what I want, shake it, shake it;
Wench, thou hast what I need, shake it, shake it.

Inconstant summer doth fade and turn to snow;
And beauty from beautiful things sails Eastward-ho.
But bitch, thy booty art like eternal summer,
Though not so hot I can’t plant my tongue on thy hummer.
Need money? ’Zounds, I got pounds, if thou treat’st me right;
This homey will mess with thee and caress thee all through the night.

Chorus:
Verily, back it up against me, move it, move it;
Verily, push it up against me, move it, move it.

But, soft! I wants to lip dat booty with extreme suction;
Thy booty art made for continuous sexual function.
Turn thy jigglin’ cakes my way, ho, wear thy sweet smile;
This randy varlet’s gonna hop on thy booty doggy-style.

August 23, 2004

Choire Sicha Is Not Who You Think He Is

I was at a bar here in Chicago a few weeks ago, cursing myself per usual for not living in New York, as everything that is important happens there. I was talking with one of my ugly, non-fabulous, Midwestern friends, who happened to go to the same high school as I, graduating several years ahead of me.

“Did you know that Choire Sicha went to our high school?” she said.

“What?”

“Yeah! He was this cute gay boy who was in all the musicals and all the girls loved him but of course that wasn’t going to work out.”

So I’m just here to inform the world that Choire Sicha, man about town, has roots here in the Second (and Far Shittier) City. Actually, not even that—the suburbs.

In some ways, Evanston Township High School is like the Hollywood High of the Midwest. John and Joan Cusack went there. So did the guy who played Tony on “Blossom.” And now, Sicha continues the long line of famous people emerging from the rough-and-tumble Wildkit dirt.

But in case you were reading Gawker daily, thinking to yourself, “Only a real, true, born-in-the-back-of-a-cab New Yorker could write this stuff,” you’re wrong. Sicha is an immigrant of cool. So, New Yorkers, the next time you look around on the street and marvel at the magnitude of sex and sophistication that is your city, take a moment and shudder to think: Some of these people may have drifted over from the Plains.

Ew.

Stoyanov!Hi, kids! Mikey Stoyanov here! That's right--Blossom's eldest brother Tony! Sure, you remember me--I kicked my addictions and then drove around in an ambulance with my hot black wife! Good times, good times... and, ironically, the complete opposite of what my real life has become: I'm a slave to the monkey, I drive a bus, and I've got an ugly, white-trash wife. Ha! Just kidding--I wish I drove a bus! Hey, does anybody know how to upload a résumé onto HotJobs?

Anyway, it's true: I did go to high school with Choire. Only back then, he still spelled himself 'Corey,' because that was before he got all gay and trendy and pretentious. Oh, and he spelled his last name 'Schwartz.' Fucking poseur!

Whatever, I always liked Choire because a lot of times the bullies beat the shit out of him instead of me.

J. Cusack




What? Who the fuck is Choire Sicha?



J. Cusack
Just think, Choire: if you would've said yes when I asked you to the prom, you might have eventually become best friends with my brother, and then you'd be making millions in Hollywood while Jeremy Piven types away on the Internet, you shithead.

Piven!Hey ya, kids. Piven here. Everybody watch my show "Entourage" on HBO Sunday nights at 10. I got ten thousand dollars says I'm gonna get me a fucking Best Supporting Actor (Comedy) nomination, sucka! Eat shit, Everybody Loves Raymond's brother, you hulking freak-mutant. Choire, honey. Call me, baby. You delicious mushpuff. Meow.

The Choire Sicha Roast

In which Y.P.R. hosts a communal Roast of the erstwhile Gawker editor. Roasters hail from throughout the blogosphere.

What Is This? Who Is Choire Sicha, & Why Is He Being Roasted?

Choire Sicha is a journalist and gadfly in New York City.

He famously calls The New York Observer and The Morning News home, but Mr. Sicha is, of course, best known as the bitchy editor of the New York-centric, media-enthusiastic voyeurs’ Web log, Gawker, a point which he takes great pains to avoid mentioning in print. Recently, he retired from the blogospheric forefront to become “editorial director” for Gawker Media, which sounds like a cushy no-show job if ever there was one. Among his scattershot journalism, he is a book reviewer for the New York Post and Times, where he snarkily deconstructs the chickiest chick-lit on the shelves.

Anyway, in the spirit of He Who Dishes It Should Be Able To Take It As Well, Yankee Pot Roast cheerfully administers a well deserved Roasting.

The Choire Sicha Roast

A Very Short Roast

In a remarkably short period of time, Choire has ruined my life in multitudinous ways, most of which I'm contractually obligated to keep quiet about, so I'll be brief. Aside from ripping me from the clutches of a well-adjusted life so he could dedicate himself to leisurely pursuits, Choire took my virginity. In an alley off of Avenue D. And I'm two weeks late.

Choire Sicha, Literary Critic

& Y.P.R.

“That’s our Pam!”
—from “It’s Pam’s Tale”, a review of Pamela Anderson’s novel, Star,
in The New York Post, August 22nd, 2004.

“Ka-ching!”
—from “Plum’s Tarts”, a review of Plum Sykes’s novel, Bergdorf Blondes,
in The New York Times, April 18th, 2004.

“Too many words, for starters.”
—from “Who-Dune-It”, a review of Mark Mills’s novel, Amagansett,
in The New York Post, August 8th, 2004.

“I was written off, quite accurately, as a crackpot.”
—from “‘Tough Girl’ Fiction: Deadlier Than the Male,” an essay in
The New York Times, August 22nd, 2004.

Data Dump: The Choire Sicha Memoiral Library

by Andrew Krucoff

Titles of Books,
and the Likelihood of Their Appearance
on Choire's Bookshelf

Star by Pamela Anderson (99%)
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding (with inscription "To Corey") (97%)
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus (97%)
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (96%)
Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar (95.5%)
The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank (93%)
Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner (92%)
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger (with author's photo scribbled out by black Sharpie) (91%)
The English Roses by Madonna (90%)
Sex by Madonna (89%)
The Way: Using the Wisdom of Kabbalah for Spiritual Transformation and Fulfillment by Michael Berg (89%)
The Hipster Handbook by Robert Lanham (with handwritten marginalia) (89%)
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (87%)
Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls: (The Baby-Sitters Club #2) by Ann M. Martin (86%)
MTV's The Real World: New Orleans - Unmasked! by Alison Pollet (74%)
Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence by Rosalind Wiseman (66%)
The Bad Girl's Guide to Getting What You Want by Cameron Tuttle (61%)
Bitch by Elizabeth Wurtzel (54%)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (50%)
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkein (49%)
The Art of War by Sun Tzu (highlighted) (38%)
Big Russ and Me by Tim Russertt (30%)
Hatchet Jobs by Dale Peck (unopened) (30%)
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (14%)
Have a Nice Day by Mick Foley (13%)
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey (8.5%)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig (7%)
Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch (6%)
Op-Center by Tom Clancy (2%)
The Bible (2%)
Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism by Sean Hannity (0.6%)
Women: Maxim's Unauthorized Guide (0.01%)
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creating a Web Page and Blog by Paul McFedries (81%)

My Site Meter's Best Friend

Like most folks, I have never encountered a name as difficult to pronounce as Choire Sicha’s. To see it spelled as he spells it and hear it pronounced as he fancies having it pronounced follows the same logical pattern as pointing to a papaya and saying “fidget.”

I was first introduced to Choire’s existence in late 2003 when, through some grapevine of sorts, I learned something I’d written anonymously had appeared in a website called Gawker. That was the first I’d heard of Gawker, but I soon learned it was a weblog. That was the first I’d heard of a weblog, but I soon came to realize that a successful one was a potential stepping stone in the world of publishing, as well as an opportunity to make tens of dollars a year.

I contacted Choire, but not before Googling the name to find out how one would pronounce it, and what kind of genitalia it might come with. Armed with the cumbersome guidelines to pronouncing his name and the knowledge that he was a gentleman, I approached him electronically and took credit for my piece, a plea for my wife to stop reading Us Weekly. Choire remarked that he had loved it and he encouraged me to write more.

Apparently a complete stranger from a website I’d never heard of telling me “write more” was just the motivation I needed. It wasn’t long before I too was in the blogging business, making tens of dollars a year. With this month’s earnings alone I’ve supplemented my lifestyle with a Moleskine notebook and a Frappuccino. Venti.

As editor of Gawker, many bloggers placed Choire’s attention in high esteem. A link from Gawker was gold to a blogger, worth thousands of visits to their sites. That made Choire a powerful man in the blogosphere—one who needn’t suffer any fools, and who could demand blowjobs on anything that brought in over 5,000 hits.

It remains to be seen what Choire in his new position will be able to offer the humble blogger. If it is determined that he is even more powerful, more blogoriffic, then you can rest assured he’ll be up to his neck in ass-kissing and blowjobs for a long time to come. As for myself, I’m taking no chances. I’ll be in the men’s room at SoHo House, third glory hole on the left.

August 20, 2004

David Rees, clip-artist

Y.P.R.

1. What's it like to be a cartoonist who cannot draw?


David Rees


It's faster.


Mr. Rees is the writer and (clip-)artist of Get Your War On, My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable, My New Filing Technique Is Unstoppable, and oodles more at mnftiu.cc.

August 12, 2004

Blood Drive

Did you know that at least 700 blood donors are needed daily in the Pittsburgh area to supply the 40-plus local hospitals? Did you know that you can save a life by donating just a small amount of blood? Of course you don’t, you’re a punk-ass bitch!

This flyer is directed at all you gang-bangers out there, and you know who you are. I’m talking to you, Jiggy Wax. I’m talking to you, SlimBoy FatPants. I’m talking to all of y’all. My name is Father Seamus McDoogal—the new padre in town—and I’m not afraid of you. I will now give you the straight-up, non-jive version of life, because I realize you peeps appreciate keepin’ it real.

Life ain’t about takin’. It’s about givin’.

There. Lecture over. Now to the point:

My altar boys tell me a fight is planned for Saturday night. Before you get all freaked out about the Man coming down on you and cramping your fighting style and whatnot, dig this: I want you to fight. You heard me right, hooligans. I want you to fight! Mind you, I don’t want anyone killed, or “offed” or what have you, I just want a clean, bare-knuckle brawl with lots of bloodshed. Read this carefully and take it to heart:

YOU HAVE THE LORD’S PERMISSION TO PUNCH EACH OTHER IN THE FACE.

Now don’t get all whacked-out excited, homies. Keep reading. There’s a catch.

If you don’t want me to call the cops, if you want privacy for your rumble, you need to “collect” the bloodshed. I’ve invented something I call a “blood collector thing”—a small, plastic tube with a cap. It’s perfect for collecting blood. When y’all start smackin’ each other upside the heads, why waste all that precious juice? Why not do the right thing and donate it?

Along with my boyz on the Pittsburgh Steelers and various law-enforcement officials, I’m running this year’s blood drive—and I’m takin’ it WAY serious. My patented “blood collector things” are totally free—to get one, all you do is go to Room 112 of the municipal courts building at 660 First Avenue on Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and give your fingerprints and a urine sample. What could be easier? You’ll also get to meet a Steeler and get a free 2004 Steelers Yearbook. Best of all, Father Doogs don’t rat your sorry asses out.

Some of you may think you’re smart. You’re thinkin’, yo, no one donates exposed blood. Well think again, punks. Now you can. Maybe y’all should read a science newspaper once in while.

Remember, go to Room 112 of the municipal courts building at 660 First Avenue on Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Ask for a “blood collector thing.” Ask to meet a Steeler. Get a free Yearbook. And have a great fight!

August 11, 2004

Belated Apologies to Girls I Have Known

Sara Wolbrecht — I’m sorry I stole your umbrella. I had a crush on you, and this was the best plan I could think of to make my romantic intentions clear. They say the brain is a complex and intelligent organ, but I’m not so sure I buy that.

Erin Leary — I’m sorry for whatever it was I said that resulted in you throwing an iron at me. Maybe something about your hair.

Anita Solanki — I’m sorry I asked you to prom. You probably could’ve found someone better-looking to go with, and definitely one that didn’t spend all dinner avoiding eye contact and gnawing on a sheepshank so large it nearly consumed our entire table.

The 2002 St. George High School girls’ soccer team — You may not remember me, but on the 4th of July you and I were at the same Iceberg Inn drinking chocolate shakes when a nearby firework show began. I’m sorry I did not invite you to join with me in some kind of makeshift orgy in the parking lot later that evening.

Erin Leary, again — I’m also sorry that I used to feign sleep to avoid fighting with you, and especially sorry for the time I tried to pull that trick while driving.

Teresa Van Winkle — I’m sorry I let my dad call you “devil woman” the first time he met you, although, to be fair, a few months later you proved him somewhat prescient.

Mandy Nelson — I’m sorry I said you had crazy fucking stork legs. But you do. You have crazy fucking stork legs.

Kelly Martin — Remember that night during freshman year of college when we were drinking in your dorm room and the R.A. knocked on the door to break it up and instead of facing it like a man I dove into your closet? I’m sorry you had to witness my final strand of dignity disappear amongst your freshly laundered linens—which by the way, smelled fabulous—as the R.A. forced you to sign paperwork stating that you agreed to spend a month is alcohol-awareness class.

Kathryn Hansen — I’m sorry I referred to your clitoris as “unwieldy.” I was just joking, honest.

Lisa Gottgetreu — I’m sorry I called your boyfriend Dave a “selfish jackass.” What I meant to say was, “He’s a selfish jackass who is only with you for the sex and has the mental capacity of a jar of mayonnaise, though is only half as charming. Also: he looks a little like a retarded Frank Stallone.”

Cynthia Connor — One night, while we were at a bar called the Irish Emigrant I motioned for you to come closer such that I might say something horrendously witty and urbane that would result in you falling deeply in love with me. I’m sorry that my mouth chose this moment to produce exactly the right amount of spittle to send a single drop hurtling towards your face, ruining the moment. When I was little, the doctor said I had a lazy swallowing mechanism. Ask my mom if you don’t believe me.

Heather Locklear — I guess I don’t, technically, “know” you, but I’m very sorry your husband is in Bon Jovi. You must have heard Slippery When Wet a million times.

Tinker — I’m sorry I threw you into my little kid’s pool when you were small. I was six, I didn’t know cats didn’t like being immersed in water. I thought you were scratching and hissing wildly and struggling to break free of my arms because you were so excited to go swimming.

Girl in Mexico who said, “You’d be hot if you were taller” — I’m sorry I have these self-imposed rules about not hitting women.

My sister Katie — I’m sorry those rules did not preclude me from dragging you out of my bedroom by the ankles. But seriously, those rug burns were hardly noticeable and you really didn’t need to go crying to mom because, let’s face it, you totally started it.

August 10, 2004

The Tonight Show Symposium

ED: Tonight, from the Theater of Dionysus in Athens, our special guests: playwright Sophocles; actress Téa Leoni; and the music of KRS-One! Plus, Doc Severinsen and the Theban Orchestra. I’m Ed McMahonides, and now, heeeeeeeeeeeeere’s Johnny ... !

Theme music.

Torches light up the Theater of Dionysus as JOHNNY steps out from behind the proscenium and joins ED in the orchestra. They sit and the music quiets.

JOHNNY: Thank you, thank you. Tonight our audience has joined Ed, Doc, the guests of “The Tonight Symposium,” and myself here in the Theater of Dionysos, where during the day it’s festival time. My first guest, the playwright Sophocles, won the top prize for tragedy last festival. He’ll be out in just a moment to tell us about the new play he has entered in this season’s competition. You know, Ed, Sophocles is hot these days.

ED: Is he ever.

JOHNNY: And I’m sure you know that Sophocles’ new play Oedipus the King is being performed in this very theater tomorrow.

ED: You can hardly beg, borrow or steal a ticket to that show. The scalpers are asking ten times ordinary price.

JOHNNY: I managed to see a dress rehearsal yesterday, and, Zeus, it’s something. Gave me the chills. Talk about a man gone mad, that Oedipus is whacked out! And speaking of a wacko, ladies and gentlemen, here’s Doc, leader of the Theban Orchestra!

DOC: May the wingèd steed Pegasus graze upon your sideburns, and the incessant piping of the goat-god Pan give you tinnitus.

JOHNNY: Doc’s still recovering from that head wound inflicted at Thermopylae, everyone. O.K., let me bring out our first guest. Please welcome the great dramatist Sophocles!

(Enter SOPHOCLES.)

SOPHOCLES: (Sits.) Hey, Johnny. Hey, Ed.

JOHNNY: Wine, Sophocles? No? So, how’s it feel to have another potential hit play going? I understand if you take first, that’d be your third or fourth win in a row?.

SOPHOCLES: Yeah, let me tell you things been going great for me. I’ve had three first places and a couple of seconds the last five years.

JOHNNY: Not too shabby.

SOPHOCLES: And it’s so marvelous working with a troupe that’s willing to try out some of my innovations for the stage. This time we go all out.

JOHNNY: Yeah, now I’ve heard that this is the New Theater. Can you give an example of what modern stagecraft folks might expect to see at your show when they come?

SOPHOCLES: Well, for example, Oedipus puts out his eyes stage front, and at the same time goes crazy bleeding and screaming.

JOHNNY: I saw that! Unforgettable! Blood everywhere, spurting out of the eye sockets of his stylized mask as far as the first two or three rows of seats while he writhes and screams! That wasn’t real blood, now, was it?

SOPHOCLES: Oh, Zeus, no. Oedipus uses tomato juice for blood but he really gets into the act. Lots of emotion there. Extras in the parados spray tomato juice on the audience, too, to heighten the effect.

JOHNNY: But traditionally, as in Aeschylus, that sort of gory action and also murder and other unsavory shenanigans take place behind the scenes, right? So the audience doesn’t actually see them.

SOPHOCLES: That’s right, Johnny. Nothing against Aeschylus, now. He’s my man. But I think it’s time for a change.

JOHNNY: Aren’t you afraid the judges will say it’s over the top, and give you a second or a third place?

SOPHOCLES: Let me put it this way, Johnny. Have you been in war?

JOHNNY: I saw a little action in the Persian conflict.

ED: You are too modest, O Great One. You were captain of the legion in which I served as a corporal. General Miltiades said, if it hadn’t been for your sense of humor, he might have lost spirit and surrendered the entire Athenian army to the Persian host.

SOPHOCLES: O.K., so you’ve been in war, Ed’s been in war, Doc’s been in war, the judges have been in war, I’m in the reserves and haven’t seen war yet. But most of us have dealt with the sight of a bloody battlefield, so why not bring some of that vivid reality to the theater?

JOHNNY: I see your point. Anything else?

SOPHOCLES: Well, as you saw in rehearsal, Oedipus comes to realize that he’s had an incestuous relationship with his mother.

JOHNNY: I remember that. Touchy subject.

ED: Hi-yohhh! Zing, O Great One!

SOPHOCLES: You know it. And at that point, Oedipus becomes possessed by the devil and his mask twists so that he appears to look straight behind him.

JOHNNY: I didn’t know if you wanted me to reveal that or not. But I have to tell you, when that happened in rehearsal there were two stagehands near me, and one started screaming and the other got sick. I was terrified myself and kept looking over my shoulder for an owl spirit.

SOPHOCLES: I won’t divulge any more, but I can say this: sit far in the rear if you don’t want to wear green vomit the rest of the day.

JOHNNY: Would that be our own green vomit, or the actors’?

SOPHOCLES: You’re funny.

JOHNNY: Well, I know you need to get ready for tomorrow’s performance. Thanks for being with us.

SOPHOCLES: You bet.

JOHNNY: Now before we bring out our next guest, a man who ran all the way from Marathon with an arrow in his neck, it’s time to play Stump the Band with Doc and the Theban Orchestra!

End.

August 09, 2004

What Would Sammy Do?

or

How I Became a Kabbalist

As far back as I can remember I’ve wanted to be Jewish. Walking home from Catholic school, trying to memorize the Hail Mary, I’d pass by the cabstand where all of the kids from Akiba Academy read Bellow, Roth, Malamud, Scholem, Ozick and other names I was too ignorant to recognize. They argued over deconstructionism, the death of Freudian analysis, and whether or not Winona Ryder slept with Paul Westerberg. All I could do was recite the names of all the popes in chronological order and all of that other good-Catholic-boy bullshit. I also had another, more important reason. Her name was Liana Goldstein, She had beautiful rings of curly hair, wore tortoiseshell glasses, and wouldn’t have a thing to do with me unless I converted to Judaism.

I was standing in the middle of the synagogue with my priest, Father Franz of the Holy Virgin Catholic Church in Conshohocken, when I first admitted to the world that I wanted to be a Jew. Father Franz smoked Parliaments two at a time and spent most of his life looking for a text of the Kabbalah translated by some genius prophet whose name he would never speak.

The walls of the synagogue trembled with the weight of the velvet paintings of Moses. A giant statue of Henny Youngman sat next to the mural of Kafka playing poker with dogs. Father Franz lit another cigarette. I wanted him to give up his search once and for all, just retire to a small little priest’s retirement home where he could study Judaism in peace. But I could never say that. Father Franz trusted me too much for me to break his heart. When I was in the eighth grade, I won a citywide contest for the best bust of Dan Quayle made entirely out of pierogies. Father Franz took one look at it and sobbed tears of appreciative joy.

Suddenly, we heard a bass beat, then a full band playing what sounded like the introduction to “The Arsenio Hall Show.” The lights in the synagogue went out and we saw green lasers shoot around as smoke filled the place. From above, we heard a voice boom:

“Ladies and gentleman, the B’nai Abraham Synagogue proudly presents: Spiritual advisor to the stars and common people alike, Rabbi Max Konisberg!”

Rabbi Konisberg jumped out of the shadows, fist pumping into the air and looked for the crowd of worshippers that had gathered for him.

When he saw us, his face dropped, the music stopped, and the lights went back on.

“Please,” Franz said. “Just let me look for five minutes.”

“It’s scramsville time, Franz,” he said. “You can’t see it.”

Franz turned around, trembling with anger. I felt the frustration emanate from him.

“Hit the bricks, Franz. You’re just a bunter, a real ring-a-ding. Plus, you’re not Jewish, and you’re a priest. And you’re a junkie. And you’re a bad priest who doesn’t believe in God.”

All of the Rabbi’s charges were accurate, though only a few of Franz’s closest confidantes knew that he spent most of his nights mainlining a mixture of peach Snapple and melted Snackwell’s Vanilla Crème cookies with the syringes he got by claiming he was diabetic.

“It’s for me,” I said suddenly.

They both turned to me. Suddenly, I felt the whole weight of history in my lungs.

“I want to be a Jew,” I said.

“You don’t start with the Kabbalah, kiddo,” the Rabbi said.

“You don’t believe in God,” Father Franz said.

“I want to know. I want to learn. I have… yearnings.”

“He wants to get laid,” Franz muttered.

“Well, that’s reason enough,” said the Rabbi. “But let’s pick this party up, I have appointments with Lohan and Kutcher this afternoon.”

Then I was taken into a back room, dark and cobweb-ridden. That is all I’m allowed to say. But now, I know some things.

* * *

The Kabbalah, as seen through the supposedly brilliant translation of Sammy Davis Jr., is not a book or a text, but a collection of stories, parables, fables, and teachings passed down through time and put into (according to the back cover’s blurb) “stunningly beautiful form by the Candy Man.” I do not know how to put into words the complexity before me as I flipped through pages. I don’t know, because I truly don’t know. The thing simply made no sense to me, rested in front of me with almost indignant impenetrability, baiting me with the esoteric intricacies of its nature.

There are stories of Dean, stories of Frank, stories of Sammy himself. But none of them made even the least bit of sense to me. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of one of the stories:

I tried to make Frank hep to the crazy nowhere that this twirl wasn’t my bag, especially her tiny charlies that didn’t make my bird stand up and salute the flag, you dig? My pitch was bombsville so I had to act like a big-leaguer not a bum or else they would have thought all of those other chicks were beards. That night was coo-coo crazy. Dig, this chick turned out to be a real barn-burner and when we started the old hey-hey, I knew she was a real live gasser. I grooved with her for a while then had what the French call Le Petit Mort, or The Big Casino.”

And on and on the stories went, rambling, digressive, and profoundly brilliant. I couldn’t yet begin to comprehend. I quickly realized that Sammy had written something more than a guide or a spiritual text. He had written a blueprint for finding truth and meaning in life.

The Rabbi gave me a list of select people to whom I could show the text. Franz wasn’t on it.


* * *


At 18, after an entire lifetime of search and struggle, I had finally found a spiritual guide that led me through the dark nights of searching, fulfilled my need learn the true story behind the Hollywood gossip, and increased my ability to get laid.

Walking home from the synagogue, I decided not to see Franz for a while. I couldn’t take the heartbreak in his eyes when I told him that I couldn’t show him the book. Plus, Rabbi Konisberg had just set me up with an agent from I.C.M. Apparently, a new startup cable network called The Red Bracelet wanted me for a reality show that would follow me as I learned, loved, and got in touch with my inner Candy Man. Could I do it? Yes, I can! The real question is: What would Sammy do?

August 05, 2004

Tetherball with Grandma

She was a spry old goose, even with the new hip, which the doctor said that she should rest for a little while before she got back to her normal routine. But Grandma didn’t concern herself with the advice of the medical community. She didn’t even want the new hip and told us that she was going to work with what the good Lord gave her. It was only after spiking her afternoon tea with a couple of Percodan that we were able to get her under the knife for the hip replacement.

“You’d better take the wheelchair to the door, Ms. Boucher,” the doctor said to her.

“Balderdash,” she said with a scowl at the doctor, and a sly wink to me, as she got up and walked out of the hospital. It was only a mile and a half to get home, so we turned the corner at the stop sign and started to walk that way. The hospital was on the way to the school, so Grandma would just drop me off there before she headed to the auto-body shop to start her work day. There was no one in any of these five counties that could drop a new tranny in your car like Grandma.

She had a way with automobiles but never learned to drive. Grandma always said she liked to walk everywhere. It gave her the exercise she needed but kept her off the road with the “crazy people that she fixed cars for.” She was inherently suspect of most of the people that came into her garage. One time, she beat a man senseless because he had trouble identifying the problem under his hood. She always said that any man who couldn’t figure out the inside of his car wasn’t worth his weight in shit. I can’t imagine anyone wanting that much shit anyway, but saying so to Grandma would mean the strapping of my life.

Despite her tough exterior, Grandma was a sucker for some of the little things in life. She loved to spend afternoons on the terrace with a cool glass of iced tea, just letting the breeze blow by her. She loved tomatoes fresh off the vine and drank one glass of red wine every night of her life.

The one thing that Grandma loved more than anything was tetherball. She could sit and play tetherball, by herself or against someone, for hours on end. She’d just whack the ball hard as she could and watch the damn thing spin around the pole and then unravel. When it settled down, she’d pick it up and whack it again. She had a killer serve, one that dipped on her end and rocketed high above my head. Most times, she’d kill on the first swipe at the ball. It never took her more than two or three shots at the ball to put down an opponent, even the tallest of men. They’d just sit idly as the ball went flying by them or they mis-swiped and took the rope, causing a fault.

Grandma always said that tetherball was like life and I was inclined to believe her, if for no other reason than that she found mastery of the game in the same way she’d found mastery of her life. She’d learned the trick to both of them. For my sake, I hope she wrote at least one of them down.

For what it’s worth, Grandma was everything to me. She took care of me, fed me, made sure that I took care of my chores around the house. She taught me the valuable lesson that life is worth living, no matter what the life is. She also taught me the secret of life: not dying. I realize now she stole that from George Carlin. I told you she was a spunky old gal. Most of all, she taught me tetherball.

The school was in sight now and my walk with Grandma was nearly over. She’d spent most of it complaining that “Breaking in a new hip was like breaking in a pair of shoes. It just took a little time.” She limped visibly and as we approached the schoolyard, I had an idea.

“How about a quick game of tetherball, Grandma?” Because today, I thought I had a chance.

August 04, 2004

Non-Chip-Related Letters I've Written to Chip Companies

Dear Pringles,

I just saw your new commercial. You know, the one with the ragtag group of peacock trainers who beat the odds and win the big surfing contest? Well, much to my surprise, I noticed that I’m in the commercial. I’m not a celebrity or an astronaut, but there I am as the sixth celebrity-astronaut surfing-contest-judge from the left. While I suppose I ought to be up in arms about the fact that I was probably drugged and forced to act in a commercial without my permission or knowledge and presumably outside of the bounds of the Screen Actors Guild (of which I’m not a member (unless they drugged me too!)), I’m just too tickled by the whole thing to raise any kind of huff. I TiVoed the spot and have been showing all of my neighbors, amateur boxing rivals, relatives, and professional skeet-shooting allies ever since. Can I expect to see myself in anymore of your television ads?

Sincerely,
Matthew Tobey

* * *

Dear Better Made,

Have you seen my collection of world-leader pockets? The last time I knew I had it was at a charity auction to raise money to fight fish. I beat out Julie Tilly (rarely seen sister of Meg and Jennifer) on a change pocket from John Major’s swim trunks and figured my luck couldn’t get better, so I decided to head home. Now, I’ve never been to your offices, nor do I even know where they are. In fact, I’m not even sure if you’re a real chip company and not just some chip company like Knee-Head Jackson’s Boiled Tater Chips that I dreamed about after a raucous night of carousing and festivitating. Nonetheless, I’ve looked everywhere else and pray with all of my might that the bottle I’m about to put this letter into reaches you.

Godspeed,
Matthew Tobey

* * *

Dear Ruffles,

Who do you think would win in a fight, a duck or a guy? What if the duck had a knife? What if the guy had never seen a duck before and also had a stick? In either fighter’s case, would alchemy serve as an advantage or a hindrance? What if the duck had a gun? Also, have you seen the new Pringles commercials? You’re reading a letter written by the sixth celebrity-astronaut surfing-contest-judge from the left. Listen: between you, me, the duck, and the guy, I’m not averse to jumping ship if a better offer comes along. Think about it.

Regards,
Matthew Tobey

* * *

Dear AT&T,

Do you sell harmonicas now? I know you’re a telephone and telegraph company, but I figured since you recently broke into the highly competitive snack-chip business that you might have also made a foray into the equally rough-and-tumble harmonica industry. Anyway, if you have and you need some harmonicas at a reasonable rate, I have a ton that I’ve collected over the years. I’m liquidating my harmonica collections so I can focus my attentions on my pocket and knapsack collections as well as my burgeoning commercial acting career. If you thought the timbre of my writing rings familiar, that’s why: I was recently cast as the second cross-dressing plumber from the right in your latest chip commercial.

Love Always,
Matthew Tobey

* * *

Dear Lay’s,

Have you seen my knapsack autographed by Ralph Nader and Kevin Costner? I haven’t lost it, I was just wondering if you’ve seen it, because it kicks motherfucking ass. Next time you start talking about how hot your autographed knapsack is, you better check to see who’s standing behind you, bitch!

Yours in Christ,
Matthew Tobey

jkh;lkj

August 03, 2004

Dear Heinz Ketchup, Pt. II

Heinz “Say Something Ketchuppy! II” Contest Entries
P.O. Box 5075
Clinton, Iowa
52736-5075

Dear Heinz Ketchup,

How’ve you been? It’s been too long. I’m sorry I never replied to your last correspondence. I was real busy for a while, you know, just doing stuff, and then suddenly it felt like too much time had passed, and I felt a little awkward about contacting you with no good excuse for not writing back sooner. But here I am. Let’s not go a year without speaking again.

Anyway:

Enclosed, please find my entry to the second “Say Something Ketchuppy!” contest. I’ve printed my eight-words-or-less funny phrase on a 3’ x 5’ card, as per the contest details printed on the backside of my Heinz tomato ketchup (mine says, will work for food (ha!)), which I purchased even though it was not necessary. Also, you’ll find that I’ve limited just one (1) mail-in entry per postmarked envelope. I’ve even enclosed a self-addressed, stamped envelope for further details on the contest. I figure, why not? Also: where exactly is this contest prohibited and therefore void?

Vote Kerry!I’ve taken the liberty of constructing a mockup of my entry (also enclosed), because I think the visual aid reinforces the slogan’s maximum impact while driving home brand awareness and reïnforcing consumer confidence. (I used to teach marketing at Kingsborough Community College.) Whatever, I make awesome visuals. I’m better than Michelangelo at Photoshop.

You kick Hunt’s ass.


Best wishes,
Josh Abraham
Sloganeer


P.S. I’ve also enclosed an awesome picture I stumbled upon via Google Images of a pert young strawberry-blonde girl who really enjoys your ketchup. Feel free to use this for your monitor’s wallpaper.

She really likes ketchup.

August 02, 2004

My Muse Talks Back

Sticks and stones, There once was a woman, ’twas the night: all bits of poetry I’m responsible for. Me. The muse. Your muse? Perhaps.

Have you been cranky lately? Feeling a bit discombobulated, shall we say? Then it’s me for sure. Surprise. Bet you didn’t think your muse wore stockings with long, gauzy runs or had to wax her lip. (Damn those stray black wires, they grow way too quickly.)

Well, anyway. Here I am. All six feet of skinny legs and stringy hair. Yours for keeps: for yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Oh, stop. It’s not that bad. Look for the silver lining, my dear. At least now you know why all your stuff is crap. Stare the monster in the eye, that’s what I say. Puts hair on your chest. Don’t want hair there? No problem. Puts hair on your lip, then. How do you think I got mine anyway? I wasn’t always a muse; I was a writer once. Killed myself over a story that wouldn’t sell. Long one. Well, a novel really. Bell Jar. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

O.K. So I’m fibbing; I’m not Sylvia’s spirit gone spiteful. But you get the point. A bad muse is still a muse. And lucky you, you’ve got one. Maybe you can put me to use in a product jingle. Give everyone the heebie-jeebies when the damn words get stuck in their brains. Or greeting cards. No. Better: a Hollywood movie. Ever hear of Twister? Rocky? Gone in 60 Seconds?

Yup. You guessed it. I’m their muse too. So buck up; things could have been worse. I could have given you Animal Farm.