Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sentimental Journey

It took me some time, but I have come to the following conclusion: No one--not even the most chilly of heart or empty of souls--is impervious to the upbeat melody and simple lyrics contained in the song "Don't Stop Believing."


I go ga-ga for that freakin' song!! It just gets the best of my emotions. Hell, I even cried when they played in during the Sopranos finale!! Don't ask me why. It just makes me melt. Thank G-d, I'm not alone.

True story: I was in this dank, depressing Irish bar ( was the Dubliner, but seriously, people were really quiet, that night. For the love of G-d, people!! When I go to an Irish pub, I demand stereotypes, dammit!! I'm talking leprechauns, lilts, jigs and pots o' gold...the works!!) and being the music lover that I am, I threw a couple of bucks into the juke box and entered in "Don't Stop Believing" as one of my songs.

And then, after a few minutes, it happened.

That famous detuned piano opening and then...

Just a small town girl, livin' in a lonely world
She took the midnight train goin' anywhere
Just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit
He took the midnight train goin' anywhere

A singer in a smokey room
A smell of wine and cheap perfume
For a smile they can share the night
It goes on and on and on and on

Strangers waiting, up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching in the night
Streetlights, people living just to find emotion
Hiding, somewhere in the night

Working hard to get my fill,
everybody wants a thrill
Payin' anything to roll the dice,
just one more time
Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on


Don't stop believin'
Hold on to the feelin'
Streetlights, people


So, yeah. Bat shit, man. Bat shit

Seriously, people who had had their heads previously lying on the table were alive, animated, thumping their fists on the table and singing it at the top of their lungs. I couldn't help but beam with pride because I had picked the perfect song to get everyone out of their doldrums, their fears, their worries. It was like fucking Cheers!!

People. Were. Happy.

Because of this song!! And that, right there? That's one of the gazillion reasons why I love music: One song--just one!--can bring a group of strangers together.

And that night, Steve Perry's velvety-smooth vocals were there for us, in all their glory.

Whatever sins that had been committed were instantly forgotten, any beefs that one man (or woman) had for the guy (or gal) sitting next to them instantly...disappeared.

Well, okay...I take that back.

There are some things that can never, ever be forgiven. Mr. Perry, we will never stop believing in "Don't Stop Believing," but "Oh Cherie?"


The Artist Formerly Known as Birthday Prince?

Seeing as my 27th birthday took place just a day or so ago (Monday, March 24, to be exact!), here's an odd b-day tale for ya.

Many years ago, I had a fight with my parents. Yes, my parents and I have our fair share of smackdowns.

I'm not sure what the fight was about--it's not that important, to be honest. I just remember is so well because it took place the night before my birthday. I mean, there was screaming, finger-pointing, name-calling...the works. It was one of the few times my parents and I went to bed angry at one another.

Then something strange happened when I woke up. My parents were smiling at me, wishing me "Happy Birthday!!!"

It was as if the fight had never taken place. It was as if I had entered The Twilight Zone (or The Outer Limits, depending upon which sci-fi netherworld you prefer). The whole day continued on in the same manner: smiles, hugs, kisses...hell, I even got presents!! And cake!! Can't go wrong there!! Let's just say I went to bed feeling like the Birthday Prince that I was, that day.

And then I woke up, the next morning. And my parents were no longer smiling. They were yelling at me and arguing with me. It was as if they had never missed a beat. It was like a seamless transition from the day before my birthday to the day after my birthday. I'll never forget it.

Now, this is in no way me writing about what a poor soul I am or that I had a terrible, horrible, broken childhood. Fuck that!! I had a wonderful childhood and I adore my parents and we have a very healthy relationship. I consider them to be two of my best friends.

On the contrary, my point in telling that yarn is to illustrate how sacred birthdays have come to be for me and my family.

Recently, a friend of mine (COUGH! Kevin! COUGH!!) brought it to my attention that I make too big of a deal about them, that they're just another day and to get over myself. And said friend has made a very similar points regarding how I seem to make more of a hoopla on certain days than they actually merit--in particular, The Liz Factor.

In this case, I think we'll have to agree to disagree.

I'm sorry, but to me, birthdays are--and always will be--extremely important! As I've mentioned in past entries, so often we walk through our daily lives like zombies. So what if there's a day that we can actually say, "guess what, motherfuckers, er, friends and family!! Today is my day!! Sing your praises for me as I am fabulous and wonderful!!! Celebrate that I am in your life and that you love me for it!! Long story short, PAMPER ME, GODDAMMIT!!!!"

I mean, at the very least, a card and a balloon--maybe a Best Buy gift certificate...just throwin' it out there, people!!--would be nice. I mean, that asking for too much?

The way I see it is we are the product of some pretty freaky shit: Chemicals, hormones, bodily fluids...blood, sweat and tears (okay...maybe not the last three, but they seemed to just go with the rest, so I went for it). How the fuck we didn't turn out to be weird amoeba-like creatures, I'll never be able to understand!! But here we are!! And that is really something. And we each took about nine months to get here. And let's face it: not all of us survive that journey, whether it be as a result of a miscarriage, an abortion or some tragedy that I can't think of at the moment.

And even then, once we're born, there are no promises that we'll be around to see a full year, much less the ripe ol' age of 27. If there's anything I've learned during this life it's this: When your number's up, your numbers up.

That, and you need to celebrate each of those numbers as if they'd be your last.

That's what I plan on doing every year. If that makes me a horrible, self-indulgent, arrogant little shit of a Birthday Prince, than so be it.

You may think me that, by all means. Please do.

Just know this, though: While you're wearing a frowny face and being a bitterman...I get to wear a crown.

Even if it's just for a day.


Sometimes--not always--but sometimes, my daughter (yes, I have gotten to the point where I am calling her that) will start to wander out of my apartment as I enter it, curious to see what's on the outside world.

If she only knew.

I'm a pretty cynical person, but sometimes, the hate and the bitterness people have toward one another--whether it be between friends, family or colleagues--is too much to take.

Just last week, I was in a bar and I needed to hit the men's room and some lovely young lass grabs me by my gold Star of David and yanks me over to her, charmingly exclaiming to her chums, "Hey, fellas!! Looks like we got ourselves a Jewbag over here!!"

Hark! Fair Juliet speaks!!

She let me go after a moment of choking me with my own chain and I headed to the head and practiced my best comebacks ("I KNOW KA-RA-TAY, MOTHERFUCKER!!!!" or "YOU WANNA PIECE OF ME!! HERE'S SOME JEWISH RAGE FOR YA!!! TAKE IT!! TAKE IT!!" or, very calmly, "bitch, you touch my fuckin' shit again and I'll take your fuckin' number." All of the above would be followed by a punishing head-butt"). When I exited the little boys' room, however, she was gone. So, I waited on the other side of the bar with my friends, telling them what had transpired. She never appeared the again. The broad was seriously like the Moby Dick of anti-Semites. Emphasis on "Dick."

Okay. All of the above is true. I really wanted to let that girl have it. I wanted to hurt her. I did. I wanted to inflict bodily harm on her and humiliate her and make her regret the day she was ever born. This is all true. But I'm really not a violent man. I mean, yeah, I'm pretty volatile and am easily angered
--lately, I've been referred to as The Jewish Joe Pesci--and, sure, if forced to use violence, I guess I'd do what I'd have to do. But I guess the biggest part of me just wanted to confront her and ask her one simple question: Why?


She didn't know me. She doesn't know who I am, where I come from, what my likes and dislikes are. And yet, she saw my Jewish star and that's all she needed? It's maddening!!

Me? I try and take everyone on their own individual merits. I don't think there's anyone person I truly hate. I really do try and be respectful toward everyone. In my eyes, everyone starts with a clean slate. Everyone should be allowed the the benefit of the doubt at least once.

Sometimes, I look at certain people that I know and wonder why some of them act so negative and bitter and hateful about/toward everything. I mean, as shitty as life can be sometimes, why go out of your way and try to make things seem worse than they already are.

I don't get it. How can people can be so hurtful toward one another? I'd like to end this entry with one of my favorite prayers that we read responsively in Synagogue. It's called "A Prayer for Peace."

May we see the day when war and bloodshed cease,
when a great peace will embrace the whole world.

Then nation will not threaten nation,
and mankind will not again know war.

For all who live on earth shall realize
we have not come into being to hate or destroy.

We have come into being
to praise, to and to love.

Compassionate G-d, bless the leaders of all nations
with the power of compassion.

Fulfill the promise conveyed in Scripture:

I will bring peace to the land,
and you shall lie down and no one shall terrify you.

I will rid the land of vicious beasts
and it shall not be ravaged by war.

Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream.

Let peace fill the earth as the waters fill the sea.

And let us say: Amen.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Something (More Than) Nice

Kyle Koliha.

Remember that name.

He used to write under me in the Entertainment section of my defunct weekly alternative newspaper, The Omaha Pulp. He was the music critic and a very bright and talented one at that.

It wasn't until the paper closed down that I realized what a terrific singer/songwriter he was. About a year after the paper closed, he met up with me when I was staying at my buddy Matteo's place in Minneapolis. It was then and there that he handed me a copy of his first demo track on CD and told me to give it a listen and offer some feedback later on.

I'll admit it: I was skeptical. You have to remember that, like, a gazillion CDs worth of crap passed through our offices during the time the Pulp was around. Music hopefuls would ask us to listen to their CDs and ask us to review their stuff. It wasn't always pretty. In fact, a lot of it was pure noise, shit.

And I would feel soooooo guilty.

I do not exaggerate when I tell you that Kyle's demo track was better than most professional musician's slickly-produced and polished LPs.

The tune was titled, "Our Song." He wrote it, sang it and, save the percussion, performed all the instrumentals, including piano and guitar.

I played it once and it made me cry. It was lovely, absolutely gorgeous. I played it again. Same reaction. And then again and again again. If there was one criticism I had, it was the title. It sounded too close to Elton John's "Your Song." I sent him a quick text message telling him how much I enjoyed the song as well as a gentle suggestion about a possible title change.

Needless to say, I wanted more. It took about two and a half years and probably pounds of weed smoked later (on my part--we'll get to that later) for my wish to be granted.

In the interim, I've played that one song countless times, I've made out to the song while it played on my stereo as well as put it on a mix tape for my ex.

But never was it ever so exquisite as when I saw him perform it in front of a live audience, this last Saturday, at the Saddle Creek Bar & Grill. It was there that, in addition to his original demo song--now titled "Something Nice"--he played five songs that were like orgasms in my ear. They hit me hard. Maybe it was a surge of pride for him that I was experiencing or just a recognition of the universal themes of his songs--love, the desire to be a better man, faith and spirituality--but I began to break down. I've never cried at a concert like that, but man, oh man...I just lost it.

You got me, Kyle. You got me good.

The highlight of the concert for me, though, was when he pulled me up on stage and we did a duet to a sort of improv, electric guitar version of "You Are My Sunshine."

It was magical.

Now, there's a little epilogue to this story of what I hope is rising fame.

It's been two and a half years since I sent him that text message which, really, was little more than an afterthought for me. I was pretty much stoned that whole weekend when we met in MN. And I wanted to give him something in the way of constructive criticism.

On Saturday, after the show, I approached him, hugged him tight, and told him how amazing and talented I thought he was. He, of course, thanked me. I went on to say, "Man, it's been a long time! I remember when that one song you gave me used to be called "Our Song."

He looked at me strangely and said, "are you kidding me?!" I just stared at him, not knowing what he was talking about. He went, "Do you know why I changed it?" I told him I had no idea.

"Let me show you," he said.

Nothing could prepare me emotionally for what happened next: He ripped into his bag, pulled out his cell phone and went down to the bottom of his text messages and retrieved a single text from two and a half years ago that read something to the effect of: "Loved the song. Made me cry, One suggestion: The title sounds a little close to the Elton John song. Maybe change it to "Something Nice."

My jaw dropped to the floor. I had completely forgotten that I had sent him that text. Like I said, I smoked a lot of pot since then.

I looked at him, flabbergasted, on the verge of tears, I gently touched my chest with my hand and said, "I wrote that?" He nodded his head with this look of bemusement on his face. And I repeated, this time without the question mark at the end. "Wow. I wrote that." He nodded his head again and enthusiastically went on to say, "I changed the title of the song because of you, your suggestion...because of the text you sent me. It was a huge to-do for me."

You know, sometimes, I'm afraid that I'm passing through this life like a ghost. This last Saturday, I was proven wrong by Kyle Koliha.

Remember that name.


If you want to give his tunes a listen, check out Kyle's MySpace profile.

"Enchanted," Indeed!!

So, I finally just got around to checking out Disney's "Enchanted" at the cheap theater next to the Taj Ma-Hal.

And while I now have a vagina in place of where my penis use to be as a result of watching it, "Enchanted" is a magical, adorable and just absolutely, positively delightful comic/fantasy romp!!

Thanks for the recommendation, mom and dad!!! I've never felt gayer in my life!!

In all seriousness, peeps, check it out. While I will admit that you'll either love it or hate it, I defy you to try and even attempt to boo and hiss at its star, The Great Amy Adams.

Fuck Julia Roberts! Adams and her film are the real deal.

Wow! How very un-Disney of me!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Seed of Memory

While the world keeps getting smaller with the more people that we meet, I'm fairly convinced that our memories shrink even faster the older we get.

I mean, we meet people, we lose touch and then forget them. And every once in a while, we meet those people again, through chance, luck, fate--whatever you wanna call it. Sometimes, when we encounter these people again, we tend to crystallize who they were in our memories and we make the unfortunate mistake of forgetting that, in their minds, they've never been a past tense. Life has never stopped for them. In their minds, they've always been an are...not a were.

Then there's the sad case of bumping into someone you used to know and one of you has no clue who the hell the other person is. Luckily for me, I've never had that problem. Sure, sometimes, I don't always get the details (I have problems remembering names) right, but I'm good at knowing the essentials: Who they were, what they meant to me--good or bad.

It's always been one of my greatest fears that people forget about me. I mean, we're given this life, this miracle, and it is our jobs to make a mark; not necessarily even career-wise or being newsworthy, but just making an impression, giving people a memory of us to pass on. The last thing I'd want in this world would be for someone to just shrug me off, as if what I said or did had no bearing on their live. When I die, I want it to matter.

People forget, ya know? People forget. And it's sad. Because I'd like to think that we were put on this earth to make every day, hour, minute and second count.

I remember, back in London, the person I was rooming with, Jason, became a good friend of mine on the trip. We were pretty much inseparable over the course of the trip, which lasted two weeks. I came home naïvely believing that we would continue our friendship--BFF's forever, ya know?

The operative word, in this case, is "naïve." Except for a few shout-outs from my end via phone and one or two London Tripper reunions at Old Chicago or run-ins on campus, I never heard from him or saw him again.

Until a couple of days ago, Sunday.

I was driving to my parents house and, while stopped at a red light, I saw him through my driver-side window. I looked right at him, staring, letting his face trigger an instant flashback in my head, reminding me of the good times I had, times--whether it was with him or just by myself...the whole London trip, to be honest, is one of the high points in my fairly short life--that I'll never forget.

In that moment, he caught me staring at him.

Now, I don't know whether he thought I was just some weird dude staring at him or maybe--just maybe--he remembered me and what I meant to him during a very specific time and a very specific place in the small universe of his life. All I know is that he stared back at me, ever so briefly, and offered me a reluctant head nod, as if he was trying to figure something out, piece something together.

And I knew--I knew!!--I was still there.


And really...that was all I needed.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

"I Don't Do Stupid"

I couldn't let this rest.

Look, I'm a pretty easygoing person.

Okay. That's a complete lie. I'm like Mr. Anti-Easygoing Person. But for the most part, when it comes to people, I'm pretty tolerant and I open-minded.

I don't mind it when people disagree with me or my beliefs, the way I think. I don't. Who am I to judge, right? One who is pretty fucked up should not point fingers and stare at those who are equally as fucked up, if not more. That whole glass houses thing, ya know?

But tonight? Tonight, I'm gonna let it rip.

Okay, I'll set the scene.

Me, Kevin, Sergio and Amy, having left Club Nico, arrive at IHOP to meet Glen and his lovely, gorgeous girlfriend Heather (hey, Heather!!!! Hollaback, girl!!!!), for some late-night, drunken munchies.

Okay, let's take it back even a little further.

I had eaten a shit load of Chinese food with the parentals, so all the alcohol I consumed was pretty much absorbed by the mass quantities of Moo shu Pork, BBQ pork Egg Fu Young and BBQ pork fried rice (hey, just because a dude goes to synagogue, it doesn't mean he doesn't have some vices, yo! Don't be hatin'!!) I had managed to shove down my maw. So, for the most part, the following events, for the most part, took place when I was sober...ish.

This red-faced old dude sits down next to me and starts talking to us about what a diverse group we had: Sergio's Hispanic, Amy and Heather are white, Glenn is black, Kevin suffers from B.G.F. (Big Gay Fag syndrome....hey...he coined it himself, not me, ok?!?!) and then...there's me. So, the guy starts kind of harassing Glen about random shit and, what I kinda got out of it, really subtle digs at all of us, then he sees Kevin being all touchy-feely with me and being "funny" with each other and he just starts talking about how he just "doesn't get it, how he "just doesn't understand." He's like, "I've tried, but I can't." Then he goes on to tell Glen how he doesn't see why "they" should get to vote or some ignorant, homophobic shite. He keeps going on and on, until finally...I blew a fuse.


Everyone at our table heard me. At first, Kevin was shocked and like, "Oh, my G-d! Hal?!" And I look at him and say, "he is talking about you!!!! Have you not been listening?!?!"

So, I try to calm down and let things go and ignore the guy who couldn't be more than a few inches away from me. Close enough where he could hurt me or my friends, if he felt so inclined to.

So, Kevin and I are doing our thing--that is, talking and just joshing each other--and the guy just keeps insinuating himself. He keeps looking at us in disgust and saying, "Oh, lord!" or "My G-d!" And I was like, "what is your problem, dude?!

Finally, apparently not being able to take such diversity, he gets up and looks at all of us and says, "this?" and he motions at our table--more specifically, me and Kevin--"This is stupid. Y'all are stupid."

I. Flipped.

"Ya know what, then?! Good! Leave!! Go with G-d, man! Go with Jesus!!"

He walks backwards, pointing at our table, for everyone on our side of the restaurant to see.

"You guys are stupid!!! I don't do stupid!!!"

Amy pipes up and says, "Yeah? Well, at least we're not stupid, ignorant bigots like you!!"

Kevin--no joke--shouts, loud enough for everyone on our side of the restaurant--IHOP, a family establishment, thank you very much!!--to hear: "THEN LEAVE US ALONE, YOU STUPID BITCH!!!!!"

The man did. He walked away and sat down with another group of 20-somethings.

Okay...I want to address this whole "I don't do stupid" thing. Here comes a rant and you're just gonna have to take it.

If you "don't do stupid," then why the FUCK are you coming to IHOP at 1am?!?! What the hell did you expect?!?! That Stephen Hawking would suddenly fucking wheel his limp-dick, ALS-deformed shape into IHOP at 2am and start "talking" about The Big Fucking BANG Theory?!?! Are you fucking kidding me?!?! Here's a hint: People come to IHOP because they are drunk and stupid and need comfort food!! I mean, really, who the fuck is going to visit IHOP sober?!?! It's fucking IHOP, man!!!! Christ almighty!!!

Okay...I'm done now.

Call me immature, but when Glen drove me out of the parking lot and, through the window, I saw the guy preaching what I imagine was The Good Word to a new set of younglings, I couldn't help but give the guy the finger.

Look, I believe in G-d alright? I'm a devout Jew (except for the pork thing...and masturbating. But don't hold it against me) and as I've said, I know there's a plan and there is a higher power watching over us, but seriously, if you feel you have G-d in your heart and/or a message from Jesus, or you just wanna be a dumb, ignorant prick and hassle my fat, pasty white ass...





Especially past 1am. I get cranky.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008


You'd think I'd learn.

Let me set the scene in the movie: There's a guy, really paranoid, cautiously walking down the street or in a public area. He looks over his shoulder. Someone is following him, a mysterious figure. Mr. Paranoid starts to quicken his pace, so does the Mystery Man following him. Paranoid starts walking faster and faster, all the while, so does the Mystery Man. Eventually, the Paranoid guy is at a full-fledged sprint while Mysterio follows en suit until, finally, the former trips over his shoelace and falls. He scrambles to get up, but is winded and can only put up his hands as a defensive measure, shouting at and begging the Mystery Man looming over him to not hurt him. The man gets a quizzical look on his face and says something to the measure of "Sir, you forgot your wallet" And THEN....BAM!!!!...some fat, balding, unshaven dude eating a bratwurst appears out of nowhere and drops an envelope on Mr. Paranoid and says the dreaded words, "YOU'VE BEEN SERVED!!"


Now, I've never had the immense pleasure of being approached by and handed papers from a process server...BUT I'm of the mind that agreeing to be set up on a blind date by mom and her friend is essentially the same type of experience. I mean, it was really only a matter of time before they found you. And now--D'OH!!--you're stuck having to appear before the court (the blind date) and offer your case to people (again, the date) who have no idea what kind of rambling, neurotic chucklehead you are (that would be me).

And what's worse is that, at the end of the night, you're not just trying to make a good impression (read: case) on your date. Nooooooo!! At the end of the date, you get the awkward, fucked-up Q&A from mom and said friend, asking how it went.

Oh, and G-d help you if you fuck up during the date and say something incredibly stupid (which, let's face it, is pretty much a sure thing when it comes to Yours Truly) or make a bad impression. You'd think that you murdered someone ("WHAT DID YOU SAY TO HER?!?!" or "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU GUYS HAVE NOTHING IN COMMON?!?! YOU'RE PERFECT FOR EACH OTHER!!" And, of course..."WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?!?! I WANT MY GRANDCHILDREN!!" Actually, that last one has never been spoken by my mom. Strange. Think it means anything?).

Well, if you haven't haven't guessed it by now, I'm being set up. I agreed. I could have said "no." But what can I say? I'm a man of adventure (heh).

And, oh yeah, I guess this girl is "painfully shy."

Should be great. (?!)

Oh, "Baby!!"

This is just gonna be a quick one.

If you haven't seen it yet, you need to check out Ben Affleck's confident, sterling directorial debut, "Gone Baby Gone." Watch it once, twice and three times and I guarantee that you still won't have an easy answer in terms of what you would do if presented with the pickle of a scenario the main protagonist, Patrick Kenzie (played by the terrific, if only slightly miscast, Casey Affleck--Ben's younger, very talented sibling) is given.

It's a wonderful, dark, gritty and ultimately devastating film about lost children, dead ends and the horrific choices even the best-intentioned people have to make along the way.

So, do me a favor: Rent it and post a comment. I mean it. Whoever sees it, I want to know what you would have done in the end. I already know my answer, but let's hear yours....

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Year of Life (Or Lack Thereof)

Putting aside the whole let's not think about anniversaries thing for a minute, I just want to put it out there that yesterday marked a year since I started this blog.

On March 1, 2007, it was freezing cold outside and we received at least a foot of snow. Sorta fit my mood and emotional state at the time.

I find it fitting that today, one year since the storm, the temperature rose up into the high 50's.

I want to say thank you to everyone who has stuck it out with my ramblings and rants and ups and downs. I'm really hoping there will be more of the former, this year, than the latter or, at the very least, a more even balance of both.

I know I haven't been writing quite as frequently as I used to (one to two entries a week versus four to five), but I guess if it's any consolation, I'm trying to be a little more honest about who I am and what I'm about than I previously had been.

This here blog is my baby. And as its proud, protective papa, I only have one thing to say...

Happy First Birthday Neurotica!!