Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"You would know me if you saw me"

A woman I didn't know left a message on my answering machine last night. She said she was at the Bayonne Medical Center and that she couldn't go into details over the phone. I immediately assumed it was a member of the hospital staff calling to inform me of the latest calamity to befall a self-destructive friend of mine. When I called the number she left, I got no answer, not even a voice mail message. I tried the hospital's general number, but after the usual runaround was unable to get any information on the name the caller had left or my friend's name. I went to bed wondering what was going on. Of course, my imagination kicked in. I dreamt that my friend had "expired" and awoke earlier than usual and was unable to get back to sleep. Since the woman had said that she would be at the hospital through the night until 11 a.m., I tried the number again. This time "Theresa" answered the phone. I gave her my name and reminded her that she had left a message for me last night. After bungling my name ("Lask, Lisle" etc.), she informed me that she had been admitted to the hospital last night and would be homeless when they released her this morning. She wanted to know if she could stay with me. "Do I know you?" I asked, "I don't even know who you are." "You would know me if you saw me." I told her I didn't think so. "Well, OK, just forget about it then." Of course, the question still remains: where did she get my number in the first place? Did she do a random search through the phone book or is word getting out on the street that my apartment is some sort of safe haven for wayward women? I'm not expecting any answers soon.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"A new flavor"

The confluence of religion, 9/11, and television news readers who can barely think on their feet created a perfect storm of banality when the pope visited ground zero in lower Manhattan yesterday. There were too many idiotic comments made to record here, but the one that stood out for me was uttered by one of those dim-witted Fox News Stepford wives. She said that the pope's visit would "add a new flavor" to ground zero. This comment segued into an equally moronic comment that it was a good thing that the Iranian president's visit to ground zero had been blocked (presumably because it would have added a bad flavor to ground zero, I guess). Equally awkward was when the pope knelt down on his comfy-looking portable kneeler (wouldn't it have been more impressive to kneel down on the ground itself?) and prayed. The pope's people missed a real opportunity here by not having the pope's prayer come in as a voice over on the television broadcast. Instead we got an old guy in a gown kneeling and lots of dead air. At one point I thought I was able to read the pope's lips as he prayed: "One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi..." He must have been a little slow on his Mississippis because one of his lackeys had to jostle him as if to say, "That's enough, let's get this show on the road." And after another comic moment where four men in dresses struggled to light a candle ("How many papists does it take to light a candle?"), that's exactly what they did.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Break out the funny hats!

The pope's in town! Seriously, I must have seen at least five different funny hats on the altar at St. Patrick's in one quick pan during the deadly boring mass that every channel on cable saw fit to cover this morning (a few channels even acknowledged how deadly this was as television by rudely talking over the operatic performance of some hymn). As my mind wandered (how could it not?!), I wondered who manufactured all of these funny hats and whether it was possible for them to make a profit considering the limited quantities produced. I think I may also have finally discovered why priests wear those loose-fitting gowns: the better to pinch themselves to stay awake during mass.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More body problems

For the past two nights I've been trying to unclog half my head. The recurring problem with my ears is back. I've been using over-the-counter ear drops with the hope that it's not a severe enough problem this time to require a trip to the doctor. A few years ago I had tubes inserted into both of my ears as a means of alleviating future problems (it wasn't just wax, but a condition called "glue ear" or fluid in the middle ear), but I guess there's no guarantee for these kinds of things. I thought I was making headway on the first night. Shortly after using the drops, I could feel things fizzing up in there. I took this as a good sign. The drops didn't just pool over the clogged ear canal like over a stubborn stopped drain the way it had done in the past when I had to visit the doctor. Maybe with a couple more administrations of the drops, I thought, I would be good to go. Last night during the second session, I had similar results. More fizzing and a fair amount of brown gook removed on the ends of Q-tips. This morning things weren't so good. I woke to my ear popping intermittently (and a nice new disgusting stain on my pillowcase) and spent about a half hour removing more human sludge from my head. During my commute to work, I might as well have been half deaf. I just spent part of my morning twisting napkins (I'm out of Q-tips) and sticking it in my ear in an attempt to clear enough of the crap away so that I can at least have partial hearing out of the fucked-up ear. A call has been made to my doctor, but he's not in the office today and I don't know if I'll be able to get an appointment by tomorrow. And I'm not exactly looking forward to that visit because my ear doctor is an older gentleman who, at this late date, has about as much sensitivity inserting his various instruments of torture into my head as a carpenter has banging a nail into a block of wood. I can't wait!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Mourning a loss

Watching the post-game interview with UCLA's head coach after Memphis defeated his team in the semi-final for the NCAA Championship on Saturday, I was reminded of another sports media absurdity: the interview with the losers. What with the somber tone, the long faces, and the bent heads that losing coaches and players affect (I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that much of it is an act because, as we all know, if you lose in America today and don't go into deep mourning, people will assume there is something wrong with you) and the similarly ridiculous manner in which they are interviewed (the interviewer must sound like a policeman informing the next of kin of a murder), you would think that the team had just died in some horrible tragedy instead of merely losing a game. I guess all that talk about "sportsmanship" and being "a good sport" goes right out the window after a big game and everyone is required to act like immature babies. It's pathetic. Just once, I would love to see Jake Byrd from the Jimmy Kimmel show giving the business to some losing coach (Bill Belichick would have been ideal!).

Speaking of death and mourning, my father doesn't seem to be up to the task of informing me when someone I know (or don't know) dies. In the past, my mother would be on the phone before the body had cooled (btw, this is one of the reasons I don't have a cell phone--how would you like to be sitting on a bus or strolling down the street when you got the news that someone you knew or loved died? Inappropriate, right? Which is why I prefer to keep private matters private). Anyway, a couple weeks ago, my father called me at home (a rare enough event in itself) to inform me that his Aunt Mary had died in Bayonne. As far as I can tell, I have never met this person before in my life. My father wanted to know if I would like to go to her wake with him (in the middle of a weekday, no less). This was kind of a surprise to me because I've never thought of myself as someone who goes out of his way to attend wakes. And I think my father knows this about me (as a kid, I found my grandfather's wake, the first I had ever attended, very upsetting; I couldn't understand why a group of people would gather together to gab and laugh it up with a dead body in the same room). I have lightened up somewhat regarding wakes over the years, but I think I'm still too young to look to wakes and funerals as social events the way some senior citizens do. I quickly informed him that I would have to take a pass on his offer. My brother accompanied him to the wake of the elderly woman I did not know and who I'm sure my father hadn't seen or heard from in decades.

This past weekend I learned (a week after the fact!) that the woman who had lived across the street from the house I had grown up in, and known since I was a child, had died. She had been in a nursing home for many years (I can't even remember the last time I saw her--it must have been close to twenty years). Her sons and my brothers and I were constant companions when we were growing up. Thinking back on it, it almost seems like we spent more time in her house than our own. Their backyard was the setting for endless wiffleball games in the summer (we even kept home run stats!). Her basement was where one of her sons, inspired by the movie "Rocky," set up an improvised boxing ring and where I was almost knocked out by the unexpected opening of a laundry room door by her daughter. Their garage was the site of indoor basketball games that rattled their house (once, when I impaled my hand on a protruding nail, I was convinced I had lockjaw as a result of the tetanus I had contracted) and the testing ground for a new sport we had invented called "Tenocky" (basically, hockey played with a tennis ball and rackets). Mrs. B had a gruff side and was a screamer (the sound of her voice screaming her sons names will be forever imprinted in my brain). And although we did have a couple family squabbles (one of her sons tackled my brother in the street once when he tried to make off with a basketball and he required stitches in his knee), my mother and Mrs. B remained friends for many years (they lost touch when Mrs. B entered the nursing home). I fondly remember one afternoon around Christmas when the two moms cut loose with some wine (a singular event which is probably why I remember it) and we bounced from house to house running wild and having a ball. I also recall Mrs. B being so charmed by my tales of Jersey City (for a couple years, my family had set up a summer exchange program with cousins in Jersey City; we loved the city, my cousins hated the suburbs) that she had me repeat the stories for her older daughter.

I don't think I would have attended this woman's wake if my father had informed me in a timely manner (again, I don't go out of my way to attend wakes), but I think my father should have at least realized that this woman's passing was more meaningful to me than an aunt of his that I had never met. To shout the news to me as I walked down the stairs of his house a week after the fact didn't seem quite right. My mother wouldn't have bungled it so badly.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Eat, shit, sleep, and die (for Xmastime)

As we all know (and spend most of our lives trying to forget), our body has its own agenda and no matter what we do, it will have its way. Its agenda, as far as I can tell, is pretty simple: eat, shit, sleep, and die (for brevity's sake, and alliteration, I include drinking under "eating" and pissing under "shitting"). Nothing reminds us more dramatically of this fact than a bout of diarrhea (vomiting is also a good reminder, and terminal illness the best, but, fortunately, a lot of us will be spared that horrible fate). I was rudely awakened to the body's demands, yet again, the other night when I was caught unawares and outdoors, with my guts squirming, a good distance from my apartment.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been trying to exercise my way out of my annual post-winter funk by walking for about an hour in a nearby park (I've given up the running thing mainly because, at 46, I no longer feel I'm in contention for the Olympics and because I hate every minute of it). Each year at this time, I emerge to move about outdoors (I don't believe in gyms) and shake off the impending depression that I'm sure would descend if I continued to live like a shut-in year round. So, there I was the other night, like some exercise nut, pounding the pavement in a virtually empty park due to the cold wind blowing in off of Newark Bay, when my stomach began to rumble. A smarter person would have cut their exercise routine short to make it back to their apartment in time to take care of business, but I was not that person. A smarter person would have approached the man closing the park's public restrooms and asked politely if he could use the facilities before he locked the door, but I was not that person either. No, I was the guy in control. Mind over matter and all that. I could keep a tight asshole with the best of them, I thought. I must have been about a mile from home when it dawned on me that things were a little more serious than I had suspected. As the sweat began to bead on my brow, I began searching for a dark corner of the park where I could let nature take its course. I had gotten the shits once before in the park years ago, but that was during the summer months when the foliage provided deeper cover. To make matters worse, there was a cop car parked within sight of the area I had in mind (the same area that had previously spared me the ignominy of shitting myself). When I saw the wide trunks of a group of trees providing the darkest shadows for my darkest of deeds, I ducked behind one and dropped my drawers. There's nothing quite like being naked (even if it's just below the waist) in the great outdoors, is there? The cooling breeze to the nether region, the collective unconscious memory of our primal roots as naked brutes scrambling around in the dirt like animals. I had no time for any of that. I parked my back against a tree trunk and let fly as if it was the most natural thing in the world. And it was! Triumphant trumpets blared, celestial choirs rejoiced in song (all in my head, of course)! All was right again! I briefly recalled a former boss of mine who used to moan with pleasure whenever he took a dump. I think I finally understood what that was all about. Joyous thoughts such as these filled my mind as I resumed the upright position and pulled my pants back up. I think I even smiled to myself as I glimpsed over my shoulder the averted catastrophe I had left slumping in a heap against the tree. But in all this merriment, I failed to remember the usual course of my bouts with diarrhea: first wave, solid; second wave, liquid. Maybe I would have walked with a little more urgency if I remembered this instead of sauntering along, almost drunkenly, with relief. But, as we all know (and spend most of our lives trying to forget), there is no true relief in this life; only brief interludes before the ax finally falls. This point was brought home with stark terror as I bounded up the stairs to my apartment building fearing I would make a mess in the lobby or along the staircase. Fortunately, that didn't happen. Unfortunately, it wasn't a complete success either. Another one of life's lessons, I guess.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

John Adams

I'm enjoying the series on HBO, but the over-busy camera work can be quite annoying. Do directors just assume all viewers have some form of attention deficit disorder now and that whenever you have characters talking you have to create all sorts of odd angles (behind a trellis, from the bottom of a stairwell, etc.) to keep people watching? Half the scenes look like they were shot on a rocking boat. It's been so bad, at times, I thought the director might be paying some sort of strange homage to the old Batman series.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Obama just lost my vote

37?! Did he really bowl a 37?! Good God, man, why even pretend if you know you're that uncoordinated? Eight-year-olds get higher scores than that! Can Bowling Fans For Truth be far behind?

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