The Worst Story Ideas Ever

Someone asked me recently why I haven't tried writing a book, and I told her I simply haven't had the right idea yet. A book is a big thing, with many pages, most of which have words on them. The best books are usually about one idea, sustained over those many pages. Given that at this exact moment I am watching baseball, texting, watching an episode of South Park and writing, let's just say that my attention span is not exactly suited towards the 500 page novel.

Of course, that doesn't mean I've never tried. To the contrary, I have had a few different stretches in my life where I've made concerted efforts at long form writing: a play here, a short story there, a movie script or piece of fiction. Of course, the majority of my ideas are just that: ideas, jotted down in notebooks or Word files or Blackberry notes, all of them born in moments of creativity and all of them forgotten within moments.

Why? Well, I come up with good ideas at the absolute worst moments. The shower is my number one place, where surging water and wet hands makes recording the ideas impossible. "I'll just remember it for when I get out," I'll think, and somewhere between toweling off and blow drying my hair the idea is lost forever. (Yeah, I blow dry my hair. Deal with it.)

Number two on that list? While I'm asleep. I have strange, detailed dreams almost every night, and i often jolt awake at 5 or 6 AM with what seems like the perfect story idea. Just last week, I rolled over in the middle of the night and began formulating an absolutely fantastic concept for a political thriller. Or a sports movie? Or some kind of romantic comedy? Either way, I told myself over and over again I would not forget the idea and by the time I woke up the only thing I could remember is telling myself over and over again that I would not forget the idea.

The other place I always think of ideas is the subway, which certainly lends itself to writing ideas down but I can tell you from experience that the ideas almost always concern the subway. Here's a great one, found in my Blackberry under a file called Story Ideas: "guy is pooping in grand central, witnesses murder, only thing he sees are shoes."

Next stop: Pulitzer Prize.

That idea may be astoundingly bad, but it is certainly not the only one. Here are some of my greatest hits, revealed for the first time:

A zombie movie where the big twist is that all the zombies are wearing makeup and doing performance art. This one is based on a dream, and is simply not a good idea. I remember that in the dream I was very pissed off as my zombie friends began removing their makeup and congratulating each other on a great show, and actually spent much of the next day mad at certain people without telling them.

Verbatim, from my notes: "black poet enforcer for drug gang, rides on subway writing in notebook. Crossed out poetry – city lights, water bottle on gun as silencer."

--This stemmed from an actual man I saw on the subway, and I invented a whole backstory for him while walking up Lexington Avenue at 3 in the morning. Clearly based on "Precious," which is based on the novel Push by Sapphire. Apparently I thought that using a Poland Spring bottle as a silencer on a pistol was enough to carry this movie to box office gold.

"group of guys together, one of them gets bitten by a snake. He is a native American, they have to take him back to his burial ground for some great treasure as reward. He keeps talking about a key. They realize he is the key once they get him back to the camp. Elders say the reward is the land, bunch of worthless land but actually has oil."

--This is just a terrible idea. I thought of this in the shower at school, after watching True Grit and 3:10 to Yuma, and playing too much Red Dead Redemption. In this idea, I assume all Native Americans must return to their burial ground in the same way elephants go to an elephant graveyard. This is not, to my understanding, true.

"Man was forced to hide something, now anytime he tries to remember hes in intense pain and destroys things around him. Some kind of brain implant, set in the future. TV reports are always on about missing president’s daughter, but it’s a red herring."

--Some kind of Memento homage? Funny, I've never actually seen Memento. I'm glad I thought of the idea of the president's daughter - if I ever do write this, sorry for the spoiler alert.

There are many other, but some of them I still want to write. If these are my rejected ideas, just imagine how good my OTHER ideas must be!

By the way, if you see any of these at your local movie theater in a year, I am suing the crap out of everyone.


The Cat Fashion Show

I was reminded several times this week that in Anchorman, Veronica Corningstone's first assignment is to cover a cat fashion show.


Well she ended up the co-anchor of World News. Maybe I can land somewhere around there too.

I can't give too many details of the actual event - ask me in person because it was completely hilarious - but I have to say this entire experience has reinvigorated my faith in the human condition. Seriously, the fashion show was THAT good.

Basically, this all came out of five random emails to five people I'd never met, who either liked my idea or liked my resume or had nothing better to do than indulge some kid fresh out of college who is desperate for employment. In short, it was a series of random events that culminated in one happy boy dancing in his underwear on a Saturday morning. I don't know where he came from, but I quickly hurried him out of the apartment and that's when I saw the paper.

ANYWAY, there will be more stuff coming soon, but this cat fashion show just dominated my life for the last week in a way that only a cat fashion show can dominate.


More Coming Soon, BUT

In the meantime:


Me in other media

Talking David Wright for The Curious Case of Sidd Finch


How to Stay Unemployed

Guy 1: "I guess the Republicans were wrong about global warming, huh!"
Guy 2: (Punches Guy 1 to death)

It is so hot in New York that the rules of society are starting to break down - I just saw a homeless woman start peeling her clothes off on Lexington Avenue, and the people around me looked on not with disgust but with envy. It is so humid that stepping onto the street is like stepping into a bowl of split pea soup if all the split peas were replaced by ass. Right, it smells bad too.

Hot girls in minidresses have hair plastered to their faces and an oil slick sheen. Their pursed lips tremble as they try to balance looking good with wilting in the midday sun. Men have pit stains that run down to their belts, plus back stains and chest stains. They waddle around like penguins on account of the rapidly pooling water in their crotches.

Also, I dont have a job.

That's not to say I haven't had interviews. They just haven't amounted to anything. Each job interview is preceded by hours of grooming, dressing and primping: I shower (at the gym, obviously), apply deodorant liberally and then swath my body in layers of formal clothing so I can attempt to trick people into hiring me. I got a summer hair cut, just like your dog did, and I spend careful minutes teasing my coif with a hairdryer and styling products, only to find it has congealed into a sticky helmet after just a few minutes outside. My freshly ironed shirts wrinkle on contact with the outside air, my suits trap my body heat until I start to braise and my undershirts are so sweaty that I actually cannot peel them off my body once I get home.

It's gross, and humiliating. Plus I still don't have a job.

Summer is absolutely the worst time to look for employment. In winter, I'd put on a three-piece flannel suit and wool socks, and I'd walk into offices with cheerfully flushed cheeks and Jack Frost nipping at my nose and everything would smell like gingerbread and my prospective employer would give me a job out of Christmas spirit. Now, I flop out of elevators like a fish on a boat deck and furiously wave my arms around to try to dry my body. I smile widely while sweat pours down my face and give slimy, crushing handshakes that feel like an octopus attack. Powerful men with cars and mortgages and salaries extend their hands to me, and I slowly slide a raw chicken breast into theirs. Their faces drop, and we go through the formality of the interview but secretly we both know that the position has already been filled by someone less clammy.

Surprisingly, I still don't have a job!

Of course, there are steps I could take to avoid this problem. GQ recommends I invest in a linen or seersucker suit, so I can look like a Miami Vice villan or Colonel Sanders, respectively. I could take taxis to interviews - those have air conditioning and I can say, "Oh, I just got back from Bangladesh!" to make me seem worldly and not be totally lying. I could stop trying and sit on the air conditioner all day rubbing ice on my body. Of course, this all requires money, which requires a job, which requires tastefully begging people, which requires not looking like you just ran a 5K. And then fell in a swimming pool with your clothes on.

Rejection is part of any job search and I am not letting it get me down. I know I have important and useful skills. In truth, I am a kind of magician - just like Harry Potter! - but instead of potions and dragons and Patronums, I conjure up language. Words. In fact, I'm doing my magic right. This. Second. NOW.

Apparently, this is not what employers are looking for. I was surprised at how fast security arrived, actually - maybe my interviewer was an actual magician and I offended him? Either way, I was back out on the street feeling like I had just walked into a dog's mouth, sweating like a Pope in the woods. (Wait is that how that phrase goes? I'm not Catholic.)

Truthfully, the most humiliating part of looking for a job is seeing young people with jobs. Hedge fund guys, analysts, marketing and fashion and PR types, all my age or slightly older, and all walking with their heads held high and a disgusting sense of pride and accomplishment. Oh, you have a job? Congratulations on NOT majoring in journalism! You want a medal? It's called Any Degree That Is Not A Journalism Degree.

These young professionals roam the streets of midtown Manhattan in search of custom salads and coffee - it fuels them for the day, the same way I am mostly fueled by Kraft American Cheese Singles and hatred. They crowd into subway cars and check their watches fretfully, while I play Angry Birds and wonder if it would worth getting sent to Rikers to have a job pressing license plates and folding laundry. Most infuriating of all, they congregate in the waiting areas of every office, talking about their latest exploits and having a work hard, play hard mentality that clashes with my sleep hard, cry often existence.

I was in an office this week - I won't say which, just that it is next to Bloomingdales and has the same first five letters as Bloomingdales and it was Bloomberg. I sat on a plush circular couch in the middle of a bustling employee funzone. Glass panels glowed pastel colors, flat screen TVs flittered with stock quotes, and glorious tropical fish peered at me from huge fishtanks. Even the fish had jobs.

A bunch of analyst types were sitting around, drinking their free coffee and eating their free muesli and yogurt and candy and, wow, Bloomberg is an incredibly cool office. The girls were wearing pantsuits and blouses and sorority necklaces and slutty bras, the boys all wearing their same khaki pants from that Sig Ep mixer sophomore year and trying not to listen to Dave Matthews. This actual conversation took place next to me:

Girl: I can't even believe he came. He was SO wasted.
Bro 1: Well it was $1 Long Islands at McFaddens last night.
Bro 2: NO WAY! Dollar Long Islands?
Bro 1: Dollar Long Islands dude.
Girl: Dollar Long Islands are crazy! McFads is on 42nd street right?
Bro 1: Yeah, only reason to go is for Dollar Long Islands though, seriously.
Bro 2: We should hit that place before the Hamptons this weekend! Get some Dollar Long islands!
Bro 1: Nah, I'm gonna drive the new Benz out instead.
Me: (Will never have any money, head explodes)
Girl: Ew, that unemployed guy just exploded on me!
Bro 1: Too many Dollar Long Islands!
(Bro 1 and 2 high five, have made more money during this conversation than I have in my entire life)

I wish I'd majored in Douchebag too. Then I'd have a job.

It's still hot out.


Me in other media

Here is my first post for The Curious Case of Sidd Finch, talking Mets.



The Funemployment Diet

I think every new college student knows about the "Freshmen Fifteen," the alleged amount of weight all incoming coeds gain after a year's worth of keg parties and late night pizza and unwanted pregnancies. By remaining cautiously aware, I was able to avoid gaining the freshman fifteen, thanks to sheer luck and appetite-sapping anxiety.

But of course, I had to go and gain a Senior Fifteen instead. Couldn't do the "mainstream" weight gain, had to blaze a trail instead. So hipster. Either way, I found myself graduated and fairly upset with how I looked in all of my grad pictures. GradPhotos.com sent me daily emails begging me to buy digital copies of myself looking like a bloated British judge with a non-powdered wig, and I graciously declined. I felt like I'd gone from Lost World: Jurassic Park Vince Vaughn to current day Vince Vaughn. All I wanted was Swingers Vince Vaughn.

So I decided to embark on a body changing summer plan. Hey, it's not like I'm busy. Here are my accumulated tips for how to get active when every day runs together and your bed is oh so inviting and oh look it's almost Shark Week!

DO: Join a gym. I know you have no money. Neither do I! But this is your one thing on which you have to splurge. Trust me, we'll have plenty of money saving tips later on. Beg your parents for the money, saying it's for a good cause (creating a grandchild eventually). Say you want to look in shape for job interviews! Your dad will smile broadly, and peel a crisp $100 off his money clip. He will ask you what interviews you have lined up, and you will pretend not to hear and say your phone is dying. He will remind you that you are in the same room.

DO: Make sure you join a crappy gym, full of ugly people, so that you don't feel shame every time you show up. I joined the 92nd St Y gym, which is full of older Jews who smell like mothballs. They are all very sweet and gentle, but it's the kind of gym where you just KNOW that the emergency medical kit gets used there once a month, minimum. Those heart paddles in the little box on the wall get juiced every day like in every episode of House.

DONT: Keep weighing yourself. That is the easiest way to get discouraged. Just do it the one time at the beginning - make sure to put down the bag of SmartFood Popcorn before you hop on the scale, because cheddar cheese flavored snacks can add up to two pounds to your weight and are not healthy even though they are called "Smart." If you INSIST on knowing your progress, design a fun science experiment to keep your mind sharp! How about filling up a bathtub, getting inside and marking on the side of the tub with a Sharpie your water displacement level! Then, remember your high school physics to try and figure out your weight. (Fun Fact: The RMS Titanic displaced 52,310 tons. You're probably less than that (probably))

DONT: Buy weightlifting gloves. They do not make you look more buff, sadly. They make you look like you're buying a pair of mittens in installments.

DO: Shower at the gym! There's free water, free shampoo and conditioner, free towels - did someone say heaven?! It's especially useful when your building shuts off the water every day to deal with an ever-worsening "emergency" that no one is very clear about. Actually...

DONT: Shower at the gym. This exact scenario happened to me the other day: there was no water in my building, and I figured I would shower at the gym. Standing naked in a shower room that is so old it was probably segregated back in the day, I was testing the water with my hand. Suddenly, a fully naked old man creeped up behind me and shouted, "IT LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE A LITTLE HESITANT TO GET IN!" I turned around slowly to see his weathered, wrinkly face contorted in a smile. I thought he had two sets of kneecaps until I realized what I was actually looking at were his balls hanging down between his knees. I tried to laugh and talk at the same time and ended up basically coughing on him. Then I showered as quickly as possible and ran out.

DO: Make sure you go as much as humanly possible. Be honest, you aren't busy with much else. None of the good shows are back on yet and Hulu is a wasteland right now. Netflix just raised its prices and you can't afford it anymore. You have the time, for the first and possibly only time in your life. Do an hour of cardio every day. Run in the park if it is not 100 degrees out. Swim at the gym pool for as long as possible, then go out and smoke weed and be a douchebag - the full "Michael Phelps."

DONT: Be embarrassed about being at the gym so much. Because my gym is a Y, I assume there are plenty of transient young people staying there as well - young Jews from the old country here to see America for all its splendor. Freshly showered and in clean clothes, I was standing in front of the Cafe when the man behind the counter said: "Excuse me young man, do you live here?" "NO!!" I shouted, a little too forcefully. "I have a home!" He looked at me in confusion, then sort of diagonally at the floor, like I had embarrassed him. I smiled, but it was too late. I paid for my terrible Greek yogurt and left.

DO: Eat yogurt. It just sounds healthy, right? It MUST be, in that case. Greek yogurt tastes terrible and has 0 fat and 100 calories, so eat away! Spice it up with some fresh fruit, or honey, or try eating it on a bridge or something. Anything to distract from the taste.

DO: Smile at everyone. Not in a creepy way, just in a friendly way that makes people think you aren't starving and exhausted and depressed. Maybe you'll trick yourself into not being any of those things! I have been smiling at everyone I see in the hopes that my winning grin will convince someone to offer me a job on the spot. I envision an older man in a seersucker suit and a straw boater hat, who is so impressed by my pleasant demeanor that he tells me he likes the "cut" of my "jib" and tells me that he wants me to write for his magazine "immediately." That reminds me...

DO: Make up elaborate fantasies at the gym. Being on the elliptical for an hour is incredibly boring, especially when the little TV screens are broken or the only thing on is Divorce Court, in which case broken would be better. Dream about the life you will lead once you get that big job at the hedge fund, or the law firm, or the TV network or the circus or the MIR International Space Station. ProTip: Sometimes you will need a book or magazine to pass the time. Magazines can be easily concealed in clothing from doctor's offices, therapist's offices, hotel lobbies, etc. Books can be stolen from the library.

DO: Stop drinking so much. My ninth grade biology teacher told us about beer bellies and how calories from liquids are basically converted directly into fat, while you are still standing at the bar. She also made me touch a Madagascar hissing cockroach after I told her cockroaches were my number one fear. So, kind of a mixed bag from her.

DONT: Pay for drinks. That's a great way to cut down on your drinking: find friends who are bartenders, or waitresses, or own vineyards or whatever. Go out drinking with them the two or three times a month they can tolerate you, and you will have access to all the drinks you want for free, only less frequently than before. ProTip: When they ask you what you want, your guilt will momentarily distract you, so just say you'll have whatever they are having. That way their bartender friend only makes one big batch, and you get to drink stupid things with egg whites and St. Germain in them. This will discourage you from drinking in the future.

DONT: Eat pizza every day. I did this for the first month or so - rookie mistake!
DO: Eat healthy! Pizza is so cheap and delicious, but it is the opposite of that terrible healthy yogurt you ate for breakfast and probably screwed your hour at the gym. Try eating salad - it's healthy, it often has chicken and cheese in it, and it is full of vitamins and minerals that will cancel out the burrito you have for dinner (Note: I am not sure that's how salad works).

DO: Eat only what you can steal and grift from people. Art openings or dinner parties are a great way to load up on food. Drop in on that family friend or aunt you haven't called in forever! If she's not home, jimmy her door open with your MetroCard and raid that fridge. Wait, she only eats cottage cheese and salmon dip? Ugh. Break down and call your parents, then slip words into conversation like "I'm hungry for work" and "I'm starving to get started with a new job" and "I've only eaten ramen noodles for the last few days, uncooked." They'll get the hint.

Finally, DO: Stick to it. You need something in your life right now that forces you to get up somewhat normally, put on different clothes and interact with other people. The other day, I went NINE HOURS without talking to another person. Daytime hours. I hadn't opened the blinds in days. I hadn't shaved, so my patchy beard made me look like a dog who had just had surgery. An unknown number popped up on my phone, and the woman on the other end would not, could not accept that Andre was not there. I wished her well, then went to the gym to see if I could find that old man to talk about showers again.


Today's Ben Franklin

I spent the last week in London, doing the usual tourist spots. After a while, the historic spots seemed to fold into one another - it was simply impossible to comprehend the age of some of these monuments. Westminster Abbey is so old that it contains a replica of an original memorial statue is older than the entire United States. There are holes in the walls from World War II bombings, and bones under the floor older than the Magna Carta. In the British Museum, I found the Elgian Marbles endlessly fascinating: hand carved pieces of limestone, with exquisite detail, all older than Jesus and Muhammad.

But the most interesting spot was more off the beaten path. There is a tiny house just off of Trafalgar Square, with original wood floors and walls and staircases from the early 1700s, that once housed Benjamin Franklin for 16 years of his remarkable life. It has been kept in pristine condition, and the tour guide assured me that the only real change made since Franklin lived there was replacing the windows that had been blown out during the Blitz.

The breadth of Franklin's life work is overwhelming, and well worn for anyone who has taken middle school history. Bifocals, the Franklin Stove, the Declaration of Independence, and most famously the kite experiment. He was a scientist, a politician, a philosopher, a writer, and one of the most important figures in American history.

At the end of the tour, there is a little questionare sheet that poses a strange question: who is today's Ben Franklin?

I was stumped. There is simply no modern politician who boasts as impressive a resume as Franklin. It seems obvious, of course, that no one would be able to approach his accomplishments given that we live in an age that can severely limit creative output. We did not have the luxuries and distractions that Franklin had, and we waste a considerable amount of time in general (I am super guilty of this).

But I thought some more about the question. Would a modern day Ben Franklin even be able to exist in today's political arena? Truthfully, the scientific endeavors would be a detriment to his hypothetical political career. For whatever reason, most Americans like their politics with a side of religion, hold the science. There seems to be more political capital gained by eschewing what is new and groundbreaking and sticking to what is known and safe - that's basically the philosophy of the Republican Party at its core. Whether it's George W. Bush opposing stem cell research, or the constant furor over evolution in text books, or the opposition to nuclear and wind and solar power in favor to good old fashioned coal, there is a constant backlash against science in the political arena.

New ideas are treated with skepticism until it is clear they will be politically advantageous. Benjamin Franklin thought up insane new ideas, like harvesting energy from the environment. Tim Pawlenty thinks that scientists don't know if homosexuality is a choice or not. Republicans seem to reject all science and logic, all the time, except of course for the Space Shuttle program (the most cowboy-esque of the sciences).

If Ben Franklin wanted to run for office today, he would have to put down the test tubes and pick up a Bible. He'd have to cut his hair and lose weight Mike Huckabee style. Of course, Franklin was never president for a reason - maybe he knew he was too weird to hold high public office.

The biggest issue with presidential campaigns is the constant microscope under which these candidates find themselves. It forces reasonable people like Mitt Romney to abandon his fairly stellar health care program and attack "Obamacare." It forces Tim Pawlenty to attack his fellow candidates and then back down meekly. It forces Michele Bachmann to pretend her husband isn't gay. It forces the moderate Republicans to cozy up to the Tea Party, and forces the radical Republicans to never budge from their positions even in the face of overwhelming logic (cough John Boehner cough). Republicans will not change their minds, because then they are just like the flip flopping Democrats they love to attack.

While in London, I spent about 3 hours in one of my favorite places: the Churchill War Rooms. Basically, during the Blitz Churchill ran the entire war from a tiny bunker underneath a nondescript government building a few blocks from Big Ben. The roof was reinforced with steel and poured cement, but the feeling was that the whole network of tiny rooms and pipes and winding hallways was about one direct hit away from collapsing.

The War Rooms now feature a fairly sizable museum devoted to Churchill's whole life, spanning his unhappy childhood to his journalism career (!!!) to his political failings to his triumph in WWII and his immediate defeat as Prime Minister. He also lived an incredibly full life, is an icon and a badass and has some terrific quotes attributed to him - much like Ben Franklin.

One quote, in letters 8 inches high on a big glass wall lit in neon pink and yellow, resonated with me: A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

Of course, Franklin had a more succinct summation of politics.

"The first mistake in public business is the going into it."


Sports Heroes and Gay Marriage

Same sex marriage is now legal in New York. Most people seem to be happy about it, but browsing the internet and Twitter for reaction to news can be very self selecting and biased. We can guess how "real" New Yorkers feel about it - "real" in the Sarah Palin "real" America sense - but for the most part, the city seems to be pretty stoked that a sizable group of people now has basic human rights.

I was down on Christopher Street the other night and remarked to my friend how it felt extra gay for some reason - perhaps because it is Pride month, and the parade is fast approaching, or simply because it was a warm Saturday night and I was standing outside of Duplex and who isn't at least a little gay when they're down in the Village? Either way, there was a general feeling in the air, with rainbow flags fastened to the facades of buildings and couples walking hand in hand that perhaps gays in New York were on the precipice of something huge.

Of course, not everyone was happy. Sports and gays have a complex relationship to say the least, but the major story last week involved former NY Giant David Tyree coming out (ha!) against gay marriage, claiming legislation would incite "anarchy" in New York.

He is right about the anarchy: in 30 days, every single Williams Sonoma in the city will be crushed by a wave of wedding registries, Fire Island will sink into the ocean under the sheer weight of honeymooning couples, and Christopher Street will run red!... with roses from thrown wedding bouquets.

He backed off his comments a little bit, but the point was made: Former Super Bowl Hero Hates Homos.

Pro sports are institutionally homophobic for many claimed reasons: naked men in the locker room, tradition, machismo, etc. Obviously, all of that is bunk. It can all be attributed to the fact that athletes spend their entire lives training, very little time socializing and tend to be ignorant about a whole host of social issues, let alone gays. We should not expect our athletes to have opinions about anything important: politics, global warming, the homeless, war, even reality TV. Why? BECAUSE THEY PLAY SPORTS FOR A LIVING. They do not create legislation, or solve issues, or do anything besides run and jump and throw and catch. Ask your neighbors or friends or parents about gay marriage, don't ask freaking David Tyree.

Now Tyree is well within his rights as an American to not like gays. By the way, that is the clear subtext to all anti-gay marriage proponents: if you are against gay marriage, you are against gay people. There is no separating the two. Tyree is allowed to not like gays, and talk about it freely, and donate money to anything. But when he says he would trade the HELMET CATCH for a defeat on gay marriage, that's when I get pissed.

David Tyree, shut up. Just shut up. You are responsible for the single greatest sports moment in my entire life, and in the lives of countless other Giants fans across the world. Do NOT sully our memory with your backwards ass opinions.

Which brings me to the absolute lunacy of having sports heroes. We live in a world where our athletes are constantly revealed for being idiots, in the same way our politicians and celebrities and normal folks are constantly exposed. It is all thanks to the internet. People did not get dumber, the exposure just became more universal. Bob Costas can love Mickey Mantle all he wants, but he needs to acknowledge that being a grown man and liking anything about an athlete other than how they played the game is an exercise in heartbreak.

I have essentially three male heroes in my life: my father, who is an excellent and heroic man and inspires me every day, his father, who kindled my love for writing, and my mother's father, who taught me it's possible to be both Jewish AND a gambling, scotch drinking badass. All three of them love or loved sports. None of them played them professionally - they are just fathers who actively and passively schooled me in what makes a man a man.

Not everyone is as lucky as I was, growing up with positive male role models. There are kids out there with sports dreams who idolize athletes and put them on a pedestal unbefitting of a glorified gladiator. But there are about 100 other places to go before choosing to love someone like David Tyree.

David Tyree was certainly not a hero of mine. He caught a ball in a game that made me happy for whatever reason. I had no stake in that game other than emotional, and if he had dropped the ball I would have kept on living. But he held on, and for that reason wove himself into my memories for all eternity. When I am using FutureTube to show my kids the day the Giants won the Super Bowl, I'm going to mention his name and hopefully will never remember his bigoted opinions.

Supporting gay rights is not about being progressive, or having gay friends, or being for equality, or accepting the inevitable or even recognizing basic human rights. It's about a moment in human history that is bigger than Catholics or Tea Parties or Republicans or Democrats or Stonewall or your nephew or hairdresser or teacher or friend. It's about a moment that is a microcosm of a bigger moment that we are all part of, when actual change is on the horizon and humanity lurches forward just an inch or two.

And it's about pulling your head out of your ass long enough to trap a ball against it.



Me in other media:

My lovely roundup of the best 20 NBA players of my lifetime. Apparently no one likes Vince Carter except for me!

Post on the soul sucking endeavor that is apartment hunting coming soon. Plus, are my best friends in New York all doormen? Check back soon! (Hint: yes, they are)


Rory and Tiger

So Rory McIlroy won an absolutely historic US Open today, going wire to wire and finishing 16 shots under par. All in all, a spectacular weekend of golf from a kid who nearly won the Masters in April but choked away his lead on the last day. The lead today was so big that he would have needed a Greg Normanesque meltdown to have given it away. And the headlines on ESPN.com? "He's only just begun."

Just begun what, exactly?

The reason Tiger Woods was so fascinating before his personal life exploded was the fact that he was unstoppable. Through injury, through courses designed to make him lose, through caddy and coaching and club changes, Woods was basically unbeatable for 10 years. His streak of dominance is unlike anything else in sports. There is a good chance he was the best athlete I will ever see by virtue of sheer winning - better than Jordan or Brady or Pujols or whomever else you want to hold up as the best. The compelling thing about Tiger was not that he was going to win - that was a foregone conclusion. It was by how much, with what ballsy shot or insane luck. It wasn't a question of if he would win the most majors of all time, but when.

And as soon as he started to fade, the media went looking for "the next Tiger." In the same way that Jerry Stackhouse and Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant and LeBron James were all the next Jordan, journalists have been looking to cast anyone as a successor to Tiger's dominance. None of those NBA stars went on to win 6 championships. In fact, they have less than 6 combined.

Rory McIlroy has just won his first Major at age 22. Tiger notched his first victory at the Masters, the tournament McIlroy coughed away, at age 21. He then won 13 more, with relative ease. It took Jack Nicklaus 25 years to win his 18 majors. It took Tiger 14 years to win his 14 majors. Easy math, right? If Rory wants to catch up, he'd better get crackin'.

Tiger is number two on the all-time Majors list, as everyone knows. Of course, he is the only active member of the top 10, and that's a top 10 that includes five dead guys. There is a distinct possibility that Tiger will come back and absolutely annihilate Nicklaus' record - remember, he was on pace to do so with ease before taking off what amounted to two years from golf.

McIlroy should not be anointed the next anyone at this stage in his career. He is not the savior of the PGA, he will never draw ratings for CBS like Tiger could, and he will probably fall way, WAY short of 14 Majors. But if the media wants to pump him up as the next Tiger, they better give him a nickname. Perhaps Roary the Lion?


On Walkoff Balks and Agony

Rooting for the Mets is like watching a child take its first shaky, unsure steps. The baby's face is contorted in fear and excitement, he struggles valiantly to keep his balance, he puts one foot in front of the other and he actually does it! He takes a few steps, a few more with more confidence, and suddenly he is sprinting - straight off a cliff onto a bed of spikes.

The Mets lost in absolutely stunning fashion last night, thanks to a walkoff balk. Yeah, that's right. This team doesn't both to rip your heart out. They leave it in your chest cavity and simply bash it with a hammer ever second or third night. A team that had finally climbed back to .500, a team with a patchwork offense and a budding star in Dillon Gee and a transcendent season from Jose Reyes finally looks like they are putting it together. Then DJ Carrasco bobs his head and the game is over.

The sequence itself was so indicative of the Mets of the last decade that I'm surprised they didn't trade for Kris Benson and sign Kaz Matsui during the 7th inning stretch. Francisco Rodriguez has been on fire as of recent and managed to blow a save thanks to a Brooks Conrad homer. That's right, the same Brooks Conrad who made so many errors in the playoffs last year that everyone kept looking around hoping his mommy would take him home early from Little League.

In the 10th, 'defensive replacement' Lucas Duda came way off the bag to field a ground ball, a play that was so bad it looked like it was happening in slow motion while Gary Cohen loudly confused Duda with Daniel Murphy. Realizing his misnomer, he said it was "a Daniel Murphy-type mistake." Yikes.

Next, the inevitable single to right, which I'm fairly sure Ron Darling predicted out loud - either that, or it was me talking to myself. Clearly Ron and I have both seen this movie before, and we know how it ends. Now there are men on first and third. Jason Heyward stepped to the plate, a universal feeling of dread. There was no way this would end well - the only question being how the Mets would lose.

They chose the road less travelled. Carrasco leaned forward to get the sign, started to come set and stopped short, and Heyward ran out of the box and pumped his fist before the umpire even made the call. Game over.


My house is a mass of boxes right now as my family prepares to move out for a renovation. I will embark on my second apartment excursion later this day, most likely winding through the streets of Chinatown, through alleyways with hanging laundry and up staircases to closet sized apartments with gorgeous views of other closet sized apartments. I will continue to fret about not having a job, I will continue to run into old friends and make awkward smalltalk and walk around the city until sweat pools in my shoes and fogs up my sunglasses. It is officially the "Dog Days," and I say that with a small white fluffy dog staring at me from her pillow. She's not happy about it either.

With basketball season over and football looking further away, I am dreading these dog days. We are still a month out from the All-Star game and I am still not really watching the Mets. The last few years have brought so much pain and anger, so many late season collapses and injuries and bad signings and financial meltdowns and embarrassing press that I simply compartmentalized my fandom and packed it away as much as possible. My Mets hats and tshirts and the like will have to go into a moving box this weekend, in a stunningly ham-fisted metaphor.

I made a promise with myself to not get sucked in this season. But all it took was watching Jose Reyes for a little, and seeing Carlos Beltran showing flashes of his old self, and here I am. I am the old Michael Corleone, grey haired in a red cardigan: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." It has been such a joyless experience rooting for this team for the last 5 years, and yet I know that come September I will have watched 40 more Mets games and seen probably 20 losses and think to myself, "They're still in it!" The scouring of the MLB standings on ESPN.com, the playoff odds calculators, the box score watching will all come right back. And then they will lose 8 in a row and that will be it.

It is not quick or painless. It sneaks up on you like a jungle cat in the brush. It hits you like an anvil in a cartoon. And yet, baseball season is so long that it is easy to get lulled back in. Just when you thought you were out.


Me in other media

In lieu of a post today, here's a link to my piece on LeBron's fiasco last night. Thanks to Jerod and MSF for posting.



Patience Paradox

I have a real impulse problem. When I latch onto something in my head, be it a new toy, new gadget, new restaurant, anything new, I need it now. I am capable of waiting, but only if I push the item so far out of my mind that the release date or opening or meeting sneaks up on me, otherwise I am simply paralyzed.

Thus searching for a job triggers all of my impulse problems at once: the concept of a job is so intangible and so unknown, the date is completely hypothetical and in order to be proactive it has to stay on my mind at all times. It is driving me freaking crazy, and I have only been home for two weeks.

I take solace in the fact that a first job is somewhat of a stepping stone, a footnote to what I hope is a career as a writer. I am no longer hemming and hawing and aw-shucks-ing with people when they ask me what I want to do. I want to write, and I want to do it now, and I want to do it exceedingly well.

But of course, I cannot be a writer right now because, well, I don't know shit. I have experienced a fair amount in my 22 years, but I think that still seeing a pediatrician precludes one from writing the great American novel. A writer can have all the talent in the world and still be limited by his or her experiences - I remember trying to write a play as a 16-year-old that basically turned into 20 pages of me and my friends sitting on a stoop eating bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches because that's the only thing I knew.

Of course, great novels can come from people with incredibly limited experiences if they delve into those experiences with great detail. You can grow up in the middle of no where and be William Faulkner. But Faulkner did not write his first novel until he was in his late 20s.

So do I have to wait to be great? I grew up watching so much sports and seeing so many phenoms break into the league at age 20 or 21 or 22 and be dominant. I assume the life of a writer is much less early fireworks and much more slow burn, but then I remember that Bret Easton Ellis was a hit at 21 and feel like a failure again.

What is the virtue in being patient versus being aggressive? Do I harp on these editors and writers I have emailed, bother them until they deign me with a response, or just wait and put my faith in God and the passage of time? Do I wait to have a measurable impact on the world, or grasp at every possibility and drive myself nuts?

All of these feelings stem from today's launch of Grantland.com, the new Bill Simmons/ESPN joint venture that is packed to the brim with mostly young writers. Now obviously, young is a relative term - a lot of these writers are 10 years older than I am. But if they are considered young in the literary world, does that mean I have 10 more years to develop a voice and a following and a style before I'm an old never-was?

Because 10 years is a long time to wait to be a hot young writer.


Anthony's Weiner

I sent a recent cover letter out to a prospective employer urging the person to read my blog, follow my Twitter, check my LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. I followed it with a meta-referential joke: " I realize that previous sentence would have been complete gibberish about 6 years ago but here we are!"

I have not heard back.

The future is strange. While waiting for the job offers to start flooding in, I am embarking on a personal project of increasing my online profile through this blog, my Twitter, a personal website, updating my LinkedIn, expanding my knowledge of Wordpress and Tumblr and all of these various items that would make 10-year-old Evan look up from his Legos in confusion. Just a few years ago, the only people who had Blackberries were lawyers and the phones looked like the cheap electronic travel version of Texas Hold'Em my grandparents have kept in their car for the last 10 years. My iPod still required me to press physical buttons to change songs. Webcams came separate from computers and cost hundreds of dollars. Cell phone cameras were around but cost like $1 per picture message. This was not the days of the telegraph or carrier pigeon or dial-up MOM HANG UP THE PHONE I'M TRYING TO CHAT WITH MY GIRLFRIEND but still.

So imagine trying to explain this Anthony Weiner thing to your past self. A congressman put a high resolution cell phone picture of his penis on a website that shares 140-character koans with millions of people at once in an attempt to send it to a woman he had met on a website designed to connect college classmates, then claimed that hackers had remotely broken into his $300 touch screen smartphone in order to post the pictures.

"Whoa," says past self. "Did this set off a huge scandal that brought down the entire telecommunications industry?"

"No!" you'd say to your past self. "This stuff happens ALL THE TIME."

Whatever happens in this increasingly sordid and stupid fiasco (and it looks like it might get worse before it gets better) the important thing to remember is that the old adage about the cover up being worse than the crime still holds true. We've come to expect a certain amount of sexual perversion from our politicians simply because the internet reveals these perversions on a daily basis. Weiner will probably, PROBABLY have to resign over this given that he lied a whole bunch and that other bad sexy things will probably leak out in the next few days. But other politicians have weathered these storms and we increasingly don't care.

The fact is we live in a representative democracy. We the people hold no legislative authority - we just elect the guys who do. If everyone had to vote every day for HS154-2B Increasing the Fiduciary Commitment for Federal Funding to Project zzzzzzzzzzz.... Well, we'd all fall asleep.

So we trust these dirtbags to do our voting for us, and for the most part we don't care what they do in their private lives until it ekes into the territory of outright hypocrisy. Weiner is fiery, and handsome, and I think we all could see him being a horndog. It's not like he claims to be a family man or is running on a family values platform. John Edwards went down because he cheated on his dying wife and lied about it and covered it up with campaign money and just looked kinda creepy. Larry Craig went down because he was living a lie and voting against every gay rights bill that crossed his desk. Eliot Spitzer went down because he transported hookers across state lines.

Weiner sent some dong shots to some people. Is that on the same level as those other guys? We'll find out when his letter of resignation gets leaked online.

Weiner is another in a long line of victims of the internet. A professor of mine loved to say that the internet is content neutral, in the sense that it is a tool with no negative or positive connotations. Anyone can use it, therefore it cannot be good or bad - it is dependent on the intentions of the user. In general, more information is better for society, better for shining a light on wrongdoing and glorifying goodness.

But a content neutral information pipe is only as good or bad as the people using it, and everything on the web is interconnected and permanent. If you want to use it for sending dong shots over a private message, you better expect them to bleed into other public arenas.

Of course, it's clear Representative Weiner had little to be embarrassed of by the junior member of the House. If I were organizing a PR strategy for Weiner, I would have set up an immediate press conference and put him up at the podium. "Mr. Weiner, is that a photo of you?"

"Damn right."


Shaq and Mortality

This NBA season was the first essentially Shaq-free year in my lifetime. Yes, the big fella was technically still around, wasting away in the trainer's room in the belly of the TD Banknorth Garden, but for all intents and purposes Shaq retired last year.

That's why today's announcement was not a surprise in the least: any NBA fan saw how totally finished Shaq is and saw how little he could stay on the court and how little an impact he made and figured that was it. He had basically two good games this year, each launching a thousand "Diesel Has Something Left in the Tank!!" headlines, but that was about it. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Shaq gave it the old college try and then packed up it up while the Celtics went home.

Shaq has been an important player to me for my entire life - I think the first reasonable sports argument I ever made was that Shaq deserved the MVP award every year and the media simply did not want to vote for him because it would be boring. His free throw foibles are well documented, but dammit if Shaq wasn't a winner. Maybe he wasn't the most valuable, but no one could dominate like he could. He looked like a grown man playing in a middle school YMCA game. He was a physical freak in the truest sense of the term: he looked like a person of normal height who suddenly turned into Apache Chief: INYUK-CHUK!!

Watching him breakdown after seeing him at his peak was the second time I'd see a lifelong favorite athlete wither before my eyes. Last year brought the far more traumatic retirement of Ken Griffey Jr., which made me break out the N64 and fire up Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr, a relic from my childhood that I will never sell.

But Shaq was different than Griffey - Griffey's breakdown was slow and robbed him of so much time that by the time he retired, it was easy to forget he was still around. Seeing the Heat face the Mavericks in the Finals reminds one that when these teams faced off five years ago, Shaq was already seen as "on the decline" and STILL managed to deliver on his championship promise. The guy looked sure to hang around forever, despite the ballooning weight and the nagging injuries and the silly feuds and the TV shows and Twittering. When he signed with the Celtics and pretended he was still pissed off and chasing one more ring, it seemed so utterly hollow. Shaq was lying to us.

Watching a player retire when his career has spanned my entire life makes me feel incredibly old, and incredibly sad, and is further compounded by the fact that Blake Griffin is younger than me and more famous and rich than I will ever be. When I loved Shaq, I still daydreamed about the NBA and getting tall and dunking a basketball just once. Seeing him break down reminds me that the only way I will ever dunk a basketball is on my unborn son's kiddie hoop.

Shaq gets to retire at least somewhat gracefully, and will probably pop up in a million places on TV and in movies and in the news and online until we all get sick of him. But remember when Shaq could just decide it was time to score and do this?

Remember that when you see him at 400 pounds, wearing a suit that is clinging on for dear life sitting next to the similarly rotund Magic Johnson. Remember how Shaq was a force of nature, and not the Big Media Whore.

Pedro Alvarez and my one sports triumph

The Mets are playing the Pirates tonight, but Pedro Alvarez is out of the lineup. Alvarez is the pride of Horace Mann high school up in Riverdale, and was a full fledged phenom by the time I faced him in a game 6 years ago last month. He was an all-city, all-everything third baseman absolutely annihilating the 5'5" Jewish pitchers from Dalton and Trinity. I was really damn good at filling out a scorecard, but picked up a bat maybe 8 times that whole season. Let's say we were on opposite sides of the spectrum.

He was huge; even though he was only a year older than me he looked about 25 and scooped up groundballs with ease and swung an aluminum bat like a weapon. After the game, he picked up a wood bat and crushed batting practice fastballs in front of about a half dozen major league scouts. I will never forget the image of Alvarez, standing in the batter's box at Horace Mann's picturesque baseball field sending moonshots over a 4-story building that served as the right field wall. It was so clear that Alvarez was born to play baseball, I thought, and so clear that I was destined for something more... intellectual, let's say.

But back to the game. It had rained the night before and the field was slick, which worked to my advantage. With the bases clear in the 6th inning and my team down several runs, my coach told me to grab a bat and loosen up. My heart began racing; my father looked on from behind the backstop and smiled as I worked furiously to get my muscles loose. I strode into the batters box and from the corner of my left eye I saw the hulking Alvarez take several steps in towards the infield grass. Clearly, he had less confidence in my hitting ability than even I did.

The details of the at-bat are fuzzy, but the outcome is crystal clear. I swung hard and screwed myself into the ground and pounded the ball into the grass down the third base line. As the ball spun, I pushed off with my back leg and hauled ass down the first base line at my absolute top speed. The first baseman stretched out his arm and I thought I was dead to rights, but no 'out' call ever came. The first baseman stepped off the bag and kicked the dirt a little bit, and as I sped past the base I turned to see Alvarez swearing and looking at the wet ball still stuck in the grass.

The inning ended shortly thereafter and my day was already done, but I returned to the bench to check out the scorecard.

The sweetest play in baseball. E-3.


M-E-S-S mess mess mess!

In light of recent events, I want to talk about my Mets fandom yesterday after seeing a guy at a restaurant wearing a "I'm Calling It Shea" t-shirt.

I started considering the psyche of this guy, so attached to a big concrete donut in Flushing that he refuses to honor its quarter of a billion dollar replacement by calling it Citi Field. I admit I was one of those people at one point, secretly hoping the new ballpark would be called Citi Field At Shea Stadium, but I realized I was clinging to the name of a completely crass, downright ugly monument to losing.

Shea Stadium was never Yankee Stadium, or Ebbetts Field, or Fenway Pahhhk or anything of the sort. It was a testament to the time it was built: remember, its ballpark contemporaries were RFK in Washington, Three Rivers Stadium, Veterans Stadium, etc - all destroyed within the last few years with nary a tear shed. Its charm stemmed from the fact that it was so utterly charmless, like a drunk guy at a bar telling dirty jokes and stinking of stale beer and body odor. Shea Stadium, you were a drunk guy that everyone liked for a few hours and was incredibly glad once you left. Sorry.

Any Shea Stadium apologists were basically ascribing a false history to a team that has constantly been the ugly stepsister and nothing more. People love things that are old and classic, or fresh and new. We love vintage cars and brand new sports cars - no one is clamoring for a 1995 Ford Fiesta. Shea was a crappy stadium for a bastard team that sprang from the graves of the old Brooklyn Dodgers and New York (baseball) Giants.

And basically, that's Met fans in a nutshell. We refused to root for the Yankees, we adopted a team out of necessity, and it has proceeded to jam its thumbs into our eye sockets every September for the last 25 years. We don't root for the Pirates, a team that has 112 consecutive losing seasons, or the Cubs, who are so historically bad that it's at least a LITTLE cute, or the Rays, who were a punchline because they were new and crappy and now are newish and good. We fall into that category with Astros fans and Padres fans and Mariners fans of liking teams that are 40-50 years old and are aggressively mediocre.

Sometimes, we win a World Series, sure. But more often than not we are cellar dwellers. Sometimes we go on a run, and the NY Post back page is something like "THE WRIGHT STUFF" or "REYES THE ROOF" or "BATS IN THE PELFRY" (copyright My Father 2011). Sometimes there are articles about how the Mets are replacing the Yankees as the hot team, and then it's right back to this.

So the Mets are hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, probably destined to fall into the hands of a somewhat crazy hedge fund billionaire. Could it get any worse? Not unless every time David Wright strikes out he slams his bat into a lucky fan's crotch. That would be a little worse.


Hot town, summer in the city

New York is NOT alive.

There is no more hackneyed, cliche writing trope than the personification of a city. It is not 'alive,' there is no 'pulse,' there is no 'rhythm' or any other word that implies movement. It is a slab of concrete, with other big slabs of concrete jutting out of it interspersed with green areas and glass and metal and that's about it. No matter how hard I write, how long I stretch a metaphor or force an analogy, New York will not come alive.

But dammit, it sure feels alive, doesn't it?

This was my first day being home where I felt the pulse and the rhythm and all that crap. My weather widget portended rain but mother nature had other ideas. Clear skies and a warm sun heated pavement and stripped off layers and caused beads of sweat to roll down faces. The subway station felt like a sauna and the bus had no working A/C and the streets were packed and it felt like the beginning of summer in the city.

If you were to plot New York seasons on a bar graph, with the Y-axis being "Level of Magic," summer ranks fairly low. It's hot as hell, it smells like garbage everywhere and being outside is simply unbearable. The streets get choked with tourists like a fat, white version of Calcutta and roaches rule the streets like a gang from The Warriors. Every damn Sunday is another damn parade (a subject for another day) and it's too expensive to see a Mets game and all the Broadway shows are impossible to get into and every movie theater has sticky floors and is packed with kids and the movies suck anyway.

The money season is autumn, of course, because New York is rarely as pretty or tolerable as it is around Columbus Day. But fate worked out that my big return to New York would be in hot-garbage-roach season, so here we are.

And honestly, for a first day loop down to Rockefeller Center and up the West Side, it wasn't that bad. Living in DC makes you forget how batshit crazy most people are, because 'Washingtonians' are devoid of personality. No one actually lives in the Federal part of Washington so it has no (ugh) pulse or life. But New York is always jammed full of crazies who give it that dread literary 'character.'

Seriously, walking home I saw: a woman wearing a surgical mask and gloves pulling a wheelie suitcase, a muscled-up young Jew with 'Israel' tattooed in Hebrew on his biceps, three different homeless people with increasingly sadder dogs and an old black woman with a canary yellow dress laughing hysterically to herself in the middle of the street. This was all within about three blocks on Broadway. The craziest thing you'd find in Washington is a tourist NOT wearing Merrell sneakers and ill-fitting capri pants.

I know that none of this is news to anyone who lives in New York, but try being away for the better part of three years in a polite-ass deserted transient town and then taking a jaunt up Broadway in the middle of the afternoon. It's a bit of a culture shock, to say the least.

So maybe New York isn't alive, per se, but the people who live here and work here and walk around here give it a sense of movement. Cram the three million or so people who live in Manhattan into DC and you'd get three million people standing in the street yelling that all the bagels suck and there's no where to park. Send the 50 people who actually live in the white part of DC to Manhattan and you'd have 50 cases of whiplash from acute staring-at-crazy-people.

It's gonna take a few weeks to get readjusted. And just wait till I go downtown.


The Email to end all other Emails.

There is a pathetic hopelessness that goes along with looking for a job. It's all searching, second guessing, begging and - of course - waiting. Oh, the waiting.

The last week has consisted of me staring at my Blackberry waiting for the email that begins the rest of my life. Every other buzz has been a brutal tease. Every text, BBM, Facebook alert and email from god damn Borders Rewards has lead to a minor heart attack. WHY does Borders still INSIST on emailing me despite the fact that they are OUT OF BUSINESS?

Basically, the issue with looking for a job in the age of cyber applications and Monster.com is that the waiting is compounded. We expect instant gratification in all aspects of life and any delay feels like an eternity. When I email someone, I expect a response within a day. When I order chinese food online, I expect it within a half hour. When I send a Gchat I expect a response within seconds, and so on and so forth.

Which leads me to the point that I am coming up on a week's worth of waiting for a certain company to contact me and have become more discouraged with every passing hour. Did they hate my cover letter? Did they hate my writing samples? Did I - god forbid- misspell something? Am I just not good enough?

Every morning for the last seven mornings begins with me shaking awake violently, taking a second to collect my bearings and then a frantic dive for my phone to see if THIS is the day. Every morning for the last seven mornings, I have been disappointed.

WAIT - my phone just buzzed! Maybe this is it, maybe THIS is the email that changes my life and launches me on the trail towards literary stardom and luxury apartments and Italian cars and French restaurants and Swedish au pairs!

Fucking Borders.


Upon graduation

I am not a gambler by nature, but I bet on 3-1 odds last night and lost.

I was supposed to spend today on the National Mall with 20,000 plus of my classmates, their families, teachers, administrators and other assorted chazerai of this reasonably venerable institution.

Instead, I read a weather report that said there was a 75% chance of rain this morning, and decided to skip it. I believe I punctuated my point at dinner last night with my family by stating that "no matter what shoes I wear tomorrow, they will be ruined." My family seemed to agree, and we collectively decided to bag it.

But the sun beams that blazed through my window this morning made me squint just a little harder than usual. I had been bested by a stupid Blackberry weather app and the collective willpower of a thousand other graduates who clearly wanted a once-in-a-lifetime moment more than I wanted to sleep late.

So in lieu of sitting on the hazy quagmire that must be the Mall, I spent my morning engaging in the most beneficial of college activities - Jeopardy.

Jeopardy is really the ultimate quiz show: the questions are rigorous, the competition fierce, and the element of luck is completely removed. This is not Deal or No Deal, or even Wheel of Fortune. There is nothing to spin, or randomly pick, or reveal - it is just pure, unadulterated trivia. For a person who is borderline-Rain Man when it comes to trivia, Jeopardy is tailor-made to the eclectic collection of names, dates, terms and koans that comprise my brain.

I have spent a great deal of my college experience killing time with episodes of Jeopardy and reruns of Cash Cab and thousands of Sporcle quizzes and half finished crossword puzzles because I absolutely love trivia. I love historical minutiae and three-letter words and especially sports trivia. I would venture that if I devoted even half of the time I spent with Jeopardy to studying, I would have been Cum Laude.

This is a roundabout way to say something about graduation. One of the answers on Jeopardy this week quoted Khalil Gibran: "The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind."

It is a beautiful image. For so long, I was engendered to fight teachers, to hate them, to struggle against them as they tried to pin me down and teach me. But professors in college are more interested in leading you towards knowledge at a slow trot, drawing you down a path and stimulating your interest in a subject until you abandon the trot in favor of a dead sprint. A good professor shares his or her wisdom while pushing you to the brink of your own wisdom. Of course, they can only lead you so far before graduation.

I tuned out so much of the alleged words of wisdom I heard this weekend from people behind podiums because I found them mostly empty. Instead, I crafted my own image. Bear with me while I demolish this simile.

I imagine my mind as a long, cylindric, malleable piece of metal. I am set in your ways, but still fundamentally alterable. I am a formidable weapon when swung, able to bludgeon any subject that I bring myself down upon, but I needed a sharpened point. My parents held me against the whetstone, and sparks flew, and I resisted, and they spun me round and round until I finally relented. Once I found the right sharpening tool, my point became angled, and then sharp, and now deadly.

Simply because the whetstone has stopped spinning does not mean that I am done sharpening. Instead, the next step falls to me. My mind is a spear lying stationary on the blacksmith's floor, and I must pick it up myself and thrust it into the world.

Well, that got a little out of hand.

Khalil Gibran said it better and more succinctly, but that is because he was a wordsmith like very few others. My writing is a work in progress, but at least I know I have the raw ability within my mind. Joe Posnanski wrote a typically beautiful piece this week about being a young writer and how Bob Costas was able to inspire him by basically breaking him down. I have spent the last year in particular having my writing broken down and built up again by a very special professor, one who truly believes in my ability and still pushes me to do better. He criticizes me when I am lazy, he lauds me when I produce good work, and in the course of praising me in front of my classmates makes sure to remind me that I am not perfect. Everything I do can be better.

I am excited to find an outlet for my writing, one with an audience and a paycheck and critics and (hopefully) fans. My father likes to tell me that my writing is only limited by my experiences, and I hope that applies to all writers in general. The hard part is collecting those experiences - living life. The even harder part is finding an audience who will read those experiences. The easy part is writing.


Tractor Traylor

In 7th grade, I was cut from the school basketball team not because I wasn't good enough, but because the coach was worried about my 'conditioning.' That was her polite way of telling me I was too fat and too short to make the team, in spite of my silky jump shot and tenacious defense and absolute infatuation with the game. I carried a grudge about that rejection for years to come, and my anger only multiplied when I slimmed down and shot up past six foot tall as a high school sophomore. It was as if that one day of tryouts had completely ruined my potential basketball career, rather than my general lack of athletic ability or acute Judaism.

A fast story about Robert 'Tractor' Traylor, who was found dead earlier this week in his home in Puerto Rico.

Traylor was sort of a fascination for me, especially after the debut of YouTube allowed for easy cataloging of clips like this. I'm not quite sure why, but I have always enjoyed fat NBA players like Traylor and Stanley Roberts and Baron Davis and Charles Barkley. Maybe I saw them as torchbearers for kids like me who were stuck kicking lockers in anger and frustration after repeated athletic failures. Maybe it was because I wished I could elevate like Tractor Traylor and Boom Dizzle, or throw people through glass windows like Sir Charles.

Growing up in New York exposes a child to a lot of strange situations. That is enough background to justify how I found myself courtside at Madison Square Garden one evening, sitting in the seats of a well-known hotel magnate next to Ice-T and Howard Stern. The experience would be surreal to me now, but back then seemed run-of-the-mill for a kid who found himself in strange situations all the time. My grandfather calls me Zelig, after the Woody Allen character who found himself rubbing elbows with famous folks quite by chance.

Woody Allen was in the building that night, as was Spike Lee - more on them in a later post - as we watched the Charlotte Hornets take on the hometown Knicks. The date is a little fuzzy, but I believe the game was November 29th, 2003, a Knicks win against a Hornet team featuring two of those aforementioned fat ballers, Davis and Traylor, plus the somewhat rotund David Wesley. I remember very little from the game except that during a timeout, I quietly rapped out loud to a Nelly song playing over the speakers before noticing Ice-T was rapping along with me.

I also remember eating chicken fingers.

This is important to remember, as these chicken fingers and a container of honey mustard were perched precariously on my 15-year-old legs. Immersed in my food, I did not notice the 300-pound Traylor barreling towards the sideline after a loose ball.

I froze in place, my face contorted in sheer terror. Traylor pulled up as best he could, stutter stepping to slow his considerable momentum. But inertia being how it is, Traylor did not come to a full and complete stop before reaching my tiny body.

He put his immense hand onto my chest, and I felt my ribcage compress. The kinetic energy from his run rushed down his arm, out of his hand and into my torso. His face stopped inches away from mine, and we locked eyes. My chicken fingers crashed to the floor, and honey mustard splattered the legendary wood where Clyde Frazier and Willis Reed and Bernard King once played.

He smiled, and laughed, and apologized for knocking over my chicken. He drew back his hand, picked up the ball and passed it back into play.

On my tshirt was a sweaty outline of a hand the size of a dinosaur footprint.

Rest in peace, Tractor Traylor.


DC Is purgatory

Living in DC isn't good or bad, its fine.

My three years in Washington have always felt temporary from the moment I arrived, and there was never a doubt in my mind that I would return home once college ended for the simple reason that DC just doesn't feel 'real.' It lacks a certain quality that other cities like New York, San Francisco, and Boston possess, the proverbial "grittiness" so often ascribed and so rarely clarified. DC is the Duplo to New York's Lego, the RC Cola to San Francisco's Coca-Cola, the Lifestyles to Boston's Trojan. It just seems... off-brand.

There is nothing particularly bad or offensive about Washington, DC - and perhaps that is the biggest problem.

Yes, there are many minor annoyances. Everything closes too early. The Metro is woefully unacceptable - trains seem to come every two minutes during rush hour, leading to catastrophic backups and constant delays, while never EVER coming much past 9PM, leading to pissed off drunk people hailing down creepy taxis that don't take credit cards.

Yes, it is lacking in certain basic amenities. You cannot find pizza, or bagels, or Mexican food, or Italian, or decent sushi for the most part. You must look hard for malt liquor, a strike against any legitimate city. For some inexplicable reason you cannot purchase liquor on Sundays, which seems like a vestigial remnant from some long forgotten time when religious types ignored the fact that sometimes a man needs to buy whiskey to go along with his football.

Yes, there are too many tourists. However, it is difficult to blame the tourists themselves for the pilgrimage, given how pretty this city can be. Free museums, art galleries, monuments that rise from the ground like marble emblems of freedom: it makes sense that people would come to visit. In New York, tourists are a constant annoyance to residents because it seems as though they just don't 'get it.' They walk too slow, they choke the streets and ultimately they just don't understand that people are trying to work here. New York isn't some cityscape in a snow globe meant to be admired - it is a real place where people work and live.

DC does not seem real. It seems like the kind of city a corporation would set up for its employees with all the comforts of a real city and none of the little details that make a city whole. I assume residents of Celebration and Hershey feel the same way trapped in preplanned cities supported by one main business.

In that sense, maybe this is what Catholics mean when they refer to purgatory. Between the fires of hell and the bliss of heaven is God's waiting room, neither good nor bad.

I remember my trip back to Washington this January, driving down I-95 in snow so bad that the front window of the bus looked travelling through hyperspace in the Millenium Falcon. Stepping off the bus on 10th and H was like stepping into a nuclear winter, as hail the size of Tic-Tacs pelted my clothes and immediately froze to the fibers. I stood in the sleeting downpour and grabbed the first taxi I could find. I was aghast when the driver allowed another person to pile in with me so he could score a double fare. I arrived at my building covered in a thin layer of ice, realizing that for the next two weeks the city would be utterly paralyzed by a scant few inches of snow.

It was too deserted to be hell, too infuriating to be heaven. Hence, purgatory. If only I could find the Virgil to my Dante.


It's time.

New York City is a territorial place, like any city, but with a fundamental dichotomy between uptown and downtown, east and west, Manhattan and the outer boroughs. Where you are from in New York informs what you are referring to when you say 'New York.'

I have spent 22 years of my life in upper Manhattan, with a quick three-year interlude in Washington DC. When I say New York, I mean my little enclave on Park Avenue tucked underneath Spanish Harlem. My New York is equal parts luxury and squalor, prewar and postwar, integrated and ghettoized.

In those years spent uptown, I have learned a few lessons. One: I am an idiot. Two: the Yankees suck. Three: Downtown is scary.

The first two speak for themselves. But for the life of me, I cannot understand my fear of lower New York. It is undeniably the authentic New York, the 'real' New York using the same criteria Sarah Palin defines the 'real' America. And yet I fear everything below 14th Street like I fear deep water and pictures of clowns (not actually clowns, just pictures).

Perhaps it has something to do with the distance or the fear of getting caught out of my element. I flash back to a particularly hazy night near Rivington Street when a torrential rain pour soaked me to the bone, and something possessed me to abandon my friends on the street and jump into a taxi bound for uptown. Total cost? $32. Anywhere that is $32 away from my house can't be worth my time, right?

But with graduation fast approaching, I realize it is time for a change. Upper Manhattan reminds me of high school, and wasted evenings in Riverside Park and late night hot dogs at Grey's Papaya and deathly quiet walks home up Park Ave. Downtown is something new, something jarring that will represent a clean break from the liminal stage I currently inhabit.

I have spent 22 years in a bubble, and a few months ago I made the decision to let it pop. No longer will I inhabit the cozy confines of Park Avenue. I will force myself to live downtown. I will have to learn what NoLita is. I will have to navigate through streets with names and not numbers. I will finally at restaurants New York Magazine bothers to review. I will experience the real New York - or have a panic attack in a gutter on Mott St. or Grand St. or I'VE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE.

This blog will document my move, my acclimation to living how the lower half lives, and the joys of looking for a job with nothing more than a journalism degree and a smile.

Also, I'm gonna complain about sports.