March 16th, 2010

When I approach the metal detector at an airport I die a little thinking I’ll be the guy to set it off. This has nothing to do with my mighty robot heart, my supercool telescoping metal appendages, or the high levels of mercury in my bloodstream from all the sushi I cram down my gullet. I’m just a nervous person who feels guilty for no reason at all and I know I’m going to make that damn thing beep. I’ll be pushed against a wall in front of everyone as the security team pulls all sorts of things I didn’t even know I had on me from my pockets – knives, sex clamps, drugs I took in 1994, German pornography (the worst kind), blueprints for an intercontinental ballistic missile, the missing half of a magical amulet – you get it.

My friend Jessi told me she has the same issue when leaving a store. “Are you ever scared you’re a secret klepto? That you stuck something into your pocket without paying for it and you didn’t even notice?” Absolutely. I don’t trust myself at all. That guy’s been holding me back with his stupid shenanigans my entire life. He would totally do something like that. “Every time I leave a store I just know the damn security thing is gonna beep for me,” she says.

I’ve done loads of illegal things in my life, all semi-victimless crimes, few of which I feel sorry for. I’ve taken drugs, committed hilarious acts of vandalism, and driven my car through the city like a Dale Earnhardt on a bender, yet I’ve never once shoplifted because I couldn’t carry the guilt. I can’t steal, cheat, or hurt someone intentionally who doesn’t deserve it — not because I’m afraid of any legal consequences (but let’s face it: my first day in jail I’d be the guy wearing lipstick) — but because I would absolutely crucify myself with guilt. I am a Shaolin master of self-flagellation and my kung-fu is unstoppable. I felt guilty watching Schindler’s List, and not because I had anything to do with the holocaust, but because I totally look like someone who would have.

Last summer I was summoned for jury duty in downtown Brooklyn. It was a huge inconvenience, as it is to everybody, but I was excited as it might have been a chance for me to play out my “Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men” fantasy, where I’m the sole voice of reason in a room full of cold and bigoted jurors, indifferent to the fate of some poor inner-city kid. I’d get to slam my fist on a table and say things like “Damnit, man, a kid’s life is at stake! Who here among us has never made an illegal right turn on red!?” I would make an impassioned speech that would change the minds and lives of everyone in the court and rock the very foundation of our justice system to its core, and all my fellow jurors would feel humbled and impressed by my obvious moral superiority and the eventual Time magazine piece written about me would inspire a movie in which I’d be played by James Van Der Beek giving the comeback performance of the century. That kind of bullshit. So, yeah, jury duty –

I showed up at the courthouse early in the morning ready to do my heroic civil duty. I breezed through security, and entered a pen full of hundreds of other bored, inconvenienced New Yorkers thinking that I’d be done with the case in time for dinner and could go back to my happy life of building websites in my underpants in my cave of an apartment. No such luck, we were told. The trial I was a jury candidate for was estimated to last for seven days to a month. An entire month?! That’s like seven dog months. Immediately, people lined up to dish out their excuses. People were claiming sick relatives, planned holidays, irritable bowel syndrome, work emergencies. Brand new horrible diseases were created in that very room for the sole purpose of avoiding public service. But me? I sat there like an idiot, without an excuse in my noggin. Because sitting at the end of the long wooden bench I was on, like a curly-haired angel, was Felicity herself, the actress Kerri Russel. And yes, angels do carry Blackberries.

I’ve crossed paths with Ms. Russel several times in my life, so surely it was fate that put us both in the courtroom together. I’ve seen her walking in the East Village once or twice over the years, we’ve eaten at the same restaurant, and I once physically stopped my friend Aaron from bounding over rows of theater seats to accost her, a star-struck monkey off his leash. So this was an interesting development for me. There are countless celebrities in New York, but why do I keep running into Felicity? Truth be told, the only thing I’ve ever seen her in was 30 seconds of her TV show in which a kid got splattered by a bus – which was just ten kinds of wonderful. So, I decided that I needed to see why the gods kept putting us in the same room together. I accept how creepy that sounds and am comfortable with it.

There we were: Drewbacca and Felicity, ready to right the injustices of the world together. We would have seven days to a month to become the best of pals, to play pranks on the other jurors, to laugh with one another as I performed Chaplain-esque feats with my food in the courthouse cafeteria. It was going to be great! But would we be assigned a boring case? Would we have to yawn through some drawn out civil suit in which some land whale was suing McDonald’s for making their McNuggets too delicious? No! As our luck would have it, we hit the jackpot. Ours was a case in which the defendant stabbed another human being NINE TIMES! Could the day get any better?

After the first round of juror interviews we were given a recess for lunch. I wandered around downtown Brooklyn for a bit, read a some of my book and stuffed a falafel in my face before returning to the courthouse. When I found myself back in the line at the security checkpoint I realized I was standing about three people behind Ms. Russel. I wondered: should I say something? In New York it’s a big faux pas to violate a celebrity’s personal space, so what could I use as an opener that wouldn’t seem creepy? Every line that popped into my head just made me sound like a deranged stalker. She passed through the metal detector without incident and began to collect her things, so I realized my window for an introduction was closing quickly. Anxiously, I put my laptop bag on the security conveyor, held my breath, and shakily walked through the security gate. There was no beep. Phew. Hurry, now, Felicity is getting away!

“WAIT RIGHT THERE!” someone yelled. It was the security guard working the X-Ray machine.

I froze. Suddenly, there were two guards at either shoulder, their hands gripped around my arms. Felicity slid her purse around her shoulder and looked back at me: a criminal, a terrorist, a subhuman Breaker of Rules. She got on the escalator watching me, her Blackberry to her ear, a frightened look on her face as she disappeared through the ceiling.

“COME HERE, son.” The X-Ray man waved me towards him and pointed at his monitor. On the screen was the fuzzy green outline of my laptop bag, in the center of which, was a shape any twelve-year-old boy would recognize. It was the unmistakable outline of an honest-to-God ninja throwing star.

“Did you just bring a NINJA STAR into a NEW YORK STATE SUPREME COURT!?”

My bladder nearly exploded. I was going to backfire in my pants. HOW COULD THIS BE HAPPENING TO ME!? I’m a 35-year-old man! How could I have forgotten there was a ninja throwing star in my bag!? Why did I even own a ninja star? I haven’t been attacked by ninjas since 1997.

I stammered. “I swear to God I had no idea that was in there! It was a gag gift for a friend, like a year ago.” This was true. I had purchased it online, along with some pornography, as a birthday present for a buddy of mine. Clearly, neither the ninja star nor the pornography ever made it to him.

The guard pulled the ninja star from my bag and held it up to me. It was shiny, spiked, probably forged in a rusty trailer by some methed-up redneck from the melted toys of his waterhead children. “What were you thinkin, son? Are you stupid?”

What was I thinking!? Wasn’t it obvious? Clearly, I’m an assassin. I was going to throw that ninja star right into the face of a star witness, in what was to be the most awesome and nerdy courtroom murder ever.

“Yes! I AM! I am very stupid! I SWEAR TO GOD I had no idea that was in there., I SWEAR! Please, what can I do to make this go away? Please let me walk away right now. I am a good person.”

The guards released their grip on me and started laughing. Everyone in line started doubling over, cackling, howling with laughter and pointing at me as a tide of sweat ran down my face taking all of my dignity with it. “Look at that dumb motherfucker!”

“Get out of here,” the X-Ray guard said. I grabbed my laptop bag and high-tailed it to the escalator.

“You take care now, Ninja Star!” one of the guards yelled behind me.

And so I ascended the slowest escalator in the world, a crowd cackling behind me, knowing I’d have to go through that security checkpoint, past those same people, every morning for the next seven days to a month.

The next time I get called up for jury duty I’m moving back to Canada.

Prairie Toothpicks

October 14th, 2009

Years ago I wrote a gag for a film I never shot because I smoked too much pot. It was about a little boy who wondered why you should never look a gift horse in the mouth. The boy was given a pony as a gift for his birthday, and while no one was looking, he lured the pony closer with a sugar cube, pried its little jaws open and stared deep into it’s maw. Suddenly, a second set of jaws (ala Alien) snapped out of the pony’s throat and into the little boy’s face. I have bad ideas when I get stoned.

Now, I’m a person who puts a lot of thought into the gifts I give the people I care about. If the gift has no meaning to the receiver then it is a meaningless gift, and who wants those? I like taking the time to really think about what to give someone, because I’m an obsessive nutcase and it distracts me from all of the things I really should be doing, like cleaning the apartment or finishing the book I’ve writing all year. For instance, my friend Jessi’s favorite show was The Golden Girls, so I spent days hunting down an old VHS of Estelle Getty’s workout video for her. My other friend was going through a divorce, so I bought him a set of ninja throwing stars. You get the idea.

So, last year I was sitting in my Los Angeles apartment smoking my medicinal marijuana and racking my brain over what to give my good friend Aaron, the designer I used on Augusten’s website, for his birthday. The two of us met at a party ten years ago and I immediately recruited him for a sketch comedy team I was putting together. He’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and over the years we’ve had a friendship so impossibly gay you need special goggles to shield yourself from all the rainbows. He’s one of my favorite people on earth, and every year we give each other the dumbest gifts possible on our birthdays – such as bacon flavored jellybeans, or a framed print of Christopher Walken building a robot in his garage.

I was living 3,000 miles away at the time and was excruciatingly bored, so I hit eBay to look for something good. Aaron is the biggest sci-fi nerd in the world, so I remember looking at a set of TRON action figures to buy him, when – somehow – within two clicks I found myself in an auction for a dozen dried raccoon penises (God bless eBay). The seller referred to them as “Prairie Toothpicks”. I stared at the screen for a good long while contemplating a purchase and ultimately thought what any sane, rational person would think: nothing says “happy birthday” like a box of dicks. So, I clicked the BUY NOW button and fired off a quick email to Bubba’s House of Wangs (or whatever the eBay store was called) asking him to ship the box of Prairie Toothpicks to my good friend Aaron in time for his birthday and, most importantly, to include a little birthday note in there for me. I got an email back from Bubba himself saying “No problem.”

In the days running up to Aaron’s birthday I think I must have asked him if he’d gotten anything cool about seven hundred times. Each time the answer was “no” and I was beginning to think I’d gotten stiffed on the raccoon penises (have fun with that sentence). What a brilliant racket that would be — who on Earth is going to write eBay to complain that the dozen penises they ordered never arrived? I was starting to think old Bubba was a brilliant criminal mastermind. As it turns out, he was just one lazy redneck.

The day after Aaron’s birthday I asked him one final time: did you receive any cool gifts in the mail? “No,” he said. “But something seriously messed-up happened.”

As it turns out, Aaron’s new girlfriend arrived at his apartment before he did on the evening of his birthday to find a shoebox wrapped in brown paper on the doorstep. There was no return address on the package, and without giving it much notice, she had torn the paper from the box, opened the lid and immediately went into hysterics. Apparently, Old Bubba had neglected to leave my note.

“Someone sent us a sandwich bag of bones,” he said. “She freaked the fuck out.”

Aaron got home to find his girlfriend shrieking “Where are the cats! Find the cats!” thinking some psychotic person had murdered and de-boned his little tangerine kittens Odie and Q*Bert, who were no doubt crouched somewhere, hiding from the screams.

I wasn’t really sure what to say, but it wound up being a shaky, sing-songy “Haaaaaaaappy Birthdaaaaay… it’s a box of raccoon penises.”

“You asshole! What’s wrong with you?”, he said. Then added: “She was about to call Homeland Security!”

Aaron and his girlfriend were married two weeks ago at a beautiful ceremony in New Jersey. It was an honor to be invited and to see one of my best friends in the world walk down the aisle with the woman of his dreams.

I did not show up to the wedding with a gift. I’m told I have a full year after the wedding to find them the perfect present.

I think I’m going to have to sit and think on this one for a good, long while.

35 Today

May 22nd, 2009

Mom sent me frozen alligator steaks.

Dad sent a DVD of “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus”

It’s already shaping up to be a pretty awesome day. Longer rant to come once I recover from last night’s birthday shenanigans.

I love you, blogosphere.

Drewbacca on the Aqua Teens!

May 11th, 2009

So my jaw just hit the floor.

I was just catching up on some cartoons on and on the latest episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force there’s a shaved Wookiee character (who looks a lot like what I look like naked) and take a wild guess what his name is?

Here’s the clip:

I’m a happy boy