Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Smoke by Joe Ide


So, I had coffee with Margaret. I know I said that I would not do this, but I got ambushed and I had no choice! I was shoveling my sidewalk, which one must begin before the snow even stops falling, because if you don't, some sneaky opportunist boy scout will be out there first, trying to earn points toward his Bother the Elderly badge. In any civilized country, it is understood that if you are going to do a job for someone, you agree to the terms ahead of time. But around here, it is apparently open season for taking advantage of your neighbors. You, as the homeowner, are then expected to pay more than market value for a half-ass job, and if you don't throw in cookies or hot chocolate on top of it, you're the asshole. If I actually let a kid shovel my walk for no reward other than the satisfaction of doing an act of kindness, I'd have their helicopter parents at my door within minutes with Child Protective Services on the iphone they bought him when he turned seven. So not today, Braden! I'll shovel my own walk, thank you very much.

Truth be told, I was shoveling Margaret's sidewalk as well, but NOT as an act of friendship, mind you. I was merely trying to prevent the pre-pubescent predatory capitalist shovel gangs from getting a foothold in the neighborhood. And I didn't want someone to slip on her walk, fall onto my property, and then try to sue the both of us. Plus, I had shit all to do. But before I knew it, there she was at her door thanking me and saying that coffee was ready when I was done. What could I say? I tried to think of an excuse, but you don't have to look at my calendar to know that my next firm commitment is showing up for my funeral. I thought maybe I would just keep shoveling until it was too late for coffee, but past Margaret's house is Mr. Fischer, and that fucker certainly doesn't deserve to have his sidewalk shoveled.

So I went in. And not only was there coffee, but also those tiny little sandwiches that no one eats unless you think you are better than other people. No thanks! But I guess the hard labor piqued my appetite, so I had a few and they were kind of delicious. It had been a long time since I was in that house. Margaret reminded me of how well she and Eleanor used to get along and played cards together. I reminded her of the time she was hanging her laundry and her undergarments blew into Mr. Fischer's yard and created a neighborhood scandal. She recalled it as less amusing than I did, somehow.

When I was leaving, she said she had something for me. Oh shit, I thought, she figured out the pizzle incident and is bent on revenge! But she presented me with a copy of this book, which I had actually been waiting to read and just came out. I assumed that she laced it with anthrax or something, but after a thorough disinfecting job, I had a lovely afternoon with this latest IQ novel and have fortunately developed no symptoms. I do love the resolution of a good mystery, but in my case, it seems that there is something sinister that remains unresolved. What the hell is Margaret playing at?

Monday, February 15, 2021

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope by George Lucas (more or less)


I'd like to start by offering a word of thanks to all of you who recently sent me messages suggesting that I should be nicer to my son-in-law. I did not read them. And if I did, I did not care. And to the gentleman who wondered if I can take a joke as well as I can dish one out, I offer this story. It took place almost fifty years ago in a dive bar in Los Angeles. I was out with some business associates, and an opportunity arose for a dare. I was then, as I am now, known for never backing away from a challenge. After all, who kept courting Eleanor even when her father threatened to literally rip my arms off if he ever saw my face again? This guy. And who, just last week, summoned the manager when the clerk refused to allow me to use multiple coupons for the same extra large tub of Metamusil? Me again. And who was it who made the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs? Yes, of course that was Han Solo, but the point is, I wrote that line! Let me explain.

Back to LA - I was at the bar waiting for another round of Lucky Lagers when I struck up a conversation with a guy making furious notes on a napkin. His name was George, and he was working on an outer space movie script, so I started spitballing some ideas, and he loved them! I was making things up off the top of my head, and he was writing them all down. I don't recall everything, but it's possible that I made up Wookiees. Anyway, when I came up with the idea of the Kessel Run, he told me we should definitely work together. I wrote down my number on his napkin of brilliant ideas, and he was about to give me his card, but then my friends started calling me back to our table.

At the table next to ours, someone appeared to have left a full, untouched pint of beer. They had determined that one of us had to go take the beer and down it with all due speed. No one else at the table was willing to do this, for fear that the rightful owner would reappear, and we would end up in yet another massive bar brawl. But as I knew no fear, I was happy to oblige. After all, free beer, right? Wrong! As it turns out, it was a full pint of cider, which at the time I didn't even realize was a thing. But a dare is a dare, and so I chugged the rancid beer with no second thought. Take that, suckers!

My reward from my friends was whiskey, then more whiskey, and then over the next round of beers it came out that the whole thing was a setup they came up with while I was making business connections with George Lucas. Oh shit! I had forgotten about him, and when I looked up, he was on his way out the door. I caught him just in time (by the shoulder, and maybe more strongly than I had intended), and I asked him for his card so we could continue our work together. I was a bit sloshed at this point, so when I referred to our collaboration, he may have misunderstood me. He seemed to suggest that he had my number and would give me a call tomorrow.

Friends, I think you can guess how this story ends. He never called, and he went on to become a multi-millionaire with my ideas. To my knowledge, he never acknowledged my contribution, and no fewer than 4 intellectual property judges have declined to validate my creative input. And in terms of taking a joke, did I terminate my friendship with the people who robbed me of my chance for filmwriting immortality? Well, I guess I did mostly, but not all of them! So I think I showed that I was the bigger person there, thank you very much.

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai


Sometimes reading a work of genius only serves to highlight the stupidity that surrounds you. Any by this I am referring not exclusively, but in large part, to my son-in-law Gerry. I had just finished this heart-wrenching gem when who should show up at my door but my granddaughter, Tina. Apparently, it was my family whose calls I had been ignoring all day, not, as I had assumed, lawyers from Vlasic calling to negotiate with me about my Free the Pickles! campaign (I am playing hardball with those fuckers). Tina looked both relieved and somewhat bemused to find that I was not, in fact, deceased in my La-z-boy, and more than willing to come over for dinner. And truth be told, we were having a lovely time making homemade kreplach until Mount Asinine erupted.

As we were working in the kitchen, it was brought to my attention that the faucet on the kitchen sink was no longer functioning correctly. They had even purchased a replacement, although no one had bothered to install it. My son-in-law, being an idiot, was in favor of calling a plumber. This from a guy who once paid an electrician $97.50 to come press the red reset button on an outlet when he couldn't figure out why his electric yogurt maker wasn't working. So I asked him to bring me his tools, and he brought out a little tool bag that a 5-year-old would have been embarrassed to receive for his birthday. But all I needed was a screwdriver, and I even magnanimously refrained from testing him to see if he knew the difference between a flat-head and a Phillips (he doesn't). But despite my generosity, he still would have "just felt more comfortable" calling a plumber, and that is probably why I did what I did next.

The faucet could have been fixed by any primate with opposable thumbs, and it took me all of 3 minutes to complete the job. But while I was in there, with one simple twist of my wrist, I reversed the faucet so you had to turn right for hot and left for cold. Not my best prank, I admit, but just a harmless little something to let Gerry know who was in control here. That's what practical jokes are for, after all. Now, did I  mention that my son-in-law is an idiot? Because it took him - I shit you not - all of two minutes of washing dishes to seriously scald his hand. Which, as I then pointed out, would never have happened he didn't have his water heater turned up too high, so it was really more his fault than mine. I mean, why would you intentionally set your water to be hot enough to burn yourself? Jesus.

Leave it to Gerry to screw up a perfectly good, harmless prank. I would say that overall, reaction was mixed. My daughter, for the sake of appearances, had to take his side publicly, but I could tell that deep down, she could see the humor in it. I think her exact words were, "Really, Dad? Even for you, this is pretty juvenile. All we do is offer you kindness, and you keep pulling this kind of crap. I don't even know what to say any more. This is not funny, and I mean it." So you know, I think you can hear the "wink, wink" in there, right?