Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Obama: The First 100 Minutes

Much has been made about Obama’s first 100 days in office and how it relates to past presidents’ first 100 days. However, in the world of 24 hour news channels and a public’s endless fascination for the most intimate details of famous and powerful people, I believe it is historically more important to reflect on Obama’s first 100 minutes in office, which covers a little over an hour and a half.

Here are the highlights and reflections of that crucial first 100 minutes:

Obama enters the oval office for the first time and sits at his specially chosen desk. After adjusting the chair to a comfortable height, he checks all the desk drawers for a treasure map like the one in “National Treasure.” Obama doesn’t find a map, but he does discover that one of the drawers is stuck close. Instead of calling maintenance to fix the drawer, he gets it open himself by banging it with his shoe. This shows that Obama is not content to do things the same way they’ve been done for the last eight years, well forever actually, and he’s ready to find new ways to solve old problems instead of kicking it down the road to the next administration.

Obama makes his the first rookie mistake when he enters a closet thinking it was the bathroom. How he recovers from this early miscalculation could determine the course of his presidency. He takes two postit notes. On one he writes “bathroom” and on the other he writes “closet.” He puts the notes on the appropriate doors showing that he’s ready to meet the unknown challenges awaiting him.

Obama finds the sealed letter Bush left for him, tears open the envelope, and reads the contents. Obama laughs at the dirty jokes, and then he takes out a red pen and corrects the misspellings and punctuation. On the top of the letter he writes, “C+” and “Good Effort.”

Rahm Emanuel enters without knocking and complains about how much he hates the drapes. Obama replies that he likes the drapes. The two men have a spirited argument before agreeing that the drapes match the carpet, which leads to a ten minute giggling fit. This illustrates the working relationship between the president and his chief of staff.

Shortly after Emanuel leaves, Michelle calls to ask Obama what he wants for lunch and informs him that the girls wanted pizza, but she told them they were going to have something nutritious instead and if they didn’t stop complaining, the leader of the free world was going to come upstairs and do something about their attitude. Obama tells Michelle that if letting the girls have pizza today will get them to stop asking when the new puppy was going to arrive, then let them have pizza. Michelle replies that they will be having cheese pizza for lunch.

After hanging up with Michelle, Obama puts in a call to Senator McCain. “Guess where I’m sitting right now?” he asks the senator. “That’s right. I’m in the oval office. I’m running the country. What? No, I don’t think this phone call constitutes torture.” Obama hangs up without saying goodbye, which shows that Obama doesn’t believe in torture.

Obama meets with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. They ask Obama why he hasn’t solved the mortgage crisis, saved the auto industry, stopped global warming, and fixed health care yet. Obama tells them that he’ll get back to them next week with an answer. This shows why Obama’s ratings are so high. He gives the impression that he is the man with the plan whether he has a plan or not.

Obama spends the 100th minute of his first day in office outside smoking a cigarette and thinking to himself, “it’s going to be a long eight years.”

Friday, April 24, 2009

Miami Beach, Part Two

Time: 1973
Place: Miami Beach, Florida

Background music:
“Go All the Way” The Raspberries
“We May Never Pass This Way (Again)” Seals & Crofts

I lost my virginity on a warm August evening. After having dinner with our respective families, Gina and I met in the hotel lobby. We went down the street to a boardwalk video arcade. Stack heels were in that year. At the arcade we saw a guy wearing ridiculously high stacked heels. He was dressed in drag with full makeup, a white halter-top and white hip hugger bellbottom jeans. He had long straight white blond hair. He was with a small girl. He was tall and thin, at least a foot taller than his female companion, and with stacked heels, he towered above her. He fell off one of his stacked heels. He wobbled back and forth as he tried to climb back onto his shoe. He had one hand on his girlfriend as she held him steady for his next attempt.

Gina and I covered our mouths and turned away so the couple wouldn’t see us laughing at them. The guy’s drag queen appearance reminded us of the whole bisexual mystery tour that had brought us together in the first place. I knew the time was right. I took her hand and led her out of the arcade and in search of a quiet place for us to have sex.

Even though Gina was willing, she was nervous and irritated. She didn’t feel comfortable with any of the places I suggested. “Someone might see us,” she kept saying. She was right, but I was beyond the point of caring. I didn’t care if the whole world saw us doing it. I could see the Promised Land and nothing was going to stop me from entering.

Gina finally decided that we would be safe on the beach under the pier. No one would see us in the shadows. The location was perfect for me, since the pier was my favorite place to hang out.

We only took off of our shorts and underwear in case somebody discovered us. Gina had to do most of the work since I was clueless. After the initial shock and wonder of actually being connected sexually with a real life girl, I was reminded of how I felt the first time I smoked weed. I didn’t get high at all. It wasn’t until the third time that I started giggling like an idiot. “Now I see why everybody’s doing it,” I had said. I figured sex would be the same way since I didn’t experience any of the physical fireworks that I had expected.

After we were done, we brushed the sand off our butts the best we could and put our clothes back on. My head felt light from that marvelous feeling you get when you cross a major milestone in your life. I had gotten laid. I was no longer a virgin. Now that I knew how to have sexual intercourse, I wanted to do it again and again. Each time I did it, it was going to be another notch on my belt of experience. With enough notches, I’d be a truly worldly adult male.

Gina was not as thrilled. The whole act had made her irritable, although I was too wrapped up in my euphoria to notice at the time. We made plans to meet again the next night. I didn’t know what she wanted to do, but I was determined to have sex again.

The next night, I tried to take Gina back under the pier, but she refused.

“We shouldn’t have done it under there last night,” she said, “Somebody could have seen us.”

I dragged her from one location to the next, but she didn’t feel comfortable with any of them. I should have given up and done something else with her, but all I could think about was having sex again.

I remembered how I was able to smoke pot in the stairways at the back of the hotel. I took Gina to the top of one of the stairwells. It was brightly lit and stuffy with cigarette butts and empty potato chip bags on the floor. It was uncomfortable and it was ugly, but I got add another notch on my belt of experience and that’s all I cared about.

Afterwards, Gina and I went to the beach and watched the waves.

“What happens with us now?” she asked.

I felt like someone had just grabbed my throat and started to squeeze the air out of me. By having sex, had we entered some kind of relationship? I lived in Tennessee. She lived in Illinois. I was sixteen and she was eighteen. She was Catholic. Our families would not be excited that we found each other. We weren’t going to start visiting each other on weekends and holidays. When we left Miami Beach, we would be leaving our relationship behind with all the lost flip-flops and empty suntan lotion bottles.

When I didn’t answer, she asked “What do you see in the future for us?”

I said, “I see the ocean. I see the beach. I see a beautiful moon. I see us now. That’s all I see.”

“But what happens with us after tonight?”

What I wanted to say was, “Nothing happens with us. We both go home with a nice story to tell our friends.” What I should have said was “We stay in touch and try to visit when we get the chance.”

I asked Gina to close her eyes. Once her eyes were shut, I ran away. I hid in the shadows all the way back to my motel room. I was still trying to catch my breath when someone knocked on my door. I looked through the peephole and saw Gina standing outside the door. I refused to answer. It was the most horrible thing I could have done. If she cried that night, I didn’t hear her. I had gotten what I wanted from her and now I wanted her to leave me alone. I wanted to escape.

The next day, I was sitting on the beach with my little brother when Mom joined us.

“A girl stopped me on my way here,” Mom said. “She said her name was Gina and she asked me to give you this note.”

Mom handed me the note and written on it was Gina’s address and a request for mine. The note was on a sheet of Newport Resort Motel stationary.

“So tell me,” Mom said, “why is this girl is so interested in you?”

“She’s a girl I met,” I said.

“Is she Jewish?” Mom asked.

“No, she’s just a girl I met. Mom, I have to go do something.”

I found Gina sitting by herself in the lobby. I sat down next to her.

“Sorry about last night,” I said.

“You should be,” Gina said.

“Yeah, I’m really sorry.”

“I’m not stupid. I know we’re not going to have some kind of great romance, but was I just a quick lay for you?”

“No. But, I don’t know.”

“We could be friends. Would that be so terrible?”

I agreed that it wouldn’t be so terrible. I gave her my address and for about six months, Gina and I wrote to each other. Her interest in being my pen pal died shortly after she started college. I stopped writing her and I never heard from her again. That battleship had sailed on without me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Miami Beach, Part One

Time: 1973
Place: Miami Beach, Florida

Background music:
“Hot Fun in the Summertime” Sly and the Family Stone
“Hot Pants” James Brown

Going to Miami Beach for two weeks in the summer was a family tradition that always started with Dad packing the luggage into the trunk of the car. We would hand Dad the biggest suitcases and he would line them across the floor of the car’s trunk. Usually, he placed all the big suitcases sideways with the handles pointing left, but sometimes he would flip a suitcase so the handle pointed right if it added an extra inch of open space.

“Now the medium suitcases,” Dad said, “No, that’s a small suitcase. They go in last.”

Dad always started biggest to smallest suitcases and then he would experiment with size and direction variations. He worked quickly, sliding and flipping suitcases, stuffing loose items into corners until he solved the luggage puzzle. His goal was to find a way to get the entire family’s stuff in the car and still have room for the family.

My family went to Miami Beach every summer for eight years straight. My siblings and I used to look forward to our yearly two weeks in Miami Beach with a giddy excitement similar to how my Christian friends felt about Christmas day.

The drive time from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Miami Beach, Florida is about twelve hours. Dad always drove straight through, stopping only for gas and bathroom breaks. With four kids and two adults crammed into one car, the road trips should have been hell, but Dad kept us entertained with jokes and funny stories from his college days.

“Tell us about the time you and your best friend dropped spit cups of water from the top of a building,” we would demand.

“Oh that was when I was in dental school,” Dad would reply, “You’ve heard that one before.”

“Tell it anyway,” we’d yell back.

And Dad would tell the story again and it would be just as funny as the first time he told it.

“Now tell us a joke,” we would say.

“A young boy stays at his aunt and uncle’s house for the weekend,” Dad said, “The boy is too scared to sleep by himself, so he asks if he can sleep with his aunt and uncle and they let him. The next day, the uncle goes out to play golf and aunt has some of her friends over to the house to visit. The little boy runs into the room where the aunt and her guests are talking and shouts, “Auntie, I need to tinkle. I need to tinkle.” The aunt takes the little boy aside and says, “Don’t shout like that. Next time you have to tinkle, say you have to whisper.” That night, the boy is in bed with his aunt and uncle. The little boy wakes up his uncle and says, “I need to whisper.” The uncle says, “That’s okay. Whisper in my ear.”

We all laughed, except for my sister Freda. Ten miles later, she started laughing.

“When he said whisper, he meant tinkle,” Freda said, “Now I get it.”

We always stopped at the Florida Welcome Center for paper cups of orange juice. The center had a make-your-own-souvenir machine. On one trip, I dropped coins into the slot and watched through a glass window as a metal contraption pumped hot liquid wax into a mold. After a lot of steam and whirring of gears, a wax figure of an alligator slid into a metal basket. Freda got a swordfish from the machine next to mine. When we picked up our souvenir, the wax was still fresh and warm.

When we got to Miami Beach, we would laugh at Pupi Campo’s name. The Latin bandleader was usually performing somewhere in town and his name would be on billboards around town. To us, Pupi sounded like a slang word for penis. He might as well have been named Pee Pee Campo. All anyone had to do was say “Pupi Campo” and we’d all laugh until we had to tinkle.

We always had at least two meals at either the Rascal House or Wolfie’s, identical delicatessens with bowls of pickles and cole slaw on the table. They served corned beef sandwiches that were as thick than a man’s fist. As we waited for a table in the line marked “five or more,” Dad would tell us how Wolfie Cohen started Wolfie’s, sold the business along with his name, and later decided to get back in the restaurant game with the Rascal House.

We always stayed at the Newport Resort Motel, which had two distinguishing landmarks: a lighthouse in the front and a half-mile pier on the side. When I was ten, I bought a cheap plastic reel with thick green fishing line, some hooks, and a bag of worms from the tackle shop at the foot of the pier. It was a poor man’s fishing outfit, perfect for the beginner who couldn’t even afford a fishing pole. I devoted most of my summer vacations on the pier, lowering my line into the ocean and pulling small fish from the schools that hovered near the pylons. The pier was a good place for me to go to since I was too fair-skinned to get a tan and too self-conscious about being overweight to hang out on the beach or by the pool.

The serious fishermen set up their gear at the end of the pier. I never saw them catch anything huge like a swordfish or a tuna, but I did see them pull in baby versions of large fish. It wasn’t unusual to see a young barracuda or stingray hanging out to dry in the hot sun. I was there the day a fifteen-foot hammerhead shark swam below us at the end of the pier as he competed with the fishermen for the best fish.

I think deep down my family knew the 1973 trip was going to be our last Miami vacation. We were already splintering apart. My older brother didn’t come with us. In his place, Freda brought her best friend, Trudy. She was fun to be with, but she wasn’t family. I was growing further away from my family and more into my own head. One part of me was frustrated that I had to go and act the part of the quiet middle child, and the other part wanted of me didn’t want to be left behind in case something fun happened. At ten years old, my little brother Herby was probably the only family member young enough to believe that we were on a typical happy family vacation.

Once we arrived at the Newport, we all went our separate ways. Freda and Trudy scoped out a couple of cute Cuban bellboys and flirted with them whenever they didn’t have something better to do. Herby went to the beach with my parents. I didn’t bother changing out of my patched bellbottom jeans and black t-shirt before I scoured the motel for a safe place to smoke dope. After a long search, I found that nobody except the maintenance staff used the stairways at the back of the motel.

I was riding a good buzz, loping past the swimming pool filled with families in bathing suits when a girl my age, also over-dressed for a hot August day, stopped me and asked the universal question that bonded all dope smoking teenagers together.

“Hey, man,” she said, “You got any rolling papers?”

“Yeah,” I said, “and I got something to put in them too.”

“Alright! Come with me.”

Soon, I was hanging out and getting high with a group of teenagers who were also roped into doing time with their parents at the Newport. Dinner was the one time of day when my family regrouped before shooting apart again.

After a couple of days, I succumbed to the hot, humid Florida weather and switched from my patched jeans and tennis shoes to shorts and sandals. Besides, all the other kids I was hanging out with were wearing shorts and sandals.

We formed our own rituals. First, and most important, we’d find a secluded spot on the beach to get high. Then, we would go to the Newport’s air-conditioned lobby and fling our bodies on to an island of overstuffed couches and armchairs. We hung out for hours and talked, mostly about sex.

We were surprisingly frank. It didn’t matter that we were boys and girls talking together. I think we felt less inhibited because we knew that there was little chance any of us would ever see each other again.

I entertained the group with a story about my ex-girlfriend, Lady Faith and her best friend, Tina. Tina was petite and blond and acted like she chewed nails for breakfast. While we were dating, Lady Faith confessed to me that sometimes she fantasized about making out with Tina, just to see what it would feel like. She went as far as kissing Tina on the mouth. They were both really drunk at the time. When I told the story to the kids at the Newport, Lady Faith and Tina’s drunken kiss became an entire evening of hot naked lesbian sex.

The story was well received, especially by one of the girls in the group. By her reasoning, I had dated a bisexual and that made me worldly and exotic. Her name was Gina. She had breasts the size of red rubber kickballs and wide lush hips. After I got to know her better, I introduced her to Freda and Trudy. They nicknamed her “the battleship.”

Gina was an Italian girl from Chicago. She was eighteen and starting college in the fall. She claimed her uncle was a member of the Mafia and that’s why she and her family were able to stay at the Newport for practically nothing. I flashed back to an article I read in Time Magazine that claimed the Mafia owned a number of hotels in Miami Beach, including the Newport. To me, that made Gina worldly and exotic.

Overnight, Gina and I became a couple. Our time together was a crash course in intimacy. We didn’t have time to be coy. Once we were alone, we frantically ran our hands over each other’s body, probing and finding it’s secrets.

I confessed to Gina that I was a virgin and was having trouble losing my virginity.

“It’s like trying to get your first job,” I said, “You know, nobody wants to hire you unless you have experience and you can’t get experience until you get a job. None of the girls I’ve been with want to have sex with a virgin and I can’t lose my virginity until I get laid.”

Gina had only lost her virginity the year before. She toyed with the idea of popping my cherry, but didn’t make any promises. I was on the last week of my summer vacation and I really didn’t want to take my virginity back to Chattanooga.

End of Part One

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sleeping Jessica

This is my favorite sketch of Jessica sleeping.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My First Sketch Pad

These sketches are from my first sketch pad of people and places I've been. I started in 1999 during a trip to London I took with my wife and mother-in-law. I bought a 159 x 102mm ruled page notebook and a fine point felt tip pen when I got there to make notes on the places we were visiting. However, while sitting outside the Tower of London, I started drawing the tourists instead. Since then, taking a small notepad and pen to draw people when I go out has become an obsession and I have a overflowing bowl of full notepads now. My first sketch pad has my first drawing of my wife sleeping. She hates to get up in the morning so to kill time until she wakes up, I drew her asleep. Sleeping Jessica has become sort of a minor theme in my sketch pads. I also learned on this sketch pad not to draw on both sides of the page because the ink will seep through and leave ghost images on the other side. Now, I only draw on one side, but you will see a few ghost images in these drawings.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Along with all our 401Ks and our jobs, something the world has lost recently is trust in people and institutions that we counted on. Here are a few of the people that I feel I can no longer trust. Not that I trusted these people completely before, but I felt they had some level of reliability.

Auto Mechanics
Developers/ Builders

I'm not pointing out individuals so much as the groups themselves, because I have been lucky enough to have found an auto mechanic, a builder, and a doctor that I trust and cherish.

Here are some of the people I didn't trust before and still don't trust.

Used Car Salesmen
Time Machine Salesmen
Divorced Spouses

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Another List


To get to the other side

He didn’t want to get his sandals wet

To impress the ladies

Because it was a wicked awesome thing to do

Because moonwalking on water is so passé

To win a bet

He’d already walked on everything else

Because he didn’t know how to swim

He thought he was walking on sunshine (and didn’t it feel good!)

He wanted to be the first one to greet the bacon boat. Jesus loves bacon.