Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night

So, there's something on my mind and I want to talk about it.

Who, me?

So, let me give you the set-up.

It's Saturday night. Three of my friends--Justin, Sergio and his girlfriend Amy (love her to death!! Such a sweetheart!! Way better than his bitchy ex-wife!! Sorry Kristin!! You know it's true!! Tee-hee!!)--are downtown, having some drinks at this bar called The Underground ($2 Long Islands--can't beat that!!).

At one point, Justin, a extremely well-dressed black man (there is a reason that I'm mentioning that and you'll understand why in a bit) who is puffing away on a stogie, is told to put it out by one of the waiters because the smell is "irritating other customers." We don't think anything of it and we continue on with our night.

For about five more minutes.

We're all having a great time, enjoying the scene--I'm singin' and dancing like a giddy schoolgirl to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'...and really, can you blame me? Helluva song!--when two giant-sized bouncers approach Justin. The medium-sized one with all the tattoos says, "bro, you've gotta go. You touched one o' my girls. Ya gotta go!!" Justin tries to protest, but the douche bag continues talking over him saying, "Look, dude! I ain't gonna argue with you. You need to get out now!! The other, even bigger bouncer (however the fuck that's possible!) with the long goat-like beard and slightly less-friendly demeanor moves in a little closer to Justin and pretty much grabs him and--how should I say this politely?--escorts him up the stairs and out of the bar. Sergio and Amy hand me their drinks for quick consumption (they know me all too well, apparently! lol!!) and follow him up the stairs. I guess, when he tried to call me outside, the bouncers shooed him away from the bar even further. Because, of course, he touched their girl.

Fuck. That. Shit.

I am sorry. My boy Justin may be one of the horniest horn dogs on the planet (second only to myself, thank you very much!!) and sometimes his decisions aren't always sound and he can be a bit of a klutz and he overdresses for everything (are you getting all of this down?), but he is a gentleman. And he's a sweetheart and just a Good Person.

A lot nicer than me...that's for certain.

What follows now is Justin's side of the story and ya know what? Something tells me that his is a far more accurate description of the events that took place.

Justin, who (he'd be the first to admit) was pretty drunk from the three drinks he'd had at the previous bar, saw a waitress drop her little back folder (the one that you put a customer's check in--sorry...can't think of the word for it, at this particular moment) on the ground and he picked it up, made a harmless little joke ("free drinks for everyone, I guess!"), looked for her and handed it to her. Instead of being a lady and saying fuckin' "thank you," she gave him a sour look, snapped it out of his hand and sauntered off.

Five minutes later, Thor and Mr. Clean approach him.

Okay, yeah. It makes me sick to my stomach that my best friend had to go through that kind of humiliation. It does. I was mortified for him. And I know it's probably not that big of a deal to him at this point, but it's been on my mind. I honestly think that this was a Race Thing. Or maybe they thought he was gay, which would be pretty fuckin' funny because, while he may sometimes wear clothes that the Joker might envy and has a voice as high as Betty fuckin' Boop (we play the shitty hands we're dealt, right? We've all had our fair share!), Justin is straight!! Period.

Even the cigar thing!! What the FUCK?! I've been there a million times and I always see people smoking their Black and Milds,
their stogies and no one has ever said a goddamn thing!!! And what about cigarettes, eh?! "Oh, the sickening stench of cigarette smoke is okay...but heaven help us if someone actually lights up a classy, expensive, well-made cigar!!!"

I'm sorry I'm going on such a rant. But it just pisses me off the more I think about it. These guys--fuckheads that they are--threw out one of the nicest, sweetest, most polite people that I know. And they don't even know him. I mean, he was wearing a suit, for Chrissakes!! He was the best-dressed man in the whole place. My guess? I think someone else probably bumped into that ho while Justin was handing her the bill thingy and Justin was just the easiest, closest person to point the finger at.

Sorry, Thor! Sorry, Mr. Clean! Y'all threw out the wrong dude!!

When we were outside, I tried to make light of the situation by making jokes ("Dude!! You popped your 'I-Got-Kicked-Out-Of-A-Bar' cherry!!! Welcome to the club!! High-five, bro!!" or "Man, you better not touch any waitresses at the next wine-tasting, because I ain't leavin, foo!!"). He wasn't particularly receptive to, um, humor at that moment, but it was really me trying to make him feel more comfortable. I've been thrown out of bars before (it was some basement peanut bar in downtown Minneapolis--I forget the name. I will say this, though. I tried to cleverly outwit the bouncer that time by getting back in, only to realize that I had sneaked into the bar next door instead!! Paid the cover as well. Hmmmm...)! It's really embarrassing. It's not fun. At all. Especially when you have no idea what you're getting kicked out for ("We have a stocky, curly-haired white mail coming up the steps and exiting the building. Possibly Jewish. Keep your eye out. Over!" Wow!! I think I was profiled!! Suh-WEET!! Mom and dad would be ever so proud!! Hmmmm...).

Needless to say, Justin--nor I--will never set foot in that establishment again.

Shame on them. That's all I can say. Shame on them.

Justin, you deserved better, sir. You deserved respect. For all your quirks, you're one of the best men I know. Period.

Don't let the bastards drive ya down, buddy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The (Still) Undiscovered Country

I did it!!!

I didn't think I'd have the balls to really do it, but I did it!! I am so EXCITED!!!!

I signed up for the Birthright Israel program that I had written about several months ago in a March entry entitled "Shul Ties."

Ya know, I was reading that particular entry and I have to say--I'm really annoyed by just how naïve I was. I mean, yeah, it's only been six months or so, but just read the following paragraph...

"So, with that, comes my big announcement (well, alright...maybe it's not big to you, but whatever): I have decided to register for the Birthright trip so I can go this Summer. It's not a lot of time and I'll need to work fast, but thinking about it now, this could be the trip--THE SPIRITUAL AWAKENING!!--I've been waiting for."


I can't believe how earnest I was. I really thought that by just hoppin' over to Israel, I'd suddenly be this amazing Super Jew.

BZZZZ!! WRONG (again!)!!

I have been going to shul every Saturday--I haven't missed one Shabbat service!!--since April 14. And I have come to love my congregation and I think--I hope--that they've come to respect my level of commitment toward my religion.

Truth is, I take my Judaism seriously, these days. Granted, Rabi Hillel may not be rising from the grave anytime soon to hand me a commemorative "World's Greatest Jew" T-Shirt (talk about fashionable!! Beats my "WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?! HAVEN'T YOU EVER SEEN A SLACKER BEFORE?!" tee right out of the water), but I've been sincerely laying the groundwork, a foundation for myself to grow on and become as good of a Jew as I can be.

I don't think I've felt as much Jewish pride (okay...perhaps a little arrogance, too) as when I came for Rosh Hashanah services with my parents [BLOGGER'S NOTE: Who really never come to services, for the most part, except for the high holidays, the occasional Bar/Bat Mitzvah and in honor of the anniversary of my grandma's passing--also known as a yartzeit] and the greeter, Michael, looks at me and says "So, I see you brought the whole family with you, this time."

I was just like, wow!! I can't believe he said that to me--of all people!!--the kid who used to beg--BEG!!!--his parents to let him stay home from services, even when it was the high holy days. And now, it's like everything has sort of come full circle, ya know? When the dude said that to me, it's like I realized that I was finally part of the inner circle. No, I don't mean the Beth El Synagogue inner social circle. I mean, I felt like I was finally accepted as a member of the congregation, not just some impostor who shows up and fills a seat. I was finally being taken seriously!

I can't tell you how wide the smile on my face was.

And I'm still learning each day.

My goal in the next few weeks, months is to really start studying the prayers that I read every Saturday, to better understand their meaning. Reading and chanting prayers is all well and good, but understanding all of them is truly what it's all about. Otherwise, you're just marking time during the service and that is the last thing I want to do or feel that I'm doing. I'm there for a reason and that is to be part of something bigger than you and me.

As for Israel, yeah, I can't wait. I hope I get accepted. It's not a Done Deal yet. Nothing is signed in ink yet, no dotted i's or t's crossed. I have a mandatory interview with someone to see how Serious I am about going.

But I hope to witness the beauty, the glory of seeing Jerusalem in the Winter.

Will me going to Israel be the "Spiritual Awakening" I so naïvely spoke about in that March blog of mine? Probably not. I do, however, definitely think it will be a way of me cementing my faith in Judaism, a way of re-establishing and rediscovering my Jewish roots.

But a Spiritual Awakening? Hardly.

My spiritual awakening began on April 14th, 2007.

And it is still happening...




My Special Present...

I bit my lower lip, curious when I saw the note sticking out of my apartment door. I read it quickly with a gleam in my eye, crumpled it up, and tossed it aside. The note beckoned me to enter.

I opened my apartment door, headed into the humble, dimly-lit abode...hungrily looking for the gift that was waiting for me within.

I found it tucked away in the in the bathroom, gleaming and, in a way, smiling at me.

I let out a squeal of excitement (Ooh, baby!) and lowered myself atop my new present. It was cold, causing me to shudder with delight. It was so smooth and supple, clean--this was so new to me. This was truly what I'd been needing for the past two years.

And it was finally here.

So, how about a big Thank You to the Royalwood Apartments staff and maintenance crew for the brand new toilet placed in my bathroom, this afternoon, in my absence.

I shall use it in good health.

Oh, and a big giant-sized Sorry to the folks below me. Who knew a toilet could leak below me, right?! I hope y'all caught me on one of my, um, better days. Honor thy neighbor as I always say!!

Wait! What did you think I was talking about?!?!


Yeah, thank G-d Yom Kippur (Jewish Day of Atonement) is coming up on Friday.

I am so going to hell for this one...

Saturday, September 8, 2007

In the Land of Overcompensation

I know this really doesn't have anything to do with anything, but I just thought it was funny. As a friend of mine might say, suffer.

Some dude, on the way home from synagogue, was driving a beautiful, fire-engine red convertible with the following license plate:

"I Do OK."

Jesus H!!! And I thought that I was insecure!!! The guy may as well have a suction cup sign on his window that reads "Small Penis On Board."

Now, I don't know about you, dear readers, but if I were him, I would keep the top on at all fucking times.

Just sayin'...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

What If...

So, I got Ringworm.

It's a fungal/bacterial skin infection that causes little circular lesions on the skin. It's contagious through direct skin contact (basically, I'd have to touch the thing on my arm and then touch your skin. Luckily, the two that I have are in places that most people wouldn't touch. That is, my upper arm and under my left nipple.)
Essentially, it's Athlete's Foot writ large on the hairy canvas that is my body. The Good News is that it's treatable with anti-fungal cream.

Yeah, I'm not happy about it. I have no idea how I got it, really, but what are ya gonna do? Okay, before I get a bunch of you's shouting the same thing at me ("IT'S YOUR CAT, JACKASS!!!"), I will just say that I spoke with the vet and she pretty much said, "Honestly, Hal. You've had her for over a month. If you were gonna get it from her, you would have gotten it a lot sooner."

The truth is, you can get it from anyone or anything. And it is that fact and that fact alone that is proving to be both scary and liberating.

For those of you reading this who aren't familiar with who I am and what I'm about, I suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and I am terribly germaphobic. Normally, if I have any suspicions whatsoever that you are sick, I will basically steer clear of you until I know you are cured (I'm talking colds, the flu, the plague...anything that Yours Truly can catch). Nothing personal.

But what most people don't know is that my OCD stems not so much from the fear of myself getting sick, but rather, it's the fear of getting sick and getting other people sick. The thought of getting someone like my mom or my dad or any of my closest friends sick is a thought that is more than I can bear sometimes.

And I know all about sickness.

I was sick for a good portion of my life. See, I was afflicted with
Guillain-Barré syndrome when I was seven, which paralyzed me from the head down. No, it wasn't covered by the Polio vaccine. It's that rare. I lived in the hospital for over 18 weeks and had to undergo daily, excruciatingly painful physical therapy routines. And while I am pretty much able to do what everyone else can do (walk, run, play video games, etc.), I will never have the strength of a normal man and I will always have a slight limp when I walk. I have multiple scars on my feet and lower legs from all of the surgeries performed on me to keep my feet straight and prevent them from drooping down, due to the fact that all of the muscles in my feet had atrophied.

And how did I get it? Well, I got a cold. That's right! I stood next to some kid at Jewish day camp and caught his cold and it snowballed into something much, much bigger.

And yeah, I won't lie. I wonder what would have happened if I had just stood back a little farther away from this kid--even just a few inches, ya know? Would my life have been different? Would it have been easier? Harder? Would I have been a better person or a mean sonofabitch? Would I have played sports? Would I have had lots more luck with the ladies?
Who knows, right? Yeah, I think about shit like that from time to time. But only occasionally. Thinking about it tends to put me in a melancholy moods. I think if I dwelled on it too often, I'd be a complete nutter.

What's even more frustrating is that every once in a while, I bump into that kid that I stood next to, that day at camp. I see him living his normal life and dancing at the clubs and I think to myself...he'll never know. And ya know what? That's okay. I think it's better that way. Yeah, my life might have been significantly different had I not stood next to him that day, but it's not his fault. And it would be despicable of me to place that kind of blame on one person's shoulders like that. It was my immune system changed the course of my life...not him.

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with that notion. After all, it's only human nature to want a black and white, concrete, This Is How It Happened explanation. We want a body to blame. After all, gray area can be one of the most maddening places of all. Alas, though, as the old saying goes...

Shit happens.

Which leads me back to the topic of my Ringworm. I could have gotten it from anyone or anything. And depending on what effect you let that thought have on you, that can either be downright frightening or entirely liberating. For the last 20 years, I have lived in fear of getting sick.

And I gotta tell ya, I am so very fucking tired of being afraid. I am so fucking tired of not being able to function, to live my life to its fullest because I'm afraid of getting sick. And while I'm not exactly ecstatic about getting Ringworm, it's not the End of the World. I'm still alive. I'm not dying.

I think it's time to start living--really Living--with my eyes wide open; take risks and not worry about hypotheticals, Worst Case Scenarios so much. I've based nearly my entire life on What If. Fuck that!! It's time to start working on the What Is. The here. The now.

And it is not going to be an overnight fix. Twenty years of fear and paranoia is a lot to overcome. But I have to try.

It's like what Morgan Freeman said in "The Shawshank Redemption..."

Get busy livin'...or get busy dyin'.