I walked up to the counter at the 24 hour deli and the guy behind it spotted something in my face and the obviousness of my keffiyeh.
"A salaam alaikum" he said.
"Alaikum salaam” I replied.
Then he said some shit that made no fucking sense.
"I’m sorry, man. My Arabic is horrible and I only know a dozen phrases, most of which are dirty words. I have Lebanese blood in me… and I hope that doesn’t upset you."
"Everyone there," he said, waving his hand in a circle, referring to the Middle East, "Is the same. They just have to stop fighting over who is God."
"I agree," I replied. "We have to stop throwing stones. We’re all the same people, and God is just up here, no?” I asked tapping my head. “So, can I grab that turkey sandwich-wrap there?”
He nodded and gave me a giant smile.
So I say to all of you: “peace be unto you.”
- 4 weeks ago
I walked up to the counter at the 24 hour deli and the guy behind it spotted something in my face and the obviousness of my keffiyeh.
- 1 month ago
Either care about everyone or don’t care at all. The choice is yours. But this selective sensationalism needs to stop. A great artist is dead because of smack; stop using it for ratings because it’s an old routine.
Go watch a Lenny Bruce clip if you’re young. Dig a Nirvana video if you’re old. Read some Burroughs no matter your age.
Just realize that when you’re pure, you’re raw. And being raw hurts.
I’m not saying that drugs are the answer (though, I love drugs and I also believe that everyone around me is Xanaxed out of their mind - AND THEY’RE JUDGEMENTAL), one has to remember that The Artist is constantly providing - and they aren’t always refilled in healthy ways.
Some people need to be high; others sober. Some people are happy to trudge along and some have a hole in their heart. Some fight at real demons and others tilt at windmills. Some find a peace within their own minds. The best option is to find a way to plug all the holes and stop the ship from sinking.
But “exploitation” means nothing unless the name Russ Meyers is attached to it. Because… Tits.
So stop talking shit about a guy who did awesome shit and yet couldn’t square his shit away.
That’s not on you to judge.
- 2 months ago
According to my driver’s license, I’m 35 years old and live in
Brooklyn, NY. According to my dodgy memory, I’m heterosexual.
How long have you and your partner been together? Do you have children or plan on having children?
My girlfriend and I have been together for five years, we have no
children, and we have no plans whatsoever to actually birth anything.
Personally, I think a cat is the next step, but I’m terrified by the
amount of money we’d spend on lint-brushes. My goldfish is enough of a
pain in the ass and even he can go a few days without food.
Even though you’re unmarried, do you use the terms “husband” or “wife”? If so, was this a conscious decision or something that happened organically?
I don’t think I’ve ever referred to her as “my wife” in her presence,
but I know that I often do it when out in public without her.
Consciously, it’s a decision to declare to those around me “I’m taken.
I’m committed. I’m in this for the long-haul with this amazing girl” -
as well as being a fast way to get a woman (or man) to stop hitting on
you. Organically, it’s something that came about due to our
relationship’s duration - I had never had a romantic relationship last
longer than 10 months before I met her and I have every intention of
spending the rest of my life with her. If “until death do you part” is
the ending of your average marriage vow, why shouldn’t I call her “my
Do you have a domestic partnership? Are you engaged?
Why have you decided not to marry?
When we first met, my “wife” was in the process of getting divorced
and she mentioned that she didn’t have any desire to get married
again. I had no problem with that. Some people find it weird that
we’re both still very good friends with her ex and his new wife. In
fact, my “wife’s” ex still tattoos her once a year - we’re both avid
I never saw marriage as a path to happiness - it’s simply a legal
contract, after all. Either you’re with someone with full dedication
or you’re not. I’m a licensed officiant and I’ve performed plenty of
weddings. It’s nothing but a party with a lot of people spending too
much money, getting too stressed out, and eventually signing a small
piece of paper that we drop off at Town Hall. How does that make your
love any more precious?
Besides, I hate organized events and large crowds so having wedding
sounds utterly miserable to me.
Do you believe in the institution of marriage?
Intellectually, yes. After all, I’ve never left the earth’s
atmosphere, but I believe in space travel, right?
As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t see the institution of marriage as
the ultimate goal for a happy life - though some people have been
raised to believe that you’re nothing unless you’re married (and then
you add in the kids, the dog, the white picket fence, etc).
What truly bothers me is that some people want to deny consenting
adults the right to get married due to their gender or
gender-identity. That’s the “institution” that I don’t believe in.
How do you personally feel about the term “partner”? Do you use it?
Never - which might be simply because I’ve watched a lot of episodes
I think the term “partner” is an oddly hetero-normative term in
reference to romantic relationships. It stinks of a way to describe
"non-traditional" relationships without directly offending anyone.
Have a lover. Have a boyfriend. Have a girlfriend. Have a wife or a
husband. Your “partner” is someone at your law firm or the bass-player
in your band.
If you don’t believe in marriage, why do you use the terms “husband” and ”wife”?
As I’ve hinted at earlier, I believe in the institution of marriage,
but I don’t think that it’s a good fit for me and the usage of the
term “wife” lets other people know about the permanence of my
relationship, despite our legal standing.
Have you encountered a certain stigma in being partnered long-term and not being legally married within your community? Family? Friends?
There are a lot of unmarried couples with children and single-parents
within my social community. I’ve never felt the urge to tell the
former that they need to get married nor tell the latter that they
need a spouse in order to have a good life or properly participate in
Truthfully, I resigned myself a good 20 years ago to becoming the “cool uncle.”
If a friend of mine wants to have a kid, I’m the first one to buy them
a Slayer onesie for the baby shower. I’ll teach your kid how to shoot
pool or smoke a cigarette or drive standard or appreciate jazz or
simply how to fly a kite once they’re old enough. I’d like to believe
that I have a lot to teach the next generation, but I’m really happy
when I get to hand the child back to the parent once I’m tired.
That’s probably why my mom is mad that I’m unmarried and without
children - she wants all the fun and none of the hassle of
grandchildren. Can’t say that I blame her, honestly. It’s the same
Do you envision yourself marrying eventually? If so, what would be the impetus for that?
My “wife” once told me that we’d get married on our 50th anniversary.
Given that I probably won’t live to see 60, much less 80, she did a
smart job at hedging her bets. That said, it’s my goal to live to 100
just to piss her off.
As for the impetus? I love a good meal that I didn’t have to cook and
I hope that I might actually have taught her to fox-trot by then. That
would make a fun wedding and we won’t need anyone but a decent
restaurant with a decent radio.
How do you feel about using words like “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” at this stage in your relationship?
I prefer the term “Woomah” (which needs to be pronounced like Robert
Plant in 1972 when spoken aloud). Truthfully, when you’ve been
together long enough, the other names you call each other are far more
indicative of your love and intimacy. After a year of calling her
"Fizgig" I finally got her to watch "The Dark Crystal;" she finally
owned up to it: she sounds and kinda looks like that little Jim Henson
Are you content to “pass” as married? Or would you prefer visibility as a long-term, unmarried couple?
The only “passing” I do involves a Dutch Master.
- 3 months ago
Around the turn of the milennium, I was playing guitar for the house band of Comedy Central’s stand-up showcase “Premium Blend” (Tommy Davidson was the host). Most of the comics were cheap hacks. In fact, the band was told by the producers after the first episode, “You guys need to laugh more! You’re on-stage - the audience can see you!”
The general consensus amidst the band was, “We’ll try… but we’re way funnier than these people.”
I forget the name of the comic we saw one taping, but he had a routine about how hard it must be on your first day of being homeless: your clothes are still clean, your hair still looks good, you still smell nice… Who the hell wants to help you out?
As I was heading home tonight, I had a white guy (around my age) in a pressed pair of Dickies, a clean jacket and a full head of hair still packed with Brylcreem ask, “Hey, man - I’m just looking for a little…”
"Sorry, man" I replied. "I got nothing. I can’t help you out."
He turned on his heel and stormed off down the block screaming to the universe about how he was just trying to get something to eat.
"Brother!" I shouted after him and he turned around to face me, looking pissed if not imbalanced. "Lemme buy you a protein bar," as I gestured to the bodega right behind me.
We walked inside and I gestured at the rack of Cliff bars, asking him to pick one. (Personally, I would have chosen the fortification of peanut-butter, but he went for the chocolate chip. He’ll learn soon enough.)
"Bless you," he said as I pushed cash across the counter.
"Stay blessed," I replied. "Get right."
"Will you please help me carry these books to the post office," she asked. Begrudgingly, I accepted the task. Afterwards, as we sat over a brunch in the backyard of a local pub, the older couple at the next table struck up a conversation with us.
"You know… we’re having an open house at Urban Glass," the wife said.
Then you must know Moshe, I replied.
She agreed and then I asked if she was familiar with Larry Livolsi.
Larry was a groomsman in my parents wedding. He allegedly brought a lot of weed to the event, but the better angle is that my mom asked him to wear a white suit. He wore the suit… but he didn’t wear shoes. Barefoot on the Rockefeller estate - high as a kite.
In 7th grade, my Junior High School had an event called “Arts Alive.” For three days, they attempted to teach these “football or nothing” kids that artistic creation was an important endeavor. And when I showed the program to my father he said, “Fuck! Larry!?”
My father followed me into that classroom. There was no room to blow glass, there was only the space to talk about it. And when I walked in with my father, Larry looked up casually and said, “Hey, Ace… is this your boy?” As if the last few decades had never passed…
We were invited up to Larry’s place in northern Connecticut near the Berkshires. He had the Grateful Dead on the hi-fi in the main house. He had a ton of barns that were filled with junk - amazing junk, but junk nonetheless.
He eventually took us into his workshop and began to teach me how to work with glass. My father said, “teach him how to make a lightbulb.”
Technically, a lightbulb is the easiest thing you can do with glass - but it teaches you about the heat of the kiln and the danger of the craft (Larry shaped almost all of his glass with wet newspaper - the “sports section” and moisture were all that separated your hand from molten silicon).
When I was done making that lightbulb, Larry told me “Break it…”
At that age, I couldn’t believe it. Break it? We just spend all this time working on it!
"Break it. Your work can’t be precious."
- 5 months ago
I usually spend my Friday evenings inside a local Mediterranean “taverna.” Two Hendrick’s martinis to start (along with some tapas), before I shuffle off to end my evening or continue with whatever plans my girlfriend has in her calendar.
Tonight, however, every bar-stool was full and my friends were nowhere to be seen, so I wandered over to the aptly-named “Alibi” - a haunt of my younger brother and, as Obi Wan once said, a “wretched hive of scum and villainy.”
Interestingly enough, Jeopardy was on the TV and the regular customers were screaming out correct answers faster than I could process the question (a note to the rest of you: intoxication and stupidity are two wildly different issues). Trebek seemed grouchy and tired, much like any other man who’d lost his mustache and was forced to work on a Friday night.
Once the show was over and the jukebox was turned back on, the closed-captioned channel changed to The Daily Show, and there he was… Robin Fucking Williams.
As a child, I thought he was brilliant. I fondly remember seeing his HBO specials on BetaMax in my parents’ house. “THIS is how you can be funny,” I thought!
And within the first two minutes that he was on The Daily Show, he jumped out of his chair three times and pandered to the audience and camera with the same old fucking schtick. “Here’s an accent! Here’s an impression! Here’s me being zany!”
I come from a generation that remembers when Tom Hanks was a funny guy. And, as an actor, I can understand how and why one would go from Bachelor Party to speaking with a volleyball. I can’t hate on Tom Hanks because he doesn’t rehash his shit. He made an attempt to GROW.
Robin Williams, however…
Sure, we got “Fisher King” and “Dead Poets Society” and “Dead Again” - films in which he provides brilliant performances once he decided to “go straight” - but the moment he’s allowed to speak without a script, he becomes a hack. A parody of himself. He’s the court-jester version of Al Pacino which is a horrifically sad job to have.
I will never forget the night I was watching Letterman when his guests were John Goodman and then Tom Waits. John came out and pandered like a motherfucker - walking off the stage looking like the fat, boring bastard that he is. Tom came out and talked about going to the horse-track, refused to sit up straight, and avoided almost every question Dave threw his way.
Tom killed it.
Steve Martin garners the most of my respect when he talks purely and simply about playing the banjo and the relation between philosophy and comedy.
It’s possible to not be “on.” Give it a whirl, Robin.
- 5 months ago
"So, you’re a Buddhist… can you explain that to me?"
The inquisitor was an Ethiopian ex-pat seated two bar stools down from me and the conversation had started because of the damned television.
I go to the bar every evening to unwind and relax; to back away from NPR and the litany of Facebook updates. Of course, it never works out that way because I’ve got an iPhone and I always seem to arrive when ABC’s “Eyewitness News” comes on the air.
We both had been staring at the screen, horrified by the events in Nairobi. I showed him a few webpages on my phone from a Reuters correspondent who was present during the massacre. We both were shaking our heads and, while it might have been the booze, we both were a little glassy-eyed - but I know that my eyes were getting sweaty from the atrocity.
"I’m not so sure that God exists," I told him, "But I’m definitely certain that God is not worth killing for."
"I agree," he replied. "Do you believe in anything?"
"Well, I guess I’m a Buddhist," I replied. "Actually, I’m a terrible Buddhist if you want the truth. I don’t pray, I don’t meditate, I’m prone to violence… But I am quite certain that all we have is right here,” I said, tapping the bar with my glass for emphasis. “More importantly, there’s no reason not to love yourself and the people around you because this is technically all we have.”
"I like that," he replied.
He might not have been convinced that my bastardized theology is something to adopt, but we shook hands and hugged before I walked out the door. And that made me smile.
- 5 months ago
Today is not a day to politicize or discriminate.
Today is not about your disappointment with Obama or your Islamophobia.
Today is not about hatred (and, trust me, I hate a LOT of things…)
Today is about shutting your damned mouth out of respect for the people who lost their lives on those planes and in those buildings. Today is about shutting your damned mouth out of respect for all of the first-responders who did more than you will ever achieve without hesitation. Today is about shutting your damned mouth because you have freedom of speech for the other 364 days a year. Today is about shutting your damned mouth because most of us are holding back tears and simply can’t reply to your ignorance.
Today is about shutting your damned mouth and opening your heart, opening your mind, and opening your arms to the people that you’re still lucky enough to be around.
- 6 months ago
I recently read this piece by John Skylar and I agreed with quite a bit of it. It was a great article provided that you only want to focus on pedestrian issues (and I have no intention to infer that the article was amateur, it simply focused on the issues with bipeds).
The sidewalk is a symptom, not a cause, for most New Yorkers. Yes, we take those few feet of asphalt very fucking seriously because we don’t have cars. Yes, get the fuck out of our way. Yes, walk as if you have a rear-view mirror and you’re moving slightly above the speed limit. Yes, if you’re going to pull over, use the shoulder…
But it comes down to a simple word: compression.
We live on top of one another here in New York City. Literally.
To quote WikiPedia: “The New York City Metropolitan Area’s population is the United States’ largest, with 18.9 million people distributed over 6,720 square miles." They go on to posit that there are over 800 languages spoken here.
By no means am I xenophobic… but I am CLAUSTROphobic, and I know I’m not alone.
Almost none of us have a backyard. Once a year we make it to Central/Prospect park to look at these foreign things called “grass” and “trees.” We have to leave our Asphalt Eden to decompress (or, at the very least, hop on a train and deal with other assholes simply to see “nature”).
We don’t have cars because we take mass-transit. That means we listen to our iPods really fucking loud in the same way you pump the stereo in your Chevy. Asking me for directions on the sidewalk - which requires removing my earbuds/sanctitude - is like throwing gravel at the window of a fellow suburban driver at a green-lit intersection because you haven’t figured out the GPS on your $400 phone.
We buy rotting groceries at a 24-hour corner-store that’s run by a 17-year-old boy with a bad beard (he’ll also sell you a 20-bag of weed despite his religious restrictions). We then carry those bags three blocks and up two flights of broken stairs. “Costco” is a fucking mystery to all of us, because none of us can store more than 10 rolls of toilet paper at a time unless we want to use them to build a coffee table.
Your downstairs neighbor didn’t make it to Burning Man, so he’s been blasting Skrillex all weekend. Your neighbor on the left is in a terrible marriage so they argue at 10pm every night. Your neighbor on the right owns a dog that’s consistently neglected so it barks all day long. You can hear all of this because your walls aren’t insulated.
The closest thing to “decompressing” in NYC is a luke-warm shower, in which we hope that a water-bug (AKA: a roach under 2-inches long) won’t crawl out of the drain and up your leg.
We are stacked up like cinder blocks at the Home Depot and, when we leave the safe haven of our 400 square-foot apartment that costs $2000 a month, we shut the fuck down. We’re just trying to get to our shitty job that barely pays our rent so, yes: your fat ass, neon fanny-pack, and recently-purchased FDNY t-shirt pisses us the fuck off when you stop to take a photo of something we see every fucking day.
We’re apparently “rude” because we don’t like people.
We’re actually “rude” because people are elbow-deep in our asshole every hour.
We live in a town wherein there is no escape. There is no solace. There is no “puttering in the garden.”
For some fucked up reason we chose to live here. None of it is easy. So if you’re going to decide to be a tourist here don’t climb over the fence and treat it like a zoo.
The tiger is in a cage for a reason: it plays by different rules and it wants to run free, but it can’t.
"Hi, Nanny, It’s…"
"BRIAN! How are you?!"
When she can recognize my voice so immediately, I begin to wonder just how “bad” her mental state actually might be. My whole life, she’s always loved me like a grandmother should: unconditional love, Eggo waffles and raisin toast in the morning, her odd combo of ginger ale and milk, and numerous trips to the local playground or Child World on Central Ave in Yonkers.
My “Nanny” (as we called Merie) once taught me how to make “kibbeh” for my elementary school’s “cultural awareness day.” I also have a fleeting memory of her teaching me how to make the Lebanese version of spanakopita one day (a fact that still confuses my Greek girlfriend’s family, because the Greeks believe that they invented everything and no other culture in the “Fertile Crescent” ever made a similar food). Outside of that, she couldn’t cook worth a damn.
During her final years of hosting Christmas Dinner (before my mother took over the holiday), we all were subjected to Lo Mein, a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and some cold-cuts. As the youngest of a half-dozen or more children, she never had to learn how to cook. She was allowed to be the “baby” - forever being cared for.
I learned how to cook from my mother. Mom followed all of her aunts around the kitchen, learned the skills and tips behind Mediterranean cooking, and passed them down to her sons. Mom learned how to cook so she could have a better meal for herself. I learned how to cook because my Mom (and my Dad, to some degree), felt that this was a necessary life-skill. I worked in a kitchen through college. My brother has been on television because he’s an amazing chef. I cherish that knowledge we obtained - and my Nanny’s inability to cook should be inversely credited for my current abilities simply because she didn’t bother. I learned to cook because she never cared to learn.
She was also the greatest grandmother you could hope for because you both were the same age (provided that you were a child).
Some people claim it’s the dementia: “Your grandmother is regressing…”
"BULLSHIT," I say. "She’s always been a six-year-old. That’s what I love about her." I mean that. Always have, always will.
While on the phone, she asked how my career was going and I told her that there were ups and downs - mostly downs - but I was still trying to remain positive.
"Well," she said… "When I say my prayers tonight tonight, I’m going to pray for you and your success."
"Thank you, Nanny. Who is it that you pray to?" I was stirring the pot. Chumming the waters. Every now and again, I believe in "God," but it’s definitely a woman and it has nothing to do with Christianity.
"I pray to Jesus," she answered.
"I also pray to a black, Jewish man, Nanny… his name is Sammy Davis Jr."
I thought that was both poignant and brilliant. And, yes, I do occasionally ask SDJ for guidance.
"Who is Sammy Davis Jr," she asked, once again reminding me that she might be losing her grip.