Tag Archives: comedy

My Silly West Wing Dreams

‘I’ll have a shark sandwich. You like shark? Never had it! You’re in for a treat.’ I thought.

I wasn’t so much paraphrasing Jeff Bridges in the contender as I was riffing on my memory of him. I mean, shark sandwich. Come. On.

Not that I have a taste for killer beasts of the sea. Not much for seafood, actually. But what a cold and cool way to announce your power as President. Invite your opponent to come to the east wing and order someone near you to get you some shark. Damn.

No one ever imagines life in the governors mansion. Not from here. Not sitting in council chambers suggesting yourself as next town council rep. Why would you place such limitations on yourself. Nope, I could already imagine it. Life in the White House. Hell yeah.

I had written a statement to read that had gotten a very positive response from the organizer of our event. She was enthusiastic beyond words. Her email calmed me down before stoking my Walter Mitty like daydreams of shark sandwiches and front yard Easter egg hunts.

You have to understand. A writers work has an emotional ebb and flow. Allow me to illustrate using art. ‘Talledaga Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby’.

At the beginning of the movie Ricky is running hot. Winning everything, on a roll, full of confidence and unable to imagine it ever stopping. In an interview he makes a statement that is EXACTLY what it feels like when you are writing and it’s flowing. He said…

‘Look. Here’s the deal, I’m the best there is, plain and simple, I mean

I wake up in the morning and I piss excellence.’

Okay, it’s crass. But you know what, I don’t care. That is how it feels when it’s working.

There’s another scene in the same movie. This is later on. Our main character, the beloved Ricky Bobby is in the middle of his comeuppance. He has failed and failed and failed and he finds himself imagining a himself being engulfed by a fire ball and he has stripped naked and is running wildly on the abandoned track in tighty whitey’s and a helmet screaming in a panic…

‘Help! Fire! Oh god help me. Help me Oprah Winfrey, help me Tom Cruise!’

This quote (paraphrased from memory) typifies exactly what it feels like as you push ‘publish’ on the writing you were so recently so confident of while producing it. It’s a pretty extreme variation between unflinching confidence and bed wetting fear, to be sure. Especially considering these emotional states exist without any transitional states between them. Typically, at least.

So when the organizer replied to my email, sent with all the confidence of a church farther hoping to god it be both silent and odorless, with the opening of WOW! Well, I was right back to my writerly confidence. She wrote a bunch more, but to be fair ‘you had me at wow’ is a statement I feel fairly confident making for all writers.

I arrived to the council chambers with humility in my heart, not that you’d see it on a topographical map as it was a tiny sparrow sitting behind a mountain of confidence. Warmly greeted upon introducing myself I was so very excited to be around similarly minded resisters. A moment of sincerity here, it was truly heartening to see all these folks, neighbors and friends I’d yet to meet who felt the same as me. We have a town council that by what I can gather has been 100% republican for decades, without so much as opponents to run against them.

So newly friendly with my neighbors who’d come out of the shadows I took my seat and the evening began. We pledged allegiance. Off we go. I had no idea there would be so many folks here. This was a real meeting, not just a town gathering. County officials from the party there, candidates for state office. It was a real thing happening. The pros got up. The first stood behind the table at the front of the room. Party guy told her to come around front, but I knew what she was doing. There was no podium. It had caused me a moments panic, but I had my WOW in my back pocket, already committed to paper, why should I worry.

I’ll tell you why. Because when she came around front of the table it snuck into my mind, around the mountain of confidence. The tiny sparrow was on my side of the mountain now. I’ve only once read my own work to a crowd from a stage. I barely got through without sobbing. To be fair that one was about my son, it was a tender piece about the fears of a father. This wasn’t that. It was a political speech. Still, I learned through the many times I’ve spoken to groups at work that holding my paper was a bad idea. The hands would start to shake.This would trigger the completely illogical loss of breath control. Then, yep, the water works. But this was a friendly crowd. Why should I worry.

Her reason for running was profound, heartbreaking, personal and touching. I was definitely in the right place, with the right people. Okay, I can do this.

Next candidate got up and announced that she was working on her speech. She would be reading from cards. CARDS! Why the hell didn’t I think of this. It would give me a natural way of looking up and realizing I’m not naked, these people are with me. And when the hell did this sparrow get so goddam big! WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOUNTAIN OF CONFIDENCE! And I was totally wrong about the sparrow being humility. The sparrow was humiliation!

At least I was still confident in the support of the audience. It would appear my rabble rousing, ‘conscience of the liberal left’ speech would meet the tenor of the room. We were all here to organize resistance. What the hell am I so afraid of. Get out of here, negative self talk. I don’t need you!

‘Okay, I know it’s been a long night, but we have some people that have offered to run for Town Council and they will all address you this evening.’

HOLY CRAP. HOLY CRAP. DEAR GOD, I KNOW I’M ATHEIST BUT PLEASE BECOME REAL AND TRANSPORT ME YODA LIKE TO SOMEWHERE, ANYWHERE ELSE… Maybe I won’t be fir…

‘First I’d like to bring up Joe Medler.’

Shit. That’s not a sparrow. Is that an eagle? Why does he seem so angry and threatening. Shit. That’s a vulture, dude. Oh no, when I start calling myself dude in my brain something is way off. Crap. Don’t trip. Wait, why would I think that. I’m a grown man in fine health, I won’t trip. But god it would be the worst time to trip. I’M NOT GOING TO TRIP.

Breathe. This is easy.

‘Hello everyone.’ I said.

This isn’t so bad.

‘I’m not a politician. I filled out a survey, literally last night, and said yes, I’d be willing to be a candidate for town council. Then Tracey, wrote to say I should prepare a statement on why I was running. So I did. Thank you for being here and here goes.’

That was fine. What was I so worried about. All I gotta do now is read.

I pick up my paper, chin nailed to my chest, head down and we’re off.. that’s a strange tremble in my hand. Maybe two hands will be better. Wait. That’s supposed to stabilize not double the shaking. Where was I. Oh my god, why did I write suvch a personal piece. I really am kind of naked up here. Where are you mountain, don’t disappear.

NONONONONONONONO! It was just a simple crack of the voice nothing to worr.. shit, again. Is that water in my eyes. Fuck. I’m doing it again. Hands up, Im done.

‘And I think that’s a good place to stop.’ I said, and started to make my way back to my seat to see if I can fit under it. Forget the shark sandwiches, forget the glory of being a vessel for equality and democracy, forget the more humble aspirations of serving the town and being a politician.

‘Okay, Joe, do you mind if I read the rest. It’s really powerful and think it’s worth everyone hearing.’ said, Tracey.

‘My goodness, I can’t thank you enough. My god, yes, please, save me and this moment from the disaster it feels like!’ I thought. It came out more like a barely audible, ‘Yes. Thanks.’

She proceded to complete my story. I have to say whether they were just taking pity or genuinely appreciative of the writing, I don’t really care. Everyone was so generous with their kindness. Handshakes and thank yous and people sought me out to tell me they enjoyed it. I was in the right place after all.

But perhaps it is time to go back to the drawing board in terms of figuring out how exactly I can best serve the goals of our group. After all, there is very little need for a crying call to arms. Might play into the worst stereotypes of liberals, actually. I’ll stay a bleeding heart, but perhaps i should retire the crying eyes;)

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Funny Boys

Charlie: I like this one.

Teddy: I like pick pun

Charlie: What’s a ‘pick pun’?

Teddy: Um.. It’s a kind of pun?

Charlie: What’s a ‘pun’?

Teddy: It’s a type of berry.

************

These conversations happen all the time now. So often I don’t even hear them. They are part of the white noise of parenthood, the ever present hum that fills the background of our lives and colors the corners of the spaces we share. They are amazing and we hardly ever notice them. But we were in the car and I happened to note the entire exchange. Once it hit me I couldn’t stop laughing. Like, fully exhaled, tears coming, hysterical laughter. This was brilliantly funny.

First is the simple mock of ‘I like pick pun.’ This is a four year old’s greatest tool when confronting an irresistible force such as an older brother with whom he is endlessly enamored with and to whom he feels the yoke of tyranny. The force is strong in Teddy and he will be free the yoke sooner than I might even imagine, but for now the older brother is living up to his first born obligations as an authoritarian leader. He can’t and won’t be dissuaded. Though we do check his power whenever we see him abusing it. We’re even preemptive if we think any situation, from which order to eat his dinner to how long he is entitled to play with his own toys before ‘sharing’ them (like a feudal tax) to his (tor)mentor, the older brother.

Charlie, for his part, ever the straight man in this entire exchange, took his younger brother at face value. He was genuinely curious as to what a ‘pick pun’ was. The air of my second child changed. What was a playful, mocking tone immediately became something far more worthy of genuine consideration. His idol and hero noticed him. He asked him a question. He was interested in what was being said to him! I could practically hear his inner monologue as he pondered what to say now that he’d found himself here. ‘OMG, this is really happening. He want’s to know something that I can tell him… Don’t blow it… What is a pick pun, what is a pick pun.. ‘It’s a kind of pun.?.’ ‘

A good deal of the humor was in this shift from total silliness to serious.

‘What’s a pun’ said Charlie.

It worked! Teddy tested the waters with nonsensical logic and he bought it. He was on the line. This was more than a bite.. Now, how to reel him in..

‘It’s a type of berry.’

Talk about nailing the dismount…Brilliant! My boy is a creative genius!

Some might say that this simple exchange is not worthy of this level of line by line analysis. To them I say leave the assessment of my child’s genius to me. For now I will proceed knowing that regardless of whether or not these boys decide to develop this act, regardless of whether they choose the fame and riches of comedy genius, it doesn’t matter. Perhaps they will find more fulfillment in some other line of endeavor. But I’ll know, I’ll always know that they will always have this talent to fall back on. Not only as a career, but as a tool to navigate everything from meeting people to handling rejection. These boys are legit and the ‘yes and’ crowd should keep an eye on this up and coming improvisational duo.

What’s a pick pun.

It’s a kind of pun.

Gold, Jerry!

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The Misplaced Confidence of the Formerly Beautiful

Have you ever had a secret that was just too painful to share? I just know there’s someone out there who could understand me if I could just get over myself. Just stop stopping every time I start to address it directly. Fear is cruel that way. It gets in and feigns ultimate power and you believe it. But its all a charade. Any power fear has is usurped and misappropriated from its host. That power you feel being exerted on you, to apply the old horror movie trope, is coming from inside the house. Your house. You. The power is all yours and you have to claim it. As soon as you do fear will flee like the coward it is.

Here is my proclamation.

I am afflicted with the misplaced confidence of the formerly beautiful.

High SchoolIt may not be recognized in the DSM and their is likely not a ton of literature about this dreadful disorder, but for those few of us suffering from it none of that makes it any less real. It doesn’t make it any less painful.

It’s a pitiable reality I live day to day. One I don’t wish on my most attractive enemies. Every night I’m tortured by my reflection, reminding me that those looks I’ve gotten, those looks I’ve come to rely on for my sense of self, from attractive young women, those looks are no longer intended the way I still, sadly, receive them in the moment. All day I’ve stolen glances of others checking me out. Now, when I see what greets there eye in the world of funhouse mirrors I now live in I am left little room for doubt that one of two things has happened. One, they are looking on me as an oddity here in these places of the young and beautiful I somehow still think I’m rightly placed in. Or, two, horrifyingly, they are not in fact looking at me, but rather ‘keeping an eye on me’ the old, thick, greying gentlemen who clearly doesn’t belong.

Well I have news for you. Many of you will be me someday. Laugh. Go ahead, young beauties, but mark my words, beauty fades. Even on us, the most beautiful. You can only outrun it for a decade or two. Your number will come up some day. And when it does I hope you remember the way you look at me and judge me. I’m you, my friends. I’m you.

I too was able to claim a total and truthful lack of ‘game’ when it came to meeting the people I was attracted to. I was afforded all the free space on the high road. My best move was letting slip to a friend that I thought someone was cute. This actually led to nearly every relationship I initiated in my dating days. The other 90% were someone telling me that some other, similarly afflicted gorgeous person was interested in me. I never questioned. Of course they were. Then I’d decide if I was. If I was we’d date. For as long as I was into it. I assumed it was like this for everyone.

I was raised by humble and handsome people who didn’t burden me with the knowledge of the appeal of my strong jaw line, piercing blue eyes, broad shoulders, alabaster skin and buttery smooth baritone. I was 6’2″ and athletic on top of it. Lacking arrogance, I emerged in the world upon reaching majority a fully formed, devilishly handsome man free from the awareness of my native advantages over the average person. I assumed all people had yet to feel the bitter sting of rejection. Thinking it not at all unusual that someone might greet anyone with a sharp intake of breath followed by spitting out a phrase like, ‘Wow. You’re really good looking!’ Didn’t matter where I was. Interviews and church and other formal settings. I just assumed this was a common courtesy between strangers raised with manners and good hearts. I assumed everyone would have to hold their bosses at arms length. Out of respect for their dignity. I mean how silly would they have looked being rejected by subordinates. I always assumed my promotions were the same promotions anyone else would have received having dutifully arrived to work on time, answered most messages and was always available to smile and make small talk. These are the essential duties of handsome/good looking people after all.

imageBut now, now I’m a fool. I still assume the never ending upward trajectory to continue despite having long ago settled into the middle. Thank god I met my gorgeous wife before my looks were so diminished. I managed to convince her, a fellow and currently gorgeous human, to marry me and quick. Before the fall of Rome as it were.

After a lifetime of the world and its inhabitants falling at my feet to help me over any and all challenges I didn’t even realize that I am completely lacking the skills needed for someone in my current, hideous form. Thank god I managed to attend and graduate college while I still was on the path of least resistance, which is every path for the beautiful among us. At least I have a degree to fall back on.

But today, today is my day to take back my life, to swallow my humiliation and face the world. I’m thicker then I was and my profile in particular is to be avoided. My once prominent jawline is doughy. My broad shoulders have slumped and my skin is, well, problematic. But that is not going to stop me from being proud of myself. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I’m going to eat better and care for myself more attentively. I’m going to run and use the elliptical and I’m going to do all the things everyone else has had to do forever just to keep up with me.

I may never be beautiful again. Lord knows I’ll never be as stunning as I once was. But who knows. I’m to understand that men like myself can still get quite a bit from life if we can make it to ‘distinguished’, so there’s still hope.