Monday, December 31, 2007
Time: September 11, 1987
Place: Atlanta, GA
On September 11, 1987, CBS Sports was covering the U.S. Tennis Open. The Atlanta CBS affiliate exercised their option not to carry the event and stayed with their regular programming. This gave the small TV station I worked for the opportunity to show the tennis matches instead.
Everything was going fine until that afternoon. The match between Steffi Graf and Lori McNeil was taking longer than expected. CBS Sports was in danger of running long which would cause the Evening News with Dan Rather to start later than its six-thirty start time.
Most people remember this incident as the famous six minutes of dead air caused by Dan Rather when he stormed off the set when he learned that his newscast was being pushed back because of a tennis match and couldn’t be found when the Evening News began at six-thirty.
I had my own problems back at my small TV station. I was the on-air switcher during and after the tennis match. I don’t know how CBS Sports signed off with their affiliates, but where I was sitting, their exit was not at a clean time and I had to figure out in a hurry where my station’s regular scheduled programming should be.
Not that CBS Sports didn’t warn me that they were leaving air. During the tennis match, the announcers said, “We are running late, so we will have to leave before the match has ended. We’re sorry, but we will leave before the match ends.” They repeated this information about every thirty seconds before they did indeed leave before the match was over. I’m not sure if they were talking about the Steffi Graf- Lori McNeil match because I was too busy slamming tapes into machines and cueing them up for air.
As I rolled tape and tried to act like an octopus as I struggled to keep my station from having any dead air, the phones began to ring. My bosses were extremely stupid when it came to the phones. They insisted that the on-air switchers answer them. The last person who should be allowed to deal with irate viewers is the guy trying to keep the station from going to black.
But I followed orders and answered the phone. Most of them yelled, “Where the hell did the tennis match go?”
“Call CBS,” I said, “and by the way, this is not CBS.”
One very nasty woman would not be placated.
“I invited a group of friends over to watch this particular match and you’ve ruined our party. Why the hell did YOU switch off the match before it ended?” she said.
“Lady, the announcers explained why they left early. This was a CBS Sports decision. We just picked up the feed from them. You’ll have to ask them why they did it,” I explained.
“But it was on your station so YOU are responsible and I want an answer!”
I had the phone in the crook of my neck, I was trying to concentrate on getting the right commercials cued up, and I was adjusting the air schedule on the fly. When I almost missed airing a commercial, I finally had it with nasty woman.
“Look lady,” I said, “I can’t talk to you about this anymore. I’m the on-air switcher and you’re about to cause me to fuck up.”
There I had said it. The dreaded “fuck” word. To a viewer. The worst thing I could have said. And the nasty lady caught it immediately.
“Ohhh, I heard what you said,” she said, “I want your name and your supervisor’s name. You are in so much trouble.”
Sometimes, adversity gives birth to the most bizarre inspirations.
“Of course, ma’am,” I said in my best calm professional voice, “my name is Arnold Ziffel. That’s Z-I-F-F-E-L with two Fs. Did you get that or do you need to get something to write with?”
“Hold on,” she said, “I’m writing it down now.”
“You ready for my supervisor’s name?”
“Yes, go ahead.”
“Okay. His name is Oliver…Wendell…Douglas. Do you need me to spell that?”
“No, I got it.”
“He’s not in now, but he will be here at eight tomorrow morning.”
I resisted the urge to sing, “Green Acres is the place to be. Faarmmm livin’ is the live for me” before I hung up.
I don’t know if the nasty lady called the next day. I just know there was a lot of pigheadedness that day. Dan Rather and the nasty lady for sure. And me, I only impersonated a pig.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
J provided this anecdote and I provided the illustration.
On a weekend afternoon about, ahem, 20 years ago, my then-best friend and I were sitting in a bar in Malibu (by the beach, sunny day, upstairs deck, you got the picture) having, I believe Bloody Marys and brunch. Both of us were in "the biz" at the time, in our twenties and high-gloss and full of ourselves and probably with a bit of the leftover runny nose from Saturday night,or Friday night, or Thursday night... So, we're yukking it up, and I notice a pre-teen kid - I remember this child being a boy but could be mis-remembering - giving me the eye. He's sitting with his parents, and he keeps looking at me surreptitiously. I wonder what he wants, but I put it out of my mind. Until I'm startled by this child, at my elbow, holding out a ballpoint pen and a paper table napkin.
"Uh, can I have...uh, your, your ... autograph?"
The child is fidgety with delight and nerves. I say nothing. My friend gets busy drinking, so I can't get a clue on how to behave from her. What to do? Who does this kid imagine I am? SHould I ask him, and bust his bubble, or play along?
"Sure!" I said, big Malibu smile.
And I signed his napkin with the scrawliest, illegible-est signature I could muster. (And my handwriting is already atrocious.) The kid hustled back to his parents, grinning and thrilled. And to this day, I feel terrible. I made the wrong choice. Whoever that kid was, he's now an adult who either thinks he got the autograph of (whom?) or realizes he was taken advantage of. And I lied, and let him think I was whomever he thought I was. And I will never KNOW who he thought I was. I just hope he knows I was trying to do right, and not upset his moment.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Place Atlanta, GA
I was at Ted’s house when the time came for his four-year-old daughter, Tracy, to go to bed. But Tracy wasn’t ready to leave just yet.
“Do I have ta go to bed?” Tracy whined. “Can’t I stay up longer, puh-leze!”
“If it were up to me, I’d let you stay up all night,” Ted said, “but according to the Book of Rules, it’s time for little girls to go to bed.”
“Are you sure?” Tracy asked.
“If you’d like, I could get the Book of Rules out and show you,” Ted said.
“But I don’t want to go to bed,” Tracy said, with quickly vanishing conviction.
Without getting out of his chair, Ted leaned over and picked up the phone book from the end table next to him. He flipped through the pages as if he were looking for something specific, found a page that looked good to him, and pointed to one of the listings.
“See,” Ted said, “it says right here that at nine o’clock, little girls must be in bed. I wish I could let you stay up longer, but my hands are tied.”
Tracy stared where Ted held his finger on the page, probably hoping to find a loophole, but lacking the ability to read handicapped her.
“Okay, Tracy,” her mother said, “you’ve seen for yourself that it’s time for bed. Let’s go.”
Tracy sighed, knowing she’d been defeated by the all-powerful Book of Rules. She took her mother’s hand and allowed herself to be led to her bedroom.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Place Paris, France
My wife and I were in a café in the Latin Quarter. We were about done with breakfast when we noticed a bulldog standing at the door to the café. The bulldog fidgeted while staring inside with his baleful eyes.
“He really wants to get inside,” I said. “If the people coming in aren’t careful, he’ll slip right in.”
Sure enough, when the next customer opened the door, the bulldog pushed right past him and ran to the back of the restaurant.
Nobody reacted. The lone waiter didn’t budge when the bulldog ran past him. There were no shouts in the kitchen about a dog running loose.
After we paid our bill, we got up to leave and that’s when we saw the bulldog. He was sitting at table in the back as if he were waiting to be served.
Since my wife could speak French, and I didn’t, she asked the waiter about the dog.
“He works here,” the waiter said.
I had to remind myself that in France, where the people adore their pets even more than Americans do and don’t get all freaked out about a dog in a restaurant, seeing a bulldog working in a café was not that unusual.
My wife and I were about to walk away from the café when I decided to take a photo of the bulldog. We went to the window he was sitting next to and tried to get his attention so that he would be facing us when I took the photo. The waiter saw what we were trying to do. He snapped his fingers at the dog and pointed at us. The bulldog refused to accommodate us. I guess he didn’t feel like going to work until he’d had his breakfast.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I try to carry a small sketch pad whenever I travel or go out to dinner. I mainly draw people's faces. I have a few rules for how I choose whom to draw. They have to sitting relatively still. They have to be just far away enough so that they don't notice I'm drawing them. They have to have an interesting face. Since I don't wear bifocals, I can see the person I'm drawing, but the sketch pad is blurry. As a result, I don't know what the drawing really looks like until I'm done. Then I can take off my glasses to see the result.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Place Chattanooga, TN
I was at my parents' house during winter break from college. I was in my little brother’s bedroom, reading a comic book, when his phone rang. Back in the day, when I shared this bedroom with my little brother, there was no phone, much less one with a separate phone number. My first thought was, hey how did my little brother get his own phone? I decided to be cool about it, answer the phone, and take a message.
I picked up the phone and said hello. I was expecting to hear one of my little brother’s friends, but instead heard a woman’s voice I didn’t recognize.
“Steve,” she said, “we have to talk. I can’t believe the shit you’ve been trying to pull.”
“Uh, excuse me,” I said, “but I think you have the wrong number.”
“Damn it, Steve. Don’t play games with me,” she said. “I know it’s you. I recognize your voice.”
“No, really,” I said, “I’m not Steve.”
“Steve, this isn’t funny. We need to talk, so stop fucking around.”
“Look, I can tell you’re very upset and I don’t want to make the situation any worse for you, but I’m not Steve. You dialed the wrong number.”
There was a moment of silence. I thought she might just hang up, but she didn’t.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you,” she said. “A total stranger. But listen, you sound like a nice person. Can I talk to you about what I’m going through?”
“Sure,” I said.
By now, I wanted to know what Steve did and this is what she told me. Her name was Susan. She was engaged to Steve. About three weeks before the wedding day, a very cute and very pregnant girl showed up at Susan’s door. The girl said she was seventeen years old and that Steve was responsible for her bulging stomach. Susan called the girl a liar and slammed the door in her face. She called Steve to verify that he was in no way involved with the pregnant teenager.
“Don’t listen to that little bitch,” Steve said. “So what if she’s pregnant? That’s her problem, not mine.”
“Did you have sex with that girl?” Susan asked.
“Yeah, so what?” Steve said. “What’s the big deal? She doesn’t mean anything to me. I love you, that’s why I’m marrying you.”
“No you’re not,” Susan said. “The marriage is off.”
Susan ran to her mother for comfort.
“I can’t believe I never realized what a terrible person Steve is,” Susan said. “And I can’t believe he actually thinks I would still marry him after what he’s done.”
“You can’t do that,” Susan’s mother said. “The wedding is too close. It’s too late to call it off now.”
“But, mom! What about the girl Steve got pregnant?”
“That doesn’t matter. What matters is the invitations have been sent and it’s too late to cancel the caterer.”
“Mom! Steve is a jerk and I can’t believe you’re taking his side.”
Susan’s mother wasn’t the only one who took Steve’s side. Susan’s family, Steve’s family, and all of Susan’s friends took Steve’s side. Abuse was heaped on Susan from all sides for ruining the wonderful wedding day everybody was looking forward to enjoying.
“That sucks,” I said when Susan finished her sad tale.
“Do you think I did the right thing?” she asked.
“Totally,” I said. “If Steve’s willing to screw this girl over, think what he might do to you. The guy can’t be trusted.”
“You’re so nice to listen to me,” Susan said. “I know this is a strange thing to ask, but would you like to get together?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I guess we could.”
“I really need this. You understand what I mean, don’t you? When we see each other, you understand what I need from you, right?”
The situation was starting to get really weird. Unless I was completely misreading her signals, Susan was asking me to do her as revenge on Steve. It was a crazy, screwed-up thing to even consider. It was the kind of thing that only happened in cheap sleazy novels. I had no idea who Susan was. I didn’t even know her phone number. I would have to be insane to see her, so of course, there was only one thing I could say.
“Where would you like to meet?” I asked.
We settled on Eastgate Mall by Loveman’s Department Store.
“How will I know you?” I asked.
“I have long blonde hair and I’ll be wearing a yellow top,” Susan said. “I love the color yellow.”
“You’ll certainly stand out,” I said.
“And when I see you,” she said, “I might not be able to contain myself. You do understand what I mean, don’t you?”
I couldn’t bring myself to say, you want to get naked and screw like bunnies, because one, I wasn’t comfortable saying it out loud to a total stranger, and two, I was afraid that despite all the obvious hints, I could still have read her wrong and all she wanted was a big hug and a shoulder to cry on.
“Yes,” I said. “I understand exactly what you mean.”
At our agreed time, I went to Eastgate Mall and found a bench in front of Loveman’s Department Store. I was watching the crowd trying to pick out a blonde in yellow when an old girlfriend showed up and sat down beside me. I hadn’t seen the old girlfriend since I started college. We had a nice time catching up with each other.
“What brings you out to the mall today?” my old girlfriend asked. “Doing a little holiday shopping?”
I told her the whole story, starting with my little brother’s phone ringing up to me sitting outside Loveman’s, waiting for Susan to show up.
“Are you really going to go through with meeting this strange chick?” my old girlfriend asked.
“Now that I think about it,” I said, “I don’t know why I agreed to meet her.”
“Wild sex with a woman you’ll probably never see again?” she suggested.
“There was that,” I said, “but come on. This is nuts.”
“What are you going to do now?”
“I think I’ll go home.”
We said our goodbyes and went in opposite directions. As I was leaving, I passed an attractive woman with long blonde hair wearing a yellow t-shirt. She looked really pissed off. I kept walking. I didn’t want to make her day any worse than it already was. For the rest of the time I was at home, my little brother’s phone didn’t ring again.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Place Atlanta, GA
I heard this story from a co-worker who I will call Dan. His sister who I will call Jolene and her second husband who I will call Jimbo were having trouble with Jolene’s teenaged daughter who I will call Tiffany.
Tiffany had gone plumb wild. She was dating a biker who I will call Scar. Tiffany skipped school and didn’t come home for days at a time. Tiffany ignored anything Jolene and Jimbo told her to do.
“Fuck you,” was Tiffany’s typical response, followed by, “You don’t own me, bitch.”
One day, Jimbo came home from work. He thought he was in the house alone. Jolene was still at work and Tiffany hadn’t been seen for days. Jimbo walked into his bedroom and there in his bed, naked and screwing like crazed weasels, was Tiffany and Scar.
“What the hell is going on here?” shouted Jimbo.
While Tiffany quickly covered herself with a bed sheet, Scar reached over to his jeans on the floor, pulled a large pistol out of the front pocket, and pointed the weapon in Jimbo’s face.
“Get the fuck out of here, motherfucker,” Scar growled. “How dare you walk in on me and my girl.”
“But, but, but,” Jimbo stammered, “this is my bedroom. In my house.”
“Don’t argue with me, shithead,” said Scar. “Now get out before I blow your fool head off.”
Jimbo vacated the bedroom. In fact, he vacated the house. He drove to the nearest bar and had a shot of Bourbon to settle his nerves. His nerves were still unsettled, so he had four more. Jimbo didn’t go back home until he was sure Scar had left.
The next day, Jolene was about to confront Tiffany about what happened, Tiffany beat her to the punch.
“That was very rude of Jimbo to walk in on me and Scar like that,” Tiffany said. “He was a real asshole.”
“Tiffany!” Jolene said. “For God sakes, you were in our bedroom. What is wrong with you?”
After some cross accusations, Jolene grounded Tiffany, who then stormed out of the house and didn’t return for four days.
“I just don’t know what to do with that child,” Jolene told Dan on the phone. “Maybe I should have shown her more discipline when she was younger?”
“You think?” Dan said.
Dan shook his head in dismay when he told me the story.
“I just don’t get it,” Dan told me. “I grew up knowing better than to act like Tiffany. My sister grew up knowing better. My kids are growing up knowing better. How Tiffany ended like this is a complete mystery. Nobody can believe she’s a member of our family.”
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Place London, England
I was on vacation in London with my wife and mother-in-law. We had rented a flat in Notting Hill. We were on our way to dinner one late afternoon when we passed a young couple standing next to a phone booth. The man was thin, had a hip haircut, and wore a black leather jacket. The woman was dark-skinned with long black hair and wore a red turtleneck sweater. She was stunning.
The man looked annoyed and impatient. The woman draped her arm over his shoulder in a languid motion and said in a deep honey voice, “You are such a clever boy.” I have no idea why she said it. I have no idea why the man didn’t melt into a pool of water right there on the sidewalk. I know I did.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Do you have a short anecdote you'd like to share? Respond to the comments section of this posting with your story. If your anecdote inspires me or looks easy to illustrate, I will post it with an illustration. I will credit the story with the name you use to sign your comment, unless you indicate otherwise.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Place: Chattanooga, TN
When I was a teenager, my friends and I loved going to Eastgate Theater’s Saturday Midnight Movie. We saw great non-mainstream films like “Vanishing Point,” “Night of the Living Dead,” and “Easy Rider.”
One Saturday night, there were so many of us going to the movie, we had to take two cars. Jeff drove his Plymouth Satellite and Bobby drove his Dodge Monaco. The cars were similar in that they were both dark blue, four door sedans that were favored by law enforcement agencies as cop cruisers. The cars could haul ass in a hurry.
The midnight movie was “Two-Lane Blacktop” starring James Taylor, Dennis Wilson, and Warren Oates. Since Taylor and Wilson were musicians, their acting sucked, and considering the movie was about cross country car racing, the story moved like a dead bee floating to the bottom of a jar of honey.
The film finally ended and our group headed for the parking lot. On the way, Jeff and Bobby got into a playful argument about which car was faster, the Plymouth or the Dodge, and maybe they should have a race to find out. Well, it was after midnight and the streets were empty. Why not have a race?
At the first stoplight on Brainerd Road, the two cars lined up next to each other. After some menacing revving of car engines, the light turned green, and the race began. Jeff’s Plymouth had a slight advantage on Bobby’s Dodge, but Bobby was gaining fast when we saw the flashing lights and heard the police siren behind us. Bobby immediately pulled over. Jeff never slowed down and soon disappeared down a side street.
I was in the front seat with Bobby and helped him answer the cop’s questions. Yes sir, we knew that we really shouldn’t be drag racing. Yes officer, we understood it was a very dangerous and irresponsible thing to do. No sir, we wouldn’t want our parents to know that we were drag racing in the middle of the night. No officer, we had no idea who was driving the other car. He just showed up at the traffic light back there and challenged us to a race. Really, it was all his fault and we have no idea who he was. Honest officer, we really don’t know who was driving the other car.
The cop let us off with a warning. We drove very slowly to Jeff’s house, coming to a complete stop at every stop sign. When we arrived, the teens in Jeff’s car wanted to know all the details about our encounter with the cop. The excitement put everybody in a good mood. Everybody but Jeff.
“What’s your problem?” I asked him. “The cop didn’t catch you.”
“It’s not that,” Jeff said. “I lost my bag of pot.”
During the race, Jeff drove with one hand on the wheel and with his other hand, he was rolling a joint from the clear plastic baggie filled with marijuana he had in his lap. Leave it to Jeff to try and do a one-handed roll, the most difficult joint rolling maneuver, while drag racing. He was almost done when he saw the cop’s flashing light in his rear-view mirror.
Jeff was a victim of jointus interruptus. He did what any seasoned dope smoker would have done in that situation- he tossed the baggie out the car window.
“Don’t worry,” I told Jeff. “I have close to a full quarter bag left. That should hold us and I’ll leave you a couple of joints to tide you over.”
The party stumbled to an end and everyone headed home. I was spending the night with Jeff, so soon we were alone on his back porch, passing a joint between us.
“Are you hungry?” Jeff asked.
“I could eat,” I said.
Whenever Jeff had a late night buzz going, he loved visiting Krystal’s 24 hour drive through. It must have been close to four in the morning when we arrived and put in our order. As we sat in the idling car, waiting for our bite-sized cheeseburgers, large fries and large sodas, Jeff continued lamenting the loss of his bag of pot.
“If only that stupid cop hadn’t showed up,” Jeff said. “I’d be smoking my own weed right now.”
“Jeff, there will be other bags of pot,” I said. “What was so special about that particular bag of pot.”
“It was damn good weed,” he said.
Our food arrived and Jeff steered his Plymouth Satellite onto Brainerd Road. We had the four-lane road completely to ourselves. Jeff cruised at a leisurely pace as we took turns digging hot fries out the Krystal’s bag.
“You know what?” Jeff said. “It was right about here that I threw my bag of pot out the window.”
Suddenly, Jeff slammed on the brakes, coming to a complete stop in the middle of the road, and opened his car door. In what can only be described as a very minor miracle, Jeff had managed to stop exactly where his bag of pot had landed. He leaned over, picked the bag off the center line, and placed it in his lap. Even though the baggie was open when Jeff tossed it out the window, none of his pot or the half-rolled joint had spilled out of the bag. Jeff closed his door and resumed the drive home. As he drove, he finished rolling the joint he had started earlier that evening, and handed it to me.
“Light that for me,” Jeff said.
I lit the joint and took a deep drag before passing it over to Jeff.
“That’s damn good weed,” I said, exhaling.
“Damn right,” Jeff said.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Place: Atlanta, GA
I worked at a printing company run by a man named Ludlie. His father’s name was Ludlie, so he was Ludlie Jr. His son’s name was also Ludlie, or rather Ludlie the third. Ludlie the third hated the name Ludlie and often referred to himself as Ludlie the Turd.
Like Ludlie Jr., Ludlie the Turd was in the printing business, though not at his father’s company because the two didn’t get along. Ludlie the Turd did all right for himself until he fell in with a group of unscrupulous printers.
If you work in the printing business for any length of time, sooner or later you will hear a story about a printer who tried to counterfeit money, got caught, and went to jail. I suppose the lure is too strong. You’re standing there printing stuff all day long and you get to thinking, hey fuck this working my ass off, I’m gonna print me some money.
The problem is, just as counterfeiters have gotten pretty good at copying money, the federal government has gotten even better at catching people who do. To make paper money, you need a special color ink and a special brand of paper. The minute you buy either, the government sends someone to watch you and you get busted before the first bills are dry.
Ludlie the Turd and his buddies thought they could fool the feds, because they all worked for different printing companies. One guy ordered the paper at his printing company; another guy ordered the ink at his place. The ink was mixed at yet another company, and the plates were made at still another company. They were all set to start printing at yet still another printing company when the feds came busting through the door and arrested them all.
Ludlie Jr. was devastated by Ludlie the Turd’s arrest. Not only had his son committed a printing related crime, the Turd had personally mixed the ink for the counterfeit money late at night at his father’s printing company.
But the counterfeit job in itself is not the most amazing thing about this story. It’s what Ludlie and his buddies had planned to do with the money that is truly astounding. Their plan was to first, print a shitload of money. Second, take the money to Columbia and use it to buy a shitload of cocaine. Third, bring the cocaine back to the United States, sell it, and split the profits.
What part of that plan did these guys really believe would work? First, few get away with printing their own money. Ludlie and his buddies were proof of that. Second, did they really think the Columbian drug dealers wouldn’t cut their balls off for trying to use fake money to buy real drugs? Third, let’s say they managed to buy the coke. What chance did they have to get such a large amount of blow into the United States? Their scheme was hatched before 911, but not before the War on Drugs. And finally, could they really sell that much cocaine without getting busted, ripped off, or snorting most of their profits? Honestly, the feds did these guys a favor by busting them before they even got started.
Last I heard, Ludlie the Turd had served his jail time, had settled down and gotten married, and his wife had given birth to a son. I can’t remember what he named his boy, but I do know it wasn’t Ludlie.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Place: Atlanta, GA
I lived next door to a weekend stripper. During the week, Christie worked as a graphic designer and on the weekends, she took her clothes off at a strip club.
“I make more money on the weekend than I do all week,” Christie told me.
I never considered going to see Christie perform. It seemed inappropriate since I knew her as my neighbor. I was out drinking with my good buddy, Ted, when I made the mistake of telling him about Christie’s weekend job.
“Let’s go see her,” Ted said. “Let’s go see her tonight. Let’s go see her right now!”
“I don’t know, Ted,” I said. “She lives next door. I’d feel really weird seeing her stripping.”
Ted kept arguing and we kept drinking and some time after too much booze and too much of Ted badgering me, I finally caved in. I had to admit, I was curious to see what Christie looked like naked. Then again, I wanted to know what ninety percent of the woman on the planet looked like naked.
We drove to the strip club, paid the admission, and squeezed into an empty two top table. Though the place was packed, a waitress in a tight t-shirt and short shorts pulled up to reveal plenty of camel toe arrived shortly after we sat down.
After we ordered our drinks I asked the waitress, “Is Christie around?”
I was hoping the waitress would say Christie had decided to take the night off, but instead she said, “I send her right over, honey.”
Christie arrived at our table the same time as our drink order. Christie was medium height, slim with long curly brown hair. She had firm breasts and a nice ass. She was wearing blood red lingerie and spiked heels. Dollar bills hung from her garter belt like green confetti.
“Howdy neighbor,” Christie said, giving me a hug. “Who’s your friend?”
Christie smiled seductively at Ted. He looked like he was about to drool. After a minute or two of polite chit chat, Christie asked if we wanted a table dance.
“Why sure,” Ted said, reaching for his wallet.
“I like this song,” Christie said. “Let’s do it now.”
I thought “table dance” was a generic term and that Christie would dance in front of our table, but no, she borrowed my chair and used it as a ladder to climb on top of our table. In rhythm with the music, Christie whisked off her bra and panties and draped each item over Ted’s shoulders. Ted and I were sitting across from each other, so as Christie danced, she faced Ted for awhile and then turned to face me. As she danced, she talked, and what she said to Ted was completely different from what she said to me.
To Ted, Christie said, “Mickey never told me he had such a handsome friend. That mustache makes you look so sexy. Do you like my breasts? Can you tell how hard my nipples are getting?”
Then she turned and said to me, “Have you done your laundry lately?”
“I tried,” I said, “but the washer was busted.”
Our apartment building had a small dingy laundry room with an ancient washer and dryer.
“The same thing happened to me,” Christie said. “What the fuck is the deal?”
“You tell me,” I said. “I’ve already called the landlord three times and the lazy bastard still hasn’t fixed it.”
Christie turned back to Ted and said, “You must work out. A guy doesn’t get muscles like yours if he didn’t work out. Do you like the way I trimmed my pubic hair?”
Christie turned to me and said, “I’m going to call the landlord first thing in the morning and bitch him out. I pay my rent on time. The least he can do is keep the place up properly.”
Christie kept up these two separate conversations throughout the table dance. When the song she was dancing to ended, she put her lingerie back on and climbed down off our table.
“I hope to see you again real soon,” Christie said to Ted, trailing a finger down the side of his jaw.
“I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know what the landlord tells me,” she said to me.
Ted and I watched Christie’s well-formed rump as she walked away.
“You happy now?” I asked.
“Maybe we could have her do another table dance a little later?” Ted said.
“Why?” I said. “So she and I can discuss the problems we’re having with garbage pickup?”
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Place: Chattanooga, TN
I had my bar mitzvah in September, three months after my thirteenth birthday. The summer before, I had weekly bar mitzvah lessons at our cantor’s house. He lived about half a mile away from my house; close enough for me to ride my bike there and back.
Cantor Louis Rothman was a short man with a round belly and large fishlike eyes. He was a concentration camp survivor. During the summer, you could always find Cantor Rothman and his wife napping in lounge chairs next to the Jewish Community Center’s Olympic-sized swimming pool. Wearing only black swim trunks and a black yarmulke on his balding head, you could clearly see Cantor Rothman’s black numbers on his forearm. He never tried to cover them up.
The first time I went to Cantor Rothman’s house for a bar mitzvah lesson, I took our family dog, Prince, with me. Prince accompained me on all my bike rides. When Cantor Rothman saw Prince, he was furious.
"Your dog,” the Cantor rumbled, “he is a German Shepherd!"
"Yeah,” I replied, because he was.
"I don't like that kind of dog," said the Cantor.
If I had been clever enough, I would have explained to Cantor Rothman that Prince was an American German Shepherd. They're nice and friendly. They lick your hand and roll over on their backs to get their stomachs scratched. Prince wasn't anything like the German German Shepherds that Cantor Rothman knew, the ones that growled and barked as they helped the Nazis herd Jews into cattle cars headed for concentration camps.
Instead, I explained that to take Prince home and then come back would blow that day's lesson. I'm not sure if it was Prince's wagging tail and big goofy dog grin or the idea of missing the first day's lesson that convinced the Cantor, but he relented and let Prince stay.
It was a warm June day, so we had the lesson outside, sitting on cheap lounge chairs on the Cantor's back porch. While I mangled my Haftorah portion, Prince napped at my feet. His good behavior must have impressed the Cantor, because at the end of the lesson he told me that it was okay for Prince to come back.
Once a week, I rode my bike back to Cantor Rothman’s house and sat with him on his back porch for my bar mitzvah lesson. Prince came with me every time. The Cantor’s wife always brought us glasses of iced tea, and a bowl of water for Prince. Gradually, the Cantor became more comfortable with the dog’s presence. One day, as Prince and I were about to leave, the Cantor patted Prince’s head. I could tell from the Cantor’s smile that he was mighty pleased with himself for his small act of bravery. Prince wagged his tail.
As a teacher, Cantor Rothman was a real hard ass. He loved to point out how incompetent I was.
"Perhaps the dog should have the bar mitzvah instead of you,” the Cantor would say, “He knows it so much better."
I caught myself glaring jealously at Prince every time the Cantor made that joke. I swear he was looking at the Cantor with complete devotion and love. Stupid dog thinks he’s so smart.
When my bar mitzvah day came, I managed to recite my Haftorah without making a complete fool of myself. During the reception after the service, I was standing with Dad when Cantor Rothman came over to congratulate me.
Cantor Rothman put his hand on my shoulder and said to Dad, “He did all right, but now maybe it’s time you brought in the dog so he can have his bar mitzvah. The dog knew the Haftorah so much better than the boy.”
The Cantor laughed and walked away. Every time I saw Cantor Rothman, he repeated his joke about Prince’s bar mitzvah. The way the Cantor kept insisting that Prince have his own day on the bimah. I began to wonder if maybe the Cantor wasn’t joking.
I tried to imagine what Prince’s bar mitzvah would have been like. Prince would wear a doggie yarmulke between his ears and a doggie tallis around his neck. He would bark out the Shema Yisrael and howl the Mourner’s Kaddish. Most bar mitzvah speeches began with the words, “Today I am a man.” Prince’s bar mitzvah speech would begin with the words, “Today, I am a dog.”
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Place: The Smoky Mountains
During summer break from college, I got a job as a counselor for a YMCA camp located in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. I was assigned the ten-year-olds.
I shared a cabin with my campers. What I mainly learned about ten-year-old boys that summer was that they were really curious about girls, and though they wanted to be seen as grown up, they were still young enough to be silly kids.
Every night, after lights out, I told my campers to go to sleep. Then, I grabbed my flashlight and headed for the counselor’s cabin where Fred and Billy, two junior counselors, were waiting for me. From there, the three of us hiked down to the camp’s stagnant lake so we could smoke pot. If the head counselor knew that we got royally baked every night until late into the evening, he never let on.
As a result of my nightly herbal recreation, during the day I was always grumpy and half asleep. One evening, I finally had enough.
“I can’t make it tonight,” I told Fred and Billy. “I can barely keep my eyes open. I’m going to bed.”
As I walked back to my cabin, I could sense that something wasn’t right. First off, the lights were on. After I turned them off, the campers were not allowed to turn them back on, though honestly, I never really expected the boys to obey that rule. The thing that really tripped my inner alarm was the silence. There was no noise coming from the cabin. Normally, if a bunch of ten-year-olds break a rule like turning on lights that are supposed to be off, they can’t help but create a lot of noise doing it.
I entered the cabin and this is what I saw. One of the campers, a chubby boy with curly hair named Phillip, was facing the back wall. All he had on was a pair of tighty whities. His back was hunched and he held down the front of his underwear as if he was about to take a piss. He stood on a footlocker so that he would be the right height to insert his penis into a knothole. He didn’t seem to be violating the knothole; he only seemed to be trying it on for size. All the other campers were watching him from their bunks. At the sound of the door opening, boys turned to me. Phillip’s cheeks turned red and he scampered under the covers of his bunk.
“They all did it too,” Phillip whined.
The other campers were about to shout their own explanations for what I had just witnessed, but I held up my hand.
“Nobody say anything,” I said. “Not one word.”
I looked at the cabin full of ten-year-old boys and I could feel their fear. They had been caught doing something really naughty, perhaps even depraved. How would I, the adult, punish them?
There was only one logical thing I could do in this situation.
“I don’t know what went on here tonight,” I said, “And I don’t want to know. Just don’t ever do it again and we will pretend it never happened. Is that understood?”
“Yes, sir,” said the boys.
I turned out the lights and we all went to bed, but from then on, I could never enter the cabin without noticing that damn knothole.