MAKING ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE BODIES

With a couple days left before I leave New York City for a bit — I cannot help saying “a bit” or “for now” for reasons both sentimental and superstitious — I find myself pretty amazed by the number of grown-up person decisions I’ve had to make and execute in a short amount of time. At the time of this writing, I am sitting at my desk and eating from a Halloween handout-sized box of Sour Lightning Lemon Nerds. I am also surrounded by Post-It notes and piles of paperwork detailing some of the things Lisa and I have had to take care of these last couple of weeks, including:

  • hiring coast-to-coast movers
  • moving insurance
  • auto insurance competitive quotes and new policy forms
  • cable and internet disconnection/install
  • new car research, brochures, competitive price quotes, and V.I.N. number
  • california vehicle registration paperwork
  • auto financing forms
  • research and purchase of dashboard-mounted GPS
  • apartment lease
  • cross-country roadtrip itinerary (see you soon, Corn Palace and farmhouse from In Cold Blood!)

I now know a little bit more than I ever did about lien holders and dealer invoice price and the pros and cons of estimating a residential move based on the cubic feet vs. gross weight of its contents. I know about California’s jerky mandatory (state revenue-generating) smog test and VIN verification, even on new vehicles with well-documented low emission rates. I know what paddle shifters are. I know that, when Laverne and Shirley moved to Hollywood and their address was “113 1/2″ this was not some kind of Vaudevillian joke but a real phenomenon common to Los Angeles.

And I know I’m going to leave New York City eight pounds heavier because I insisted on eating as many of my favorite things as possible before leaving, and that many of those favorite things were enjoyed with favorite friends and favorite alcoholic beverages, followed by lurching in my kitchen at four a.m. and drunkenly cramming favorite greasy carbohydrates into my slop hole.

The movers are arriving tomorrow morning, and I’m picking up my new car shortly after that. (pictured here with its previous owner) Then Lisa and I will clean our empty apartment, attend a recital where Lisa will sing “Stormy Weather” and a Lee Hazlewood song, have a couple more drinks with friends, and sleep on our newly-swept floor, get up the next morning, pack the car and, for the first time in over thirteen years, I’ll start everything all over again.

I feel like I’ve been saying goodbye constantly over these last couple of weeks — to the people I like, the shows at which I regularly perform stand-up, to my own cats who are already living in Los Angeles, to bars and restaurants and street vendors, to the buildings in my neighborhood, the evening ride home across the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, to gai tom kha soup at Lemongrass Grill and pretzel croissants and The Pickle Guys on Essex Street, to the conveniences and frustrations of mass transit and the endless anecdotes and pet peeves it naturally produces, to running into friends on the street. I’m tired and a little sad from all of it. There are many things I’m looking forward to in Los Angeles — for instance, my job, which continues to make me feel, in a very un-jaded and corny way, like I’ve won the comedy-writing lottery — but the thing to which I most look forward is the end of goodbyes. That, and In-and-Out Burger.

WEIRDOWOOD

Lisa and I are getting ready to move–temporarily, indefinitely–to Los Angeles. Ever since I started writing and performing comedy, and getting any kind of traction with it, I’ve heard that question: Would you ever move to LA? My standard answer used to be, Not if I can help it. Later, it was revised to Not unless something pretty great brought me there. Well, something pretty great is bringing me there. And, whether she likes it or not, that pretty great something is bringing Lisa there, too.

It does seem odd to use the expression “getting ready” when talking about our move, though, because neither of us feels especially ready at all. Really, we aren’t even sure how to feel ready. We can’t really start looking for an apartment until the end of this month, for a move the following month. Consequently, we don’t have a new address or even a move date. We just have a few solid but disconnected plans: We will pack up our stuff and move it to Los Angeles in some moving company’s truck while we rent a car and drive together across the country and hope we all arrive on the other coast around the same time, at an apartment for which we have a lease and keys. There’s also the business of getting our cats to Los Angeles–subjecting them a 10-day car trip seems unnecessarily cruel to everyone on the vehicle, but flying them out early means they’ll have a month to hang out somewhere in Los Angeles in advance of our arrival.

Oh yeah, and cars. Two cars. Purchasing one car seems like a six-month research investment, so purchasing two, in a window of just a few days, seems fairly insane.

Oh yeah, and neighborhoods. Lisa will be working in Santa Monica and I will be working in Universal City. Are we supposed to just rent a trailer parked on the median of Pico Boulevard? What is even considered a reasonable commute compromise? And what is considered a reasonable compromise? One hour? Four hours? And will we ever walk again?

Oh yeah, and we have about three dozen more “oh yeahs” to sort out over the next few weeks. Sometimes Lisa and I become paralyzed by our own checklists and that’s when days like today occur, where the only progress we made toward our relocation was spending several hours at Sol Moscot buying new eyeglasses for her and new prescription sunglasses for me. (Now I can enjoy my own genetic weaknesses in style. LA style!)

I’ve lived in the same city for over thirteen years, and the same state all my life. There are so many ways I feel connected to New York that on good days, I try to look at this sudden move as an “adventure”–a corny truth I believe. However, on bad days it’s more like a “terrifying change,” a “tremendous imposition”, or a “stress test of the bond of marriage.” That said, no matter how things shake out with this new job I’m glad Lisa and are embarking on this tremendous imposition together.

NON-EXPERT

Did you know I wrote this week’s non-expert column for The Morning News? It’s true. I helped a lovelorn young man who was desperately trying to understand some complicated signs he was receiving from an ex-girlfriend. I might have even saved his life! You can read it here and judge for yourself.

REJECTIFIED

Hello. Do you like words? Especially when they’re all smashed together to form thoughts? And what about when those thoughts are entertaining and heartfelt? If so, then have I got a blog post for you!

I contributed a story about a bachelor party I planned, and ruined, to a new book titled REJECTED: Tales of the Failed, Dumped, and Canceled, which comes out next week. Thankfully, this being the Internet, you can even pre-order a copy right now.

And if you are going to be in the NYC area next Tuesday, January 27th, I’ll be reading my contribution to the book at The Bell House in Brooklyn for the REJECTED launch party/live show.

Some of the other scheduled performers include David Wain, David Rees, Mike Albo, Dave Hill, Odd Todd, Sara Schaefer, Tom McCaffrey, Katina Corrao–plus, live music from THE DEFIBULATORS. The event will be hosted by the creator of The Rejection Show and the editor of this anthology, Jon Friedman.

AMERICA, LET’S HEAR SOME NOISE AND BRAMBLE

Even with the incessant and thorough coverage of today’s inauguration, its importance can’t be overstated. The only thing it was missing was Obama escorting Bush into his helicopter with a big goodbye boot to the ass.

Right now I am anxiously awaiting for the Red man to get ahead, man.

FLAB

Like so many clichés that have preceded me, in the months before my wedding I exercised vigorously and lost a bit of weight. (Aided in no small part by the Charles Atlas Program I was researching for a story.) It has been less than three months since the day I was married and if someone asked me to recite my vows today I would only be able to frown and shake my head. It’s not because I have forgotten my vows, or have rescinded them; it’s just that these days my mouth has been so preoccupied with a constant stream of cakes, cheeses, bourbon, and candy that there’s scarcely any room in there for words.

I am out of shape. Or, more accurately, I am in shape but it’s a new shape — one that no longer requires a belt, and suddenly finds the elastic band of underwear “restrictive.” This new shape also came with a weird exhaustion with the slightest exertion. Something as simple as walking around my apartment and eating refrigerated cinnamon roll dough from its cardboard tube makes me almost dizzy, and causes my breathing to become labored, like Mickey Rourke in the opening minutes of The Wrestler.

On this sprint to ruin, I’ve tested Lisa’s devotion, patience, and gag reflex over and over by drawing constant attention to my new flab. Any time Lisa makes eye contact with me, I take it as a cue to lift my shirt, expose my belly, and tug at it like a suspicious-looking beard. If Lisa isn’t looking at me — something that’s been happening with greater frequency these days — I’ll go through the same belly-grabbing drill, making sure to also cry out, “WHAT HAPPENED TO ME?!!?” It’s become an almost unconscious behavior. Sometimes I’ll just find myself in front of a mirror, distractedly cupping the curve beneath my stomach, Thomas Beatie-style. After a large meal, my knee-jerk response is to expose my stomach like some kind of animal, and just stare at it hatefully, whether I’m in my own apartment or a fancy restaurant filled with French people. I know this embarrasses Lisa, but it’s something I do without any self-awareness at all. It’s some form of Tourette Syndrome triggered by self-loathing.

To help save my marriage — to her great credit, Lisa is not horrified by my flab; only by the way I constantly draw attention to it, privately and publicly — I returned to the gym earlier this week, barely sure what to do once I arrived. Jumping Jacks? Squat thrusts? Suicide drills? And I could almost deal with the exercising if I didn’t have to suffer through the dressing and undressing part. Maybe if I lived in Gary, Indiana, I would feel more solidarity with other gym patrons but at my gym in Manhattan many (all) of the other men are in such excellent shape that all I can think is, “Why are you here? You’re finished getting in shape. Congratulations. Now go home and have some waffles–you’ve clearly earned them.” Next to them, with my medium-soft breasts and the faint outlines of abdominal definition concealed within a fatty quilt, I expect I look like one of two things: Either a guy who was once in reasonably good shape and has recently gotten out of the hospital after a three-month-long battle with pneumonia, or a guy who has never been in shape before and is just discovering where his muscles are located.

I plan to keep returning to the gym, even if it means undressing privately in a bathroom stall for a few months. I’m also going to try to change certain habits in my diet, because I’ve learned that good choices can gain a certain amount of momentum, just as bad choices beget more bad choices. For example, drinking four glasses of wine last night begat defrosting the last remaining slab of our wedding cake and caking it up at one a.m. last night. I guess that’s an example of bad leading to bad. Unfortunately, I can’t think of any examples of good choices right now. It’s probably because these sweatpants are cutting off some of my blood circulation, and making me light-headed.

AND YES, I TWITTER

When I first learned about Twitter at SXSW 2007 I was somewhat critical of its utility. (or lack thereof) I’m still not totally convinced it’s practical beyond the following uses:

  • locating friends at a convention
  • letting friends know how bored you are in the class/convention panel you’re attending
  • making sure total strangers understand exactly how important your friends/social plans/creative projects/Hollywood meetings are
  • asking questions about new iPhone apps
  • answering questions about new iPhone apps
  • exhibiting your deliciously pithy wit
  • smashing a bunch of keys with giant thumbs and hitting send (applies only to Shaquille O’Neal)
  • telling people you’re “friends” with Stephen Fry

Of course, all of that hasn’t stopped this hypocrite from adopting Twitter. If you have a very short attention span and wish to follow my Internet twitter litter trail, you can do so at twitter.com/trembledotcom.

THE POORLY NAMED SHOW THAT WILL SURELY BE FUN

If you are going to be in the NYC area over Christmas, here’s some great news — this year Christmas Eve doesn’t have to be a poignant reminder that we all die alone!

I’ll be performing in the 92Y Tribeca’s Chanukomedy Show, hosted by JOE MANDE and featuring some great joke-makers, including JANEANE GAROFALO, LEO ALLEN, BRET GELMAN, AMY SCHUMER, and RACHEL FEINSTEIN. I stand by this line-up! Here are the details:

92Y Tribeca Presents Chanukomedy
Wednesday, December 24 @ 8pm
92YTribeca: 200 Hudson St. (just below Canal)

Tickets are only $12, and can be purchased here. You can also RSVP to the event on Facebook, just like they do in the future!

The show should be so much fun, you’ll go from this…

…to this!

A HANUKKAH MIRACLE

What a blessed way to celebrate this festive Jewish holiday…Toronto Bodybuilder Eats 47 Latkes, Sets Record. The article says the previously held record for the number of potato pancakes eaten in one sitting was 29, which surprised me. As someone who has eaten potato pancakes (Jew) before, I honestly would have guessed the previous record was two and a half or three. Eating 47 potato latkes is one of those kinds of contests where the winner is the loser.

On a related subject, last night I watched part of a Discovery Channel special on the science of morbid obesity. It was fascinating in that “I just watched someone eat 47 latkes” kind of way. There were a number of interesting facts about morbid obesity, including this one: because of their unusually heavy load, morbidly obese people make their vehicles 10-20% less fuel efficient.

Another interesting fact: this Discovery Channel television special probably exhausted every piece of b-roll footage in existence of fat people shot from behind and below the head, waddling around shopping malls and amusement parks. They even had that rare footage of a fat person on an assisted-mobility scooter, stretching for a box of cookies on a high supermarket shelf. (That clip actually won a Rollie Award in 2006, for Outstanding Achievement in Padding Out a Human Health & Nutrition Local News Package.)

I found myself incredibly sympathetic toward the central “character” of the special — a man who weighs over 500 pounds and, after several failed attempts at diet, is preparing himself for last-resort gastric bypass surgery. He seemed like he was really struggling with his weight, and clearly came from a family where food = love. Apparently, crash dieting is often a terrible and unsuccessful strategy for the morbidly obese because, as that sized frame begins to quickly shed pounds, the body goes into a kind of state of shock and begins producing extra hormones to increase one’s appetite in order to help return to an “equilibrium weight.” (Which, in the case of someone who was morbidly obese, is much higher than the average person.) Learning about the science of obesity honestly gave me a new perspective on people who make the decision to have gastric bypass surgery. It is not so much of a cop-out as it is a final, desperate act to live a normal, less wheezy life.

However, I must confess my compassion toward the gastric bypass candidate waned a bit during the footage of the “going under the knife party” thrown by his family. (After this party, he would have to go on a four-day clear liquid diet to help empty his body, since morbidly obese people often have 20-30 pounds of toxic, undigested food in their digestive systems at any time.) Rather than regard this as a turning point in his life, the patient saw the party as his “last hurrah” and piled high plate after plate of oily Central American snacks, devouring everything with giddy delight. I realize the producers of this special wanted me to see how tortured this guy is by his own tremendous appetites, but I will forever be haunted by the image of him ladling barbecue sauce on a plate devoid of vegetables, while sing-speaking, “ooh…this is yummy yummy yummy for my tummy.” It’s one thing to give in to your weaknesses on camera, but did you have to write a children’s rhyme about it? I guess I just didn’t expect to hear the words “yummy” and “tummy” on the lips of a man who was precariously close to eating himself to death. I sort of expected that when morbidly obese people binge, they are more likely to say things to themselves like, “oh, fuck, what the fuck is wrong with you, man?” or “oh, jesus christ what the fuck am i doing oh god i can’t stop eating and crying and eating and pooping and crying.”

IN DEFENSE OF FREDDIE PRINZE, JR

By now anyone who obsessively studies weekend box office returns with nothing personal to gain from the experience knows that the animated film, Delgo, went on record as having the worst opening weekend in the history of American cinema. (According to receipts, it averaged approximately two tickets sold per showtime.)

Perhaps the studio was to blame for choosing to open Delgo on over 2,000 screens without spending a single dollar marketing or advertising Delgo beforehand. Or perhaps you could blame this unprecedented bomb on the fact that Delgo was animated by a studio no one has ever heard of, or the fact that the movie deals with racism in some clunky and convoluted way that somehow involves lizard creatures. OR maybe it was simply because the title of this animated film is Delgo. DELGO? That sounds like the title of an obscure and sweet little Italian film about a unique young boy coming of age (i.e. masturbating on or with something crazy, like a piece of knitting or a freshly caught trout) in Sicily during WWII.*

I guess my point is, if one were to write an article about Delgo’s massive failure on opening weekend, there are a number of angles with which to approach the story. Delgo had a lot going against it, honestly, which makes it very curious that Yahoo! decided this was the best headline to run: FREDDIE PRINZE JR. MOVIE BIGGEST BOMB EVER.

I want to say, “way to throw Freddie Prinze Jr. under the bus, Yahoo” — mostly because I really want to get in on this whole “throwing X under the bus” phenomenon that’s been going around lately. However, it might be more accurate to say, “way to leave Freddie Prinze Jr. under the bus where he’s been for almost a decade, but then point and shout ‘Hey look, it’s Freddie Prinze Jr. There, under the bus!’ loud enough for everyone to hear, Yahoo!”

For all of Delgo’s obvious shortcomings, why go after Freddie Prinze Jr? It’s not as if Delgo was his personal vanity project. His Postman or Battlefield: Earth or The President of the United States of Meshuggenah. (That is the working title of my vanity project about our country’s first Jewish President whose mother comes to live with him in the White House to make him feel ashamed of his bowel movements.) To my knowledge, Delgo was not a Freddie Prinze Jr. vehicle. There were plenty of other actors involved, some of whom do not have the “Prinze Jr. Stink” all over them. Also, it’s an animated film, a genre where the voice actors are usually the last thing to blame for the film’s failure. I haven’t seen Delgo, and maybe Freddie Prinze Jr. insisted on playing his role live action, in which case the blame could fall squarely on his horrible shoulders. But I don’t think there is actually a single frame of Delgo in which Freddie Prinze Jr. is recognizable.

Which leads me to wonder, Yahoo, how did Freddie Prinze Jr. hurt you? Did he refuse to answer questions from Yahoo at his red carpet premiere of Wing Commander? Maybe he spied that “.com” on your mic, held up his hand dismissively, and told your correspondent, “Sorry, I don’t do Web press.” Did he bail on a live online chat? Did he refuse to cross-link? WHY ARE YOU SO HURTFUL TOWARD ONE OF OUR NATION’S COMEDIC TREASURE’S SONS?

I guess, mostly, I’m just disappointed that Yahoo has lowered itself to the ad hominem attacks that are the mark of so much entertainment journalism these days. Yahoo, I thought you were earnest, like AOL.com and not nasty, like TMZ.com. I thought you were better than this but I have to say, Yahoo, you really let me down — kind of like Freddie Prinze Jr.’s wooden voice acting work let Delgo down.

*This kind of movie usually has a scene where a soldier gives the boy a deck of nude lady playing cards and then, later, the little boy sees a neighborhood lady in her bra through a keyhole or fence knot and masturbates in his bathroom, and then is caught in the act by his obese grandmother. It’s the kind of movie you see a preview for in art house theaters and the only dialogue in the preview is various characters shouting “Delgo” at different moments in the film, because it is the only dialogue most English-speaking audiences can understand.

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