Thursday, March 31, 2005


You know, I’m not sure if I want to go the memorial on Saturday.


Yeah, I mean, I’ll go, I’m just not that excited about it. You know.


See, I think the thing is that I’ve reached a point of closure in dealing with it for myself. And I know that going to the thing will kind of reopen a lot of that. I’m just not looking forward to that.

Ok, that’s fair. You don’t have to go, you know.

Oh, I know.

So why are you going?

Well, to pay my respects. And to support you, too.

You don’t have to do that if you’ve reached a point of closure. I know I’ve got your support.

I know, but still…

I mean, honestly, if it was your old girlfriend from high school, I wouldn’t go.

You wouldn’t go? Really?

I mean, she and I weren’t really—

You wouldn’t go?

I mean, I would go to support you, but otherwise no.

You just said you wouldn’t go.

No, I –

See, here’s the difference between you and me. I’m going to go to support you, even though it matters for nothing to you. Whereas if it was me, you, knowing how much I value all this symbolic support and shit, wouldn’t even go.

No, that’s not true at all.

It’s not all about you, you know. I also want to pay my respects to the family.

Well, that’s a reason to go then.

Yeah, it is. So I’m going.


But I still am not looking forward to it. I had closure.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Update from Monday

The reading on Monday went really well: a lively, hipsterish crowd, many talented people sharing their goods. Fortunately there were only two deliberate comedians, myself included, which made it easier. As I was reading, though, I found that spot where you can hear the audience laughing and you know you have them - you can see when to hold back and draw out a point and when to go in for the kill. When I finished I felt like I had won their goodwill and that I hadn't exhausted their patience with my weird, sort of self-deprecating autobiographical sketches. So it was a success. That night I felt electric, I came home and bounced around the apartment and couldn't fall asleep. I want to write more stuff but I feel like I am still processing a lot of things.

Really it just felt good to put myself out there again, to risk something by asking for a microphone and expecting other people to listen. But it is funny that this blog which began as my own private journal produced stuff which I read to an audience of strangers. Sometimes I look at this life of mine and can't believe it. In a good way, of course.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Glad tidings

Today was Easter, the end of that dismal season of meta-guilt, Lent (actually, I don't want to hate on Lent - I had a great one this year, thoughtful and revelatory, but still). It was a pleasant morning for the early spring. I was in church praying and the first thing that came into my head, honestly, was: Congratulations, Jesus, on making it to another Easter. You rose from the dead. Great.

I did not mean this in cynical way - believe me, the day I begin to pray ironically will be a sad day indeed. But as I prepared to recount my Easter blessings, as I began to offer praise and thanks on the most important day in my religion's spiritual journey, the best thought I could muster was: Congratulations, Jesus, on your 1975th Easter. As if I brought him a sheet cake or something. I might feel guilty about this if I didn't think Jesus probably would appreciate the laugh.

What wondrous love is this, oh my soul, oh my soul...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Hot date

Church Basement Reading Series
Monday, 28 March 2005
Micky's Blue Room,
171 Ave C between 10th and 11th
No cover, cheap drinks

My friend Jack is organizing this comedy/reading series and I'm participating in it. This is definitely not improv and definitely not like anything else I've done. I'm picking a few selections from this here blog and I'm writing some other stuff too, focusing on some of the issues that have been on my mind lately, and we'll see what percolates. I'm going for a mix of Carrot Top's prop comedy and Garrison Keillor's homespun midwestern wisdom. Hopefully we can all have a good laugh and even . . . learn a little something. About life, about love, about black music and white people. It's not a melting pot, people, it's a mosaic.

Hot dog, I'm excited! To anyone reading this, I hope you can make it.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Time is the space between me and you

I spent the weekend in Lexington, Virginia, visiting a law school. I had a nice time, but I won’t be going there. Too small, too insular. Too many white people. Too many girls with pearls. I don’t know. I have become more citified than I imagined. The place was so similar to Charlottesville – the same aesthetics, the same rhythms, the same climate – I felt myself shrinking back in time, I found myself back in my 22-year old head. I can’t go back there – it would not be a forward motion.

I was disappointed to not see my friends who live in Charlottesville – that would have been very nice. Instead, quality time in the hotel room. Actually, I was very disappointed.

At the law school I ran into one of my friends from high school (and college, incidentally) who I haven’t seen in about two years. It was great to see her and I was thankful for the company. I was sitting in a mind-numbing orientation session and I thought of my friend who recently passed away. I think my high school friend had known her, and I debated telling her about it all. I considered this knowledge as a weapon, a knife I could use to press against her flesh and draw some blood. But I didn’t tell her.

Another of my friends is having some rough times with illness in the family, and I received a message from him two days ago that he was in Los Angeles en route to someplace beyond this country. I am worried about him.

I want to write something funny, but I can’t quite find it. I will hopefully be participating in a reading/open mic event in a week’s time, and I need some material. I have been trying to convert some of this sadness and worry into humor on the website (you may have noticed it, it’s been a bit forced) but the translation of pain into comedy is not as easy as I would hope. I try to think of the lessons I am learning right now: valuing life and friendships? Staying in touch with the ones you love? Not letting rust gather on the relationships that have sustained you? And there is no way to present these in an ironic and entertaining way.

Tonight I was trying to provide a listening and supportive ear to my friend who is especially hurting from this death (sorry to be cryptic) and I didn’t know what to say. I found myself babbling these inanities and considering even stupider things that I didn’t say: “Do you want me to make you a mixtape of pop songs about death? Do you want to to write a letter and tie it to a rock and hurl it into the Hudson? Do you want me to make a collage of women you and I both find attractive, just in the hopes of brightening your day for one fucking second?”

I was looking in my books for some poetry or wisdom or spiritual water to help cope with death but I couldn’t find anything. But I did find this from W.S. Merwin on loss – it is short and poignant and nearly perfect, I think:

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

Goodnight, moon. That’s enough for today. Oh, and the best news of all: I’ve developed a twitch in my right eye! Awesome.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

With a smile

Hi, welcome to Matucci’s, my name is Michael and I’ll be taking care of you tonight. While you’re looking at the menu, can I interest you in some fresh Bruschetta or a bowl of our Tuscan Minestrone?

No? Ok, that’s fine. I’ll be back in just a minute to take your drink orders – oh, okay. A Miller draft and an Arnold Palmer for the lady. May I see your license, sir? No, really. I’m not kidding. Great, thanks.

All right, would you like to hear about our specials tonight? We have a super fresh Chilean Sea Bass, as well as some – oh, you don’t? Ok, fair enough. I hear you loud and clear. Roger that. Ok, so we have one Quattro Stagione and a Penne a la Vodka with extra cream. Oh, and another Miller. All right, thanks very much. Let me know if you need anything. Name’s Michael.

Okay, we’ve got a hot plate here – the Quattro? Who had the Quattro? Of course. Here you are, sir. And the Penne for you, ma’am. Oh! Yet another Miller for the good gentleman. I’ll be back in two shakes with the refill. And more bread for the lady, gotcha.

All right guys, how is everything? I see you are making some progress on the Penne, ma’am. Yes, you are putting it away. Woo! I’ll be back with a Miller and another Arnie for you.

Hey folks, I thought I’d bring our dessert platter over here to share with you. Here we have our special homemade Tiramisu; this is our house Cannoli; and we have my favorite, our Sinfully Sweet Chocolatey Cake – it’s a doozy, let me tell you, ma’am! And we also have a selection of gelati and sorbet. Now would anybody like a coffee or a Mochaccino?

Wow, you are doing some damage to the Chocolatey Cake, huh? Man. Good thing I brought those extra napkins earlier! Oh, looks like it’s Miller time yet again. BRB!

All right, I am just going to put the check right over here. Do NOT feel pressure to pay this any time soon! Really! Now I will just remove this dessert plate if you will let me – no? Ok, super. We will leave the plate here. Thanks.

Sir? Sir? First of all, don’t worry about that spill – I’ll have Rodrigo mop the floor and sweep the glass up, and I’ll have another Miller sent over pronto. But I did want to let you know that there was an error processing your card. Yes, I did try cleaning the strip. And I actually did enter the numbers manually.

Sir, I wish I could use that card, but unfortunately we don’t accept Sam’s Club here.

Well, that is quite a lady you have on your hands, sir! Not only can she eat a great meal, but she can pay for it, too! A real gem. Looks like it’s your lucky day! Well, here are your leftovers – well, really just the pizza crust, that was the only thing left. I wrote the date on the lid so you’ll know. Ok, thank you both so very much, it was really a treat. Come back soon now. Buh-bye.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


My high school friend Denise passed away last night. Today I had been checking my email account and the webpage her family created incessantly to get some news. When I read that "We wish her farewell" my body jerked and I felt a rush inside my head.

I just feel tired and empty. I walked twenty blocks before catching the subway. I feel utterly listless, and selfish too. I can't believe this happened - it is all so wrong. This from U2 - it's all I can think of for her:

Beneath the noise
Below the din
I hear your voice
It's whispering
In science and in medicine
I was a stranger you took me in

The songs are in your eyes
I see them when you smile
I've had enough of romantic love
I'd give it up, yeah I'd give it up
For a miracle drug

Sunday, March 13, 2005

A letter to my dentist

Dear Doctor,

Do you remember what happened the last time we met? I do. I remember it because you really hurt me, in physical and psychological ways. That is why this last appointment was so sweet. My successful teeth-cleaning session was not just a victory over plaque and gingivitis – dear Doctor, it was a victory over you.

I don’t think you appreciate the breadth and depth of my neuroses surrounding oral hygiene. I didn’t tell you about the hundreds – nay, thousands – of dental dreams I have endured over the years. Teeth falling out of my mouth like snowflakes, little shards of porcelain enamel collecting in my hand. In high school I wore braces for six months my junior year, and I wore a retainer religiously after that. I have been grinding my teeth since time immemorial, and since I turned 22, I have voluntarily hampered my romantic life by wearing a NightGuard™ mouthpiece every night to prevent the further erosion of my canines.

At our last appointment, it seemed as though you cleaned my teeth with a rusty chisel. Afterwards my mouth was a horrific stew of stale fillings and shredded gum tissue. After that appointment, in which you somehow uncovered two new cavities(!), my mouth bled every time I brushed my teeth for two entire months. I asked all of my friends how they brushed their teeth. How long? Do you floss before or after brushing? What about mouthwash? Am I a bad person? I would stare at myself in the mirror, the chirpy light blue toothpaste swirling with the blood from my gums, trying to convince myself that if I just brushed a little harder, my gums would develop the strength to not bleed.

This turned out to be wrong. But after that visit, Doctor, I adopted a strict, nearly Germanic regimen of oral hygiene. Two minutes of brushing, flossing (being careful to move along the sides of both teeth), and thirty seconds of Listerine (both in the morning and at night).

So when I arrived at the appointment to see you this week, I was already nervous. Then as you did your job, you said, “You grind your teeth,” as if you forgot that I had told you that at our first appointment. Maybe you should be more careful with what you write in your little folder! But I was wondering if you could feel the sharp rise in my blood pressure when you added, “Doing a good job of it.” “Of grinding my teeth?” I asked. “Oh yes,” you said. You said, “oh, yes.”

Then you finished up the exam, and I asked you how I was. I explained about my improved techniques, and you were completely unimpressed. You didn’t congratulate me, or ask me my secret, or even slip me an extra tube of Crest Rejuvenation Effects toothpaste. So I think I can say with confidence that I’ll be ending this professional relationship. I’m moving on to another dentist, and you can’t stop me.

And remember how I never let you take x-rays of my mouth? I’m putting out for the new dentist. He gets ’em. First time.



Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Things that happen to me that probably don't happen to other people:

1. Two days ago I was shaving along the side of my face, and due to some bizarre muscle spasm in my arm, the razor jumped and cut the inside of my ear. I ended up using tissues and q-tips to blot it.

2. This morning I was absently stirring my yogurt as I read the newspaper on the computer, and I somehow poked the end of the spoon up into my nose. Believe me, it was a surprise. Thus one side of my nose has been running all day.

Look forward to further additions to this list.

A fine balance

I found out today that one of my high school classmates, someone who happens to be an ex-girlfriend of one of my best friends, was in a horrifically bad car accident a few days ago in Alabama. Now she's in the hospital and they don't know what kind of brain damage she is facing. They won't know for a couple weeks, until the swelling starts to go down inside of her head. She is a beautiful and intelligent woman, and yet I am already thinking of her in the past tense.

On the subway coming home today there was a pregnant woman in a sundress - it snowed today, there was an ice storm - and before she could plead for money in front of a subway car full of strangers, she turned to face the doors to stifle her sobs. It was excruciating. I was listening to "Sometimes you can't make it on your own" by U2 and I nearly lost it. I gave her 12 cents, since I spent the rest of my change buying a coke earlier in the day.

And yet:

A few days ago my friends had a baby girl, Caroline Marie. They are a loving couple and two of the gentlest souls you will meet, and they are one of the best-looking pairs I know. This kid will grow up with love and family and a nice set of genes. I suppose she was born somewhere near the time when the car accident occurred.

How does any of this make sense? How does it balance out?

Pray for all of them, pray for all of us. I hope this feels better in the morning.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Part 2 of my confessions

I went to see Jill Scott at Radio City on saturday night. I had wanted to write about the concert - it was absolutely fucking brilliant - the venue was beautiful and she sang the hell out her oeuvre. I've been listening to her ever since with a new appreciation for her music, but it's too late to really sum up how I felt about it - the moment has passed. Suffice it to say that I loved it and felt very affirmed afterwards. Her whole message about love and patience, how to love somebody and be independent enough to rely on them and give yourself to them, really resonates with me. She is so wise. And she's looking aight for a big girl. HOLLA!

She talked about the importance of honesty, and while I acknowledge that these paragraphs seem to suggest that I've gotten my fallopian tubes in a twist, it made me think of those other great thinkers, St. Augustine and Usher, both of whose confessions have been on my mind lately (apologies to any enraged grammarians out there). The idea of making an act of confession, declaring publicly what is true, requires such courage and humility at the same time: passion and repentence, an acknowledgement of doubt and a testament of progress. I want to find this kind of fearlessness, the ability to face the truth and your own failings in the hopes of getting better, leaving behind the secrets and the lies. This is my March 7 resolution.

In other news, I got into another law school. For those of you playing the home game, the record now stands: 3-3-2-2-3.

Oeuvre and out.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

For the record

Yesterday, L and I went to the Storycorps booth in Grand Central Station to record a forty minute conversation. James had given me this appointment as a birthday present – basically, you go in with somebody else and they record your conversation with some extremely high-quality equipment. You receive a CD with NPR-quality sound, and another copy is sent to the Library of Congress, where it is catalogued and shelved to begin collecting dust for the next thousand years or so.

Unfortunately my sick competitive spirit contaminated this experience. Our technician, whose name may have been Linda, told us she wasn’t going to say anything – she would just take notes of the questions that were asked, and maybe interject her own question if she found something interesting.

Well, with that, the gauntlet was thrown. The goals of this project – to capture a moment of our lives, to preserve our entangled personal histories for posterity – were trashed, and the focus became: say something Linda finds interesting.

Our conversations were wildly divergent, if a bit stilted. I summarily rejected some of L’s questions (“what’s the most played song on your iPod?”) but didn’t do any better, since I hadn’t come up with preliminary questions at all. Our conversation focused a lot on religion – more than I expected – so I would talk about church or Lent or St. Augustine’s Confessions, and then qualify my statements with a hearty laugh and: “I’m really not a weirdo, religiously speaking,” or, “Enough about redemption, did I tell you what’s on my iPod?”

It was an interesting experience. Linda, of course, never looked up from her clipboard to ask a question. She assured us we did great, though. “Really,” I said. “Great?” “You guys did great,” Linda replied through clenched teeth. L and I both agreed (this is part of the reason I love her) that we need to do it over again. Talk about childhood and noteworthy events, focus on that stuff more than a snapshot of where we happen to be one afternoon. Although, in all fairness, we hit some good topics: what we value, where we want to be in the future, our relationship, our families, our priorities. If nothing else, we mapped out a course that could be followed to some kind of happiness.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The score

I am ready to hear back from all of these law schools I applied to. Each day I approach my mailbox with trepidation - my psychosomatic responses are heightening to the point where I feel physically queasy as I unlock the mailbox. If this doesn't let up, in a week I'll be doubled over with stomach cramps or I'll begin sweating blood. Maybe I'll be paralyzed by violent tremors, or I'll get the thing my boss has where her fingers lose their color and ability to feel. Dead hands, I call them. None of these are good options.

Here is the situation as of right now: I applied to 12 law schools. I have been accepted by two (both viable options, thankfully). I have been summarily rejected by three (two were mildly disappointing, but why dwell on it; and one was completely expected. I don't blame them at all). I have been waitlisted by two (one was a slap in the face - I mean, a hyena could get into this law school, even if it didn't do any extracurricular activities; the other was a major triumph, as I was ready and willing to be rejected outright). Two schools that I deeply care about told me to wait until the spring for a decision, even when I applied early. So that leaves... let's see, three schools I have not heard from it all. So, in sum, my current record is: 2-3-2-2-3. This is sort of ok.

Each day I don't receive a message from law school increases the odds that I'll hear from one the next day. Yet the only things I receive in the mail are bills, magazines, the occasional postcard, and shit from charities who apparently used my donation to fund more mass mailings. But hope springs eternal - this could be the day!

(But it probably isn’t.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Rat race

This morning I walked to the subway through the snow and slush, making my way around the men who were shoveling the sidewalks. As someone dragged a shovelful behind me, I thought that this was how an elephant in the circus must feel, parading around and having somebody else clean up its shit. I thought proudly, you either shovel snow or snow is shoveled for you. And look at me, I am somebody who doesn't have to shovel anything.

Today at work I've spent most of my time reserving rooms for events, order food to be catered, and updating records of old bills. I thought sadly, you either eat catered food or you cater it yourself. Me, I cater it myself. So maybe I should not be feeling so high and mighty over some dude shoveling the snow.

You either shovel snow or it's shoveled for you, you either order the food or eat the food, you either make the mess or you clean it up. Survival of the fittest.