Sunday, May 30, 2010

Three Weddings, One Silver Dress, & A Brazilian (Part 1)

One of my girlfriends was getting married. Her Bachelorette party was at my apartment and consisted of our favorite frozen yogurt cake and a shit load of alcohol. At the time, my apartment was close to our favorite meat market bar. Only the one friend was getting married, so the rest of us wanted to hook up.

I had a stand up gig earlier that night, so when I got to my apartment, the party was already in full swing. A small slice of cake was left, and the bride-to-be was already drunk. She came over to me and asked me to go to her wedding. She said, “Without you there, it wouldn’t be the same.”

It seems weird that her Bachelorette party was at my apartment and I wasn’t planning on attending her wedding, but I was seriously

broke. Five months earlier, I had quit a high paying sales job to wait tables. The sales job consisted of working for a psycho boss, who was an unmarried forty something, who had nothing better to do than leave forty-five voice mails a day and track our every move.

If I was going to be an artist, why not have the full experience? In NYC, that equals waiting tables. Too bad I sucked and continually got fired. Breaking everything. Tripping everywhere. No balance. Spilling drinks. It’s a wonder I lasted more than a day. I bartended during that time, but only during the day. There’s no money in that, and you get sick of talking to drunks. Much better to be the drunk. At the moment of my friend’s wedding, I was in between these kinds of jobs. Essentially broke. I didn’t feel right going to my friends wedding without a gift, but how could I say no? Impossible.

The wedding was outside the city, up by my NGBF’s (Non-Gay Best Friend) parent’s house. On the night before the wedding, we drove up there and stayed over night. In the morning, after oversleeping and wasting time, we started getting ready when I realized I forgot my dress. It was in Manhattan. And since my NGBF only brought one dress for herself, I was screwed.

Panicked and crazed, I moved into warp speed. Me and my NGBF ran to the mall and sprinted into the biggest department store. We were like lunatics in a sweepstakes. The name of the game was cheap. With about ten minutes to spare, or else we’d be late for Drunky Bride’s wedding, we went over to the sales rack first. All the other dresses that weren’t on sale were three hundred dollars and up.

The dresses that were on sale were still in the two hundred dollar range, but there was this one dress. It had been marked down and marked down and slashed and slashed again. It was definitely the cheapest, and when I put

it on, it sorta fit. That dress was the silver dress. It was eighty bucks and so ugly. Two pieces. A really long, straight skirt that you had to roll and pin to keep it up. The top was almost a jacket. It was an Amish, metallic, Nun looking thing that couldn’t be any uglier if it tried. Incredulous that I was about to spend my last hundred bucks on this dress, I bought it. I was out of time. I wore it out of the store and just made it to the church.

I tried to convince myself the dress wasn’t so bad, but when I went up for communion, I knew I was in trouble. Drunky Bride was standing at the altar. She was smiling when she saw me and whispered, “I love that dress.” Now I love my friend, but if she likes this dress...? She wears bright red lipstick like the Joker and lives in Connecticut. Enough said.

I drank. I got drunk. Who cares,I’d never have to wear it again, right? Wrong! Like flies on shit. Bees to honey. It was like a magnet to my body. It just kept landing there at the worst times.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Minty Fresh (Part 3)

All my friends met me at the playground. While sitting on the swings, I told them about the situation. With the stack of order forms, one by one, each of my friends committed to sell a few boxes. They knew how important this was.

Most of them didn’t know Steffy Miller, but they knew kids like her. Everyone agreed. This bullshit had to be stopped. This was going to be for all the kids whose parents forced them to have a work ethic. This win was going to show all the Steffy Millers of the world that there was justice. Good guys win. Life is fair. This was for those kids and me.

We all descended into our respective neighborhoods. Each kid going to their neighbors, parents’ friends, and friends of friends. The order forms were filling up. The boxes were being sold. Week after week passed, and the gap was closing. Steffy Miller: 202. Me: 186. Steffy Miller: 252. Me: 242. Steffy Miller: 300. Me: 300.

With one week left to go, we were in a dead heat. Most of my friends had stopped selling, and now it was down to just me. Since Steffy Miller had never been challenged before, and had always beat me by a mile, she started getting nervous. Her voice was a little softer. No more screaming when she sang. Her mom would pick her up from the meetings and look over at me. Was it my imagination or were the Millers realizing the tide was changing?

“Pregnant” announced that we all needed to get our order forms in by the next meeting. I knew I needed to sell cookies as much as possible this week, but there was no body left to sell to. Me and all my friends had left no stone unturned. I couldn’t hit people’s houses again. My parents would’ve killed me. I decided to call my relatives. All my Aunts and Uncles. I told them everything. The Millers. Koom Ba Ya. “Pregnant.” Seven days a week. Enlisting my friends. I sang the theme song from Rocky. And they all agreed. I had to win. They bought a few boxes each. I didn’t know how I was going to get the boxes to them, but they didn’t seem to care.

With everyone’s help I’d sold 319 boxes, but sadly it wasn’t enough. I guess when I tied Steffy Miller, her parents went into overdrive and she came back to the troop meeting the next week with 342. I think it was the most cookies she’d ever sold in any year.

I held back my tears and disappointment and put on a smile for Steffy. Even at the age of 10, I knew how to put on a good face. I figured I’d cry once I got home. For now, I’d pretend that we both had done a good job. But really in my heart, she was the winner and that stunk. She got the trophy, and I got a box of Thin Mints. Some consolation prize.

I walked into my house. All that energy and time. I was exhausted. It had been a long cookie season. I wanted to forget about the Girl Scouts, the cookies, the Millers, everything. Defeat can do that to you.

On my way upstairs, my brother popped his head out of his room. He said, “I heard what happened. You’ll get her next year.” And he was gone. About to cry, I started to walk into my room. I’d let everyone down. But then the music started to play. From out of my brother’s room, Queen’s “We are the Champions” flooded the house. My tears turned into a smile. I knocked on my brother’s bedroom door with my box of Thin Mints. We gobbled them up as the music played.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Minty Fresh (Part 2)

The next week, I spent more time selling. In the past, I sold cookies on the nice days. On the days when I had nothing else to do and when it got closer to the deadline. If I was going to beat Steffy Miller, I was going to have to out work her and her parents. That meant hitting the pavement seven days a week. What had I gotten myself into?

I lived, breathed and slept those cookies. Tagalongs and Samoas were my life. I started making claims about the cookies. Healthy for breakfast. Won’t get soggy when double dunked. Thin Mints make your breath minty fresh. It was crazy.

I got up in the morning, went to school, ran home and hit the streets. When it was nice out it was fine, but then came the rain. With my umbrella in one hand and my order form in the other, parents were surprised I was out in bad weather. I think I got a bunch of pity orders. I was happy for anything. I needed to close the gap. My BFF hit the houses after I did, and they bought from her too. This had to work. It was an airtight plan.

I walked into my troop meeting that week waiting to hear the good news. The oak paper read that I was at 122 while Steffy Miller had 166. I had to hold back my tears. The gap might be closing, but it seemed impossible. I started to wonder if I could ever really beat her.

Deflated, I went home and told my mom the story. She said, “You don’t have to compete with anyone. Just do your best, and that’s all you can do.” That was nice.

My brother, who overheard the story, had something else to say. “You’re going to let Steffy Miller beat you.” He said her name like it was poison. “You’re crazy. She’s such a dork. You can beat her easy.”

My brother was ultra competitive. All he cared about was winning, and when he lost he couldn’t take it. But he rarely lost. Whenever we played sports, board games or even cards and my brother won he’d immediately blast Queen’s “We Are The Champions” throughout the house. I knew all the words to that song in my sleep, he played it so much. Celebrating each win as though he’d won a gold medal in the Olympics, that song was his national anthem. Winning was his life.

“Don’t quit. You’re better than Steffy’re Italian. And Italians can do anything.” My brother always had this thing about being Italian. This nationalistic pride that made him feel like he had an edge. Nobody else in my family acted that way. It was weird. But then my brother started playing the theme song from Rocky, and my Italian pride started to kick in.

Dun dun dun dun-na-na. Dun dun na na na. Dun dun dun dun! Dun dun dun na duna dun dun.

Maybe there was something to it.

Dun dun dun dun-na-na. Dun dun na na na. Dun dun dun dun! Dun dun dun na duna dun dun.

Maybe I could do anything.

Dun dunanana duna DUN DUN.

Steffy Miller was only successful because she had parents that did the work.

Flying higher!

And they just brought the forms to their jobs and if somebody wanted to buy they got a sale.

Flying higher!

I was really selling.

Flying higher!

And I had what it takes.

Flying higher!

I looked at my brother and said, “What should I do?” He said, “Keep selling and don’t ever give up. Crush that Steffy Miller. You can do it. Crush her!” Then he went back to looking at himself in the mirror while I ran to use my Mickey Mouse phone. Energized from the Rocky music, I had a new idea.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Minty Fresh (Part 1)

There’s a conspiracy. It’s in small towns and big cities. Impossible to escape. On the surface, it seems normal. Natural. Something so seemingly wholesome but in fact sinister at best. It’s called the Girl Scouts of America.

These Girl Scouts knock on your door, dressed in para-military uniforms, selling their fattening cookies. So innocent. Supposedly to obtain a badge. Really they’re training to become aggressive sales people. Who created this group? Corporate America? Maybe. There might’ve been some nut job who thought, “Start them young.” You’d think it was someone in the military that thought of this group. I mean, can the outfits they put on those kids be any uglier? Definitely some sort of fashion sadist.

It was here that I got my first taste of sales. And it was sweeter than any Peanut Butter Patty could ever be. The Girl Scouts took me from being a nice little kid to a “hungry, bare knuckled, who do I have to climb over to get this sale” sales woman at the age of ten. And I know, I’m not the only one.

When cute Steffy Miller joined our troop, she was a quiet little thing. Her voice was barely above a whisper. She didn’t go to our school. She knew no one. Then she started being successful at selling the cookies and something happened.

Actually she never sold a thing. She was one of the lucky kids whose parents took the cookies to their jobs and sold boat loads of them easily. Cookie season after cookie season, Steffy Miller was the top sales person for our troop. Each time she got to the top, she became hungrier to keep her title. Crazy with power from being the top cookie sales producer, she became aggressive. Shy, pre-selling the cookies, now she was basically screaming “Koom Ba Ya” at us. In: a little girl. Out: an animal. Success can do that.

Steffy Miller was number one, and I was number two. Every time. I was one of the unlucky kids. My parents thought I should sell the cookies myself. Work ethic. Yawn. I guess there is something to be said for work ethic and all, but it didn’t seem fair. Steffy Miller and her stupid parents with their stupid jobs selling the cookies easily, while I had to do everything myself. But this time I wanted to be number one. She had to be stopped.

My troop leader was a hippie mother who was always pregnant. She wore the same shirt, potentially every day, because every time we had a meeting she was wearing it. It said, “Pregnant” with a picture of an arrow going down to her belly button. I guess she didn’t want anyone to think she was just fat.

My BFF (Best Friend Forever), even though she wasn’t a girl scout, came around and helped me sell. The first week of selling cookies was great. I worked really hard hoping to get a jump on my competition. Me and my BFF had a great time. Goofing around and pimping out our cute smiles to sell cookies. At my weekly troop meeting, “Pregnant” kept a tally on a big piece of oak paper with the number of boxes each girl sold. I was at 47 while Steffy Miller already had 90. Damn those parents!

I needed to think. If I wanted to outsell that horrible Miller family, I needed to cover more ground. Maybe me and my BFF should separate thereby selling twice as many cookies. I’d need two order forms at least. The only person who got more than one form was Steffy Miller. “Pregnant” guarded those forms like birth control. I waited for a diversion, which usually came in the form of one of their dogs going nuts, and when “Pregnant” wasn’t looking, I grabbed a stack. This wasn’t about fun anymore. It was about selling the shit out of those cookies.


Friday, May 7, 2010

It's Only Natural That I Hate You (Part 3)

He thought we were leaving on Sunday to go back to the city, and normally that would be the case, but instead, as we were getting ready to order food, I said, “I just found out I have to be back in NY now, so I’m leaving tonight. I’m going back to the hotel, packing and leaving. If you don’t want to come, that’s fine.” Pissed, he said, “Obviously, I have to go with you.” I said, “No, you can stay and take the train back from here tomorrow.” I was hoping he might, but I knew it was a long shot. So on no food, after two shows, I’m driving back to the city, a four hour drive, with the biggest DB I’ve ever met. Is this my life? Really?

He got in the car wearing his pajamas. I said, "What are you wearing?" He said he was tired and would be more comfortable in his pajamas. I couldn’t believe it, but I started driving away from the hotel, as fast as

I could. I didn’t care if I got a ticket. I didn't care if we crashed. I just wanted to get home.

After an hour, he started to talk. He told me about the philosophy of naturalism, and that this is how he lives his life. Not only am I starving, but now I have someone trying to get me in their weird L.A. cult.

He said every answer to the universe can be found in nature, and if it’s not found in nature then, according to this prick, it’s wrong. Procreation is natural, so a man and woman is right, and being gay is wrong. Abortion is man-made and not found in nature, so it’s wrong. It was natural for women to take care of children; while it was natural for men to go out and earn money. Naturalism started sounding like some way to explain right wing ideas while using mother nature as the guise. I’m sure he also thought it was natural for him to be a jerk since he was the “big headliner,” and it was natural for me to do shit for him since I was the “lowly MC.” I wanted to kick him out of my moving car, and use the “natural” speed of the car, to run him over. Nature. It’s natural. Shut the fuck up.

Thankfully, we were almost back to Manhattan.

We both lived on the east side, but he lived further downtown. I was going to drop him off at his apartment, but there was an accident and traffic was backed up. I said, “I really hate to do this, but this is my exit, so you’re going to have to get out here.” He said, “You’re going to drop me off in my pajamas and just leave me in the street in the middle of the night?” I wanted to say, “Yea, and I’m going to enjoy it. I hate you and think you’re one of the biggest pricks I’ve ever met.” But instead I said, “Yea. It’s Manhattan, you’ll get a cab in a minute. Don’t worry, it’ll be okay.” He was pissed, but it felt good to give that chauvinistic, pro-life, homophobic, right-wing jerk-off the boot.

As I drove away, I looked back into my rearview mirror and saw a tall man, wearing flannel pajamas, holding a duffle bag, trying to hail a cab. He looked ridiculous. Maybe he’d had people take care of him his entire life, and that’s why he was such a baby. Maybe that’s why he needed a strict code to tell him what he thought was right and wrong, instead of being able to think for himself. For a second I almost felt bad for him, and I thought about going back. But then I remembered the pizza place next to my apartment was still open.

At 3 a.m., I thought about nature and what was natural. Doing a favor and trusting your manager; unnatural. Lying to your manager to get out of a

favor; natural. Being annoyed by a prima donna comic; natural. Putting up with his shit and taking his flack; unnatural. Either way, I’d never drive someone I didn’t already know to a gig ever again. Maybe there was something to this after all. Regardless, I ate some damn good pizza that night.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It's Only Natural That I Hate You (Part 2)

The food came fast. We chowed down, and now it was time to go back to the hotel. Middle had a car. So DB went back to the hotel with him, but first checked in with me. He said, “What are you doing tomorrow?” And I really had no idea, so that’s what I told him. He wanted me to take him to Radio Shack. He needed to get something there and wanted to go to a few more stores.

This guy was really pushing it. He thinks I’m carting his ass over to Radio Shack and other stores all day tomorrow? I wanted to tell him off. But my manager loved this guy, and in comedy, even though your manager should love you, there’s so many of us for them to love, you want to always be in good standing. And that means being “nicey nice” to everyone.

So I made up a dumb lie which he didn’t buy, and then he said,“You’re the MC, and I’m the headliner. You’re supposed to accommodate me.” Taken aback, I said, “What?” He looked at Middle and said, “Can you believe the disrespect?” I hadn’t even come back with anything when he asked me to drive him to the show tomorrow, I said sure and he was gone.

The next day, I did what I always do. Nothing. You’re just totally exhausted after doing a show. I stayed up until 4 and then slept for half of the day. I worked out in the hotel gym and when I came back up to my room, there was a message from DB. He was calling about Radio Shack. I ignored the phone call. He never mentioned his room number to call him back, and I figured he’d probably call again. I never got another phone call from DB. I showered, got dressed, and was almost ready to leave when I called down to the front desk.

I asked to be connected to his room. They didn’t have him listed. I asked them to check again, but there was no listing. I knew he was staying here, but what the hell was I supposed to do? Knock on every door to find him? I didn’t know his cell. I asked for the manager. They didn’t have him listed. There was nothing else I could do. So I left.

When I got to the club, I told the booker what happened and that he might be late again. She, of course, was pissed. For all I knew, maybe Middle was driving him over. He could’ve walked. But then Middle showed up by himself, and we both knew what was going to happen. The booker couldn’t let him be late again. If he was seriously late again, it could screw up the entire night.

Middle and I were hanging out in the green room when DB came storming in. It was like a Spanish soap opera. You’d have thought I was his wife and had just slept with his brother, the look of betrayal was insane. He immediately started screaming. Why didn’t I call him? Where the hell was I? I’m supposed to be driving him back and forth... He even had the nerve to bring up Radio Shack again. What the hell did he need to buy there anyway? I tried to explain that I had tried to call his room, but he wouldn’t even listen. He just went on and on and on. Thankfully the first show was starting, so I left.

Both shows were great despite everything. The crowds were fun. Everyone did well, but DB had ruined it for everyone. He went over his time on the first show, so the second show started late. The weekend was a nightmare, and all I wanted to do was go home. The thought of having to deal with his shit another day made me cringe. So I had an idea.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

It's Only Natural That I Hate You (Part 1)

Headliners. You can’t live with them. You can’t live without them. As the last comic of the night, they’re the ones who usually steal the show. The headliner gets all the glory. All the money. Everything. But that means they also can give the most shit.

It was Thursday, and I was figuring out what set I was going to do that night in preparation for the weekend. My phone rang, and it was my manager. We chatted a little and then he said, “I was wondering if you could do me a favor?” [I have this bad habit; when anyone asks me to do them a favor, I say yes before I even hear what they’re asking. Ridiculous, I know.]

He told me that the headliner for the show this weekend was a comedian from L.A. He was this awesome guy, and my manager thought I’d get along great with him. He was flying in to do the show in CT and staying at the hotel for the weekend, but once the weekend was over, he’d need a ride back to NYC. Would I mind giving him a lift? I already had said yes, and I trusted my manager and thought, how bad could it be? The answer: it was pretty fucking bad.

I drove the four hours up to the hotel on Friday night. I got myself settled in and then headed right over to the club. I was the MC, and I met the other comic, the Middle, first. (On the road a show is usually comprised of 3 comics. The MC, the Middle and the Headliner.) The Middle was a really nice guy, and I could tell he was funny. Thinking that the headliner was going to be an “awesome guy,” I thought it would be a good weekend. And then he got there.

A total DB, (Douche Bag), he showed up almost an hour late, just in time to go on. The booker, the person who runs the club and books the acts, was pissed. She had to actually drive to the hotel to pick him up. He had fallen asleep.

I was in the green room, and I had never spoken to him when he came storming in. He told me it was my fault he was late. He thought I was going to wake him and drive him to the club. Did I get a job at the hotel that I was unaware of? Middle had five minutes left, and I was about to go on stage to do five more minutes and then bring the headliner, DB, up. I tried to be nice. I said, “I was only asked to drive you back to NY at the end of the weekend.” But he wasn't having it. He went on to say that our manager said I’d be driving him around for the weekend and that this included me getting him to the shows on time. He was actually trying to pin oversleeping on me. If looks could kill, I’d be dead, but luckily, I had to run up on stage.

Everyone waited for him to finish what was supposed to be a forty-five minute set. Sixty minutes later he was still going, even with the club trying to get him off stage with the red light, he wouldn’t get off. Finally, he finished. I closed the show, and we were all done for the night.

After a show, most comics eat dinner together. It’s a type of comedy etiquette. DB tells us to wait for him to eat, but then proceeds to set up a one-man-shit-shop after the show. T-shirts, DVD’s, CD’s. Me and Middle grabbed a table and got menus. Both of us were starving. After doing a show, I can easily scarf down an entire meal for four. There’s something about performing that makes you hungry. But me and DB got off to a bad start, so I was trying to make nice and wait for him. DB finally came over, and we ordered. This was going to be some weekend.