PLACES TO GO


Wednesday, September 29, 2004
 
WHY YOU WON'T BE SEEING ME FOR A WHILE

Curse you, Nintendo!

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Sunday, September 26, 2004
 
WHO'S THE BOSS?

I am in receipt of a most interesting email. (Forgive the pseudo-British narration. I've been reading this, and the writing style has usurped my senses, a word which here means "to take hold of and not let go".) This email is titled "NEWS, NEWS, NEWS!!!", and is from somebody at my old company. I never really expected to hear from anyone at my old company, let alone with an email titled, "NEWS, NEWS, NEWS!!!", so you can imagine how intrigued I was.

As you may remember, at my old company, I had a Very Bad Boss. Everyone hated VBB, no one more so than me. For over two years, I plotted my escape, and finally, about three months ago, I gave my notice. I didn't have another job lined up, didn't have much money in the bank. He was just that bad.

And I expected that would be pretty much the end of it. But earlier this week, there was that email, sitting in my inbox, and in the nanosecond between when I saw it and when my drool sensors kicked in and I clicked on it, I was extremely curious as to what this NEWS, NEWS, NEWS!!! would be.

As it turns out, he's leaving the company. As much as I wish he went down in some sordid scandal and was led from the building in handcuffs in front of dozens of news crews, all that happened was that he found a job at another law firm and gave his notice. Sure, there was a bit of late-night document copying and Jerry Maguire-esque client-poaching going on, but nothing that would really be of any interest to anyone outside the firm. In other words, either the three exclamation points in the email subject line or the all-caps letters may have been justified, but not both.

Still, I was amazed how interested I was in news that no longer affected me. I couldn't help thinking about how ecstatic the mood must be at the old office, as evidenced by the headline "NEWS, NEWS, NEWS!!!" and the content of the email as well, which was about five paragraphs long and contained a total of 1,472 exclamation points.

And I also couldn't help thinking that if I'd stayed, I would pretty much have been screwed. As a result of my old boss' departure, his entire department was being disbanded. (Although he was a pain in the ass and everyone hated him, the department really can't function without him, as they were kind of the loser frat of our office, held together by one guy with a big client list. He chased out anyone with any ambition, and the three people who remained were his sycophantic whipping boy, a guy who'd been spending over a year trying to get fired, and a clueless new guy who took the job because he was really desperate.)

So, if I'd stuck around, I would've been out of work anyway. But at the same time, I kind of wished I could have witnessed the elation as the news passed around the office. As smug as he feel to be leaving on his terms, the fact that he's backstabbing the company gives everyone complete immunity to tell him off. I'm sure he's had his ass handed to him quite a few times since announcing he was leaving, from the tech support woman who was tired of his constant demands, and the office manager who bore the brunt of his tantrums, and from everyone within a ten-office radius of him, who was tired of his constant screaming on the telephone. So many smackdowns, and I wish I could've heard them all. As much as I wanted to think I had left the place behind me forever, I have to admit it's still a part of me. All the petty dramas still strike a chord. To any bystander, it would just be news, but to me, it really was "NEWS, NEWS, NEWS!!!"

The day after I received that email, I was at the Pixies concert, when I heard a voice calling me: "Jerry! Jerry!" And then, because I hadn't responded, "... Jerry?" I was staring right at the guy, a disheveled, borderline-homeless-looking guy in a ratty plaid shirt and jeans, with thick neo-hipster glasses. He looked like some cryogenically-frozen undergrad from the early-80's who hadn't bathed in twenty years, a sad late-30's loser who couldn't let go of his youth.

I had to stare at him for a few seconds before I finally realized who it was. It was my old boss.

No, not that old boss. My old old boss. (If this didn't really happen to me, I wouldn't believe the coincidence either. I don't believe in fate, but I'm a firm believer in dramatic irony.) He seemed stunned that I didn't recognize him, although I should also point out that he had lost a lot of weight. And, out of fear of libeling him, I don't want to say something I can't prove, like, "He was stoned out of his mind." So rather than resort to possible hyperbole, I'll leave it at, "He had perhaps had a puff or two of a marijuana cigarette." I remembered now that he was a huge Pixies fan and realized I shouldn't have been surprised to see him. But earlier that day, when I'd gone through my head wondering who I knew whom I might bump into at the concert, I hadn't even thought of him.

The old old boss predates the blog, so I haven't really written much about him, but he was about 100 times worse than the old boss. Whereas Old Boss was passive-aggressive, Old Old Boss was just aggressive. Extremely. He yelled at me. He called me names. If something wasn't filed in a timely manner, he threw the file across the room. And he also said I was the best assistant he'd ever had.

One time, Old Old Boss tried to do something nice, but he even messed that up. Everyone kept telling me he'd gotten me a very generous birthday gift, but my birthday came and went and he said nothing about it. I think he was terrified to be generous, so he kept putting it off. As time dragged on, I figured the gift was never coming. Six weeks after my birthday, my father died. I took a week off from work.

Then, about three weeks after I came back -- more than two months after my birthday -- he came up to me one day, barked a few commands at me and then said, "Oh, yeah. I got you a birthday present."

"My birthday was two months ago."

"Well, yeah, but you were mad at me for a while, then you were sad about your dad, so, I kind of held off." He pointed toward his desk, which was piled about three feet high with junk and old files. "If you want to dig around in there, if you see something that looks like a gift certificate, that's for you."

I worked there for a year and a half. I was miserable, and I hated him, and when I left I hoped I'd never see him again. I continued working in the same area, though, so I'd occasionally run into people from the old office at lunch, and whenever I did, I'd soak up all the latest company gossip.

Now I was standing next to him, this man who'd stirred up so much anger and frustration in me, and I had no idea what to say. I wasn't intimidated, I wasn't curious. I was just indifferent. It helped that he was mellowed out -- possibly by controlled substances, but you know me, I'd never speculate on that. Our entire conversation lasted about thirty seconds, and about ten seconds into it, all I could think of to ask was:

"Is, uh, Cyndi still there?"
"Yeah, she's still there."
"And Jennifer?"
"Yeah, she left, but then she came back."
"Oh, how funny."
"Yeah."
"Yeah."

We didn't have NEWS, NEWS, NEWS!!! to talk about. We didn't even have news. Once we'd gone through the whole list of people I remembered, we kind of shrugged and then parted ways. And I realized the key to neutralizing a person's negative effect on you isn't just cutting them out of your life. It's moving on.

As much as I can't stand him, I'm still intrigued by my old boss' life and career. I still need to hear that news, because everything I went through when I worked for him is still fresh in my mind and very much a part of me.

But ask me again in three years. By that time, if I run into him on the street, it may take me a moment or two to even recognize him.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004
 
FINISH LINE

Chip and Kim, Linda and Karen, Brandon and Nicole, Colin and Christie, Jerry Bruckheimer. All people I disliked and wished ill upon... until tonight. By 11pm this evening, I loved every last one of them.

Once again, the Amazing Race went out in style, with possibly their most exciting finale ever. Coming two days after their Emmy win, it made for a pretty amazing week for Mr. Bruckheimer, damn him.

I know the next season has already been shot, and I know the people who make the show don't need advice from me on how to make their show better, but here are my suggestions for next time anyway:

  1. Fewer non-elimination legs. I understand it's easier to pad the season with a couple of these than to start off with 16 teams, but it's always kind of a let-down when nobody gets the boot. At the very least, they need to be positioned more strategically. When Brandon and Nicole refused to shave their heads, they deserved to go home, but instead, the non-elimination leg gave them a free pass to the next round.
  2. Stop stripping teams of money if they come in last in the non-elimination legs. Since they're allowed to panhandle during the mandatory break period and since every team managed to raise plenty of cash, it really wasn't much of an obstacle. And it doesn't do the show or America's image abroad any benefit to reduce the contestants to begging. (Instead, find another way to punish the lucky losers, like forcing both of them to complete the next detour, instead of just one.)
  3. No more former Big Brother contestants. Not even Nakomis. (I'm guessing they already learned this lesson, since Alison was only visible on screen in the finale for about 0.000001 second.)
  4. No more yields. The new gimmick this season only got used once, maybe because the logic of it was so backward. Wouldn't it make more sense to slow down a team that's ahead of you, rather than one that's behind you? And forcing a team to take a time out and possibly lose the race through no fault of their own isn't exactly fair.
  5. As much as possible, have teams do traveling at the beginning of each leg, rather than later on. Everyone always seems to catch up to each other at the airport, rendering whatever tasks came beforehand meaningless. There's nothing lamer than a cab race from an airport to a pit stop, and it's more fun to see a team eliminated because they sucked at a challenge than because they got stuck with a slow driver.
  6. Bring back the Fast Forwards -- or at least have more of them next time. Fast Forwards were fun because they screwed almost as many people as they helped. When more than one team went for it on the same leg, only one of them could win, and the others wasted a ton of time and fell even further behind in the race.
  7. No more Jesus freaks.
Other than that, leave everything exactly the same.

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Monday, September 20, 2004
 
HOLY FLURKING SCHNIT

I've been quoted -- by E! Online no less.

I'll have to rag on Shandling more often.

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WELCOME BLOG, BACKERS!

Today, I'm celebrating the return of two buddies to the blogosphere.

A hearty welcome back -- and a big hug, too -- to BittyBoo, who's been performing in a regional production of Wit staged at Northridge Hospital and her new house in the Valley. Let's be glad the extended run is finally over. Check out Karen's story and send her some cyber-love.

And, if you can keep it on the H.H.*, go check out Paul's new photoblog. Mr. Monster at the End of This Blog took an extended vacation due to a case of "someone in my family found my blog", so let's keep this one our little secret, okay?

____________________________
* hush-hush

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Saturday, September 18, 2004
 
LONG PLAY

I realized just this week that today is the day I turn 33 1/3 years old.

I am 1/3 of the way to 100.

Why am I constantly thinking of new ways to make myself feel old?

On the bright side, I won't be a record speed again for another 11 2/3 years.

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Thursday, September 16, 2004
 
SIDEBAR, JERRY, SIDEBAR

Well, last week the new season of the Apprentice began, and tonight it's the new Survivor. It's the perfect time to revive the reality show guessing segment of my sidebar, but I've decided not to, because I'm bad at keeping up with the sidebar and don't want to fall behind, and because there are other places out there where you can get better predictions for these kinds of things and, mostly, because I'm almost always wrong. (Remember when I predicted Rumsfeld's resignation? If only, Jerry, if only...) So my record of 22/55 will stand forever.

However, I will say this in terms of predictions: there's no way the guy with one foot is going to get voted out first.

And instead of Guess, Jerry, Guess, I now present a new feature called "That's my jam!" What's my jam? Well, maybe a word or phrase I like, maybe my favorite ice cream flavor, maybe a new friend. My jam is my jam. I can't control it. Right now, my jam is "ratass".

Also, in response to a request, I'm adding a link to my latest LAist post. Since I don't actually post them myself and won't know the permalinks right away, I can pretty much guarantee I won't be able keep on top of this, but as Bart Simpson said, I'll try to try.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2004
 
BACKHANDED BY PALM

Because Other Drew doesn't have a blog of his own... and because I have nothing else to post today... and because this MUST be seen, the following is an actual email that Other Drew received from Palm technical support.

Not that it matters, but the email inquiry Other Drew sent Palm tech support that invited this response was perfectly normal and polite...

Dear Drew,

Thank you for contacting palmOne™ Technical Support. My name is Leah, I will be assisting you with regards to your inquiry.

With regards to the issue with your handheld, you may eat it and fuck off, you ratass. Hahaha!

Oops…are you offended by my reply, you moron? I DARE YOU, go to the Better Business Bureau, to the media, to your lawyer, you silly loser…tsk…tsk..tsk!!!

We hope this issue has been resolved to your satisfaction. A Customer Satisfaction Survey will be emailed to you very shortly. Please take time to provide us with your feedback about this support experience as it will help us in our on-going effort to continually improve our services.

If you require further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us again. You can also find troubleshooting articles and frequently asked questions at:

http://kb.palmone.com/

To learn more about palmOne handhelds, please visit our support web site at:

http://www.palmone.com/us/support/

Thank you for choosing palmOne.

Sincerely,

Leah
palmOne Technical Support
I mean, can you believe that? "On-going" does not need to be hyphenated. Nothing bothers me more than a poorly-punctuated email.

Also, Other Drew is not a ratass.

After phoning Palm and requesting an alternative solution to the problem with his Palm than eating it (which most likely wouldn't have helped), Other Drew received an apology and was told that the matter had been dealt with.

I'm guessing Leah no longer works there.

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Friday, September 10, 2004
 
NAKED POOL PARTY

I went to a naked pool party last weekend.

There were lots of cute boys there, swimming and frolicking completely bare-assed and without shame. Unfortuantely, I use the word "boy" not in the West Hollywood sense, but literally. You see, none of the nudists in question were past kindergarten.

This was not my idea of a good time.

Drew has already covered this hellish kiddie party quite well, but he left out a couple of things he didn't witness.

Let me just say that it never ceases to amaze me how many parents are perfectly willing to let their children run around naked in other people's houses. Yes, it was a pool party, and those naked running kids started off as naked swimming kids, but I don't get that either. Knowing what kids tend to do in swimming pools, why encourage them by letting their peeing, pooping parts float around freely?

Then again, not my home, not my kids, not my rules. So I tried my best to look the other way and remind myself that however scarred these might be in years to come, I wasn't the one who'd have to pay the therapy bills. I tried my best to turn a blind eye to J.J., who was about four years old and racing through our friend's house completely naked. I expected that at some point, J.J.'s parents would see him, apologize profusely, and immediately put some pants on the kid. But they knew he was there, and they just walked in and out of the kitchen, taking bites of watermelon and brownies, unconcerned that their son's teeny-weenie peenie was on display to everyone at the party.

J.J. followed a couple of five-year-old girls down the hall, then they closed the bedroom door on him. So he stood outside the door, knocking and screaming at them to let him in. They were holding the door shut, so that every time he managed to push it an inch or two, they'd slam it closed again. I figured they had his clothes inside and were hiding them from him, and I also figured that if this lockout continued, some crushed fingers were inevitable. So, even though none of the other adults seemed concerned, I decided to step in.

"Okay, guys. Let's knock it off and let J.J. in." I pushed the door gently, and the girls stepped back to let J.J. in. But it turned out J.J. wasn't looking for his clothes. Quite the opposite. As soon as I let him in the room, he ran up to the girls and started playing with himself. Yes, like a miniature version of some creepy, unshaven backwoods perv, he grabbed himself and smiled a satisfied, devilish grin. I don't know what struck me first -- the discomfort or the sense of vindication: See, Jerry, you were right. This is why kids shouldn't be naked at parties. The girls, who were just old enough to be disgusted, screamed their heads off and ran out of the room, and J.J. took off after them.

And that's where I checked out. This was really not something I wanted any part of.

So I let J.J. chase the girls around the house all he wanted, figuring somebody else would eventually step in. But no one did. A few minutes later, the girls shuttered themselves in the bedroom again and this time, J.J., still naked, knew exactly how to solve the situation. He marched up to me, grabbed me by the arm, and dragged me to the bedroom to help him get in again.

That's when I went to the kitchen to help clean up.

A few minutes later, I found myself talking to J.J.'s mom in the backyard. She was really nice, so I decided not to bring up her son's exhibitionism. For all I knew, what he was doing was a perfectly natural part of childhood sexual development. I'm not a kiddie psychologist, so I'll let her sort that one out herself. Again, there's always therapy.

"Jennifer, let's go!" her husband bellowed from inside the house. His tone suggested he'd been looking for her for a long time, he was fed up with this damn party and he wanted to leave immediately.

Jennifer ignored him. "Jennifer, come on!" She kept talking and slowly made her way toward the house. By the time she went inside, the husband was standing next to me, picking up his kids' towels and bathing suits from the pool area. He groaned, shook his head and looked directly at me. "What are you supposed to do with a wife who's a drunk?" he asked.

And then he grabbed his stuff and went back inside.

Drew and I got home and agreed that we were putting off having kids indefinitely, maybe even forever.

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Monday, September 06, 2004
 
THE FIRST-EVER WJW FALL PREVIEW SPECTACULAR!!!

Things I'm looking forward to this fall:

Movies:
A Dirty Shame – It’s about time John Waters hooked up with Tracey Ullman, dammit. If the soundtrack features “They Don’t Know”, this will probably become my favorite movie ever. (September 24)

Team America: World Police – Drew knows someone who’s seen it who dismissed it as nothing but “puppets hardcore fucking and shitting”. How could anyone have any problem with that? (October 15)

I Heart Huckabees – The trailer stinks, and it never really explains what a Huckabee is or why anyone would heart one. But I heart David O. Russell, and that’s all that matters. (October 1)

Shall We Dance? – Proof that trailers can change minds. I thought this sounded like the worst movie ever. But the preview got to me. I mean it really got to me. It filled me so full of the human spirit that I walked out of the theater and hugged a hobo. All is forgiven, J-Lo. Make Richard Gere dance! Make him dance! (October 15)

Bad Education – La nueva pelicula de Pedro Almodovar? No puedo esperar! (11/19)

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events - I'm always excited to see any movie that’s based on a book I’ve actually read. Okay, fine, so this is based on three books that total about 30 pages altogether and it was written for kids. And I only read one of the books. Shut up. (December 17)

Spanglish – All I know is that James Brooks is directing. And that’s enough. (December 17)


TV:
Joey - I'd be as skeptical about this as anyone else, but I've seen the pilot and it's hilarious. I stopped watching Friends toward the end, but I'm ready to fire up Tivo #2 so I can record this and Survivor at the same time.

LAX - When discussing this show, Drew's boss griped, "Who would believe Heather Locklear runs LAX?" To which Drew replied, "Well, I would." That's why I love Drew.

life as we know it -- It's got Kelly Osborne: bad. Its title is all lower-case: even worse. But it was created by a couple of Freaks & Geeks vets, so I’ll give it a chance.

Survivor: Vanuatu – Another men vs. women matchup? Snore, snore. An amputee and two lesbians? Burnett, you snagged me again!

Bands Reunited - The show with the best premise ever is back! And this time they've got the English Beat, ABC and NKOTB... or do they? Please, Donnie Wahlberg, please!

The Apprentice 2 – Let’s make this the #2 show in America… just because that’ll drive Trump nuts.


DVD:
Diff’rent Strokes, The Complete First Season – A moment of silence for Dana Plato, please. (September 14)

Fahrenheit 9/11 – You just know Michael Moore saved the really good stuff for this DVD, since it comes out just a couple weeks before the election. As to what could be worse than W sitting clueless in that Florida classroom for 7 minutes, I don’t know. Maybe he takes a crap on a bald eagle? (October 5)

What’s Happening, The Complete Second Season – Yes, this is the season where they get busted for bootlegging the Doobie Brothers concert. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I don’t want to know you. (October 5)


Music:
The Thrills “Let’s Bottle Bohemia” – They have more songs in my iTunes top 25 than anyone else. Two. (September 14)

Tears for Fears “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending” – Has there ever been a better title for a reunion album? Sure, I’ve already downloaded half of this off iTunes, but if the other half is half as good, it’ll be 3/4 of a perfect album. (September 14)

R.E.M. "Around the Sun" – Anyone who says they’re not as good as they used to be probably hasn’t heard “Up”. They probably have heard “Reveal”, but one less-than-stellar album doesn’t destroy a band’s credibility. Anyway, I don’t care if they do start to suck. Any band that makes an “Automatic for the People” has earned my disposable income for the rest of my life. (October 5)

Ted Leo “Shake the Sheets” – I don’t love the new single (which you can download for free here), but his last album could kick your mama’s ass – not that it would. Ted’s a nice boy. (October 19)

Pure Francis “Diamond” – It’s Robbie Williams’ sure-to-be-disastrous “makeover” project, wherein he performs a different style of music (electronic) as a “character” he created. If you’re thinking Chris Gaines, Chrisafer’s way ahead of you. Why am I still interested? I love my Robbie, and I love disasters. I’m hoping for a catastrophic success. (October)

U2, Untitled – Yes, even though it has a song called "Yahweh" on it. Ugh. (November 23)


Things I'm dreading this fall:

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (9/17)

Election Day (11/2)

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I'M GOING TO HELL

Even though I've put my foot in my mouth again and again, I keep forgetting that people actually do occasionally read this blog...

hello jerry

I got emailed your post
cracked me up
I emailed it to my cast

please tell me what night you want to come
and I will have a comp waiting for you

(by the way, the only reason joe rogan got in was because he's in the
cast for october - I wanted him to see the show before he performed in
it - only cast has privileges - no stars)

bye
see ya in hell
maggie

Maggie, if it's not obvious from that email, is one of the producers. I turned down the comp, since I already bought my tickets, but I was glad to have the clarification on Joe Rogan. My apologies to him and HHH for implying he was admitted through un-Christian means.

And I promise never to complain about anything again.

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WAITING WEEKEND

First, a bit of new slang.

Well, it's new to me anyway. One of Drew's coworkers in the development department at MTV was interviewing new assistants. One prospective employee came in and declared that she never watched MTV because all of their programs were "cheesy". (Note: When applying for a job in programming at a TV network, it's generally not a good idea to denigrate the programming of that network. The girl didn't get the job, but that's not the point of this story.) She then stopped herself and carefully rethought her statement. "Well except 'Pimp My Ride'," she declared. "That's my jam!"

Ever since we heard that story, Drew and I have said "That's my jam!" about 500 times a day. We've said it in regard to "Big Brother 5", we've said it in regard to our friend's newborn baby, we've said it in regard to Papa John's Pizza, and we've said it, with warmly reminiscent laughter, in regard to "Pimp My Ride".

Now, before I can begin the actual story, there's another thing I need to tell you.

There's a cookie store in Westwood, the neighborhood of L.A. that surrounds UCLA, that has the best cookies in the world. Admittedly, part of what makes them the best cookies -- and this is undoubtedly due to the fact that they're sold in a college town -- is that they're also the cheapest fresh cookies in the LA area. At Diddy Riese, your menu options include: three cookies for a dollar, two cookies and a carton of milk for a dollar or, my personal favorite, two cookies with a scoop of ice cream in the middle for, yes it's true, one measly dollar. In case you haven't figured out yet where this is going, let me make it very clear:

Diddy Riese is my jam!

Now, at the risk of overburdening this story with too much setup, I should just remind you of my frustrating, unfulfilled excursion to Hollywood Hell House last weekend. The short version: we got there, we waited, we got turned away. And the next day, we found out a mid-level celebrity who arrived after us managed to make his way in. Despite this, Drew and I decided to give it another shot this week. L.A., we figured, clears out on holiday weekends. (Picture the first five minutes of "28 Days Later", where the guy wakes up and finds the streets of London completely deserted. I know it was supposed to be creepy and chilling, but, if you actually live in an overcrowded city like L.A. or London, you dream of moments like this.) Since we stayed in town for Labor Day, it seemed like a good time to do some things that we otherwise might've stayed away from due to crowds.

So, we decided to give HHH another shot. We even arrived earlier this time, just in case. And of course, no sooner did we get in line than we were told that the event was oversold and we wouldn't be getting in. But, since Hollywood Hell House apparently isn't happy unless they're making you wait around for a long time, we were told that they had decided to bend the rules of their no-advance-ticket policy just for those of us who were being turned away. If we stayed in line, we would be able to reserve tickets for a future week. There was no way Drew and I would come back and face these crowds again otherwise, so we were grateful for the reservation system and decided to stick around to put our names down.

The problem was that, once again, we overestimated the level of organization involved with this event. There were about 100 people in front of us in line, and when someone reached the front of the line, what happened was this: the ticket seller wrote their name down on a sheet of notebook paper. We figured this process might take about fifteen minutes or so. It ended up taking an hour and a half. Maybe some of the people had names that were really hard to spell, but I think most of the delay was caused by an apparent case of ADD in the ticket taker. Whenever someone new arrived in the parking lot, they'd saunter up to the front of the line, ask the ticket taker what was going on, and he'd proceed to talk to them for at least five minutes.

An hour and a half is a long time to wait to not do something, so Drew and I were pretty annoyed after we gave our names (elapsed time: 10 seconds). And as we waited in line to retrieve our car from the valet (they graciously refunded the $5 we paid to park), it suddenly struck me that I had just paid $40 to have my name written down on a sheet of notebook paper and had nothing to show for it. Why did I continue to trust the organizational abilities of this total c-fuck nightmare hipster hell?

My friend Big Gay David, who we ran into in line, told me that he touched the ticket taker's ear inappropriately when the guy wrote his name down. "Now you'll remember me when I come back!" he said. "I'm the guy who touched your ear!" It was as good as a receipt, I figured. I'm just not an ear-toucher. I vowed not to leave without something in writing.

So I went up to the guy who took my name down and explained my skepticism about their reservation policy as politely as possible. "But I wrote your name down," he explained, pointing to his crumpled, folded-over piece of notebook paper. Before I could respond, I was introduced to a woman who identified herself as one of the producers. She was clearly frazzled by the situation and assured me she was sorry for what I'd been through. She guaranteed that my experience next time would be much smoother. I do want to say that I have a lot of sympathy for the people at HHH, who obviously never anticipated how popular their event would be and who really were trying to make everything right. They could've just sent us all away and said, "Tough shit".

I didn't want to be a jerk, but I was still suspicious of their reservation system. At that point, another man walked over. "What's your name? I'll remember you!" he insisted. Now, it just so happens that, by coincidence, my name is semi-famous. There was a kid's TV show many years ago featuring a ventriloquist's dummy with my exact first and last name. This guy was in just the right age range to remember that show, and when I told him my name, he proceeded to sing the show's theme song. The entire theme song. As soon as he began to sing, I knew I had my insurance policy, my equivalent to David's ear-touch. But the guy wouldn't stop singing. "Oh, how funny. You know the song!" More singing. "Perfect. I know you won't forget me now!" Another verse. It was the most fitting end imaginable to the entire experience: more waiting.

At that point, it was almost 9:00, and we had nothing to show for our evening. So we decided to take our chances at a normally overcrowded movie theater in hopes the holiday weekend would finally smile upon us. We were definitely smiled upon, but mostly because the theater has been another casualty of The Grove, L.A.'s newest shrine to crowds and consumerism. The movie was "Mean Creek", but don't be fooled by the title. "Creek" is an understatement. The body of water in question is much more of a river, which is pretty important to the plot. I don't want to give anything away, but if the story had been about a creek, they would've had no movie. "Mean", on the other hand, is kind of an overstatement. The kids in the movie are, for the most part, pretty nice. But "Nice River" doesn't have the same ring to it, so I understand.

The movie was pretty good, but more importantly, it wasn't crowded. Since we hadn't eaten all night, we decided to push our luck and head for another normally-crowded L.A. locale -- this little cookie shop in Westwood, maybe you've heard of it. We got there at around 11:45, and there was only a short line. Victory! I had a cookie sandwich that was definitely my jam.

It would've been the ideal ending to our evening, but there was a whole lotta night left. That's because when we went back to my car, it wouldn't start. Car problems are definitely not my jam. The issue isn't so much the hassle as the fact that car problems make me feel stupid. I know absolutely nothing about cars or car repair. I like to think I'm smart about a lot of things, but if you pull my elephant's trunk, it ain't lightin' up.

What made this even worse is that we now had to wait for the tow truck driver at midnight on a Saturday in Westwood. I mean, it's not a bad neighborhood, but if you give me a choice between getting stranded around a bunch of crack dealers in the hood or a bunch of punks sucking down hookah pipes at the Habibi Café, I'd have to think it over for a second. Thankfully, the tow truck came in record time. And that led to this inevitable conversation:

Tow Truck Driver: So what seems to be the problem?
I shrug.
Drew: His car won't start.
TTD: Has your battery warning light been coming on?
Me: Uh... maybe.
TTD: How old is the battery?
Me: It's a new car.
TTD: How new?
Me: Four and a half years.
TTD: Yup. Batteries last about four years.
Me: They do?!

I think there was something about alternators in there, too, but I can't remember where that part went, so I left it out. He hooked something up to my car that got the battery started again, then I tipped him ten dollars and he drove off. And as soon as he was gone, pffffft... the battery died again. We didn't have his number, so this was going to mean calling AAA again and waiting for him to come back, when he'd inevitably be more annoyed and less patient.

But that's not what happened. That's because I learned Drew is not who I thought he was. He is actually the secret identity of a superhero who can run down the streets of Westwood fueled on nothing but cookies and outrun tow trucks. The driver turned out to be one of the nicest guys I've ever met -- and maybe I'm slightly skewed because he rescued me and didn't make me feel dumb in the process. I had him tow me to the dealership and, to thank him, I offered him a cookie. "No thanks," he said. "I just drank three beers."

Once we'd dropped off my car, Drew and I called a cab to take us home. The cab driver wasn't nearly as nice as the tow truck driver, and he turned off Santa Monica Boulevard and started heading down a chump route that would take us a lot longer and inevitably drive up the price of the ride. He didn't know who he was messing with.

"I need to stop for gas," he explained. "The cab takes natural gas, and there are only a few places to get it." We ended up making a five minute stopover, and I turned into Angry Jerry.

"Do you want to stop that meter, pal?" I shouted out the window, jabbing my finger at him. Okay, maybe I didn't say "pal", and it was more of a subtle pointing motion. There was no way I was going to pay for his detour, even if the cab company was trying to be fuel smart. (His fillup cost about $10, less than half of what I pay to fill up my four-year-old dead car. As this falls under the category of "cars", I won't claim to understand natural gas, but if it's so cheap, why isn't everyone using this stuff?) He stopped the meter.

I know this is going to come across as anticlimactic, but that that point, I was begging for an anticlimax. And as it turned out, after the natural gas thing, we pretty much just went home. I had considered crafting this entry as an elaborate "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" reference, but the problem with "Jerry and Drew Go to Diddy Riese" is that all of our shenanigans happened after we reached our destination. Our delays and detours never bothered me that much, because I'd already had my cookies, so I was happy. Also, "Harold and Kumar" sucked. And nobody saw it. I still don't understand the point of having a title that serves as its own spoiler. If the tension of your entire movie is "Will Harold and Kumar ever make it to White Castle?", why ruin the ending with the title? Can you imagine if "The Sixth Sense" was called "The Dude's Really Dead"? Or if "The Crying Game" was called "She's Got a Penis"?

Jerry and Drew went to Diddy Riese. And then some other stuff happened. That's the story. Now my ride is in need of pimping, and I'm still in need of some mechanical knowledge. Like it or not, auto repair... that's my new jam.

  |


Thursday, September 02, 2004
 
ANOTHER RAMBLING, UNINFORMED POLITICAL RANT

It’s amazing watching the Republican Convention how many African-Americans appear to be in the audience. Every other cutaway from Cheney’s speech last night was to a non-white face. Watching it, it was impossible not to think one thing:

Who are they kidding?

I think that a lot about the Republicans. I think it when they talk about the economy, or education, or health care.

And I think it constantly when they talk about national security.

Really, who are they kidding?

The answer, I'm afraid is: just enough people to get reelected.

I understand why Kerry is spending so much time talking about domestic issues. According to polls -- polls, which both gave birth to and killed modern politics -- the American public has more faith in the Democrats on the economy, education, and, well, just about everything. But the Republicans are trouncing us on national security.

Who are they kidding? A lot of people.

And I still don't get it. There’s no real barometer on winning the war on terror, and even our flip-flopping president seems to know that. But Republicans have gained the upper hand by tying national security to patriotism. Oppose the war in Iraq, and they’ll accuse you of not supporting the troops. Oppose the Patriot Act, and they’ll accuse you of being soft on terrorism. Oppose Bush in anything, and they’ll accuse you of being un-American.

I just wish Kerry would be more aggressive on the issue. For every argument the Republicans make that Bush is winning the war on terrorism, there’s an equal or more effective counterargument that he’s not, and Kerry would look much stronger on the subject if he took the offensive a bit more. Let the Republicans trot out Saddam. Kerry should constantly be asking where Osama is, and letting the American people know that the focus on nabbing Saddam, who’s never attacked America, has allowed Osama, who attacks us again and again, to remain at large. Let the Republicans talk about Iraq. Kerry should be talking about how poorly planned the invasion was and how devastating the costs have been for our troops and for the war on terror overall.

The Republicans love to talk about how Kerry flip-flopped on the Iraq war. If he were a better politician, Kerry would realize he could use this as an advantage, too. It’s a sign that he’s above partisan voting, a reminder that Bush lied to us about his reasons for going to war and an indictment of the lack of forethought that went into the invasion. Why not say that he voted to give Bush the authority to go to war because he trusted the President, and as it turned out, the President didn’t know what he was doing? Kerry should make it clear that didn’t flip-flop. He got let down. And he got let down by exactly the man he’s running against.

Whenever Republicans allude to the lack of attacks on American soil since 9/11 as evidence that our country is safer, Kerry should remind people that terrorism worldwide has been on the rise, and that a close American ally was brutally attacked by al Qaeda just six months ago. Clearly, the bad guys are still out there, and they're plotting against us. Anyone who feels safer thanks to Bush’s war on terror isn’t paying attention, and anyone who gives George Bush the credit for keeping us safe must not have heard of a neglected memo titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Within the United States." I'd imagine every presidential daily briefing these days contains those words, but still, we haven't found Bin Laden.

“Bin Laden”: Those two words could win Kerry the election. Bush brings up 9/11 whenever possible, then goes right to Saddam. Kerry should bring up 9/11, too, then go right to Bin Laden. Hopefully, voters would be able to figure out which one of them is more in touch with how to win the war on terrorism.

Bush and friends have already shown they’ll stop at nothing to win an election. The attacks are working, and as the election gets closer, they’re only going to get worse. By late October, they’ll be trying to convince every resident of every swing state that a vote for Kerry pretty much ensures that nuclear bombs will be dropping on Toledo within months. And if Kerry doesn’t fight back now, people will believe it.

You can’t fool all of the people all of the time, but you can fool just enough of them every four years to keep fooling them indefinitely.

  |




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